Showing posts with label Lee Goldberg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lee Goldberg. Show all posts

Monday, September 11, 2023


New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg began his career as a journalist, reporting for national publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, and the San Francisco Chronicle. After breaking into screenwriting, Goldberg contributed to shows like Murphy's Law, Monk, The Cosby Mysteries, and Spenser: For Hire, as well as producing and writing episodes of Monk and Diagnosis Murder. Twice nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America, Goldberg's literary work includes the bestselling title Fox & O'Hare (with Janet Evanovich), as well as The Dead Man, The Jury, Ian Ludlow, and Eve Ronin series. 

Perhaps his most ambitious novel to date is Calico, coming November 7, 2023 by independent publisher Severn House. While it possesses all of the exemplary crime-fiction elements perfected by Goldberg, this stand-alone thriller journeys into a unique, untapped resource that's never been used by the 40-year veteran. The end result might surprise you.

Like Goldberg's other Los Angeles detective Eve Ronin, Calico's protagonist Beth McDade has a tumultuous history with the force. After a romantic encounter with a fellow officer, McDade is released from duty and forced to relocate to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. She was warned upon her arrival three years ago, “The interstate here only goes in one direction – away. Nobody wants to be in Barstow and those who do, you don't want to know.” 

Barstow, California is where McDade works as one-half of the area's homicide department, prowling a stretch of desert along the Calico mountain range to the north and the Marine Corps Logistics Base to the south, both of which play prominent roles in the book's central story. In between is a variety of military housing, alfalfa farmers, and off-the-grid survivalists residing between fast-food dives and bars. The dismal landscape and dull employment contributes to McDade's spiraling depression, a disorder she routinely treats with alcohol and endless one-night stands with the town's first responders. 

Calico's white-knuckle, straight-laced narrative, is an enthralling police-procedural that features McDade working a combination of home-invasion robbery (shades of Goldberg's own Gated Prey), a missing person case, and a bizarre highway death involving an elderly couple. From a surface level, it seems to be routine, by-the-book police business, but the sun-bleached asphalt masks a disturbing secret that mysteriously connects to the town's mining history in the late 1800s. How does a potential murder victim in 2023 connect to events in 1882? This enticing web will ensnare unsuspecting readers with plenty of surprises along the way.

As a fan of Goldberg's writing for some time now, I was pleasantly surprised with Calico's unforeseen curveball. If you enjoy murder mysteries - complete with the obligatory detective tropes, investigative twists, whodunit suspense, and strong female lead – then you already know that few can do it better than Lee Goldberg. However, by combining all of those crime-fiction staples into an unconventional, widely different approach, Goldberg delivers something altogether new, radical and exciting for his readers. Calico is a very clever crime-fiction novel authored by an absolute pro. Highly recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Eve Ronin #03 - Gated Prey

In my review of Lee Goldberg's Bone Canyon (Jan, 2021 Thomas & Mercer), the second installment in the Eve Ronin police-procedural series, I stated that every page in the book meant something. Eve's steadfast, relentless investigations into city corruption, murder, and victim injustice consumed each and every page, leaving no clue neglected for readers and fans to decipher and discover. That sentiment holds true for the series' third entry, Gated Prey (Oct, 2021 Thomas & Mercer), as Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective Eve Ronin, and her partner Duncan “Doughnuts” Pavone journey into some fairly unusual areas to solve a violent home-invasion case.

As the book begins, Eve and Duncan are conducting a sting operation in a 4,500 square-foot mini-mansion in the fictional Calabasas gated community of Vista Grande. The assignment is to bait and catch a group of armed robbers plaguing the community. Eve and Duncan must understand the method of how the robbers are passing the guards undetected if they have any hope of catching the culprits. Thankfully, the sting operation brings the criminal network to fruition, but two of the criminals are killed in the conflict and another escapes to a crowded store. This exciting opening scene sets the stage for Goldberg's twisty narrative to come alive with colorful characters and the obligatory investigation and turbulent aftermath.

By this third novel, readers are aligned with Eve's strong resistance to police corruption and the political upheaval that most of her cases create. One of the most endearing and entertaining aspects to this series is simply watching the young, talented homicide detective ebb and flow through the bureaucracy, endless red tape, and deep criminal channels that seem to envelope society.

Like a riveting multifaceted procedural mystery (John Creasey's excellent Gideon comes to mind), Goldberg's narrative doesn't just present one case for readers and heroes to solve. Instead, Gated Prey presents a number of different story-lines involving not only the home-invasion robbery angle, but also the death of a newborn baby, the aftermath of a deputy's suicide, and Eve's adjustment to a new Captain. All of these elements create a wonderful smorgasbord of crime-fiction that continues the same level of excellence we've come to expect from this new series.

Gated Prey is another stellar installment in the wildly entertaining Eve Ronin series and a further testament to Lee Goldberg's strength as a creative, innovative storyteller. Highly recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Eve Ronin #02 - Bone Canyon

Script writer and novelist Lee Goldberg rocketed into the New York Times Bestseller list with the successful series Fox & O'Hare, co-authored by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum, Knight and Moon). Along with successful titles like Monk, Charlie Willis, and Ian Ludlow, Goldberg has recently concentrated his efforts on Eve Ronin, a crime-fiction title that began in 2019 with Lost Hills. I read and reviewed the novel and found it to be an exciting, high-quality start to the series. In 2021, the second Eve Ronin novel, Bone Canyon, was published. It's available in physical, digital, and audio editions.

In Lost Hills, Goldberg introduced Eve, a rookie homicide detective working for the Robbery-Homicide division of the Lost Hills Sheriff's station, a mid-sized city in South-Central California. Eve is despised by most of her fellow officers for short cutting the seniority climb. After an off-duty arrest of an intoxicated, disorderly celebrity, Eve discovered that the incident was captured on video and released to social media. The incident and footage made her the local hero and a political pawn utilized by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office. Needing the positive image, they promoted Eve, a prior patrol cop, to homicide detective. In the debut novel, Eve solidifies her local hero status by valiantly solving a triple murder. 

What makes Eve a different type of hero is how much she avoids fame and fortune. After a second video becomes viral, her media status escalates. A Hollywood agent wants to sign her for a television deal, endless reporters want an exclusive, and her mother and sister both want her to look glamorous for her newfound spotlight. But Eve doesn't care about anything other than her job. She's resilient and steadfast in her mission to serve the people. She repeatedly declines TV deals and interviews and continues working cases with her soon-to-be retired partner Duncan “Doughnuts” Pavone. Eve is Duncan's mentor, a relationship that transcends from student and master to something more akin to a niece and uncle. 

In Bone Canyon, Eve and Duncan are called to investigate the remains of a human skull found in the Santa Monica Mountains. During the search for more bone fragments, Eve is introduced to a bookish, yet charismatic anthropologist named Daniel. The two immediately have a chemistry and Eve relies on Daniel's experience to piece together a fragmented skeleton. In doing so, Daniel locates more skeletal remains of another individual. This discovery expands the examination into two cases that are possibly unrelated. 

Through trials and tribulation, Eve and Duncan face physical and emotional adversity. There's political upheaval when the two detectives trace the clues back to a fraternity of officers within the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Eve's mental fortitude is put to the test when she carefully walks a balance beam of time-management, health, and her eroding camaraderie with her co-workers. In addition to the work stress, her family life continues to be a burden. Her mother, a comical whirlwind, remains persistent in belittling Eve's career choices. In an important side-story, Eve's sister introduces her to a physical therapist in hopes that it paves the way to romance. 

Bone Canyon is superb procedural fiction, complete with action, suspense, and an exhilarating pace. Every page means something. Aside from the twists and turns of the case, readers are thrust further into Eve's personal life, with a more dynamic awareness of her love life, personal attrition, media stardom, and her inevitable future without the veteran experience of Duncan. 

This novel is a real cornerstone of the series, one that places Eve at the proverbial crossroads – fight for the truth despite the deadly risk or find solace by gratifying the corruption. Her against-the-grain attitude and determination makes her one of the most independent characters in ages. Her decisions are hers alone to make, and even Lee Goldberg has no say in the matter. She's doing it her way, and her way is what readers will love. I can't wait for the next one.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Eve Ronin #01 - Lost Hills

Lee Goldberg, twice nominated for the Edgar and Shamus Awards, has written a number of serial titles like Ian Ludlow, Monk, Charlie Willis and Diagnosis Murder. In addition to scriptwriting, Goldberg collaborated with Janet Evanovich on the successful series Fox & O'Hare. One of his most well-received series titles is Eve Ronin. The series was launched in 2019 with Lost Hills and continued with two sequels, Bone Canyon and Gated Prey. To delve into the character and the series, I'm starting with Lost Hills.

Eve Ronin was a deputy in Lancaster, a charter city in Northern Los Angles County. After she made an off-duty arrest of a drunken and abusive celebrity, Eve soared to popularity. Her arrest was captured on a video that went viral. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department needed positive publicity, so Eve was promoted to detective in the Robbery-Homicide division of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s station. Her partner is Duncan Pavone, a veteran that is less than four months away from retirement.

As one can imagine, Eve faces a lot of criticism from her colleagues. They're not happy about the shortcut she took to get her new job. Further, they feel that her lack of homicide investigation experience is detrimental to the department. Her critics are sexist, unapologetic and unprofessional. Eve's cases will be more difficult to resolve due to the unnecessary obstacles she is forced to confront. 

Eve and Duncan are sent to a house near Topanga State Park, a dense forested area in the Santa Monica Mountains. Once inside the home, the two partners discover a grisly slaughterhouse. The walls and floor are saturated with blood, conveying the violence and death that has taken place. The victims appear to be a single woman, her two children, and the family dog. Mysteriously, there are no bodies. After Eve explores a nearby hill, she is assaulted and knocked out by what looks like a furry monster. 

Goldberg's narrative is a tight, comprehensive procedural that is stylishly episodic in nature. It's easily accessible and was presented like a solid, well-written television show. Eve's determination and commitment to solve the case is admirable. It created a long-lasting, but highly enjoyable, investigation into this poor family's past, their connections and the possible suspects and motives that potentially brought about their horrific demise.

With Lost Hills, Lee Goldberg has introduced a remarkable, tenacious female detective in Eve Ronin. She's flawed, but determined. Inexperienced, but courageous. Outmanned, but defiant. Goldberg places this unlikely hero in a problematic, fast-paced pursuit to find a killer, effectively establishing her as the reliant hero we've always wanted...and deserved.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ian Ludlow #02 - Killer Thriller

“Killer Thriller” is the 2019 follow-up to Lee Goldberg’s comedic action bestseller, “True Fiction” about Ian Ludlow, a men’s adventure novelist who is unexpectedly thrust into the life of a bona fide action hero. Like the first installment, the novel straddles the line between being a parody of the Jack Reacher-style of adventure paperbacks and delivering a genuine kick-ass thrill-ride of a novel.

The character of Ian Ludlow is a fictionalized version of Goldberg himself - a TV mystery scriptwriter turned successful novelist. In fact, Goldberg began his career writing the macho “.357 Vigilante” series using the pseudonym of Ian Ludlow. “Killer Thriller” begins with Ludlow on a book tour hyping his latest testosterone-fueled novel, and Goldberg does a nice job of getting readers up to speed on the events of “True Fiction,” so no one is left behind.

Because Ludlow’s fiction has an uncanny way of becoming fact, he is approached by the CIA to become an operative using his writing job as cover. And because this is a fun - and sometimes silly - action novel send-up, Ludlow is soon in the mix with an international conspiracy to cripple America in a manner similar to a novel Ludlow is currently outlining.

The backdrop of “Killer Thriller” is a potential trade war with China during an internal U.S. policy debate over free trade vs. protectionism. Meanwhile, Chinese interests are putting a giant thumb on the scale with political assassinations in the U.S. and the kidnapping of Hong Kong’s best and brightest business minds. Production is also beginning in Hong Kong on a film based on Ludlow’s recurring character, which gives Goldberg a chance to poke some fun at Hollywood preposterous adaptations of outlandish contemporary men’s fiction and the influence of the China market on modern Hollywood.

As with the first installment, there are tons of Easter eggs in the novel for genre fanatics. For example, the movie studio adapting Ludlow’s novel is “Pinnacle Pictures” - presumably a nod to the iconic 1970s paperback house. Current events also get a send-up with a billionaire fictional U.S. President tweeting too much while alienating our NATO allies.

Joined by his hot and heroic lesbian sidekick Margo, Ludlow is off to China to monitor the adaptive filming of his old novel while researching the plot of his next one. As expected, he gets swept up in a real-life Chinese conspiracy that eerily mirrors his own plot outline for an unwritten novel.

Like it’s predecessor, “Killer Thriller” is a helluva lot of fun to read. The plot and action sequences are both absurd and absorbing. If you’re a fan of men’s action novels and their film adaptations, you are the intended audience for this love letter to our genre. Time will tell how many times Goldberg will be able to go to this same well, but I’m all-in for the Ian Ludlow thrillers. Highly recommended.

Buy this book HERE

Friday, September 21, 2018

Ian Ludlow #01 - True Fiction

Lee Goldberg began his literary career in 1985 with his '.357 Vigilante' series of men’s adventure novels published under the pen name of Ian Ludlow. (Fun Fact: Goldberg chose the Ludlow name, so the books would be shelved next to Robert Ludlum.) The series lasted four installments and then disappeared without much fanfare. Thirty years later, Goldberg re-released the books under his own name as 'The Jury' series for modern audiences.

Everyone figured that was the last we’d ever hear from Ian Ludlow. Goldberg went on to have a successful career as a television writer and producer for shows including Diagnosis Murder, Psych, and Monk. He continued to write mystery and suspense novels until he struck literary gold by co-authoring a commercially-successful series of humorous mysteries with the already-famous Janet Evanovich.

Understanding this basic bio for Goldberg helps give the reader some context for the literary stunt he pulls in his latest novel, “True Fiction.” The plot is about a thriller author named Ian Ludlow who gets sucked into the kind of save-the-world adventure that the fictional Ludlow writes in his own novels. Goldberg penning an action thriller about an author named Ian Ludlow is like if Stephen King wrote a horror novel about an author named Richard Bachman.

“True Fiction” opens with a horrific terrorist attack in which a commercial jetliner is flown into a high-rise hotel causing mass carnage. The reader quickly learns that the attack was secretly orchestrated by a malevolent corporation named Blackthorn that aspires to be the recipient of a massive outsourcing contract from the CIA in the same manner that the Department of Defense outsourced duties to Blackwater for the Iraq War. Blackthorn sets up some innocent Muslims to take the fall for this 9/11 sequel, and the corporation puts itself in the position to crack the case for the U.S. government while showing off its superior private-sector intelligence abilities.

When we meet our hero, Ian Ludlow is at a sparsely-attended book signing in Seattle where he is promoting his new action novel. We learn that Ludlow writes thrillers in the same vein as the 'Jack Reacher' series, but the nebbish author is no hero himself. For the Seattle leg of his book tour, he is accompanied by an attractive escort (not that kind of escort) named Margo hired by the publisher to shepherd the author from one book signing to another.

When Ludlow learns about the circumstances surrounding the recent air attack on the hotel, he is taken aback because it perfectly mimics a storyline for a terrorist incident that he presented to the CIA at a “what-if” focus group years earlier. Ludlow becomes convinced that the recent mass-causality incident was actually orchestrated by the CIA as a false flag operation and that he is a marked man for knowing this fact.

This kicks off a breakneck exciting “couple on the run” story as Ludlow and Margo avoid assassins from Blackthorn while thinking they are actually being pursued a CIA kill squad. The cat-and-mouse scenes in Seattle were especially gratifying as Goldberg incorporates a lot of unique features of the city into the action.

Fans of men’s adventure paperbacks will find “True Fiction” to be filled with Easter eggs and references to the genre’s greatest hits, including 'The Executioner', 'James Bond', 'The Destroyer', and, if you pay close attention, '.357 Vigilante'. There’s also a fun backstory about Ludlow’s history of writing for crappy TV mystery and cop shows - a plot point that becomes important as the novel progresses - that recalls Goldberg’s own career trajectory. 

At times, it’s hard to figure out where Goldberg ends and Ludlow begins. We have an action-adventure novelist writing about an action-adventure novelist who becomes an action-adventure hero by drawing inspiration from his own action-adventure hero. It’s a house of mirrors, but it’s also a real blast to read. The book is written with real cinematic potential, and you can imagine this being a big-budget, Hollywood summer blockbuster one day

Goldberg toggles from violent, propulsive action into comic relief quite adeptly. “True Fiction” is both exciting and hilarious with no slow parts to weigh it down. The only criticism I can muster involves a scene towards the end of the book involving a car chase that veered too far into slapstick, but it didn’t derail the book for me. The samples of Ludlow’s own writing interspersed throughout the novel serve as a particularly hilarious send-up of the modern state of the action thriller genre.

Throughout the book, Goldberg pokes fun at the tropes and excesses of modern thrillers without ever descending into full farce. “True Fiction” is a successful author’s love letter to a genre he truly adores, and I was excited to see that Ian Ludlow is coming back for a second installment in 2019. In the meantime, be sure to check this one out as it was written just for a guy like you. Highly recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, May 17, 2018

.357 Vigilante #02 - Make Them Pay

Writing good vigilante fiction isn’t just about telling an interesting story. The author has to make the reader identify with the vigilante. He also has to sell us on the need for vigilante action. Lee Goldberg understood those requirements when he wrote the second book in his .357 Vigilante series, “Make Them Pay”. And though he was still a college student at the time, he did a fine job with this.

In fact, I liked it better than the debut book, “.357 Vigilante”, which went overboard on superhuman action exploits in its final chapters. This time around, our hero is more down to Earth, a little more vulnerable, and prone to making a mistake now and then. In fact, he’s dangerously close to being mellow.

A kiddie porn racket is operating in Los Angeles, using kidnapped children who are put before the cameras, raped to death and then discarded around town. The mayor has so little faith in his own criminal justice system that he puts a discreet call out to “Mr. Jury,” the vigilante who took down a bunch of bad guys in the previous book. Our vigilante hero agrees to take on the case, and you pretty much know how things will go from there. But the journey is satisfying, partly because he’s also got to keep a sexy but suspicious reporter from finding out about his hobby. After all, even in the world of men’s action/adventure fiction, a vigilante can go to prison for killing low-life shitbags if he’s not careful.

As in the first book, “Make Them Pay” is dotted with welcome 1980s cultural references, and while there’s less suspense and general intensity than before, I appreciated its more relaxed tone. The emotional anguish of the first book is pretty much over with now. 

For example, one day Mr. Jury is boinking his girlfriend (using chocolate ice cream as an innovative lubricant). The next day she gets obliterated in a car bomb, and three days later he’s boinking the sexy reporter. Whether this sort of thing is a step in the right or wrong direction is up to the reader. Personally, I didn’t mind. (Full disclosure: I read this while dealing with the flu, so I was glad for the lightweight approach.)

Friday, February 9, 2018

.357 Vigilante #01 - .357 Vigilante

There’s a lot to like in the eponymous-titled debut of the '.357 Vigilante' series (Lee Goldberg as Ian Ludlow), and the story drew me in pretty quickly. A cop in Los Angeles is cornered by a street gang which burns him to death. The guilty parties beat the rap and walk out of the courtroom smirking, and the cop’s grieving son goes into vigilante mode to bring them down, one by one.

All of this material is very good. The author moves the story along and makes it seem fresher than it really is. Published in 1985, it was written two or three years earlier, and I enjoyed the scattered pop-culture references which brought the story’s setting to life (how often do you see a novel that mentions X and Oingo Boingo?). The hero’s confrontations with the surly gang members are taut and exciting, and each take-down is bloodier and more difficult than the last. Meanwhile, the police are rapidly figuring out the mysterious vigilante’s identity and they’re closing in. To them, he’s just another murderer.

And then, in the final quarter of the novel, it all goes south. Our hero, Brett Macklin, has been presented as an ordinary guy, pushed by grief and anger into taking the law into his own hands. The story really worked for me on that level, but just as Macklin completes his task, we learn that a ridiculously unlikely conspiracy has been going on. An evil televangelist and a crooked politician have been using street gangs to kill people and Macklin has gotten too close to the truth. He needs to be eliminated, which leads to an epic showdown including explosions, torture, narrow escapes, Macklin hanging from the underside of an elevator car and a helicopter, a high-speed chase through Hollywood and a death by wood-chipper. 

In other words, suddenly we’re in a silly ‘80s Mack Bolan adventure and our Everyman hero is no longer an ordinary guy with normal limitations and vulnerabilities. That’s where the novel lost me. 

Yes, the book had some flaws even before this point. It was a little long and wordy for such a simple plot and the author (still a college student at the time) was often trying too hard to turn a colorful phrase. But until that left turn, the story was compelling and believable. 

You hate to see your team blow a lead and lose the game in the final quarter, and that’s how I felt about “.357 Vigilante”.