Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Darker than Parker

Mike Knowles, author of four novels about a criminal mercenary and off-the-books investigator named Wilson, told an interviewer  a few years ago that
"For a while, I had been noticing that most popular crime fiction was starting to narrow its focus. There were a lot of do gooder reporters, police procedurals, and smart talking private eyes. What there weren’t enough of were the mean, pulpy, hard-boiled crime novels I read as a kid. I set out to write the kind of book it was getting harder to find."
I've just found his books, and I can tell you that the action never stops. Wilson is always in motion: on the job, evading pursuers, recovering from injuries, planning his next move.  He's a bit like Mike Hammer but without the hyperventilating political rants. He's darker than Richard Stark's Parker, as if Parker had descended a circle or two into the world where Andrew Vachss' Burke lives. And he and his creator are Canadian! I'm proud that my polite, self-effacing native land has given the world such dark, action-filled crime writing.

I've read Darwin's Nightmare and a good piece of Grinder. In Plain Sight is up next, and Never Play Another Man's Game is out this spring. If you can wait until May, Knowles's publisher, ECW, will release an omnibus edition containing the first three books.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Blogger adrian mckinty said...


Read Darwin's nightmare and liked it a lot. Will probably get to Grinder eventually.

January 24, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The book is worth discussing. Wilson is probably harder-ass than Parker but may be a more sympathetic (and empathetic) character at the same time.

The Parker comparison is apt; Knowles himself acknowledges Parker's influence.

I'm guessing that you found out about Mike Knowles from John McFetridge. That's how I did.

January 24, 2012  
Blogger May said...

So you're saying a very different Canadian than Shrier's Jonah Geller...
I added that to my 'to read list' way back when you first recommended it, and finally had a chance to read it recently.

January 25, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, Jonah Geller is pretty hard-ass, too. He kills a man when he has to, after all. But he's not like Wilson. Look at the one-named crime protagonists: Wilson. Parker. Burke. If a character has one name, he's ultra-tough.

January 25, 2012  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

He's bound to attract some readers via that interview quote alone.

January 25, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps you'll be one of them. Yes, that excerpt gets right to the point, doesn't it?

I'm not quite the Mike Hammer fan that Knowles is, but I like a lot of the authors he mentions and will now consider some of those he mentions that I haven't read.

So, what are Knowles' books like? Violent, but not tittilatingly or mindlessly so. When Wilson is the victim, the violence hurts, and when he deals out violence, it seems like the only plausible thing to do. The books are full of action, but they also have a mind and a heart.

And now I'll go read more.

January 25, 2012  

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