Authors: Loren D. Estleman
Behind Door Number One …
I’d stood in front of all of them at one time or another—behind them, too, in the case of the ones with bars—never without butterflies in my stomach, like a kid on his first Halloween; wondering if this was the Door To End All Doors, the one that would burst into yellow splinters and let a bullet tear into an organ I held dear.
This one, ordinary pine with an oak stain, felt something like that.
I didn’t expect a bullet, really. Nothing so final and clear-cut. It was just a clammy mounting dread that came with the cold call, the blind search, the random shot, and the conviction that once I laid bone against wood, whatever I found on the other side would change the case, and probably my life. I’d listened to that warning whisper once already today and had walked away from it, surprising myself; only to keep my appointment in Samarra anyway when the cops sprang their trap.
So maybe the destiny people knew what they were talking about, and all this dithering was just a waste of my time and the client’s money.
Nice pep rally. Give me a W.
I knocked. It opened. I didn’t even duck.
“Estleman’s prose is as gritty and compelling as ever as he lets fly razor-sharp dialogue, brings the Motor City to life, and combines a whodunit plot with traditional noir action.”
Turn the page for more praise for
“Estleman delivers some outstanding stuff on the hazards of the profession, including a bone-chilling stakeout on a lonely lake in the dead of night, that could come only from an old pro.”
New York Times Book Review
“Loren D. Estleman is one of a handful of candidates for the title of true heir to Raymond Chandler and Ross Mac-Donald. He is a great ‘American Detective’ writer.”
—Max Allan Collins, author of
Road to Perdition
“Estleman turns Amos Walker loose in a plot and it’s pure private eye all the way. In a great tradition, the gumshoe with an attitude. No one does it better.”
“With sixty-something books to his name, I’d guess Loren D. Estleman had paid his dues, but I’d be surprised if he hadn’t been hitting them out of the ballpark from the start. In
his spare prose flows like the best of them, meaning, of course, Chandler at the top of his game. This is a book to enjoy a chapter at a time, with breaks to watch the play again in slo-mo in your mind before the next inning. Highly recommended.”
and Praise for Loren Estleman’s
“Portrait of a city by an old master. The chronically undervalued Estleman serves up what just might be the best novel about urban political corruption since Dashiell Hammett’s
The Glass Key
“Estleman masterfully creates a wide and diverse cast of characters, and sympathetically portrays their struggles to survive on the mean streets…. The author’s achievement will justly be compared with that of James Ellroy’s Los Angeles noir mysteries and John Gregory Dunne’s
. Admirers of unsparing crime fiction will hope that Estleman plans to visit Gas City again.”
“Each of the half-dozen plotlines is executed flawlessly and presented in a context of moral ambiguity in which every choice—whether self-serving or altruistic—has consequences both good and evil. A magnificent crime novel.”
“Estleman, in the leanest prose possible, brings to life not just his characters but the vices that fuel them and, in the process, exposes the gritty, ragged, sordid underbelly of urban life. He’s been called an heir to Chandler—and it’s easy to see why.
Roses Are Dead
Any Man’s Death
Motor City Blue
The Midnight Man
The Glass Highway
Every Brilliant Eye
Sweet Women Lie
The Hours of the Virgin
A Smile on the Face of the Tiger
City of Widows
The High Rocks
Aces & Eights
Journey of the Dead
The Rocky Mountain Moving Picture Association
The Master Executioner
Black Powder, White Smoke
Something Borrowed, Something Black
Little Black Dress
The Undertaker’s Wife
The Adventures of Johnny Vermillion
The Branch and the Scaffold
The Left-Handed Dollar
A Tom Doherty Associates Book
Loren D. Estleman
NOTE: If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
AMERICAN DETECTIVE: AN AMOS WALKER NOVEL
Copyright © 2007 by Loren D. Estleman
All rights reserved.
Edited by James Frenkel
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
First Edition: April 2007
First Mass Market Edition: December 2008
Printed in the United States of America
0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This book is dedicated to the memory of
Heaven needed the humor
he driveway was white stone, like a spill of salt between polished granite posts. A square of teal-colored lawn lay on either side, with furniture arranged on it in suites no decorator would approve: sectional sofas next to six-burner ranges, gold-plated bathroom fixtures among patio chairs carefully lichened with blobs of verdigris, stereo components deployed on top of plate-glass aquariums with no fish inside. A life-size statue of the property’s owner cast in bronze stood on a carved mound with one foot raised, winding up to pitch a baseball. With a realtor’s red-white-and-blue sign stuck in front of the quasi-neoclassical-Greco-Roman-Gothic-Art-Moderne house sprawled in the center of the lot, it was the most expensive yard sale since they put Soviet Russia on the block.
Small platoons of people, dressed casually and expensively but always appropriate to the blue eye of Lake St. Clair across the street, drifted from one set of objects to another, swigging from their personal bottles of water and commenting on the owner’s taste or lack of it. I’d thought to take a drink from the tap before I left home, and so wandered
empty-handed through spaces in between until I came to the statue. The baseball in the loose split-finger grip was real, common cowhide packed with horsehair and zipped up with thirty-three stitches, scuffed and dirty, with an illegible signature scrawled on it in indelible blue ink.
“Sculptor got it wrong,” said the person who had stepped up from behind me, quiet as dew. “I knuckleballed the last three pitches in that game. But it looked too good to complain.”
“That’s the actual ball?” I asked.
“The one and only.”
“Not so much as the ball. I turned down a quarter million for it five years ago. How many no-hitters you see pitched by a man past forty?”
I turned his way then. Darius Fuller at sixty looked fit enough to suit up and open for the Tigers that afternoon. He was tall and rangy, with gray eyes in a thoughtful brown face that seemed to look down at me from a mound he carried around with him. His hair was a silver haze mowed close to his skull, but aside from that he could pass for thirty, which was still old for a ballplayer, and ancient for a hurler. He’d hung up the glove after that no-hitter at age forty-two, at the end of his third best season since he’d graduated from reliever to starter. The sportswriters had called him “the Fuller Brush Man” for the way he swept aside the top of the order.