Some reviews for
Mad Dog Barked
"...all the slam-bang anyone might want."
Rick Ollerman's latest, MAD DOG BARKED, starts out like a typical detective novel. Before long, however, the Stark House Press release becomes something way beyond typical. Truth is, Ollerman has somewhat redefined the detective novel for contemporary crime fiction readers, and gives us a complex and intriguing story at the same time.
Scott Porter owns and operates a detective agency in Sarasota, Florida, that specializes in criminal court cases. One morning a man names Edwin Morton Holmes appears at the agency carrying what looks like a rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE.
Inside the book is a letter full of disorienting notes. Holmes feels his possession of the letter threatens his life, and immediately writes a check for a huge amount to hire Porter. When Porter asks Holmes what he expects, Holmes answers, "Let your conscience be your guide," and then hastily departs.
It's obviously a case with little to go on, so Porter and his fellow detectives start by checking Holmes's background, along with the providence of that rare edition of Poe. At the same time Porter tries to make sense of the strange letter and the various names it contains. Then members of Holmes's personal staff disappear or show up dead.
Porter's investigation takes him east to Providence, Rhode Island, where Holmes lives. But the more questions Porter asks, the more complicated and confusing the case becomes. Eventually the FBI appears wanting to know what Porter is up to, and how much he knows about the strange letter. At the same time Porter finds his life, and the life of his closet agency associate, Trudy, are in danger.
The fact that Ollerman has Porter running a detective agency is a departure from the traditional lonely, single-desk office that most fictional private investigators occupy. So while Porter devotes his time looking into the Holmes case, his other detectives carry on with their divorce, missing persons and other seemingly mundane assignments. Porter tries to keep up to date with his other agents until he finds that he must use them to help solve the Holmes mystery.
Porter relays the story through his first-person narration. But here again Ollerman breaks from tradition by having Porter relay events happening simultaneously or in other locations that were later reported to him and, as a result, to the reader as well. It's a treacherous structure that threatens to confuse the reader. Fortunately Ollerman has mastered the technique and keeps the events flowing without puzzlement.
Porter may not be the cynical, hard-boiled loner featured in much of mystery fiction, but he nonetheless keeps a sarcastic eye on himself and those around him. He's no angel either: while married for several years he carries on a flirtatious - and not altogether hidden - desire for his lovely, and also very much married associate, Trudy.
Luckily breaking with tradition is not the sole purpose of the novel. And while the questions and complications surrounding the case pile up, Ollerman keeps us involved thanks to his cast of credible characters, his sharp and effective eye for the various settings, and mostly through the engaging but probing prose voice of his protagonist Porter.
Ollerman previously brought noir crime fiction into the contemporary world, and now works the same magic for detective fiction. But it's not until way past the novel's resolution that you realize how much Ollerman has departed with much of the conventional trappings of detective fiction.
Not every author can break so many traditions and still be entraining. This is reason enough why Ollerman belongs on the list of contemporary crime fiction authors fans should seek out and enjoy. -Alan Cranis
BILL CRIDER'S POP CULTURE MAGAZINE
Rick Ollerman just keeps on getting better. Mad Dog Barked is a Florida private-eye novel, but it's not about a lone wolf. Scott Porter has small agency that employs several operatives, and they all get into the action when a client walks in with a first edition of a book by Edgar Allan Poe.
I thought immediately that this was going to be a biblio-mystery, but I was wrong. It becomes clear that the story's not about the book. It's about the note that's enclosed in the book. Before long the client's secretary and the client himself are dead and very bad people want that note. Porter believes that because his client has paid him a huge sum of money, he still has an obligation, so he protects the note and continues to pursue the case, which becomes more and more complex.
Things are further complicated by the fact that Porter is in love with one of his employees, Trudy, who's married to a cop. Trudy is also in love with Porter. As I said, it's complicated.
Another famous P.I., Race Williams, once said, "My ethics are my own. I'm not saying they're good and I'm not admitting they're bad, and what's more I'm not interested in the opinions of others on that subject." I think Scott Porter could say exactly the same thing. You might not agree with all his choices, but you'll understand them.
Ollerman doesn't neglect the secondary characters, either. He has plenty of material here if he wants to continue writing about Porter and his agency. This is going to be a strong contender for a Shamus, I'll bet. The book's not due until September (but you can order it now), so you heard it here first.
From CHARLIE STELLA,
author of TOMMY RED
Mad Dog Barked, by Rick Ollerman … There's a lot going on in this baby, including protagonist Scott Porter's being the owner/boss of his private-eye business and having more than a crush on one of his operators (Trudy) … one problem with that relationship is Trudy's husband, a cop who doesn't do right by his beautiful and very smart wife, but he does provide the occasional service for the agency to stay in his wife's good graces.
Problems evolve and keep the thriller ball rolling when a client comes in, lays down a fat check, and then hands an original Edgar Allen Poe book with a handwritten letter inside that reads like jazz scat. Then the client takes off and winds up dead. So does his personal secretary, a guy watching his house (his head gets caved in) … and so the carousel of thrills and dangerous liaisons begins. There's a hitman from up New England way, a guy working for the mob up there named Gallo. He's after the letter more than the book, and he's willing to kill for it. There's also an employee or two who aren't as dedicated as Porter is to his work (or theirs). Deals are made, people die, and then enter the FBI. There's a touch of the Whitey Bulger story that comes with the FBI and although Porter could just hand over the letter and walk away from everything, paid in full, he's one of those types who doesn't like to skim on a job.
There's a lot of action between the very clever dialogue and it flows fast and furious as we speed toward a major confrontation.
Ollerman has the goods and this one could make a few best-of lists, including some award nominations, if the cards are dealt fair and square.
Mad Dog Barked is a clever ride of a thriller that will keep you reading start to finish. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
NOIR JOURNAL by Kristofer Upjohn
This Bark Has Bite!
Look. I know this is bold and hyperbolic but maybe not so much of an exaggeration. At this point in my reading experience, if I ever get a hard-on going for some noir or hard-boiled fic, then I need look no further (and probably won't) than Stark House. Between the bottomless treasure trove of forgotten but brilliant crime fiction from pulps past and the sharp-edged modern noir of Rick Ollerman, Stark House has the most badass hard-boiled catalog out there. I could literally - and I mean literally - randomly order any book, total blind buy, from this press, and I'd be GUARAN-FUCKING-TEED a solid, quality read.
I'm glad that SH is not only reviving classic noir that, while not as well-known, ranks among the best of the genre, but also giving voice to a contemporary talent in the field of hard-boiled crime.
MAD DOG BARKED is arguably Ollerman's best work to date. A today's P.I. finds himself buried up to his eyeballs in confounding and fatal shit when a strange richie-rich shows up with a first edition Poe and a mysterious, seemingly nonsensical note. Almost immediately, things go off the rails with the wealthy client vanishing from the scene, leaving gumshoe Scott Porter holding a nasty bag of ugly and deadly. Soon enough, baddies he's never heard of, let alone suspected were connected to the ponderous Poe mystery. Bodies, natch, start popping up. As if all this headache wasn't enough for one man, Porter has to deal with the dangerously friendly relationship with his (married) assistant at his P.I. company. To boot, his personnel prove unpredictable and before all is said and one, he's cops and criminals - and the FBI, too! - right up his ass.
Bad enough to have a case as deadly as it is big, but Scott doesn't even have a damned clue what the case even is.
Ollerman handles this substantial material swimmingly, telling a strong, tough, compelling and original crime yarn that locks your lapels in its fingers before your eyes get to the bottom of page one. Taut storytelling, lean and mean prose, rich characterization and cutting suspense combine to deliver a sucker punch as full of hard knuckles as anything the godfathers of noir wrote. Stack this one on the top shelf next to the other big boys. The pantheon grows. Thompson, Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Collins … and Ollerman.