Friday, May 30, 2014

Ray's Reviews: Ragtime Cowboys by Loren Estleman and The Axeman of Storyville by Heath Lowrence

Two Michigan authors have recently released intriguing books, both set in 1921. Each author liberally takes liberties with the real facts but still provide intriguing entertainment.

"Ragtime Cowboys" by award-winning Whitmore Lake author Loren Estleman (Forge Books, $24.99) showcases two main characters, Dashiell Hammett and Charles Siringo, who worked at one time for the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

Both were writers and political opposites, making this fast-paced tale is great fun. It's sprinkled with many real individuals, including Wyatt Earp and Will Rogers.

Earp hires Siringo to find out who has stolen his valuable horse; Hammett joins in on the quest. Soon they're fighting for their lives against a deadly serious, mysterious, slippery assailant.
After a few misadventures, they end up at Jack London's California Ranch; London has died, but his wife and daughter may have some answers.

There's more than a horse chase involved; solving one mystery opens the gate to another much more serious matter, a major political scandal.

Powerful Joseph A. Kennedy is aptly portrayed as a prosperous and quick-thinking, risk-taking bootlegger with lofty aspirations for his son.

Estleman, who has written over seventy novels, deftly combines aspects of the fading Western era and rising movie industry in an excellent novel with an unexpected conclusion.

"The Axeman of Storyville" by Lansing author Heath Lowrence (Beat to a Pulp, $6.35) is the latest in the western series originated by Edward A. Grainger.

This atmospheric novella features Gideon Miles, who's now retired and has moved to New Orleans with his wife, where they've opened Viomiles, a popular jazz club.

He's trying to forget his past, when he was one of the first Blacks in the U.S. Marshal Service. His plans are changed when a local madam asks for help after prostitutes are hacked to death by an axe-wielding murderer.

The bloody, violent tale occurs shortly after a very real series of similar unsolved murders that took place in New Orleans.

Miles must deal with racism as well as eager money-hungry thugs from the Black Hand; his investigation reveals a believable, unusual motive.

Lowrence has written "Miles to Little Ridge" featuring the same character and five other books. His short story collection "Hawthorne: Tales of the Weirder West", came out earlier this year.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

Find this book and other great titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on  May 25, 2014.

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