Artemus Black. Perennially down-on-his-luck Hollywood PI whose Bogie fixation is as dated as his wardrobe. With an assistant who mocks him relentlessly, an obese cat that loathes him, a romantic life that's deader than Elvis, money problems, booze, nicotine, and anger management issues, how much worse can it get? When he takes a case that's supposed to be easy money working for a celebrity whose colleagues and surrounding paparazzi are dropping faster than interest in the star's big comeback, the cakewalk turns ugly and Black finds himself in a web of deceit, betrayal, and murder - and bad hair days.
The first in a new series from bestselling author Russell Blake, Black is a detective mystery with a difference that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy.
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Q&A with Russell Blake
Q: Why delve into detective mystery? You’re an action/adventure thriller author.
RB: I’ve always loved books by authors like Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard and Raymond Chandler. The resolute PI up against crime, danger, and beautiful dames. I got this idea about six months ago for a Hollywood PI who’s down on his luck, barely hanging on, dealing with personal issues, tormented by everyone around him...but all of it colored with a really dark sense of humor. I wanted a kind of black cynicism that scathingly comments on the show biz lifestyle, a la Get Shorty, but fresh – something that hadn’t been done before. So I gave it whirl, and enjoyed the characters and the plotting so much that I’ve written the second in the series already, and am finishing the third.
Q: Tell us about Black. What makes him tick?
RB: He’s kind of a loser. He’s got anger management issues he’s in therapy for, but it’s questionable how well that’s going. His therapist is a hack, and somewhat mean spirited, so that’s not helping. He got screwed over by his young wife back in the day when they were both in a band that went huge – only Black got into a bar fight the week before the beginning of the big tour and broke his hand, so they replaced him. And then his wife had an affair with the attorney who wound up handling the divorce, as well as doing him out of most of his royalties. So he’s a bitter guy. A string of loser entrepreneurial disasters left him struggling, and a PI as a last resort career. Watching a character like that go through the day, where the world is against him, is just...funny. In kind of an evil way. Those with a similar sense of humor to mine will find it a hoot. Others will probably think I’ve lost my mind. They’re probably both right, but that’s a different story...
Q: Give us some background about the supporting cast.
RB: Let’s see. We have Roxie, who is the assistant from hell. She's extremely dry and deadpan, and she gives Black unending crap whenever she can. She’s hot, a singer in an art rock band, about 17 years younger than him w/full-sleeve tats, and delights in tormenting him about everything from his vices to his wardrobe. There’s Mugsy, who’s an obese stray cat that adopted Black, and who barely tolerates him – but loves Roxie. Black’s parents, who are filthy rich throwbacks to the sixties whose harebrained business enterprises wound up making them ten fortunes while Black scratches out a living, recur in each book. They’re all about peace and love and positive energy and the Summer of Love, and drive him batty – and further enrage him with their success, which he views as a personal sleight from a universe that hates him. His LAPD detective buddy, Stan, is even more cynical and bitter than he is, and their interactions are some of my favorite bits in the books. And of course, there’s a cast of characters that could only happen in L.A., which seasons the whole story in a way that’s distinct to the place.
Q: What's next? More BLACK books?
RB: You betcha. I foresee a bunch of them. I've never had this much fun with characters in my life, so expect to see more where that came from...