Created by Joyce Spizer
Private eye MEL WALKER (real name Camellia) is a divorcee still mourning the death of her 6-year-old son, killed by hit-and-run driver. She runs a detective agency, Walker Investigations, and employs a fellow P.I., Johnnie Blake, a wisecracking gay guy. Mel specializes in insurance investigations, while Johnnie takes on death penalty cases. They both make their home in Harbour Pointe, California, "located thirty miles south of Los Angeles and situated on the Pacific Coast near Newport Beach."
Mel and Johnnie made their first apearance in 1998's The Cop Was White As Snow, written by Joyce Spizer. In it, she's investigating the suicide of her father (the cop of the title). There's evidence implicating her dad in cocaine trafficking, but of course, Mel doesn't believe any of this, so she decides to look into what she is sure was his murder.
I don't think I've ever read a book that contained so many clichés. Her house is ransacked. She is threatened by persons unknown who want something her dad had. She's shot at. Her car is run off the road. (By the time I got to that one, I actually rolled my eyes.) There's a Texan who calls people "little lady." Her housekeeper, a Hispanic woman, has many, many relatives all of whom speak broken English, and the men all take an afternoon siesta. Something upsets Mel, and she stomps her foot. Etc, etc, etc.
But the biggest crime isn't all the clichés -- it's that it's just poorly written. Check out this passage. Mel has just received another call from the unknown party who's after something her dad had:
"Answer me damn it. Are you still there?"
"Yo. So talk."
"First of all, I'd like to thank you for fucking up a perfectly good weekend, and my life. Oh, and I got all your precious little gifts. You really didn't have to, you know."
"This ain't no fucking tea party, bitch! Get to the point."
"Fine. So let me make it perfectly clear that I don't have a fucking clue what the fuck IT IS you want. But, paint me a picture, give me your address, I'll put the damn thing in the mail today...whatever it is. I always pay my bills on time."
"Don't be coy bitch. It doesn't become you."
"Coy ain't got nothing to do with it you sonofabitch. I really don't have a fucking clue."
Mel realized the caller had muzzled the receiver and now whispered to someone in the background. She could not make out the words. Cellular phones don't receive the best connection on the Harbor Freeway. She strained, but only the static sputtered loud and clear. She waited.
"Your turn," she decided to say.
He singsonged, "Mel had a daddy cop. He was white as snow. And everywhere that Mel went, the cop was sure to go."
"You bastard! Now who's being fucking coy. If you think my father was somehow mixed up with coke, you gotta another think coming."
"You ain't that stupid, Bitch. He was holding and we want it. We want it all. The cash, the coke AND the book. And we want it now."
Mel, the Mad Woman of Harbour Pointe, performing all parts of a three-act play the entire way home. She pounded on the steering wheel and the dash while screaming and crying in full fits of anger and desperation.
Now, wasn't that sparkling dialogue? It has all the rhythm and flow of a refrigerator rolling down a hill. And with another little cliché thrown in for good measure (angry woman cries).
Oh, and get a load of this. As you can tell from the above excerpt, this book is no stranger to blunt language, but when it came to the sex scene, "His maleness rose again..." And I thought people were joking when they talked about romance novels saying stuff like this!
One more thing. At the end of the book (literally - it's the last two pages), after everything is solved, Mel has found a letter from her father that explains why there is such a large balance in his bank account (one of the things that made him appear guilty): he'd won the lottery! But he didn't tell anyone because a) his fellow policemen would laugh at him for wanting to keep working, and b) Mel was going through such a messy divorce, and he worried that if she had a lot of money, she wouldn't come out of the divorce as well financially. Oh, brother. That was the last straw. If that hadn't been right at the end of the book, I don't know that I would have kept reading after that one.
Joyce Spizer is herself a real-life PI. Mel's second recorded adventure (I'm Okay, You're Dead) has just come out, and includes among its characters a stripper with a heart of gold. Spizer has also released Power Marketing Your Novel, a how-to book for writers intent on learning how to toot their own horns.
Contributed by Nathalie Bumpeau.