Created by Paul Marks
It was a long time coming, but former Navy SEAL turned Los Angeles private eye DUKE ROGERS finally made it into the series his creator always wanted him to have, when his award-winning (and oft-reprinted) debut, White Heat (2012), finally got a sequel, Broken Windows (2018) six years later.
But that’s not even the full-story. That first novel, which was set during the 1992 Rodney King riots, was actually begun way back then when the author was still a Los Angeles screenwriter, and languished in a drawer (or more likely a floppy disk or two, gathering dust for almost twenty years, until it was resurrected and self-published by the author, just in time to nab the first-ever Shamus for Best Indie P.I. Novel.
That first novel drew a lot of praise, and if the author occasionally showed more earnestness than style, well, so be it. There’s no doubt Marks captured the jacked-up fear and racial distrust of the era, as Rogers, guilt-ridden over the part he played in the death of Teddie Matson, an African-American actress, bounces back and forth through a city seemingly bent on self-destruction, hunting down the elusive client who turned out to be a killer. There’s plenty of nastiness on hand, from his asshole buddy Jack’s endless — and often disturbing — arguments about class and race to numerous violent confrontations with “peaceful” citizens and “law enforcement” officers, all caught up in a swirling shit pile of shifting alliances.
Good guys? Bad guys? It’s hard to tell.
Fuck, even Duke’s dog, Baron, buys it.
Broken Windows, set two years later, doesn’t so much attempt to leave the past behind as wallow in it. It’s 1994, California’s mired in its never-ceasing immigration woes, and Duke is still hung up on the death of Teddie Matson, although he’s no longer barely eking out a living — thanks to the Matson case and the attention it drew, business is booming for Duke. He’s even got a new dog.
But when he encounters Marisol Rivera, a young illegal who works as a live-in housekeeper, whose brother Carlos was recently found with his neck broken, his heart goes out to her, and he decides to look into it, pro-bono. The police dismiss Carlo’s death as a tragic accident, but she doesn’t think so. And neither does Duke when he starts poking around.
Once more white boy Duke finds himself bumping up against the hard slap of racial distrust, and once more the bodies start to pile up. And once more Jack, possibly the least likable sidekick a P.I. ever had, is around to offer running commentary.
Before becoming a novelist, Paul D. Marks was a screenwriter.
- “(White Heat) really caught early 90s LA, in all its sordid glory. And had me turning pages late into the night. I think it’s up there with the best of the LA novels, but has an air of authenticity that many lack.”
— Woody Haut
- “(White Heat) is a stunning debut novel. It grabs you with the intensity of the riots and keeps the anxiety and tension pushing full-throttle right up to the bittersweet ending… a hard-hitting, noir detective thriller that also deals with tough issues like racism, the ‘diversity’ of racism, and the human condition.”
— Andrew McAleer