- Selected by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
The stories below are as diverse and wide-ranging as the state itself, making full use of their setting and the quirky folks residing therein.
Hap & Leonard are back as private eyes in a case that involves a used car/escort/blackmail ring, a transgender pimp, and inbred cannibal assassins. Not for the feint of heart, politically correct, easily offended, or those who have anything against shoot-outs, great dialogue, and fun. You can find copies of Honky Tonk Samurai on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
An intimate epic in South Texas between a deputy, crooked sheriff, and the sheriff’s son who believes his dad killed his mother. Scott shows talent for strong characters and hanging the threat of violence over them live one huge black storm cloud ready to rain down. You can find copies of The Far Empty on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
A Texas Ranger who lost an arm chasing down Bonnie and Clyde tracks down a man’s daughter who fell in with a bunch of Dillinger wanna-bes and finds himself up against a serial killer. A moody, character driven crime novel that puts you on a Depression era dirt road in a speeding coupe with the bullets flying. You can find copies of A Thousand Falling Crows on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
A bounty hunter gets tangled up with a Texas cutie in all the wrong ways. A tight entertaining throwback to the Gold Medal paperbacks with a lot of Lone Star flavor. You can find copies of Cold Rains on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
An Austin lawyer goes up against the Texas boot king in a case that starts out over bill boards, but ends up in murder. A fun legal thriller with colorful characters and great use of the Austin setting. You can find copies of Dollar Signs on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Coleman gives us a new character, ex-cop Gus Murphy, in a mystery involving old school mobsters, questionable cops, and a confrontation with loss and despair. After this hard-boiled story with heart, I can’t wait to see where this wounded hero is going. Signed copies available!
One of the best crafted crime novels I’ve read in some time, featuring a small time hood whose early prison release has him forced to do the bidding of criminal kingpin. Everything Hamilton sets up with his sharp premise falls perfectly into place by the end.
A layered Hollywood thriller with the murder of a movie star tied to the woman found guilty for shooting his director buddy when she was a teenager. Gaylin dives into celebrity crime, tapping into dark social psychology.
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- Review by Event Staffer and Mystery Enthusiast Meike Alana
Larry D. Sweazy’s latest Marjorie Trumaine mystery, See Also Deception, is an atmospheric tale of small-town secrets with a retro feel that is a solid entry in the series.
Marjorie Trumaine is a North Dakota farmwife who took up indexing as a way to make ends meet during the tougher crop seasons—a job that has taken on much more significance since her husband Hank was blinded and paralyzed in a hunting accident some time ago. She often calls on the local librarian, Calla Eltmore, for informational assistance in the completion of her indexing duties. When Calla is found dead at work, due to an apparent suicide, Marjorie has trouble believing that Calla would have killed herself. Her suspicions are further aroused when she notices something odd at Calla’s wake, but the police don’t seem to take her concern seriously. Marjorie sets out to learn more, all while taking care of the ailing Hank. The web of secrets she begins to unravel turn ever more threatening when it becomes apparent that someone may be willing to kill to keep those secrets hidden.
Marjorie is a fascinating character who I’ve come to admire deeply in my two literary outings with her. We see in flashbacks that she and Hank had a charmed romance—he is the only man she has ever loved, and loved deeply, ever since she first set eyes on him in grade school. Yet she isn’t bitter or self-pitying about their changed circumstances—she accepts full responsibility for his considerable care, and his well-being is always at the forefront of her mind. Life on a North Dakota farm in the 1960’s can be deeply isolating—Marjorie feels like “the only person in the world, stranded and alone on a planet of my own making”–but the loneliness suits Marjorie and her private nature. The descriptions of the vast plains and the unrelenting wind are where Sweazy’s prose truly excels.
Larry D. Sweazy is the author of See Also Murder (the first Marjorie Trumaine novel); last year’s A Thousand Falling Crows (a stand-alone thriller set in dust-bowl era Texas); and nine other novels. He has published over sixty non-fiction articles and short stories, many of which have won or been nominated for awards. His is a unique voice in the genre.
You can find copies of See Also Deception on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Larry Sweazy’s A Thousand Falling Crows is a fantastic Depression-era crime novel. Sonny Burton, a Texas Ranger who recently lost an arm in pursuit of Bonnie and Clyde, goes on the search for a man’s missing daughter. His investigation leads him to another group of robbers and to a killer who dumps his victims’ bodies in the Texas fields. The book has both a moody and an authentic feel. We caught up with Mr. Sweazy to take a few questions from us.
- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
MysteryPeople Scott: Both the character of Sonny and the story are unique. Which came first?
Larry Sweazy: Sonny, no question. Characters always seem to come first to me. I knew a few things about Sonny from the beginning (his real name is Lester). I knew he was at the end of his career and that his father had been a Texas Ranger, too. Sonny had a perspective of history, could remember his father talking vividly about going after outlaws like King Fisher and John Wesley Hardin on horseback, while Sonny was rooted in the Twentieth Century, going after Bonnie and Clyde in a 1932 Ford. I also knew that Sonny was a World War I veteran and suffered from the Thousand Yard Stare (our version of PSTD). He was also a widower with a difficult relationship with his only son, who is also a Texas Ranger, but for seemingly different reasons. The story came out of research for another project I was working on and I stumbled across an article about Bonnie and Clyde coming out of the Ritz movie theater in Wellington, Texas. There was a chase, a shootout, and a flaming car crash where Bonnie was hurt, but they escape. The timing was right and l knew that I could insert my fictional character into that historical situation and go from there.
“I want the historical novels I write to be accessible, relatable, and an emotional journey as well as a physical one. That’s what I try for every time I sit down to write.”
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- Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
The outlaw era of the 1930s conjures up a certain rustic romance. It’s meeting of wild west and Tommy-gun times; local law and Texas rangers hot on the heels of Baby-Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. Larry D. Sweazy plays to that legendary period while getting to its dark underbelly with A Thousand Falling Crows.
He gives us a stalwart and struggling hero with aging Texas Ranger Sonny Burton. Sweazy immediately throws us into the action as Sonny attempts to apprehend bank-robbing gangsters Bonnie and Clyde. Unfortunately the confrontation take him out of action, losing him the use of his arm. Feeling useless, he is asked by Aldo, a worker at the hospital he recuperated at, to locate Aldo’s missing daughter, Carmen, who he fears has fallen in with some robbers with their own Dillinger dreams. The search ties in with an even darker criminal mind, leaving women’s dead bodies in rural fields across the Southwest.
Sweazy completely drops us into the period. You can tell he has done his research, since he doesn’t rub it in your face all the time. Like everything in the book, it is expressed through character. He gives us a sense of time and place through Sonny’s eyes. When we meet up with the legendary and controversial Ranger Frank Hamer, much is expressed by Sonny’s envy of the gun Frank carries.
Sweazy also knows how to use character to push plot. Moving between the point of views of Sonny, the criminals, and Carmen, he creates tension and pace. Mood is even created by another set of characters, a large flock of crows waiting for a killer to provide their next meal of the dead.
A Thousand Falling Crows puts you on an dirt road with fast fords and flying bullets, weaving in a dark and gritty undercurrent. This is Texas period crime fiction at its finest. I hope to see more of Sonny Burton.
You can find copies of A Thousand Falling Crows on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.