DEADLY PLEASURES Magazine,
Stark House is mostly known for its reprints of classic crime novels--sometimes in a bargain, two-novel format like the Ace Doubles of old. But occasionally it comes out with a paperback original.
TRUTH ALWAYS KILLS by Rick Ollerman, Rating A-
Jeff Prentiss wants to be a good cop, but his bad temper and his willingness to bend the rules often land him in trouble. Transferred from Tampa to St. Petersburg, Jeff finds himself a pariah among his fellow detectives, except for his partner. Luckily, for the time being, the have a "good" case--the murder of a well-known thief with connections to a prominent businessman.
Jeff's personal life is also a mess. His wife Lori and daughter have left him for places unknown. Lori's ex-husband, recently released from prison, began stalking her. Then he disappears and Lori thinks Jeff may have something to do with that disappearance. Questions are starting to be asked and Jeff is able to deflect them for awhile.
I came to this noirish novel with no preconceived expectations and left it with high respect and admiration for the writer's talent. This is definitely not an "everything works out in the end" kind of tale. Good people are killed and maimed and Jeff may be worse off at the end than he was at the beginning. What makes this novel a winner is Ollerman's storytelling chops and his vividly memorable characters. Highly recommended.
Truth Always Kills.Ollerman, Rick (Author)Dec 2015. 256 p.
St. Petersburg homicide detective Jeff Prentiss loves the smell of coffee. But he never drinks the stuffbecause the taste can't measure up to the aroma. The story he narrates is like that: a series of promisesfollowed by letdowns. A chance to shine in court goes sour when an attorney challenges him. He marriebeautiful woman with a young daughter, but then the woman's first husband gets out of jail and wants hfamily back. So it is with this case: a second-story man who's caught the public's fancy as Randy the Cis murdered. Prentiss digs deep and finds a connection to a seemingly unrelated killing in another town.goes after the linkages so fiercely that one senses it isn't the coffee's fault; he'd be dumping it no mattehow it tasted. As he closes in on the killers, he makes so many hotheaded decisions that the case circlesback to threaten his wife and her daughter. A moody novel with a sullen authority. A quality read but nlight one.
- Don Crinklaw
Dedicated followers of Stark House Press's excellent series of reissued fiction are already familiar with Rick Ollerman as the author of several in-depth introductions to notable noir works. Then last year Ollerman proved his talents as an author himself with his first two novels - TURNABOUT and SHALLOW SECRETS - published by Stark House as a twofer edition.
TRUTH ALWAYS KILLS, Ollerman's third and latest crime novel, demonstrates a new sense of maturity and authority, as he combines a complex murder mystery with a penetrating character study of his protagonist.
Jeff Prentiss, a homicide detective working in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the first to admit that life hasn't been easy lately. Departmental trouble and a pending court hearing involving a case he worked got him transferred from Tampa to his current home. Then things take a serious turn for the worse when Prentiss learns that his wife's ex-husband has been released from a Texas prison and is probably stalking his wife and his biological daughter, whom Prentiss has raised and loved as if she were his own. Then in a panic Prentiss's wife leaves with the daughter, giving Prentiss nothing more than a brief phone call with no clue as to her destination.
Before Prentiss has time to adjust to this devastating blow, he is called to the scene of a murder. The victim is a thief known the local media as "The King of Cats." The investigation reveals a computer disc that ties the victim to a political big shot in Tampa, but the connection is vague and makes no sense.
Then things come crashing down on Prentiss when he discovers that his wife's ex-husband may be involved in the murder. Fearing for the safety of his family and fighting to keep her career in tact, Prentiss finds himself stretched to the breaking point - which is usually when he makes costly mistakes.
Using Prentiss's first-person narration, Ollerman opens with Prentiss's wife announcing her departure over the phone, and immediately thrusts us into Prentiss's world falling apart all around him. So when the case of the murdered "King of Cats" occurs, it is almost a welcome distraction from his lingering professional and now newly emerged personal woes. Not surprisingly Prentiss throws himself into the case and its every minute detail.
But at the end of the day Prentiss must return to his empty home. In these moments the desperation is at its most palpable as Prentiss strives to simply keep busy - cleaning his boat, or taking destination-less launches off the coast near his home - to prevent dwelling on his despair.
Ollerman keeps us as involved in the interior struggles of Prentiss's mind as he does the murder case itself. But as the details of the case become more complex, the narrative pace decreases somewhat and at times is difficult to follow. Perhaps sensing this, Ollerman has Prentiss pause ccasionally to reflect and take stock of what he knows, what he suspects, and how he plans to keep moving forward while keeping his family out of harm's way and his job in tact.
It's a difficult balance to maintain, but Ollerman succeeds in winning our sympathy for Prentiss early on, so we willingly follow him through the complicated and sometimes-seedy details of the murder, as well as his efforts to keep himself focused.
TRUTH ALWAYS KILLS is highly recommended as an excellent piece of contemporary noir, and fully establishes Ollerman as an author to be reckoned with. To herald the event this publication opens with both an introduction by author/editor Ben Boulden and a brief appreciation by veteran crime author Ed Gorman.
Does this mean we'll see less of Ollerman's informative and insightful introductions to neglected but worthy crime fiction authors? Time alone will tell. Whatever the answer we can now look forward to his next work of fiction as he joins the ranks of notable noir authors himself. -Alan Cranis
BILL CRIDER'S POP CULTURE MAGAZINE
The other day I mentioned the sad condition of the Bouchercon dealers' room and the few small boxes of old paperbacks. One benefit of poking around in those boxes is that you might run into someone else who has an interest in that kind of thing, and I did. I met Rick Ollerman. I've enjoyed his introductions to any number of Stark House books, and I also blurbed his double novel from that publisher, Turnabout and Shallow Secrets, so it was great to meet him in person. In fact, he seemed to visit that area quite often. I think that every time I saw him after that, he had another armful of old paperbacks from those boxes. He should just have bought the entire stock.
The introduction to Ollerman's new novel is provided by Ben Boulden, who notes that the book could be looked at as sort of a sequel to John D. MacDonald's The Executioners (filmed as Cape Fear). A newly released con named Roy Evans appears to be a menace to the family of a cop named Jeff Prentiss. Roy is the biological father of the daughter of Lori, Jeff's wife, and Roy is a stalker.
Jeff is responsible for the "suicide of [his] career over a moral high ground." If not for the union, he says, he'd be "refueling boats at a marina somewhere." But while he believes in morality, he also knows he has to do something about Roy. It's not going to put him on the moral high ground, but as Jeff says, "If we make our own happiness we should also be responsible for our own hells."
I'm tempted to call TRUTH ALWAYS KILLS a noir novel, but for me it's not quite there. It's certainly dark enough, though. It's also well written and well paced, and it gets a high recommendation from me.
GEORGE KELLEY, GEORGEKELLEY.ORG
Police detective Jeff Prentiss is having a Very Bad Day at the start of Truth Always Kills. Prentiss's wife has just left him and takes his daughter with her. Simultaneously, two murder victims are discovered-one a noted burglar and the other a powerful politician-which leads Prentiss to investigate a possible connection. That investigation takes Prentiss to a private porno web site called Little Y. And that leads to… As you can see, Ollerman's novel is a straight-ahead thrill ride. One dramatic scene powers the next as the plot accelerates. If you're looking for a fast-paced crime novel, here it is. GRADE: B