Duncan Sloan #1
By Bob Truluck
When we meet private detective Duncan Sloan, he’s just handed back a five-thousand-dollar check meant as advance payment on a job. The wealthy prospective client, Isaac Pike, wants Sloan to find a woman with an eyeball tattooed on her bottom. All he knows is that she’s very young, white, probably somewhere in or near Orlando, Florida, Sloan’s hometown, and has that tattoo. Thanks but no thanks: that’s not enough. When the five grand reappears in Sloan’s mailbox, he uses it for a Costa Rican vacation, and never mind the job.
Pike, however, tracks him down. When he explains the assignment, Sloan finds it bizarre enough to say yes. Isaac Pike is the only son of a top-ranked tycoon. He is also gay. He genuinely wants to be a father, and has deposited sperm with a reputable clinic in anticipation of finding a suitable mother. But a paroled convict working at the clinic stole the sperm, impregnated a teenager with it, and is now blackmailing Pike–send money or we abort the child.
Although Pike’s idea of a suitable mother is not quite a waif from an Orlando trailer park, he is decent enough to be genuinely concerned about both mother and child.
Sloan pursues the thief and his buddies and, he hopes, the girl, through the Florida city’s sad neighborhoods and outlying cheap motels, calling on his drug-enhanced informers and a contact in the police department. Getting closer brings him to the mangled bodies of the young mother-to-be’s relatives, and closer to his own danger as well. On he goes…Duncan Sloan may be a reluctant detective, but when he’s wound up he’s hard to stop.
Street Level is Bob Truluck’s first novel. It was chosen as the Best Private Eye Novel of 1999 in the contest sponsored by Private Eye Writers of America and St. Martin’s Press.
“Blistering shards of dialogue, nonstop action and one of the neatest slices of sunburned, low-rent Florida since Charles Willeford passed away mark this first novel, winner of the 1999 St. Martin’s/PWA contest. Isaac Pike is a rich gay man who wants a child. His semen may or may not have ended up residing inside the womb of Orlando topless-bar dancer Crystal Johnson. So maybe there’s a child to be; but the potential mother has vanished. Pike is anxious to trace CrystalDas is apparently every deadbeat scam artist in the Orlando area. Duncan Sloan, the fast-talking private dick on the case, has an unlicensed gun, an unlicensed practice and a shrew of an ex-wife. Sloan looks in all the right places: a cheap motel, a go-go bar, a trailer park. When Crystal’s parents turn up murdered, things get really serious. The author, a builder in Orlando, has created an irreverent gem of a crime novel. With less irony than Elmore Leonard, and none of the ecological baggage with which Carl Hiaasen sometimes burdens his yarns, Truluck offers a fresh take on hot weather crime. Indelibly coarse characters rotate around an illogically escalating scam loaded with dead rednecks and brazen demands for major money from potty-mouthed thugs who surface on the profanity-riddled pages with scant introduction. Scoring very poorly on credibility, this is nonetheless a splinter-sharp first take from a raw new voice sure to be heard from again.” —Publishers Weekly
“Winner of the St. Martin’s/PWA Contest, this first novel features clipped prose, an acid-tongued Florida private eye, and a colorful diversity of supporting characters. Duncan Sloan, the unlicensed detective, stumbles over several dead bodies while trying to find the surrogate mother/stripper impregnated with his wealthy gay client’s stolen semen sample. A surprising number of suspects surround the gay guy, including his unaccepting father, entrenched family security people, and an estranged evangelistic sister. Uncharacteristic descriptions, dry humor, and Orlando settings add more spice to the mix. Exciting and adventurous.” —Library Journal
“Duncan Sloan isn’t really an investigator anymore. The state of Florida never gave him his license back, even though the conviction that caused him to spend two years in a federal prison finally was overturned. But official has never meant much to Sloan, who agrees to find a woman who is carrying the child of a wealthy Minnesota man. The girl and Sloan’s client have never met. She was impregnated with a stolen deposit from a sperm bank. The bizarre case puts Sloan in contact with a variety of street hustlers, thugs, and ex-cons and ends up in a blackmail-ransom mode before he can engineer a reasonably happy ending. The novel is the winner of the Private Eye Writer’s of America/St. Martin’s contest for best first novel, and Truluck, a builder by trade, is a genuine talent. He has an ear for dialogue that rivals Leonard, a sense of violence that challenges Dennis Lehane, and his narrative style contains the same sly humor as Robert B. Parker. This is the real deal and, like Abel’s Cold Street Rain, one of the best private-eye debuts of the year. Thoroughly enjoyable on every level.” —Wes Lukowsky, Booklist