WITH ALEX GRANT
(CARROLL & GRAFF, 2002, @ $39.95 CAN, HARDCOVERS)
'...Sam McCain novels all ...display a genuine maturity in coming
to terms with human nature and all of its foibles.'
Very few authors in the mystery genre have penned novels that can truly
be called charming crime or suspense thrillers, which is almost
a contradiction in terms of course: as the genre depends upon thrills,
chills, and spills and these days commonly gravitates around gratuitous
gore galore. In the immediate post- World War Two years the British specialized
in such cosy/ tea and crumpets novels which today
are perceived as being arch, fey, and downright feckless at their worst.
Only two U.S authors to date - Stephen Dobyns with his nine "Saratoga/
Charlie Bradshaw" tomes and Stuart Kaminsky in his "Toby Peters/
Vintage Hollywood" books - have accomplished this stupendous feat
repeatedly and beguilingly.
Veteran mystery author Ed Gorman, an Iowan native who can boast over two
dozen books to his credit, including a number of truly macabre blends
of crime and horror, has written a quintet of books brimming with a curious
down-home charm and well-earned devotion to deep-dish nostalgia .These
are Gormans " Sam McCain" mystery books, the fifth in
this tender,warm-hearted series being EVERYBODYS SOMEBODYS
Our irresistible hero Sam McCain is short of stature, long on patience
and persistence, and at age 25 an incorrigible romantic who carries a
torch for assorted inamorata longer and more courageously than the legendary
Olympic advance-guard. Both a lawyer and a private-eye in Black River
Falls Sam works for the haughty, irascible Judge Esme Ann Whitney and
has to contend with the pompous, puffed-up oaf of a Chief-of-Police, Cliffie
Sykes, Jr. Sam cares deeply about his community and has ties to almost
every soul in Black River Falls, ties that he tends as assiduously as
he does his love-interests,
The plot in installment five involves a womanizing teen drag-strip racing
fanatic orphan David Egan who goes to his accidental death
accused of murdering one of his string of conquests, naive impressionable
girls taken in by his amateurish James Dean impersonation, Sam remains
unconvinced about this open-&-shut case of homicide.
The qualities that Ed Gorman brings to this series are manifold. In particular
a gift for poetically rendering the moods of weather and countryside that
bring Iowa to vivid life, and more importantly a teeming cast of believable
characters set firmly in a plausible if not completely recognizable milieu
of 1961 rural Americana. Gorman also shows us his people from all sides,
playing fair by the vices and virtues of each well-rounded participant.
Everyone has his or her hidden even unconscious reasons for behaving well
or badly in these Sam McCain novels all of which display a genuine maturity
in coming to terms with human nature and all of its foibles . A maturity
rarely found in this genre it must be said.
So very many contemporary mysteries rely upon the barrel of red herrings
and the helter-skelter of cheap thrills to achieve their effects, often
with dire consequences for the readers suspension of disbelief.
Gormans new book places character and incident front and center
and thus allows the story flow along winningly like a paper-boat or a
fall leaf caught in a creek, its destination not immediately decipherable,
the journey no less crucial than the outcome.
© Alex Grant March 2003
all rights reserved