Continuing to celebrate May as author appreciation month, I'm putting a quick spotlight on a variety of authors who I appreciate whose novels are worth your hard earned book dollars. I’m focusing on both current writers who are flying under your radar, as well as some ghosts from the past who deserve a revival...
Under the pseudonym James Hopwood, Australian David Foster has put the fun back in espionage. His three novels (The Librio Defection, The Danakil Deception, and The Ambrosia Kill) featuring neophyte British agent Jarvis Love of the Global Intelligence Network, have given new life to the espionage genre. Tearing spy fiction out from under dreary, shadowy chess game world of John le Carré, and returns it to the cool vibe of the swinging sixties. The not quite suave and sophisticated Jarvis Love infiltrates villains’ lairs, takes on evil megalomaniacs, thwarts plans for world domination, is pursued by beautiful women, and keeps himself ready for hair-breadth escapes. While retro in flavor, the Jarvis Love books also maintain a modern sensibility which breaks new ground for this style of spy thriller.
And don’t miss Foster’s three hard-hitting pulp tales of boxing and mayhem written under his Jack Tunney pseudonym—King Of The Outback, Rumble In The Jungle, and The Iron Fists Of Ned Kelley...
For more on David Foster CLICK HERE
Following on the heels of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels—which brought the ailing private eye genre out from under Chandler’s shadow to explode across the literary landscape again—A. E. Maxwell’s Just Another Day in Paradise rose like a leviathan through the many also rans trying to cash in on the ‘80s hardboiled revival. A. E. Maxwell is a shared pseudonym for Evan and Ann Maxwell—Ann being a bestselling romance writer under her own pseudonym, Elizabeth Lowell.
While reminiscent of the tough early Spenser novels (not a bad thing), the Maxwell’s eight novels featuring Fiddler and his paramour Fiora still reign as one of the most smoothly written and engaging series to come out of the private eye surge. The plots are high concept while remaining believable; Fiddler and Fiora are complex, relatable characters; and there is enough moral ambiguity to keep things on a rollercoaster—Just Enough Light To Kill is my favorite in the series…
For more on A. E. Maxwell CLICK HERE
Part Shaft and part Batman sans the costume, Gary Phillips’ Essex Man is one of the many characters who elevate Phillips to the forefront of the New Pulp movement. In the spirit of full disclosure, Gary is a good friend whose opinions and real world savvy I admire. He is an activist at heart, has a voice James Earl Jones would envy, and looks scary as hell until he smiles and you see the fun and goodness behind the façade. I highlight him here not because he is a friend, but because his writing demands a wider audience.
Part noir, part blaxploitation, part pulp, all wrapped tight in Chester Himes style cool, there are deeper layers to everything Phillips writes. His hardboiled private eye series featuring Ivan Monk (including Bad Night Is Falling and Perdition U.S.A.) is the place to start before moving on to his tales featuring Martha Chainey—a shadowy ex-showgirl bedeviling the Vegas mob (Shooter’s Point)—and his tough guys McBleak, Noc Brenner, and Luke Warfield in Three The Hard Way…
For more on Gary Phillips CLICK HERE
Another hardboiled series to hit the bookshelves in the wake of the success of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels was Washington D.C. private eye Leo Haggerty. Psychologist turned author Benjamin Schutz threw together all the Parker/Spenser ingredients, yet through strong writing also managed to give his series its own edge.
Leo Haggerty—a jockish/renaissance-type hero obsessed with moral dilemmas—is slightly harder and more cynical than Spencer. Arnie Kendall has the Hawk role as the unstoppable, slightly psychotic, but loyal sidekick. And Samantha Clayton has the insufferable Susan Silverman part as the smart/sexy girlfriend who helps the hero understand himself. Schutz described the relationship between Leo and Arnie as imagining Lew Archer with Mike Hammer for a partner.
The first novel in the series, Embrace the Wolf, has a chilling opening scene with a father receiving a phone call with the recorded voices of his twin daughters. Kidnapped five years earlier at five years old, all efforts to find any trace of them ended in failure. After the brief tape is played of his daughters’ imploring voices, a male voice comes on the phone saying, “I still have them,” and hangs up. When the father goes off on a rampage to find his daughter, the mother—who has long given up her daughters for dead—hires Haggerty to stop her husband before she loses him as well.
While the six novel in this series owe a debt to Parker/Spenser they are powerful and well written in their own right and eventually come to stand on their own.
For more on Benjamin Schutz CLICK HERE
Author John Whitlatch is an absolute enigma. Between 1969 and 1976, Whitlatch ground out eleven novels published by Pocket Books, each filled with pulp-style action. While The Judas Goat was a WWII Dirty Dozen-style action thriller, and The Iron Shirt was a traditional western, his other novels all fell into the crime and adventure genre—most often with a lone man up against everything including motorcycle gangs, political conspiracies, and corrupt third world regimes.
Whitlatch’s titles were catchy (Cory’s Losers, Frank T’s Plan, Stunt Man’s Holiday, etc.), but the lurid paperback original covers made each title immediately collectible. Blazing primary colors set off action illustrations torn from the Men’s Adventure magazines of the day. While Whitlatch was a more than competent, if straightforward, writer, it is the covers which make these paperback originals highly collectable.
My introduction to Whitlatch came through his second published title, Morgan’s Rebellion. This was a great adventure tale with our California hero being falsely imprisoned in Central America. With only his archery skills to help him, he must escape and overthrow the corrupt regime before chasing his wife and his business partner down the revenge trail—Oh, yeah!
To check out the stunning Whitlatch paperback covers CLICK HERE
For more on John Whitlatch CLICK HERE
As I stated in last week’s column, writing can be a lonely trade...During the Author Appreciation Month of May make an effort to show admiration for your favorite authors by leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Let them know their efforts are reaching and entertaining readers...