The second in my Nick Drake series, The Pity Heart, was launched less than a month ago, and I’m humbled and honored by the attention it’s getting from readers. Richard B. Schwartz, an author and academic (he’s a Professor of English at the University of Missouri), and a Top 500 Reviewer at Amazon, views crime fiction through a literary and philosophical lens. Here are his thoughts.
Every fall, 25 million birds migrate through Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon. It’s a wonder to behold, an amazing display of nature’s beauty, power and grace in a starkly spectacular corner of the world. It’s also the location for my new Nick Drake novel, “The Pity Heart.”
Set in 1968 and picking up from where “The Sorrow Hand” left off, Nick Drake is a troubled Vietnam War veteran seeking redemption as a game warden in a quiet land. But when a fighter pilot from a nearby Air Force base mysteriously plummets onto one of his refuges, he is plunged into a deadly showdown with the military. A vexing mystery involving multiple murders ensues, and Nick must turn to the old ways of his Paiute neighbors to hunt for a vicious killer and bring justice to the pitiless high desert.
Early reviews are already awarding “The Pity Heart” Five Stars. Here’s what readers are saying:
★★★★★ Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.
★★★★★ Beautifully written and pulls you right in.
★★★★★ Vivid, realistic and engaging.
★★★★★ Nick Drake is the Real Deal.
★★★★★ If you like C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett, you will love Nick Drake.
Read the reviews for yourself at “The Pity Heart.”
My Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) team is coming through big time as I switch gears from my Jack McCoul series and introduce a new hero in a new thriller, The Sorrow Hand, set to release July 31. Their comments and insights have been invaluable as I shaped the story and now finalize the manuscript. For me, writing is a collaboration with my readers. To quote John Cheever, “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.” A heartfelt Thank You to the entire ARC Team! I’ve included some of their comments below. Frankly, I’m humbled.
The Sorrow Hand is a contemporary western thriller set in Harney County, Oregon in 1968. Nick Drake returns from Vietnam a war hero. He has a chest full of medals and enough demons to fill a duffle bag. He’s been trained to kill, but never retrained to rejoin society. Drake flees to the lonesome high desert in search of redemption. He takes a job as a backcountry ranger where the only conflicts are supposed to be keeping cattle from straying into a remote wildlife refuge. But then he stumbles across a girl’s body ritually placed in a gully. Her murder is only the beginning, and Drake must face humanity’s heart of darkness once again if he’s to stop a killer from turning more gullies into graves.
The ARC Team tells me it will fit right alongside Craig Johnson, C.J. Box, and Nevada Barr. Here’s what they’re saying:
- “Nick Drake is wonderfully complex. His backstory in Vietnam is beautifully (and horrifically) described.”
- “Got it on Friday and finished it on Saturday. An amazing read.”
- “I’m a huge fan of contemporary westerns married with a mystery. This nails it.”
- “Smart, thrilling, beautifully written, and action-packed.”
- “I absolutely loved the Native American language and myths.”
- “The prose crackles.”
- “The descriptions of the natural surroundings—the land, plants, and animals—put me right there. I could touch, smell, and hear it.”
Look for it!
Kirkus Reviews certainly got it when critiquing my new collection of short fiction OVER OUR HEADS UNDER OUR FEET. Here’s what they wrote:
“A collection of short stories explores a variety of life choices.”
“The titular story of Holing’s (Shake City, 2017, etc.) latest compendium sees a man with early onset dementia immerse himself in the seething vitality of the Serengeti. There develops an uneasy to-and-fro between his knowledge of what awaits him and his memories of married life both blissful yet incomplete, the upshot being that fear gives way to wonder. This, in essence, is the theme of the collection: 10 tales working together to caution readers to make decisions now that will bring contentment when looked back on later in life. This notion comes to the fore particularly in stories of place, such as “Between Wind and Water” and “Yellow Dog.” In the former, a peripatetic, work-obsessed engineer is posted to Hawaii, where the laid-back lifestyle gives pause to his windswept urgency. In the latter, a young woman breaks off her relationship and casts off conventional notions of happiness, forging a new life in vibrant, colorful Mexico. Holing is adroit at hinting at possibilities: nuances of what might or might not happen. These aren’t always resolved—readers expecting twist endings and emotional jolts will be disappointed—but even vignettes such as the forlorn fisherman’s tale “Fish Rap,” the bittersweet carjacking story “The Things You Leave Behind,” and the geologist’s contemplative daydream “When Mountains Melt” deftly add to the overall sense of longing. “Natural Selection,” set in a zoo, pits animal instinct against morality, whereas “Thief in the Night” invokes the cutthroat world of Silicon Valley to suggest that people should stay true to their natures. “Desperados” contrasts modern transience with bucolic ranch life and the capricious wiles of the California Gold Rush. “The Test” examines the desperation and sadness of Chinese adoption. In all these wistful stories, Holing allows room for characterization, often skipping back in time to show aspects of the protagonist’s past. The pacing in most cases is gentle, with the prose an easy mixture of narrative and description. For readers of a particular age who have made and regretted certain decisions in life, Holing’s thoughtful, melancholic writing should sit nicely.”
“Yearning rather than bemoaning; a poignant and altogether agreeable sequence of tales.”
Short fiction is baked into my DNA. My grandfather and namesake, Dwight Mitchell Wiley, wrote regularly for the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, and other weekly magazines back when short stories and serials were as eagerly awaited as a binge-worthy TV series being streamed today. I’ve published stories in leading literary journals, won some awards along the way, and now have a new collection for readers to enjoy. It’s called Over Our Heads Under Our Feet. It’s available in print and ebook.
This collection moves from the poignant to the humorous and back again as I take readers on journeys to the wilderness of love where people must reconcile desire and reality. I travel terrains from the exotic to the familiar — from the wilds of Africa where a couple must contend with an unspoken truth to a woman fighting for a child in an orphanage to a wind farmer falling under the spell of an island’s magic. All explore the territory in our heart where the human spirit dwells while marveling at the natural world’s ability to nourish our soul.
I hope you like them.
Greetings from San Francisco. Now, the only thing better than a double espresso to open your eyes in the morning is to find a review like this one that Richard B. Schwartz, a Top 500 Amazon Reviewer, gave my latest Jack McCoul Caper Shake City. As the old coffee jingle goes, “Good to the last drop!”
Top customer reviews
SHAKE CITY is the fourth novel in the Jack McCoul series. Jack lives in the Mission district of San Francisco. A former con man, Jack has gone straight. He is married, has two children and a best friend. He also has an ongoing semi-antagonist in police lieutenant Terry Dolan. Terry still carries a torch for Jack’s wife and enters and exits the narratives, sometimes bringing caustic comments, sometimes bringing actual help.
In SHAKE CITY Jack is a congenial landlord to a stripper enrolled in the local community college, doing her best to become a successful American citizen. He befriends another neighbor, a Syrian who operates a shoe store and has some hidden abilities that come into play at the precise moment when they are particularly needed. An additional neighbor who makes payday loans and ships immigrants’ money back to Mexico is murdered. It quickly becomes clear that a developer is trying to make a move on Jack’s street, squeezing and intimidating tenants, raising rents and, in general, trying to acquire the entire set of parcels for a lucrative project. In short, the novel’s subject is the city itself in changing economic times, with abused immigrants, vast discrepancies in wealth (the Silicon Valley types remain a shadowy but real presence throughout the story) and a continuing set of earthquakes (rising to the 5’s on the Richter scale) that give the book its title and offer a physical metaphor for the economic realities rippling through the city.
When Jack’s friend/spiritual brother Hark is framed for murder Jack springs into action to save him. Fortunately, he is able to enlist the city’s top defense lawyer, Cicero Broadshank, on Hark’s behalf. (Cicero loves a nice slab of prime rib and has one of the best tag names since Henry James’s triple tag-named Fanny Assingham.)
The result is a lively, engaging narrative of brothers in arms, coupled with a paean to the city itself, complete with a memorable trip to a Giants’ game. I love the characters—all of the aforementioned plus Wonder Boy, the stuttering savant/informant/bartender who knows everything that is going on in the city at any moment. This is not an ensemble cast as in, e.g., the Andrew Vachss Burke novels, but a charming assemblage of individuals in Jack McCoul’s fascinating orbit.
I recommend all of the McCoul novels. SHAKE CITY is a fitting addition to the series.
Thanks for the encouraging words for my newest Jack McCoul Caper, SHAKE CITY. Here’s what readers are saying:
In this fourth book in the series, McCoul, who has finally gone legit (or so it seems), settled down, and started to raise a family, soon finds out that there is no escaping his past when two murders and the arrest of his friend have him right back in the thick of things. And, as McCoul has proven before, it will take his street smarts and con-man savvy to make everything right again.
Holing is brilliant again, as he pits McCoul against the corrupt real estate developer and a few heavies along with his old nemesis Terry Dolan who always seems to keep McCoul from going too far astray. What I have enjoyed most about the books in this series is Holing’s style of writing which is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett with the way he portrays McCoul and the snappy one-liners that he throws around. Another thing that I have enjoyed is Holing’s obvious love for San Francisco and how the city, especially in this book, becomes one of the characters. It’s a real treat to follow McCoul around the city and all the haunts and landmarks he visits. The City of San Francisco ought to have a Dwight Holing/Jack McCoul day for the way Holing’s love for the city comes through and the tourist attractions he promotes.
This is a riveting and real page-turner of a book with plenty of twists and turns to keep you riveted until the very end. I hope Holing has a more few stories to tell about Jack, Hark, Wonder Boy, Cicero Broadshank, and others!
Baby Blue, the latest installment in the popular neo-noir Jack McCoul Caper series, is being offered as a featured Choosy Bookworm read-and-review selection. Click here to grab a free copy now.
Amazon Verified Purchase Five Star reviews call it “A Real Page-Turner!” “Brilliantly Authentic Conman Caper.” “Creative, Original with Memorable Characters.” “A Great Series.”
See for yourself. Limited Time Only to get a free copy: Click now.
Check out my interview with Deborah Kalb, a popular blogger who covers the literary world.