Greasy Bend: backroads manhunt

Take a trip to the Chickasaw nation in rural Oklahoma, where mid-winter sleet strafes the washed-out wastelands and where the ancient mountains resemble sleeping bison on the horizon. Meet tribal detective Bill Maytubby and local police officer Hannah Bond, the yang and yin linchpins of this backwoods manhunt. Ostensibly, Greasy Bend is a murder-mystery, a…

The Ways Of Wolfe: bandits on the border

Pull together the pulp perfection of John D Macdonald and the grassroots grit of James Lee Burke; mix with one of Stephen Hunter’s alpha male Swagger clan; add the cross-border corruption of Don Winslow – and then you come close to the tales of the Wolfe family. This standalone focuses on Axel, serving hard time…

Kill Devil Falls: trailer trash terror

Kill Devil Falls isn’t somewhere you’d want to end up stranded. A ruined wreck of rust belt Americana in the Sierra Nevada region, it has no main road. No mains power. No cellphone signal. It has an incompetent, possibly corrupt local police force. It has a single criminal incarcerated in its ramshackle jailhouse. It has…

Charcoal Joe: a masterclass from Walter Mosley

Utterly absorbing, Charcoal Joe yanks you back to LA in 1968, not long after the Watts riots, and it hurls you into the world of Easy Rawlins, a black man at a difficult time, a private investigator passing the prime of his life. It’s been a while since I’ve read any Easy and I’d wondered…

Inherent Vice: intrinsic instability

This gloriously shambolic, rambling psychedelic mess of a movie brilliantly captures a slice of 1970’s beach-bum life, mixing it with all the black paranoia of hard-boiled noir. Only an extremely ambitious auteur (or an idiot) would attempt to translate Thomas Pynchon’s loosely lucid perspectives in film form. Paul Thomas Anderson deserves credit for even having…

Feast Day Of Fools: the authentic American novel

Crime-thrillers can be simple mysteries. Or police procedurals. Or action adventure. Or social commentaries. Or great literature, delivered in a populist wrapper for mass consumption. JLB writes all of the above, and this is one of his best. If you’ve never read a James Lee Burke book, and might only ever read one of his…