Books by William J. Caunitz

CHAINS OF COMMAND by William J. Caunitz
Released: Sept. 13, 1999

From the author of Pigtown (1995), etc.: a savvy, compelling police procedural, completed by Christopher Newman after Caunitz's death in 1996. The NYPD's police commissioner is about to step down, and First Deputy Suzanne Albrecht is in line for his job. And, boy, does this ferociously ambitious lady want it. But there are problems. She has reasons, good ones, to believe that a department-wide scandal might be brewing—the kind that could derail her. Needing help, she calls on the one man she feels she can trust absolutely. These days, Lieutenant Matt Stewart works out of the Intelligence Division, and the two see each other rarely, but they have a history. They were lovers once, a fact that would startle virtually all of their colleagues; over the years it's become a departmental article of faith that the "Ice Maiden" has no personal life. Because Matt still cares for her and because he thinks she would make an excellent commissioner, he agrees to be reassigned to the 37th Precinct, as its whip. Why the 37th? Because in that boiling pot of ethnic diversity, the entrepreneurial spirit creates the action—Columbians, Dominicans, Chinese, Italians, Afro-Americans, all competing (and occasionally combining)—for the crack-cocaine dollar. It's from that direction, Suzanne feels certain, that the unsettling smell of trouble is wafting her way. She's right. And she's also right about the quality of the man she's selected to watch her back. Despite this, as she discovers, fate is an unfair opponent. When the smoke finally clears—a last act with a body count surpassing Hamlet's—it's obvious that still another set of best-laid plans has gone astray. The people are genre staples, and the prose often pedestrian, but sheer storytelling power places this one among Caunitz's successes. Read full book review >
PIGTOWN by William J. Caunitz
Released: June 1, 1995

Caunitz, whose recent work (Cleopatra Gold, 1993, etc.) makes you wonder whether the bad guys don't adhere to a higher moral code than the boys in blue, dishes more dirt on New York's finest. This installment's catalyst is the killing of Brooklyn gangster Beansy Rutolo by a pair of Rastafarians taking time off from their usual jobs working for dirty retired Sgt. Paddy Holiday. Lt. Matthew Stuart, who catches the homicide, can see right away that Beansy's connections—Andrea Russo, who owns the house in Pigtown whose refrigerator he was found in, and her neighbor Mary Terrella—will bring him up against a pair of big, bad guns: Russo's sometime associate Daniel Lupo; and Terrella's lover, Frankie Bones Marino. But Stuart doesn't know how deep a hole he's stepped into even when Russo tells him that these two lovelies have demanded that she sleep with Stuart in order to keep tabs on him. The romance is a base canard—Stuart would never be unfaithful to Lt. Suzanne Albrecht, his secret pal back at One Police Plaza—but it's only the first step in an elaborate frameup of Stuart by higher-ups who don't want his investigations to disrupt the flow of drug payoffs to their widows-and-orphans fund. The plot thickens further when Lt. Ken Kirby, another Lupo/Marino associate, decides to pay back Det. Helen Kahn, who's just broken off their affair, by throwing her into the frame too. But the industriously scheming crooks all seem tired, maybe from delivering lines like ``Federal health regulations make them disinfect the inside after each load,'' and it's not until Internal Affairs gets its hooks into Stuart and Kahn and they hunker down to nail the payoff kings and high-level takers on the job that Caunitz really starts to earn his dime. Persevere past the clunky exposition, and you'll find a zooful of cops and robbers so rotten they squish when you squeeze them. ``Pigtown'' is right. (Author tour) Read full book review >
CLEOPATRA GOLD by William J. Caunitz
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

Another sprawling report from the NYPD, this one tracing the cross-plotted attempts of two divisions to infiltrate a world-class heroin gang. Intelligence's man on the inside is Irish/Mexican lounge-singer Alejandro Monahan, who's been spending most of the years since his cop father was gunned down cultivating dope king Che-Che Morales—so successfully that Che-Che, who considers himself both his patron and his blood brother, doesn't see anything suspect about Alejandro's plan to airlift drug shipments over New York using the state-of-the-art Parapoint delivery system. Meanwhile, though, the boys in Narcotics, who have no idea that Intelligence has its own man in Morales's gang, pluck rookie Fiona Lee from the ranks and send her for a crash- training course at the Hacienda, a training facility in the Blue Ridge where, identifying herself as Belle Starr, she meets Alejandro, calling himself Jesse James. After Alejandro's been flown down to his Mexican hometown so that he can demonstrate the Parapoint system while Che-Che's intimidating his family, it's back to the Big Apple, where the two undercover cops will inevitably meet again and pursue a chaste romance as their apoplectic division chiefs take turns pulling out the rug from under each other to the accompaniment of falling bodies, many shot by sexy, uninhibited mob assassin Judith Stern, code-named Cleopatra. It's that kind of book. Under layers of procedural detail and telling anecdotes, the story is both overgalvanized and meandering—a far cry from One Police Plaza (1984). But Caunitz's novel view that druglords are only the triggermen for the Man's interdepartmental squabbles could sell big copies. (First printing of 75,000) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

NYPD procedural veteran Caunitz (Black Sand, Suspects, One Police Plaza) coasts on his bestselling reputation in this pumped-up tale pitting still another department stalwart against an unusually preposterous psycho. In this corner, then: recent widower (melanoma) Lt. John Vinda, recalled from exile in Missing Persons to put himself on the line by solving a series of slashings of young women before the media realizes they're connected and jumps all over the case; and a chosen squad of basically interchangeable mavericks who don't mind bending a few rules. (After the confession Vinda extorts from a bomb supplier turns out to be bogus, two women from the squad go on their own to extort a second, accurate, confession.) And in this corner—his identity doesn't stay secret for long—Michael Worthington, stuntman-turned- actor, also in mourning for his wife, who left the convent to marry him but was killed by a stray police bullet soon after the wedding. As a killer, Worthington clearly has it in for the police, but that doesn't prevent the entire squad from obligingly gathering at his behest at One Police Plaza so that he can blow them all up—if only Vinda doesn't put two and two together in time. The hang-up that dictates the pattern of Worthington's revenge is deliciously absurd just by itself but, better still, it allows Vinda, after a series of feints padded out by exotic sex (S/M, masturbation, lesbianism, and coitus interruptus—the one unremarkable sexual encounter naturally takes place offstage), to exorcize his grief in a sublimely silly sequel to the bombing. Exciting as ever—but disappointingly routine under the trappings. And the killer is treated with a surprising lack of conviction. Read full book review >

Despite the publisher's 150,000-copy first printing and matching ad campaign, this third police thriller from best-selling cop/author Caunitz (One Police Plaza, 1984; Suspects, 1987) is dully formulaic, albeit cleverly glazed with a colorful Greek backdrop and intricate police-procedural detail. Although Caunitz opens in Greece—with a massacre in Vo£la that kills several, including the wife and child of Greek cop Andreas Vassos—his focus, as before, is on the N.Y.P.D., here represented by Lt. Teddy Lucas, Greek immigrant-turned-Yankeephile. It's Lucas who's assigned to work with Vassos when the Greek comes to Gotham to track down the criminal mastermind responsible for the massacre and its raison-d'etre: the theft from Greece of the casket copy of Alexander the Great's legendary and priceless manuscript of the Iliad, transcribed by Aristotle himself. Together, with the help of elegant rare-manuscript expert Katina Wright, the two cops penetrate the hermetic world of high-art theft, as well as the tangential but more thuggish world of a crime-ring (the Purple Gang) based closely on N.Y.C.'s real-life Westies, not to mention the world of Greek New York—where Teddy, under Vassos' prodding, slowly finds reconciliation with his shucked Greek heritage. Teddy falls for and beds Katina; Vassos hires whores and pretends they're his dead wife; the unnamed villain keeps tabs on the cops' sleuthing by way of lunch at the Plaza with a State Department turncoat. Through methodic investigation, the two cops close in on their prey, and, in a final shoot-out at the Purple Gang's headquarters, meet up with the casket copy and—for one cop—death. Chock-full of nifty tidbits—how to unfurl a 2,000-year-old manuscript, how to beat an infrared alarm system—but slow-going except for the bang-bang climax, and sentimental to a fault. If you've ever watched Kojak, you've met these fuzz before, and all that Grecian formula can't hide the graying of Caunitz's writerly skills. Read full book review >