I’d been wanting to do this post for some time, but I needed online validation first, and today — thank you, wikipedia! — I got it.
Author John Straley was named Alaska State Writer Laureate!
If you don’t know Straley’s work, you should.
Although I hate hate hate comparing one writer’s stuff to something else (that’s the only way eejits in Hollywood can understand something: “Uh, what’s it like?”), I’m going to do so. If you were a fan of The Rockford Files, you will fall in love with Straley’s Cecil Younger series of mysteries. The books are filled with the realism, humor, and atmosphere of that classic TV series.
Here are some examples:
[. . .] Calvin bent down over me and smiled.
“You really disappoint me. man.”
His breath was in my face. It was warm and smelled sweet, like bacon. I tried to sit up, without luck. My head felt like a collapsing melon. I lay back down. He squatted down next to me on the floor and stared at me, grinning.
“I’ve been studying white people for years, and I am bitterly — I mean bitterly — disappointed.” He gestured toward the TV. “Look on television. Private detectives are not supposed to be like this. You people are supposed to be in charge! You are supposed to have a cool apartment and a fast car. Man, you are supposed to be following beautiful women and making deals. I mean, what I see of you guys on television and what I’ve got here now are . . . inconsistent.”
The hatless one came back toward us. “Hey! Here.” He handed Calvin a rectangular piece of marble, smooth on one side and rough on the other.
“Yeah, thanks.” He looked back down at me. “And look at you . . . drunk. I see so many of your people drunk. It must be the pain of running the world. Is that it, Kemosabe? The pain of running the world? I mean, I’m smart enough to know that you don’t walk around like pilgrims with three-cornered hats and big buckles and shit. I’ve seen TV, man. I know what you are supposed to be, but you . . . you’re a mess. Where did Auntie find you anyway?”
I looked up at him and he was still smiling sweetly.
I made it up on one elbow and said, “I am fucking in charge. Just tell me where I am, who you are, and if I have a broken nose or not.”
–The Woman Who Married a Bear; pg. 179
She [Hannah, his ex-wife] reached out and touched my hand.
“Hey, Cecil, you don’t have a handgun, do you?”
“You know I don’t have a gun.” I looked at her puzzled.
“What kind of private detective are you, man?” She scanned the café. The graveyard shift of workers was starting to come in. Her long blond hair was lifted by the wind that gusted through the open door. The underside of her chin was a soft concave valley and I wanted to lift my hand and smooth her hair.
“I don’t know, Hannah. I just don’t want to shoot anybody.”
“What if somebody wants to shoot you?”
“Then they’re going to have to bring their own fucking gun.”
–The Curious Eat Themselves; pgs. 75-76
“What makes you think I would do anything like that? I’ve seen a few too many corpses in the last several days.”
“You’ve got shit for a reputation, Mr. Younger, but I think you can handle this simple errand.”
I was searching for that perfect comeback that I knew I would think of days later; that concise phrase that would turn his arrogance to curdled milk and reflect the fifty thousand dollars my parents spent on my education. But the words jumped out unedited: “You can blow me.”
–The Curious Eat Themselves; pgs. 197
John Straley kicks ass. Go to your favorite online bookseller and get yourself his books. You’ll love them.
John Straley’s website