John March

Created by Peter Spiegelman

New York private eye JOHN MARCH seems to have lived a few interesting lives already even before we first meet him in the Shamus-winning Black Maps (2003), a widely acclaimed debut by Peter Spiegelman. Once the blacksheep son of a wealthy, overbearing Wall Street merchant bank dynasty, he walked away from the clutches of his dysfunctional family to become a deputy sherriff in the upstate boonies. But that ended in professional disaster and a tragedy (the untimely death of his wife) that still haunts him years later, leaving him something of an emotional cripple, ill at ease with issues of intimacy and trust and not always particularly likeable.

Which doesn't mean he's not a compelling and interesting character to follow.

When Black Maps begins, John's back in Manhattan, still trying to dodge his family, and trying to rebuild his life, while working to clear a self-made millionaire from charges of money-laundering against a finely wrought background of high finance, greed and (dramatic pause, here)... murder. The book was praised for its superb plotting and emotional richness, and boded well for the series. And I'm glad to report that so far, my predictions have come true. Both Death's Little Helpers (2005) and Red Cat (2007) are well worth checking out.

There's a sort of Ross Macdonald-like sense of foreboding to his prose in these books, yet Spiegelman offers up just enough unique, personal touches and plain old ballsiness to make March far more than just another angst-ridden Lew Archer clone. Our man Lew would have never been able to hack the Big City vibe of Noo Yawk with which March deals everyday, and the ol' stick-in-the-mud would have been completely gobsmacked by March's "robust sensuality" and his on-going pop culture references, particularly the call-outs to rock music and comic books -- such as a female character who affectionately refers to March as "Detective" throughout Red Cat, a sure nod to villainess Talia's pet name for Batman.

Spiegelman worked on Wall Street for twenty years developing software systems for international banking institutions before retiring in 2001 to devote himself to writing full time. Unfortunately, the March series seems to have ended with just the three books and a short story (a fourth novel, False Dawn, was announced, but so far has not been published), although Spiegelman published a well-received standalone thriller, Thick As Thieves, in 2011. more recently he's started a new series, featuring physician/sleuth Adam Knox who makes unofficial "house calls" to those "too famous or too criminal to seek other medical care."

UNDER OATH

  • "Nothing about this stylish, literate mystery reads like a debut... John March is one of the most intriguing new PIs to come along in quite some time, and if this strong first outing is any indication, he should be in for a long and enjoyable run."

-- Publishers Weekly

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • "This Year's Model" (2007, Kindle)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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