Monday, October 13, 2014

New Reviews for Riders On The Storm Published Tomorrow

Riders on the Storm - Ed Gorman     from Rough Edges

If you want to learn about small-town life in America during the turbulent era stretching from the late Fifties to the early Seventies, forget the history books. Just read Ed Gorman's Sam McCain series. It's as perfect a recreation of a time and place (Black River Falls, Iowa, the town where Sam works as a lawyer) as you're ever likely to find. The latest one, and the final book in the series, is RIDERS ON THE STORM, like all the others titled for a song that was popular when it takes place.

As usual, there's a well-plotted mystery for Sam to solve. A psychologically troubled, anti-war Vietnam vet is arrested for the murder of another veteran, a successful businessman and aspiring politician who had beaten up the accused man at a party because of his anti-war views. Sam is friends with the man and doesn't believe he's guilty of murder, so he begins his own investigation to find the real killer. It'll come as no surprise that things are a lot more complicated than they appear to be at first, and Sam puts his own life in danger by trying to sort everything out and clear his friend's name.

Over and above the mystery angle, though, the strongest appeal of the Sam McCain books is Sam himself, with his melancholy yet hopeful observations about life and the people he knows in Black River Falls. Plus all the mentions of the music, the books, the TV shows and movies, that make the novels seem so real for those of us who lived through those days. In so many ways, Ed is us, and we are him.

I've long since given up the pretense of objectivity where Ed's books are concerned. I've been reading and enjoying his books for more than 30 years, the same amount of time that we've been friends. But it's not like I'm the only one praising them, either. He's widely hailed, and rightly so, as one of the best writers of our generation. RIDERS OF THE STORM is a fine conclusion to the Sam McCain series and will leave you glad that you've been able to be a part of Sam's life for the past ten books. Highly recommended.

The Seattle Times

The title of Ed Gorman’s“Riders on the Storm”(Pegasus, 208 pp., $25.95) is from a 1971 song by The Doors. It’s an appropriately doomy-gloomy tune released in the year of the book’s setting, when passions ran high over the horrors of Vietnam.
Lawyer and sometime detective Sam McCain, the hero of the prolific Gorman’s long-running series, suffered a serious accident in boot camp and so never saw active military duty. But Vietnam was a different experience for many young men from McCain’s small Iowa town, who came back mutilated in mind or body — or didn’t come back at all.
One who came back damaged is McCain’s friend Will Cullen, who suffers from what we now call PTSD. A rising local politician has a bitter fight with Cullen in public and is murdered soon after, making the vet an obvious suspect. McCain steps in as Cullen’s lawyer, exposing some nasty secrets while defending his friend.
For some readers, the book may not go deep enough in addressing the era’s divisive events, but McCain — an intriguing mix of knight errant and realist — is good and thought-provoking company.
Open Salon 
Matthew Paust      Sam McCain's Last Ride?

I will miss Sam McCain. He's the lawyer/detective who thinks he's Robert Ryan. Word on the street is that Riders on the Storm will be his final adventure solving murders in his Iowa hometown. If this is true I don't know what I shall do, because after accompanying him through all ten of his adventures I've begun to think I'm Sam McCain.
Perfectly understandable, I think, identifying with this small-town hero, considering that I grew up in a Midwest town about the same size and character as Black River Falls. And I grew up in my town about the same time Sam does in his. The voice is nice, too. Sam narrates these cases, and by George if he doesn't sound a lot like me!
I don't get the impression Sam wrote these books from today's perspective, either, trying to recall what happened way back when. They're fresh, as if he put the words down on real typewriter paper shortly after they happened. I can only assume novelist Ed Gorman, whose name appears on the covers, found a cache of manuscripts stashed in some dusty rolltop desk in an antique store and has simply been feeding them into a modern digital word-processing thingamajig. Either that or he is really Sam McCain. It can get confusing trying to figure all this out, just as it gets confusing for Sam trying to figure out who the killer is without getting killed himself.
You see, one of the reasons I like Sam so much I sometimes think I'm him is that he doesn't pretend to be a hero. In fact he gets embarrassed with all the attention showered on him when he does happen to act heroically, which occurs at least once in every single case. He sometimes carries his dad's old .45 but I'm not sure he's ever fired it. He gets shot, twice, in Riders on the Storm. I shouldn't say any more about that, however, especially whether he makes it or not. After all, I've already leaked the rumors that this manuscript is the last one in Gorman's stash.
This is not to say there isn't another one or two that might have fallen behind the drawer in that dusty old rolltop. Even if Sam buys it (as detectives said back then) in this one the stories need not be read in sequence. Each can stand on its own. Should Gorman find another one or two nothing really would be lost.
I read them all out of order. The first in the series, The Day the Music Died, I devoured after reading three or four of the others. I started with the third, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, which takes place in 1959. You might be catching the drift here that the title of each story pinpoints the year it took place. Your catch would be right on the money. And it's not just the titles. The novels are chock full of real history. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, for example, opens with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev's famous visit to Roswell Garst's Iowa farm.
Your kids tell you their American history class is boring them to death? Get them the Sam McCain history series. They'll ace the exam for the period 1959-71, and be the life of any Rock-n-Roll theme party to boot.
For regular McCain readers, Riders on the Storm has a somberer tone than the others, and that's even before Sam gets shot. It's set right smack amid the Vietnam War malaise. Sam and his friends, the whole town of Black River Falls—in fact the entire country—all are torn asunder by a war it seems only the politicians and those who make money off of war really want. A sad time. And Sam gets shot. Will he live to ride again? To write again?
Or will we have to persuade Ed Gorman to thrust his arm back into that dusty old rolltop one more time?
I sure as hell would miss never being Sam McCain again.


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