McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication by Rich Leder

Workman's ComplicationMcCall & Company: Workman’s Complication

by Rich Leder
Series: McCall & Company, #1

Kindle Edition, 390 pg.
Laugh Riot Press, 2014

Read: September 29 – October 2, 2017


Kate McCall is an actress struggling to make it — she’s had a few dozen jobs to support her acting (and her son while he was growing up), and is now a building manager, dog walker and off-off-off Broadway actress (I’m probably leaving off a couple of “off”s there). One recurring gig has been helping her father, a private investigator, from time to time.

When Jimmy McCall is murdered he leaves his agency to Kate — which she doesn’t want, she’s not a P.I. ,she’s an actress — just ask her. Nevertheless, she’s driven to see if she can’t figure out what led him to the building he was killed in. Before she knows it, she’s lying to the police about what he was working on that might have led to his murder, as well as getting pretty deep into the investigation herself.

Meanwhile, her father’s lawyer sends a prospective client to her — Teddy Barkowski is a general contractor who is being sued by someone who fell off some scaffolding and injured his back. Kate doesn’t want to take this case, but honestly, the money woos her. Soon she agrees, with internal reservations, to look at the case. After meeting Barkowski’s wife and kids, she’s all in — there’s no way that she’ll let this guy and his lawyer hurt the family. Easier said than done, really — this is one tough nut to crack.

Thankfully, Kate’s not alone — she has two great sources to turn to for help. She’s got the actors, producers, writers and the rest from her theater to pitch in, playing various roles to try to help her get information about the workman’s compensation case. Not only that, many (if not all) of the tenants in the building she manages are friends with Kate and each other. She calls the apartment the House of Emotional Tics and to say that it’s populated by a collection of strange characters, is an understatement. With a variety of particular skills (many of which are legal to exercise), Kate calls upon them to help with her investigation of her father’s death.

Her son, an assistant DA in the city and the homicide detective she starts dating, aren’t nearly as supportive of her new career. In fact, they’re downright discouraging. I wasn’t a fan of almost all the interactions with her son — but his last appearance in the novel won me over. The love interest-detective, on the other hand, I thought worked very well.

This is a light/comedic mystery novel — but it is a mystery novel with strong PI stories, both of which could’ve been told without the comedic elements and made a pretty good novel. But they do work better the way that Leder told them. Basically Kate’s Stephanie Plum with actual skills, or David Ahern’s Derry O’Donnell with a bit more maturity, success in theater, and no psychic abilities. The first-person narration is amusing and crisply written, there are more laughs than tense moments — but all the elements work together and balance each other out well. Occasionally, the goofiness that accompanies the people from the D-Cup theater or the House of Emotional Tics threatens to interfere with the narrative, but it never does — and usually ends up supporting the detective stories. In the end, Kate’s large collection of sidekicks are more like the team that Fox & O’Hare use than Stephanie Plum’s coworkers/family/friends — they aren’t inept, but they can actually accomplish most of what they set out to do (and when they don’t, it’s not because they’re jokes — it’s because they got beaten fair and square).

I’ve compared this to Evanovich enough, how does this compare with Rich Leder’s work? Well, I quite enjoyed Let There Be Linda, and I can say that this isn’t the same kind of book. Linda frequently felt out of control, in a good way, mind you, but you could argue that Leder took a handful of whacky ideas and threw them together in a contained space to see what would happen when they combined with each other. This was just as funny (sometimes more so, sometimes not as much), but felt controlled — there was one strong narrative and a few others that supported it. Characters that were more grounded (note, I said more grounded, not grounded), and some emotional depth to the story/storytelling. I’m belaboring this point to underline the differences in the books because I think it demonstrates Leder’s skill, and because I know that Linda‘s style can be off-putting for some, and I don’t want those people to think that this book should be avoided.

When the reveal of the murderer happened, I was a little annoyed with myself for not catching the clue that tipped her off. I will admit, I noticed the same thing she did, but shrugged it off, assuming it was a problem with the editing. But, naturally, the folks at Laugh Riot Press don’t make flubs like that — it was a genuine clue and I didn’t run with it. Beyond my annoyance with myself for not figuring out the murderer, I rather enjoyed the reveal — and Kate’s ultimate triumph in the other case, too.

A very satisfying, entertaining novel — really funny with real emotion — that introduces you to a cast of characters that you want to spend more time with — thankfully, there are two more books in the series and I hope to return to them soon. Give this one a shot, folks.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

—–

3.5 Stars

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Let There Be Linda by Rich Leder

Let There Be LindaLet There Be Linda

by Rich Leder

Kindle Edition, 377 pg.
Laugh Riot Press, 2016

Read: June 13 – 15, 2016


Let There Be Linda is hard to describe briefly — it’s like Eoin Colfer’s Daniel McEvoy books with a touch of magic, Elmore Leonard trying to write like Neil Gaiman, or is it Gaiman trying to write like Leonard? Leder says he’s inspired by Monty Python here — I think he’s close, but it’s more A Fish Called Wanda than Python (at least the way it comes out, maybe not in his mind).

The first few paragraphs are likely enough to make you rethink picking up the book (not because of Leder’s craft, but the subject matter). It took a force of will for me not to move on to one of the other 20 or so books on my TBR. Thankfully — oh, so thankfully — it took very little time after that for me to get over it. Within a few pages, Leder had won me over. Also thankfully, the antics of the character in the opening paragraphs were really toned down when he appeared in the future (when not toned down, he was at least behind closed doors).

Danny and Mike Miller are brothers, as close as Cain and Abel. Danny’s the attractive, lecherous, irresponsible, talent agent, who is always on the verge of success (even moreso, when he can’t get to the track or a phone to call a bookie). Mike’s his opposite, married, overweight, ultra-responsible, and an accountant enjoying success — and on the verge of a lot more. The one thing they have in common is that they’re devoted to their mother — Mike feels he has to be (and probably has some real affection for her), and Danny needs a place to live. On her deathbed, their mother makes Mike swear that he’ll watch out for Danny. She’s had a vision and something horrible is going to happen after her death, and she wants the two of them get through it together. Which is good, because both of them are going to need all the help they can get.

This horrible thing — or series of horrible things — will involve a very small pawnbroker/loan shark and his very large companion; a drug-addicted dentist, his plastic-surgery addicted wife, and their sometimes dead dog; a detective who wants to be a stand-up comedian; there’s a guy who thinks he’s a zombie, a couple of sometimes dead mothers, and a few other odd characters.

Oh yeah, and the girl who can bring dead things back to life.

Most of these characters owe the diminutive loan shark more money than they’ll be able to repay in years, more of them are being investigated by the Comic Cop, some of them are looking to Danny to make them money, and the dentist to care for their teeth — and . . . honestly, tracing out the interconnectedness of all these characters and plotlines would require one of those giant corkboards and colored strings that used to be on every TV detective show. But stranger. And Funnier.

Oh, yeah, and dead fish, dogs and people stop being dead.

This is strange, bloody, a little violent, and impossible to explain in a way that does it justice. You just have to read the silly thing. It’s one of the most unpredictable novels I’ve read in ages. It ties up all the important things, and doesn’t leave anything unresolved. But Leder doesn’t bother to answer everything — you’ll spend a few days trying to suss a few things out. I enjoy it when authors do that — but only on the unessential (but interesting) points. It helps the experience last longer.

I’ve spent a week trying to figure out what to say about this one, and I’m not satisfied with what I came up with. I liked the book, I recommend it — it’s amusing; there’s heart to it; there are characters that are unique, yet familiar; a world that you’ve not come across before — and a strange sort of crime story. It’s just the right mix of black comedy and criminal activity and family. If this is what all of Leder’s books are like, I need to read more of them.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I just wish it’d made more sense.

—–

4 Stars

Let There Be Linda Excerpt: The Page 69 Challenge

If you like page 69, buy it

(inspired by barbtaub.com)

Danny knew Omar was right; he was about to black out. He could sense the sun setting, even though it was the middle of the day. And he could hear Harvey singing the last verses of “Danny Boy.”

And if you come, and all the flowers are dying, If I am dead, as dead I well may be, I pray you’ll find the place where I am lying, And kneel and say an Ave there for me,”

I’m going now, Danny thought, but something happened split seconds before he lost consciousness, something he knew was important in spite of the singing dwarf and the giant choking the air out of him. It was the thing that was wrong with the room, the odd thing, the offbeat and out-of-tune thing.

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me, And all my grave will warm and sweeter be, And then you’ll kneel and whisper that you love me, And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.”

It was the fern on the bamboo coffee table, the dehydrated-dry-and-shriveled-brown dead fern that Jenny Stone had taken in her hands and breathed on. He was looking straight down right at it. Alive, he said in his head, it’s alive. And then everything went black. 


Note: I love this Page 69 Challenge idea — thanks so much, Laugh Riot, for introducing me to this.

Let There Be Linda Excerpt: Detective Gary Shuler

Detective Gary Shuler

Early on, when he was six, seven, and eight years old, when he was hurt and confused because he was the one and only child who was addressed by his full name plus a name that wasn’t his name, his parents had pacified him with tall cold glasses of milk and stacks of Oreo cookies. The cookies became physically, emotionally, and intellectually synonymous with safety and comfort. He ate them constantly throughout his life. He couldn’t stop eating them. At the same time that they were feeding him Oreos, his parents also recognized there was nothing they could do to stem the Gary Shuler Vista tide, so they taught their son to ride those waves with laughter, to be in on the joke instead of being the joke.

Oreos and comedy became the subconscious pillars upon which his life was built. He became the class clown in every class and carried an Oreo four-pack everywhere he went. He was popular and smart and a good athlete. But he was also a bit of offline, not your normal everyday kid. He saw the world at odd angles. He was an odd angle himself. “He’s a good guy, Gary Shuler Vista,” people would say, “but he’s a strange bird.” 

Let There Be Linda Excerpt: Donald the Dentist

Donald the Dentist

It was Wednesday noon. Donald the Dentist only worked a half-day (one to five), which was a good thing because he had been up all night doing cocaine in his office after Detective Shuler had handed over the garbage bag holding his dead dog. He couldn’t bear going to bed and listening to Carol cry herself to sleep.

He had finally dozed off somewhere around six and was awakened by the sound of music—literally; The Sound of Music was blasting in the living room—Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and all the various Von Trapps singing “So Long, Farewell” as they slipped into the night and across the border.

He rubbed his index finger through the white dust on the mirror on the coffee table, ran the finger across his gums, got out of the armchair, picked up the garbage bag that held Chachi’s carcass, and walked out of his office. He went down the hall, intending to grab a shovel from the garage so he could dig a hole in the backyard behind the trees beyond the pool and bury the bag, but he arrived at the large living room just in time to see his wife kick the chair away from her feet—the chair she was standing on, so she could hang herself with the rope she had looped over the rafters that spanned the room beneath the twenty-foot, tongue-in-groove, cathedral ceiling painted Dr. Seuss red.

Let There Be Linda Excerpt: Meet Jenny Stone

Meet Jenny Stone

“I’m Danny Miller,” he said, taking the chair next to her, “President of Miller Talent Agency.” There was a bamboo reception desk, a wicker loveseat, the two chairs, the big mirror, and a fan that made a dying animal noise. There was no receptionist.

She was sitting, but Danny thought she might be five foot five or so. She had straight-as-string brown hair that was pulled back in a tight ponytail. Her skin was smooth and clear and white, as if she never went out into the Southern California sunshine. She wore zero makeup. No gloss, no eye shadow, no blush. She wore thick black glasses. She was thin, he thought, but he couldn’t really tell what was happening under her blousy blue shirt and gray Catholic-school skirt. She wore knee socks and sensible shoes. She had brown eyes that made him think of coffee. She was younger than him, late twenties. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. She was unadorned in every regard. It was as if she were trying not to be here—or anywhere—trying to be unnoticed by any and all. There was no guessing what kind of talent she thought she had.

“I’m Jenny Stone,” she said in soft voice void of confidence, a voice that in and of itself was trying to be unnoticed. “What do you do, Jenny Stone?” Danny said, putting his hand out.

She shook his hand and said, “I bring dead people back to life.”

Let There Be Linda by Rich Leder Book Tour

Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Let There Be Linda. Along with this blurb about the book and author I’ve got a Q & A with the author, Rich Leder; some excerpts from the book: Meet Jenny Stone, Donald the Dentist, Detective Gary Shuler, and a little something we’re calling The Page 69 Challenge; and my 2¢ about the book.

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the current promos from Laugh Riot!

Book Details:

Book Title:  Let There Be Linda by Rich Leder
Publisher:  Laugh Riot Press
Release date:  July 1, 2016

Book Description:

Leder’s black comic thriller tells the tall tale of estranged brothers Mike and Dan Miller—accountant and con-man talent agent respectively—up to their necks in the virtual quicksand of LA’s San Fernando Valley during the hottest summer in Southern California history.

The root cause of their problems could be the missing seventy-five thousand dollars, or the sadistic, loan shark dwarf and his vicious giant, or the psycho comedian cop on the case, or the coke-snorting dentist, or the deranged zombie real estate developer. Or perhaps it’s the poodle—the poodle is suspect, no doubt. Or maybe it’s the grocery store checker who breathes life into death.

Oh yes, it could be her too.

And so to repair the head-on collision the Millers have made of their personal and professional lives, the brothers summon their mother back from the dead to clean up the wreckage. But what the Miller men discover is that screwing with the laws of nature is a violent, bloody, hysterical, and hilarious idea.

Author Bio:

Rich LederRich Leder has been a working writer for more than two decades. His screen credits include 18 produced television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, and Left Bank Films.

He has written four funny novels: McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication; McCall & Company: Swollen Identity; Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench; and Let There Be Linda.

He founded Laugh Riot Press as an imprint for his funny books and the funny books of other indie authors.

He has been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the University of North Carolina Wilmington Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill. He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three children.

Current Laugh Riot Press Promos:

Buy One Get One Free: Let There Be Linda is on presale on Amazon for $2.99. On July 1st it will be $4.99.

If you preorder Let There Be Linda before July 1st, and send Rich (rich@laughriotpress.com) a proof of purchase, he will send you a free e-copy of his romantic Hollywood sex comedy Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench. That’s two great reads for $2.99!

Ask a Question, Win a Signed Book! Email Rich any questions you want answered on the Laugh Riot Podcast (http://www.laughriotpress.com/podcasts/) for the chance to win a free signed book!

For More Info:

https://www.facebook.com/LaughRiotPress/
https://twitter.com/LaughRiotPress
http://www.amazon.com/Rich-Leder/e/B00N66JNN0/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8304523.Rich_Leder?from_search=true&search_version=service
http://www.laughriotpress.com/