Not Even Past by Dave White

Rumrunners“It wasn’t a foolproof plan. Not even close.” — Bill Martin

The last time readers saw New Jersey-based ex-cop turned private investigator Jackson Donne (The Evil That Men Do) things were decidedly rocky, serious problems with both his family and his profession having reared their heads.

Now, three years later, Donne has turned the corner. He’s deep into the process of earning his degree, having gone back to college after being forced to leave the private investigation business, and is engaged with a wedding date looming. Things are going well.

Until Donne gets an email that completely blindsides him, turning life as he knows it forever upside down.

At first it appears to be some weird spam with a click-bait subject: Click and watch. Her life depends on it. Normally, Donne would know better than to click on links in strange emails, but the email also contains an eight-year-old photo of him graduating from the police academy—there is some level of personalization there.

Against his better judgment, Donne follows the link, which leads him to an ominous video of a woman bathed in spotlights bound to a chair in an empty room, battered and screaming for her life. It’s a sight that would be disturbing enough on its own, but what makes the hair on the back of Donne’s neck stand up is that he knows the woman…and had thought for the past six years she was dead.

Rumrunners by Eric Beetner

Rumrunners“Hugh, after this if you ever see me again it will mean we’re both dead and the devil made us roommates.” — Calvin McGraw

Calvin McGraw has seen and done a lot in his 86 years, a great bit of it illegal. Let’s get one thing clear up front though: Calvin McGraw is no criminal—he’s an outlaw. It’s a distinction that makes all the difference in the world to the McGraw family, who have been the go-to drivers for the Stanley clan’s off-the-books enterprise for almost a century.

Now though, there’s trouble in outlaw paradise, in more ways than one. For starters, the McGraw-Stanley connection already looked to be coming to an end. Though Calvin had successfully passed the shifter to his son, Webb, Calvin’s grandson, Tucker, decided to break the chain, opting instead to go into the insurance business. It was a move Calvin and Webb found both disappointing and embarrassing, but in the end they could live with it.

A bigger problem has taken center stage, however, one the McGraws may not be able to live with. Tapped by Stanley patriarch Hugh for a high-stakes and well-paying job, Webb is reluctant to admit he can’t drive an eighteen-wheeler. Instead, Webb enlists the aid of a driver he barely knows, and things go very badly indeed—the cargo is hijacked from Webb, who takes a few hard bumps in the process. Now Webb has two choices: go on the run, or go back to Hugh and admit he lost the precious cargo.

Bite Harder by Anonymous-9

Anonymous9I look useless, you think. You think wrong. — Dean Drayhart

When we last saw Dean Drayhart and Sid, the lead duo in Anonymous-9’s critically-acclaimed Hard Bite, Dean was in jail and Sid’s fate was unclear. And while one could read Bite Harder without first having read Hard Bite, Bite Harder is a sequel in the very truest sense of the word—events pick up literally where those of the first book left off and expand upon them—so I do think to get the most out of Bite Harder one should first read Hard Bite.

To that end, a quick recap of the premise of Hard Bite is in order (my full review here).

Dean Drayhart used to be a normal guy, until a hit-and-run driver destroyed everything he held dear—his daughter was killed, he was maimed and paralyzed, and his marriage disintegrated. Stuck in a funk, things took an interesting turn when Dean was provided with a service animal, Sid, an extremely well-trained capuchin monkey.

Together, the two turned into vigilantes, unleashing vengeance on hit-and-run drivers across LA—on the command of “hard bite” from Dean adorable little Sid will rip someone’s jugular out with his not so adorable fangs. Unfortunately, one of their targets/victims happened to be the son of Orella Malalinda, matriarch of a Mexican drug cartel, and needless to say things got very messy—many died, Dean ended up arrested, and Sid was in the wind. Cue Bite Harder.

Pig Iron by David James Keaton

David James Keaton“Sister, I’ve said a lot of things. But that was before the world ended.” — Preacher

The place is Aqua Fría, a nothing town in the middle of nowhere, fast running out of water and hope. The players are The Ranger, a man destined from birth to wear a badge and uphold the law; Red, leader of a gang of thieves and killers, a man destined from birth to be The Ranger’s nemesis; the various residents of Aqua Fría and members of Red’s gang; a horse with no name, but with a hole in its head; and last but certainly not least, a crafty camel spider.

How exactly that all fits together is a bit too complicated to explain, but suffice it to say that those who didn’t hightail it out of Aqua Fría before the wells ran dry are now staring at a ticking clock: three days until they die of dehydration. Three days to make their peace and square up their debts, earthly and spiritual. Three days to, perhaps, find some way out of the hell they are quickly descending into.

Folks, Pig Iron, the latest from David James Keaton, is not your daddy’s Western. That is, not unless your daddy dropped a lot of acid and was particularly fond of camel spiders and walking-dead horses.

The Bitch by Les Edgerton

The Bitch by Les EdgertonI was sailing right into the nasty part, and I had a feeling it was only going to get worse. — Jake Bishop

Jake Bishop is on the verge of achieving the American dream. He’s married, he and his wife have their first baby on the way, he has some college under his belt, and he’s a few short weeks from making the leap from working as a stylist in someone else’s salon to opening his own shop.

True, Bishop didn’t exactly take the most direct route to get there, and the trip wasn’t without some serious bumps in the road. For one thing, he’s a recovering alcoholic, though it’s been years since he’s touched the stuff. More serious, he’s an ex-con, having done two stints for burglary at Pendleton Reformatory, a maximum security prison in Indiana.

Still, the past is the past, and everything seems to be going fine. Until the call comes that alters Bishop’s life irrevocably.

Seems Bishop’s old cellmate from Pendleton, Walker “Spitball” Joy, has a job he’d like Bishop’s help with. The kind of job Bishop doesn’t do anymore. Problem is, Bishop kinda owes Spitball, who looked out for Bishop during his last stretch in the joint. Figuring he owes Spitball at least a sit-down, Bishop goes for the meet. There, he finds out the situation is much more dire than just a prison buddy trying to cash in a moral IOU. Seems Spitball’s in deep with the wrong person, someone he shared information about Bishop with. The kind of information that gives them leverage Bishop can’t easily say no to.

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich“It was your grandfather let loose the demons on this mountain, and there ain’t no putting that genie back in the bottle.” — Val

Albert “Val” Valentine knows of what he speaks, as the fate of the Valentine family has been intertwined with that of the Burroughs clan since as far back as anyone can remember. And the more things change in the Burroughs fiefdom of Bull Mountain in North Georgia, the more they stay the same.

The Burroughs have been making their living off the mountain and the vices of men for generations, first by running moonshine, then branching out into marijuana, and most recently by moving meth. Throughout it all, the Burroughs and those who serve them have existed in their own world up on Bull Mountain, isolated and insulated from outsiders, including the law.

Sure, attempts were made over the years to bring whoever was in charge of the clan at the time down, but no one has ever been able to conquer the Burroughs, or Bull Mountain.

What outsiders have never been able to accomplish, however, may finally be on the verge of happening thanks to a Burroughs himself. Clayton Burroughs, tired of the family’s seemingly never-ending cycle of criminality, boldly chose to walk a different path—Sheriff. This choice understandably set him at odds with the family and its reigning patriarch, his brother, Halford. And while Clayton has made the conscious decision not to pro-actively get into Halford’s business—as long as it doesn’t spill down off the mountain into town—Clayton’s presented with a unique opportunity when Federal Agent Simon Holly shows up in his office.


Unholy Bargain

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Lamentation by Joe Clifford

Patrick O’NeilSomeday, it would all change. Someday, I would make it right. Only someday never comes, does it? — Jay Porter

It’s hard for someday to come when you live life spinning your wheels stuck somewhere between the past and the present. Such is the state Jay Porter finds himself in.

Ever since his parents were killed in a car accident one winter twenty years ago when their car’s brakes failed, sending them off a bridge into an icy lake, Jay has been stuck in a holding pattern, his life failing to flourish.

A large reason Jay’s stuck in neutral is because of his brother, Chris. A decade older, Chris became Jay’s guardian after their parents were killed. Unfortunately, Chris also became a junkie, a thief and a liar. Now, Jay spends his days working dead-end, manual labor jobs just trying to keep his head above water, all while chasing and cleaning up after Chris.

Jay knows his brother is an anchor on his life—his loyalty to Chris even cost Jay his relationship with his girlfriend and two-year-old son—but blood ties run deep and Jay can’t find it in his heart to cut Chris completely loose no matter how bad he screws up.

Things take an ominous turn, however, when Chris disappears shortly after Jay bails him out of jail, yet again. Right before he went missing Chris was going on about having come across some very sensitive information, information that people are apparently willing to do anything, even commit murder, to keep from seeing the light of day. Now, Jay has to try and find his brother before the wrong people do, while also trying to keep himself from ending up in the crosshairs in the process.

The Fury of Blacky Jaguar by Angel Luis Colón

Patrick O’Neil“Fuck discreet. The boy needs a proper beating—no other way to handle it.” — Blacky Jaguar

Subtle is not a word Blacky Jaguar is familiar with. The ex-IRA enforcer, formerly known as Danny Clarke, lives his life at two speeds: idling or pushing the redline—there is no in-between.

So when his beloved 1959 Plymouth Fury goes missing, Blacky launches his own personal crusade to get the car back, and woe be it to whoever took his beloved “Polly,” or anyone standing between him and the goal of retrieving his ride.

Unfortunately for Blacky, once he starts down the warpath his familiar brand of over-the-top mayhem puts him on the radar of FBI Agent Linda Chen, a woman as dedicated to achieving her goal—busting Blacky—as he is to rescuing Polly. Chen also happens to be Blacky’s ex, so she’s double-barrel loaded for Blacky’s backside.

When their paths finally cross at a house in the Bronx owned by a gangster known as Osito, the Little Bear, the runaway train that is the fury of Blacky Jaguar finally runs completely off the rails in a blaze of retribution, righteous indignation, and glorious mayhem.

Though it weighs in at a trim 128 pages, Angel Luis Colón’s The Fury of Blacky Jaguar hits as hard as its Irish antihero Blacky does, mugging the reader and dragging him along for the ride, like it or not. But like it you will if you’re a fan of flying fists and good old fashioned pulp, as Colón has created in Blacky a character who deftly walks the line between cartoonish and compelling.

Killing Secrets by Dianne Emley

“You’re going to be flying solo. You okay with that?” — Sergeant Early

Detective Nan Vining is used to being in situations where she has to fly solo. Both professionally as an investigator with the Pasadena Police Department and as a single mother raising a teenage daughter, Vining has reached a point where she’s learned to trust her instincts and go where they take her.

In Killing Secrets, however, the first entry in the Nan Vining series in five years (Read more from author Dianne Emley about revisiting Vining after such a layoff.), Vining finds herself farther out on a solo ledge than ever before.

The book opens with Vining’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Emily, and her boyfriend stumbling across a gruesome crime scene while out in a city park at dusk. Two people, one of their classmates and a popular teacher from their school, have been killed. As the investigator with the most seniority and experience, Vining naturally expects to be assigned the case. Upon arriving at the scene, however, she’s surprised to learn that two other investigators, one of them extremely inexperienced, have been given the assignment instead.

Her surprise turns to confusion, and then frustration, as the case is handled both in an unorthodox manner and with lightning speed. Someone high up in the PD is apparently in a hurry to chalk things up as a murder-suicide and be done with it. Vining isn’t convinced, and decides to dig deeper.


The Comeback Character by Dianne Emley

It’s a pleasure to welcome LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley back to the blog. Well-known for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers (The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, and Love Kills) and Iris Thorne mysteries (Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover), Dianne’s newest entry in the Nan Vining series, Killing Secrets, is forthcoming from Random House on July 21st.

New Yorked by Rob Hart

New Yorked by Rob Hart“New York is not a city. It is an idea.” — Ginny

Ashley (Ash) McKenna is a man molded and driven by ideas. As a boy growing up on Staten Island, Ash would sit with his firefighter father in the wee hours of the night listening to the emergency scanner, his dad patiently explaining to him what all the mysterious calls and codes meant.

Watching his father go to work, both as scheduled and spontaneously in response to some of those emergency calls, Ash formed strong ideas of duty, honor, and responsibility. And when his father was killed on 9/11 while attempting to evacuate people on the upper floors of the World Trade Center, Ash was branded with the idea of sacrifice. And loss.

So when Ash pulls himself up out of the depths of a blackout drunk one afternoon only to learn that his longtime friend and unrequited love, Chell, has been murdered, his whole world comes crashing down around him.

The loss he feels is complicated and compounded by the message he finds from Chell on his cell phone, apparently left only minutes before her death. She’d reached out to Ash for help, begged him to come meet her because she was only streets away from his apartment and feared she was being followed, and Ash failed—failed to meet his self-appointed responsibility to protect her.

Ash can’t live with that. And he won’t let whoever murdered Chell live with it, either.

Gun Needle Spoon by Patrick O’Neil

Patrick O’NeilI shot dope, sold drugs, did crimes, went to jail. It doesn’t mean I have to continue living like that. — Patrick O’Neil

Patrick O’Neil shouldn’t be alive. Statistically, at least, he should be either dead or locked up for the rest of his life. That he is neither dead nor in jail given the life he’s lead is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

That, and a good lawyer.

I first “met” Patrick in that causal online way you do these days, following him on

Murder Boy by Bryon Quertermous

Murder Boy by Bryon QuertermousI was staring at the bodies and feeling more confused and nauseated than heroic. — Dominick Prince

Having been stuck in the wasteland that is crime and poverty-ridden Detroit for the majority of his life, things were finally headed in the right direction for Dominick Prince; he was on the verge of getting a fresh start.

As soon as his creative writing professor, Parker Farmington, signed off on Dominick’s final thesis project, Dominick would be on his way to New York City and a waiting writing fellowship. But a funny thing happened on the way to the bright lights of the Big Apple.

Farmington refused to sign off.

At the end of his rope and desperate, Dominick comes up with a novel solution: kidnap Farmington and force him to sign. Not the way most people would go, granted, but Dominick is truly convinced he has nothing left to lose.

And so, fueled by a combination of alcohol, rage and desperation, with a chaser of self-delusion, Dominick sets his plot into motion. The results are undeniably disastrous, and marvelously madcap. As Dominick’s ill-conceived plan pinballs from pillar to post, author Bryon Quertermous introduces a colorful cast of supporting characters, each of whom adds their own special flavor to the mix.

Knuckleball by Tom Pitts

Knuckleball by Tom Pitts“He made us all victims,” one caller said. “It was a hate crime of the worst kind, the hate was for us all, for society.”

As the city of San Francisco gets ready to direct some good-natured hate against their loathed baseball rival Dodgers during a three-game series with their beloved Giants, a different kind of hate is stalking the city’s Mission District.

In a senseless act of seemingly random violence, Officer Hugh Patterson is brutally gunned down at the end of his shift while standing outside a taqueria watching the game on the TV inside through the window. His partner, who had stepped away to make a phone call, gets to the scene too late—too late to save Patterson’s life, and too late to even see the perp, let alone apprehend him.

Though the city bands together to express their shock and outrage, turing Patterson into a modern-day folk hero in the process, few leads appear in the crime’s immediate aftermath. But as a reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer grows in the following days, an eyewitness comes forward.

Fifteen-year-old Oscar Flores lives in an apartment across the street from where Patterson was gunned down. An avid Giants fan, he was in his room watching the game when the crime occurred and claims to have seen the entire thing while looking out the window between innings. It seems like the break the police need to solve the crime, and so you think you know exactly where the narrative’s going as it rounds third and heads for home. But as author Tom Pitts has demonstrated time and again, he’s a master at putting his characters in a moral pickle.