Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption
By Robert Fate
Capital Crime Press - Fiction/Crime
"I'm making a pot of coffee," he said, and fired up a Lucky.
I had already gone over to the hook board and gotten some car keys.
My partner was focused. "That's what I hate about travel. You can never get a decent cuppa joe."
The cleaning lady had come while we were gone. She'd left a window cracked and the old floor fan running. As a result, the place was close to odorless. But it hardly mattered. Otis started manufacturing odors as fast as he could.
"It's never about money with us, Mister Millett. However, there is something included in an estate sale that has come to my attention. From the library, a six-volume set on modern architecture. If I show interest, the price will skyrocket."
Sidecar Sanchez had one business: making book, and one passion: architecture.
"Books?" Otis said.
"I've seen them," I said to Otis. "They're at C. Bell's Rare Books. They're first edition, very nice condition."
At that moment I learned what was meant by a pregnant pause. Sidecar, Otis and R.J. all stared at me. I returned the bookie's gaze.
Reggie 'Sidecar' Sanchez's first words to me: "And you would know about this for what reason?"
"She reads everything," Otis said, as a matter of fact.
"Respectfully . . . she can speak for herself," Sidecar said.
Now it was my partner's turn to be ignored.
"Well, I said, "I've grown tired of these hyperbolic paraboloids and worse that are sprouting up all over the place in the name of architecture. It's rather pleasant to see good photography of the important structures. I guess that's the reason."
There was a pause, and then Sidecar smiled, shook his head and spoke to the heavens, "In snakeskin boots, no less."
Buford was trouble looking for someplace to happen.
I could go on quoting all day because, frankly, I loved this book. So, Me and I had a conversation about it.
Me: What's Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption about?
I: Two private investigators -- Otis Millett and Kristin Van Dijk (aka "Baby Shark") -- are sent to fetch the girlfriend of an outlaw named Travis Horner from Oklahoma but end up getting chased by killers throughout southern Oklahoma and northern Texas But why? What is it about Savannah Smike that makes her worth killing everyone around her? Otis and Kristin must untangle the mystery before it's too late.
Me: Why do you express such deliberate and dramatic affection for this book, a crime novel, no less. Aren't you prone to nightmares?
I: Unfair. One-question rule. First answer is that the book had, in my opinion, the feel of a Dashiell Hammett novel and I adore Hammett. The writing is direct and fast-paced, the action perfect and the dialogue believable. Second answer: Yes, I'm prone to nightmares and this is a bloody book. But, it's not gory to the point of nightmares, at least in my opinion. There's never any deliberate focus on the nastiness of the situations. It's mean and tense, but it's not disgusting.
Instead, the story is really about two tough private investigators solving a baffling mystery and forced to defend themselves from some very violent criminals. Both Kristin and Otis are dangerous but tender. Plus, it's not surprising that I loved the setting (mid-Texas to the Texas panhandle and southern Oklahoma) and the fact that the bootlegger and I share a last name. For those who aren't aware, Oklahoma is "home" to the husband and self and we both have relatives in Texas.
Me: This is the third book in a series. Did that cause you any trouble with the reading, since you've missed the first two?
I: Nope. There were moments that Kristin reflected on her past and I knew for sure that I was going to have to go back to read the first two (because I want to, since I enjoyed the book so much . . . not because I needed to fill in the blanks to understand). Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption stands alone well.
Me: What did you think of the characters?
I: The characters are all well-defined. Either you love them or you hate them, and that's how it's meant to be. I liked Kristin and Otis from the get-go.
Me: You forgot to mention the time period. What did you think of the time period and how did it effect the tone of the novel?
I: The story takes place in 1957 -- and Baby Shark and Otis work out of an office in Fort Worth, Texas. I think the time period lends itself well to this kind of story and I think my father-in-law, who lived in Fort Worth during that time, would agree that parts of Fort Worth were pretty rough. It seems like a natural setting for bad guys with guns.
Me: How did you get your mitts on this one?
I: The author sent it to me, at my request. Actually, I thought it was a mistake -- that I had requested a different book. But, I told him I'd be glad to read and review because I read a wide variety.
Me: And, the result was?
I: One of the best reads of 2008. It was gritty, exciting, a terrific way to shake up the reading.
Me: Was there anything at all that you disliked about the book?
I: Can't think of a thing.
Me: To whom would you recommend Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption?
I: Anyone who likes hard-boiled private eye novels, pulp fiction, mystery, action, adventure, Oklahoma and Texas as a setting. It's violent and bloody, but there's only a minor amount of language and a couple of references to sex -- no graphic sex scenes. The author also has a great sense of humor. I keep forgetting to say that.
Me: How many pairs of socks does it take to keep your toes warm when it's 57 degrees outside?
I: Two. I've heard you always ask weird questions toward the end of self-interviews.
Me: It's in my nature. Tell your friends and relatives this series would make a great Christmas gift for the crime-fiction loving people in your life.
I: What Me said.
Me: That just sounds ridiculous.
I: I know. Can I go eat supper, now?
Me: Yes, you may. The interview is over. Have a nice day, everyone!