Created by W.M. Akers
“The white lights of Broadway shimmered through the gin like gasoline in gutter water”
If the Drowning City of Joe Golem‘s retro New York is too wet for you and you prefer your retro fantasy high and dry, you might get a kick out W.M. Aker’s Westside (2019, which introduces private eye GILDA CARR. Her Jazz Age Manhattan isn’t the hoppin’ boppin’ one you’ve seen in old newsreels — it’s a dying city, with a heavily guarded, thirteen-mile barbed-wire fence running the length of Broadway, dividing the prosperous and “normal” Eastside from the otherworldly, hellish Westside, where people and things inexplicably vanish (never to return) on a regular basis, and peculiar characters of all sorts, from bootleggers to wizards to strange, unsettling things not easily described, run amuck.
Gilda’s a wee thing, really, but she’s got spunk and plenty of savvy, running the detective agency that her late father, an ex-cop, started. Still, she also knows her limitations — she only dabbles in “tiny mysteries,” nothing too big. She figures low-key cases will be enough to pay the bills and keep her busy, and distract her from her grief. And hopefully, from obsessing over the strange circumstances of her father’s death.
But when Gilda agrees to find a missing white leather ladies’ glove in her impressive debut, Westside (2019), the tiny case has her coming face-to-face with rumrunners, smugglers, murderers—and a darkly evil entity that threatens to swallow the whole city.
But the real magic may lie in the author’s way with words — he has a fierce eye for detail and a gift for razor-sharp characterization that Chandler would envy. I mean, really. “Skin the color of raw kielbasa”?
Ray would absolutely plotz.
- “The seamless blending of genre elements creates a fresh and unpredictable narrative, but the real power here comes from Akers’ focus on description throughout. Masterful worldbuilding, character development, and attention to dark atmospherics make for a fully immersive read in which even secondary characters are memorable… Bracing, quite possibly hallucination-inducing, and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before…The illegitimate love child of Algernon Blackwood and Raymond Chandler.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
- “The cast of deeply developed characters and the richly envisioned setting are perfectly complemented by a breakneck-paced and action-packed storyline. It’s like a literary shot of Prohibition-era rotgut moonshine—bracing, quite possibly hallucination-inducing, and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.”
— Publishers Weekly