Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
Russell Blake has created a unique and interesting detective that I found very refreshing. Black is the first of a series, published in 2014.
- Author: Russell Blake
- Performed by RC Bray
- Published: Janda Management, released by Audible September 2014
- Category: Hardboiled, Noir Fiction
BLACK To Reality is the fourth in the acclaimed BLACK series of noir detective fiction featuring Artemus Black, the world’s losingest Hollywood Private Investigator. In this installment he is saved from financial calamity when he takes a case that requires him to work undercover on a reality television show, posing as an over-the-hill rocker trying for one last shot at success.
Black is back, broke and down on his luck. The rent’s overdue on his apartment, Roxie’s had no wages and there are no clients beating down his door. Add to that the move to a swanky new office, which unnecessary luxury, according to Black, is taking what little money he has left. Roxie is forced to look for another job until things improve. Then Black gets a call about a new client.
Reality shows are in the firing line in this story as Black is assigned to investigate possible shady dealings in a reality TV competition, Rock of Ages. He gets a chance to relive his long-lost fame by joining, as lead guitarist, one the groups who were knocked out last year. Brushing up on his guitar skills and getting a rock star make over, Black is again in the thick of the action. Could he actually have another shot at a career in the music business again?
I just love Black’s character, his decency, generosity and sense of humour, not to mention his relationships with Stan, Roxie and Mugsy, who takes centre stage in this episode and eventually provides something of a life line for Black. Black is an authentic individual with normal, everyday issues in his personal as well as professional life, which most people can relate in one way or another.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about it.”
“Oh, well, then sure. I’ll drop the triple homicide ticket I picked up this morning and get right on the dope fiend. What’s his name?”
“Rick Pearson. Lived in Hollywood.”
Stan paused. “Wait a minute. You’re not saying a guitar player in Hollywood was taking drugs! No wonder you’re suspicious…”
“Ha ha. Just consider it a favour to me.”
“Like you aren’t running a bigger deficit than the government.”
“I can pay it off in beer.”
“You make a compelling case…”
Underneath all the humour there’s some serious subject matter, including Black realising he’s reached the age of 43 with not a lot to show for it except ‘an eccentric wardrobe and an old Cadillac’, complex emotional issues and dealing with abandoned and ignored dreams. His character development has advanced and he’s less angry and bitter about the way his life has turned out.
- Author: Russell Blake
- Performed by RC Bray
- Published by Janda Management and released on Audible April 2014
- Category: Hardboiled/Noir Fiction
Artemus Black. Perennially down-on-his-luck Hollywood PI whose Bogie fixation is as dated as his wardrobe. With an assistant who mocks him relentlessly, an obese cat that loathes him, a romantic life that’s deader than Elvis, money problems, booze, nicotine, and anger management issues, how much worse can it get? When he takes a case that’s supposed to be easy money working for a celebrity whose colleagues and surrounding paparazzi are dropping faster than interest in the star’s big comeback, the cakewalk turns ugly and Black finds himself in a web of deceit, betrayal, and murder – and bad hair days.
Black is a real vintage feel PI, with slicked back black hair, dressing in 40’s style suits and fedora hats, as though he’s been whisked away from his own time zone and dropped into the present day. I was picturing a James Garner look-a-like all the way through. He’s down on his luck and harbouring bitter feelings about his immensely rich parents who not only gave him the name he hates and refuse to call him anything else, but also became wealthy with the minimum of effort, while he struggles to make ends meet.
Artemus ‘Jim’ Black is an intriguing character and regardless of his faults he’s a really good guy with a soft side and a good dose of morality. This is a fun read with lots of humour, although the murders give the story a darker side which balances things out. The descriptive writing and solid plot are executed superbly and the dialogue is sharp and witty.
Black’s snarky secretary, Roxie, is an unconventional character with an individual appearance and an attitude issue. She is the antithesis of Black. She gives him a hard time verbally, mostly about his dress sense and because he’s less than affectionate to the stray fat cat who has taken up residence in Black’s office. The one liners and banter between the two of them is seriously comical. Well portrayed and defined, colourful and amusing characters abound and give the story an authentic feel.
Black had been working with Roxie on improving her attitude, but some days it seems like a losing battle. It was a pity she was so good at what she did – running the office, juggling administrative duties and research that made the FBI look like neophytes.
“It means I think we can improve our brand, Roxie.”
”Our….brand. I see. Have you been drinking?”
”Branding is very important.”
”Maybe if you’re a cowboy or a steer. Wait – did you mix up your meds again?” Roxie asked.
This my first Russell Blake book but I’ll definitely read/listen to more of his work. I have the rest of the Black series and Jet lined up. If you’re a fan of the genre it’s well worth a read or a listen if audio books are your thing. RC Bray does a great job giving Black a ‘voice’, also with his interpretations of the rest of the characters. The humour, pacing and delivery of the comedic lines are all spot on.
About the author
Featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Times, and The Chicago Tribune, Russell Blake is the USA Today bestselling author of thirty books, including Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach, Zero Sum, King of Swords, Night of the Assassin, Revenge of the Assassin, Return of the Assassin, Blood of the Assassin, Requiem for the Assassin, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, The Voynich Cypher, Silver Justice, JET, JET – Ops Files, JET II – Betrayal, JET III – Vengeance, JET IV – Reckoning, JET V – Legacy, JET VI – Justice, JET VII – Sanctuary, Upon A Pale Horse, BLACK, BLACK Is Back, BLACK Is The New Black, and BLACK To Reality.
Non-fiction includes the international bestseller An Angel With Fur (animal biography) and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), a parody of all things writing-related.
Blake is co-author of The Eye of Heaven, with legendary author Clive Cussler, to be released by Penguin in September, 2014. Blake’s novel King of Swords has been translated into German by Amazon Crossing, The Voynich Cypher into Bulgarian, and his JET novel into Spanish and German.
Blake writes under the moniker RE Blake in the NA/YA/Contemporary Romance genres.
Having resided in Mexico for a dozen years, Blake enjoys his dogs, fishing, boating, tequila and writing, while battling world domination by clowns. His thoughts, such as they are, can be found at his blog: RussellBlake.com