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Bloody Murdock (A Matt Murdock Murder Mystery Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Robert J. Ray
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.95
Kindle Price: $5.95
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Book Description

PI and ex-cop Matt Murdock is picky about the cases he takes on. Being a bodyguard isn’t his favorite gig, especially when the client is a high-handed number-cruncher like Ellis Dean. But Murdock is short on funds, and the case is a puzzler. It doesn’t hurt that it features the death, accidental or otherwise, of a beautiful woman. Murdock has a weakness for damsels in distress, even after it’s a little late for rescue. Gayla Jean Kirkwood, killed in a car wreck on the Pacific Coast Highway, was a good-time girl, high-class waitress and wannabe starlet. Dean fires Murdock and ends up dead, clearing the way for Murdock to sign on with the victim’s sister, Meg Kirkwood, a gorgeous dead-ringer for her sister. The case will offer other female distractions, including a fresh-faced and overly eager girl reporter. Who would want Gayla Jean dead? Was it a scorned lover? Someone at the chic club where she worked? The men who paid to photograph her naked? Or was she simply collateral—the real target being the Mexican actor driving the doomed car? As his investigation continues, Murdock and his client will discover just how dirty deals in Hollywood can get. If they live long enough.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ROBERT J. RAY is the author of seven previous novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Murdock for Hire, The Hitman Cometh, Dial "M" for Murdock, Murdock Cracks Ice, and Merry Christmas, Murdock. A sixth Matt Murdock mystery—Murdock Tackles Taos—in in process. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist, and he shares writing techniques on writing at A native of Texas, Ray holds a PhD from the University of Texas, Austin. Tuesdays and Fridays, he writes at Louisa’s Bakery and Café in Seattle.

Product Details

  • File Size: 350 KB
  • Print Length: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Camel Press (May 17, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0084HEWIM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497,507 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome Back, Murdock July 21, 2012
Every now and then the publishing world regains its sanity and brings back books that remind us how good mystery writing is supposed to work. Camel Press, in Seattle, has gotten hold of Robert J. Ray's Matt Murdock series and is re-issuing them. And these novels work.
"Bloody Murdock", just released, is classic, vintage, memorable detective writing. We all dream of Hollywood, but most of us never get close. In this novel, Ray takes us into the dark side of Southern California. We've been there before, but never quite like this. In all of his novels, Ray mixes innocence and sin; death and love; power and greed with purity. He shows us a world so screwed up you wonder how anybody can get out of bed in the morning--"I woke up next morning to the smell of fresh perked coffee--one of the few good reasons I know for waking..." He shows us Beauty in lace underpants (Chandler, eat your heart out) and the Beast in a tailored suit. In "Bloody Murdock" we see the sleuth as an avenging angel with a bulldog's bite and the tenacity of a compulsive gambler. The writing is there, the story is there--and Ray is a great story-teller--but Murdock himself is the work of art here. Worn down by life, hurt by love, mangled by war Murdock still finds a way to bring this crummy, crumbling, diseased world of greed and lust back into balance. If he could, Murdock would wipe out all the bad guys, but he knows he can't so he moves on. As he moves through the story, Murdock shows us his rough edges and his survivor's skills with gun, knife, and that sharpest of all weapons--his mind. I want to say this--I wish Murdock was my dad, or at least the uncle who shows up at Christmas looking like he's just fought a nasty battle with the demons from hell and won. I like Murdock. You'll like Murdock.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bogie and Bacall Would Love Murdock October 15, 2012
Robert Ray is a master of the old craft of mystery writing, with a main character Bogart would love to play and dames Bacall would slink right into. Ray doesn't waste a single word, but makes the reader disappear into a world that is dark and fascinating, where the characters are acting on exactly the kind of primal, secret desires that make real people lie cheat and steal to pretend it ain't so. Plus, Murdock is a fun ride, tough and smartass. Loved it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first novel in a great series September 7, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Matt Murdock narrates his story with precision and clarity, as though the reader is an apprentice PI learning the ropes with the master. "The first couple of dozen times, strapping on a shoulder holster can be an exacting ritual. The smell of leather and mansweat. The flat emptiness before you insert the pistol. The knowledge that this is a harness of death. I don't like shoulder holsters, especially in summer heat, when society forces you to wear a jacket to hide the straps. But they are the way of civilization."

He's the authoritative figure you want to have your side, because, in his understating manner, he is always fighting the good fight. In "Bloody Murdock," the bad guys are really bad, and it takes courage and determination to go after them. "I spent my lunch hour in a hamburger joint on Melrose, drinking too much draft beer and asking myself, between sips, why was I doing this. No money. No glory. No loyal woman to tell you you did good. Yet here I was, doing it."

It's hard to put the book down - the plot twists, the palpable danger, the crazy wickedness of the killers. You want to see how he'll manage all that. Yet Murdock is not only a professional, he is also a romantic. "Motive number three was the dead girl. I'm one of those people who thinks there's a shortage of beauty in the world. (...) But when a pretty girl gets killed, it leaves me feeling empty, like I was back in Nam, on patrol, watching for an ambush, shooting rats."

Robert Ray writes a captivating detective story with a protagonist so complex and real that you will want to see what Murdock is up to next. And a good thing that is, because Murdock #6, "Murdock Tackles Taos," is coming out from Camel Press early next year. I can't wait to read it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Glitzy, tense, fast-moving, and a private investigator I won't forget. Matt Murdock's a lump of coal amid southern California glitter, a sod house among the palaces, an old Plymouth, albeit very well kept, among the Porsches. He's an ex-Army cop who knows how to use his weapon. If you've just offed a beautiful young starry-eyed Hollywood hopeful, you don't want him in your neighborhood. His creator, Robert J. Ray, is a writer's writer, one who can turn a sentence with the best. I will now read every Matt Murdock mystery I can lay my hands on.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book April 2, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had a hard time putting this one down . Great story and ending. Hope the author keeps up the good work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book February 9, 2014
By Jmm
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This story moves along quickly but is easy to follow. The book is fun and entertaining and I'm looking forward to reading more "Murdock" adventures.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tough P.I. Novel December 5, 2013
It wasn't a new story. Older man falls for a young woman half his age and it costs him his marriage.

Laguna P.I. Matt Murdock, not the blind lawyer from New York, doesn't know that at first. Ellis Dean wants to hire him as a bodyguard. It wasn't until someone in a red pickup tried to kill Dean, forcing Murdock to put two bullets into the engine to get him off that he began to get the full story.

He'd read about the horrific car accident the night before that had crashed, bursting into flames and killing the young couple, a Mexican actor and the young woman with dreams of Hollywood.

Dean had witnessed the accident, which wasn't an accident at all, when he'd followed them after she'd ditched him at a party. He was in time, and got photographs, of two men in a red pickup and a Porsche hosing down the wreck with a fire extinguisher.

His client ends up firing him, then gets himself murdered, and the photos are gone. Then the dead girl's sister comes to find out what happened.

We get a story of pornography, shattered dreams, and Murdock's obsession with finding the truth though he's been fired by two clients before the tale ends.

Good one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Murdock hits the spot
Good read that holds your attention until the end. Characters are well developed, story flows well. I'll read more Murdock
Published 8 months ago by Avid Mystery REader
4.0 out of 5 stars You Can't better the Oldies
I was well into the third chapter before I realised that this was a re-issue, then I understood why it was so enjoyable. When it comes to PI mysteries you can't beat them. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Annie Athens
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ending and action
Creepy story. Hard to believe there are people that wacky. Glad I don't live in la-la land. I' 'll probably read more of this author.
Published 12 months ago by rk
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
I'm really loving Murdock series! The books have a noir mood that is very good. Private detective Matt is smart, human and nice. Great job Robert Ray!
Published 12 months ago by Thyrza
4.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect PI Novel
The title says it all. If I had a bookshelf of the best hard-boiled PI novels, this would be in a prominent location. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Anthony Torrero Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars Explosive
This was the first time I read this author and it was hard to put down . Can't wait to read another!
Published 13 months ago by Barbara Sorenson
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
The tone and language are dead on for that time (1986) as is Murdock's attitude toward women and his heavy consumption of beer. Read more
Published 13 months ago by David A. Freas
5.0 out of 5 stars Kept me interested
Kept me in suspense about what was going to happen next. That Murdock is a player. Really enjoyed this book. Can't wait to read another Murdock mystery.
Published 14 months ago by Ebony
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Matt Murdock murder mystery
The Matt Murdock Murder Mystery is easy reading...the kind of book I enjoy. I would certainly ready more in this series of books
Published 15 months ago by B Zimmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
This is the first book I have read by Robert Ray. I really like his easy and descriptive writing style. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Katherine K
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More About the Author

robert j ray phd
born in texas, 1935
snow ice wind heat dust-storms sunday school rule red brick streets horses cows guns
school tennis paper route heartache journalism sports editor growing pains modest HS aptitude for english, Latin, Spanish; zero aptitude for math
more school at Modesto, Austin, Georgetown in DC (russian, chinese), U-Chicago (hindustani)
gradschool at UT: MA, PHD
college teacher - U kentucky, beloit college, chapman U (OC)
nightschool teacher - San Diego, Irvine, Seattle
studied tennis with 4 teachers who helped me become an intuitive inner game
tennis teacher San Diego, Beloit
married, divorced, remarried, moved with wife Margot to Seattle (for the weather)three cats so far

books:The Weekend Novelist(+ revised Weekend Novelist), The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, The Weekend Novelist Redrafts the Novel (London), Bloody Murdock, Murdock Cracks Ice, Dial "M" for Murdock, Murdock for Hire, Merry Christmas, Murdock, The Hitman Cometh, The Art of Reading: A Handbook on Writing, Small Business: An Entrepreneur's Plan (5 editions) The Heart of the Game (tennis), Cage of Mirrors

courses taught: memoir, starting your novel, keeping going on your novel, rewriting your novel, key to your style, dialogue, intro to screenwriting, writing practice, going deep with myth-base, verbs
recommended writing guru: natalie goldberg
writing/teaching partner: jack remick
students taught to writer better: approx 10,000
world-view: the worst writer can get better; the best writer can jettison the ego and strive for perfection
advice: write every day, use a timer, don't cross out, keep the hand moving, go for the jugular


Role Model for a Fledgling Writer

Matt Murdock, my detective hero, sprang from John D. McDonald, the prolific crime writer (1916-1986) who created Travis McGee. McGee, the hard guy protagonist, starred in a 21-novel series that ran from 1964 to 1985.

McDonald wrote 78 books. The titles of the twenty-one McGee books were coded with a specific color: The Deep-Blue Goodbye, Darker than Amber, and A Deadly Shade of Gold. The first Cape Fear film (starring Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Polly Bergen, 1962) was an adaptation of McDonald's novel, The Executioners.

Like Chandler's Philip Marlowe (and later Robert B. Parker's Spenser), Travis McGee narrates his stories from the First Person. He calls himself a "salvage expert," which means he helped friends in trouble, friends who could get no help from cops or lawyers. For his fee, McGee took fifty per cent.

For thousands of male readers trapped in desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles (I was a college prof who sat around a lot, feet on the desk), Travis McGee offered a momentary escape. He was single, handsome, witty, and smart. He was the archetypal hero, St. George on a white horse, who slew the dragon and rescued the maiden. McGee was a smart guy, with a wry wit. He was a knight-errant who lived on a houseboat, The Busted Flush, that he had won in a poker game.

A hero needs a sidekick. Holmes had his Watson; Spenser had Hawk. And Travis McGee's sidekick was an alter ego named Meyer, a Ph.D. in economics, who took over the explanations, saving McGee from drowning in pages of exposition.

For each McGee book, a new lady-friend stepped onstage. When the book ended, the ladies exited, leaving the stage empty--except for McGee, Meyer, and The Busted Flush. When McGee needed motivating, McDonald the writer killed the lady-friend to stoke the fires of vengeance.

The Birth of Matt Murdock

When I wrote Bloody Murdock (1986), I was hoping for a series similar to the books starring Travis McGee. But I was not a fiction writer, not a teller of tales. I had no practice in character development or dialogue. I didn't know about the need for an establishing shot to lock down location. I had yet to learn the importance of motivation, agenda, and core story. I had taught expository writing, guiding students through essay writing. I had read novels, but I knew nothing about writing one.

The questions still haunt me: How do you start writing your novel? What do you do first? Where do you open the story? How do you hook the busy reader? How do you get those characters out of cars, down corridors, through doorways, and into rooms?

When in doubt: imitate your betters.

I aped John D. McDonald. He had McGee. I had Murdock. McGee had Meyer, the brainy sidekick. Murdock had Wally St. Moritz, smart, well-read, educated, and sedentary. McGee's home was his houseboat, The Busted Flush. Murdock had a bachelor's apartment above a surf shop, The Silver Surfer, on the beach near the Newport Pier. McGee's playground was Florida, with forays into Mexico and the Caribbean. Murdock's playground was Southern California--Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine--a rollicking source of money and power.

My hero needed a voice. I tried Murdock in Third Person--that voice, distant and authorial, morphed into a prologue--and then I settled on First Person, like McGee. Like Philip Marlowe, Chandler's Los Angeles sleuth. And like Spenser, who operates with steady, brilliant success in Boston.

In my search for the right opening, I wrote hundreds of pages--and those were the days of the typewriter, carbon paper copies, and bottles of Whiteout. I wrote a dozen versions of Page One with Murdock waking up. It seemed logical and "natural." The day starts, the book starts. But you can't start your book where the first move is a yawn, and the next move is a weary stretch.

Desperate, I painted word-pictures of the Newport Pier. I sketched the ocean beyond the pier. I daubed in a sleek sailboat sliding across the horizon. Ahoy there, yon sailboat: Anything happening out there? Anything I can use to open my book?

I tried opening with dialogue--it sounded wooden--then with a masterful monologue from Wally St. Moritz. Nothing worked, and I was avoiding the important stuff: killer, victim, crime, crime scene, discovery of the corpse.
Pray for an Arresting Image

If you are a writer, you pray for the right image--a trigger for your writing brain--and so one day my wife Margot and I had lunch at the Blue Beat on the Newport Pier and when we came outside I saw the figure of a girl walking along the pier, quick steps, medium heels. She had red hair like Brenda Starr, girl reporter from the comic book pages of my youth. She was willowy, the writer's code for young and perhaps innocent. That unnamed girl with her skirt pressed tight to her legs by the wind, her hair flying like a TV ad for L'Oreal, that distant vanishing girl turned into a character named Gayla Jean Kirkwood, a Hollywood starlet wannabe, fresh off the Greyhound from Texas.

I costumed her in a party dress, rushed her to a fancy party deep in Laguna Canyon, where she hooked up with a small-time film star who was making a deal with the killer. Back then, I had a Ph.D. in literature--but I didn't know that when you write mysteries you better create the killer first.

Create your Killer First

When Jack Remick and I wrote The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, our first lesson was: create your killer first. By then, I had written five Murdocks. And with Jack's analytical eye, I saw, at last, that the key to each book was the killer.

To get to the killer in Bloody Murdock, I followed the trail of the victim. Gayla Jean lusted for stardom. She took up with a man who promised to help her. He was a rich man with a big house in Laguna Canyon. His name was Philo Waddell and the opening scene-sequence takes us inside Philo's house, into the heart of a hot party where the entertainment is a series of cockfights. Philo's guest list is an eclectic mix of people from Hollywood, people from the rich beach cities, and Mafia people from Las Vegas. To find out why Philo kills Gayla Jean, you need to read the book. But for me, Philo was the key. I stumbled on him. With each page, his evil grew. By the time readers reach the climax, they want Philo dead. If you are a writer, you can learn more about these writing tricks at:

Have Fun Quoting Yourself

When you write a blog about your writings, there is a great temptation to quote yourself at length. But when I read my writing in those early books, I wonder: Who wrote this?--because the images that landed on the page were not the images I conjured in my dreams. Reading my early writings, I am reminded that when you are a writer, you do your best with the words.

You hold your breath as the image in your brain morphs into the word-picture on the page, and then you suck in a quick breath as the word-picture gets squeezed by syntax. English syntax is elastic--it expands, it contracts, it writhes when you fling it into the face of the world.

You keep writing: the right word, the best sentence, the perfect paragraph. You do your writing practice, writing under the clock a la Natalie Goldberg, and some days you are hot and other days you are cold, but you keep writing because writing is what you do.

The quote below comes from the early pages of Bloody Murdock. Murdock has a gig. His client is Ellis Dean, who hires him to look into the death of Gayla Jean Kirkwood. Dean is a passive no-action guy. His function in the book is to act as a contrast to Murdock.

Quote: "Back at my place, Ellis Dean sat on the edge of a director's chair, watching me strap on the leather shoulder holster. For him, this was the action big time. The first couple of dozen times, strapping on a shoulder holster can be an exacting ritual. The smell of leather and mansweat. The flat emptiness before you insert the pistol. The knowledge that this is a harness of death. I don't like shoulder holsters, especially in summer heat, when society forces you to wear a jacket to hide the straps. But they are the way of civilization. I knew an old Chinese dude in Saigon who put everything into symbolism. Politics was the dagger up the sleeve, he said. Government was the gun beneath the armpit. The gun I chose was a .357 Magnum, six-inch barrel, with half a box of extra ammo."

Analysis: The passage opens with the character contrast I mentioned above. Ellis Dean is a passive man, brainy and sedentary. Murdock is all action. Murdock needs money; Dean has money. Money from the hesitant Mr. Dean puts Murdock on the trail of Gayla Jean. Once Murdock gets going, once he starts questing for revenge, the money loses its importance. That's what makes him a white knight.

The heart of the passage is the warrior girding himself with armor. Instead of a sword or a battle-ax, Murdock straps on a .357 Magnum. When I was writing Bloody Murdock, I had sage advice from a gun-guy in one of my writing classes. To be a writer, you need to know the right people.

When in doubt: ask an expert.

My thanks to Catherine Treadgold, the publisher of Camel Books, who is reprinting all five Murdocks, who has thereby engineered the rebirth of my detective hero, and who launched me onto this handy blog .
Thanks, Catherine.

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