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Alex Grant on the crime fiction beat

...three-quarters of the authors are hacks who lack conviction


Each month a surfeit or plethora of new crime/mystery/suspense novels emerges. Even the most hard-bitten aficionado of the genre will experience difficulty in avoiding the many non-starter duds, for three-quarters of the authors are hacks who lack conviction and plausibility.They simply churn the books out in keeping with their contract deadlines. AND it shows that they are merely going through the motions.

Jim Fuselli’s debut novel CLOSING TIME is nothing more than a Valentine to The Big Apple, an overdose of ‘Noo Yawk’ especially its chic upscale arty-gallery scene and the booming urban sprawl that is TriBeCa. A revenge story that stutters along on an almost empty tank of narrative fuel Fuselli’s limitations are severe – mainly a lachrymose attitude to the vagaries of fortune and an indulgence of ‘colourful’ characters whom you have met ofttimes.

Boston Teran’s hectic and hallucinatory psycho-thriller NEVER COUNT OUT THE DEAD is an exemplar of ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, Teran’s saga of a "tweaker" [speed-freak] Mom Dee and her horribly abused daughter Shay spans a twelve year period after the bungled murder of a lawman. The writer being imitated is James Ellroy whose perfervid pulp prose alternates between a staccato,’take-no-prisoners’ river of the Unconscious, mostly devoted to Thanatos, the Death Wish, and lurid re-enactments of post WW2 actual events. Teran’s prose style overcooks the hallucinogenic and is most definitely the most purplish style since Ellroy’s. At least choose to copy the best,huh?

Black distaff author Kris Nelscott’s two books A DANGEROUS ROAD and SMOKE-FILLED ROOMS are devoted to the good deeds of black P.I. Smokey Dalton (a.k.a. Billy Taylor) his primary task being the protection of his adopted ‘son’ Jimmy who has had the bad luck to see the face of the ‘real;assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. Set at the height of thr Civil Rights Era Nelscott’s novels are similar to those of black female writer Paula I. Woods, in that they may be attempting a reconciliation of America’s two principal peoples, but they lack the rigour and the inspiration to prove more than journeyman works.

Michael McGarrity’s sixth "Kevin Kerney’ thriller UNDER THE COLOUR OF LAW is the ‘Real McCoy’ a straight-arrow paranoid conspiracy saga set in New Mexico where the erstwhile poltically savvy Kerney is investigating the savage murder of a U.S. Ambassador’s young,faithless wife, and the savage murder of an activist anti-establishment priest a former army officer determined to unearth the truth about his brother’s death in Central America during the era of death-squads and the "Contras". UNDER THE COLOR OF LAW is an utterly straightforward and entirely gripping old-fashioned yarn.Newly appointe dthe Santa Fe police chief Kerney has to bring up to snuff a ramshackle staff and to foil the diabolical schemes of maverick FBI agents.

James Swain’s GRIFT SENSE introduces us to reluctant Florida retiree Tony Valentine an expert sleuth at tracking down the men and women who scam casinos, by examining surveillance tapes minutely Valentine discovers that his nemesis Sonny Fontana long thought to be dead is back in town ripping off the fourth-rate Acropolis gambling palace.

A wannabe comic farce akin to those written so well by Pete Hautman [THE MORTAL NUTS] and by Carl Hiaasen [SKINTIGHT] Swain’s largely unfunny – a smirk here and there a chuckle every fifty pages – GRIFT SENSE gets bogged down in the scummy details of low-lives at the bottom of the Las Vegas’ food-chain . Not an inherently charming or winning crew, each and every one a caricature taken from other novels of this subgenre. Enough already! After 70 pages of sketchy shenanigans

© Alex Grant
- master of the abrupt ending

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