A Look At The 2017 Shamus Award Nominees

In case you missed it, few weeks ago The Private Eye Writers of America announced the nominees for the 2017 Shamus Awards for private eye novels and short stories first published in the United States in 2016.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, there will not be a Shamus Award Banquet in Toronto in October in conjunction with Bouchercon 2017. The award winners, however, will be announced in September this year, and the awards will be mailed to the winners. As long as the award ceremony is concerned, the event will take place next year in St. Petersburgh, Florida.

There are some overlaps between Shamus nominees and some of the nominees for Edgar awards which was wrapped up earlier this year. The nominees are:

Best Private Eye Novel

Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman. Gus Murphy thought he had the world all figured out. A retired Suffolk County cop, Gus had everything a man could want: a great marriage, two kids, a nice house, and the rest of his life ahead of him. But when tragedy strikes, his life is thrown into complete disarray. In the course of a single deadly moment, his family is blown apart and he is transformed from a man who believes he understands everything into a man who understands nothing.

Divorced and working as a courtesy van driver for the run-down hotel in which he has a room, Gus has settled into a mindless, soulless routine that barely keeps his grief at arm’s length. But Gus’s comfortable waking trance comes to an end when ex-con Tommy Delcamino asks him for help. Four months earlier, Tommy’s son T.J.’s battered body was discovered in a wooded lot, yet the Suffolk County PD doesn’t seem interested in pursuing the killers. In desperation, Tommy seeks out the only cop he ever trusted—Gus Murphy.

Gus reluctantly agrees to see what he can uncover. As he begins to sweep away the layers of dust that have collected over the case during the intervening months, Gus finds that Tommy was telling the truth. It seems that everyone involved with the late T.J Delcamino—from his best friend, to a gang enforcer, to a mafia capo, and even the police—has something to hide, and all are willing to go to extreme lengths to keep it hidden. It’s a dangerous favor Gus has taken on as he claws his way back to take a place among the living, while searching through the sewers for a killer.

The Graveyard of the Hesperides by Lindsey Davis. In first century Rome, Flavia Albia, the daughter of Marcus Didius Falco, has taken up her father’s former profession as an informer. On a typical day, it’s small cases—cheating spouses, employees dipping into the till—but this isn’t a typical day. Her beloved, the plebeian Manlius Faustus, has recently moved in and decided that they should get married in a big, showy ceremony as part of beginning a proper domestic life together. Also, his contracting firm has been renovating a rundown dive bar called The Garden of the Hesperides, only to uncover human remains buried in the backyard. There have been rumors for years that the previous owner of the bar, now deceased, killed a bar maid and these are presumably her remains. In the choice between planning a wedding and looking into a crime from long ago, Albia would much rather investigate a possible murder. Or murders, as more and more remains are uncovered, revealing that something truly horrible has been going on at the Hesperides.

As she gets closer to the truth behind the bodies in the backyard, Albia’s investigation has put her in the cross-hairs—which might be the only way she’ll get out of the wedding and away from all her relatives who are desperate to ‘help.’

Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan. The halls are decked, the deck is stacked, and here comes that jolly old elf. Junior Bender, divorced father of one and burglar extraordinaire, finds himself stuck inside the Edgerton Mall, and not just as a last-minute shopper (though he is that too). Edgerton isn’t exactly the epicenter of holiday cheer, despite its two Santas, canned Christmas music, chintzy bows, and festive lights. The mall is a fossil of an industry in decline; many of its stores are closed, and to make matters worse, there is a rampant shoplifting problem.

The murderous Russian mobster who owns the place has decided it takes a thief to catch a thief and hires Junior—under threat—to solve the shoplifting problem for him. But Junior’s surveillance operation doesn’t go well: as Christmas Eve approaches, two people are dead and it’s obvious that shoplifting is the least of the mall’s problems. To prevent further deaths, possibly including his own, Junior must confront his dread of Christmas—both present and past.

With 6 You Get Wally by Al Lamanda. Wally Sample is a degenerate gambler who owes money to every major casino and loan sharks everywhere. He is also the youngest heir to the Sample Iced Tea Corporation and upon his fortieth birthday, if he can prove to the courts that he is cured of his gambling addiction, will take his place as the sixth controlling member of the iced-tea giant.

Problem is, a month short of turning forty, Wally’s gambling habit is worse than ever. In desperation, he turns to Frank Kagan, the family attorney who decades ago prepared the will for Wally’s deceased father and founder of Sample Iced Tea. Kagan calls on his old friend John Bekker for help, asking Bekker to babysit Wally and prevent him from gambling for thirty days in order to meet the court’s requirements. The assignment proves tougher than anyone imagined, but Bekker is determined to clean Wally up at all costs―even if it means facing down a killer.

Racing the clock until Wally’s court appearance, Bekker finds himself in the middle of corporate greed and scandal and a deadly murder investigation, while trying to stay one step ahead of a crazed would-be killer who will definitely try again. And everything rests upon the very narrow shoulders of Wally Sample, who wants nothing more out of life than to find a winning scratch ticket and beat the odds.

The Stardom Affair by Robert S. Levinson. It’s decades ago, when the internet was in its infancy. Neil is summoned to the apartment of actor Roddy Donaldson, leader of the “Diapered Dozen” gang of teenage movie stars. Roddy is in bed clinging to life alongside two dead girls, with no memory of who they are or how they got there, making him the prime suspect in the murders. At the urging of Roddy’s mother, Neil chases after the
truth, encountering a motley cast of suspects, including nasty Nicky Edmunds, Roddy’s co-star in Tough Times Two, and glamorous Jayne Madrigal, a high-powered press agent.

There’s also rap superstar Maxie Trotter and his manager, Roscoe Del Ruth; Gene Coburn and Knox Lundigan, millionaire partners in Stardom House companies revolutionizing the internet; Aleta Haworth, a model-songstress who knows more than she’s telling; fading film star Brian Armstrong, who harbors dark truths; and Stevie’s mother, Juliet, and her fiancé, Bernie Flame, a computer whiz who may be able to find answers for Neil in the secret underground world of the Web. More bodies fall and Neil faces an ugly death before the killer of the two girls is revealed in this fast-paced mysterythriller by an author who knows Hollywood’s many sins and secrets from the inside.

Best First Private Eye Novel

Fever City by Tim Baker. The story kicks off in 1960 Los Angeles, with the daring kidnapping of the child of one of America’s richest men. It then darts back and forth between a private detective’s urgent search for the child, the saga of a notorious hit man in the days leading to JFK’s assassination, and the modern-day story of a skeptical journalist researching the still-active conspiracy theories of the 50s and 60s, with the aim of debunking them.

Just as the detective discovers that the kidnapping is a crime much larger than he imagined, and the hit man finds himself caught in a web that is astonishingly complex, the journalist discovers-to his horror, dismay, and even his jeopardy-that the conspiracy theories might well be true.

IQ by Joe Ide. East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood’s high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can’t or won’t touch.

They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay.

This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.

Deep Six by D. P. Lyle. Ex-professional baseball player Jake Longly adamantly refuses to work for his father, wanting no part of Ray’s PI world. He prefers to hang out at his beachfront bar and chase bikinis along the sugary beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. But Ray could be persuasive, so Jake finds himself staking out the home of wealthy Barbara Plummer, a suspected adulteress. The mission seems simple enough hang around, take a few pictures, sip a little bourbon. Except Barbara gets herself murdered right under Jake’s nose.

When Jake launches into an investigation of his target’s homicide, he quickly runs afoul of Ukrainian mobster Victor Borkov. Aided by his new girlfriend Nicole Jemison and Tommy Pancake Jeffers—his behemoth employee with crazy computer skills—Jake tries to peel away the layers of the crime. The deeper the intrepid trio delves, the more murders start to pile up, leading them to Borkov’s massive yacht where they just might be deep-sixed.

The Second Girl by David Swinson. Frank Marr knows crime in Washington, DC. A decorated former police detective, he retired early and now ekes a living as a private eye for a defense attorney. Frank Marr may be the best investigator the city has ever known, but the city doesn’t know his dirty secret.

A long-functioning drug addict, Frank has devoted his considerable skills to hiding his usage from others. But after accidentally discovering a kidnapped teenage girl in the home of an Adams Morgan drug gang, Frank becomes a hero and is thrust into the spotlight. He reluctantly agrees to investigate the disappearance of another girl–possibly connected to the first–and the heightened scrutiny may bring his own secrets to light, too.

Soho Sins by Richard Vine. They were the New York art scene’s golden couple — until the day Amanda Oliver was found murdered in her SoHo loft, and her husband Philip confessed to shooting her. But was he a continent away when the trigger was pulled? Art dealer Jackson Wyeth sets out to learn the truth, and uncovers the dangerous secrets lurking beneath the surface of Manhattan’s posh galleries and decadent parties, a world of adultery and madness, of beautiful girls growing up too fast and men making fortunes and losing their minds. But even the worst the art world can imagine will seem tame when the final shattering sin is revealed.

Best Original Private Eye Paperback

The Detective and the Chinese High-Fin by Michael Craven. Private Detective John Darvelle is back—drinking cheap beer, playing ping-pong and sharing his philosophy on everything from work/life balance to restaurants with bad air-conditioning. (He doesn’t believe in the former, he despises the latter.)

Darvelle is hired to find the killer of Keaton Fuller, a well-born Los Angeles man gunned down in his own driveway. The cops couldn’t solve the case, in part because everyone who came in contact with Keaton despised him. Translation: Anybody could have done it. Following a trail of the dead man’s betrayals, Darvelle finds himself in the exotic, high-stakes world of rare tropical fish. The fish are certainly valuable enough to kill for, but is there something more menacing going on?

As Darvelle relentlessly drives toward the truth, a showdown awaits that is at once riveting, visceral, and very, very dangerous. It’s a case only he could solve—just as long as he’s willing to put his life on the line.

Hold Me, Babe by O’Neil De Noux. On a lazy spring evening in 1951, two cases arrive at Private Eye Lucien Caye’s office in the New Orleans Lower French Quarter. The first is a murder case already solved by the New Orleans Police Department. The client believes NOPD arrested the wrong man. Yeah. Right. The second case – find who wrote a song recorded by a now defunct record label eleven years ago here in New Orleans, a song that is now a hit. There are royalties.

It is slow, plodding work, sifting through slim leads of a murder case full of deception and misdirection as the song from the second case, How Could You Leave Me, haunts Lucien. When a young, alluring, doe-eyed woman with auburn hair steps into Lucien’s life, trouble soon follows – gunplay, murder, mayhem, lust, maybe even love as Lucien learns why the song’s original title was Hold Me, Babe.

The Knife Slipped by Erle Stanley Gardner. Lost for more than 75 years, The Knife Slipped was meant to be the second book in the series, but shelved when Gardner’s publisher objected to (among other things) Bertha Cool’s tendency to “talk tough, swear, smoke cigarettes, and try to gyp people.” But this tale of adultery and corruption, of double-crosses and triple identities—however shocking for 1939—shines today as a glorious present from the past, a return to the heyday of private eyes and shady dames, of powerful criminals, crooked cops, blazing dialogue, and delicious plot twists.

Donald Lam has never been cooler—not even when played by Frank Sinatra on the U.S. Steel Hour of Mystery in 1946. Bertha Cool has never been tougher. And Erle Stanley Gardner has never been better.

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown by Vaseem Khan. For centuries, the Koh-i-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king. Now part of the British Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess.

So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone’s principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra visits the exhibition, the diamond is stolen from under his nose. The heist was daring and seemingly impossible. The hunt is on for the culprits. But it soon becomes clear that only one man — and his elephant — can possibly crack this case.

My Bad by Manuel Ramos. Ex-con Gus Corral is fresh out of jail and intent on keeping his nose clean. He’s living in his sister’s basement, which he shares with a cat or two, Corrine’s CDs and their father’s record collection. The blues music in particular strikes a chord, matching the way he feels about his current state.

Things start to look up when Gus gets a job working as an investigator for his attorney, Luis Móntez. An activist in the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Móntez is slowing down and getting close to retirement, and he figures the felon can do the legwork on his cases. When María Contreras comes to see the lawyer about her dead husband’s “business partner”—someone she has never heard of who’s demanding his share of the profits of a business she knew nothing about—Móntez has Gus look into the situation.

Narrating the story in alternating chapters, Gus and Luis recount their run-ins with suspicious characters as they learn that there’s more to the case than meets the eye. The widow’s husband owned and operated a local bar, not Aztlán Treasures, a Mexican folk art import company. And word on the street is that he was murdered on his boat in the Sea of Cortez. Soon, the dead bodies are piling up and the pair is surrounded by shadowy figures that point to money laundering, drug smuggling and even Mexican crime cartels.

Best Private Eye Short Story

Keller’s Fedora” by Lawrence Block (e-publication). Keller, everyone’s favorite assassin for hire, is Chicago-bound on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, ready to do what he does best. But it’s complicated. Usually there’s someone ready to point him toward the target. Or he’ll have a photo, say. Or, bare minimum, a name and address.

Not this time. When he gets to Baker’s Bluff, Illinois, he’ll have to play private detective before he can get down to business. Well, okay. He knows how it works. So before he boards his train, before he even packs his suitcase, Keller buys a fedora. Keller, a faithful husband, doting father, and dedicated philatelist, has become a guilty pleasure for an increasing number of readers. They don’t think they should like the guy—but they just can’t help themselves.

“A Battlefield Reunion” by Brendan DuBois (June 2016, AHMM)

Stairway From Heaven” by Ake Edwardson (Stockholm Noir)

“A Dangerous Cat” by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins (Feb/May 2016, The Strand)

“Archie On Loan” by Dave Zeltserman (Sept/Oct 2016, EQMM)