Matt Stromsoe

Created by T. Jefferson Parker

T. Jefferson Parker seems to specialize in mostly standalone stories about lone heroes in law enforcement who are usually deeply scarred men who triumph over past tragedies to somehow win the day. So... what took him so long to write a P..I novel?

Stormrunners is, as far as I know, Parker's first. San Diego private eye MATT STROMSOE is, predictably enough, an ex-cop. He's been deeply traumatised by the violent death of his wife and children at the hands of Mike Tavarez, a Chicano gangster who had once been his best friend.

But that was a long, long time ago. After Santa Ana High School, the two young men took very different paths. Matt became a cop and Mike -- after a stint at Harvard -- ended up running La Eme, the so-called "Mexican Mafia."

When their paths cross years later, Matt's wife and son are killed by a bomb set by Mike, which also costs Matt "his left eye, the little finger on his left hand and most of his left breast" as well as shattering "his left femur, tibia and fibula."

Years later, Matt has recovered, and is now working for Dan Birch's security firm in San Diego, recently hired to protect a local TV weather forecaster, Frankie Hatfield, from a stalker.

Matt's slowly rebuilding his life, while his old pal Mike is simply doing life -- but still running his criminal enterprises from a prison cell. And then their paths cross... again.

But there's far more going on here than just two guys on a collission course. Parker clearly knows his Southern California history. Somehow he manages to juggle the true story of flim-flam man Charles Mallory "The Rainmaker" Hatfield and the 1916 flooding of Lake Morena; the rise of Chicano gangsters and the Mexican mafia (La Eme) and the LA Department of Water and Power and the Owens Valley/Los Angeles water scandal (most notably fictionalized in Chinatown) without once dropping the ball.

Of course, any true crime aficionado reading a private eye book set in L.A. is going to have plenty of unbidden references springing to mind, and Parker doesn't disappoint. But he is subtle, avoiding particularly blatant swipes or references. He does, however, give a shout out to the rather noirish 1956 Burt Lancaster film The Rainmaker, which was inspired by Hatfield's story.

This is also -- and I'd be happy to be enlightened if I'm wrong -- one of the first "Green" P.I. books I've come across. The major evil perpetrated here is by a public company that puts profits before the environment and the public good.

Really far-fetched, I know.

JUST ONE MORE THING...

  • "It took a real stretch of my imagination to believe that one could use science to make it rain on demand. Yet, all of the background information Parker gives seems plausible. So is it possible?"

-- Eric Chambers

UNDER OATH

  • '"Darkly nostalgic and powerful"

-- Literary Review

  • "A superior thriller

-- Mail on Sunday

  • "Insanely Imaginative."

-- New York Times

NOVELS

Respectfully submitted by Eric Chambers, with an assist (and a few clumsy metaphors) from Kevin Burton Smith.


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