Wednesday, December 4, 2019



Lawrence Block's philatelic hitman Keller and Max Allan Collins' hipper than hip hitman Quarry get all the attention, but there is a third literary anti-hero hitman who, if his body count is any indication, may be deadlier than the other two killers combined—Detroit based hitman Peter Macklin created by Loren Estleman. 

Macklin is certainly the most taciturn of the three, an average everyman, a cypher who still manages to have more family drama and angst than a full season of Real Wives of Beverly Hills. Add in a bad break with his previous employer—The Mob—and it’s no wonder the guy is a cold killing machine.

I am a fan of Loren Estleman’s work. Everything from his underrated Amos Walker private-eye mysteries to his Westerns featuring Sheriff Page Murdock to his numerous standalone titles. There is no doubt Estleman is a good writer, an excellent writer if his five Spur awards and a Pulitzer nomination qualify him as such. However, somewhere along the way, his Amos Walker novels drifted off my radar.

I’d enjoyed Estleman’s first three books to feature hitman Peter Macklin in the eighties (Kill Zone, Roses Are Dead, Any Man’s Death), but by the time numbers four and five appeared in 2002, after a sixteen year gap (Something Borrowed, Something Black and Little Black Dress), my reading habits had changed from hardboiled novels and associated mystery genres to a steady diet of Westerns.

However, at the recent Bouchercon event in Dallas, those attending had the opportunity to pick four free books from a vast array of publisher provided promotional copies. Amongst the dross, I was pleased to find a stack of Estleman’s 27th Amos Walker novel, Black and White Ball. Reading the jacket copy, I realized it was a Walker/Macklin crossover tale and was immediately sold.
Of the four books I picked up at Bouchercon, Black and White Ball intrigued me the most. Once back home, the other three were relegated to the bookshelves. However, I began reading Black and White Ball and was quickly reminded why Estelman is considered a master storyteller.

Told partly by Walker in first-person and partly by Macklin in third, Black and White Ball places private detective Amos Walker squarely between two remorseless killers—his client Peter Macklin and Macklin’s deadly grown son. Whether Walker succeeds or fails in his quest to protect Macklin’s estranged second wife, death threatens to take its toll. 

Black and White Ball moves along at a speedy pace and was satisfying enough to make me want to reread the early Macklin series and also pick up the two Macklin books I missed. However, what I really want to read is a tale in which Macklin, Keller, and Quarry collide in a hitman vs hitman vs hitman scenario. You could take my money now for that story.


A terrorist group comprised of a killer, a bassist, an ex-marine, a demolitions expert, a Black Panther, a national guardsman, and a couple of spoiled teenagers, are about to become Detroit’s worst nightmare. Armed with M16s and enough explosives to burn the city down, the dangerously volatile gang takes a tour boat with eight hundred passengers hostage on Lake Erie—and if they don’t get what they want, they will kill every soul aboard...Rescue is impossible. No cop could get on the boat. The only man with the skills for the job is Peter Macklin, a professional killer with ties to the local mob. Hired by the FBI bureau chief to sneak aboard the ship and destroy the terrorist crew from the inside out, Macklin finds killers not only in front of him, but also coming up fast from behind.

Macklin has problems—His wife is divorcing him, his kid is on drugs, and the Mob wants him dead. For years, Macklin’s wife Donna ignored the guns in his safe, his long hours, and all the cash he couldn’t possibly have made as an efficiency expert. When she is finally forced to admit Macklin is a killer for hire, Donna wants a divorce—and she wants to take Macklin for all he’s worth. But she won’t get a penny if he’s dead...Macklin realizes the Detroit mob has turned on him, and they’ll keep sending assassins until he’s cold in the ground. He’ll have to kill like never before—or he won’t live to make his first alimony payment.

The Reverend Thomas Aquinas Sunsmith is halfway through his sermon when killers open fire. He is preaching against the evils of gambling, which a cartel of mobsters is trying to legalize in Detroit. The hail of gunfire misses the reverend, but a choir member is cut down—the first victim in the battle for the soul of the Motor City. The Detroit mob has erupted into civil war, and professional killer Peter Macklin is caught in the middle. A former mob employee, he has since tried to stay away from the savagery of organized crime, but now they’re offering him a job too tempting to refuse. The mob will kill whomever it takes to bring gambling to Detroit, and Macklin is about to discover their secret weapon: a seventeen-year-old prodigy assassin, who happens to be Macklin’s own son.

 Davis has just left the Alamo when he feels the garrote wrap around his neck. The bookie slams his foot on the gas, sending the car into oncoming traffic. It bounces off a van, hops the curb, and crashes into a hotel, knocking Davis unconscious and breaking the neck of his would-be assassin. Davis can breathe again, but just for a moment. When the mob wants you dead, they’ll always send another killer...The only man for the job is Peter Macklin, a veteran killer who’s trying to put his old life behind him. He’s just married Laurie, a beautiful, innocent young woman who believes her husband is a salesman. They’re on their honeymoon in Los Angeles when he gets the call, and it’s a gig he can’t refuse. Macklin is going to Texas for a battle so tough it will make the Alamo look like a fair fight.

What happens when a hitman meets his mother-in-law? Peter Macklin was a hit man for a long time but he has taken steps to distance himself from his tattooed past, like quitting the mob, moving away from Detroit, and marrying the gorgeous, intelligent Laurie. But retirement isn't easy for an ex-hit man. Now the man accustomed to killing people in cold blood must adjust to a sadistic ritual of early marriage—spending time with his eccentric mother-in-law. When Macklin discovers his mother-in-law's boyfriend Benjamin Grinnell has a hit out on him, it quickly becomes clear Grinnell's jeopardy endangers both Macklin’s mother-in law and his new wife.

Detroit hit man Peter Macklin forces private eye Amos Walker to furnish protection for Laurie, Macklin's estranged wife, while Macklin tracks down the party who has threatened to kill her. The man Walker’s client suspects cannot be ignored—his own grown son, Roger Macklin, who has inherited all his father’s killer instincts, and has all the training necessary to carry out his threat.

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