Reviewer Wally Wood: Wally is a a professional writer and a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He holds a master's degree in creative writing from the City University of New York as well as a bachelor's degree from Columbia University where he majored in philosophy. As a volunteer, he has taught writing in men's state prisons and to middle-school students in his local library.
His first novel, Getting Oriented: A Novel About Japan received positive reviews even from people who do not know him. As a ghost-writer, he has written 19 business books, all published by commercial publishers. He has recently published The Girl in the Photo which is currently available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a trade paperback or Kindle download.
Author: J. Frank James
Publisher: J. Frank James LLC
Lou Malloy has an unusual problem on his release from a 15-year bid in a Georgia prison. No one has been able to find the $15 million that Lou and his two partners (now long dead) stole from an Indian casino—and people think Lou can lead them to it. Indeed, during Lou's exit interview, the warden points out that could collect a $1.5 million reward from the insurance company if he turned in the money. Lou isn't buying that.
Lou has a second problem. His sister and only close relative was murdered six months before his release. So Lou wants two things: to keep the money and to find and punish whoever killed his sister.
Dead Money Run by J. Frank James is the most recent mystery in the "Lou Malloy crime series." It is a hard-boiled thriller that reminded me of Micky Spillane. It is a book of short chapters and almost unrelenting excitement as Lou and Hillary Kelly avoid cops, kill mobsters, and try to unravel the mystery of who killed Lou's sister and why.
Lou meets Hillary at two in the morning at the Jacksonville, FL, bus station in Chapter 6 on page 20. (I said these are short chapters.) "The girl was really a woman and who could pass for eighteen about ten years ago. She had crow's feet at the corners of each eye and her complexion had seen more than its share of sun. Pulled down in front of her face was a floppy hat that made it difficult to get a good look at her. She looked attractive, in a cute sort of way." Going through Hillary's purse, Lou establishes that she's a PI, but doesn't kill her.
In no time, Lou and Hillary are a team; Lou has found the hidden $15 million and taken walking around money from the cache; recovered guns and ammunition hidden with the money; and murdered two low-level mobsters and fed them to the crocodiles. The mob is interested in Lou because it had been using the Indian casino to launder money, and the Georgia family really, really wants the $15 million back.
As the body count rises, the story grows more and more complex. Lou has to connect with a buddy from prison for some added muscle. The story of the sister's death becomes more mysterious. The US Homeland Security Agency may be interested in what Lou and his partners stole. Lou murders without remorse or compunction because he feels (with justification) that if he doesn't, his enemies will murder him. James does not, however, describe the deaths in detail, something I regard as a form of pornography.
James is able, even with a complex plot, to keep the threads clear and the action moving. And while the writing is not fancy—indeed most of the book is dialogue—James can sketch a character in a few lines. Writing about a very bad man he says, "Jack Bellay reminded Angel [a not quite as bad man] of a coyote in his appearance. He had narrow eyes and a long nose and a mouth the size of a bee's ass. His father told him to never trust a man with a small mouth." Angel should have listened to his father.
Readers who enjoy a hard-boiled mystery and are not put off by literary violence will enjoy Dead Money Run. I found it a hoot.