Scott Weiss and Jim Bishop
Created by Andrew Klavan

It's billed as "A Weiss and Bishop Novel," so I assumed Andrew Klavan's kickass Dynamite Road (2003) was the first of a series. And it turned out to be true and that's good news.

Dynamite Road a veritable pulp fiction buffet, with a little something for everyone -- it's part private eye procedural, part James Bond-type thriller, part coming-of-age story and part boy's adventure. There's even a little romance. And yet, despite all the borrowed trappings, it's got a fresh originality all its own.

SCOTT WEISS is Chandler's Philip Marlowe grown old, a lonely, seen-it-all boy scout still clinging to a code of honor that may be all he has left. A deeply moral man, who wears his fragile heart on his sleeve, he runs a successful downtown San Francisco detective agency, from which he dispatches cocky young operative JIM BISHOP to go undercover as a pilot to investigate some suspicious goings-on at the local airport in Driscoll, Northern California.

If Weiss is troubled by ethics, Bishop shows no such reluctance. No sooner does he slip into his new identity than he starts to ease out the head pilot, Chris Wannamaker, a drunken lout who talks too much -- both at work, sucking up to the airfield owner, and at home, where he sets about banging Wannamaker's neglected and lonely wife. It ignites a chain of events that has the action whipsawing from character to character and viewpoint to viewpoint, as both men race to thwart a criminal mastermind almost as creepy as Hannibal Lechter, and leads to one of the most thrilling, big bang conclusions I've read in a long time. If nobody films this baby, I'll be very surprised.

But it's not all white-knuckle, larger-than-life thrills here – Klavan's a powerful writer with a fierce eye not just for detail, but also for the secret hurts we carry in our hearts, from the bittersweet loneliness of Scott's romantic obsessions to the bruised idealism of the young Weiss Investigations mailroom clerk who narrates this book. And it's that life-sized empathy for the humanity in us all that really drives this explosive tale home.



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. (November 2003)

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