Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Snow Birds" by Stuart M. Kaminsky

From: Private Eyes, ed. Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Signet, 1998.

In the three years since he moved from Chicago to Sarasota, 41-year-old widower P.I. Calvin Fonesca's biggest case involved catching a couple of teenagers trying to break in to the Dairy Queen near his rundown office. That is until Ames Delaware offers him $20,000 to find Amos Sprague, Delaware's former business partner who withdrew $200,000 from their joint account and left Jackson Hole for Sarasota. The flinty Delaware, who reminds Fonesca of George C. Scott, proclaims that he will kill Sprague if he doesn't return the money. Largely because he needs money, Fonesca agrees to find Sprague.

Returning to his office, Fonesca walks in on Sprague, who offers him $21,000 to tell Delaware he's dead. Sprague claims Delaware's father stole money from his father, so this makes them even. When Fonesca refuses to lie to Delaware, Sprague proposes a late night meeting, hinting his intention to kill Delaware.

I connected with Fonesca's voice right away, an unambitious man just trying to get by, who according to Delaware and Sprague, resembles either Ned Beatty or Tom Bosley. Delaware hires him because his listing is the smallest in the book. In about 20 pages, Kaminsky made Fonesca feel like an old friend. My only quibble with this story was the similar sound of the names "Ames" and "Amos".

I was glad to see "Snow Birds" lead to novels about the same P.I. in which his name changes to Lew (Vengeance, Retribution, Midnight Pass, etc.).

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