Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sheriffing in Sun Valley by guest blogger Steven Head

Earlier this month a friend told me about an interview on NPR's 'Crime in the City' series with Ridley Pearson. I confess ignorance when it comes to the mechanics of podcasts, but I was able to read the transcript on-line. Pearson talked about his Sheriff Walt Fleming series. It was interesting enough that I stopped by the library and picked up Killer Weekend, the first in the series.

Pearson is no stranger to the mystery genre, having written over 20 novels, including the Lou Boldt series. At least that is what the dust jacket says. He has also written books for young readers as well as two books with Dave Barry, Peter and the Starcatchers and Peter and the Shadow Thieves. But he was new to me so I looked forward to a western mystery adventure.

Pearson is a part-time resident of Sun Valley, Idaho, and he has decided to use this well known setting for his new crime series. In Killer Weekend, we are introduced to Deputy Walt Fleming, who starts the novel by saving New York Attorney General Elizabeth Shaler from an intruder with murder on his mind. Following Chapter One there is a fast forward eight years to find Fleming now Sheriff, and Ms. Shaler a candidate for President of the USA. She plans to announce her candidacy at a media conference surrounded by the rich and famous, but there have been threats against her life.

We quickly learn the identity and thought process of the attacker, and the level of violence and mayhem this person can create. The real mystery is who ordered 'the hit'. We know Ms. Shaler has enemies but little attention is given to potential suspects. Along the way we experience inter-agency rivalry between the Secret Service and the Sheriff's Department, the sibling rivalry of two brothers, the infidelity of the wife of an older rich man, and a gruesome murder set in the mountains.

Of course that only scratches the surface of this action driven mystery. Add in the gratuitous mention of Hemingway and film stars of the 1950's, one of Walt's deputies fooling around with his soon-to-be ex-wife, and tortured father-son dynamics to fill in the spaces around the mystery.

I could not stop reading the last 50 pages of this book. The level of action and tension interrupted my known ability to fall sleep anytime, anywhere. I will not reveal the ending of the book although it follows the prescribed formula, along with another dead body.

The comparison of Craig Johnson's Sheriff Walt Longmire series with Pearson's Sheriff Walt Fleming books is the difference between character driven and action driven mystery. By the end of a Johnson book you feel you know a cast of characters and want to see them again. In the Pearson book most of the characters are disposable, other than the Sheriff. They exist to serve the needs of the action, often having serious moral shortcomings.

I have a trip coming up at the end of September and I am hoping to listen to at least one Walt Fleming book on CD during the drive. The bubbling action and intrigue will keep me awake and concentrating on driving. (OK...honestly, it's not me...this blogger program is acting up again, and won't put spaces between this last few paragraphs. GRRRRR)
Thanks Steve. I am happy that you have resurfaced!
The truth is that Steve has been doing some of his own writing. I have been the honored (and sometimes shocked!) recipient of a two or three of Steve's short stories. As you know, SS is my favorite genre, so they worked well for me. I wonder if Steve when Steve will begin sending query letters to publishers.
Watch for our new guest blogger, Blue Alice.
She has written an introduction for you.
Hello. I am Blue Alice. That is my writer name. Blue for my favorite writer, Blue Balliet, and Alice for a poem by the same man who wrote Winnie the Poo. I like poems that rhyme and have a beat because I play the piano.
I also like to read and so Bev asked me to tell you about some good books. The first book I will tell you about as soon as I get to the end is The Incorrigible children of Ashton Place Book 1 The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.
I am in fifth grade this year. Bev helped me pick out this picture to be my trademark. She called it a different name but I can't remember it.
*****Thanks Blue. I hope to hear from you soon. By the way, I am quite sure she meant Winnie the Pooh, but you never know.
*****What am I reading? I am into my first ever Jeffery Deaver mystery called The Vanished Man. My friend Karen read in on the back of a Harley while she an her husband took a loooooog ride from Manitowoc to Alaska. She thought I would like it because it is about magic, and she knows that our friend, Chris, worked lights and sound for a magician for a while after college. Chris is one of the most honest, trustworthy people I know, and even though the document he signed in blood way back when promising not to reveal any magic secrets surly has vanished, he refuses to tell. Well, I did pry one trick out him...and he was right, it makes magic shows less magic-y for me now.
Hey, if you're going to the county fair, bring me some teeny-weeny donuts, OK, inso, hey!
Thanks for stopping by.