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Amos Walker has a sharp eye and a sharper sense of the absurd. Pair these with a dry wit and a fondness for Scotch and you've got Detroit's answer to Philip Marlowe. Just trade the fedora for a Tigers' baseball cap. Loren Estleman's acerbically philosophical PI has been going strong for 13 novels and shows no sign of slowing down. In a funky, meta-textual noir riff, A Smile on the Face of the Tiger immerses Walker in the world of '40s and '50s American pulp fiction, where men clench lantern jaws and women (sorry, dames) wear silk stockings and cause trouble.
When a New York publisher asks Walker to track down author Eugene Booth, who's refusing to allow his classic Paradise Valley to be reissued, Walker's first instinct is to say no. But Booth's novel, about a Detroit race riot in 1943, fascinates Walker, especially after he finds Booth's dictation tapes. Booth has "a low fuzzy bass that might once have been rich and pleasant before too much whiskey, too many cigarettes, and three or more trips too many around a rundown block had hammered it into that dull monotone you hear at last call and over the loudspeaker in the eleventh inning of a pitchers' duel." Walker discovers that it's not just whiskey and cigarettes that have affected the author. His wife was murdered 50 years ago to prevent Booth from spilling the truth about the events he fictionalized.
Walker traces Booth to a rundown motel on the shores of Lake Huron. His presence there is no surprise, given his fondness for solitude and fish. But why is mobster Glad Eddie Cypress, who should be gearing up for a big book tour, holed up at the same motel? When Walker finds Booth swinging from the rafters, he decides to find out. When the number of people who wanted Booth dead starts multiplying, and a 50-year-old race riot and murder move back into the spotlight, Walker is hard-pressed to keep himself from becoming history.
Estleman's sardonic prose (the Detroit River is "the only spot on the North American continent where you could look across at a foreign country without seeing either wilderness or tattoo parlors") makes A Smile on the Face of the Tiger move energetically along. This noir veteran, never content to rest on his laurels, has produced another gritty winner. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
HThe three Shamus Awards Estleman has won for his Amos Walker mysteries (The Hours of the Virgin, etc.) testify to his reputation as the torchbearer of the classic PI yarn. In his 14th novel about the tough-minded Detroit gumshoe, Estleman pays explicit tribute to his artistic ancestors, dedicating the book to "Hamilton, Prather, McCoy, and Spillane" and others, and centering its complicated, absorbing plot around the fates of a classic paperback writer and the bombshell blonde who posed for his books' lurid covers. Walker is hired by sleek Louise Starr, owner of a nascent New York publishing house, to find Eugene Booth, author of such titles as Tough Town and Bullets Are My Business. Booth has called it quits on a contract to reprint his best-known novel, Paradise Valley, set within the horrific Detroit race riot of June 1943; Starr wants to know why. Walker locates Booth, a broken old drunk tapping at a manual typewriter, at a fishing lodge north of Motor City. They drink and they talkDabout the murder of Booth's wife way back when and about what really went down at the riot; hours later, Walker finds Booth hanged in his cabin. Suicide? Then how to explain the "heeled" guy in an adjacent cabin, who Walker soon learns is hit man-turned-bestselling author Glad Eddie Cypress? Fleta Skirrett, former paperback jacket honey, now waiting to die in an old folks' home, offers some clues, and so does the son of the painter of Booth's covers, who lives surrounded by plastic-wrapped paperbacks. A good, involving mystery featuring strong characters and prose as smooth as the brim of a fedora, this novel makes smart points about writing, publishing and the cult of mysteries. Anyone who appreciates the difference between a gat and a gun, a gam and a leg, is going to wolf it down. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
As a mystery writer with my first novel in initial release, I fondly recall the hours I spent reading Loren Estleman's Amos Walker series as I learned to write PI fiction. Read morePublished on June 29 2001 by Kent Braithwaite
Amos Walker is a hard-boiled private eye of the old school. in A Smile On The Face Of The Tiger, Walker is tracking down a man named Eugene Booth as part of a missing-person case. Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2001 by Midwest Book Review