Scott’s Top Ten of 2015

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

If there was a common thread through the best books of 2015, it was ambition. Authors stretched themselves by taking on large subjects or writing something much different, or taking their series characters down a different path. All of these authors raised the bar for themselves and leaped over it.


hollow man1. Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

Pryor’s smart use of point of view puts us in the head of Dominic – Austin prosecutor, musician, and sociopath – who gets involved with a robbery and to continue to tap into his darker nature when things go bad. One of the freshest and best neo-noirs to come down the pike.


the cartel2. The Cartel by Don Winslow

Winslow’s sequel to The Power Of The Dog reignites the blood feud between DEA agent Art Keller and cartel head Adán Barrera in epic fashion to show the disastrous effect of the war on drugs in Mexico. A book that both enrages and entertains.Read More »

Noir at the Bar on February 16, with Trey Barker, Bill Loehfelm, Lou Berney, & Jesse Sublett

Post by Scott M.

On Monday, February 16th, starting at 7 pm at Opal Divine’s, we are back for our first Austin Noir At The Bar for 2015. We have a range of talented authors who will be reading from their hard boiled work. Let Jesse Sublett’s murder ballads put you in the mood, endure my reading (indulge me, the 16th is my birthday), then hold on.

trey barkerTrey R. Barker is a Texas native, now working in Illinois law enforcement whenever he isn’t writing high octane noir. His books, examples including Exit Blood and Death Is Not Forever, are greasy, 200 MPH, high body count hard boiled. Also an accomplished horror writer, he borrows from that genre to give a fever dream edge to his crime fiction.

20080813_Loehfelm_Bill Loehfelm migrated to New Orleans from Staten Island. He uses the backdrop of his adopted city for his series featuring Maureen Coughlin, who moves from cocaine-using cocktail waitress to policewoman. His latest novel is Doing The Devil’s Work The books are atmospheric with a street view of police life, corruption, and racial divides. Picture The Wire and Treme blended together.

lou berneyLou Berney is best known for his funny but edgy books, Gutshot Straight and Whiplash River, featuring nice guy wheelman Shake Bouchon. He gets more serious with his latest, our MysteryPeople Pick Of The Month, The Long And Faraway Gone. The book combines two stories, a PI-style investigation and a thriller, that run parallel to each other. As the story begins, a detective gets a case that forces him to come back to his childhood home, where he survived a horrific robbery in his teens. It is an ambitious novel that never loses its pace while delving into deep themes.

jesse sublettJesse Sublett will cap off the night with a reading from his latest, 1960s Austin Gangsters: Organized Crime that Rocked The Capital, a true crime tale of the Overton Gang, one of our town’s more colorful robbers and vice lords. You can then purchase a book and mingle with the authors. Release date March 9 – pre-order now.


The party starts at 7PM at the Opal Divine’s at 3601 South Congress. Books from each author will be available for purchase to be signed at the event. Booze. Books. Crime Fiction.

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE by Lou Berney

long and faraway gone

It’s not too long into reading The Long and Faraway Gone that you sense Lou Berney’s ambition. The plot involves at least three mysteries, two of them taking place over twenty-five years ago and interacting with the present, and the thematics raised have no easy answers. Even with these challenges, the author proves to be more than up for the challenge.

We are introduced to two mysteries that begin in Nineteen-Eighty-Six Oklahoma City. One is the robbery of a movie theater after closing, where all but one worker is executed. The other occurs about a month later at the State Fair when Genevieve, a girl in her late teens, leaves her little sister behind to meet up with a carny. She tells the little girl, she’ll be back soon. She never returns.

Berney then takes us to the present to follow two people struggling with each crime. Wyatt, the survivor of the theater massacre, is working as a private detective in Vegas. A favor sends him back to Oklahoma City to help a former cocktail waitress who inherited a club from a millionaire she used to serve. She thinks she’s being harassed by the man’s relatives to give up the property and needs proof. Still haunted by survivors guilt, he grows more obsessed with the question of why he survived when he learns that the men who were accused may have not been the ones to commit the crime.

We also follow Juliane, the little sister left behind on the midway, also weighted with an unsolved past. Not even knowing if her sister is dead or alive, she has warring feelings toward Genevieve. When she learns the carny her sister left to meet is back in town, she sets herself up as bait.

Both stories run parallel to each other. Do not expect a grand James Ellroy conspiracy tying them together. Bernie leaves the complexity for the emotions, knowing to plot as simply as possible for an elegant effect. He gives us just enough tropes in both the PI and thriller genre and gives us fully realized characters to mark each plotline. The book is more concerned with Wyatt and Juliane coming to terms with their history. Solving the crime is just part of the process. It’s fitting that the setting is post-9/11 New York. It did remind me of Ellroy’s My Dark Places, the memoir of the author looking into his mother’s unsolved murder.

What’s amazing is how such an emotional and meditative narrative never loses a brisk pace. Part of this is done by embedding Wyatt’s case with the bar owner into the story. It gives us a more traditional, involving mystery, while it brushed the two main stories up against one another. His main plan of attack is by focusing on revelations more about the victims than perpetrators. It keeps propelling the book forward while challenging Wyatt and Genevieve’s perceptions about the past and the people they love, allowing the subtext to surface.

The Long and Faraway Gone is a book that aims high and hits the mark. It gives us an involving tale that explores loss, history, and obsession. Its emotions are both nuanced and visceral. I look forward to the next bar Lou Berney sets for himself.


Copies of The Long and Faraway Gone hits the shelves Tuesday, February 10 and is available for pre-order via bookpeople.com.