Still from trailer for The Big Combo (1955) Allied Artists John Alton, Cinematographer
2011 IS TURNING OUT to be a banner year for crime fiction. Despite all the hubbub over the encroaching death of the publishing industry, crime lit continues to flourish, branching out like so many rivulets from an endless pool of blood. First-time authors and beloved mainstays have found homes with new publishers of various sizes. Among the most welcome arrivals is Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. Still only a few months old, their roster already boasts such fine writers as the backwoods bard Daniel Woodrell, with his astoundingly atmospheric The Bayou Trilogy, as well as Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block and his A Drop of the Hard Stuff, a dark (and sober) night of the soul featuring series favorite, Matthew Scudder. On the indie scene, New Pulp Press is still going strong in its third year, ushering in several noteworthy debuts, including Heath Lowrance's The Bastard Hand (a wicked good "Bad Preacher" story: Gil Brewer meets Night of the Hunter). Four of the summer's most anticipated novels come from rising stars poised to break into the mainstream: Megan Abbott's The End of Everything, Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Jason Starr's The Pack, and Duane Swierczynski's Fun & Games. This summer also marks the return of the legendary private eye Mike Hammer. In Kiss Her Goodbye, the late Mickey Spillane and his co-author, Max Allan Collins, have a few new tricks up their sleeves for the gat-wielding shamus. Each of the authors above take bold steps in new directions. Their risks pay off on the page, resulting in some of the finest novels of their respective careers.
Duane Swierczynski is the Wile E. Coyote of crime fiction. His novels are filled with chases, explosions, and, amidst all the mayhem, a dash of philosophy about the absurdity of existence. His first novel, Secret Dead Men, appeared in January 2005 from the small but solid indie publisher Point Blank Press, but it was his follow-up in October of that same year that announced his arrival with a big kaboom. The Wheelman is about a mute Irish getaway man, who blacks out after a heist goes sour and wakes up in a body bag that some musicians are trying to dump down a Jersey drain pipe. From there, things only get worse (for him) and better (for us). The book is violent, twisted, and frequently funny as hell, yet its characters are strangely endearing. They're capable of the most brutal acts, but are also incompetent, entirely human, and believable. That's the Swierczynski touch: he makes apeshit chaos seem par for the course.
Swierczynski's latest novel is Fun & Games, and it's 100% Acme approved. This first volume in a proposed trilogy introduces us to Charlie Hardie, an ex-cop-turned-housesitter whose latest job embroils him in a Hollywood assassination attempt by "The Accident People." Their latest target: Lane Madden, a B-list action actress who knows something she shouldn't. From its opening high-speed chase along the Decker Canyon Road, to the tense cat-and-mouse pursuit through the Hollywood Hills, to the epic, bloody finale, this book shows Swierczynski at his pulpy and imaginative best.