Nick Kepler returns 11 months after the events of Second Hand Goods. This time, he’s running a big operation trying to find out if a local pastor is skimming from the collection plate. One of his ops, Brian O’Bannon finds out they’ve been looking in the wrong places, but is put in a coma in a hit-and-run Kepler is not convinced was just another drunk driver.
Nick and Elaine dig deeper to find a local real estate developer with a habit of ruining neighborhoods for his grandiose plans is in bed with the someone in the church hierarchy. But is it their client? The senior pastor who fancies himself the latest star of the televangelism circuit? Or is it even Russian mobster Nikolai Karpov, who would very much like to put Kepler under his thumb?
Bad Religion returns to Kepler’s Cleveland, always a city in flux, with an expanding cast of characters. Eric Teasdale, the low-rent, Bluesmobile-driving PI is Nick and Elaine’s main operative. Their biggest client, high-powered attorney Evelyn Bouchaine, has a personal stake in the case when her son-in-law lies comatose in the Cleveland Clinic. There’s muscle-car loving cop Wolf, who has an unusual way of getting a paint sample off a suspect. And there’s The Reverend Calvin Leach, a cross between Jay Leno and Jerry Falwell, running his rock-oriented televised services out of a studio in downtown Cleveland.
But strangest of all is the return of Kelly Penfield, the unorthodox witch from the short story “Full Moon Boogie,” who points Nick in a strange direction, all the while making Nick and Elaine to question the nature of their partnership. Are they business partners? Or something more? Bad Religion is the most complex Kepler yet.
13 tales of crime from America’s Northcoast.
- “Race Card”: Harassing a deputy sheriff is a really bad idea.
- “Valentine’s Day”: Even PI’s can have stalkers. This one is off her rocker.
- “A Walk in the Rain”: Why is Kepler hiking in the rain along a stretch of rural highway at 3 AM?
- “Just Like Suicide”: It’s not nice to con Kepler into setting up a mob hit.
- “Wring That Neck”: Nick doesn’t do Amish country. Find out why.
- “Full Moon Boogie”: A missing author, her dead sister. And a naked witch. Just another week in the wilderness for Kepler.
- “Flight of the Rat”: Fugitive apprehension. At an airport. On 9/11.
- “Demon’s Eye”: On the trail of a stolen knock-off of The Maltese Falcon.
- “Cold Cocked”: Framed for murder, Kepler has to save himself by saving a Homicide cop’s career.
- “Roofies”: Harry has a nasty hobby with strippers. And they don’t like it.
- “Might Just Take Your Life”: Revenge. Out in the sticks.
- “Love Don’t Mean a Thing”: Nick has a fling with a divorcee. Her ex has issues with that.
- “Lady Luck”: Nick plays cat-and-mouse with the Russian mob to bring home a degenerate gambler.
He’s back! And Cleveland will never be the same again. Nick Kepler returns in Second Hand Goods.
The follow-up to Northcoast Shakedown finds Nick Kepler attempting to go on vacation. Unfortunately, a web of deceit and murder ensnares him in a war within the local Russian mob. His client is either trying to seduce him or frame him. His car thief informant, Lenny, is on a vengeful underboss’s hit list. And Nick’s only allies? An aging mobster yearning for respectability and his long-suffering secretary who does more for him than a mere friend ought to. When the war claims a casualty too close to Nick, he explodes, going on a rampage worthy of Mike Hammer. It may get him killed, but he’s not going down alone. And he’s giving no quarter.
Set in the early part of the New Millennium, when America is still hung over from the dotcom craze, not quite into two wars yet, and not really sure what this new era holds, Nick is a hold over from the roaring 90′s, tenaciously holding on to his car’s tape deck and pining for the classic rock days in a world going increasingly digital. He doesn’t even know what MySpace is yet, but to be fair, neither does anyone else at this point.
In 2005, I released my only print novel, Northcoast Shakedown, with a small press in the Greater Baltimore area. (OK, it was eastern West Virginia.) It did well enough for a small press with no distribution or budget. But the press collapsed, and Northcoast and its follow-up fell into limbo.
Now it’s back, this tale of sex, lies, and insurance fraud. Freelance insurance investigator Nick Kepler has a sweet gig. Scoring office space and secretarial help from his former employer, they send him three cases that look like softballs – a dubious life insurance case meant more to save the underwriter than any company money, a worker comp cheat, and a referral to a politician’s wife with suspicions. What he does not expect is how they all tie together.
When the connection becomes apparent, Kepler finds himself suspecting there is more to this than a cheating spouse and an ill-timed heart attack. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of sexual deviance, fraud, and even a decades-old murder, all uncomfortably close to Cleveland’s elite.
Noir master Ken Bruen has written the introduction to this new edition. He describes Northcoast Shakedown in his own unique poetic style:
And be blown to hell and gone in the best way.”
Edited by Brian Thornton
A trip through the West Coast’s dark side from bstsllr.com. From San Diego to LA to the Bay Area up through the wilds of Oregon, the coffee houses of Seattle, and far flung Alaska, Brian Thornton serves up tales of revenge, mistaken identity, double dealing, murder, and fraud.
In the grand tradition of Brooklyn Noir and other city noir volumes over the past few years, West Coast Crime Wave takes a look at the dark underbelly of an entire coast.
My story, “Bad History,” tells the story of an ex-con whose carefully crafted new life starts to unravel when a corrupt prison guard comes looking for an undeserved share of the loot. It is a sequel to the short story “Highway 101.”
Introduction by Ken Bruen.
The road trip to hell begins with a stolen car. Hapless repo man Stan Yarazelski is looking for easy money. Luckless insurance man Mike Blake is looking to get away. Delivering a collectable 1962 Cadillac seems like the perfect solution to their problems.
Only Sharon Harrow wants the car. Save the car, save her job. And Carlo Estevez wants the car. It’s his last case in major crimes.
And Tim Mason wants the car. Because he engineered the theft of something now residing in the Caddie’s trunk. If it doesn’t get to Florida, Tim loses millions.
So does Andre the Giant, a used car salesman on the south side of Cleveland.
But someone else doesn’t care what any of these people want. Julian Franco wants only four things: His massive drug fortune, lots of cocaine, lots of sex, and the bones of a cherished Polish saint.
Road Rules is a bizarre romp from the heart of the Rust Belt to the sleepy live oaks of Savannah, Georgia. And Savannah will never be the same as the law, the Church, and Franco’s thugs collide one quiet Sunday morning in the city’s historic tree-lined squares.
“…[I]t’s more like the way evil gets taken down in real life. But funnier.” – JD Rhoades, author of the Jack Keller series
“Reading the novel again brings to mind discovering a book I hadn’t heard about by a favorite author, not a series book, but a standalone in which the author stretches himself creatively.” – Gerald So, editor of The Lineup and former fiction editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site
“We’ve got blood, beatings, bullets, crooked Bishops, tough, sexy broads, and a bunch of rat bastards laying down a rat bastard routine. It’s fast, it’s wild, and it is frequently laugh-out-loud funny. In short: Road Rules is one HELLUVA ride!” – Nathan Singer, author of A Prayer for Dawn and In the Light of You