Peter Goldman is an award-winning journalist and best-selling nonfiction author launching a second career writing genre-busting thrillers for a literate audience. As a senior editor at Newsweek, he was at various times the magazine's lead writer on politics, race, and the Watergate crisis and the director of a special=projects team producing works of long-form narrative journalism. Among many other honors, his projects helped Newsweek win six National Magazine Awards, the industry's nearest equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize.
He is the author or lead co-author of fourteen books. Reviewers of his nonfiction have described his work as "gripping" (New Yorker), "shiningly eloquent" (New York Times), and "masterful" (Washington Post). A Wall Street Journal critic called him "perhaps the best writer in American journalism." One of his works, Charlie Company: What Vietnam Did To Us, reached number four on the New York Times best-seller list in paper. Another, The Death and Life of Malcolm X, is regarded as a standard with wide black-studies course adoptions; a Times reviewer described it as "an indispensable biography." A third, Quest For the Presidency 1992, was listed in the Wall Street Journal as one of the five best books on modern presidential campaigns.
A Trail of Blood is the fourth book in a series of detective novels, drawing on Goldman's long experience reporting and writing on crime, politics, race, and street basketball. (A fifth book is currently in the works.) The central character is Max Christian, a former NYPD homicide detective turned private investigator for a society clientele. Max, in his mid-40s, is a poster boy for the male midlife crisis; his marriage is a shambles, he hates his work, he drinks too much, he sleeps with his receptionists by night, and can't remember their names the next morning. He lives for the big cases, working them with his former partner, Tina Falcone, a sassy lesbian, and Nick (The Closer) Testa, a Florida PI and a special-ops veteran of the Sandbox wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The books are intended to be what the late Graham Greene called "entertainments" for serious readers. They honor the conventions of the detective-story genre. But beneath the salty dialogue and the shoot-'em-up narrative, they consider serious questions about crime, politics, race, and human identity.
“An absorbing detective tale with plenty of action and antiheroes.”
– Kirkus Reviews
In Goldman’s (The Shape-Shifters, 2015, etc.) series thriller, written with private investigator Malatesta, a New York City PI works to uncover hard evidence against a very dangerous con artist.
French actress Sophie Guichard hasn’t starred in a movie in many years. Now in her 60s, she falls for the charms of the much younger Tony Orsini. Sophie’s skeptical son, Jean-Jérôme, nicknamed “J-J,” digs into Tony’s background, and it turns out that he’s a con man with familial ties to the Corsican mob. He also has a girlfriend on the side, Paulette Guyot, with whom he’s been opening sex clubs that cater to many kinds of customers—including pedophiles. J-J reveals this to his mother, but she remains unconvinced of Tony’s vileness. J-J then calls his friend, Detective Jamie Rourke, a New York City Police Department liaison in Brussels, who, in turn, gets in touch with PI Max Christian. The former cop is much closer to Paulette than Jamie is, as she’s currently scouting Miami club locations. Max, however, is busy trying to care of his fractured family, including his wife, Meridew, and teenage son, Jay—the latter of whom a mob boss kidnapped and tortured a year ago. Still, the PI offers to act as a consultant and kicks the case to his pal, Nick Testa, who’s already established in Florida. But Nick and his goddaughter, Dani Longo, soon need Max’s help in South Beach. Max goes undercover at Club Paradoxe to obtain solid proof of Tony’s illegal activities. Unfortunately, some people catch on to the investigation and target Max, Nick, and Dani, which could put others in peril, as well. Goldman’s novel showcases a couple of savvy but heavily flawed detectives. Max’s persistent drinking, for example, only adds to his troubles, despite the fact that he recently began watering down his drinks with tonic. And both he and Nick, a former special ops soldier, are prone to violence, as well as occasional racial slurs, as when they repeatedly refer to a Vietnamese villain as a “gook.” The bad guys, meanwhile, are involved in multiple atrocities, including human trafficking. They prove to be potent threats to the detectives, and at least one person close to Max winds up in the hospital. The bulk of the novel is made up of dialogue, befitting a story in which characters must constantly hash out investigation specifics. There’s also a fair amount of diverting tough talk; at one point, Dani says that an armed man’s insult “was his death warrant.” However, the book culminates in a rather strange climax that jumps ahead in time, taking place “when the war was over and the smoke had cleared.” Characters then summarize what unfolded during the time jump, but these recapped confrontations lack suspense, as the people telling the stories have clearly survived. Still, the ending offers a thorough resolution that nicely ties up various subplots. Even Max’s old cop partner, Tina Falcone, takes on—and resolves—a murder case.
An absorbing detective tale with plenty of action and antiheroes.
Pub Date: June 19, 2019
Page count: 231pp
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2019
Private eye Max Christian helps a friend who’s running for Congress and enters a seedy world of murder, drugs, and politics in Goldman’s (The Last Minstrel Show, 2012, etc.) latest thriller.
Max’s newest case seems like an easy one at first. His friend, Edith Clift, is eyeing a congressional seat, so she hires him to follow her husband, Henry. She knows that Henry is cheating on her, but she wants proof in order to convince him to remain loyal until the election’s over. But things quickly get hairy: Max finds out that Henry has links to a Guatemalan company, which, in turn, has ties to a mob family. What’s more, Henry becomes a potential murder suspect when a singer he knows is killed. Meanwhile, Edith’s opponent, I.M. Trubble, lives up to his name; his negative ads lead Max to dig up dirt on Trubble while he searches for a killer. Despite the murder investigation, this novel is chiefly a political thriller. This works in the book’s favor, as Edith’s case is more engaging, with its Mafia-style hitmen and scandalous secrets. The bubbling campaign war, too, is intense and rightly described by Max as “ugly.” Indeed, Max isn’t even officially investigating the murder case but simply conferring with the lead investigator, his former New York Police Department partner Tina Falcone. There aren’t many suspects and no real surprises in either case, but there’s resolution across the board. Max is a whimsical protagonist with a freight of eccentricities; he partly takes Edith’s case in order to reunite with his estranged wife, Meridew, who’s Edith’s best friend; and he only has two-thirds of a right ear due to a shootout years ago and which everyone suggests should be “fixed up.” His most notable quirk, however, is the fact that he has frequent conversations with French writer and philosopher Albert Camus. Max calls him a ghost, but Goldman smartly keeps the interactions ambiguous; they could just as well be playing out in Max’s head. Their talks are often humorous—Max disguises one of them by holding a BlackBerry to his ear while in a crowded elevator—but they’re never quite as entertaining as the discussions Max has with the charmingly cynical Tina.
Precarious politics take precedence over murder in this striking genre entry.
Pub Date: March 14, 2015
Page count: 300pp
Review Posted Online: April 20, 2015
A fly-in-campaign-headquarters perspective on the last presidential race, written by Newsweek's special election team, several of whose members also worked on Quest for the Presidency 1988 (1989). A portion of this book appeared in a special issue of the magazine, published a day and a half after the last polls closed on November 3, 1992. No candidate is an FDR to his handlers—or so goes the handlers' refrain to Goldman and associates. Bill Clinton's days of whine and roses came in the primaries, as he erupted into rages over staffers' inability to focus attention on his agenda—though questions about his past were what distracted the media from the message of change. Ross Perot was astonished at the enthusiasm sparked by his hint that he would run for president—then unexpectedly indecisive about managing his wild-card challenge to the two-party system. George Bush was too consumed by foreign policy to notice the tremors beneath his once-solid poll standings and disheartened that the only way to retain his office would be through the partisan dustup that won him a first term (and stinging criticism). The beginning of this account offers the hope of a meaningful interpretation of the results, as the authors depict national disgust with deepening recession and with cynical, corrupt incumbents. Before long, however, they resort to horse-race journalism featuring media meisters who groan as their charges stumble from exhaustion. So accustomed are these spin doctors to their craft that now they use it to explain their own campaign roles, as witnessed in the 100-odd pages of strategy memos in the appendix. The Newsweek team has uncovered some sardonic vignettes, to be sure (e.g., callers asking for Jerry Brown's campaign manager were sometimes told that she was chanting at a staff meeting and could not be disturbed), but too often they follow political warriors like James Carville, James Baker, and Ed Rollins as they sulk in their tents. Instead of sounding the ``quiet national crisis'' that upended the old order, the authors have let puffed-up pols strut and fret during their hour upon the stage. (61 b&w photos, not seen)
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1994
Page count: 800pp
Publisher: Texas A&M Univ.
Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994
In this fifth installment of a series, a New York City private eye hunts a murderous group targeting newly elected female politicians, including his wife.
Max Christian has supported his wife, Meridew, during her congressional run and eventual triumph, though he’s dreading the New York to Washington, D.C., commute. But the private investigator has good reason to worry after a call from police detective Tina Falcone, his friend and former partner at Manhattan South homicide. Tina tells Max of an active-shooter incident in the Bronx in which the victims were a just-elected congresswoman, her family, and her campaign manager. The shooter, who’s currently in the hospital, had a note indicating he’s a member of an organization that is after “man-hating females” in Congress. Suspecting his wife may be a target, Max enlists the help of Florida-based PI pal Nick Testa, who sends his trusted private detective colleague Ray Peterson to keep an eye on Meridew. Nick, meanwhile, chases a bail jumper, Lanny Griggs, who happens to belong to the same group of domestic terrorists—called the LadyKillers Liberation Army. This band has already murdered another congresswoman, along with her family, considered “collateral damage.” Max, Tina, and Nick gather information and track down other members of the so-called army, who, along with an incel mindset, have a fear of women “taking over the world.” The three detectives, joined by Max’s PI partner, who calls himself Ahab, employ occasionally brutal techniques to get some people to talk. They hope to stop the group as well as its elusive leader, “the Colonel,” before Meridew or any other female politician dies.
Goldman, who wrote the novel with PI Malatesta, offers a sharp and focused series entry. For example, despite numerous characters, who include Nick’s goddaughter, Dani, acting as a bodyguard for another congresswoman, the tale rarely strays from the main plot. As in preceding installments, various conversations dominate the pages. In this case, Max and others are determined to extract intelligence from suspects, which entails such acts as physical abuse and unlawful detainment. But readers won’t likely sympathize with these men or the loathsome statements they brazenly make about women. Standouts in the story’s cast are female characters, particularly Meridew and Tina. The former’s refusal to “hide” or cower from the terrorists isn’t stubborn or reckless; it’s instead sheer tenacity, as she affirms that she represents the people who voted her into office. Similarly, Tina, who’s more by-the-books than Max and Nick, displays an impressive amount of restraint when questioning a suspect who insults her both as a woman and a lesbian. Tina also has some of the best lines, which are indicative of Goldman’s keen dialogue. While complaining about the FBI, she asserts: “These feebs are a bunch of suit-and-tie guys with spit-polished black Florsheims. You’ve seen ’em work—they only move around in pairs, like Siamese twins checking up on each other.” Even if tracking down terrorist suspects involves minimal mystery and investigation, there are still surprises in the final act and ultimate wrap-up.
An exceptional series entry with a remarkable private detective and strong supporting characters.
Page count: 260pp
Review Posted Online: May 1, 2020
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