MysteryPeople Guest Post: Peter Bowen on Du Pre and Montana

bitter creek

Peter Bowen has just published his 14th Du Pré novel, Bitter Creek, where Gabriel Du Pré helps a wounded vet with a spiritual quest seek answers to a historical mystery involving General Pershing and a missing tribe of Métis. Peter Bowen has generously contributed a piece on the place that has most influenced his writing – Montana, where much of his writing takes place, and where Bowen has deep roots.

Post by Peter Bowen

The Du Pré mysteries come of living in Montana and wanting to write. Writers begin with wanting to write and then they have to find something to write about and it’s best to write about something you know about.  I grew up here in Montana and I live here now, and I was never happy anywhere else, so…….

Du Pré is a fictional Métis and he sort of went from shadow to substance in my mind over many years.  Since I was interested in Montana’s history from childhood, when Du Pré did become clear enough to speak I thought I would tell the story of the Métis as well, and a great, romantic, and often heartbreaking one it is.

“An editor I worked with for many years said once that the Du Pré books were good novels about Montana that had a mystery on top, like the peanuts on a Tin Roof Sundae.”

The Métis are the Children of the Fur Trade, French and Cree-Chippewa or Plains People, and there are over thirty million descendants of them in North America.  In the 19th century they occupied Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and twice rebelled against the British who wanted their lands for white settlement.  The Métis lost and many fled down to Montana and the Dakotas for more abuse.  A very old story……which Du Pré tells a bit at a time.

An editor I worked with for many years said once that the Du Pré books were good novels about Montana that had a mystery on top, like the peanuts on a Tin Roof Sundae.

The Montana that I knew as a kid and loved so well is gone, pretty much, now, as rural life dies out on the High Plains, victim of economic changes as water becomes more and more valuable. The small towns are going or gone already, the people having left as their livelihoods did.

In the fourteen Du Pré novels I have written about corporations poisoning the land and water, greedy “environmentalists” who want to make the state some sort of theme park, and all of the ructions a changing place stirs up — boomtowns with drugs and murders, and the odd crazies who pop up everywhere.

That’s what’s on top, but more important to me are Du Pré and the people around him, the byplay of a small town’s folks, and my memories of a Montana I knew a long time ago. Some of that still exists, and some will remain, of course, but it does need to be remembered for its lessons, and what those might be are up to those folks who read these books.

So there is Du Pré, who doesn’t say much and doesn’t miss much, with his fiddle and bandsmen, family and friends, in Montana, which is actually a real place.

America is running out of them.


You can find copies of Bitter Creek on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. May is Texas Writer’s Month – look out later in May for posts by Texas mystery writers about how their sense of place and plot intertwine.

Crime Fiction Friday: A TWIST OF NOIR by Steve Weddle

MysteryPeople_cityscape_72Steve Weddle has gotten a lot of notice from his crime fiction peers with his short fiction and debut novel, Country Hardball, published in 2013. In this chilling story, he shows how a lottery winner uses his money for revenge.

“A Twist of Noir” by Steve Weddle

“I’d carried the list around for years, every so often adding a name, moving it to a new scrap of paper in my wallet. I read it like some kind of mantra. Calming myself. Focusing.

Jake Martin. Junior year of high school. He punched me in the nose on a dare.

Mike Gibson. First job out of college. Weaseled his way into my spot and got me fired.

Chad Michaels. At the Tire Factory. Sold me three used tires, claiming they were new.

I guess they don’t seem like that big a deal to you. But that’s because they didn’t happen to you. This isn’t about you. This is about me. And the seventeen people on the list.”

Read the rest of the story.

Crime Fiction Friday: A WARM RECEPTION by Kelly Whitley

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Kelly Whitley is a great practitioner of crime flash fiction. In this story published in A Twist Of Noir, she shows how to set up a seemingly mundane opening that promises something more dangerous and delivers in spades.

“A Warm Reception” by Kelly Whitley

Bart and Lana walked into the Four Seasons Hotel. In the Aspen Room, the reception for the new Mr. and Mrs. Blake Potowski was well underway. Guests packed the ballroom, laughing, talking, and dancing. A long table against one wall held a cornucopia of wedding gifts ranging from large boxes festooned with ribbons to demure envelopes containing monetary gifts.

Lana froze in the doorway and gripped Bart’s sleeve. “I think we might be underdressed. Everyone here is decked out for black tie. We look like we don’t belong.”

Click here for the full story.

Escape From Winter with These Recommendations

Looks like winter is going out like a lion instead of a lamb. That’s why Molly and myself are each offering three novels to take you out of the cold and give you a warm vacation – with a little violence of course.

Scott M


THREE FROM SCOTT M.

TOURIST SEASONTourist Season by Carl Hiaasen

If the South Florida setting doesn’t warm you up, the laughter this book causes will. It starts with dead Shriner found on the beach with a top alligator stuffed down his throat and gets weirder from there. Hiaasen’s first use of the crime novel as a satire on his state pokes fun at those who live and visit there.

DAWN PATROLThe Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow

This is the first book to feature Boone Daniels, part time private detective, full time surf bum. Winslow dances with his reader, starting out as a fun action private eye novel, leading you through darker depths, then spinning you back into the light, weaving Southern California history with an engaging plot. You can feel the ocean breezes while reading.

DEATH IN MEXICOA Death In Mexico by Jonathan Woods

Inspector Hector Diaz looks into the murder of an artist’s model, found in the plaza where a number of American expats live. Diaz takes the investigation over the border with a cute cop helping him go up against the rich and powerful while interfering with his beloved vices. A Death In Mexico is a fun and often funny mystery with a hero who beautifully represents his country.


THREE FROM MOLLY

THE STRANGERThe Stranger by Albert Camus

There’s nothing like a re-read of The Stranger to make you realize that Camus’ great existentialist novel is also an extremely noir story about murder, and is considered by many to be the founding text of Mediterranean Noir. As the winter storms roll over the plains and into our beautiful city, let Camus’ boiling-hot Algerian sun act as a reminder that heat equates to short tempers and bursts of violence.

secret history of las vegasThe Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani

When escaping the cold of winter, what better to read than a book set in a desert? Chris Abani’s fantastic exploration of side-show freaks, mad scientists, South African war criminals, and a guerrilla army of atomic bomb radiation survivors may sound a bit like The Hills Have Eyes goes to Vegas, but Abani has written a thoughtful and carefully plotted detective novel that evokes more of Tod Browning’s Freaks or Kathryn Dunn’s brilliant satire Geek Love than C.H.U.D. Let Abani take you on a journey, from the sweltering heat of Vegas, to the stifling oppression of Apartheid-era South Africa, and back again.

smillas sense of snowSmilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

This book does not take place anywhere sunny. Quite the opposite – the icy locales of the Arctic will remind you that Texas winter (especially this one) is a joke in comparison. This is not a book to escape winter, so much as to realize that we have automatically escaped winter, merely by living in Texas. By the end of this novel, you will learn that you in fact have no idea what winter is, nor do you ever wish to find out.  Journey from Copenhagen with Smilla, Greenlander, glaciologist, and grim avenger for a murdered child, as she ventures out into the arctic find her vengeance. Prepare to realize just how warm you are, and just how cold you could be.


You can find copies of the above listed books on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Crime Fiction Friday: FLASHING TIN by Trey R. Barker

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Trey R. Barker will be joining Lou Berney, Bill Loehfelm, and Jesse Sublett for our Noir At The Bar, this Monday, February 16th, at 7 pm at Opal Divine’s down south. Trey is a great guy and an unflinching author. Like Jim Thompson, he takes a story to to the edge with no fear of falling off in books like Exit Blood and Slow Bleed. You can get a taste of his work in this story for Shotgun Honey.

“Flashing Tin” by Trey R. Barker

“He flashed tin and I laughed.

“Why’re you laughing?  I’m on the Merit Commission.”

As the junior member of minor commission that handed out minor Sheriff’s Office promotions.

“And?” I said.

“I gotta get home.”

“Road’s closed.  Whole town’s closed.”

“I know that.”  Red-faced, he shook his badge at me.

“Got some tin, huh?”  I made no move to let his minivan through the barricades.

“Your boss – the Sheriff – is a friend of mine.”

Pulling out my cell while my emergency lights cast us in red and blue shadows, I said, “A friend of yours, huh?  Well, then let’s call him.”

Two miles in front of us, the entire town seemed to burn, though it was really only the remnants of a freight train.  Better than twenty cars had derailed, most filled with ethanol.  The fire had been burning for two days now.  All of the town’s 350 residents had been evacuated, though only two houses had burned so far.  When I was doing a door to door search, I’d found this guy standing in his backyard watching the fire.  He adamantly hadn’t wanted to leave.”

Click here for the full story. 

Ten Years of Walt Longmire

 

This month marks the tenth anniversary of Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish being published. For the last ten years (little over three years in his fictional lifespan with each book representing a season in his life), Walt Longmire, Wyoming sheriff, has appeared in ten books, two novellas, and inspired a television show that even the stupidity of programming executives couldn’t kill. It is interesting that such a traditional, even old fashioned, character becomes one of the more popular heroes for the beginning of the new millennium.

The tension between old and new is what creates much of the drama in the series. Walt may be an old fashioned lawman but many of the crimes, like human trafficking, are not. Those wide open Wyoming spaces have allowed outlaws to practice with little interference until Walt catches wind. When hunting down killers and criminals, very few of his techniques are modern. No CSI, no SWAT, not even a cell phone. Just doggedness and a knowledge of his place, especially its people.

Community is what defines Walt Longmire as a hero. Few authors have dealt with the relationship between a lawman and the society he serves like Craig Johnson has, particularly in the first five books. These five cover an election Walt is running in, yet wondering if he still wants. It helps to set up the political nature of his job. His main skill is knowing who to call upon for assistance. We see it completely at work in Kindness Goes Unpunished, where he is stuck in Philadelphia and has to build a group of allies from the ground up.

The idea of an old school hero also plays into the tension of how Walt taps into the best of western tradition to correct its sins. The fifth book, The Dark Horse, was initially titled “Horses And Women”, a fragment of the western saying “This land is paradise for men and dogs, hell for horses and women.”In it Walt goes to another Wyoming town to help clear a woman charged with murdering her husband. The town seems convinced of her guilt not only because of the frame up, but because she is a woman who stands out.

The responsibility of the present to make up for the past is often seen in Walt’s dealing with American Indians. Walt’s relationship with the American Indian past and present is closely examined with his friendship with chief (no pun intended) ally, Henry Standing Bear. Oddly enough, it is also the source of much of the humor the books’ humor. Walt is both buffer and bridge between his jurisdiction of Absoroka County and the Cheyenne reservation. It’s perfectly fitting that when he’s alone, in desperate straits, a vision of an Indian often helps him. The vision may also be telling him, he’s also more spiritually aware than he realizes.

Craig Johnson has created a man of cohesive paradoxes that we’ve watched play out and with one another. He’s a reclusive man who is saved by his community as much as he has saved it. It is something deals with more as each turn of the earth brings in a new season in his life. Most of all he embodies the the need of his community and its institutions to be strong for individuality to survive and thrive. Here’s to many more years of Walt being able to protect and serve.


You can find all the volumes of Craig Johnson’s Longmire Series on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Shotgun Blast From The Past: HARDCASE, by Dan Simmons

hardcase


Mulholland Books is doing a great service by bringing back Dan Simmons’ books featuring ex-con PI Joe Kurtz. The first book, Hardcase, came out last fall. it’s a perfect title in so many ways, introducing you to one of the toughest tough guys to hit the page.

The story begins with Joe’s release from an eleven year stretch for murdering a rapist who killed his partner. He goes directly to Don Byron of the Farino mob. Joe uses the fact that he’s been protecting the don’s son in prison to get a job. The don hires him to  find their missing accountant, presumed dead. The search puts him in the middle of a mob war and a battle within the Farino Family itself.

The book is hard boiled heaven. Joe Kurtz is an uncompromising hero in the mold of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and Richard Stark’s Parker (It’s alluded to later in the series that he’s Parker’s son.) Whether blasting away at bad men or bedding badder women, Kurtz does it with an uncanny mix of cool and fervor. Simmons is able to give him real emotion without being emotional and creating a believable world around him that avoids the story and style from skirting parody. If there is even a whisper of sentimentality it is quickly hushed.

It is obvious that Simmons is a fan of the genre, creating a homage that has its own original voice.The other two Joe Kurtz books, Hard Freeze and Hard As Nails, will be out this year. Here’s hoping Simmons can conjure up some more dark alleys for Joe to go down.


Hardcase is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Hard Freeze and Hard as Nails are available for pre-order on our website.