Gypsy is a call girl and one of Nick Kepler’s best informants. When she decides to leave the sex trade for good, however, someone gets angry. As in they destroy her apartment. Nick must hide Gypsy on an island in Lake Erie during the off season while he prowls the streets of Cleveland in search of her attacker. But her stalker holds a grudge against more than just Gypsy. Before it’s over, one of Gypsy’s “clients” and Nick himself will be attacked.
Will Nick save his business, his beautiful friend, and himself? And if so, will he still be remain in Cleveland? Short and fast-paced, Gypsy’s Kiss is a fitting finale for Cleveland’s rockingest PI.
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.”
SECOND HAND GOODS
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.
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.
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
THE COMPLEAT KEPLER
- “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.
THE COMPLEAT WINTER
- And on the Seventh Day – A downtown worker doesn’t like what a street corner preacher has to say.
- The Heckler – Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.
- Standoff – A young lawyer finds herself in a shootout in Cincinnati’s East End.
- In Collections – It’s not nice to stiff a hit man, especially when he’s legally dead.
- Mind Your Manners – Not everyone cares if your ex comes back
- No Exceptions – Never break the merchandise, particularly when her pimp is vengeful.
- For the Cause – A radio political pundit might find his show canceled. Permanently.
- Righteous Kill – A police sergeant gets his story straight.
- Dr. Ralph – Trina wants the doctor to make her feel like a woman. Or does she?
- We Be Cool – Young Rufus King has second thoughts about life on the streets.
- Missing Sarah – A father deals with the suicide of his bullied daughter.
- Joey Tran – Is it worth hiding a notorious drug lord when he tries to down a 747?
- Annie – It’s not nice to have coercive sex with speeders.
- Hazing – The downfall of Monticello homicide detective Jessica Branson
- Highway 101 – Brian Selkirk tries to go straight, but his former cell mate has other plans.
- Bad History – Someone learns Tony Bolin’s true identity.
- Profiled – Pretending to be someone you’re not has its own consequences, even as a cop.
- Frank, Jr. – Is it really worth crossing Frank Sinatra?
- A Score for Little Dale – Roland thinks the way out is an armored car heist.
- Whittle You Into Kindlin’ – Two aging rockers go hunting. And their manager is the prey.
- Gotham Square Hero – He says he’s the Duke of Monticello. Police say he’s a killer.
- The Confessor – A retelling of “A Cask of Amontillado,” from the one listening to Montressor.