Good day, book people, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day for those of you celebrating. I’ll be celebrating by reading, what can I say, I’m a self-professed book diva! Although I love reading, I am not an expert in differentiating between all of the different genres and subgenres in fiction. I’m still learning about the fundamental differences between mysteries, suspense, police procedurals, cozies, noir, hard-boiled fiction, and more. I’m pleased to welcome today’s guest, Jim Nesbitt, author of the Ed Earl Burch novels, including the latest addition, The Dead Certain Doubt. Mr. Nesbitt will be sharing his thoughts on hard-boiled detective fiction with us today. I’m eager to learn more about this crime fiction genre. So sit back, grab your favorite beverage of choice, and let’s learn a bit more about hard-boiled fiction. Thank you, Mr. Nesbitt, for joining us today. The blog is now all yours.
I’ve always thought of hard-boiled detective fiction as an American art form.
At their finest, these crime stories are far more than a lone figure trying to unravel a mystery — they’re commentaries on politics, culture, music, the uneasy relationship between men and women, and the bottomless depravity and cruelty of human nature.
All within service of the story, of course. But done right, these aren’t mere asides. They’re markers that reveal a character’s likes, dislikes, obsessions, and motivations, adding depth to the portrait started by dialogue and action with other characters.
The best of the breed also creates a keen sense of time and place. Too many authors pay little attention to setting, either waxing poetic about landscape with no real purpose in mind or spinning one-dimensional descriptions that have all the depth of a scenery flat at the local playhouse. The best spins a setting so vivid and real that it becomes a character unto itself that shapes the human characters as they move across and react to it. Again, adding more depth.
Sometimes, a writer draws such an enduring image of place that they become indelibly linked to it. Think Raymond Chandler and Los Angeles. Or John D. MacDonald and small-town Florida, a grifter’s paradise.
As a journalist, I spent a lot of time chasing stories on the Texas-Mexico border and fell in love with the harsh, stark, and craggy beauty of West Texas, its desert flatlands and its colliding mountains. It is a land that can be both grim and awe-inspiring. I found it to be the perfect setting for the violent tales of revenge and redemption I was trying to tell in my Ed Earl Burch hard-boiled crime thrillers.
Here’s a short example from my third Ed Earl novel, The Best Lousy Choice:
He almost died in this stark and primal country and he still had
those demons lurking in their rocky holes. But as he drove north, he was a hunter unafraid, a cop working his bloody trade and drawn to the grim beauty of these unforgiving mountains and the way they clashed and collided — the Rockies slicing in from the northwest, vestiges of the Ozarks creeping in from the northeast and the Sierra del Carmens knifing out of the southwest and Mexico.
It was as if the gods, ancient, angry and always thirsty for blood, had ripped open the flesh of the earth and exposed its bones. It was savage country, inhabited by spirits more terrible than the demons of his nightmares.
It was a place where those demons couldn’t hide. If they arose, they’d be out and exposed in the burning sun where Burch could see them — in the blinding light, their hold on him broken by the harsh glare of the land itself. If he lived here, he wouldn’t need the whiskey salvation and the half-a-Percodan sacrament.
At the center of these books is a lone wolf who relies on brains, brawn, and a threadbare code in grim pursuit of answers that may not lead to anything resembling justice. That’s the kind of story I set out to tell in my hard-boiled crime thrillers. And the type of character I created in Ed Earl Burch.
I wanted Burch to be deeply flawed — tough, profane, reckless, and just smart enough, but angst-driven and battered by life. A guy who sometimes forgets the code he lives by until the chips are down. He isn’t super sharp like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe — he’s dogged rather than brilliant. And he isn’t super cool like Frank Bullitt. He’s Columbo without the caricature — and he makes people pay for underestimating him.
I’ll let you judge whether I hit the mark in my latest book, The Dead Certain Doubt. Thanks for taking a quick hop around my block and letting me yack a bit about why I write hard-boiled crime thrillers that feature an ornery good ol’ boy who is, in the words of one reviewer, “nobody’s hero, nobody’s fool.” ♦
The Dead Certain Doubt: An Ed Earl Burch Novel
by Jim Nesbitt
March 13 – April 7, 2023 Virtual Book Tour
Revenge, Guilt, Redemption & Gunsmoke
When Doubt Is Your Only Friend
Ed Earl Burch, a cashiered Dallas murder cop, is a private detective facing the relentless onslaught of age, bad choices, guilt and regret. Smart, tough, profane and reckless, he’s a survivor who relies on his own guts and savvy and expects no help or salvation from anybody.
But he’s also a man who longs for the sense of higher calling he felt when he carried a homicide detective’s gold shield. He seeks redemption and a chance to make amends to a dying old woman he abandoned decades ago when she needed him most.
When he sees her again, she has the same request — save her granddaughter from the vicious outlaws on her trail and bring her home for a final goodbye. Easier said than done because the granddaughter is a hardened hustler and gunrunner, hellbent on avenging a lover who got chopped up and stuffed into a barbecue smoker by cartel gunsels and a rival smuggler.
To fulfill the old woman’s last request, Burch heads back to the borderlands of West Texas on a mercy mission that plunges him into a violent world of smugglers, cartel killers, crooked lawmen, Bible-thumping hucksters, anti-government extremists and an old nemesis who wants to see him dead.
The odds are long and Burch has his doubts — about himself, the granddaughter, old friends and the elusive nature of grace from guilt. Truth be told, doubt is the only thing he’s dead certain of.
Grace Or A Desert Grave?
Genre: Hard-Boiled Crime Thriller
Published by: Spotted Mule Press
Publication Date: February 28, 2023
Number of Pages: 306
ISBN: 9780998329451 (Paperback)
ASIN: B0BX4NBF4J (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Bookshop.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com
Praise for The Dead Certain Doubt:
“Gritty and tough with enough despicable West Texas hombres to fill a tour bus.”
—Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron mysteries
“Rough days and harsh nights seem like paradise before it’s all over….”
—Rod Davis, author of the Southern noir novels, South, America and East of Texas, West of Hell
“A no-holds-barred mission of revenge, redemption and righting wrong from the past….”
—R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson mysteries
“The pace is swift, the action is raw and the characters are intense and visual.”
—Carmen Amato, author of the Emilia Cruz and Galliano Club mystery series
“Ed Earl Burch will guide you through the last arroyo with wit, truly memorable dialogue and locations you’d like to visit…with a gun.”
—John William Davis, author of Rainy Street Stories and Around the Corner
“The Dead Certain Doubt is a thrilling, lightning-paced, ferocious crime novel. Highly recommended!”
—Rich Zahradnik, author of The Bone Records and Lights Out Summer, winner of the 2018 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Private Eye Novel
Jim Nesbitt is the award-winning author of four hard-boiled Texas crime thrillers that feature battered but relentless Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch — The Last Second Chance, a Silver Falchion finalist; The Right Wrong Number, an Underground Book Reviews “Top Pick”; and, his latest, The Best Lousy Choice, winner of the best crime fiction category of the 2020 Independent Press Book Awards, the 2020 Silver Falchion award for best action and adventure novel from the Killer Nashville crime fiction conference and bronze medal winner in the best mystery/thriller e-book category of the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. His latest book is The Dead Certain Doubt, which was released in early March. Nesbitt was a journalist for more than 30 years, serving as a reporter, editor, and roving national correspondent for newspapers and wire services in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. He chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, migrant field hands, neo-Nazis, and nuns with an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the voice of the people who give life to a story. His stories have appeared in newspapers across the country and in magazines such as Cigar Aficionado and American Cowboy. He is a lapsed horseman, pilot, hunter, and saloon sport with a keen appreciation for old guns, vintage cars and trucks, good cigars, aged whiskey, and a well-told story. Nesbitt regularly reviews crime fiction and history on his blog, The Spotted Mule, and his author website, as well as on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads. He now lives in Athens, Alabama.
To learn more, visit him at:
BookBub – @edearl56
Facebook – @edearlburchbooks
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