G. M. FORD – Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca? Leo Waterman #1. Walker, hardcover, 1995. Avon, paperback, 1996. Thomas & Mercer, trade paperback, 2012.

   Is that a great title, or what? Okay, so it won’t mean anything to someone not familiar with the Northwest. I still think it’s great. And if “G. M. Ford” isn’t a pseudonym, it ought to be.

   Leo Waterman is a Seattle private eye who father was a long-term City Councilman. Leo’s had a problem with the bottle in the past, but seems to have it under control. He fee;s a thirst coming on, though, when the patriarch of Seattle organized crime, an old union associate of his father’s, asks him to help him.

   The old man’s granddaughter has left the family manse and is associating with a group of environmentalists who have a penchant for violence and ill-considered acts, and he wants Leo to find out what they’re up to. It’s one of those deals you can hardly refuse, so Leo marshals his helpers and starts to work. Oh, I ought to mention that the “helpers” are a group of alcoholics and some homeless who Leo met in his down-and-dirty days.

   If this sounds like a farce, it isn’t. At least mostly it isn’t. I think Ford had a few problems in drawing the line, bur for the most part it’s a straightforward if not overly grim and sometimes humorous PI story. The characters are entertaining and sympathetic, and Ford writes with an assurance and skill beyond most first-timers. (Was that a small homage to Chandler I caught at the beginning?)

   He obviously knows Seattle, and manages to bring the city to life without loading the narrative with the tiresome minutiae that often pass for a “sense of place” these days. If he can learn some sense of restraint with is characterizations — the villains were egregious over the top unless he wanted farce — and quit pulling rabbits out of the hat at the end (or if his editor will do it for him) I think he has the markings of a very good series.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #18, February-March 1995.

         The Leo Waterman series —


Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca? (1995)
Cast in Stone (1996)
The Bum’s Rush (1997)
Slow Burn (1998)
Last Ditch (1999)
The Deader the Better (2000)
Thicker Than Water (2012)
Chump Change (2014)
Salvation Lake (2016)
Soul Survivor (2018)
Heavy on the Dead (2019)


“Clothes Make the Man” (February 1999, EQMM)