Monthly Archives: October 2015


It is March 1956 and private investigator Jack Laramie is in Dallas as Between Juarez And El Paso begins. It has been a long drive for Jack in his Desoto towing his horse trailer home as he came in to Dallas by way of Amarillo. All he wanted was a good drink when he wandered into “Rube’s” on Commerce and Field streets.

It was not long before a fight broke out as they often do in drives such as “Rube’s”. In the aftermath of the brawl he runs into a “Shel Eastman” who he first met on a forced march as prisoner of war back in January of 45. They both survived the prison camp known as Stalag Luft Three and more and came home with more than a few inner demons to deal with. While Jack has found the open road to be some solace, what has kept Shel going through still more grief in recent years is the love of his daughter, Karen.

These days Karen is far from her Dallas home as she is studying literature out at Texas Western University in El Paso. At least, she is supposed to be there. Shel has no idea where his daughter really is as both her and her college roommate seems to have vanished. Staff of the university claims that Karen was never studying there. Police in El Paso as well as local private investigator there were of zero help.

A while back there was a picture in the local paper in Dallas that showed two Cuban casino owners, a U.S. Senator, and three ladies. The ladies were young, beautiful women and one of them was Karen. Despite the picture in the paper, Shel has not been able to get anyone in El Paso interested in the situation or the plight of his daughter. Shel was politely warned off and the grief stricken father desperately needs Jack’s help.

Jack goes to El Paso and soon realizes something very strange is going on at the border city. It isn’t just the fact that the staff at Texas Western is being so uncaring and difficult. It isn’t just the fact that with a little help from a female contact he learns young female students are disappearing at an alarming rate. It isn’t just the fact that distinctive men in suits seem to be everywhere eyeballing certain folks all while the local cops take a hands off approach. It is all that and more and wants Jack Laramie sticks his nose in things his presence draws unwelcome attention in multiple ways.

This sixth book in The Drifter Detective series is another solidly good read. Written by Alec Cizak there is a darker tone in this installment than some of the earlier read in the series which began with The Drifter Detective by Garnett Elliott. Plenty of action and intrigue are at work in novel that quickly escalates the hard boiled tension as Jack Laramie confronts one and all in his latest search for the truth. While it would help to have read earlier books this enjoyable series, one could begin with Between Juarez And El Paso if one were so inclined. It is a mighty good read.

Between Juarez And El Paso (The Drifter Detective Series Book 6)
Alec Cizak
Beat To A Pulp
July 2015
ISBN# 978-1-943035-08-3
Paperback (e-book available)
114 Pages

Paperback version supplied by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015

Review: WILDERS WALK AWAY (1948) by Herbert Brean

Former newspaper reporter turned freelance photojournalist Reynold Frame travels to the village of Wilders Lane, Vermont to get a story and steps back in time. Figuratively, that is, because Wilders Lane has been restored to its pre-Revolutionary War look.

The village is named after its oldest family, the Wilders, whose history is pocked with inexplicable, seemingly impossible disappearances starting with Jonathan’s in 1775 and extending forward to the novel’s mid-20th Century present. The vanishings have given rise to a chant known to everyone in Wilders Lane and surrounding areas:

“Other people die of mumps
Or general decay,
Of fevers, chills, or other ills,
But Wilders walk away.”

In search of lodging, Frame goes to the restored home of the lovely Constance Wilder, her sister Ellen, and their Aunt Mary. As he arrives, Ellen emerges from the house carrying a suitcase. She’s been invited to visit another aunt. Frame gallantly lugs the heavy suitcase to the bus stop for her, then returns to the house where he strikes an agreement with Constance to rent a room for a week.

Later that night, there are suspicions that Ellen has “walked away.” Her mysterious vanishment is of brief duration, however, because Reynold Frame finds her murdered body in a freshly dug grave. This in turn leads to the discovery of Constance and Ellen’s father’s body, also clearly the victim of a murderer. A year or so earlier, at his office, Fred Wilder walked into a storeroom under observation from outside–and disappeared.

A day or two later, at the Wilder home, Aunt Mary leaves Frame and Constance at the dining table, goes into the kitchen to fetch dessert, and vanishes.

Smitten with Constance and possessed of the reporter’s inextinguishable curiosity, Frame is inexorably drawn into the investigation. As the situation deepens, he manages to solve the “walkaways” of the past as well as those of the present, and ultimately identifies the present-day murderer.

Although I employed more intuition and guesswork than deduction a la Frame, I found it relatively easy to identify the murderer. In spite of that, I enjoyed the book a great deal thanks to Brean’s unerring pace and construction.

Brean was undoubtedly influenced by John Dickson Carr, as his sense of history and penchant for the “impossible situation” attest. His writing style is much leaner and his atmospheric effects more understated than JDC’s, but he can be quite engrossing nonetheless. For a little while I thought I’d found in Wilders Walk Away a companion to The Three Coffins and Rim of the Pit for ultimate greatness. That degree of feeling didn’t sustain itself, but I can still recommend Wilders enthusiastically. It’s even better than Brean’s The Traces of Brillhart.

Brean’s work is long out of print, so those who are curious will have to try, e-Bay,, and ABE.books as I did. The search will reward readers with a very clever and entertaining mystery novel.

© 2003 Barry Ergang

Barry Ergang’s impossible crime mystery novelette, “The Play of Light and Shadow,” is available at Smashwords and Amazon.

Review: THE MAN WHO LIKED SLOW TOMATOES (1982) by K.C. Constantine

Mario Balzic, Serbo-Italian Chief of Police in the coal town of Rocksburg, Pennsylvania, is a man beleaguered by bureaucrats. The police union’s contract has expired, and for the past month, Balzic has been an unwilling participant in negotiation meetings that are going nowhere, largely because of city officials he can’t stand. When the book opens, he has sneaked out of City Hall and sought refuge and relaxation in Muscotti’s, a local tavern.

It’s only June, but Vinnie the bartender shows Balzic that he’s got locally grown tomatoes, and that they were given to him by one Jimmy Romanelli who, as it turns out, is married to a woman Balzic knew when they were kids. Balzic was in his teens and Mary Frances Fiori was a child. Their fathers were both coal miners who often got together to discuss union and other business. Fiori was a widower, so Mario Balzic kept an eye on his young daughter while he and the elder Balzic talked. After his father died, Mario lost contact with Fiori, and is astonished to learn from Vinnie that the man is still alive: “…And he’s a bull. Still works his garden every day, still walks five, six miles every day, cuts his own firewood, cooks, cleans house, takes care of himself.”

Balzic recognizes Jimmy Romanelli’s name, remembering that a State Bureau of Drug Enforcement investigator once mentioned him as a person of interest. Vinnie doesn’t believe it, telling Balzic that Romanelli’s the kind of guy who always has to be right, who’s a good guy when things are going his way, but who blames everyone but himself if things take a turn for the worse. And that they have because when the local mine shut down, he and many others were suddenly out of work. Others found jobs of different sorts or moved to other mining regions of the country. Romanelli did nothing but collect unemployment checks, and now those have run out.

Balzic’s conversation with Vinnie is interrupted several times by phone calls from Mary Frances Romanelli. She’s hysterical because Jimmy hasn’t been home in more than twenty-four hours. Vinnie forces an unwilling Balzic to talk to her, but his own efforts to calm her are as ineffectual as Vinnie’s were. When he finally returns to City Hall, he learns that she has been calling there repeatedly and berating whoever answers for not finding her missing husband. Balzic decides it’s time to pay her a visit and talk to her in person.

I can’t really say anything more about the story without giving everything away because the basic storyline is pretty thin. Despite being billed as “A Mario Balzic Detective Novel,” this is not at all a conventional detective story. In fact, most experienced mystery readers will figure out what happened and who is responsible long before Balzic does. The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes is more than anything a novel of character, the author delineating and differentiating his cast of blue collar Americans through a heavy use of dialogue.

Balzic, through whose third-person point-of-view events are filtered, is a generally likeable character—intelligent, intuitive, tough, stubborn, humorous, sensitive, and at times irascible. If I have one complaint about him, it’s that a couple of times he uses the N-word. This is the fifth book in the series, but the first I’ve ever read, so I can’t determine whether he’s actually a racist, whether epithets of this sort are just part of the culture of Rocksburg, or if he’s trying to persuade certain interlocutors that he’s “one of them.”

As I said earlier, the story itself is not a complex, convoluted one, and for some readers will prove to be thoroughly predictable. Despite that, and because of strong characterizations achieved primarily through a masterly use of dialogue, The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes should appeal to the men and women who like fast compelling reads.

© 2011 Barry Ergang

A Derringer Award-winner, Barry Ergang’s fiction, poetry and non-fiction has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. Some of his work is available at Smashwords and Amazon. His website is


Bounty Hunter Bodie Kendrick normally works alone. But, these are special circumstances in the borderlands of the Arizona territory. Doc Turpin has a considerable reputation as a bounty hunter over in Texas. Bodie Kendrick primarily works in the territories of Arizona and New Mexico. Each has heard of the other over the years so it makes sense to unite in a partnership after their paths cross as a result of the massacre at New Gleanus.

Bodie Kendrick had the misfortune of riding into New Gleanus about an hour after the Harrup brothers along with their cousin Huck Mather and in the company of their new outlaw buddies, the Klegg gang, robbed the local bank. While the robbery of the bank had been accomplished easily and could have led to a clean getaway, they instead went crazy and shot up the town and its citizens. Six were killed, numerous others including women and children were wounded by the shots and/or flying glass as bullets flew everywhere. The destruction of store fronts and property was heavy as were the injuries and deaths. All of it was totally unnecessary and proof that the combined gang had to be stopped at all costs.

Doc Turpin had arrived in town just after Bodie did and also went to work helping out by tending to the wounded, putting out fires, and anything else he could do in the immediate aftermath.  Doc had been chasing Otis Klegg and his gang after their recently botched robbery of a payroll wagon that resulted in the deaths of three guards and the driver. Considering the shape of the town and its citizens, the local posse is not going to get the job done. They may be good at tending a store or running a farm, but these folks are not going to be able to deal with chasing and capturing these hardened and increasingly violent criminals.

After discussing their assessment of the situation, Doc and Bodie agree to form a partnership to go after the violent killers and put an end to their trail of carnage once and for all. That partnership will create an additional mission that will take them across the border into Mexico in Rio Matanza (Bodie Kendrick- Bounty Hunter Book 2).

Following the excellent Hard Trail to Socorro author Wayne D. Dundee has created another complicated western filled with mystery, action, and realistic characters. Plenty is at work here in a tale that spans countries and cultures sure to please those readers that prefer traditional westerns. While one can read Rio Matanza first, it is well worth it to start at the beginning with Hard Trail to Socorro. Both are mighty good westerns from an award winning author.

Rio Matanza (Bodie Kendrick- Bounty Hunter Book 2)
Wayne D. Dundee
Bil-Em-Ri Media
July 2012
E-Book (paperback also available)
232 Pages (estimated)

Material was either picked up awhile back via funds in my Amazon Associate account or when the author made the read free. I have no idea now which way it was and Amazon does not make a distinction as both situations are classified as a “verified purchase.”

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015

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