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.

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