Stonebeam 12. Rhapsody

Story Shot 12, by Brian R. Wright  PDF Version, 24 November 2020

It’s the second book in the Philip Morris, private eye, series by late-bloomer prodigy Jack Kline. In Phil’s first big case, captured in But Not for Me[1]—for titles Kline likes suggestive tunes of the times (1930s, Kansas City)—Phil builds his business on an investigation into the missing son of city machine kingpin Tom Holloway. Holloway also has a beautiful daughter who proves to be something of a siren… and a quandary for the struggling-to-make-his-mark, yet thoughtfully confident, Mr. Morris.

Plenty of interplay with local Sicilian and Irish mob figures and assorted henchmen strongly suggesting that Phil look into other things. On the side, we get to be there for a prize fight, with a blow-by-blow account that puts you at ring side. At the end of it all, there’s a showdown that leaves Phil with some wounds to body and psyche, and a mixed reputation about town. One thing, he’s an excellent shot… even with a couple of ‘shots’ in him.

Rhapsody starts out lyrically. The second big case shows twists and turns from the gitgo—the case itself (we even have a house that many think is inhabited by ghosts), who is he, where’s his love life going, why’s he falling off the wagon after months of abstinence motivated by Case 1? From the Rhapsody back cover:

In 1935, Kansas City detective Phil Morris receives a call from candy heiress Cynthia Stuart. She claims Millbrook Chocolates, her dead father’s business, is hemorrhaging money. In addition, tenants leasing her childhood home believe the old Stuart house is haunted. Cynthia wants Phil and his team to investigate the loss of company funds and odd occurrences at her former home. Continue reading

Book Review: But Not for Me (2017)

A 1930s Kansas City ‘star’ detective novel by Jack Kline
Reviewed by Brian R. Wright

A sign of the times… or a rallying cry to break us free from the times? That is the question. What first-time-novel author Jack Kline has accomplished with But Not for Me is on par with any of the greats of the private eye genre—Dashiell Hammett, John D. MacDonald, Tony Hillerman, Mickey Spillane, Stephen J. Cannell (TV: The Rockford Files),  and, of course, Elmore Leonard. Well, okay, these are my favorites, anyway… in an admittedly rather large universe of outstanding detective-story writers that I know very little about. Thus the question, for me, is will Kline’s uniquely splendid, soulful voice break thru the conforming conventional literary fare we’ve become used to these days and start yet another fertile and fun whodunit universe for ordinary yet uncommon blokes like yours truly?

I vote yes. With all the proper praise to Mr. Kline’s mentors and writers’ groups—or from wherever or whoever he was led to initiate the novel vocation—Kline and his first book are a wholly unexpected diamond of pure originality. He’s that good. that different, with that towering a potential. There is a very special quality in play with the But Not for Me creation that transcends its technical superlatives.

What is it that makes a novel good? Most readers and writers will answer with some combination of (appealing or well-executed) plot, character, dialog, evocation of setting, the writing itself (its sharpness, emotional depth, original phrasings, fitness to subject matter), and something I’ll just refer to as ‘sociological richness.’ BNFM has all these in spades. Plus, as a bonus, it’s completely politically incorrect, a throwback, really, to the old school, “man’s world” of hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-and-soft relations toward the fairer sex. Continue reading