Category: Authors

“Whiskey Made Us Brave” by S.A. Cosby

S.A. Cosby is one of my favorite writers.  I’ve read three books by Cosby and each one is a winner:

Cosby recently posted a link to his short story, Whiskey Made Us Brave.  If you like crime fiction, give it a read.  It’s short, but like all great crime stories, not sweet.  I can’t wait to see what S.A. Cosby has for us next!

RIP: Sonny Barger

Sonny Barger, one of the founding members of the Hell’s Angels, died yesterday from cancer.  Sonny Barger’s notoriety as a Hell’s Angels leader (including being part of the Rolling Stones security at the Altamont concert where Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane was knocked unconscious and audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death) brought him into the public eye.  Mr. Barger appeared several documentaries about the Hell’s Angels and other motorcycle clubs, three feature films, but is probably known for his reoccurring role on Sons of Anarchy where he played Lenny ‘The Pimp’ Janowitz.  Sonny Barger also wrote or co-wrote six books.

I first became aware of Sonny Barger through his leadership of the Hell’s Angels and the wild stories and documentaries about him/them.  His addition to the cast of Sons of Anarchy added a level of authenticity to the show.  I’ve read a couple of his books.  He lived his life as he wanted.  His final message posted on his Facebook page was:

If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing. I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club. Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, i’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends.

Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer. But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones. Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor. – Sonny

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sonny Barger’s family, friends and fans.

“The Untouchables” (1987) Starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery & Robert De Niro / Z-View

The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenplay by:  David Mamet based on The Untouchables by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley

Starring:  Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Billy Drago and Patricia Clarkson

Tagline:  What are you prepared to do?

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Elliott Ness (Costner) is a Federal Treasury agent sent to Chicago to take down Al Capone (De Niro) and his criminal enterprises.  Due to widespread corruption in the Chicago Police Department, Ness creates a team of “Untouchables” consisting of a Jim Malone (Connery) a street cop; George Stone (Garcia) a young police cadet and Oscar Wallace (Smith) a Treasury bookkeeper.  With their lives and families in danger, Ness and his Untouchables find themselves in Capone’s crosshairs as they move forward with their mission.

The Untouchables is arguably director Brian DePalma’s finest film.  It is the movie that made Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia stars.  Sean Connery won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jim Malone.  The film was also nominated for 3 additional Oscars: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.

I absolutely love The Untouchables.  Everything comes together beautifully – the screenplay, the director, the cast and the music mesh to create a magical movie experience.  David Mamet wrote the screenplay based on the book by (the real Elliott Ness) and Oscar Fraley.  While the film is a fictionalized account, it’s not a documentary, so let’s not pick that nit.  The film’s direction features DePalma at his peak.  There are so many memorable scenes – Ness and Malone meeting for the first time, Malone’s way of getting a Capone bookkeeper to talk, Ness’ confrontation with Capone on the staircase, Nitti and another thug at Malone’s apartment, Ness and the baby carriage, Stone saving the day and Ness and Nitti on the rooftop – to name several.

Connery is at his best and deserving of his Oscar.  Kevin Costner is perfect as the straight arrow cop who tests his limits when he discovers what he is willing to do to bring down Capone.  Andy Garcia is spot on as the cocky because he’s that good cop.  Charles Martin Smith plays what looks like a stereotypical bookkeeper until the action starts.  Billy Drago has a smaller but vitally important role as Frank Nitti, Capone’s number one hitman.

If you’ve never seen The Untouchables, you should rectify that as soon as possible.  If you have seen it, then you know I’m not exaggerating when I say The Untouchables is worthy of a 5 of 5 star rating.

SHOEDOG by George Pelecanos / Z-View

Shoedog by George Pelecanos

Trade Paperback : ‎ 240 pages
Publisher: ‎ Back Bay Books

First sentence…

The first thing Constantine noticed, as the car pulled over and slowed to a stop, was the bumblebee emblem on the grill.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Constantine left home at 17 and has been drifting around the world for almost as many years.  While hitchhiking, Constantine is picked up by an older man named Polk.  They make good traveling buddies and plan to head towards Florida, but first Polk asks Constantine to accompany him on a stop.  A man named Grimes owes Polk $20,000 and Polk intends to collect it.

Polk and Constantine meet Grimes in an office in Grimes’ mansion.  Grimes tells Polk that he can pay him after a score he has planned for the coming week.  There’s a spot for Polk if he wants in.  Then they’ll just need to find one more driver.  Polk suggests that they use Constantine, if after hearing the plan they want in.

Grimes brings everyone together. The crew consists of Gorman (something isn’t right about this guy), Grimes (has history with Polk and it may not be good), Valdez (who takes an instant dislike to Constantine), Jackson and Randolph (the one dude who seems most trustworthy).  The plan is to knock over two locations using three man teams.  Constantine is deciding if he wants in when Grimes’ young wife, Delia, brings everyone coffee.  Delia’s eyes meet Constantine and his decision is made. He’s in.  As the days go by leading up to the caper, Constantine and Delia grow closer despite the risk of what Grimes will do if he finds out.  And by closer, I mean “closer’.

After the robbery, Polk plans to collect his money and head south with Constantine.  Delia and Constantine have other ideas. They will use Constantine’s cut to make their escape.  None know that Grimes, Gorman and Valdez have plans of their own.

Pelecanos has another winner with Shoedog, a true crime noir.  It earned 4 of 5 stars.

Shoedog Hardcover
Shoedog Trade Paperback
Shoedog Kindle

DARK OF NIGHT by Jonathan Maberry & Rachael Lavin!

Jonathan Maberry is one of the best and most prolific writers working today.  His Joe Ledger series is my favorite.  Others prefer his Dead of Night/Fall of Night or Rot & Ruin series.  I’ve read them as well and wouldn’t argue against someone liking them better.  With his new novel, Dark of Night, Maberry does something he’s not done before: He collaborates with Rachael Lavin and combines characters from all three of his series!

Dark of Night: The dead rose. We fell. The survivors are trapped in a world of monsters who prey on the helpless. Some of them are zombies…but they are not the only predators who feed on pain and suffering. DARK OF NIGHT is a story of worlds in collision. Three heroes who have survived the apocalypse are in a deadly race to save a busload of children from ravenous zombies and ruthless human scavengers. This brand new novella brings together three of New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry’s award-winning novel series. Captain Joe Ledger (PATIENT ZERO and CODE ZERO), Officer Desdemona Fox (DEAD OF NIGHT and FALL OF NIGHT), and Rachael Elle (BITS & PIECES, a Rot & Ruin novel) are caught between an endless wave of the living dead and an army of corrupt men who want to enslave the last human survivors. Jonathan Maberry teams with debut novelist Rachael Lavin to tell a sweeping story of adventure, horror, and heroism. Flesh and Fire: In the midst of a midlife crisis, Todd is haunted by Chloe, the lover who died not long after their relationship ended. When Chloe escapes Hell in search of the peaceful rest that has eluded her, a demon named Samael is on her trail and she needs Todd’s help. While on the run Todd and Chloe face demons real and personal, soul-threatening danger, and their long-buried feelings for each other.

Dark of Night Paperback
Dark of Night Kindle

RIGHTEOUS by Joe Ide / Z-View

Righteous by Joe Ide

Hardcover: ‎ 336 pages
Publisher: ‎Mulholland Books

First sentence…

Isaiah was seventeen years old when his older brother, Marcus, was killed in a hit-and-run..

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Isaiah Quintabe, who everyone calls IQ because of his superior intellect, is back.  Ten years have passed since IQ’s brother, Marcus, was killed.  Isaiah gets by taking on “cases the police can’t or won’t touch.”  They don’t pay much, but Isaiah doesn’t need much.

Out of the blue IQ gets a call from Sarita Van.  Sarita was Marcus’ girlfriend back in the day.  IQ and Sarita haven’t spoken in years.  Now she needs IQ’s help.  Sarita’s sister, Janine and her boyfriend Benny, are degenerate gamblers.  Not only are loan sharks closing in, but they’ve done something to get a Chinese crime cartel after them as well.  IQ agrees to go to Vegas to rescue Sarita’s sister and try to work out something with the Chinese cartel.

In IQ’s mind, he’ll save Sarita’s sister, come back the hero and maybe have a life with Sarita.  If only.

Lucky for IQ, his occasional partner (and former gang banger), Dodson agrees to accompany him.  Things are much worse than IQ could imagine.  Soon he finds himself at odds with a loan shark and his seven foot enforcer, the Chinese cartel and Seb, a crime lord who uses a cane made from a human femur and whose intellect rivals IQ’s.   Janine and Benny are on the run and it is up to IQ to find and save them.  He’ll be lucky if he can save himself.  Oh, and now he has information that his brother was targeted to be killed.  It wasn’t a simple hit-and-run!

Joe Ide has another winner.  Righteous rates 5 of 5 stars.

Righteous Hardcover
Righteous Trade Paperback
Righteous Kindle

IN the CUT by Frank Zafiro / Z-View

In the Cut by Frank Zafiro

Trade Paperback: ‎ 248 pages
Publisher: ‎ Code 4 Press

First sentence…

Rolling up on trouble shouldn’t feel so cold.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Boone has been a prospect with the Iron Brotherhood for a year.  The life of a prospect sucks, but offers a great reward if you can withstand the crap jobs and disrespect full IB members give you.  The payoff is that you become a full member of the Iron Brotherhood.

A couple of months ago, Boone met Faith.  She’s not a motorcycle club groupie and not really like any other woman Boone’s ever known.  He may be in love with her.  Maybe.

That’s not the only indecision in his life.  Boone sometimes wonders if a life in the Iron Brotherhood will give him want he wants.  Then something happens that forces his decision and there’s no turning back.  Things heat up when rumors that someone around the club is feeding cops information.  The Iron Brotherhood is on full alert and has greenlit the rat for execution.

Frank Zafiro is back with the second story in his SpoCompton trilogy.  It’s cool that Jake Stankovich (from At Their Own Game) shows up a couple of times.  As In the Cut unfolds, we see the hell that a motorcycle gang club prospect goes through to become a member.  We also come to understand why a person would be willing to go through that (the gang becomes family) and why the club needs to harshly vet potential members.

Zafiro set In the Cut up so that the first “mystery” is will Boone get in the club or not.  As a reader, we feel the pain of Boone’s indecision about that and his relationship with Faith.  Once word comes that the club has a rat, the tension escalates and I couldn’t read the pages fast enough.  And, oh THAT ending.  I didn’t see it coming and loved it.

In the Cut rates 4 of 5 stars.

In the Cut TradePaperback

In the Cut Kindle

Rating:

AND SOMETIMES I WONDER ABOUT YOU by Walter Mosley / Z-View


And Sometimes I Wonder About You by Walter Mosley

Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (April 19, 2016)

First sentence…

Taking the local train from Philly to New York’s Penn Station may not be as smooth as the Acela’s ride but it gets the job done for a few dollars less and sometimes, like that Monday afternoon, the car is nearly empty and a man has time to think.   

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Leonid McGill is a legitimate tough guy.  He’s a former boxer, a full time PI and sometime criminal.  While riding the train from Philly, a beautiful woman, Marella Herzog asks McGill to get her safely to a cab.  He says he will for a price: if he walks her to the cab and there is no incident, the price is a handshake and kiss on the cheek.  If he has to play bodyguard, the price is $1,500.00.  Marella asks, “Isn’t that price high?  “I couldn’t be trusted for less” is McGill’s response.

McGill has to take action when a man with a knife attacks Marella.  McGill leaves the man unconscious with a broken arm and gets Marella to a cab.  The attraction between Leonid and Marella is undeniable.  She invites him up to her hotel for payment.  He agrees to come by later.

As And Sometimes I Wonder About You unfolds, McGill becomes more involved with Marella.  She’s beautiful, smart, as lustful as McGill and cannot be trusted.  Why are people after her?  She has something they want, but what?  McGill realizes that she’s everything he could want in a woman (if she doesn’t kill him), but McGill has so much going on…

  • There’s his wife who is currently wasting away in a sanitorium.
  • Hiram Stent, who yesterday wanted to hire him to find his cousin, was found murdered.  Mr. Stent said his cousin was set to inherit a million dollars.  McGill felt the case was fishy and declined.
  • Then last night McGill’s office was broken into and one of the building’s security guards killed.
  • Plus, McGill’s adult son has gotten himself involved with a mysterious “underground” gang that the police have been trying to take down with the only result being more dead bodies.
  • Oh, and McGill’s estranged father is about to show up.

If this sounds like too much going on, it is for Leonid McGill, but not the reader.  Mosley keeps all plot threads going without any confusion.  Don’t think that everything all ties together and is resolved with a bow.  A couple of the plot threads are related, but others aren’t.  This seems realistic.  Too often in detective novels there is one case and nothing else comes up until it is resolved.  (If only life would cooperate like that.)

McGill is a tough guy, but he isn’t invincible.  He doesn’t have a heart of gold and has done some pretty terrible things in the past.  McGill is flawed, but has a (tarnished) code of honor.  Walter Mosley has written so many excellent novels.  And Sometimes I Wonder About You is one of them.  It rates 5 of 5 stars.      

Rating:

And Sometimes I Wonder About You Trade Paperback

And Sometimes I Wonder About You Kindle   

GUNSHINE STATE by Andrew Nette / Z-View


Gunshine State by Andrew Nette

Trade Paperback: 306 pages
Publisher: Down & Out Books (February 12, 2018)

First sentence…

The high-pitched whine of the power drill tore through the confined space of the back office.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Gary Chance is an ex-military truck driver, part time bouncer, and part time thief.  What he isn’t, is a killer.  When an in-and-out robbery ends with two people dead, Chance is on the run and forced to go back to work for the Chinaman.

Chance is quickly offered a job.  A crew is in place to rip off Freddie Gao, an extremely wealthy man who is flying into town for a weekend of gambling (he always loses) and whoring.  Gao has security and his father is a well-connected and feared criminal.  Chance can see holes in the crew’s plan, but there are holes in any plan.  All Chance has to do is drive… and hope there are no hiccups.

When members of the crew pull a double-cross a lot of people die and Chance is set-up to take the fall.  Now on the run from the police and Gao father’s gangsters, Chance looks to clear his name and get revenge on everyone who set him up.  Odds aren’t good, but there’s a Chance.  ; )

Andrew Nette has written a fast paced crime story populated by believable characters.  Chance is a likeable (anti)hero.  The story flows with the action moving between Australia to Thailand, but never becomes a travelogue.  Nette puts Chance through the ringer, but the story and twists don’t seem forced.  Gunshine State is a crime story that entertains from start to finish.  It earns 4 of 5 stars.    

Rating:

Gunshine State Trade Paperback

Gunshine State Kindle   

Murder in Greasepaint: A Rock Cobbler Case by Whiskey Leavins / Z-View


Murder in Greasepaint: A Rock Cobbler Case by Whiskey Leavins

Trade Paperback: 242 pages
Publisher: Independently published (March 30, 2022)

First sentences…

“STOP IT! We’re not clowning around here. Just put it down, why don’t you?”  I used my best cop voice.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The first thing you notice with Murder in Greasepaint is another very cool painted cover by Rafael Andres.  Andres also did the cover to Leavins’ first book, The Devil’s Own Piss.  I’m happy to see this partnership continue.

Rock Cobbler is a detective with the Santa Lacrimosa PD.  An apparent suicide at the local clown college, gets Cobbler’s number called.  What looks to be an open and shut case turns out to be murder.  Rob Sofritas aka Mr. Rubadubdub was tortured, stabbed and then thrown from his dorm window.

Sofritas was well-liked and had a bright future in clowning.  Did jealousy lead to Sofritas’ murder?   He also came from money.  Blackmail gone wrong? Then there’s the nasty rumor about Sofritas’ affiliation with a clown faction and their legendary fights to gain control of an artifact that supposedly gives power to those who posses it. Did Softitas have the item?

With so many leads, Cobbler seeks the assistance of Professor Wiggles aka Corine D’Ambrosia.  From their first encounter, Cobbler finds himself attracted to her.  She’s beautiful, smart and also a suspect.  D’Ambrosia may have nothing to do with the murder, or she may be setting Cobbler up for a fatal pratfall.  One thing’s for sure, clowning ain’t no joke.

Hat’s off to Whiskey Leavins for finding the perfect balance of suspense and humor.  While we meet many colorful characters, they’re believable because of the way Leavins presents them.  The situations are humorous and sometimes silly, but we never lose sight that the danger is real.  I was especially impressed with the exchanges between Cobber and D’Ambrosia.  They reminded me of the flirting patter we’d get in an old Bogart/Bacall film.  Also kudos to Leavins for bringing back three characters from The Devil’s Own Piss.

Whiskey Leavins has another winner.  This is his second novel in a row that has earned my top rating.  I hope he goes for a trifecta.    Murder in Greasepaint earns 5 of 5 stars.

Rating:

Murder in Greasepaint Trade Paperback

Murder in Greasepaint Kindle

HELL CHOSE ME by Angel Luis Colón / Z-View

Hell Chose Me by Angel Luis Colón

240 pages
Publisher: ‎ Down & Out Books (February 2, 2019)

First sentence…

Charlie Ryan’s head cracks against the bar top with a satisfying thud and snaps back up like a rubber ball – blood gushing from the shiny new gash at the bridge of his nose.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Bryan Walsh is a hit man.  Which is a strange profession for someone with a conscience.  Walsh justifies his kills by saying, “The bad choices his targets made put them in his sights.”  Walsh uses the contract money to provide life support for his comatose brother.  The medical bills are crushing.

Each hit pushes Walsh further to the edge,  After each kill, Walsh is visited by his victim’s ghost.  The ghosts fade in and out, haunting Walsh.  Is his mind playing tricks or are the ghosts are real?

When his contact for a hit lowballs him,  Walsh thinks something’s up… or maybe he’s just paranoid.  Then he’s immediately offered another job (violating the rule to never work back to back hits).  Walsh is sure something’s not right,  but he needs the money so…  

It was a simple hit until someone unexpected showed up.  Now Walsh is on the run with the knowledge that he and his brother are marked for death.  Unsure of who he can trust, Walsh must figure out why things went south and who he needs to kill to fix them.

Angel Luis Colón has created an interesting character in Bryan Walsh.  He’s far from the genre hitman.  I liked the supernatural aspect of Walsh interacting with the ghosts of those he’s killed.  Was it his mind playing tricks?  Walsh has an interesting backstory and we see how his decisions led to his current situation (just as he blamed his targets for their decisions putting them in his path).  This was my first book by Angel Luis Colón, but it won’t be my last.

Hell Chose Me rates 4 of 5 stars.


Hell Chose Me Trade Paperback
Hell Chose Me Kindle

IQ by Joe Ide / Z-View

IQ by Joe Ide

Trade Paperback: ‎ 352 pages
Publisher: ‎Mulholland Books

First sentence…

Isaiah’s crib looked like every other house on the block except the lawn was cut even, the pain was fresh, and the entrance was a little unusual.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Isaiah Quintabe is a quiet kid with a superior intellect.  While IQ is still in high school, his older brother and guardian, is killed in a hit-and-run accident.  Alone and afraid he will be sent to a home, IQ begins to earn money from neighborhood folks needing help.  When IQ finds a runaway daughter word spreads.  Soon he is getting requests for assistance with “cases the police can’t or won’t touch.”  The cases don’t pay much and sometimes the reward is food or tires for his car.  Because money is tight, IQ takes in a roommate.  Dodson is a low-level drug dealer that IQ knows from the ‘hood.  Both IQ and Dodson hope the arrangement is temporary.

When Dodson brings IQ a case offering real money, there’s an understanding that Dodson will assist. The potential reward is too good to pass, so IQ agrees.  That’s how they begin working for a big time rapper whose life was threatened.  Soon IQ and Dodson find themselves up against a cold-blooded killer with an attack dog the size of a small bear, and a large list of suspects who’d benefit from the rapper’s death.  Before it’s over IQ and Dodson are on the killer’s list.  Identifying the killer and who hired him will save the rapper’s life as well as their own.  If they can.

Joe Ide has created a unique character with Isaiah Quintabe.  It’s impressive how Ide sets up the first IQ book.  Ide gets in background information, early cases, and IQ’s unlikely partnership with Dodson while at the same time keeping the story moving.  Everything, the settings, the characters and the dialogue, all ring true. Because of this, when Ide introduces the killer and his beast-dog, we buy it.  Ide has created memorable characters and a great first story for our modern day Sherlock Holmes.  I loved IQ and look forward to more of his adventures.

IQ rates 5 of 5 stars.

IQ Hardcover
IQ Trade Paperback
IQ Kindle

PAYBACK is FOREVER by Nick Kolakowski / Z-View

Payback is Forever by Nick Kolakowski

Trade Paperback: ‎ 170 pages
Publisher: ‎ Shotgun Honey Books (March 24, 2022)

First sentence…

While the shootout paused so everybody could reload, Miller wondered whether the clown was still alive.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Miller is a successful thief and a not so successful gambler.  This causes him to take a job with a couple of crooks he doesn’t know.  The job goes sideways, the mooks attempt to double cross Miller, and several civilians are killed.  Not all is lost since Miller gets away with the loot.

Now Miller’s on the run.  When he’s offered a job to provide protection for a “simple” transaction, Miller knows there’s no such thing as simple in his line of work.  But the money is too good to pass. Miller needs the payoff to get away and lay low.  Of course nothing is as it seems (boy, it that true!) and Miller is going to learn that Payback is Forever.

Kolakowski has created a great throwback to the Gold Medal paperbacks my grandpa and I used to read.  I blazed through it, enjoying every page.  Payback is Forever is full of interesting characters – crooked crooks, midget hitmen, a ventriloquist with a wise-ass dummy, a sexy love interest and more.

Payback is Forever rates 4 of 5 stars.  If this sounds like something you’d dig, what are you waiting for?

Payback is Forever Trade Paperback
Payback is Forever Kindle

Rating:

SAFE AND SOUND by J.D. Rhoades / Z-View

Safe and Sound by J.D. Rhoades

Hardcover: ‎ 288 pages
Publisher: ‎ Minotaur Books; First Edition (July 10, 2007)

First sentence…

“You’re lucky one way, you know,” the man said.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Jack Keller is in his girlfriend Marie’s office as she is talking to a potential client.  A young girl is missing and presumed to be kidnapped by her divorced father who happens to be AWOL from the Special Forces.  When the client learns that Keller is also former military she asks Marie to bring him on to assist.  Marie and Keller reluctantly agree.  Soon enough Keller and Marie find themselves at odds with a group of AWOL Special Forces soldiers, the FBI and a sadistic mercenary named DeGroot who is putting together a team of his own.  Keller has no idea what they’re all after but knows that even if he figures it out, all his training may not be enough to keep Marie and her son alive.

J.D. Rhoades has created a fast paced action thriller.  A hero is only as good as the villain he is up against and DeGroot is one of the best (meaning he is one of the worst).  Safe and Sound rates 4 of 5 stars.

Safe and Sound Hardcover

Safe and Sound Kindle

Safe and Sound Mass Market Paperback

Rating: