Cover image for Retro : an Amos Walker novel
Retro : an Amos Walker novel
Estleman, Loren D.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, [2004]

Physical Description:
286 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Geographic Term:
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Loren Estleman is the quintessential noir detective writer, and Amos Walker is his quintessential noir detective. Walker has made a lot of friends - and a few enemies - in his years as a detective in Detroit, but he has never had to deal with quite the trouble he finds when he agrees to grant the death-bed wish of Beryl Garnet. Beryl was a madam, but she had a son a long while ago, and asks Walker to make sure that her son gets her ashes when she's gone.He finds her son, who has been in Canada since the 1960s, evading the law since he was a Vietnam War protester. A simple favor, melancholy, but benign. Except that before he can get settled back in Detroit Garnet's son is dead, with him as the prime suspect.He has little choice but to find out who might have done the deed and tried to pin the blame on him. . . and in the process he discovers another murder, of a boxer from the 1940s, Curtis Smallwood, who happens to have been the man's father. If that wasn't bad enough, his task is made much more complicated by the fact that the two murders, fifty-three years apart, were committed with the very same gun. And in a place where it was impossible for a gun to be.

Author Notes

Loren D. Estleman was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on September 15, 1952. He received a B.A. in English literature and journalism from Eastern Michigan University in 1974. He spent several years as a reporter on the police beat before leaving to write full time in 1980. He wrote book reviews for such newspapers as The New York Times and The Washington Post and contributed articles to such periodicals as TV Guide.

He is a writer of mysteries and westerns. His first novel was published in 1976 and since then he has published more than 70 books including the Amos Walker series, Writing the Popular Novel, Roy and Lillie: A Love Story, The Confessions of Al Capone, and a The Branch and the Scaffold. He received four Shamus Awards from the Private Eye Writers of America, five Golden Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, the Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement from Western Writers of America, and the Michigan Author's Award in 1997.

(Bowker Author Biography) He lives in Whitmore Lake, Michigan.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When time ran out on legendary Detroit madam Beryl Garnet, PI Amos Walker, a longtime acquaintance of Garnet, was asked to deliver her ashes to her son. The only problem was that the son, Delwayne, a Vietnam protestor implicated in a botched bomb plot, had been underground for 30 years. Walker finds Delwayne easily enough, but moments after meeting with him, he is murdered, and Walker becomes the prime suspect. Walker investigates to clear himself and learns the gun that killed Delwayne was the same gun used to kill his biological father in a celebrated but unsolved Motor City case 50 years earlier. The Walker novels are set in the present but are themselves thoroughly retro in style: a black-and-white Detroit, drifting plumes of smoke, whiskey bottles in desk drawers. The dialogue is unadulterated Bogie, and the first-person narration is as cynically world weary as it can be. It feels at times like Walker is living in an alternate twenty-first-century world, but for fans of old-school tough guys, it's a much better world. --Wes Lukowsky Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reading a new Amos Walker adventure is like settling down and listening to an old, reliably entertaining friend. In this 17th book in the series (after 2003's Poison Blonde), Beryl Garnet, a dying madam, summons the Detroit detective to find her long-missing son, Delwayne, to whom she wishes to leave her ashes. Since Delwayne fled to Canada during the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Amos gets a Canadian counterpart to trace him. Soon after Amos meets the son, he winds up dead, and Amos becomes the main suspect in his shooting death. Amos later discovers that Delwayne's dad, a talented black boxer, was murdered in the 1940s-and a single gun killed both father and son. A sucker for damsels in distress, Amos encounters more than one as he digs down into the muck for the real murderer. Estleman keeps Walker determinedly low-tech: he goes to the library, pores over records and does his own legwork. He riffs on the city and gently ribs Canadian culture across the river. Why does Amos drive to Toronto? It's a chance for him to smuggle back a box of alleged Cuban cigars, a longstanding Motor City tradition. In the process of setting things right, Amos has to let go of some old and new attachments, leaving the reader eager for more. Agent, Dominick Abel. (June 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

One of the many pleasures of the Amos Walker series is that while Estleman is following in the hard-boiled tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, he never strains for effect, never shows off a self-consciously tough-guy style. In this 13th Walker mystery, the author nods toward his predecessors by having his Detroit private eye solve a murder committed in 1949. A dying retired madam hires Amos to find her estranged foster son, the illegitimate offspring of a black boxer, the murder victim, and a white movie starlet. When the foster son, a fugitive from an antiwar bombing in the 1960s, is also killed, Amos must sort through clues from three decades while keeping out of the way of a Mafia chieftain's thugs. The subtlety of Estleman's approach is matched by Mel Foster's smooth, perfect reading. Highly recommended for popular collections.-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



ONE What do you do with an old madam when she's peddled her last pound of flesh? They never had any ambivalence about it in the old days. If she'd saved her money, they propped her up in a gondola bed piled high with satin pillows, parked her opium pipe among the crystal atomizers and pots of face cream and scent, and when the time came they carried her downstairs in a white coffin and buried her in a Protestant cemetery, Presbyterians and Methodists being notorious for their democracy. If her circumstances were straitened, the sisters of charity drifted to and fro past her bed in a ward smelling of quicklime and carbolic, put a damp cloth on her forehead when she moaned, and at the end gave the gravedigger's boy a coin to dump her in Potter's field. That was in the old days. The new belonged to the self-employed, and whorehouse matrons had no more place than gondola beds or nuns in stiff linen. Why spring for a parlor and a bouncer when streetcorner space is free? Beryl Garnet was the last of her kind, and her reward for outliving all her contemporaries was the Grenloch Assisted Living Village in Farmington, an eighth of a tank of gas north of the house she'd run on John R in Detroit for nearly forty years. The facility sprawled over six acres of greensward, with a retention pool-the Grenloch that had given the place its name--in front, where overfed ducks and geese paddled their feet and littered the surrounding walk with their waste. The building's facade had been made to resemble a Scottish hamlet, steep-roofed, half-timbered, and girded round with decorative ironwork for fat lairds to lean on and direct the monthly whipping of the serfs. The Dutch doors were plastered to solid brick. In order to get inside, I had to park in a half-empty visitors' lot and tug open a faux chapel door with a steel core. The foyer was large, with shining black-and-white checkered ceramic tile and a white baby grand piano waiting for some old fish to sweep aside his tails and plunk himself down on the padded bench and trundle out Chopin's Sonata No. 3 in B Minor . Meanwhile the residents had to make do with the Dixie Chicks. The P.A. was cranked up to hearing-aid level. I found Beryl's room number on a wall directory, black with white plastic lettering that snapped in and out, suitable for discreet editing when rooms turned over. It beat erasing names from a blackboard. A maintenance worker installing a wall rail directed me to the nursing wing, where residents who needed a little more than just assistance were sequestered. This was separated from the rest of the facility by a fire door with a gridded window set into it. There the carpeting and potpourri ended and the linoleum and disinfectant began. "Who you here for?" I looked down at the man seated in a vinyl-upholstered armchair in the corridor. I'd have had to walk around him to ignore him. He was thin and bald, with long arms and legs in an electric-blue jogging suit zipped to his wattles. His withered-apple face was bright-eyed and he appeared to have most of his teeth, unless he'd had them made crooked on purpose. I told him who I was there for. He shook his head. "Don't know her. I ran the Detroit Edison office downtown for twenty-seven years. Took a hundred thousand in a lump sum to retire. That was in nineteen seventy. If I knew I'd live this long I'd have taken the pension. You make your choices in this life and you stick with them. As if you could do anything else." "I guess that's true." "Don't just yes me because I said it. You don't know me. I might be a liar." "You might be, at that." "Well, I'm not. Back in seventy, a hundred thousand was so big you couldn't see around it. I've seen around it now, and there's nothing in back. What do you do?" "I came to tune the piano." "Horseshit. You look like a cop to me." "It's the gum soles." "Who'd you say you're here for?" "Beryl Garnet." He looked at the wall across the corridor. It was finished in corkboard, with childrens's; pictures drawn in bright crayon thumbtacked all over it. He mouthed the name a couple of times. Then he shook his head again. "Don't know her. You make your choices in this life and you stick with them." "As if you could do anything else." He squinted up at me as if he'd just realized I was there. Then he pointed a finger at my chest. "You're pretty smart for your age. You take the pension when they offer it." I said I would and left him. I turned a corner and stopped at a nurses' station. A plump, sweet-faced redhead in her twenties smiled when I told her who I was visiting. She wore a floral smock and had a blood-pressure indicator draped around her neck. Another nurse twice her age sat on a low turning stool speaking in murmurs on the telephone to someone she called Mortie. Lines 1 and 3 kept on flashing all the time I was standing there, and an oval glass fixture mounted above one of the doors in the hall glowed on and off with a querulous buzz. It didn't have anything to do with me. "She'll be happy to see you," said the redhead. "She doesn't get many people." "I think a gentleman around the corner may be in the same boat." "You must mean Wendell. He stakes out that spot every day about this time. Did he tell you he used to run the Edison office in Detroit?" "He advised me to take a pension." "He tells everyone that." "I don't get a pension," I said. "No one's ever offered me a hundred thousand, either." "You should tell him. It might make him feel better." I was tired of talking about Wendell. I'd expected the visit to depress me, but not before I'd made it. "How is Beryl?" Her smile turned noncommital. "Are you a friend or a relative?" "Neither" "She's in good spirits. She tells the most outrageous lies about her past." "Any of them involve the old mayor?" She looked down suddenly at a chart on the desk. I felt a little better then. It isn't every day you make a trained health-care professional blush. Copyright (c) 2004 by Loren D. Estleman Excerpted from Retro by Loren D. Estleman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.