Joe Ready

Created by Bob Truluck

“You mean you’re a private detective?”
“That’s a little formal for what I do.”
— Joe tries to keep it casual in “A Man Called Ready”

JOE READY says he’s not a private detective, but reckons it’s “a nice payday for a guy who’s been about as busy as a pickpocket at a nudist joint the last couple of years.”

At least, that’s his reasoning for going into the “shamus game.” And anyway “greed’s a good front; it’s sleazy enough to be plausible.”

When we first met him in “A Man Called Ready,” a 2002 short story, Joe’s been working the unlicensed P.I. racket for a while, “sorta free-range,” adding his little bit of dirty to the nineteen thirties as he goes, never quite making the big payday he’s been dreaming of.

Joe’s a slick piece of goods — he’s got a swift line of patter, not above cutting a few corners. And he’ll lie at the drop of a hat.

He goes to work for a man named Bremer out of St. Paul, trying to recover $200,000 of his money from the notorious Ma Barker and company, who are on the lam and hiding out in the Florida boondocks. There are a few complications; namely a gargantuan alligator lurking in the swamp outside the hideout and hot-shot G-man Melvin Purvis and his boys, who are closing in and expected to arrive any day.

Isn’t that nice?

It’s a great story and I said so at the time, a gritty period piece that gets the feel right, and it left me with a taste in my mouth for more. Almost five years later, it looked like my wish was finally coming true. Joe returned in a full-length novel, The Art of Redemption 9 (2007).

But the Joe of The Art of Redemption is not the Joe of “A Man Called Ready.” Time has kept on spinning its wheels, and now the ex-cop, ex-PI, former vigilante is 98 years old (I repeat, 98 FUCKIN’ YEARS OLD!) and not doing so well (he’s dying). He’s a tough old son of a bitch, though, and he’s not quite ready to give up yet. So when his younger former partner, Jimmy Cotton, shows up for a visit, Joe tries to dump a lifetime of stories (some might even be true) on “the kid”, and get him to tie up a few loose ends. It’s an amazing book, with Jimmy acting like a hard-boiled Scheherazade, telling the ailing old friend’s stories back to him.

Author Bob Truluck also writes about private eye Duncan Sloan, an easy-going Florida gumshoe who keeps his stash of pot in a moldy refrigerator. Duncan’s first appearance, in Street Level (2000), won the 1999 SMP/PWA Best First PI Novel Contest. I just wish he’d write more.

UNDER OATH

  • “Truluck’s pulpy prose is spot on, and his vision and voice remain among the most original.”
    — Publishers Weekly on The Art of Redemption

SHORT STORIES

NOVELS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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