Michael Simon’s Prose Sizzles Like Fatty Bacon in a Pan

For Xmas, my wife and I don’t buy each other presents. No bad sweaters. No DVDs. No jewelry or candles or vacuum or gift cards. It’s not a religious thing. More of meaning thing. We used to do the whole Xmas where we each tried to out do the other. But it got old. And expensive. We wound up with a lot of shit that we never used and couldn’t find a reasonable place to put.

Now we just buy books. Every Xmas we exchange one book.

The first Xmas we did this (a few years back) she bought me the graphic novel PREACHER. And, holy crap, is that a fun read.

The second Xmas she bought me two books: Dirty Sally and Body Scissors. Both by an unknown writer by the name of Michael Simon.

These books were the first two in a series of cop drama/noir-ish thrillers. Now there are a lot of books like these out there and although I am sucker for them (most notably any of the books in the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain) I am always hesitant to explore an unknown author. But my wife had done her homework. Here is a clip from Dirty Sally:

Death approaches from the left, a medic once told me. Its cold form moves up beside you from the left, touches you and takes you. In desperate situations, medics park themselves on a patient’s left side to get in death’s way.

Dirty Sally’s description:

Dan Reles escaped to Texas at 15. Today he’s an Austin homicide detective—the squad’s only Yankee and its only Jew. Still reeling from his partner’s death, Dan tracks the brutal murder of a young prostitute and the violent cover-up that follows.

Body Scissors follows Detective Dan Reles with an equally good yarn, down another dark and lonely road. But I never read it because the first one was so good that I couldn’t let BS be the last book. I couldn’t end it there. I had read rumors of more books in the series, but needed to wait to be sure. I am a purist. I won’t watch one episode of the television show 24 from week-to-week. I need to buy the entire series and watch one after the other, like machine gun fire. So I waited for more books, letting BS collect dust.

And as typically happens with me, I forgot all about Michael Simon. That is until yesterday. I discovered that two more Reles books have been published.

The third book in the series: Little Faith.

And the fourth book in the series The Last Jew Standing:

Both seem wonderful and lush in all the ways a cop noir should be wonderful and lush. (And I will be the first to admit that TLJS has a pretty terrible cover, especially when compared to the previous three.)

Michael Simon has a lean, brutal, no-frills style of prose. I am reminded of Elmore Leonard, sure, but more psychotic and Jewish. Never have I read such detailed, yet gorgeous descriptions of quartered bodies, Texans, and hollowed out human heads. Simon understands his genre. Doesn’t try and change it. Is a student of the form. Hits the expected cues on the nose. And doesn’t disappoint.

If you’re a fan of the detective in a wrinkled suit noir, you must add Simon to your collection.

If not, then don’t waste my time. I could give a shit, honestly. He’s badass, that’s all I have left to say. That and he is one sick pup. And his prose sizzles like fatty bacon in a pan.

About J. R. Angelella

J. R. Angelella is the author of the popular debut novel ZOMBIE: A NOVEL (Soho Press) and a contributing author to the murder-mystery anthology WHO DONE IT? (Soho Teen), benefiting the nonprofit organization 826NYC. His short fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including Sou’wester, JMWW, The Collagist, Literary Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal and The Nervous Breakdown. His short story “Sauce” won the 2012 Short Story Contest held by The Coachella Review. He received a BA in English Literature from Ithaca College and an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars at Bennington College. He taught creative writing at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York City and currently teaches professional writing at the University of Maryland at College Park. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, the writer Kate Angelella.
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