A novelist's road

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Area author has a new novel due out in December

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

For someone who had open heart surgery, author Loren D. Estleman shows no signs of slowing down. He recently signed copies of his three latest novels at Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor: "You Know Who Killed Me," "The Long High Noon," and "Detroit is Our Beat: Tales of the Four Horsemen" In December, "The Sundown Speech" will be released. Two more will release in 2016.

"The Long High Noon" was originally a short-story penned for the 2010 anthology "Law of the Gun." The plot centers on the enmity between cowboys Frank Farmer and Randy Locke. Both cannot remember why and how they started hating each other.

With Buffalo Bill's Wild West show a big success, the two gunfighters publicize their next duel and sell tickets for all to see it.

"I wanted to create a picture of the real so-called gunfighters of the West; most of those who gained reputations were working cowboys who made their livings non-violently and got into scrapes for reasons best known only to them. The purpose was to establish an enmity so fierce, spread over so great a length of time, that for the two men it's a form of a close friendship," explained Estleman.

"Detroit is Our Beat" is an anthology of 10 short-stories featuring characters from Estleman's 1998 novel "Jitterbug." Set in Detroit in World War II, most of the Detroit Police Dept. is fighting overseas, leaving it up to the Racket Squad - Lt. Max Zagreb, Sgt. Starvo Canal, Det. Burke and Det. McReary, aka the "Four Horsemen" - to keep order.

They battle draft-dodgers, gangsters, saboteurs, and racial and ethnic groups working in defense plants.

"I needed four really tough guys, these legends called the Four Horsemen. They stayed with me ever since I wrote ("Jitterbug"). They had lot of gas left in them," said Estleman. "They do a lot of stuff police don't get away with anymore today (such as) not necessarily advising suspects of their rights, beating up suspects, keeping (suspects) away from their lawyers."

Estleman has a fondness for that era. "It's like a Warner Brothers film noir movie from the 1940s - you get all that in one story. It was a time when women were called 'dames' and 'tomatoes,' where cops and mobsters wore 3-piece suits with fedoras, used Thompson sub-machine guns and blackjacks," he said.

Writing short-stories is tough because the plot has to be tight and he has to have it outlined due to the limited amount of space.

Estleman said he can hide some of his mistakes inside of a novel due to its vast length. "It's the difference between painting exquisite miniatures vs. great big murals. (The former) is small and precise, taking a great deal of concentration," said Estleman. "When I finish a novel, I feel exhausted; when I finish a short-story, I feel a certain sense of satisfaction and I feel energized."

"Killed Me" is Estleman's 24th novel featuring Amos Walker, a hard-boiled private detective.

Fresh out of rehab after overdosing on booze and Vicodin, Amos is hired and deputized by Lt. Ray Henty, who commands the corrupt police-force of Iroquois Heights, a fictional Detroit suburb.

Amos must solve the murder of Donald Gates, but his job becomes harder when billboards with Gates' photo go up with a reward. Amos goes through dozens of anonymous calls, sifting crank calls from legitimate ones.

"The Sundown Speech," set in Ann Arbor, marks the 25th Amos novel and Amos' 35th anniversary, having debuted in 1980's "Motor City Blues."

"When I wrote that first novel, I wasn't sure it was going to be a series. The first 10 books was one contract at a time; I never had a contract for more than one Amos Walker mystery until the 10th novel (1990's "Sweet Women Lie")," recalled Estleman.

From 1990-97, there were no new novels with Amos due to legal entanglements with a previous publisher. However Estleman used Amos in short-stories since he couldn't use him in novels until 1997's "Never Street," the 11th book. In the character's 35- year history, his books have been published by four publishers.

"Publishing wisdom says that when a series has run its course at one publisher, no other publisher will want to touch it. I'm never one to allow wisdom to stay in my way. I always moved to another publisher when the time came and the readers have been kind enough to follow me, which is great," he said.

Amos was ingrained in Estleman from an early age. Part of the first generation to grow up with television, he watched hard-boiled detective movies from the 1930s and 1940s.

"Growing up in the country, I wasn't in touch with the rest of the world. I thought they were modern-day stories. I grew up with that sentiment and mentality, so it was natural I started writing about that kind of thing," he said. "Amos is a 1930s throwback. It's a nice contrast when you take an anachronism like him and put him against the modern-day realistic background of Detroit and watch the fireworks. Nobody had done a hard-boiled detective in Detroit before."

Published: Mon, Jun 15, 2015