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Retro (The Amos Walker Series #18) Hardcover – May 14, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

"Have you noticed how often the word 'retro' occurs in today's advertising?" a white-shoe lawyer muses in Loren D. Estleman's Retro. "It's used to sell everything from ballpoint pens to wings of hospitals. These days, backward is the new forward." Which clues you in right away to the plot orientation of this short-fused 17th novel (after Poison Blonde) featuring Detroit private eye Amos Walker, a character who's always been nostalgic for the era of mobsters and molls and dialogue gritty enough to chip teeth.

Estleman here reaches all the way back to his first Walker book, 1980's Motor City Blue, in order to resurrect Beryl Garnet, a once-prominent whorehouse operator with a laugh "like Tinkerbell on crank," now in residence at an assisted-living facility. She hires the detective to find her not-too-bright adopted son, Delwayne, and make sure that he's given her ashes after she dies. Trouble is, Delwayne has been on the lam ever since his association with a 1968 plot to blow up the Detroit Federal Building in protest against the Vietnam War. Months later, and with the assistance of a vintage FBI agent and a politely proficient Canadian PI, Walker pins down his quarry in Toronto and hands over the late madam's "cremains." But Delwayne isn't satisfied; he wants our hero's help in solving the 1949 shooting death of his unacknowledged father, Curtis Smallwood, a black heavyweight boxing champ whose affair with a white Hollywood s! tarlet threatened her career. When, soon after this, Delwayne is murdered in a supposedly secure Detroit airport hotel--with the same .38 revolver that killed his father more than five decades before--Walker goes digging for answers. Along the way, he unearths a New York gangster's grandson, a mother with a record-setting case of hate, an overeducated mistress with leaving on her mind, and an electronic bug in his office that takes all the fun out of talking to himself.

Nobody these days outperforms the three-time Shamus-winning Estleman when it comes to penning wisecracking repartee--a reminder of the American detective story's deep roots in pulp fiction. ("Are you afraid of the police?" a would-be client asks, to which Walker responds: "Terrified. They’re armed and they drink a lot of coffee.") Yet, while the Amos Walker series upholds many genre traditions, it has also grown beyond them, both as a result of the author's finely honed prose and Walker's willingness to recognize himself as an anachronism. A melancholy appreciation of the Motor City's often unsavory history just adds to the attractions of Estleman's work. --J. Kingston Pierce

From Publishers Weekly

Reading a new Amos Walker adventure is like settling down and listening to an old, reliably entertaining friend. In this 17th book in the series (after 2003's Poison Blonde), Beryl Garnet, a dying madam, summons the Detroit detective to find her long-missing son, Delwayne, to whom she wishes to leave her ashes. Since Delwayne fled to Canada during the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Amos gets a Canadian counterpart to trace him. Soon after Amos meets the son, he winds up dead, and Amos becomes the main suspect in his shooting death. Amos later discovers that Delwayne's dad, a talented black boxer, was murdered in the 1940s—and a single gun killed both father and son. A sucker for damsels in distress, Amos encounters more than one as he digs down into the muck for the real murderer. Estleman keeps Walker determinedly low-tech: he goes to the library, pores over records and does his own legwork. He riffs on the city and gently ribs Canadian culture across the river. Why does Amos drive to Toronto? It's a chance for him to smuggle back a box of alleged Cuban cigars, a longstanding Motor City tradition. In the process of setting things right, Amos has to let go of some old and new attachments, leaving the reader eager for more.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; 1st edition (May 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765304481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765304483
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,391,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Loren D. Estleman graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Journalism. In 2002, his alma mater presented him with an honorary doctorate in letters. He left the job market in 1980 to write full time, after a few years spent "pounding out beat-the-train journalism" during his day job as a reporter before going home and writing fiction at night.

His first novel was published in 1976, and has been followed by more than 70 books and hundreds of short stories and articles. His series include novels about Detroit detective Amos Walker, professional killer Peter Macklin, L.A. film detective and amateur sleuth Valentino, and the Detroit crime series. On the western side is the U.S. Deputy Marshal Page Murdock series. Additionally, he's written dozens of stand-alone novels.

His books have been translated into 27 languages and have won multiple Shamus, Spur, Western Heritage, and Stirrup awards. He has been nominated for the National Book Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. In 2012, the Western Writers of America honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He lives in Michigan and is married to writer Deborah Morgan. Find out more about Estleman and his books on his website:

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
I can't wait til the next amos walker comes out.
I'm a huge Loren Estleman fan and particularly love the Amos Walker series.
Elizabeth B. Daykin
He's equally adept at both plot development as well as characterization.
David J. Gannon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've become a fan of Loren Estleman. Whether he's writing of the Old West or contmporary Detroit, the man is simply an extraordinary storyteller.
Amos Walker, former homicide detective and now struggling private investigator is asked to locate the long-ago runaway son of a local madam, so he can deliver her ashes to him.
What begins as an oddball assignment turns into something far more when the son is murdered in his hotel room near the Detroit airport. Walker becomes a prime suspect.
From that point on, Walker walks through past and present on a quest to find the real murderer - and solve a murder from decades past.
There's a marvelous grittiness to Estleman's writing. His characters feel real, the plot twists and turns with not a few sub-plots to keep you guessing. And the ending leaves you wanting more Estleman. He's that good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By booksforabuck VINE VOICE on August 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A simple assignment--delivering a dead madam's ashes to her adoptive son--turns out complicated and dangerous as private investigator Amos Walker investigates. The son, a Viet Nam era fugitive, is surprisingly easy to track down, especially when Walker calls on a retired FBI former client. But, ashes delivered, the son has an idea that he'd like to hire Amos to track down his father's killer--a murder that happened decades earlier, in an era when black fighters were definitely not supposed to date white entertainers.

When Walker's new client is killed in an airport hotel--a hotel behind all of the screening devices of modern anti-terrorism, Amos knows that the past has re-emerged. Especially since Walker was set up as a suspect.

Walker mixes with a tough county police Captain, his retired FBI buddy, a couple of gangsters in town for what looks like a setup, the gangster's beautiful girlfriend who looks to Walker for help escaping, and the aging witnesses to the long-ago shooting. Whether in style, gangsters, or murder, everything old is new again--and Walker has to move quickly to stay alive himself.

Author Loren D. Estleman delivers an exciting hard-boiled mystery. Walker, with his stuborn commitment to finding the truth no matter who gets in his way, is a classic retro figure himself. Interesting dialogue, fascinating introspection, Walker's cynical but true observations on life, and high suspense and danger, along with Estleman's compelling writing, make RETRO a fast-paced and hard-to-put-down novel. If you like hard-boiled private detective thrillers, RETRO is definitely one you should check out.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David J. Gannon on May 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There was a time when I was a steady mystery reader. Those days are long gone-I sort of burned out on the genre-but I still take in the occasional mystery. Mostly Spenser novels, but I'll throw in another author every now and then.
However, back when I was a mystery junkie, Amos Walker was one of my favorite reads. Loren D. Estleman is a first rate writer in the noir tradition. He's equally adept at both plot development as well as characterization. Although Estleman has a few different characters he deals with, Amos Walker is his masterpiece. Walker is a gritty, hardboiled former Viet Nam vet now working the detective trade in Detroit.
Estleman paints the fringes of Detroit with a master painters brush and Walker is right at home in that gritty urban landscape.
In retro Walker is present at the bedside of an old acquaintance, a madam and self described "former mob moll", who asks Amos, as a dying wish, to see to it that her cremains get back to her long lost son. Walker agrees and has no problem tracking down the son-he's a former draft deserter still living in Canada. He presents him with his mother's cremains and departs, only to learn shortly thereafter that the son has been shot dead and Walker is considered a suspect. Walker determines he has to straighten things out, if only to clear himself, and thus he enters the web of deception and murder.
As with all Walker books, there is lots of action. The characters are well written and very memorable. Walker's hard charging, straight ahead, no nonsense approach is in full display. The plot is fascinating, as usual. This is another grand page turner in a long line of grand page turner's.
In fact, I so enjoyed this one that I'm going to have to go back and revisit Walker for a while. I'm sure there have been several entries in the series since my burn out a while back. I may have burned out-I'm glad Estleman didn't!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 20, 2004
Format: Audio Cassette
How appropriate to have a thriller based in Detroit read by a Detroiter! Veteran voice performer Mel Foster can summon many voices yet in this reading he returns to his roots. He sounds just like a Michigander, and a tough one at that.
Estleman's creation, Detroit detective Amos Walker, can handle almost any situation. He's seen a lot in that city pierced by Belle Isle and rimmed by the upscale Grosse Pointes. Yet, he's not at all prepared for what's in store for him following the death of Beryl Garnet.
Beryl was really something before she went to the great beyond. She was a madam who would make the contemporary Heidis seem inept. She enjoyed a lengthy tenure in the Motor City and made a small fortune.
However, the lady has one last wish: she wants Walker to deliver her ashes to the son she hasn't seen in a number of years. Her plea is that she wants her son to know that he's always been in her heart.
Well, Walker does have a soft side, so he goes in search of Beryl's offspring. The young man is soon located in Canada; he's a draft dodger. He need dodge no longer because shortly after Walker finds him Beryl's son joins his mom in the heavenly kingdom.
Of course, Walker is a prime suspect in this murder. Obviously, Walker has to find the real killer in order to clear himself. For this smart Detroit detective that doesn't sound like much of a challenge - until he discovers one more killing. This time the victim is the father of Beryl's son. Now, mother, father, and son are perhaps traipsing about the clouds. But, it's not at all heavenly for Walker here on Earth.
- Gail Cooke
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