<i>Time of Departure</i>: New Excerpt Time of Departure: New Excerpt Douglas Schofield Mystery, romance, and a bit of Sci-Fi. Don't mind if I do. <i>Ornaments of Death</i>: New Excerpt Ornaments of Death: New Excerpt Jane K. Cleland Josie Prescott is at it again! <i>The Red Storm</i>: New Excerpt The Red Storm: New Excerpt Grant Bywaters The debut novel by a former private investigator. <i>Riot Most Uncouth</i>: New Excerpt Riot Most Uncouth: New Excerpt Daniel Friedman The first in a new series featuring Lord Byron.
From The Blog
November 29, 2015
Troubled Waters Ahead: 7 Great Cruise Ship Mysteries
Crime HQ
Pirate of the Sky: An Unsolved Thanksgiving Mystery
November 24, 2015
The ZINNG: "You Like Me! You Really Like Me!"
Crime HQ
November 23, 2015
Set Sail with Steve Berry!
Crime HQ
November 20, 2015
“You’ve Come a Relatively Middling Distance, Baby”: Signs of Shift in Female Fictional Detectives
Janice MacDonald
Showing posts by: Robert K. Lewis click to see Robert K. Lewis's profile
Jul 7 2015 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Fast Shuffle by David Black

Fast Shuffle by David Black is a hard-boiled noir about a used-car salesman who believes he's a private detective straight from the pages of Raymond Chandler (available July 7, 2015).

Fast Shuffle is the story of private detective Harry Dickinson, a hard-boiled, tough-as-nails detective with a love of old jazz standards and finding the solutions to crimes. He always wears his fedora at a rakish angle, and drives a 1936 purple Packard. Everyone on the street knows him, and he’ll take any case except divorce cases. (What self-respecting P.I. would take those, right?) Fast Shuffle, by award-winning journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and producer David Black tells of how Harry stumbles upon the case of a missing woman and decides to investigate, a decision that leads him into a situation far more complex, and more dangerous, than he could ever imagine.

The perfect set-up for a noir crime fiction novel, right?

Only Fast Shuffle isn’t just any noir crime fiction novel. You see, Harry isn’t really a detective at all. He’s a middle-aged used car salesman living in Springfield, Massachusetts. He only believes that he’s a private detective, one right out of a Raymond Chandler novel.

[He's no Philip Marlowe, but he's trying...]

Oct 9 2014 1:00pm

Quincy and M.E.

Way before there were shows like CSI or Diagnosis Murder, there was the man, the one man who refused to be denied. If someone came across this man’s metal slab and it didn’t seem kosher? That something might be amiss? This man would bull his way forward to the truth, until that truth had been uncovered. (Had to be an Aries, right?) He was the police forensics version of Don Quixote. No medical windmill too tall, no killer too tough… whether a corporate monster, or an evil plastic surgeon… or even a corrupt, mob-backed, union leader. No, this man…. this man, never gave up. And you know of whom I speak, yes?

Of course I speak of Quincy M.E.

Quincy M.E. ran for seven years, 1976-1983, and starred The Great One, Jack Klugman.  One of his Twilight Zone episodes, from 1963, called “In Praise of Pip is carved into the Mount Rushmore of my favorite T.Z. episodes. The Klug was an actor who never, ever called it in. Just watch him chew the scenery when he played Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple. The stuff of legends, and then some.

But when he played Quincy?

He was something else entirely. As much as Peter Falk was Columbo, Klugman was Quincy.

[The labcoat, the station wagon, the snazzy theme song!]

Apr 2 2014 6:00pm

Critical Damage: New Excerpt

Robert K. Lewis

An exclusive excerpt from Critical Damage by Robert K. Lewis, the second dark crime novel featuring former San Francisco cop and recovering junkie, P.I. Mark Mallen (available April 8, 2014).

When ex-cop and recovering junkie Mark Mallen is asked to track down two very different girls who have gone missing, he doesn’t think twice about putting himself in harm’s way to find them. Bloodied and bruised, Mallen shakes down the pimps and hustlers who could crack the cases wide open,leaving no stone unturned in San Francisco’s criminal underground.

But something isn’t right. Somebody’s trying to scare Mallen off, and it’s no ordinary street thug. With heat coming at him from all angles, Mallen’s search for the truth leads him to men who will stop at nothing to make sure their twisted desires never see the light of day.


Chapter 4

Mallen and Gato drove around the Mission district of San Francisco all afternoon, Gato asking everyone he knew if they’d seen Lupe. It was turning into late afternoon when Gato’s cell rung. He checked the number, then answered.

Si?” Gato listened for a moment. Motioned to the glove box for something to write on. Mallen opened it up and found a pen, some .357 shells, a couple condoms, and a menu for a Chinese restaurant. He grabbed up the pen and menu. Nodded to Gato that he’d take down the address. “Bernal district. Corner of Jarboe and Bradford,” Gato told him. “White house, ugly red trim.”

Mallen wrote all this down. Not too many houses with red trim. Gato listened a bit more, then said, “Okay, thanks,” and hung up. He grinned as he looked over at Mallen, saying, “Think we got him, bro.”


“Lupe’s pimp, vato. Teddy Mac.”

[Continue reading Critical Damage by Robert K. Lewis...]

Feb 12 2014 3:45pm

S.W.A.T. Made Me Put Spock in a Foil Codpiece

There are some shows that change your life when you’re a kid. For some of you out there it might’ve been The Outer Limits. Or maybe it was Night Gallery. Perhaps even The A-Team.

For me?

S.W.A.T. was one of those shows.

In some other posts I’ve done here, I talked previously about a couple television shows that predate S.W.A.T., The Mod Squad, and also Harry O. I talked about how those shows reflected the times in which they were created, and I mentioned how S.W.A.T. was different. Now I’m going to tell you why.

Some background: The show had a two season run, 1975-76, and it starred Steve Forrest as Lt. “Hondo” Harrelson, Robert Urich as Officer Jim Street (he of Vegas and Spenser for Hire fame), Mark Shera as Officer Dominic Luca (he of Barnaby Jones fame), James Coleman as Officer T.J. McCabe, (he of fame that’s hard to find) and Rod Perry as Officer “Deacon” Kay (he came back for the 2003 S.W.A.T. movie). These five actors formed a core group that saw a LOT of action. Every episode was filled with a ton of tough talk and a room full of bullets.

Enough with the run down. No, wait… some more background. As a ten-year-old kid (yes, I’m getting old), this show blew my head off my shoulders. I ran right out (well, with my mother) and bought the tie-in action figures. 8” tall S.W.A.T. guys. I remember having the McCabe one because he was the sniper of the group and came with the cool rifle.

[Snipers beat Spock any day...]

Jan 30 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux

Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux is a literary thriller featuring a psychiatric hospital, forgery, and an international conspiracy (available February 4, 2014).

I had to sit here a long while after finishing Marcel Theroux’s Strange Bodies. Why? Because I was literally stunned by the novel I’d just finished. To use a very trite phrase, I could not put it down.

I want to start with the story first and then finish up with the writing itself. This is sort of like eating your peas and carrots, and saving the steak for last. Strange Bodies is the story of Nicholas Patrick Slopen, a man of letters, a man asked to verify the authenticity of some letters by an eighteenth century lexicographer, Dr. Samuel Johnson.

And that is where we begin.

Except I have to mention one thing here, and this is not a spoiler as it is claimed by Slopen himself in the very opening pages: Slopen is dead, but his consciousness has survived his bodily death. What unfolds after this reveal is a complex web-work of story as we are thrust into one of the truest noir books I’ve read in a very long time. Noir, at its core, is about an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary and dark circumstances. And that’s exactly what happens to Slopen. Strange Bodies begins with verifying the authenticity of some papers, and it ends with… well, I guess I cannot tell you that, can I?

[You could, but then you'd have to kill us. Wait...]

Dec 5 2013 11:00am

Oh, Harry O!

David Jansen as Harry O

Oh man, O Man.

I need to come clean on something before I get going. And that is that I was only nine or so when this very incredible, very thoughtful TV show first came on the scene. I was too young to stay up that late. I only vaguely remember the second half of the first season, when the show was moved from San Diego to Los Angeles. Some sort of money thing, as shooting in San Diego quickly became too costly. Harry, played to the hilt by David Janssen, was the penultimate private eye. Harry Orwell had been a cop but was wounded in the line of duty. However, getting shot in the back didn’t kill him; it killed his career as a policeman instead. What I love about that bullet is that it serves as a powerful symbol for the wounding that Harry’s view of the world took. In an even more powerful bit of symbolism, he owns a derelict boat named The Answer. Can you get any more symbolic, right? And of course, he’s always working on The Answer. (Yes, I just had to get that in, sorry.)

Harry of course has a cop friend on the force (which private detective doesn’t?). Captain Manny Quinlan, played by Henry Darrow. He was given a difficult role, was Henry, having to play the foil for Harry’s character. One moment he’s a source of information, then in another he’s the cop who threatens to yank Harry’s private eye license. I would like to add here one totally bad-ass bit of awesomeness in the Captain Quinlan character: his ties rival Michael Douglas’s in The Streets of San Francisco. After the show moved to Los Angeles, Darrow’s character was replaced by Lt. Trench of the Santa Monica PD, played to perfection by Anthony Zerbe (who won an Emmy for his role).

[Put these all together and what do you get?]

Jun 23 2013 3:00pm

The Mod Squad, Or How I Came to Love the Woody

The Mod Squad were Pete (Michael Cole), Julie (Peggy Lipton), and Linc (Clarence Williams III)Pete.



Yeah, you got it. The Mod Squad (1968-1972).

Now, I have to put out a disclaimer here: I was only a wee tike of a wino when the show arrived. All my love for the show, and my reverence, comes from watching it in repeats. When I first watched the show as a young, pubescent wino it was all about Julie, played by Peggy Lipton.

I interviewed a friend of mine, one well versed in the show. This is what she had to say:

ME: So, what do you feel was the best part of the show?

HER: Linc.

ME: Do you have any favorite episodes?

HER: Yes. The ones with Linc in them.

ME: But he’s in all of them, isn’t he?

HER: And your point is?

ME: So, if Linc were a stamp, you’d lick him?

HER: Damn straight.

[And so…therefore...QED...]

Apr 1 2013 8:30am

Untold Damage: New Excerpt

Robert K. Lewis

An excerpt of Untold Damage, the first novel in the series featuring former San Francisco undercover police officer Mark Mallen (available April 8, 2013).

Estranged from his wife and daughter, former undercover cop Mark Mallen has spent the last four years in a haze of heroin.

When his best friend from the academy, Eric Russ, is murdered, an address found in his pocket points to Mallen as the prime suspect. Mallen sets out to serve justice to the real killer. But first, he’ll have to get clean and face the low-life thugs who want him dead.

Chapter 1

“Gold in Peace, Iron in War.” – SFPD motto

Mallen woke up with the needle still in his arm.

Waking up with the pin still in him was something new. First time, actually. Made him think of how Vodka was the last drink a chronic drunk can take. Because their stomach’s given out from all the abuse heaped on it. Vodka was the last stop before a coffin. The last line in the sand, crossed. That bit of knowledge was just like waking up with the needle still in you. He yanked it out. Threw it onto the scratched coffee table.

[Read the full excerpt of Untold Damage by Robert K. Lewis]

Dec 30 2012 10:00am

On Jaws, or How I Came to Love the Summer Blockbuster

The first ever blockbuster. Began Steven Spielberg’s career. That legendary musical score. Had Robert Shaw in it.

Yes… I’m talkin’ Jaws.

Where to start, right? This was the movie that gave us the “summer blockbuster.” It also began the long series of “nature gone angry” genre films such as, The Swarm, Day of the Animals, Piranha, and of course…Grizzly.

Now that I write that, I have to wonder if I should praise Jaws, or condemn it for what it brought into the world. Naw… just joshing. I have to praise this movie. It’s one of the best films ever done. My sister, four years older than me, got to see this film before I did. I wanted desperately to see it. I mean, it had a friggin’ SHARK in it attacking people, right? EVERYONE was talking about it. It was HUGE. Anyway, my sister told my mother that it was a film that was perfectly appropriate for a ten-year-old boy to see. Happily for me, my sister was off her nut. In the end, my mother agreed to let me go and off we went to the local movie house.

[If Mom only knew...]

Oct 23 2012 9:30am

Fresh Meat: The Devil Doesn’t Want Me by Eric Beetner

The Devil Doesn’t Want Me by Eric BeetnerThe Devil Doesn’t Want Me is a humorous noir novella by Eric Beetner, recent recipient of the Stalker Award for Most Criminally Underrated Author (available October 23, 2012).

I’ve never done one of these Fresh Meat things before, and was a bit nervous about it. I mean, giving my opinion when it’s asked for is something new to me. I’m fine when it’s NOT asked for… in fact, I’m in a whole ’nother realm when I give unasked for advice. But after reading Eric Beetner’s new novella, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, I was certainly glad I got the opportunity. Why?

Because this is an incredibly fun and awesome book, that’s why.

[Do tell...]

Sep 19 2012 9:30am

Basically, It Stinks

I was ONLY going to watch the horrid, legendary, Razzie-winner, Basic Instinct 2. However, after viewing the movie, I was compelled to go back and watch the orginal Basic Instinct along with it.

Why, you may ask?

Well, even though I knew for sure that B.I.2 was total crap, I needed the original to really drive home the fact of how completely and UTTERLY bad B.I.2 really is. And trust me, it is. It’s amazing that it even exists.

Let us start at the beginning. What is the premise of Basic Itstink Deux?

[My basic instinct was to run screaming from the room . . .]

Jun 29 2012 9:30am

Shoulda Been Called “Cut My Throat Island”!

May you find more happiness in death, than you did as a box office bomb.Do you love a “good” bad movie? See the other offenders at our new Crimes Against Film feature page!

Man, there were so many ways to start this post that it just wasn’t fair!

I mean, look at this list:

  • I want my two hours back.
  • Ah yes, the movie that sank an entire studio.
  • The movie that turned me off of Geena Davis and into a eunuch.
  • The movie that made me want to walk the plank.
  • I watched this, then wanted to find the film’s director Renny Harlin and beat him senseless, and I STILL WANTED MY TWO HOURS BACK!!!!

Etc. . . . You get the idea.

Anyway, let’s sit down and talk Cutthroat Island! Yes, this really was the movie that sent Carolco (Cutthroat Island’s production company) to the bottom of the ocean, never to surface again. 

[Let’s hope it doesn’t sink me in the process of watching it!]

Apr 2 2012 12:00pm

Who are the Go-To Bad Guys of Crime Fiction?

The Nazi zombie.There was I was, sitting in my latest favorite bar in the city, Held Up in Traffic, when the door opened and in walked a Russian secret agent, an old mobster, and a Nazi zombie.

Yeah, I know. Sounds like the beginning to a bad joke. Work with me here, yeah?

I looked at them, then back at my drink. What the hell had the ’tender put in my glass? I blinked. Nope. They were still there. Blinked again.

No go.

This was real.

[Really really real?]

Mar 23 2012 9:30am

You Gonna Drink That? The Class System Colors of Booze

Scotch on the rocksSo there I sat, at the stick in my latest hangout, The End of Times, having another Scotch on the rocks. The guy on the stool next to mine reminded me of Orson Wells during his “We will sell no wine before its time” Paul Masson phase. For some reason, this guy kept looking over at my drink and snickering. After he did it about five times, I turned to him and said, “Something funny, Orson?”

He didn’t get the reference, only smirked at my drink again. It was then that I noticed he was drinking something clear, with no rocks. “What’s that,” I inquired, nodding at his glass. “Everclear?”

[Pick your poison...]

Feb 22 2012 9:30am

What a Crime (Story)!

The cast of Crime StoryThis post was going to be all about the fun 1980s TV show Crime Story, starring the awesome Dennis Farina as Lt. Mike Turello, the man with the +3 Moustache of Broomness. However, after reacquainting myself with the show, I just couldn’t do it. Yes, it’s still a ton of fun, and still holds up in a lot of ways. But, no, it didn’t hold up well enough, in my opinion, to where I could do an honest post extolling its virtues, etc.

So, instead, I decided to write about the ONE part of the show that still kicks major ass, even by the major ass kicking standards of today.

And that, my friends, is the series pilot.

[When was the last time you saw a pilot better than the show?]

Dec 13 2011 12:00pm

What Is Noir?

Portland 1948 Street Scene“So,” said the lovely dame sitting next to me, “what really is Noir?” Smiled as she said it. Like she knew she was setting me up. A level of mirth on par with seeing me nude for the first time.

I sat there quietly, looking at my glass. Tried to find a good answer. All of my literary heroes were, and still are, Noir writers. But, damnit, what really constitutes “Noir” writing and stories?

It was a bitch of a question, and that was a fact.

[But, dammit, we’ll try to answer it anyway.]

Nov 22 2011 9:30am

Police Story: When the Story Was the Star

Police StorySo there I sat, on my couch, having just pushed the “stop” button on the remote.

I had been, as they say, raptured.

Why? Because I had just finished all six discs of the first season of what was THE most groundbreaking cop show of the 1970’s (’73 – ’77). Maybe the most freakin’ groundbreaking cop show ever.

Police Story.

Created as an anthology series for TV by the greatest cop writer ever, Joseph Wambaugh, this show was tough and gritty, with realism not ever seen before. I mean, before this we had Adam 12 with their plastic but fun cops, Martin Milner and Kent McCord. They were awesome and all that, but really… it’s like using your GI Joe and a Ken doll to ride the streets of late 60’s Los Angeles to fight crime.


[Not to mention the Barbie dolls that went with those Ken dolls.]

Nov 15 2011 1:00pm

Death Wish: Pure Vengeance

Death Wish PosterIt was a late, rainy afternoon in the city as I sat at the stick belonging to my new favorite watering hole. The name of the joint was My Wit’s End, and that made me laugh…

“Where are you, honey?” she said.

“I’m at My Wit’s End!”  he replied.

I’d changed bars because I’d given Bill and The Cornerstone the ol’ heave-ho (for very good reasons you can find here).  In front of me on the on the gashed, burnt, and scarred stick lay a copy of Brian Garfield’s brilliant crime novel, Death Wish. I’d finished it earlier in the morning, after finding an old 1974 copy from Coronet Books, London, on teh Internetz Tubez. I was very happy to find that the book was every bit as enjoyable as the movie. If you can track down a copy, and there are still some 1989 editions left here and there, you will not be disappointed. Trust me on this.

[If you’re lyin’, you’re dyin’...]

Nov 1 2011 1:00pm

Rockford Rocks!: Homage to a 70’s Detective

The Rockford Files Title

All you need to know about The Rockford Files is right here:

The iconic opening with the answering machine.

The theme song you always heard on AM radio in the 70’s.

The sport coats.

The hair.

That gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit.

The limp.

The greatness that was Rockford’s father, Rocky.

That awesome single wide trailer parked right on the PCH.

In honor of James Garner releasing his memoirs today (The Garner Files), I thought I’d write this little homage to one of the greatest detective shows to come out of the 70’s.

[Let’s groove!]

Sep 26 2011 3:45pm

4th Down, Death to Go: Sports Thrillers in the 1970s

Two-Minute Warning (1976) Movie PosterThank God that football is back!

This summer, spent without the usual NFL OTAs and ubiquitous trade rumors, seemed a more dreary summer than any I’ve experienced since my tenth. (That was the summer I was the unlucky recipient of a burst appendix and had to spend most of it laid up in bed.)

In fact, I was so desperate for anything football-related that I pulled from my DVD collection two of my favorite sports-related thrillers: Black Sunday (1977), starring the late, great Robert Shaw, and Two-Minute Warning (1976), starring the late, great Charlton Heston.

[Bring On the Penalties for Unnecessary Awesome!]