Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Robert J. Randisi and the Nashville PI Series

The first time I read a Robert J. Randisi story was in The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction. It's probably the best anthology the late and very much missed Ed Gorman assembled, and should be part of your collection. Gorman included Randisi's "A Matter of Ethics", and the first line grabs you by the neck:

"I got mugged on the way to meet a potential client."

If you have the power to stop reading after that, you're stronger than I will ever be. It's just one example of Randisi's straight-to-the-point writing style that has earned him so many fans and made The Gunsmith, which he writes under the name of J.R. Roberts,  the longest-running adult western series in the history of the genre.

And the good news is, he has another book out!

The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie takes place in Nashville, in the heart of music city, where session player Auggie Valez gets in over his head by taking a job that seems harmless at first, but, of course, quickly turns deadly.... 

How's this for an opening: Corkey Barnes told everyone who would listen that he was a "Major Country Music Producer." It wasn't a lie. He was, and he liked everybody to know it as soon as possible.

I don't know about you, but I need to keep reading.... Corkey has snake written all over him....

Robert agreed to a sit down at the pool hall and we chatted while sipping some very good bourbon while we chatted about his career and The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie.

Brian Drake: You've attained legendary status in the mystery and western community. 670 books--and counting! 30 anthologies. Mystery Scene. American Crime Writers League, the Private Eye Writers of America, the Shamus Award.  Incredible--when do you sleep? When did the writing bug bite, and is telling stories still as exciting today as it was when you began?

Robert J. Randisi: I got bit when I was 15. Started by writing a Man From UNCLE manuscript (Man meets Girl from UNCLE). Put it in a drawer, wrote a private eye novel, put it in a drawer. Then started writing short stories. Also saw Paul Newman in HARPER, which convinced me that I wanted to write for a living.  By the time I was 30. And I did it.

BD: Let's talk about The Gunsmith, your adult western series that's still going strong. [The history of The Gunsmith is well-documented elsewhere, so we aren't going into that here.] Has continuing the series series since leaving Berkeley been a challenge? I see Gunsmith titles from Piccadilly, Pro Se, etc.--has that made it difficult to remain consistently available to readers?

RJR: I was able to continue The Gunsmith after all the other series died because I made sure I owned it. The others were house owned. And yes, it’s been difficult making it consistently available. Piccadilly would only do ebook editions, but going with them was the only way I could be sure there was no lag between Book 399 and Book 400. I wanted to keep it coming out monthly. Then I had to find somebody to do hard copies of the books. Pro Se stepped up, but it was too difficult.  I finally placed it with Speaking Volumes, who is doing both hard and ebook editions. But we’re still trying to find all those readers who lost us when we left Berkley.

BD: You've recently spun off Lady Gunsmith from the series. How did that come about?

RJR: LADY GUNSMITH was going to be done 35 years ago by Charter Books before Berkley bought them.  Berkley canned the idea. I uncannily—cannily?--waited for the time to be right to bring the idea back.

BD: What is it about the western genre that keeps it relevant? Where do you see the genre heading over the next ten years?

RJR: It’s history. History is always relevant. The fact that we can elaborate on it, exaggerate it doesn’t change the basics of it.  Private eye, Spy, even Science Fiction genres have to change with the times. Westerns don’t. Westerns are Westerns—basically.  But everybody has to put their own twist on it, and for the future we’ll all keep trying to find ways to do that.

BD: Miles Jacoby, one of your private detective characters, is back in print from Wolfpack. Tell us a little about him.

RJR: Jacoby was a middleweight boxer who worked part time for a private eye. When he had enough time in, he applied for his own license and quit fighting.  Throughout the course of the 6 books, he’s learning to run his own business. I’m toying with the idea of continuing the series for Wolfpack, jumping ahead the 20 or so years that have gone by since the last one.  

BD: You've written about other PI characters, too, including Nick Delvecchio. If Nick and Mike Hammer got the same lead on a case, who would solve it first?

RJR: Hammer. He’s tougher, smarter, older and more experienced. And if I said Nick, my friend Max Collins would tear me a new one.

BD: Hahaha ... Max Allan Collins has visited this blog many times and even leaves a comment once in a blue moon, so I'm sure he'll get a chuckle out of that. How has the private eye genre changed during your tenure, and where do you see it going in the future? Is there even still a place for the private eye?

RJR: There will always be a place for the private eye—in my heart, if nowhere else.  As with the Western genre, writers have been putting their own stamp on the genre since my first book came out in 1980.  He—and she—have changed with the times. Methods change, laws change, new laws are passed. All that has to be taken into consideration, unless you’re going to write period pieces. At the moment I’m getting back into the P.I. field, doing a new series for Wolfpack and a new series for Down & Out Books.  The locales are different, the experience level and ages of the protagonists are different, but the devotion to the conventions—not cliches—of the genre are the same.

BD: Along with The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie, you also have some other titles coming up.

RJR: One is The Headstone Detective Agency, set in New York, about a 50 year old P.I. who gets his license back after serving time and has to start over. The other is set in Nashville and features a P.I. who is also a guitar player and song writer. The first book—THE BIG HOSS HONKY TONK BOOGIE--came out several years ago, was nominated for a Shamus for Best Paperback, then the publisher folded. Now I’m getting a chance to bring it back with Wolfpack. The second book is called THE LAST SWEET SONG OF HAMMER DYLAN.

I’m still writing Gunsmith and Lady Gunsmith. A few years ago I wrote what I think is my best book, MCKENNA’S HOUSE, for Crossroads Publishing. I’d like to do more. I’m also going to do more traditional westerns.

BD: Thanks for the chat, Robert. 

Click here to find Robert's Amazon page. He has so many titles available, you will never lack for a good read.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Big Announcement ... Soon

We've tidied up the blog a little as far as the sidebars go where I normally post my available titles. Steve Dane is there; three books out from Liberty Island, with two more forthcoming, hopefully this summer.

If you can remember what was there before, and isn't there now, you might have an idea of my upcoming announcement.

Details soon, I promise....

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Alaskan Storm Incoming!

We have a new kid on the block who is worth checking out. Kronos Ananthsimha has written a terrific action yarn called Alaskan Storm, and it hits all the right buttons, starting from page one. 

Let me quote one of the Amazon reviews to give you a taste of the story: "The premise is unique and original, centering around a secretive DARPA special ops unit called the Hounds, comprised of an eclectic cast of characters (and a St. Bernard) and tasked with countering scientific threats."

What you get with Alaskan Storm is a bit more than the usual action thriller, and it's a treat in this age of bearded anti-terrorist dude bros tactically dude bro-ing as they fight the same bad guys everybody else is writing about.

Kronos hails from Bangalore, India, and I think you'll be very interested in seeing what he has up his sleeve now and in the future. I won't try and tell you about the book because Kronos is better at it than I am, so here it is in his own words.....

BD: When did you start writing?

K: I started writing when I was 16 years old, around five years ago. For a few years, I just tried to write and I’m still learning. After publishing a short story anthology with a small press which went badly, I started learning to write. I read books on the writing craft, read online articles and watched a wide array of videos from professionals in the field. Each time that I write is an experiment with my mind’s wildness. I’ve been keen on making a career in writing since I started reading books in Primary school. 

BD: What is it about adventure fiction that particularly inspires you?

K: The three books which redefined my view on storytelling are Matthew Reilly’s Temple, Clive Cussler’s Inca Gold, and James Rollins’ Bloodline. I discovered them accidentally and they expanded my perception of the sheer fun, excitement, craziness and the learning ability one can have with books. As I read more books in this action-adventure genre, I wanted to create my own epic roller coaster ride that would be brutal, detailed, fun and informative. This came into reality in the trilogy of novellas called Blood Stone Impact, the first of which is Alaskan Storm. I’ll compile the trilogy into one book when I’m done writing them and put it out in the print format. 

BD: Which authors have influenced you most?

K: My earliest taste of thrillers was through Robert Ludlum’s classic masterpieces of complex plots with brilliant protagonists who had deep characterization.  Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Brad Taylor, Ben Coes, and Mark Greaney are some of the legends of modern spy-action thrillers who’ve shown me the impact that this genre has on the world. Two new authors, Andrew Warren, and Aiden L. Bailey write uniquely brilliant books which have got me hooked recently. I’m lucky and fortunate enough to have them as my mentors, friends, and guides for every aspect of the literary industry. They’d make great creative writing professors if they wanted to.

BD: You're studying to be a journalist. How has that helped, or hindered, your fiction writing?

K: Studying journalism has helped me to collect, verify and research data which I need for writing. I’ve learned about networking and made helpful contacts while studying media and through the activities that I’ve done for building my portfolio. Unfortunately, news writing is completely different from creative writing. So, it’s not very helpful. 

BD: Indeed. I spent my early career as a newspaper reporter because I thought it would help. And you're right--the writing is totally different, but it did teach me how to research, how to interview and ask the right questions, and even get people who didn't want to talk to me to share their thoughts anyway.

Please describe your protagonist. What makes him interesting to you?

K: In Blood Stone Impact, there are three equally important protagonists. But the first part focuses on Damian Blood and Nick Park who are very different from each other and yet have certain similarities. Blood is a tall, hulking operator who leads a strike team for Taskforce COBALT, a covert unit of DIA and DARPA which handles scientific threats. The other side to him is that he’s a genius level mechanic and yet he’s immature, rash and wild. Park is an Army Ranger turned microbiologist who has given up his military career after a tragedy. He has spent five years curing cancer in an isolated lab only to have his research stolen and weaponized. Nick Park is drawn back into the action which he wanted to forget and has to face off against the men he had once trained and commanded. These characters make the elements of a conflicting plot. As an author, I take pleasure in putting my characters through hell and enjoy the ride that their lives are. 

BD: How is the villain going to challenge your characters?

K: The main villains of Blood Stone Impact aren’t revealed yet in the Alaskan Storm. A few of the major antagonists play a major role in the next two novellas of the series. The villains here are a union of the most powerful groups that the world ever had. It’s an unholy alliance between the Templars, Ottomans and a few other groups who are thrown into a complex chess game with the Russians, Americans, and a few billionaires. Each novella in this trilogy focuses on one long sequence with an epic battle in an exotic location. 

BD: What are you working on next?

K: I have to start working on the sequel to Alaskan Storm, but I’m still researching for it. Currently, I’m focused on completing a short story that will introduce a couple of protagonists for two different Geo-political action-thriller series that I’ve planned to start. These books will be much more realistic and serious than the Taskforce COBALT adventures, though they’re set in the same world.

BD: Alaskan Storm is a great start to a great series and marks the debut of an author to watch. Thanks for taking the time to talk, Kronos, and good luck with the series. Buy Alaskan Storm at Amazon!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


I am proud to announce the release of SKILLS TO KILL, aka The Rogue Gentleman, aka Steve Dane #1. What started as a self-publishing project got noticed by a small press in New York called Liberty Island, and we made a deal, and now those old books are new-and-improved and retitled. I hope you'll take the time to give it a look. Our pal and fellow writer James Reasoner reviewed the book on his Rough Edges blog and was quite enthusiastic.

Thanks, James!

SKILLS TO KILL is the first of five (Another Way to Kill is already up for pre-order, and Live to Kill will follow shortly--so three books out in November, two more to follow next year), and hopefully more. If you've read them before, and liked them, you'll like them even more now. We've cleaned up the text, added a few things here and there, and overall made them much better than the previous incarnations.

The story:

Steve Dane should never have set foot in Italy. After witnessing a young woman’s kidnapping, the former agent turned rogue mercenary is hired to get her back by the girl's father and soon finds himself drawn in to the decades-old vendetta behind the crime. 

Racing against time as her life hangs in the balance, Steve battles the mafia who want him dead and the police and international agents who want him out of the way. With the help of his lover, former Russian spy Nina Talikova, he rushes down a path that leads into an ever-more complex world of deception ruled by a powerful and mysterious woman known as The Duchess. 

Life, it seems, is getting cheaper by the minute. And The Duchess has put a price on the ultimate weapon that will make it all but worthless. Only Steve and Nina have the power to stop a clock that is ticking away the life of the missing girl—and the world.

SKILLS TO KILL is available on Amazon. Ebook now; paperback to follow.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Jerry Ahern on Mack Bolan's Weapons

I've never made a secret about being a Jerry Ahern fanboy. I loved his books when I was a teenager.

Back in 2015, I became Facebook pals with author Stephen Mertz, who, I need not say, is a legend in men's adventure writing himself, having turned out titles for the Bolan series, as well as many others. In 1980, probably not long after Gold Eagle/Harlequin acquired the Mack Bolan series from Don Pendleton, the editors at GE asked Jerry Ahern for his opinions on which weapons Bolan, Phoenix Force, and several others, might use in the books. Ahern replied with two pages of well thought-out reasoning for this weapon or that, and a copy of the letter was forward to Mr. Mertz, who sent it along to me thinking I might like to add it to my Ahern collection. It was actually quite fascinated to read, and I've been meaning to post it on this blog ever since. I've included pictures of the actual letter, but transcribed it for the blog for easy-reading.

I'm not sure what to add, but I think it's safe to say Ahern's remarks were what made Gold Eagle replace the Pendleton-era Bolan weapons with the updated Beretta 93R and Desert Eagle the Executioner has used throughout the Gold eagle era. While Ahern suggested a different .44 Magnum (S&W, as you'll see), we know he approved of the Desert Eagle since he included it in THE DEFENDER series. I wish he'd have recommended the 93R over the 92, but for whatever reason the 93R wasn't on his radar at the time.

Here is Jerry's commentary:

September 2, 1980

Dear Andy:

The weapons suggested by your man from The Stony Man Farm team for Bolan to use do not make a heck of a lot of sense, as we discussed by phone. The guy’s plot ideas sound terrific, and no offense to the fella, but although he may have a Federal Firearms License and be some sort of gun dealer, he apparently does not know the technical side of things terribly well.

First of all—the reason the Auto Mag has always been a ridiculous choice for Mack Bolan is that commercial ammunition is usually available only from one manufacturer—Norma—and is terribly hard to find. It may not be available at all anymore. The Auto Mag, aside from a reputation for power in the game fields and on metallic silhouette ranges, has also earned a reputation for poor reliability over the years. The guns tend easily toward jamming. Aside from the fact that they are huge, unreliable and generate such heavy recoil that shot-to-shot recovery time is greatly protracted, the gun almost invariably requires that both hands be free to hold it, certainly for repeated shots.

No real adventurer or agent would be caught dead with one—simply because he might be caught dead if he used one. A fine gun for handgun hunting, perhaps, but not for any type of defensive or police use. It may have a lot of pizazz but anyone with an ounce of firearms sophistication realizes it is a stupid choice for Bolan or anyone like him.

The Wildey Magnum which your writer suggests does not truly exist at this point in time, although prototype models do exist and the gun is still—as I gather—intended for production. The ammo has been generally available for some time, simply because Winchester, a major manufacturer, decided to offer it. But currently, anyone who wishes to shoot the ammo must do so in a single-shot T/C Contender pistol. Even if the first production guns were to appear tomorrow, there would still be problems. The recoil would be on the high side, though supposedly not as bad as the Auto Mag. The ammunition would not be available everywhere, though more available than fodder for the Auto Mag. But, most importantly, the gun has never been proven. What may prove acceptable in eventually game field and silhouette shooting use will likely not prove acceptable for combat. And, the gun may never actually exist—it has yet to be offered for the first time commercially.

If Mack Bolan must use a huge, non-combat type gun with a flashy appearance—which would be poor logic in the real world, of course—then the best bet to replace the Auto Mag would be the new Smith & Wesson Model 629. Simply a stainless steel version of the Dirty Harry Model 29 .44 Magnum, the gun actually does exist, has manageable recoil for a strong man, enjoys wide ammunition availability and is thoroughly reliable. I have recently tested one for GUN WEEK, THE AMERICAN HANDGUNNER, and SAGA. Aside from the fact that it is already one of the most sought after guns in the world, it is a good one.

Now, no really weapons-wise person would use a .44 Magnum for combat, but the 629 is perhaps the best compromise with pizazz and common sense with a super-powerful load. Many vice cops, narcs and others do use the .44 Magnum, so at least its use by Bolan would be within the vicinity of good sense.

The Beretta Model 1951 Brigadier 9mm Bolan carries, though somewhat odd a choice, is a rational one. Yet, if you wish to update Bolan’s weapons a bit, he could switch to the newer Beretta Model 92S. This gun uses a fifteen-round double column magazine, has double action first round capability and features a fine decocking lever safety. Aside from a bit of additional girth at the grips over the older model (to accommodate the wider magazine with increased capacity) the guns are identical in appearance and Bolan’s holsters would work with the new gun just as well as with the old one.

That .460 Weatherby Magnum Bolan uses for sniping people is the ultimate absurdity. A good, solid .308 or .30-06 would be far better, capable of being silenced when necessary, etc. The .460 caliber is fine for Rhino, overkill for people. Each time Bolan uses the gun, any gun-wise reader realizes the writer just picked the most powerful caliber he’d read about and really knows nothing about how the gun is really used. I would suggest a Steyr-Mannlicher SSG with synthetic stock and Kahles sniper scope, or just a much-worked-over Remington 700 BDL, either gun in .308. With either of these, he might even get into using a Leatherwood ART scope mount—the kind used extensively in Viet Nam by snipers—something we are given to understand Mack Bolan is intimately familiar with.

The Phoenix Force people should all be armed with handguns of the same caliber for ammo interchange when necessary. Most professional soldier types reportedly use a 9mm Parabellum (Luger) since ammo can be found all over the world and this is the handgun caliber of most European armies. Many 9mm pistols will also with the Soviet pistol cartridge which is similar to the 9mm. Recommendation for a specific gun would be the Browning P-35 High Power. If all the Phoenix Force guys carried these, scenes of pitched battles could include swapping magazines when one man runs out of ammo, etc. That was always very effectively done in the old “Man From Uncle Series” and professional people working together always try for ammo compatibility.

Grimaldi, for a nice twist, might use a gun that is a carryover from his Mafia flying days, as well as any clandestine flight experience for the government. This could be any one of a number of silenced .22 pistols, most likely and old High Standard HD Military or a Colt Woodsman, although if you can check that Sturm-Ruger wouldn’t sue, the current (Viet Nam era) Special Forces/CIA assassination pistol is, by all reports, a Ruger MkI .22 automatic with integral silencer—these still being made about sixty miles from my house, as a matter of fact.

If Dagger is quite Continental and sophisticated, he’d probably go for a .380 ACP pistol like the Walther PPK/S or Beretta Model 84 when concealment is critical and a 9mm Parabellum when serious trouble is expected—probably a Browning High Power here too, but perhaps something with a little more in the exotic looks department, like a Walther P-38K (the old UNCLE gun), or the new Heckler & Koch PSP, a 9mm small enough to be carried for concealment as well, as would be the P-38K.

I’m not trying to sound presumptuous, but I am a weapons “expert” and you did ask. Personally, I carry a Detonics .45 automatic most of the time, in the warmer months when concealment is more difficult sometimes dropping down to a little snubby .38 Special Smith & Wesson. Sometimes, too, I use a six-inch Colt Python .357 Magnum. If I were in a situation of constant danger, like the fellas under discussion, I stick with the .45 or .357. If you want further information or amplification, let me know and I’ll help as best as possible.

Hear from you soon, I hope.

Jerry Ahern

Steve Dane Incoming....


Ebook and paperback.

Friday, September 21, 2018

More Wolf on Tuesday!

Many thanks to all of you who have downloaded The Kill Fever, or Wolf #1. I'm re-releasing the short stories, as I've said before, leading up to the big Wolf novel, Justified Sins.

Anyway, the next two short stories are dropping on Tuesday, the 25th, The Dark, and The Fixer.

However, a slight error is releasing The Fixer before The Red Ruby Kill. Since I couldn't change the pre-order dates, this is the way it is. But with the short stories, you can read them in any order.

If you haven't ordered yet, you can buy the stories here.

Thanks for looking!