A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert J. Randisi & Bill Pronzini


LOREN D. ESTLEMAN – Sugartown. Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1984. Fawcett Crest, paperback, 1985. ibooks, softcover, 2001. Winner of the PWA Shamus award for best novel of 1984.

   Since the publication of Motor City Blue in 1980, Estleran and his tough Detroit private eye Amos Walker have been a formidable team, combining to create an average of one high-quality PI novel per year. Walker has been called “hard-edged and relentless”; Estleman has been lauded as “having put Detroit on the detective map.” Both encomiums are accurate; and in Sugartown, author and Eye carry on the tradition.

   Walker is hired, first, by an elderly Polish immigrant to find her grandson, who has been missing for nineteen years:

   He disappeared following an ugly, tragic incident where his father shot his mother, his sister, and then himself-a scene of carnage that the boy discovered upon returning home from school. Later the old woman also asks Walker to find a family heirloom, a silver cross — a job that leads him directly into a murder case.

   Walker’s second client is a Soviet defector and famous author who thinks a Russian spy is out to kill him. After an investigation that takes Walker through the dark underbelly of Detroit, he escapes a trap that almost takes his life and establishes a connection between the two cases.

   Plenty of action and solid writing in the Chandler tradition make Sugartown (which won the PWA Shamus for Best Novel of 1984) the same kind of potent book as its predecessors in the Amos Walker series. The others are Angel Eyes (1981), The Midnight Man (1982), and The Glass Highway (1983).

   The versatile Estleman has also written two novels as completely different from the hard-boiled private eye as it is possible to get: a pair of Sherlock Holmes pastiches pitting the Great Man against two legendary Victorian “monsters,” Sherlock Holmes versus Dracula (1978) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes (1979).

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.