In Mick Callahan, Harry Shannon has created a protagonist in the mold of the classic hardboiled detective, yet he is an original and many facets break that mold, or create a new. He is a man who must walk the mean streets, who himself is not mean. Though tarnished, he is a complete man and a common man –if he wasn’t always, he is now. He is a man of honor driven to do the right thing, perhaps to redeem himself in his own heart, but also for those who need his help. His place is between the law and the bad guys, and his sense of justice, his sense of right and wrong aren’t necessarily defined by the dictionary or the legal books.
Mick grew up hard, his step father making him fight other boys for money and never letting him quit. Mick ran away from home and became a navy SEAL…almost. He was kicked out for punching out an officer. From there Mick went to school and became a psychologist and rode his talent in this field, and his good looks to fame as a big time radio ‘shrink’ until it all came crashing down in a haze of drugs and alcohol and the death of a patient. Gone is the big money, the fast women and the hedonistic life-style.Now Mick is trying to regain his life, to redeem himself.
The meteor that was Mick’s life came crashing to earth in Dry Well, Nevada a dusty, tumbleweed section on the Nevada desert where not much ever happens, except it is the wild west that Mick grew up in. He is covering the local radio station for Loner McDowell, the owner of the only talk show in town. Loner offers the job to Mick while he is out of town for a couple of days, as a favor to help Mick out and give him a leg back into society now that he is sober and clean and not in jail. Mick soon finds that the town is more used to alien abductions than radio shrinks and as he covers the last night with very few calls to the show he struggles to find that personality and the drive that made him a star. Then a young girl calls in, he calls her Ophelia after the character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Who Hamlet tells, "get thee to a nunnery" of course, Ophelia doesn’t listen, she’s in love with Hamlet and that leads her to climb a tree and fall to her death in a brook. Prophetic. She is having boy friend problems and he knocks her around, He’s “deep” into drugs….but before Mick can try and help her she hangs up. On the walk back to his flea bag motel, Mick stumbles across a body in an alley and as he goes to check, he discovers the man has had his finger tips sliced off and his teeth destroyed. There is a neat little hole in the back of his skull, and then there is a gun at Micks head. It is the local law, Sherriff Bass, who had run Mick out of town years earlier. He is quickly eliminated as a suspect, but honors the cops request to keep things quiet and not say anything about the body until the investigation is complete. He also promises to leave town, eager to get to L.A. for an interview and not wanting to stay around this one horse town, even if it was once his home.
The next day, he says goodbye to his buddy Jerry, a horribly scarred drifter who keeps an electronics shop and has a reputation as a hacker. But, on the way out of town he stops at the Memorial Day picnic, talks to some old friends and happens to end up talking to a young girl he knew years before. Sandy Palmer, the daughter of the local millionaire who had foreclosed on Micks families dusty little ranch. He gets the feeling that she is the Ophelia that called in to his show the night before, the girl with the abusive boyfriend with the drug problem and since a similar girl died when Mick was famous because he ignored her needs, it weighs on his soul. Sandy comes clean and admits to being the caller,but before Mick can talk to her about her worries, he nearly gets into a fight with three young hooligans, one of which might be the boy friend. Sherriff Bass breaks it up before things can get out of hand and remind Mick of his promise to leave town. Mick heads to the motel to pack his car and Jerry decides to join him since the same three toughs are after him for flirting with another girl in their clique. As they are driving out of town, they notice a lot of commotion in the park. Sandy Palmer has been found dead, beaten, her head busted from an apparent fall onto some rocks, just like Ophelia, in a creek. The local veterinarian –acting as coroner- suspects she actually drowned in the shallow creek. So Mick stays, feeling an obligation to find her murderer and to see if it could be linked to the body in the alley.The suspects are numerous. The three toughs, the girls half brother, Will Palmer, a misogynist ne’er do well, and yet other locals, but it doesn’t jibe with the mob hit feel of the first unknown victim.
Harry paints very real scenes of a dusty Nevada desert town, more dead than alive and full of characters in various forms of personal dead ends. He builds the story behind some of the greatest action and fight scenes as well as fully fleshed out characters; an old flame who runs the local café after going through a few husbands, the Doc with a taste for young girls and porn, Loner who has a bit of a gambling problem and a shady criminal past of his own, Bass haunted by his time in Vietnam, Jerry scarred by a woman who didn’t love him, Will Palmer the spoiled rich boy who treats women as toys and the town as his personal fife. And then the three tuffs, none of who will ever win a citizen of the year award. While dredging up his past Mick discovers that almost everyone has a past worse than his and almost everyone used, abused and had reason to harm Sandy Palmer, but does the past intersect at two murders over Memorial Day in Dry Wells?
Harry has created a great character in Mick Callahan and Memorial Day is the first in the series. I can’t say enough about this character or this book. Mick is both action hero and cerebral empath. Harry recently released the first three Mick Callahan Novels in one volume that is available at Amazon.com for $4.99, a great deal for three books that are sure to become classics. besides, after reading Memorial Day, you’ll want to catch up with Mick in his next adventure, Eye of the Burning Man. Want my advice, buy the collection. You’ll be glad you did.
The Dirty Lowdown