TOP FIVE DEBUTS OF 2018

There was an interesting year for fresh voices in crime fiction. While there were many first timers, some folks came from other genre, mixing what they learned from the others in their tale of crime and punishment. All brought a fresh perspective. Here are my top five.

Bearskin: A Novel Cover ImageBearskin by James McLaughlin- McLaughlin gives us a set up for suspense and emotion with a man hiding out from a drug cartel in an Appalachian wilderness preserve, going up against a bear poaching ring. He then has it delivered with nuanced characters and a great sense of place and its people.

Charlesgate Confidential by Scott Von Doviak – Three stories, three periods, and three sub genres dovetail perfectly into this highly entertaining crime story involving an art heist, college friends, and Boston’s Charlesgate Building. where most of it takes place. Von Doviak’s craftsmanship and skill with character takes it beyond a novel experiment.

Blood Standard (An Isaiah Coleridge Novel #1) Cover ImageBlood Standard by Laird Barron – Barron, mainly known for his horror and weird fiction, tackles the hard boiled genre head on with an exiled mob enforcer search for a kidnapped girl. All the tough guy tropes are here along with a the feel of unsure footing from the horror world.

Little Comfort by Edwin Hill – Hill proves librarians aren’t just for cozies in this psychological thriller/detective tale featuring Hester Thursby who moonlights as a finder of missing persons, tracking down someone who will kill not to found. Hill displays a wonderful sense of mood and character.

Hearts Of The Missing by Carol Potenza – Potenza introduces us to Pueblo Police Sergeant Nicky New Mexico’s Fire Sky Tribe. She uses the mystery theme of identity for a cultural exploration of the idea. Tony Hillerman fans will enjoy.

IF YOU LIKE MEGAN ABBOTT…

First, if you don’t see a doctor. If there is any complaint about this author of exquisitely dark fiction that puts noir in a female perspective it’s that she doesn’t have as high an output as her contemporaries. If you need something to read between books or getting a gift for that Megan Abbott fan, here are some like minded authors doing some great things with the genre.

What Remains of Me: A Novel Cover ImageAllison Gaylin- Few cut into the dark side of family and “ideal” society like Allison Gaylin. her plotting is both complex and clean with stories that often don’t truly reveal themselves and their characters until the final paragraph. Either her Hollywood thriller, What Remains Of Me, or her look at crime and community in the social media age, If I Die Tonight, this reader will take you down some dark emotional paths, having you enjoy it all the way.

 

 

Big Woods Cover ImageMay Cobb- Consider her the Pine Curtain Megan Abbott using the East Texas setting to provide the gothic mood for Big Woods, her debut novel dealing with a young girl looking for her sister in her small town during the eighties scare of satanic cults. She builds incredible tension in her relationship between point of view and setting.

 

 

I Bring Sorrow: And Other Stories of Transgression Cover ImagePatricia Abbott- Yes, she is related. Megan’s mother proves she shares the gift of dark mood and compromised characters. Her gifts as a short story author an be found in the collection I Bring Sorrow: And Other Stories Of Transgression and she is also an accomplished novelist with her books Concrete Angel and Shot In Detroit

3 Picks for December

Atlanta Deathwatch Cover ImageAtlanta Deathwatch by Ralph Dennis

Brash Books is bringing back this acclaimed and hard to find series from the seventies featuring disgraced ex-cop Jim Hardman working the grimy streets of Atlanta as an unlicensed PI with former pro-baller Hump as back up. In this first outing Hardman looks into a murdered girl tied to both a street dealer and politician. Good gritty stuff, with subtle emotions, and lots of gunfire. These books partly inspired Joe Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard series.

 

Hearts of the Missing: A Mystery Cover ImageHearts Of The Missing by Carol Potenza

Winner of the Tony Hillerman prize, this mystery takes us into the Fire Sky tribe on New Mexico’s Tsiba-ashi D’yini reservation. Tribal police officer Sgt. Nicky Matthews’ discovery of a body without a heart leads to a history of other unsolved murders and a conspiracy on the reservation. Potenza explores the idea of identity in a well crafted debut that should hook any western mystery fan.

 

 

Nightfall Cover ImageNightfall/ Cassidy’s Girl/ Night Squad by David Goodis

Three fine books by one of the masters of classic noir. Whether the man on the run, the disgraced pilot-turned-bus driver caught between two women, or the shady cop torn between loyalties, all three of these intense tales show how no one captured the dark streets and lives of desperation like David Goodis. As crime writer Ed Gorman said, “David Goodis didn’t write novels, he wrote suicide notes.”  

3 Picks for November

Forever and a Day: A James Bond Novel Cover ImageForever And A Day by Anthony Horowitz

Taking some material from Ian Fleming, Horowitz goes back to James Bond’s first mission as 007. MI6 sends him to Marseilles where he encounters drug smugglers, power players, and an alluring spy master. to find out what the previous 007 discovered before he was murdered. This book captures the cool style of the Fleming Bonds and cold blooded attitude of the secret agent, especially with the twist at the end.

 

 

Nighttown (A Junior Bender Mystery #7) Cover ImageNighttown by Timothy Hallinan

Burglar Junior Bender is hired to steal an antique doll for more money than it is worth. When he stumbles across somebody else trying to steal it, Junior and his girlfriend are on the run with a shady hit woman as their only hope. Hallinan skillfully uses humor, his anti-hero’s point of view, and the city of Los Angeles for a fun caper novel with heart and a wonderful literary reveal.

 

 

Adrenaline Junkie: A Memoir Cover ImageAdrenaline Junkie: A Memoir by Les Edgerton

Author Les Edgerton lets you into his life that leads into some of his great crime fiction. Following him through the swinging sixties and hedonistic seventies and early eighties, he led one hell of a life as a thief, convict, and hair stylist. Les pulls no punches in the telling. It’s not all pretty, but it’s all pretty entertaining. This is like experiencing that guy at the bar who had collected a lot of life experience and knows how to talk about it in book form.

3 Picks for October

November Road: A Novel Cover ImageNovember Road by Lou Berney

After the JFK assassination, a gangster for Carlos Marcello goes on the run when he realizes he played a part in the murder. To throw the mob of his trail, he travels with a housewife fleeing  her husband with her two daughters as cover. Along the way, the two develop a bond as a hit man closes in. Lou Berney delivers a great period crime novel with a poignant story of human connection woven in.

 

 

The Count of 9 Cover ImageCount Of Nine by Erle Stanley Gardner

Hard Case Crime brings back another mystery featuring  private detective Donald Lam and his boss Bertha Cool. The two have to track down the treasures of a world-traveling adventurer that were smuggled out under their nose as well as a few murders. Even today, Gardner is hard to beat for a slam bang mystery yarn.

 

 

Heresy by Melissa Lenhardt

During the 1880s on the western frontier, a group of women escape their lot in life by dressing up as men and committing well executed robberies. A thrilling western heist tale  that explores histories treatment of women and the bond of female friendship. Melissa Lenhardt will be at BookPeople October 9th with Reavis Wortham (Gold Dust) to sign and discuss their books.

3 Picks for September

Depth of Winter: A Longmire Mystery Cover ImageThe Depth Of Winter by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire marches into Mexico’s narco territory with a ragged band of misfits and several moral compromises to find his kidnapped daughter and settle things with long time nemesis Tomas Bidarte. Even at his grimiest and grittiest, Craig Johnson finds the humor and humanity in his characters.

 

 

 

Robert B. Parker's Colorblind (A Jesse Stone Novel) Cover ImageRobert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

Police Chief Jesse Stone, who just quit drinking, has to contend with a hate group when his black officer is accused of shooting the leader’s unarmed son. Coleman weaves Jesse’s personal struggle into a timely plot that examines race for a satisfying police mystery with real characters and emotion. Reed Farrel Coleman will be at BookPeople on September 16th at 5PM, to sign and discuss Colorblind.

 

 

Charlesgate Confidential Cover ImageCharlesgate Confidential by Scott Von Doviak

The robbery of a Boston art museum in the forties reverberates through  four generations in the Charlesgate apartments. Von Doviak uses Boston lore to weave his story lines, creating a mix of The Big Chill and The Friends Of Eddie Coyle. Scott Von Doviak will be with Edwin Hill (Little Comfort) on Saturday, September 22nd at 6PM to sign and discuss their books.

SCOTT BUTKI’S INTERVIEW WITH AMY STUART

In Amy Stuart’s second novel in a series, Still Water, we follow Clare O’Dey, a private investigator, as she tries to find Sally Proulx and her son, William after their disappearance. This is a novel full of twists about a town full of secrets and behind the secrets are still more.

Amy Stuart agreed to do an email interview for her new book. Her first book was Still Mine.

Still Water: A Novel Cover ImageScott Butki: How did this story develop?

Amy Stuart: Still Water is a “sequel of sorts” to my first novel, Still Mine. A couple of the characters continue on in the second book, so to some degree the story developed out of the ending of the first book. I wrote Still Water with enough backstory in place so readers could start it without reading my first novel beforehand. The idea behind Still Water was to create a second missing person case that my protagonist, Clare, could tackle now that she’s got a little more experience under her belt.

Scott: Which came first, the plot or the characters?

Amy: Because this is a second book, the characters arrived on the page before the plot did. I had a general sense of where I wanted to take them, but the characters played a large part in shaping what happened in this book. As a writer it’s a very interesting experience to start a new novel with some familiar faces on hand; to some degree, you are forced to let them guide you through the story. I loved that.

Scott: Should readers read the first book in your series before this one?

Amy: Not necessarily! I’ve heard from lots of readers who read the books in order, and others who read Still Water as a standalone, and still others who read Still Water first then returned to read the first book as a sequel. I’m not about to tell readers how to best enjoy the books and I’m thrilled that they’ve found different ways to do so. That’s a writer’s dream.

Scott: How would you summarize the plot and the main characters?

Amy: Still Water follows Clare as she arrives in a place called High River to search for a woman – Sally Proulx – and her son who’ve gone missing. Clare immerses herself in the town, posing as a friend of Sally’s, but what the people of High River don’t know is that Clare works for a man named Malcolm Boon and this is her missing person second case. What Clare doesn’t know is that Sally’s disappearance is tied to High River’s long and dark history and that everyone she’ll meet is somehow involved.

Scott: The book involves, among other things, lots of secrets, including women on the run from abusive husbands. How did you go about researching things for this book?

Image result for amy stuart authorAmy: The most important thing for me in writing a novel like this is to authenticate the characters and their life stories and to make their reactions and personalities complex enough for readers to really get what they’ve been though. To research, I try to read a lot of case stories and firsthand accounts from women with similar experiences. I think when you’re taking on difficult issues in a book, you have a responsibility to get it as right as you can.

Scott: How does being an English teacher at an alternative high school help (or hurt) your work as a writer?

Amy: I’ve always found teaching to be a great antidote to writing; whereas writing is very solitary and inward, teaching is the exact opposite – social, outward. It’s such an honor to be able to convey my love for reading and writing to young people. But as my books move out into the world, I’ve found it harder and harder to strike the balance between two careers, so I’ve been moving away from full-time teaching. I can’t imagine a future where I’m not teaching in some capacity, though. I feel lucky to have true great passions in teaching and writing.

Scott: What do you want readers to take away from this story?

Amy: It means a lot to me that readers can see my characters grow and change over the course of a book, but that their growth feels authentic and plausible. I want my readers to feel that even the most flawed characters deserve redemption. I hope that my readers see how much I invested in my characters and the story when I was writing it.

Scott: Was it a coincidence, this coming out during the #MeToo movement, or did that movement play a role in your writing this book?

Amy: I was writing this novel just as the #MeToo movement was taking shape, so it was definitely in my head as the words were hitting the page. It felt particularly important to me to give the women characters a voice and the chance to emerge from their hardships with strength and resilience. I don’t see my novels as a form of social commentary, but I do want them to reflect my view of the world.

Scott: What are you working on next?

Amy: I’m back with Clare and Malcolm working on the next book in the series. Furiously! I can’t wait to see where they go next.