BLACK to Reality (Black #4)

AudiobookReview

  • Author: Russell Blake
  • Performed by RC Bray
  • Published: Janda Management, released by Audible September 2014
  • Category: Hardboiled, Noir Fiction
  • five-stars

BlacktoRealityBLACK 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.

Again, a realistic plot line with any number of suspects and an appreciable amount of Russell Blake’s entertaining and witty dialogue. I really enjoy listening to this series, it’s one of my favourites and RC Bray delivers a first-rate performance, balancing the humorous and the serious and handling the characters in an easygoing and distinct way.
I hope we see a lot more of Black in the future.

Black is the New Black (Black #3)

AudiobookReview

  • BlackistheNewBlackAuthor: Russell Blake
  • Performed by RC Bray
  • Published: Janda Management, released on Audible July 2014
  • Category: Hardboiled, Noir Fiction
  • five-stars

When Artemus Black is hired to investigate a series of suspicious accidents at LA’s most prestigious modeling agency, he quickly discovers that brooding pouts and mascara can be as dangerous as guns or bombs. From LA to Mexico to Tahoe to NY, the story pokes fun at the world of high fashion.

Models from a top class agency are dying at an unprecedented rate and Black is called in to investigate, requiring him to attend photo shoots in exotic locations. The first of which is in Cabo San Lucas. It doesn’t go well and Black manages to get into his girlfriend, Sylvia’s bad books. It seems the modelling world is rife with corruption and deceitful competitors. As events escalate Black has his work cut out to get to the bottom of the accidents…or are they murders?

All the old favourites are back, including Mugsy, the fat and flatulent feline. Black’s exchanges with Roxie, who is planning a move to Germany with her boyfriend (Black will have to see about that!) and Stan, his police buddy, are as funny and entertaining as ever.

“Stan. It’s Black. You called?”

“Yeah. It was a lousy connection.”

“What’s up?”

“My blood pressure and cholesterol. Thanks for asking.”

“Appreciate the update. But I was thinking more about why you called.”

Black’s parents, Spring and Chakra, also feature and Black and Sylvia brave a visit with them en route to a photo shoot in Las Vegas. If Black isn’t being ragged on by Roxie, his mother is shooting her little barbs.

I’m enjoying this series so much, I love Black more with each book. Really great characterisation in the writing and narration. Black continues to develop into a genuinely good guy with a tough side and I think Roxie might even be slightly less abrasive. A surprising twist at the end, I didn’t see that one coming at all. The murder/mystery story lines are authentic and well thought out with a profusion of suspects to choose from.

Russell Blake’s characters are colourful, well drawn and very memorable, the writing clever and witty. Coupled with RC Bray’s masterful narration these audiobooks are a must have.

“Gunther will be out in a moment to show you back. Pellegrino?”

Black was stumped. “I don’t know who designed my suit.”

She didn’t blink. “Would you like some water? Juice?”

“Oh. No. I’m good.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud. Several times. The snappy dialogue is such fun, especially when delivered so well. 

Disclaimer: I was gifted a copy of the audiobook which does not affect the content of my review in any way.