Flashback: Under The Radar

Originally run in Crimespree Issue 14 Sept 2006

Under The Radar by Richard Katz

In the age when the Publishers are run by giant or mid-sized conglomerates, many top authors do not receive the recognition or the backing that they deserve. In fact, those of us who sell books are often amazed at which writers and books are backed by the publishers. The editors must sit around with Dan Brown or John Grisham clones of mediocrity and say, “this will sell” and bypass any advertising or help for the talent in the mid-list.

It is very disturbing and only getting worse.

I know the giant chains have a huge impact in how books are published; still the publishers are giving in. Anyone who doubts this, check out the baffling decisions Random House has made the last few years. Here are three excellent mid-list authors who have fallen through the cracks.

The first is Victor Gischler, the author of four dynamite hardboiled comic mysteries. His first, Gun Monkey’s, is a classic noir tale of a Florida hit man on the run, that became an underground hit published by Uglytown (now available in a Bantam paperback) In Suicide Squeeze, a father takes his son to the movie set of “The Seven Year Itch”, where Billy Wilder, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio sign a copy of Joe’s rookie baseball card making it possibly the most valuable card ever. Two Japanese billionaires are willing to do “anything” to get the card. His most recent is Shotgun Opera(released pathetically by Random House as a PBO) is about a robbery gone wrong, a crazed CIA family and reads like Elmore Leonard on LSD. But my favorite is his second, Pistol Poets, about college students, drug dealers, Mafia hidden in the Witness

Relocation program, multiple dead bodies and poetry. Pistol Poets stands with Loren D. Estleman’s Peeper, Carl

Hiaasen’s Double Whammy, James B. Hall’s Mean High Tide as one of my four favorite comic mysteries of all time.

Next is Norman Green, author of four noir novels set mostly in Brooklyn. His first, Shooting Dr. Jack, and his soon to be released fourth novel, Dead Cat Bounce, star Fat Tommy, Stoney and Tuco, Green’s very smart and very tough Brooklyn con men. Green has the gift of characterization; you feel that you have met the people in his books. His third novel, Way Past Legal, is about a Brooklyn thief who escapes NYC with his young son to start a new life in Maine. It is also excellent. But Green’s finest is his second, The Angel of Montague Street. Set in 1973, a Special Forces trained Vietnam veteran returns to Brooklyn where he abandoned his Mafia roots, a contract has been placed on him for many years. Angel is brilliant, filled with thrilling action and with some of the most interesting and strange characters in recent crime fiction.

Next on the list is Charlie Huston, author of four very tough, beautifully written crime novels. His first, Caught Stealing, is a huge cult hit. Henry Thompson, former minor league baseball star and current bartender in NYC is given a cat to watch while his neighbor is out of town. He is then given a terrible beating and hunted by contract killers, Russian mafia and dirty cops. Thompson must become as bad as those who hunt him to survive. Caught Stealing is very violent, yet Huston has a simple beautiful narrative to his writing. Six Bad Things is the second in the Thompson trilogy, the third, A Dangerous Man will be released in September. My favorite of Huston’s books however, is his third, Already Dead. This is a brilliant, violent Vampire PI novel set in NYC. Huston takes the reader to the very dark side of the city and crests a believable world where vampires live in secret. Already Dead is simply one of the finest hardboiled PI novels in recent years.

If you have not discovered these authors, read them.

Richard