Thursday, January 26, 2017

An Interview With Robert J. Randisi

Today I am beyond thrilled to present my interview with author Robert J. Randisi. It would be a gross understatement to simply say Randisi is prolific. As you’ll see, he’s a writing machine! He has one heck of a resume. Besides writing hundreds of novels (hundreds, people), he is the founder of the Private Eye Writers of America. The group awards the prestigious Shamus Award each year, honoring great detective fiction. He’s edited anthologies. He’s created numerous book series. In short, he’s one of a kind. He is also one of my literary heroes.

And, he was kind enough to answer my pesky questions. Without farther ado, here’s Robert.

Ryan: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I know you are busy based upon the sheer number of books you publish! So, I’ll start with that.

Please take us through typical month for you. Do you still publish at least one book a month (I know the Gunsmith used to come out monthly and they still seem to)? How many books do you work on at one time?

Robert: I typically work on two books a month, one of which is a Gunsmith, the other varies, sometimes another Western, sometimes a Mystery. I work from 1-5 PM, have dinner, take a nap, work from 9-12, take a half hour break then work from 12:30-4 AM.  I go to bed at 5-5:30 AM, get up at noon, have breakfast and start again. Occasionally the errands of normal life--bank, post office, grocery shopping, doctor's visits--interfere.

Ryan: How many works do you have published as of now?

Robert: The nearest I can figure right now is between 640-650. 

Ryan: How long have you been a full-time writer? Did you always know that is what you wanted to do?

Robert: This month--January 2017--marks my 35th anniversary as a full-time writer.  I decided when I was 15 that I wanted to write for a living by the time I was 30, and that's what I did.

Ryan: What kind of writing schedule do you keep each day? Do you keep set hours or do you have a word threshold (5,000 words a day, etc.)?

Robert: I went into this a bit in question 1. I keep to those hours I indicated, but I try to produce 5-7 pages an hour. In my younger days my normal speed was 10 pages an hour. I'm getting older.

Ryan: Do you ever think of one day hanging it up, or will you write as long as you’re able?

Robert: There will be no retirement. I figure if I write til I'm 90 I'll be close to 1000 books. It's not something I'm aiming for. I never intended to write so many books, but it's just something I do.  It's not even a talent, it's a natural ability.

Ryan: I enjoy your westerns and your mysteries with equal measure. Do you prefer writing in one genre over the other? You can write across the two seamlessly. Has it always been that way, or was it harder in the beginning?

Robert: My preference has always been private eye novels. I've never had a problem moving back and forth between genres. The lone gunfighter and private eye have a lot in common, most notably the same kind of code.

Ryan: One thing that always strikes me about your work is the pacing. I dream of writing that way! Lean, no filler, always entertaining. How did you learn that style? Did it come naturally in the beginning? What pointers might you have for other writers regarding pacing?

Robert: Everything I do I just do. I never took a course, never practiced--DOING it IS practice. My advice to writers is always the same--SIT DOWN AND WRITE. Too much thinking gets in the way.

Ryan: I’d like to talk about westerns for a minute. I often hear that it’s a dying genre. I know many traditional publishers have outright ceased production of westerns or have scaled drastically back. Do you think there are enough new guys to keep the genre alive? Do you think there are enough readers?

Robert: I believe there's a core readership for every genre. The number fluctuates, but readers are always there. Right now traditional publishers don't believe in westerns, but we have enough small press, ebook companies and individual authors who are publishing westerns to keep the genre alive and well.

Ryan: Speaking of the traditional publishers cutting so many westerns, I was happy that you’ve continued The Gunsmith novels, finding a new home for them. Will Clint Adams remain with us for a while? Is he headed off into the sunset anytime soon?

Robert: Clint will be around as long as I am, and I'm taking steps to see that the series continues even when I'm gone-as long as people want to read about him.

Ryan: Switching to mysteries, I have to ask about your Rat Pack series. I love it! Will we see more of Frank, Sammy, and Dino in the future?

Robert: Definitely. For a while I thought I'd stop after 6, or 10, but now I think I'll keep going. Right now I'm working on one that guest stars Jackie Gleason. And Jerry Lewis is in the future.

Ryan: What advice do you have for writers? Is there anything you wish someone would have told you earlier in your career?

Robert: The advice I got early in my career was to slow down. That was very bad advice.  My advice is, once you discover what your natural speed is, stick to it. Don't try to slow down, or speed up. NATURAL makes it all flow.

Ryan: Finally, what can we expect from you this year? Any new titles you’d like to tell us about?

Robert: More Gunsmiths, a new series called Lady Gunsmith starts in March. My third hit man with a soul book is due 2/27 from Down & Out Books. I'll be doing a second Nashville private eye novel for Perfect Crime Books, a new western for Five Star Books that continues the Sons of Daniel Shaye series. And I have plans for many other books in both genres.

Ryan: Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. And thank you for all of the entertainment you’ve provided through the years. I’m not just blowing smoke, but you’re one of the best and certainly a favorite of mine. I really appreciate this!

Robert: It was my pleasure, Ryan. Thanks for asking.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

An Interview with Ron Fortier

Ron Fortier is a busy guy. He has one heck of an impressive resume! Over the years, he’s worked in comics (Terminator, Green Hornet, the Incredible Hulk, Popeye, among others), written novels, and edited. Besides all of this, he is founder of Airship 27, a leading voice in the New Pulp Fiction movement. Plus, he’s an all-around nice guy and I’m pleased to present this interview with him. I’ve left my questions identified as “Q” rather than “RF” since Ron and I have the same initials. Y’all enjoy!

Ron, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I know you’re very busy as you’re a man who wears many hats in the publishing industry. I’ll keep it brief and we’ll get right down to it.

Q: Airship 27 seems to be the leader in publishing new pulp fiction. I guess I should start at the beginning and ask, how do you personally define “pulp fiction?”

RF: Any fast-paced action-adventure fiction that has larger than life heroes and totally evil twisted villains. Genre is unimportant, be it a crime story or pirate yarn, the pacing has to be lightning fast and never bogged down with introspection or other such boring prose. Readers want pulp to entertain them, not educate them.

Q: Have you always been interested in pulp fiction? What started your love of the genre?

RF: I got my writing start in the comics feel and over time began to understand how comics, especially in the 30s were inspired by the hero pulps of that era. Characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage would later be the molds from which such comic favorites as Batman and Superman would spring. Curious about this history, I slowly began researching the history of American pulps until in the end I was a bonefide fan.

Q: Did you know, even in childhood, that pulp would be your career? How long have you been a full-time writer?

RF: The above answer deals with some of that in that I first grew up as a dedicated comic book fan. I sold my first story in the early 70s but writing was always a part time job while I worked a 40-hour week at a local GE Factory which provided my family in regards to educating five kids and keeping them fed and insured. In 2004 I retired and then devoted my time to writing one hundred percent.

Q: You’ve worked in comics, novels, short stories, and a variety of other mediums. Do you have a favorite?

RF: Although I do love all three forms, I have to confess comic scripting is still my favorite. Prose is a solitary endeavor and though it does have its own rewards, there is nothing like working with a talented graphic artist to bring a tale to visual life. I've been blessed with working with some of the best in the business such as Gary Kato, Jeff Butler, Rob Davis and of course Alex Ross.

Q: You seem to spend a lot of time editing. Airship 27 publishes so many other authors’ work, not just your own. Would you say you spend more time writing, editing, or an equal amount of time on both?

RF: Oh yes, the Catch-22 of being an editor. With the success of Airship 27, more and more talented new writers are coming to us and in the past few years I've found myself doing lots more editing and having to push aside my own writing goals. I recently finished my fifth Captain Hazzard novel, which I had started three years ago. That's primarily because editing just took over my life. I hope to be able to balance it a bit more evenly in the future. If that is at all possible.

Q: When you’re writing, what is your process like? Do you keep set hours? Do you have a minimum word count for the day that you won’t stop until you’ve reached?

RF: I'm a free-wheeling writer as I've never been able to conform to any routine. Generally, I spend several hours editing at the start of the day. Then I'll take a break to do the normal every day errands, like grocery shopping, going out to a movie or simply sitting down to read a book. Then by late afternoon I'll get to my own writing. I tend to see stories in my imagination in scenes, one following the other in the narrative. Thus, my aim when I do write is to tackle the next scene and get it completed. Doesn't matter if it is a short or long section and once finished, I'm done for the day. I'm comfortable with building a story like this, scene by scene until I reach the end.

Q: What does the future of pulp fiction look like? Are there enough authors to keep it going?

RF: I think the future of pulp fiction is better than ever as more and more writers are discovering it. And by that, I mean young college age writers. Back in the 40s and 50s there was some kind of stigma put on populace literature. It seemed academia, for whatever highbrow reasons, labeled all pulp fiction as junk and not worthy of critical attention. But the truth was most of the famous big name authors, ala Erle Stanley Gardner, Bob Silverberg, Isaac Asimov and so many others actually had their start in the pulps. So pulps evolved into the 60s and 70s paperbacks producing such renown writers as Clive Cussler, Stephen King etc. Today, with their successes, the literary community has finally come around to recognizing the significant contributions to our culture that pulps have made and today writers don't shun the word, they are actually flattered to be known as "pulp" writers.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring pulp authors? What could you say to them that you wish someone would have told you?

RF: When you write anything, better make sure you are having fun while you are at it. Because if you aren't having fun writing it, how do you expect your readers to have fun reading it?  Simple advice and one I learned to take to heart over the years. Write what you love and what excites you and most likely you'll entertain lots of other people along the way.

Q: Finally, what are some of the upcoming titles from Airship 27 that we can look forward to?

RF: Well, it's a new year and we just kicked things off with a great western, "Comanche Blood" by R.A. Jones. We'll be following this up with a pirate adventure, "Queen of Anarchy" by Nancy Hansen and after that, a book I'm really excited about, "Holmes & Houdini" by I.A. Watson. So, as you can see, as ever, lots of great books in lots of genres. And all of them pure pulp fiction.

Ron, thank you again! You’ve always been very kind and gracious with your time. Thank you for all the entertainment you’ve given readers like me through the years. I can’t wait for Airship’s future titles!
For more information, check out Airship 27's website!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Few Words on Writing

I'm no expert when it comes to writing. I'm not pretending to be. I do know what has worked for me.
I’ve started 2017 at a breakneck speed. I've written 56,000 words. I can't keep this pace up long. I don't write full-time. Not yet. I hope one day…
2016 finished really strong for me. Reviews have been good and sales even better. I’m  still in the romance game, but at least I'm having fun and making money (don’t judge; a fella does what he has to do to get a foot in the door).
A friend recently asked how I've increased my output. How am I writing at a faster pace? I told him I have no doubt the reason. It's what I believe the key to being a good writer is. I read.
An author I follow on social media recently made a comment that for a writer, all reading is research. He's a wise man.
When I read, I soak up tips and pointers from the masters without even realizing it. It sinks in through osmosis. It's as if these guys mentor me, even though I never speak to many of them.
When I read I learn sentence and paragraph structure, pacing, and story flow. I have no doubt it all shows up in my own work. When I spend time with authors who are great, I find  myself getting better than I was.
So if you want to write, my humble advice, and take it for what it's worth, is to read, read, read! Soak it all in. Enjoy the stories for what they are. Be entertained! But I promise, it will improve your own craft.
So here are a few recommendations.
Louis L’Amour was terrific. For sheer imagination, I love the guy. He could take a location and write a fun, exciting tale around it.
For pacing, I read a lot of James Reasoner! Every part of his books propel the action, moving the plot forward. Pacing is something I often struggle with. I wrote a romance following “Reasoner’s Rules” (pacing tips I've learned just by reading his work—but I like the name). It's the best reviewed and highest selling work I've ever done.
Speaking of pacing, Robert Randisi knows a thing or two, or a hundred. He writes the Gunsmith series under a pen, as well as a ton of titles under his own name. Check out his Rat Pack mystery series! Fun and fast.
And while we are talking pace, let's talk Lee Goldberg. King City is a great place to start. It's like watching an action movie.
You want to read a well-crafted action scene? Check out John Hegenberger. The man knows where it's at.
If you want to see a fine example of nonstop excitement, read Brad Thor or the late, great Vince Flynn. Those are darn good thrillers they put out.
And finally, for great first person perspective, Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole books are wonderful.
Let me know your thoughts and the writers that help you!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Western Movie Gunfights

The end of one year and the start of another usually signals awards season in the film industry. Long story short, it’s the time of year when the studios roll out their Oscar contenders. It’s also when most of the movies I don’t care about are released. I’ve never forgiven the Academy for their Smokey and the Bandit snub back in ’77, so I generally boycott the ceremony. But, that won’t stop me from handing out a few awards myself. So, let’s talk Western gunfights. It isn’t an Oscar or Golden Globe category, but it sure should be.
Best Gunfight In a Classic Western
This one, for me, goes hands down to Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This film is one of my all-time favorites. The final battle between the Earp faction and the Clantons is one of the greatest gunfights ever filmed. True, it isn’t historically accurate in the least. But, it’s a darn good firefight. The climactic struggle is wonderfully filmed by my personal favorite director, John Sturges. It’s tense, action packed, and the perfect pay-off to a wonderful film. To see how the director’s perspective changed in ten years or so, watch Hour of the Gun. That version of the famous O.K. Corral fight is much different, but equally as effective.
Best Gunfight in a Modern Western
Open Range. Need I say more? Wonderfully choreographed and superbly filmed, the gunfight in Open Range is top notch. There’s only one gunfight in the whole movie, but it’s well worth the wait! Once the shooting starts, it goes on for about twenty minutes. That gunfight, and a whole host of other reasons, is why Open Range is on my top ten list of best movies ever made.
Most Realistic Gunfight
I’ll have to go with the final showdown in 2008’s Appaloosa. It’s quick. In fact, the first time I saw the film I was a bit disappointed. The shooting was over so fast. The whole movie just didn’t do a lot for me. The second time I saw it, I enjoyed it. Third time, I loved it. It’s now one of my favorite films.  But back to that gunfight…
I imagine that’s how Old West gunfights were (when they actually occurred): sudden and quick bursts of violence. Forget long, drawn-out fights with folks taking cover behind wagons or on top of buildings and all that. In Appaloosa, guns are drawn, used, and folks die. Plain and simple. Effective. One of the best.
Most Poignant Gunfight
Can a gunfight be poignant? I think so. And the award has to go to John Wayne’s final fight in The Shootist. Such a great movie, and such a great gunfight! It’s a film I enjoy more with each viewing. As far as the gunfight goes, it’s a bittersweet affair. We get to see some good cowboy action shooting as we say goodbye to a legend. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. And if you’re one who believes John Wayne couldn’t act, watch The Shootist. In my opinion, his role in it was far more Oscar worthy than True Grit. But, that’s just my take, of course.
Honorable Mentions
My favorite film of all time, El Dorado, has some great gunfights (the scene where Wayne and company chase assailants into an old church and then finally into a saloon is probably my favorite sequence ever captured on film). The Professionals also contains some great scenes of western gunplay. Finally, the train shoot-out near the end of How the West Was Won is pretty amazing. I enjoy that whole film a great deal.
Biggest Let Down
I’m going to take some heat for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love this movie. It’s a classic. It’s amazing. But the final gunfight in Shane was a bit disappointing to me. We  go the whole movie hearing hints of just how awesome Shane is with a gun. We also know Jack Palance has it coming. But the gunfight itself isn’t much. A couple of shots. A few seconds. It’s over pretty quickly. I suppose the film makes up for it with a great fistfight mid-way through. That being said, I still love Shane.
Please feel free to leave comments with your favorite western movie gunfights. I’d enjoy hearing from y’all!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: Will Tanner: U.S. Deputy Marshal

The world’s worst blogger is back. I appreciate everyone who reads this. Looking at the stats, there are quite a few of you. My New Year’s Resolution is to be a more mindful blogger! I’ve been writing plenty, but all on the fiction front. The blog fell dormant. That’s good news, in a way, because the fiction is going well.
But, I’m back with more frequency. At least that's the plan.
So let’s get into today’s book review. Per my annual tradition, I received several Amazon gift cards for Christmas. I’ve spent Christmas evening for about the last five or six years loading my Kindle with books for the upcoming year. This holiday was no exception. One of the titles I selected was Will Tanner: U.S. Deputy Marshal. It’s one of the latest series in the William Johnstone line.
It’s pretty darn good. It is a traditional western. Written in an older style. This is not a knock against it. In fact, I enjoyed the book immensely. The author takes his time telling the story. This is not to say that the book is ever boring. It is not! But, fans of the genre may recognize it unfolds a bit differently than the westerns being put out by Rough Edges Press or Piccadilly Publishing and some of the others.  It is not as fast paced and not as violent. There’s plenty of action, don’t get me wrong. The book is never dull. Just more in line with the old Louis L’amour titles than say Ben Bridges, Peter Brandvold, or Robert Randisi.
I won’t go into the plot too much. I’ll keep this spoiler free. The book involves Will Tanner (big shock) who becomes a deputy U.S. Marshal (another big shock). He’s based out of Arkansas, but his work takes him into Indian Territory and Texas. A good portion of this book takes place in my home state of Oklahoma, around the Arbuckle Mountains. It’s an area I know well, and I could picture many of the locations described. This added much to the story for me! I liked it.
I suspect I know who the author of this tale is. I’ve gotten fairly good at spotting some of the Johnstone ghost writers. Longtime western readers will probably figure this one out, too.
Overall, this is a solid, traditional western that kept me reading. I have the second one of the series already purchased and waiting on my Kindle. I look forward to the third installment which is due to be released this spring. If you’re wanting an old fashioned shoot ‘em up with well-drawn characters, rich detail, and exciting action, check this one out. Recommended.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Interview with James Reasoner

Please forgive me if I geek out here a bit. James Reasoner has been a pretty constant presence in my life for the past twenty years, even though I do not know the man. I’ve read his books for about two decades. I’ve spent a lot of time inside the wonderful adventures he brings to life. Sometimes I’ve read him without even knowing (he’s published under a variety of pen names and house names). That’s why I was thrilled to receive the chance to interview James for this latest blog entry. If there is a more prolific author currently writing, I do not know of them. As you’ll see below, Mr. Reasoner stays pretty busy. In addition to writing for others, James started Rough Edges Press a few years back. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as enjoyed hearing from James and learning a little more about his process. Without further ado…

Ryan: I'll start from the beginning. How long has writing been your full-time job?

James: Since February of 1987, so it's coming up on thirty years. There was a stretch before that, 1981-83, when I was also writing full-time, but then for the intervening four years I owned a couple of used bookstores and ran them in addition to writing.

Ryan: Does it come in waves? I mean, are there months where you think, "I better polish up the ol' resume because it's slowing down"?

James: In recent years I've had contracts lined up for quite a while in advance (the last due date on my current contract is February 2018), but there were many times in the past when we were living from contract to contract. One year I had what I called my "Longarm summer" because I wrote three Longarm novels back to back, getting a new contract for the next one as I turned them in because I didn't have anything else lined up. Then some other jobs came through and I went back to having three or four—or more—books under contract. I think it's been that way ever since.

Ryan: At this point, do you even know how many books you've authored?

James: The current work in progress is novel #340. I've also written one non-fiction book (DRAW: THE GREATEST GUNFIGHTS OF THE AMERICAN WEST).

Ryan: What is your daily routine? Do you work five days, six or seven days a week?

James: I've never been a write-every-day sort of author. I'm pretty consistent, though, about doing fifteen to twenty pages a day, five or six days a week. Sometimes, depending on where I am in a book or what my deadlines are, I can do more. For example, earlier this week I wrote 32 pages one day and 37 the next. But I was at the end of a book and trying to finish it, so that always speeds me up a little. Because I started writing back in the Seventies, long before computers, I still keep track of my output in terms of pages rather than words, although I do know that I've written more than a million words a year for eleven consecutive years now and approximately 25 million words in my career.

Ryan: Do you like the changes e-readers like Kindle have brought to the industry? Does it excite you or do you miss the old days?

James: I love the rise of e-books as both a reader and a writer. I like the adjustable fonts on my Kindle. I like being able to make notes and do some editing on the Kindle. I like being able to write whatever I want and get it out there to the readers. However, I'm what they call a hybrid writer. Most of my work still goes through traditional publishers. I have some nostalgia for the old days, but that's all it is. I wouldn't want to go back to writing on a manual typewriter (although sometimes I do miss it).

Ryan: Is there any genre you haven't written in? That might be easier than asking all the ones you have!

James: I've never written an actual science fiction novel or a literary, mainstream novel. I have parts of a few SF novels done, though, and expect to finish them eventually. Literary fiction (which I consider a genre, too) is probably not in my future.

Ryan: I love your westerns! Do you think there's enough up and coming authors to keep the genre going?

James: Oh, sure! A lot of people love to write Westerns. I don't believe they'll ever be as popular as they once were, but Westerns aren't going away, at least in my lifetime.

Ryan: Speaking of keeping going...will you ever pack it in or will you write as long as you're able?

James: I plan to keep writing as long as I can. In recent years I've started to think about slowing down a little and writing, say, half a million words a year instead of a million. I'd almost feel retired if I did that, I think.

Ryan: Any regrets about starting Rough Edges Press?

James: It's been more time-consuming than I thought it would be, but I wouldn't call that a regret. I've really enjoyed being able to publish some excellent books that might not have found a home otherwise.

Ryan: Do you prefer your own publishing to working for others?

James: As I said above, I'm a hybrid author. I've been part of the traditional publishing world for four decades and feel comfortable there. That said, I really do like the freedom of self-publishing and wouldn't want to give that up, either. If my traditional contracts went away (I hope they don't!), I'd just keep writing. At this point, what else am I going to do?

Ryan: What advice do you have for the wannabes and aspiring authors like me out there? What's one thing you know now about writing or publishing that you wish you would have known in the beginning?

James: I'd say the answer is persistence. Get the stuff written and out there, whether it's self-publishing or submitting to traditional and small press publishers. I once read that the definition of a writer is somebody who sits in a room and types for thirty years. That's pretty much the truth, although for some of us it's been considerably longer than thirty years. During my first stint as a full-time writer, though, I just didn't work hard enough at it. That's why I had to go into the bookstore business for a while. I didn't really know any better, didn't have the self-discipline to do the amount of work necessary. Everyone has their own natural pace, of course, but I think you have to push yourself in order to find it.

Ryan: Were there any authors who mentored you? How did you break into the business?

I started writing stories for my own enjoyment while I was in elementary school and continued on through college. That was when I started submitting short stories to various magazines. I never sold any and had almost given up on writing when I got married. My wife told me that if I really wanted to be a writer, I needed to work at it (see the above answer!) and so I started sending out short stories again. One of the magazines I submitted to was MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, which was edited by an old writer/editor from the pulp era, Sam Merwin Jr. Sam never used traditional rejection slips, at least with me. When he sent back a story, I always got a personal note with it, scrawled on whatever scrap of paper was handy. He explained why he was rejecting the story and suggested ways to improve my writing. This went on for a while, and then I got a rejection from him saying that if I revised that particular story in line with his suggestions, he would buy it. I did, of course, and he wound up buying that story, but in the meantime he accepted another one without any revisions. I had sold one story before that, to one of the true confession magazines, but I consider my sales to MSMM to be the real start of my writing career and have always been grateful to Sam Merwin Jr. for all the advice he gave me. A couple of years after that he asked me to write some of the Mike Shayne stories in the magazine under the house-name Brett Halliday, and that was a big step in my career too. Not to mention, I love the connection with the pulp era!

I want to thank James Reasoner again for taking the time for this interview! Check out Rough Edges and Mr. Reasoner’s excellent blog! As for me, I’m going to take the above advice and get busy writing!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Thank God for Amos Walker

Thank God for Amos Walker. If you’re not familiar with Amos, he’s a P.I. who works Detroit. More than a P.I., the character embodies the term “shamus.” He’s tough as nails, dedicated, witty, and extremely capable. To say that he’s a bit cynical would be a gross understatement. In short, when it comes to private eyes in the classic vein, Loren Estleman’s creation is the real deal.
Walker first appeared in Angle Eyes, published in 1981. Since then, he’s been back in 24 other novels, and well over two dozen short stories (if my math serves me right on both counts). I just want to take a few seconds to praise Estleman and his creation. Don’t get me wrong, there are other P.I.’s I’m close to. Elvis Cole is my boy. Spenser and I are on very good terms. But, for lack of a better phrase, Loren Estleman has “kept it real” with the Walker novels. Crais and the late, great Robert Parker are two of the best. But, their heroes have gotten a bit self-reflective. Call me crazy, but I like the earlier Cole novels like The Monkey’s Raincoat and Free Fall. The multiple viewpoints of his recent efforts can serve as a distraction, at least for me. And Parker was great, but Spenser spent a lot of time discussing life and love with Susan. A bit much, for my tastes (I’ve read the first two Ace Atkins Spenser outings and they are amazing, in my opinion). Perhaps I’m just not a deep thinker. Maybe I’m just not smart enough. For whatever reason, the pulpier my detective stories are, the better! That’s where ol’ Amos comes in. Estleman doesn’t worry about all that introspective mumbo jumbo. Walker does have a philosophy and a code that comes through. But, the focus is always on the case and moving the story forward. Plain and simple, just like I like it.
I recently read 2015’s The Sundown Speech and I’m happy to report that in Walker’s 25th full-length case, he’s still going strong. Taut and lean are the order of the day. Not a lot of filler. Classic hardboiled prose and attitude. Pretty dang near flawless.

Loren Estleman has created a lot of endearing characters through the years. The Michigan native is a wonderful western author, and he has plenty of other crime novels under his belt. But, Amos is my favorite. One of the walker tales is entitled American Detective. I can’t think of a more fitting description of the character than that. I get the feeling that when Estleman gives us a Walker story, he’s not trying to break new ground or make philosophical statements regarding life and human nature. I get the impression he’s just trying to tell a darn good detective story, and he does that in spades. If you haven’t met Walker, I highly recommend you get acquainted at your earliest convenience. You’ll thank me for it.