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Motor City Shakedown by D.E. Johnson

November 9, 2011 by  •

Note: Details of the first book in this series, The Detroit Electric Scheme, are discussed in both Motor City Shakedown and, to an extent, this review of it.

D.E. JohnsonI had my life back. This time I wouldn’t waste it. – Will Anderson

Detroit, 1911. When we last saw Will Anderson, heir apparent to the Detroit Electric car company, he and his then fiancée, Elizabeth Hume, had barely survived a nasty encounter with crime boss Vito Adamo.

Will’s best friend did not survive, and the guilt Will feels over his friend’s murder, as well as the terrible pain he suffers as a result of his mangled right hand, have driven Will to morphine addiction to dull his demons.

Determined to set things right and avenge his friend, Will begins with Adamo’s driver, intending to work his way up the criminal ladder to the boss. Unfortunately for Will someone beats him to the punch, and it’s a nearly decapitated body he finds upon entering the driver’s apartment.

Now Will’s a suspect in a murder he didn’t commit, and his quest to find the real killer starts him down a path that ends smack dab in the middle of an all-out mob war.

Will unexpectedly gets helped out of his police jam by the Gianolla crime family, who promptly turn around and use that leverage to squeeze Will into being their point man for the Teamsters’ entry into Detroit Electric. With the lives of Elizabeth and his family at stake, Will finds that hard times make for strange bedfellows as he begins to wonder if the enemy of his enemy – Vito Adamo – may actually be, well, if not his friend then at least a potential ally.

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The Chaos We Know by Keith Rawson

November 8, 2011 by  •
The Chaos We Know by Keith RawsonIf you’ve read author Keith Rawson’s work before – and if you haven’t, why the hell not? – you know that his is a guerrilla warfare, take no prisoners style of writing. I mean, there’s a reason the man’s blog is called Bloody Knuckles Callused Fingertips.

The Chaos We Know, Rawson’s recently released collection, features over twenty of his short stories and represents a mixture of new offerings and previously published work. A few of the standouts…

“The Anniversary Weekend” conclusively demonstrates that crank is never an appropriate anniversary gift. When two reformed tweakers find themselves without the kids and with $100 to burn on their anniversary weekend they decide to cook up a batch of meth. The collapse into paranoia and brutality that follows is nothing short of epic. Definitely should have stuck with a nice cake.

“Three Cops” proves to be one too many for a strung-out junkie on a delivery run when what starts as a routine traffic stop for littering ends with a hostage situation in a rest stop bathroom. What happens in between, well, you have to read to believe. Let’s just say there is apparently nothing a junkie won’t do to hide his stash… and gun.

“The Sons of Greatness Take It In The Ass” takes the reality show craze and combines it with the current economic climate to great effect in this stark, but darkly humorous, offering. Having recently lost his union job to a crony of one of the wise guys who control the union leaders, a young family man comes up with a unique way to get both revenge and some money.


Detroit Crime – Old Style by D.E. Johnson

November 8, 2011 by  •
Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing Motor City Shakedown, author D.E. Johnson’s sequel to his debut novel, The Detroit Electric Scheme. Today, I am pleased to turn the blog over to Dan to talk a little crime… old style.

D.E. JohnsonCarte blanche to write anything I want? Okay, how about Detroit crime—old style?

My new book, Motor City Shakedown, is set in Detroit’s first mob war. My protagonist, Will Anderson, is thrown into the middle of this bloody fight between the Adamo and Gianolla gangs. I’ve stayed close to the historical record, with the exception of throwing my fictional characters into the mix (and adding a bit of dramatic effect).

Here’s what really happened:

In the early 20th Century, the mob was really just a bunch of street gangs. The Sicilians were the most prominent, and were what was known at the time as “Black Hand” gangs. The Black Hand would walk into a business, usually one run by a fellow Sicilian, and tell them that, for a small weekly fee, they would protect the business and its employees from the bad elements in the neighborhood—namely, themselves. If the business owner refused, his place might burn down, his employees might get beaten, or worse.

Vito Adamo was the cream that first rose to the top of the Detroit rackets. He was a Sicilian immigrant who came to the Detroit area sometime around the turn of the century. By 1910 he was known as the “White Hand.” Adamo protected businesses from the Black Hand—for a fee. Oh, and it was his own Black Hand gang he was protecting the businesses from. He got it coming and going.


Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski

November 4, 2011 by  •
Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski“This is your destiny. All your life you were preparing yourself to be here, with us.” – The Prisonmaster

Ever heard the expression “Out of the frying pan, into the fire”? Yeah, that pretty much sums up Charlie Hardie’s life.

When we last saw Charlie at the end of Fun & Games he was in bad shape, having just been through two hellacious days culminating in a shootout of epic proportions which left him battered, bleeding and on the brink of death.

Picking up right where Fun & Games left off, Hell & Gone opens with Charlie in the back of an ambulance being whisked off for life saving treatment. Unfortunately for Charlie his destination isn’t a legitimate hospital, but a facility where the “Accident People” – the shadow organization Charlie ran afoul of in Fun & Games – nurse Charlie back to health in order for him to serve their agenda.

Waking after an indeterminate amount of time, Charlie finds himself in a concrete bunker faced with an ultimatum: try to leave and die, or get in the elevator and ride it down to… well, Charlie’s not exactly sure where. Not wanting to die, obviously, he takes the elevator ride and ends up in a highly secrete, ultra secure prison facility far underground which he is informed holds the most dangerous prisoners in the world. Much to his amazement Charlie has not been sent there to join their ranks, but to become the facility’s warden.

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Killers by Shaun Jeffrey

November 4, 2011 by  •
Killers by Shaun JeffreyHe hoped he was still on the righteous side, but in all honesty, he couldn’t be certain anymore. – Prosper Snow

That Prosper Snow would have such self doubt is perfectly understandable. After all, as an officer sworn to uphold the law it would naturally cause internal conflict to find yourself breaking it in the most extreme manner possible – murder.

Yet that’s precisely where Snow found himself in The Kult, the first book from author Shaun Jeffrey which featured the character. When Snow and his group of friends became the target of a serial killer after trying to frame him for a murder they committed – not the most brilliant idea in retrospect – it was all Snow could do just to save his life. That he was able to massage the facts in such a way as to cover up his involvement and keep his job was a bonus.

Except now there is a new string of horrific killings occurring on Snow’s patch. And this time not only is he unable to take charge of the investigation, but the leader of the under the radar government agency that takes over the case implies he knows about Snow’s past criminal activities. He uses that knowledge to force Snow to join their team, and that’s when things go from bad to bizarre.

Turns out the shadow agency has special reason to be interested in the string of killings. Much to Snow’s horror, he is informed that the group has been conducting psychological experiments trying to determine whether a person can be made into an über efficient, remorseless killing machine… and one of their test subjects has escaped.


West Coast Crime Wave by Brian Thornton, Editor

November 3, 2011 by  •
West Coast Crime WaveMichael Wolf founded digital publishing house BSTSLLR in order to provide authors with an “author-friendly, forward-thinking” outlet for their work, and BSTSLLR has come charging out of the gate with their first offering, West Coast Crime Wave.

Featuring both award-winning, best selling authors as well as some very talented newcomers, West Coast Crime Wave‘s eighteen stories take place from Alaska to L.A., and everywhere in between.

Though every story in the collection is well worth the price of admission, there were a few that particularly leapt off the page for me.

“The Last Ship” by Bill Cameron starts the collection of with a bang when a retired police officer checks into a remote B&B in Oregon to recharge his batteries following a run-in with the business end of a biker’s gun. He gets more than he bargained for, finding himself caught up in the conflicts of the eccentric owner and the B&B’s few full-time residents. Drugs, nefarious wrangling for power of attorney, and a local legend involving a faerie ship – yes, you read that correctly – combine to make this atmospheric entry both very entertaining and very creepy.


Playlist From HELL by Duane Swierczynski

November 3, 2011 by  •
Today I am pleased to welcome Duane Swierczynski back for another guest post. His first was during Swierczynski Week here on the blog. Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing his latest release, Hell & Gone, but today Duane has been kind enough to share the book’s (imaginary) soundtrack.

Duane SwierczynskiPLAYLIST FROM HELL: A guided tour through my imaginary soundtrack to Hell & Gone

Twenty years ago, when I picked up John Skipp and Craig Spector’s eco-horror novel The Bridge, I was thrilled to discover they included a playlist. “The following albums, by the following artists,” they wrote, “provided big chunks of sonic background during the writing of this mind-movie.” My 19-year-old self was thrilled that I was listening to a lot of the same bands—Nine Inch Nails, Public Image LTD., Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers—as my splatterpunk heroes. Of course, Skipp and Spector (going for brownie points, no doubt) also recorded an actual soundtrack for the novel, which you could mail-order for $14.95 (CD) or $9.95 (cassette). See, the Boys were also longtime rock musicians, and could do that sort of thing.

I’m a musician, too, having toiled in bar and wedding bands during my teenage years. And while music remains a huge part of my creative life, I’m not about to stop writing to go off and record an original soundtrack. Though if I did, I would totally make it available on CD and cassette.

Instead, here’s the next best (read: lazy) thing: a tour through the songs that were my “sonic background” while writing Hell & Gone—the second in the Charlie Hardie series, and my twisted version of a prison novel. Some of these songs put me in a certain mood; some others reminded me of particular characters. And I’ll admit it; some of these are included simply to amuse myself. It gets awful lonely in the basement office…


Crime Factory: The First Shift by Rawson, Ashley & Callaway, Editors

November 2, 2011 by  •
Crime Factory: The First ShiftI was locked up for a while. Full of the empty darkness, if that makes sense to you. The sort of nothing that fills up everything. – Roy Alison, “The Ravine”

The amazing team at Crime Factory Magazine – Keith Rawson, Cameron Ashley, and Jimmy Callaway – have put together an anthology of twenty-seven stories featuring an almost embarrassingly rich bounty of talent.

Of course it would be unwieldy for me to review all twenty-seven stories, not to mention take the fun out of you discovering some of them on your own, so here are just a few of the ones that were highlights for me…

“Glory B.” by Josh Converse – Ever wondered how robbery crews get together? I mean, do you have to be friends for life, or do you just answer an ad on Craigslist or something? Converse’s taut tale takes a snapshot look at the process through which potential getaway driver Quinn auditions for a robbery crew’s boss. Quinn has three attempts to impress with his driving skills and get a mock getaway right. Screw any one of them up and Quinn not only won’t be driving the getaway, he won’t be driving anymore period.

“Microprimus Volatitus” by Greg Bardsley – You will either find this to be wickedly funny or bizarrely offensive. The story involves a love triangle. Randy begins dating Razelle, at first not aware that she’s been living with Helmut for four years. And though she thinks of Helmut as just a roommate, Helmut is passionately in love with Razelle, which of course causes an intense conflict when Randy hits the scene. Oh, did I mention Helmut is a tiny little monkey the size of a canary? Yeah. And he’s determined to do whatever it takes to get Randy out of the picture, including going to war. I found the story wickedly funny; I’m just weird that way.


At The End Of The Road by Grant Jerkins

November 1, 2011 by  •

At the End of the Road was one of my Top 10 Reads of 2011

At The End Of The Road by Grant JerkinsHe learned that it was possible to be scared and carry a burden of fear and worry and guilt, and still behave normally. – Kyle Edwards

In the summer of 1976 ten-year-old Kyle Edwards was one of millions of Americans who celebrated a landmark birthday for our nation. Looking back, however, Kyle realizes that summer also held a landmark death for him, that of his innocence.

A typical boy in rural Georgia, Kyle’s daily activities include helping harvest peanuts and sweet potatoes, playing in the corn fields, and riding his bike with abandon up and down the dirt road in front of his house. While out riding his bike one afternoon Kyle causes an accident when he speeds around a blind curve right into the path of an oncoming car. Veering sharply to avoid hitting him, the car flips repeatedly, coming to rest on its side. Kyle watches in horror as a bloody young woman emerges from the vehicle, stumbling toward him.

Terrified of the potential consequences of having caused the accident, Kyle flees to his house, hoping in that foolish way young kids do that if he doesn’t say anything it will all go away. And it seems to, because the woman he expects to stumble up to the door any minute never arrives. Stranger still, when he gets the courage to ride out to the accident scene the following morning there is no trace of the woman or the car. Little could Kyle possibly know that his trouble wasn’t over, it had only just begun.


The Pull of Gravity by Brett Battles

October 31, 2011 by  •
The Pull of Gravity by Brett BattlesIt’s hard for someone who has little faith in himself to ask someone else to have it in him. – Jay Bradley

Following a career in the Navy, expat Jay Bradley finds himself in the Philippines working as a papasan at The Lounge, a go-go club in Angeles City. He takes his job to watch over the girls in the club seriously, but gets especially close to young Isabel, who reminds him of the step-daughter from his failed marriage.

Like most of the girls working the clubs of Angeles City, Isabel dreams of meeting a man who will sweep her off her feet and take her away from the life of a club dancer – and “escort” – on infamous Fields Avenue. When businessman Larry Adams comes into their lives, suddenly both Jay and Isabel are complete. The three of them form a bond – Larry and Jay as friends, Isabel and Larry as lovers – that seems too good to be true.

And of course it is. Told primarily in flashbacks, the book opens and sets the scene with an older Jay returning to the Philippines to sell his part-ownership in The Lounge, as well as to track down Isabel to find closure about the events that ripped their lives apart, and cost Larry his. (That is not a spoiler.)


Bad Boy by Grant Jerkins

October 31, 2011 by  •
Grant Jerkins’ debut novel, A Very Simple Crime, was released to critical praise from places such as Publisher’s Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, and Library Journal, and was also one of my top reads of 2010. Tomorrow I will be reviewing Grant’s follow up, At the End of the Road, but today I’m turning over the blog to Grant. I’ll just let him take it from here…

Grant JerkinsPeople are always telling me they want to write. But they don’t know what to write about. And what do I think they should write about? And I usually think to myself, well how the fuck should I know what you ought to write about? I never say that, though. No, my stock response is, “Why don’t you write a story about a dog told from the dog’s point of view?”

I always thought that was cute.

When Elizabeth White invited me to guest post on her site, I said I was honored. Then I asked her what did she think I should write about? I have a pretty good idea what she was thinking, but what she said was, “Why don’t you write a story about a dog told from the dog’s point of view?”

Probably thought she was being cute.

It’s only 625 words. When you get right down to it, most dogs don’t have that large of a vocabulary anyway. – GJ