Created by John Lutz (1939 --)
Carrying the twin burdens of cynicism and pain, Del Moray, Florida private eye FRED CARVER toughs it out with every step he takes, thanks to a hold-up man's bullet that ended his police career and left him with a permanently stiff left leg, forcing him to walk with the aid of a cane for the rest of his life.
But that's not enough. Carver must also contend with the aftermath of a nasty, messy divorce and the loss of custody of his two children, and even, in Scorcher (1987), the tragic murder of his young son. It would be unfair to burden this series in with the all-encompassing and oh-so-misunderstood noir tag that gets so easily tossed around these days, but there is a sense of bleak world-gone-wrong darkness at its very heart that spits at the very thought of a happy ending. Sure, hope exists, but it's rarely around for long. No wonder Carver's a wee bit on the cynical side.
But tough it out he does, sweating it out as a private eye under a burning Florida sun that pounds down relentlessly, trying to stay as honest as possible, living in a one-room beach house where he sits and broods, smoking his Swisher Sweet cigars, waiting for cases to come along that interest him.
He's a fierce-looking guy, deeply tanned, almost bald, with a face that suggests you don't cross him -- Carver's a "hard sonuvabitch." And, thanks to years of swimming-as-therapy that have left him with an extremely powerful upper body, he swings a mean cane. Not to mention the fact that he gets a tad obsessive at times. In fact, one ladyfriend likens him to an "unhealthy...combination of pitbull and bloodhound." Other, less benign folks just call him a "persistent peckerhead."
One of the interesting things about the series are the two police officers Carver deals with.
Orlando Police Department Lieutenant Alfonso DeSoto is Carver's closest friend and sometimes mother hen, as well as his best police contact. An unrepentant lover of women, a flashy dresser with a taste for salsa, he's a class act and a tough but fair cop.
Del Moray Police Lieutenant MacGregor is another story. He's slime incarnate, a corrupt, viscious man with no conscience or record of personal hygiene and a nasty streak a mile wide. He seems to delight in wedging his way into Carver's life, looking for an angle.
Another cool thing about the series is the women Carver has been involved with. First there was Edwina Talbot, a real estate agent coming out of a very bad relationship. Carver and she use one another almost as therapy, but eventually the relationship strains under the weight. Even better has been Beth Jackson, former mobster squeeze and one tough cookie, as hardass as Carver himself, an expert at firearms and martial arts. Seems Carver's finally met his match. Both Edwina and Beth are real women, fully Carver's equals who, like Carver, are walking wounded, trying to help themselves, but not always succeeeding, a theme that seems to run through this hard, fierce series.
A series, I might add, that never reached the mass audience I think it deserved. Part of it might be simply because most of the later novels never made it to paperback, but I suspect the books' smouldering bleakness might have had a little something to do with it.
Author Lutz has been one of the premier voices in contemporary hard-boiled fiction for over forty years, producing dozens of novels and over 250 short stories. His earliest success came with his Alo Nudger series, about a hardluck private eye' set in his hometown of St. Louis, and has written numerous standalone thrillers and a series about profiler Frank Quinn, and has even dabbled in writing several mystery jigsaw puzzles. Lutz is a former president of the Mystery Writers of America, and his many honors include lifetime achievement awards from the Short Mystery Fiction Society and the Private Eye Writers of America. He lives in St. Louis.
The official web site
The John Lutz Interview, conducted by yours truly.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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