Talking with fans of detective fiction, you tend to hear the same authors come up a lot, so it is a real pleasure to introduce readers to great crime novelists who are less well known, such as Gar Anthony Haywood.
Hawyood’a Fear of the Dark won a Shamus Award in 1989 for best first private eye novel, introducing characters to Aaron Gunner, a Black private eye who investigates crimes in Los Angeles neighborhoods avoided by the likes of Phillip Marlowe and Harry Bosch. Tracking down the white supremacist killer of a Black activist, Gunner finds himself implicated in the bigot’s death, in a case simmering with racial the tensions that were soon to erupt on the streets of South Central.
Haywood also wrote a pair of farcical mysteries featuring the retired couple Joe and Dottie Loudermilk, travelling the country in their airstream trailer, and a pair of excellent darkly funny thrillers in the vein of Elmore Leonard – Man Eater and Firecracker – under the pen name Ray Shannon. The there’s standalone Cemetery Road, in which Errol “Handy” White returns to South Central Los Angeles to find out who killed his old friend R.J., and if the murder was connected to a terrible crime that the pair of them and a third friend had pulled back in the day. This great dark thriller is a fine introduction to Haywood’s work, as is his latest thriller, Assume Nothing. Miami cop Joe Reddick’s wife and child were murdered. Struggling to put this devastating event behind him, he relocates to Los Angeles and eventually remarries and has a son, although his demons still haunt him and wreak havoc with his life. Then some baddies looking to put the scare into Reddick threaten his family, and the demons take over. Revenge never felt so good.
“Assume Nothing” would make a fitting motto for Hawyood’s diverse output (he’s also a graphic designer), a sheer inventiveness that may work against his notoriety in a field dominated by authors known for series featuring a single hero or duo. But no matter what kind of a mystery reader you are, there’s a Haywood for you.