Thursday, January 31, 2013

Michigan mystery writers

     I was examining the magazine rack at New Horizon Book Shop recently when I noticed the latest issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine had a story by Doug Allyn, a Michigan author whom I once interviewed for Detroit Monthly magazine. That in turn reminded me of a couple of other Michigan mystery writers whom I used to read.
      Everyone's heard of Elmore Leonard, and Loren Estleman is also fairly well-known for Detroit P.I. Amos Walker novels and a series of historical Detroit mysteries, but there are many more crime and mystery writers here. The state seems peculiarly rich in them. Here are a few with whom you might care to curl up on a cold winter night.
     Doug Allyn has nine published books (so far), all but two of them connected to one series character or another. First, there were the Lupe Garcia novels, about a Detroit police detective: The Cheerio Killings and Motown Underground. These were OK, but didn't stand out for me. 
     Next were  three novels about Michelle “Mitch” Mitchell, a deep-water diver who inherits a bar in the Upper Peninsula when her father dies under mysterious circumstances: Icewater Mansions, Black Water and A Dance in Deep Water. I loved the first two books, but the third seemed to fall flat. Maybe Allyn or his publisher felt the same, since he didn't write a fourth. At least the first two did well enough to be reprinted in paperback.
     Then he wrote a collection of stories and one novel about veterinarian Dr. David Westbrook: All Creatures Dark and Dangerous: The Dr. David Westbrook Stories and The Burning of Rachel Hayes. I haven't read these, or his other short story collection, The Hard Luck Klub, or his most recent novel, Welcome to Wolf Country. 
     All of his books are now out of print except for a short story available for the Kindle, The Christmas Mitzvah, and the Suburban Library Cooperative doesn't seem to have any to lend either. A pity, but most seem to be available used from Amazon.

      All of Rob Kantners books -- 10 novels and one short story collection -- are about Ben Perkins, a handyman for a suburban condo community who freelances as a private detective and likes to fly ultralite planes. The first six were published by Bantam with a distinctive cover design, featuring Perkins' face showing through a stencil of the book's title: Back-Door Man, The Harder They Hit, Dirty Work, Hell's Only Half Full, Made in Detroit and The Thousand Yard Stare. The next three were published by Harpercollins with covers in a style more appropriate for some English tea cozy mysteries: The Quick and the Dead, The Red, White and Blues and Concrete Hero. There have been two more since then, this time in hardcover and paperback: Trouble is What I Do: Ben Perkins Stories and Final Fling. Some of the plots involve white supremacists, the Pope coming to Detroit and a plot to ruin an Alan Almond-type radio DJ. Except for the two most recent books, these are also out of print, and -- because they were paperback originals, I guess -- they also aren't currently stocked at the Suburban Library Cooperative. Used copies are sometimes available though. I wouldn't mind seeing all of them reprinted.

From Grove
      All but one of Jon A. Jackson's books -- the historical Detroit crime novel Go by Go -- concern Detective Sgt. "Fang" Mulheisen:  The Diehard -- not the basis for the Bruce Willis film! -- The Blind Pig, Grootka, Hit on the House, Deadman, Dead Folks, Man with an Axe, La Donna Detroit, Badger Games and No Man's Dog. I read the first six and enjoyed them, but towards the end they were getting repetitive. There was a character named Joe Service in the first few books, who never met Mulheisen but whose activities (he was a sort of fixer for the Mob) intersected. Gradually, he moved to center stage and it almost became a serial with Mulheisen pursuing him from book to book. I liked the character, but didn't like what Jackson was doing with him. I meant to check in on Jackson again, but other books beckoned. Jackson's books have all been released in hardcover, some are still in print and many are available at local libraries, so I think Ill give him another try.
     Do you have a favorite, underappreciated Michigan crime author? Let me know.


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