Showing posts with label Paul Bishop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Bishop. Show all posts

Friday, January 7, 2022

Monster Man

In 2011, authors Paul Bishop (Lie Catchers, Penalty Shot) and Mel Odom (The Executioner, Hellgate) each wrote and self-published a pulp-styled boxing novella. The books were so well received, a brand was created called Fight Card. Various authors would try their hand at crafting a 25,000-30,000 word novella centralized around boxing in the 1940s and 1950s. The ebooks were published under a house name of Jack Tunny with physical editions printed with the author's real name. The brand created spin-offs like Fight Card MMA, Fight Card Now, Fight Card Luchadors, and even Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes

My introduction to the Fight Card series is an installment called Monster Man. It was authored by Jason Chirevas and published in 2014. It has also been included in a three-book omnibus titled Under the Lights and Heat, a collection of three connected Fight Card novellas written by Chirevas. In 2019, Chirevas contributed a short story to Paul Bishop's collection Bandit Territory: Ten New Tales of Murder & Mayhem and he created and authored the western series Ames & Fyre

Monster Man, set in 1953, stars a talented young boxer named Ben Harman. He grew up an orphan in St. Vincent's home for boys in Chicago. After the Army, Ben found that he was a gifted and natural boxer. Rising in the ranks of the fight game, Ben meets an unlikely fate one night in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His powerful right hand fatally injures his opponent in the ring. The death leads to Ben's removal from the big-time fight game. 

The narrative then moves to Toronto and readers learn that Ben is now paired with his old friend Pete. Together, the two are running a fight scam from city to city. The gimmick is that Ben fights in amateur bouts and he either takes a dive (pretending to be knocked out so he loses) or he runs a hustle and fakes that he is brand new in the fight business, then proceeds to knock out the city's local champ. Either way, Pete makes the bets depending on the scam, and the two pocket the money evenly. The catch is that they can't be seen together and they have to conduct business east of New Mexico so no one will recognize Ben as a former pro. But, where does “Monster Man” fit in?

Ben is suffering from the early onslaught of acromegaly, a disease in which an individual's hands, feet, forehead, nose, and jaw grow disproportionately due to an increased hormone growth. You may remember WWE Hall of Fame legend Andre the Giant as the most famous human to have acromegaly. But, there was also 1933 world heavyweight boxing champion Primo Carnera, which influenced the author's decision to write the main character in this way. Throughout the story, Ben researches the disease in all of the town libraries he visits. He also reads up on Carnera's condition. Ultimately, Ben begins to suffer severe pain in his wrists and hands and he fully understands what his future entails.

Monster Man absolutely shines like a classic mid-century crime-noir, fitting in the most rudimentary staples that the genre possesses – gambling, criminals, romance, money and an examination of the average human condition. Like Clark Howard's masterful 1967 crime-fiction novel The Arm, Monster Man emphasizes the gambling addiction – bad, worse, and worst – but introduces a love interest that steadily begins to chip away at the criminality factor. The “monster” isn't Ben, it's the game. In a clever twist, Ben falls for a prostitute named Vicky, a once beautiful, aspiring actress that now has a physical flaw. Ben and Vicky share the same imperfections, and they are both caught up in a life of crime. 

I read a lot of fiction, from the greats to the aspiring authors that still have some rows to ho. In my experience as a reader, Jason Chirevas proves that he is truly something special. He has a unique talent to convey so much emotion and drama in his wording. I felt invested in the characters and sympathized with their predicament. There's no easy way out, and Chirevas' doesn't short-change anything. 

Monster Man is gritty, entertaining, and wildly unpredictable. It caters to boxing fans, crime-fiction readers, and anyone that just loves an engrossing story. While I hung on to the ending for dear life, I'm relieved to know that Ben and Vicky's story continues in the 2015 follow-up Job Girl. Look for my review of that in the coming days. 

You can buy Monster Man as a Kindle stand-alone ebook HERE or the omnibus Under the Lights and Heat as digital or physical HERE.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Fey Croaker: A Paperback Warrior Primer

Author Paul Bishop is a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. Receiving “Detective of the Year” accolades twice, Bishop starred as the lead interrogator on the ABC reality show “Take the Money and Run” developed by marquee name producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Along with his 15 published works, Bishop also is the writer and editor of the essential reference work “52 Weeks 52 Western Novels – A Guide to Six-Gun Favorites and New Discoveries”.

With his commendable career in law enforcement, Bishop writes with conviction and authenticity. His experiences are easily conveyed in his artistry, evident in his five-book literary series starring LAPD Detective Fey Croaker. The first novel, “Kill Me Again”, was published by Avon Books in 1994. It introduces us to the seasoned Fey, a West LA detective and supervisor of the homicide unit. It was the top detective spot in the division and she's the first woman to hold the job.

Bishop explains, “I based Fey in part on two of my long term, very experienced, female detective partners. Walk into any LAPD detective squadroom and you'll find one or more versions of Fey. She's got some hard earned miles on her. She street savvy. She knows how to fight dirty, not just politically, but physically, and is more than willing to kick your ass if you take her on. She's forty with a string of bad marriages, bad choices, and bad boooze behind her. She expects and demands a lot of her people, but in return she is loyal to a fault and will fight like a tiger for them. Basically, she's about as far from a twenty-something, hard-bodied, high heel wearing, female TV detective as you can get”.

Just shy of 300-pages, “Kill Me Again” is a riveting mystery procedural that has plenty to unpack in terms of the central character. While Bishop expands the murder case, he slowly allows readers a more intimate view of this rather complex character. From her early career rise, tumultuous love-life and murky childhood, there's a lot to offer beyond a stand-alone story.

Bishop, detailing the character's beginnings, explains, “By the time I was ready to write Kill Me Again, I already had a handful of novels published. Two were connected, but the others were all stand-alones. Career wise, I felt I needed a series character strong enough to carry at least four books. In creating Fey Croaker, the protagonist of Kill Me Again, I plotted out a four book personal story arc for her. I knew exactly what position I wanted her to be in personally at the end of each of the first three books, forcing her to deal with everything that had come before in book four. Each of the four books would have a standalone plot, but there would be a through story dealing with Fey's abusive upbringing, which would come full circle and to resolution in book four”.

Beginning with “Kill Me Again”, Fey's relationship with her father is shown as a key role in her development as a detective, rising through the promotions after 16-years in the unit. As a sexually molested child, the novel provides brief passages explaining Fey's protection of her brother and her abuse from both her father and family friend. It's a prickly family tree, cultivated by sorrow and regret, and written with a grainy sense of realism.

“At the time, I was also working full throttle in my career with the LAPD. As a detective, I spent almost all my career, 30 out of 35 years, investigating sex crimes from indecent exposure to child molest to rape to sexual homicide and everything in between. I was always aware of how victims processed the assault emotionally. There were those whom it destroyed, and others who were never able to break the cycle of victimhood. But I was fascinated by those who flat refused to be defined by something beyond their control. They were determined not to just be survivors of sexual assault, but victors over it. They struggled and they fought and they failed and they picked themselves up again. I admired these incredible individuals, and this was what I wanted to exemplify through Fey Croaker”, explains Bishop.

“Fey is a high functioning detective, but a low functioning human. She is aware of this and ferociously fights those emotional forces that have threatened to cripple her since she was a child...As the omnipotent author, I was going to give her a chance at redemption if she could lead me there over four books.”

“Kill Me Again” received a sequel in “Twice Dead”, published in 1996 by Avon. Following the mystery-procedural formula, the novel centers around an NBA athlete charged with murder. Later, the book was later re-titled as “Grave Sins”. In 1997 the third novel, “Tequila Mockingbird” was published by Scribner in hardback and by Pocket Books in paperback. The same publishers produced the series' fourth entry, “Chalk Whispers,” in 2000. A 68-page novella was released in 2014 entitled “Pattern of Behavior", which was also included in Bishop's short story compilation of the same name. All of the books have been republished in digital formats, including Kindle, by Wolfpack Publishing.

Bishop concludes, “The greatest compliment I've received as an author is when either female law enforcement personnel or individuals who have been through the ringer of sexual assault approach me at a writing function, sometimes with tears in their eyes, and ask, 'How do you know this?' 'How do you know what it's like to be a woman on this job?' Or in the case of one woman, 'How do you understand what it feels like to be a child of the silence?' My answer is always the same, "Fey told me..."

Fey Croaker Purchase Checklist

1. "Kill Me Again" (1994 Avon)
2. "Twice Dead" (aka "Grave Sins" 1996 Avon) 
3. "Tequila Mockingbird" (1997 Scribner/Pocket Books)
4. "Chalk Whispers" (2000 Scribner/Pocket Books)
5. "Pattern of Behavior" (2014 Wolfpack)