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.
David Black does a great job of really setting the mood of the story, writing it in a deeply noir, tough-guy style, a la Hammett or Spillane:
Harry’s office was a mess, a low-rent, dusty hole-in-the-wall. Brown-and-white cardboard bankers’ boxes were stacked along the baseboard of one wall. On top of them were back issues of the Springdale Union, The Boston Globe, yellowing magazines from the 1930s and 1940s—Black Mask, Dime Detective . . . Shelves were crammed with Forensics, Criminalistics, Shadowing and Surveillance, Gun Digest, Emmanuals’s Evidence, Correction Law of Massachusetts, Penal Law . . .
On the walls hung framed movie posters: Where Danger Lives, Rogue Cop, and The Killers.
Dusty daylight filtered in through the slats of crooked venetian blinds, bathing the office in a sepia glow.
Harry was thirty-five with a long, seamed face, sleepy eyes, and a mouth crimped up on the right in a semi permanent, dubious grin.
He was tilted back in his chair, his feet crossed on his desk. Next to his feet was the bottle of sour mash.
His baggy brown suit was cut with wide lapels. His white shirt was starched. One collar tip was bent up like the corner of his mouth. His maroon tie was wide, and he wore it short, a hand span higher than his belt.
And just as Sam Spade has a sidekick in his secretary, Effie Perine, Harry has Friday, a woman who deeply loves him and plays her sidekick part in his deep-running fantasy because she wants to make sure he doesn’t get into trouble, or worse, hurt.
Harry’s sister, Carol, and her husband, Phil LeGrange, want to see Harry put away in a mental hospital. Police detective Brian Rossiter just wants to see Harry go away.
How does Harry see himself? Well, here you go, and this is another great example of Black’s tight writing (not surprising, as he is also a screenwriter):
“Who the fuck are you?” the tattooed guy asked.
“Who the fuck am I?” Harry said. “I’m Captain Kidd, Jesse James, Stackolee! I’m Stormalong Jones, Pecos Bill, Joe Magarac, Popeye, Casey Jones, Honest Abe, and Johnny Appleseed…. Half-Ferrari, half-piledriver, and all thunder under the counter. I’m a hundred and forty feet tall and can stride from the Berkshires to the Catskills in one step. Cross the Hudson, wade the Mississippi with a leap. Tie my shoe on the Rockies. And backflip from L.A. to Catalina…. I can punch like a pneumatic drill, drink like a seven-hundred-pound sponge…. I can out-snort, out-smoke, out-snaffle, out-snatch, out-filch, out-scrounge, and out-mooch any sandbagger, racketeer, picaroon, Peterman, or Viking this side of the moon or twenty light-years beyond!… Big as the Super Bowl! Loud as a supersonic boom! I’m Billy the Kid and Al Capone! I’m going to rob this continent blind and steal its white-tipped cane!”
A roller coaster of ride, Black turns in a complexly-plotted story in a fast-paced, machine gun styled narrative. Fast Shuffle is a fun ride, filled with a colorful cast of characters. You can’t help but root for Harry, a man whose only crime is that he would rather live in a romantic’s dream than our cold, modern-day world.
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Bay Area resident Robert K. Lewis has been a painter, printmaker, and a produced screenwriter. In addition to contributing here, Lewis is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Thriller Writers. Untold Damage was the first novel in the Mark Mallen series, followed by Critical Damage. Visit him at his website, at needlecity.wordpress.com, and on Twitter @robertklewis.
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