Edsel

Estleman, Loren D. Edsel: a Novel of Detroit. The Mysterious Press, 1995.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Michigan becoming a state. I also needed a one-word title for the Portland Public Library’s Reading Challenge.

For Edsel: a Novel of Detroit, we jump back to the 1950s. Former reporter Constance “Connie” Minor has been hired to come up with an advertising pitch to sell the Ford “e-car” Edsel. At the same time, he is hired to be a spy for the United Auto Workers labor union. As he bounces between loyalties and the law, Connie also juggles dating two women. Per the usual Estlemen plot, Connie burrows underground into the world of mobsters, corrupt politicians, and ex-cops with hidden agendas. Once again, it is the dialogue that keeps Edsel hopping.
Like the other Estleman novels, Edsel is a parade of cars: Skyliner, Studebaker (my dad had one of those), Lincoln Capri, Ford Fairlane, Hudson Hornet, Bel-Air, Mercury Montclair, deVille, corsair, Citation, and Roadmaster.
This is going to sound strange, but I loved the last few pages of Edsel. If this had been a movie, the end roll of credits would have been a political and economic snapshot of how 1950s fared. Like the voiceover of the crime noir detective wrapping up the solving of a crime.
What was that movie when someone soandso goes back in time and laughingly asks her family, “you bought an Edsel?” knowing that in the future, this model was doomed to fail in a big way. I think it was “Peggy Sue Got Married” but I can’t remember the name of the actress who goes back in time.

Quote I liked, Israel Zed’s advice, “Time isn’t as important as attitude” (p 85). Two more lines to like, “I had to maneuver my lips out of the way of my words” (p 72), “Young women who are out to seduce fossils don’t begin by telling them they’re two years younger than their fathers” (p 147), and “Never plead problems of health to the man who holds your professional future in the file drawer of his desk” (p 278).

Author fact: Estleman was nominated for a Pulitzer.

Playlist: Little Richard, “After the Ball,” “The Black Bottom,” “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window,” “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” “Sixteen Tons,” Teresa Brewer, Xavier Cugat, Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Rosemary Clooney’s “Come On-a My House,” Elvis’s “Hond Dog,” Jerry Lee Lewis, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine, Frankie Lane’s “Mule Train,” and Bill Haley and the Comets.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Country Country: the Literary Midwest (Michigan)” (p 26).


King of the Corner

Estleman, Loren D. King of the Corner. Bantam, 1992.

Reason read: to finished the series started in January in honor of Michigan becoming a state.

King of the Corner opens with Kevin “Doc” Miller being released from prison. Doc did seven years time for hosting a party where an underage girl died of a cocaine overdose. He didn’t bring the drugs and he certainly didn’t bring the girl, but he went down for it all nonetheless. It’s the 1990s and Big Auto has been swallowed up by Big Crime. After seven years behind bars, Doc needs a job but he still loves baseball. Somehow he finds himself taking over someone else’s job as a cabbie. Because of his height and overall size one fare. Maynard Ance, convinces him to assist with a bond pick up. And that’s where the trouble begins. Like being sucked down a drain, Doc finds himself pulled into bad company. His situation goes from bad to worse when he ends up on the scene of a murder, s direct violation of his parole. To paint a further picture, if you are familiar with other other “Detroit” books in Estleman’s series, you’ll know why the fact Patsy Orr’s accountant now works for Maynard Ance is trouble. Old ghosts never die.
Pay close attention to what characters say because dialogue drives the action.

Line I liked, “He wondered if the daily routine would just fade away on its own or if he would have to change it himself.” I was reminded of Red from “Shawshank Redemption” and he was not able to take a piss without first asking permission.

Book trivia: King of the Corner was the third and final installment in the Detroit series. Interestingly enough, I am reading a total of seven for the Challenge.

Play list: “Okie From Muskogee,” “White Christmas,” Waylon Jennings, M.C. Hammer, Otis Redding, Nat King Cole, Billie Holliday, Michael Jackson, Lou Rawls, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Martha and the Vandellas, Elvis, and Anita Baker’s “Watch Your Step,”

Nancy said: Pearl called the whole series of “Detroit” novels “sweeping” and “gritty.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Michigan)” (p 26).


Motown

Estleman, Loren D. Motown. Bantam Books, 1991.

Reason read: to continue the Detroit series started in honor of January being the month Michigan became a state.

It’s 1966, thirty years later and a whole generation after Whiskey River. The times, they certainly are different. The Supreme Court now demands a search warrant to tap phones. Seatbelts are a thing. Dean Martin has a talk show. The American Steelhaulers Association is a very powerful labor union. What will they think of next? In the midst of all this, protagonist and ex-cop Rick Amery is down on his luck. Only 37 years old and he doesn’t have a stable place to live or a decent paying job. So when Big Auto comes calling to hire him to go undercover, it’s an easy decision. Plus, he loves, loves, loves cars. He loves cars. Did I mention he loves cars? His job is to spy on a safety organization. A guy named Porter is a big advocate of anything that will make the consumer stay a little safer in an automobile. He’s out to expose Big Auto’s shortcuts because they have started cutting back on safety to beef up horsepower, like making smaller brake drums to make room for a bigger engine.
Old characters from Whiskey River like Joey Machine are legends in Motown. Constantine “Connie” Minor is back as a lawn mower salesman having quit the journalism business twenty years before.
Like Whiskey River Estleman pays tribute to the auto and clothing fashions of the time: Sting Ray Corvettes, Volvo, Ramblers, Studebakers, Chevy Impala, Mercedes, VW Beetle, Corvair, Cobra, Camaro Z28, Excaliburs, denim, gaberdine, wool, mother of pearl, suede, silk, loafers, leather, wingtips and wide lapels.
True to the times, Estleman does not shy away from racism and often using language that wouldn’t be politically correct for this day and age: “Nigger killings off Twelfth Street aren’t exactly Commissioner’s priority” (p 48). Hard words to read, but a reality of the 1960s.

As an aside, I agree with Mike Gallente about boxed pasta when he explains, “Directions say 8-10 minutes but that’s at least 2 minutes too long” (p 209).

Lines I liked, “Napoleon was on Elba for only ten months, and he didn’t have TWA” (p 141), “Why don’t you just drop your pants and use a ruler?” (So Enid says on page 152). “Ouzo was slightly less treacherous than the Viet Cong” (p 231), and “He drove down the straight, smooth shotgun barrel of his thoughts, not paying attention to anything outside, trusting his hands on the wheel and his feet on the pedals to guide him scratchless through the physical world” (p 269).

Author fact: Estleman also wrote a mystery series starring a character called Amos Walker.

Book trivia: Motown takes place thirty years after Whiskey River.

Play list: “Blowin’ in the Wind,””House of the Rising Sun,” “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Summer in the City,” “The Quest,” Smokey Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr., Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” Cab Calloway, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Dean Martin, Eartha Kitt, Elvis, Little Richard, Petula Clark, Nancy Sinatra’s “these Boots Were Made for Walking,” the Supremes’s “Itching My Heart,”, Otis Redding, the Miracles, Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Beach Boys’s “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Freedom Road,” Lou Rawls, Little Anthony, “Praise Ye Lord,” the Temptations,” Barry McGuire, Pat Boone, and Frank Sinatra.

Nancy said: Pearl said to read Jitterbug after Whiskey River. I’m reading Motown because it was written directly after Whiskey River. Not sure if I’m right or not.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest (Michigan)” (p 26).