Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What You Should Be Reading

Reading: Please recommend an author who may not be widely known to readers and tell us about them and their book(s). In addition, what books are on your bedside table for June and why did you select them for summer reading?

From Frank

My first answer is going to seem a little self-serving. That's because the author I am recommending who is not widely known and should be is Colin Conway. The reason is might seem self-serving is because Colin and I write a series of procedurals together (see the bottom of this post for more).

But Colin has a growing catalog of other titles out there. There's something for everyone, depending on what kind of mystery you prefer.

If you like procedurals, he's created the 509 series. The number refers to the telephone prefix for all of Eastern Washington, which is where the books are set. While primarily in Spokane, some of the titles include rural areas outside of the city.

The cool thing about the 509 procedurals is that the ensemble cast of police officers rotate through the role of protagonist. So a detective who was a main character in The Side Hustle gives way to a different one in The Long Cold Winter, though that first detective will still show up. This trend continues throughout the series, allowing you to experience different voices and viewpoints while still having familiar places and characters. It works really well, and keeps the series fresh.

The 509 has some short stories included in it as well, and I have it on good authority that several of those are free. So there's zero risk to try out Conway, and see if you like spending time in the 509.

And time you will spend, as there are two yet-to-be announced series that are both very interesting in their own ways scheduled to come out within the next year that will exist within the same setting. I wish I could say more about these books, but that's up to Conway to announce. Suffice it to say that just like each book stands alone, each series always stands on its own two feet, but there are interconnections in the same book universe that will be something readers will enjoy.

If you prefer cozies instead of procedurals, then you're in luck. Conway has written the Cozy Up series with you in mind. To get an idea of what you're in for, try to imagine what would happen if you crossed Sons of Anarchy with Murder She Wrote.

That's what you get in this series - all the drama and danger of the former while adhering to the rules and the setting of the latter.

In Cozy Up to Death, a hulking, tattooed biker enters witness protection. He's sent to a small coastal town in Maine and installed as the new owner of a mystery bookstore. Problem is, the last book he read outside of a motorcycle repair manual was probably something he doesn't remember from high school. That's Beau Smith, or as the people in his new hometown know him, Brody Steele.

Of course, not only does a mystery occur for our hero to solve and a girl to meet, but his past also threatens to catch up to him. This is the formula that continues in Cozy Up to Murder and Cozy Up to Blood, though Conway mixes it up in smart ways to keep it fresh.

Cozy readers will feel at home, as the language and sex content is absolutely tame. There's none of the latter, though there is some romance. As far as language goes, the protagonist doesn't curse, a character trait that makes sense when you learn more about him. There's a touch more violence than in some cozies, but nothing even close to above a PG rating.

And yet, as a reader who prefers darker, hard boiled work, I absolutely love this series. The hard boiled elements are there, just not described in the kinds of vivid detail that subgenre usually employs. Plus, as I read the cozy, I feel like Conway is poking gentle fun at the genre. Of course, after a while, I came to realize that he's also poking some fun the other direction, too. All of that happens against the backdrop of solid, interesting mysteries and the constant tension of his past collapsing in on him.

Colin deserves to be widely read on the strength of these two series alone. If you factor in the two others that are in the pipeline (and the one I'll touch on at the end of this post), there's a good chunk of entertaining reading to be had.

I can promise you this - Conway always delivers.

Who else am I reading? Well, like everyone, S.A. Cosby's Blacktop Wasteland. I got an advance copy of this and burned through it. Tremendous book, and I'm glad a good guy like Shawn is having success. Also, I just finished Tom Pitts' Coldwater, another outstanding book. As for the masters, I'm delving into some of Walter Mosley's catalog that I haven't gotten to yet in advance of interviewing him when my podcast kicks off a new season in September. I'd forgotten how much I loved Easy Rawlins. And on another writer's recommendation, I recently finished a classic from the 1960s, Night of the Generals.

Along with all of this, I am continuing my quest to read books from all of the other authors on this blog. You should, too - there's so many good ones to choose from, and they skip all through the subgenres.

Here's the series I mentioned above - the Charlie-316 series. The second book, Never the Crime, is now available.

Never the Crime continues the Tyler Garrett saga, exploring the inner workings of the police department and city hall, and the nature of cover up. This book has self-contained story arcs, and a continuation of the series arc.

The rest of this series will wrap up quickly. In September, Badge Heavy will be released. Then the arc will conclude in November with Code Four.

I wrote this series with Colin Conway, whose great solo work I trumpeted above. I hope you check it out! If you're wondering whether or not you should, let me persuade you with this - our own Jim Ziskin said Wardell Clint was "the most nuanced, fascinating detective I’ve read in a very long time."

Read the arc and find out if Clint gets his man.

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