Updated: Mar 25
A DISCLAIMER. I am a longtime fan of true crime, detective crime and journalistic treatment of real, contemporary crime. If you think this somehow taints my view, cease reading now!
Shamus Dust ranks in the classics and there are criteria for that rating. First, it's remarkably well written with an approach to unintimidating (my usage) poetry at times. Never, have I read an opening scene in which pure poetry leads the reader into "when the telephone rang." Wow, the reader is in for it now!
What's easily overlooked is this opener says all I need to know about Newman, that description carries me through the entire story and gives him his credibility throughout.
Newman is not the shamus who throws the first punch (with an exception with Voigt), but can sure take one. He's educated (for a Yank) and that is apparent in lines like "the way a Belgian will feel when he first sets eyes on Switzerland." Newman can be a snob.
You have a gift for pulling off what in any other genre would be the use of cliches, and that raises the question, when is a cliché not a cliché? Answer, when it's used for the first time, as my wife Barbara says. Second answer, when it's used as an acceptable tool to develop feeling and atmosphere in a genre that expects it.
I could go on, I suppose, but perhaps my most important observation is that you could have ended the story the easy way, but you pushed on, dug deeper (as we say) and took care of all the characters with good taste. I did question McAlester's not being on the murder scene in the beginning, but you persuaded me to ignore that.
Do I have any complaints?
For a detective who always has a clean shirt in the closet why didn't Newman get the girl in the end? But then he is a new-man. Sorry, I am a romantic.
Wonderful story, well crafted with many delightful asides.
Ray A. March is an American journalist who has worked as a general assignment and investigative reporter in Europe and the U.S. He is also the author of five nonfiction books including River in Ruin: The Story of the Carmel River 2012. His writings have appeared in Time Magazine, New York Times, Associated Press and San Francisco Chronicle among others. His upcoming Mass Murder in California's Empty Quarter: A Tale of Tribal Treachery at the Cedarville Rancheria, University of Nebraska Press, is scheduled for production in fall 2020. He is co-chair of the Ed Kennedy Pulitzer Project, a nationwide effort by journalists to award the late Kennedy a special Pulitzer for his World War II reporting.