Let’s welcome the boys back in, shall we, after their month of enforced exclusion from the reading room! And what better place to start than with the new trilogy of thrillers from Detroit-based writer, T. V. LoCicero. I feel a bit possessive of this man, as if he’s my discovery (which is not at all true, but there it is, grandiosity is hard to quash) as he’s the only self-published author I read and really rate. The first novels of his that I read struck me as so professional and, in fact, his publishing history is rather intriguing. He started out with a big advance from a top publisher only to have his true crime book about a murder in a synagogue squelched by prominent members of the Jewish community. After that he turned his hand to making television documentaries about crime and dysfunction in Detroit at a time when the city was imploding with social and political problems. This series of novels has now emerged from the stories he investigated during that period.
In the opener, The Car Bomb, the focus is on television news anchor, Frank de Fauw. Ostensibly he’s a man who has everything – intelligence and tenacity worthy of his powerful job, fame and fortune and a reputation for getting to the truth of things. But his family life has been shattered by a recent tragedy and Frank is heading off the rails. Entangled with mistresses, drinking and partying and putting his job on the line, it isn’t long before he’s looking down the barrel of a divorce and public scandal. But a recent explosion that killed the wife and two young children of a local African-American family draws Frank in despite himself. He has an instinct for sniffing out corruption and much about the incident strikes him as suspicious. As he follows the trail of the crime, this lone bombing turns out to be related to a web of intrigue that involves a prominent Detroit judge who also happens to be one of Frank’s best friends. Caught between a rock and a hard place with his own life threatening to collapse about his ears, how will Frank bring truth and justice back to both his professional and his private domains?
The second novel, Admission of Guilt, opens out into a portrait of Detroit torn apart by drug wars. John Giordano is a committed young teacher who can’t bear what’s happening to the kids at his school. One of his brightest pupils has been gunned down by accident, caught in the crossfire between rival gangs, and it isn’t long before another, a boy he’s already warned off the easy money to be made trading on street corners, is shot in the spine, leaving him wheelchair bound. John knows the situation is hopeless; there’s so much money to be made in drugs that his students can’t see the point in sticking with a traditional education that will lead them into conventional and low paid work. But none of the so-called authorities in his city will take the problem in hand. For the police, there’s simply too much work and the steady stream of dealers endlessly regenerates itself. For those in industry and politics, there’s too much money to be made to do anything other than seek a cut of the deal. So John decides to take things into his own vigilante hands and, with a little help from Frank de Fauw, sets up a desperate scheme to target one of the mafia lords and free the city from one drug baron.
If you like Elmore Leonard, you’ll love these books. Fast-paced action with lots of short chapters and sharp, punchy dialogue, and the writing is crisp and contemporary. Tom LoCicero is wonderful at setting up several threads of plot that plait into one another and end up inter-related, and there’s a real pleasure in the moment when they finally combine and the landscape of the book is laid out before the reader. The authenticity of the context is evident, particularly in Admission of Guilt, which has a lot of pithy things to say about the way Detroit was allowed to slip into free fall, the authorities unable and mostly unwilling to intervene in a shocking situation. But ultimately, these are stories about our overwhelming desire to see bullies and users get their comeuppance; there’s little more satisfying than that. The third book in the detroit im dyin trilogy isn’t out yet, but I’ll be waiting for it to appear.
A brief word about July on the blog: I confess that I’m beginning to feel a bit blogged out after last month’s extravaganza, and in any case, it’s summer in the blogworld which always makes things a little quieter. So my intention is to gradually go down to two posts a week until the autumn, one a review, one more general. However, having pedalled fast recently, I’ve still got quite a backlog of books to review, and some great ones at that. I do apologise for being behind in replying to comments and blog reading – you know I’ll catch up, I always do.
And this month’s creative non-fiction title is: The Mirador; Dreamed memories of Irène Némirovsky by her Daughter, by Élisabeth Gille. I’ll be reviewing that on Sunday 21st July.