Reviews for January, 2012
''Bad Cop, No Donut''
by CJ Henderson Edited by John French
Published by Padwolf Publishing
Reviewed by Barbara Rearick-Leider
|As one could logically assume from the title, "Bad Cop, No Donut" is a collection of tales
of good cops gone bad, and possibly bad cops gone worse. A worthy enough subject
for any anthology. But, having a good idea is not the same as coming up with
a good product. A quick glance at the classic movies which have been remade
into simply dreadful time-wasters should be proof enough for anyone that merely
having a good idea is no guarantee of a quality end result.
Anyone interested in this title, however, should have no fears. This is, not only a very interesting book, but also one of the best crime anthologies I’ve ever read. Editor John French has gathered a talent crew, none of whom have let him down. And, unlike so many editors who merely rope in, as Mad Magazine used to say, "the usual gang of idiots," French has gone out of his way to bring together a fascinatingly diverse group of first rate authors. A crime scene investigator by day for the City of Baltimore (a place often cited as one of the most dangerous cities in America), he has turned to not only top crime authors, but television and film screenwriters, as well, along with a number of actual police officers, all of whom have a solid history as mystery writers.
Each story here is not merely well-written, but often quite unique--not only compared to the other stories in this volume, but as far as crime fiction goes, period. To discuss all the stories here would take more space than we have available, but to cover some of the highlights, there are tales like:
Wayne Dundee--a mystery writer of some twenty years, best known for his Joe Hannibal hardboiled PI series--offering is the clever, and quite desperate, "This Old Star," a story that finds the new sheriff and his posse being joined in the middle of the night by the town’s old sheriff. The clever reader, of course knows one, or both, of these lawmen has to be dirty, simply because of the title of the anthology. Dundee keeps one guessing as to which of the three possibilities is correct far longer than most authors would be able to pull off.
James Chambers, a long-standing writer of fantasy and horror, but a new-comer to the crime-writing scene, delivered "Henkin’s Last Lies," a tense mood piece filled with evil shenanigans. His plot is a simple one, and its resolution seems inevitable, but only once one has read through the entire story at the lightning clip his eminently readable style demands Gary Lovisi, editor of "Hardboiled Magazine," and author of dozens of crime short stories and novels, produced for this volume a story of one of the most relentlessly venal and utterly unredeemable officers in the history of the genre. Although one of the briefest tales in the volume, it is intense, blunt and powerful in a way most readers won’t expect. C.J. Henderson, best known these days for investigators with a supernatural bend, started his career with the character, PI Jack Hagee, who returns here in the story "A Fine Officer." The tale follows Hagee’s attempt to propose to his girl friend, only to have the proceedings interrupted by a homicidal gang of racists and the police captain who gives them free reign.
The collection also includes stories by real Miami vice cop Michael Berish, and thirty year Chicago cop Michael Black who now writers crime novels with television’s Richard Belzer. Authors Ver Curtis and Austin S. Camacho are also on hand, along with Ron Fortier, O’Neil De Noux, James Grady, Patrick Thomas, Art Monterastelli, Quintin Peterson and Vincent H. O’Neil. And, of course, John French, himself. There is much more to recommend this collection, but no room left in which to reveal it. Suffice to say, this is one terrific book. The stories are well chosen, and well placed. They cover cops, detectives, lawmen from the old west, and even one story featuring the head of security in Hell.
Yes, you read that correctly. Like I said earlier, this is a very interesting book. For anyone who doesn’t always need their fictional lawmen to be squeaky clean knights in shining armor, it’s doubtful there is a better book on the market today.
Brooklyn Knight Reviewed by Barbara Rearick-Leider
|In "Brooklyn Knight," the world is introduced to Piers Knight, a rather amiable curator at the Brooklyn Museum. Although not a magic-user like so many characters, Knight is more a student. In other words, he can make use of a Ouija board, but can’t cast a spell. As the novel opens, it is learned that the site of the oldest human civilization has been discovered. Before long, Knight becomes involved when a previously thought-to-be-worthless relic in the storerooms of his museum is found to be the key to translating the language of this forgotten city.
A true academic, Knight is quite pleased by this turn of events. But, joy turns to nightmare as forces move to steal this relic. The bodies begin to pile up as first thieves then demons are brought to bear on the curator and his new intern (her first day on the job!). The story builds slowly, but continually, until the fate of the world hangs in the balance with a reluctant Knight forced to battle forces beyond mortal ken.
"Brooklyn Knight" is a new supernatural investigator book by C.J. Henderson. This will be welcome news for many since Henderson is also the creator of the Teddy London hardboiled occult detective series. He has a long history writing such characters. Not only does the first printing of his London books pre-date the premier of "The X-Files," unlike the plethora of such novels that followed afterward, but he is also the author the estates of both Lin Carter and H.P. Lovecraft turned to when they wanted characters from their respective stables fleshed out and revitalized.
Still, past success does not guarantee present success. Many a writer has failed miserably when trying something different. Such not seem the case here, however. Henderson is not long on flowery description. He’s the kind of writer who instead concentrates on setting a scene, then letting the dialogue of the characters move the plot along.
In other words, those looking for the next J.D. Salinger will be disappointed. C.J. Henderson novels aren’t there to change the way a generation thinks. They exist to make train and plane rides more enjoyable. They are for doctor’s office waits, beach visits and rainy days. This is not to say they are not enjoyable or re-readable. They are typically face-paced, crisp and witty.
And, each series he has produced has been able to stand on its own. His first, non-supernatural detective series starring hard-smoking and drinking P.I. Jack Hagee featured a relentlessly tough and gritty world so bleak it’s a wonder it was popular. London, on the other hand, didn’t smoke, might have a glass of wine on occasion, and possessed a much more philosophical bend than Hagee. Characters that followed, Lovecraft’s Legrasse, Carter’s Zarnak, as well as the college professors Blakely and Boles, the news team of "Challenge of the Unknown," and others, all possessed their own sense of style. Knight is no different.
He comes from the end of the spectrum not often used by Henderson. He is not a man of action. Knight prefers to work in his office, relax with a good book. He smokes a pipe, goes out of his way to have a good meal, and frankly would appreciate it if the world would simply leave him alone. He doesn’t like being the center of attention and is certainly not a man of action (though pursued and threatened throughout the book by various menaces, he never once picks up a fire arm, and although I must admit I can not swear to it, I don’t believe he even makes a fist).
Ultimately, my verdict is I’m hoping this is a new C.J. Henderson series. The character is likable and his supporting cast are seem likely to develop into people about whom I will enjoy learning more.
Thoroughly enjoyable. A well-written book by a seasoned professional which has left myself at the very least hoping there will be more to come.
Black Cat Media Associates, Ltd.
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