Saturday, November 15, 2014

This is America-You're free to buy as many copies of this as you'd like


From Bookgasm

Riders on the Storm

Private Investigator Sam McCain returns in Ed Gorman’s latest novel, RIDERS ON THE STORM. Like previous titles in the McCain series, this latest takes place in the small town of Black River Falls, Iowa, in the not-too-distant past as indicated by the popular song used in the title. This time the story takes place during the Vietnam War, one of the most divisive periods in contemporary American history.

The year is 1971. Sam McCain, already a member of the National Guard, signs up for overseas duty. But a near-fatal car crash on the way to basic training lands McCain in the hospital with head injuries and a loss of memory that lasts for several months.
Shortly after his release from the hospital and return to his hometown, Sam is awakened late one night and called to the home of his long-time friend, Will Cullen, who has disappeared and left behind a very worried wife. Cullen served in Vietnam, but retuned to Black River Falls a changed and broken man due to his war experiences, which included the accidental killing of a young Viet Cong girl. Still dealing with conflicted emotions, Cullen joins the Vietnam Vets Against The War, a move that puts him at odds with many of his fellow hometown vets.

One such vet is Steve Donovan, who is running for Congress. At a campaign rally Cullen approaches Donovan, his former friend, and tries to justify his anti-war actions. But the conversation quickly turns to shouting and becomes a fist-fight. The following morning, after McCain has returned from Cullen’s home, Donovan is found brutally murdered. Cullen is located not long afterwards asleep in his car, and evidence in his car immediately makes Cullen the prime suspect in Donovan’s murder.

McCain is convinced of Cullen’s innocence, but must find proof. So he investigates the murder and finds more than one person with good reason for wanting Donovan dead.

McCain’s first-person narration once again drives the story. And fans of the series will be pleased to find that neither passing time nor his recent brush with death has mellowed McCain. He’s still the same caustic but insightful observer of his hometown population and has lost none of his determination to see the investigation to its conclusive resolution.

Along the way Gorman again effectively captures the ambience of the period through many unobtrusive references to popular songs, books, movies, TV shows and even the clothing styles of the time. But the War and the way it made adversaries out of long-time friends is also part of this ambience. While McCain’s personal distaste for the Vietnam War and the politicians responsible for it is never less than subtle, he keeps his personal feelings to himself and remains objective as he searches for the killer.

What’s most impressive, however, is the remarkable economy of Gorman’s prose. In just under 200 pages (at least half the length of most recent crime novels) Gorman accurately captures all the nuances, emotions and essential back-stories of every character involved. In many instances, only a few sentences are needed to provide the reader all that is needed in order to know a character and thereby carry the narrative forward and keep the reader guessing the identity of the murderer.

Rumor has it that this is the final entry in Gorman’s song-titled series of Sam McCain mysteries. If so, Gorman concludes the series with one of its strongest, most politically charged stories, while reminding us of the joy of reading a well-written, intricately-plotted murder mystery.

Not many authors can pull off such a feat, but one as skilled and experienced as Ed Gorman certainly can. —Alan Cranis

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