William Dufris provides an appealing down-home delivery to his narration of Hockensmith's third adventure featuring the Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watsonemulating brothers, Gustov "Old Red" and Otto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer. The summer of 1893 finds the cow-punching detectives out of work, out of funds and out of sorts as they try to navigate wicked San Francisco. When an old acquaintance from their short time with the railroad is murdered, the brothers use their "detectiving" and "deducifying" skills to search for the killer. The investigation leads them deep into Chinatown, where they encounter ruthless hatchet men, Chinese crime lords, dark opium dens, corrupt cops and deadly tongs. Dufris imbues "Big Red"'s Watsonesque narration with a twangy cornpone accent that borders on caricature, but enhances the laugh-out-loud humor laced throughout. He impressively drops the accent quickly and completely to portray the wide variety of characters populating this highly entertaining romp. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's Minotaur hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 5). (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Black Dove (Holmes on the Range Series #3)by Steve Hockensmith
In the summer of 1893, Gustav "Old Red" Amlingmeyer and his brother Otto (a.k.a. "Big Red") find themselves down and out in San Francisco. Though cowpokes by training, the brothers are devotees of the late, great Sherlock Holmes and his trademark method of "deducifying." But when they set out to land jobs as professional detectives, they land themselves in hot
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In the summer of 1893, Gustav "Old Red" Amlingmeyer and his brother Otto (a.k.a. "Big Red") find themselves down and out in San Francisco. Though cowpokes by training, the brothers are devotees of the late, great Sherlock Holmes and his trademark method of "deducifying." But when they set out to land jobs as professional detectives, they land themselves in hot water, instead.
First their friend Dr. Chan mysteriously takes a potshot at them, fatally wounding Big Red's new hat. Then a secretive young woman from their past pops up and convinces them that Chan's in trouble -- and they're just the men to get him out of it. Unfortunately, they're too late: By the time they track Chan down again, he's dead. The police call it a suicide. Old Red calls that a lie. When he and his brother set out to prove it, they put themselves on a collision course with shady S.F.P.D. cops, brutal Barbary Coast hoodlums and the deadly Chinatown tongs.
Before long, all sides are in a race to uncover the secret that could rock the city. And their only clue to what's actually going on is the enigmatic, exotic and extremely difficult to find "Black Dove."
After Gus ("Old Red") and Otto ("Big Red") Amlingmeyer solved the crime but lost the client in their last case (On the Wrong Track), they found themselves down and out in San Francisco. Here, the death of their acquaintance Dr. Chan inspires Gus to deduce what happened, but no one wants this mystery solved. That doesn't stop a pair of cowboy detectives from riling up the locals with their heavy-handed investigations. Keystone Cop action and wild chases ensue until Old Red and his helpers finally put the clues together for a showdown on the waterfront. Otto tells the story with more profanity and humor than Dr. Watson ever managed, and his foot-in-a-bucket narration will keep the reader snorting with laughter until the Black Dove (a Chinese prostitute who was the last to see Chan alive) is finally found. Hockensmith has been nominated for the Edgar Award, and if he keeps writing like this, he'll win one soon. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ10/1/07.]
Ken St. Andre
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The Black Dove
A Holmes on the Range Mystery
By Hockensmith, Steve St. Martin's Minotaur
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
It wasn’t just fear I felt as I faced those highbinders and their hatchets. I was almost as surprised as I was petrified. Not that I was about to die, mind you. It was more the manner of it.
An early death was a possibility—perhaps even a probability—of which I’d been acutely aware almost from birth. As a lad on the family farm in Kansas, I figured it was smallpox, starvation, or Sitting Bull that’d get me. After most of my kin were indeed got (by a flood, as it came to pass), I took to drovering with my brother Gustav, thus giving myself ample opportunity to meet my maker via stampede, saddle-dragging, bull’s horn, or rustler’s bullet. On top of which, my brother had me half-convinced my big mouth was going to get me brained in a saloon brawl sooner or later.
So imagine my dismay upon learning I’d end my days being chopped into chow mein in Chinatown. That one I didn’t see coming. Though perhaps I should have, given our luck of late.
Our detour into the peculiar began a full year earlier, in June of 1892, when a fellow puncher passed along a magazine story he thought might amuse us: “The Red-Headed League” by Dr. John Watson. The joke being that Gustav and I could be charter members of any such league ourselves, since we each have hair the crimson of cardinal feathers.
But handing us “The Red-Headed League” turned out to be much morethan just a jape. It was like giving lil’ Chrissy Columbus his first toy boat, or telling Paul Bunyan he’s just not working out as a seamstress and shouldn’t he consider a line of work more suiting his size?
It was, in other words, the sort of seemingly meaningless gesture that can change lives (and perhaps end them).
You see, Gustav had long been chafing in the saddle, and not just in the way that leaves you walking bowlegged. A finer cowhand than he you could not chance to meet, yet my brother was feeling ever more thwarted nursing other men’s cattle for a dollar a day. Life as a cowboy requires much in the way of skill and grit, but your brains you can leave wrapped up in your war bags. And Gustav—he was itching to unpack his and put them to work.
“The Red-Headed League” showed him how, for at its center was a man who made his way in the world not by the sweat of his brow but by the shrewdness of the mind beneath it. Details and data were his stock in trade, and these are free to all . . . who have the keenness of vision to see them clearly.
The man called himself “a consulting detective,” and his name, of course, was Sherlock Holmes. He was dead, we later learned—lost to a waterfall under circumstances most mysterious. But in my brother his spirit found itself a new vessel.
An imperfect one, though, as even Gustav would admit. Sharp of eye though he may be, my brother is also utterly void of learning. The only letters he knows are the ones he’s seen on brands, and if they’re not burned into cowhide, he can’t make head nor tail of them. But that hasn’t stopped him (and his tag-along baby brother) from pursuing a career in the detectiving trade—though it does partially explain why said pursuit has largely been in vain.
Take our last visit to an actual detective agency, for example.
“Fill these out,” a dapper, slender, profoundly bored-looking fellow told us when we walked in and (after a good three minutes being ignored) caught his eye. He opened a desk drawer and produced a pair of forms bearing his employer’s seal: the all-seeing eye of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
He tossed a couple stubby pencils atop the sheets of paper, then jerked his head at a bare table in a corner at the back of the room.
“Yessir. We’ll have ’em back to you in two shakes,” I said with a smile.
The Pinkerton just stared at me silently through droopy-lidded eyes. Two shakes or two million, it clearly made no nevermind to him.
“I’ll fill one out for you first,” I whispered to my brother as we walked past the filing cabinets and mahogany desks that filled the smallish office. “Then we’ll trade sheets, and I’ll do one for myself.”
We sat down and huddled together over the employment forms.
“Make sure the handwritin’ don’t look the same,” Gustav said softly. “Booger one of ’em up a bit. You know—write it out left-handed or upside down or somethin’.”
“Yeah, yeah. Sure.”
I got to work on my brother’s application.
Name: Gustav Dagobert Amlingmeyer
Aliases: “Old Red,” “That Little Quiet Feller”
Address: The Cosmopolitan House (Hotel), 511 Eighth Street, Oakland
Telephone exchange/number: I have no earthly idea
Date of birth: October 22, 1866
Place of birth: Marion County, Kansas
Height: Five feet, six inches (I guessed.)
Weight: 125 pounds (I guessed again.)
Scars, birth marks, disfigurements, or other notable physical features: Bullet hole on right side below rib cage; old rope burns on hands; various and sundry nicks, cuts, and abrasions; freckles on arms and shoulders; an exceptionally thick mustache; an exceptionally hard head
Education: Enough (I lied.)
Previous occupations: Farmhand, cowhand, freelance genius
Law enforcement/private investigation experience: Oh, shit (I almost wrote.)
I leaned closer to Old Red, who was hunched over pretending to scribble on the form before him.
“They’re askin’ if we ever been lawmen before. Should I mention the S.P.?”
The memory of our brief, disastrous tour of duty as agents of the Southern Pacific Railroad Police puckered up Gustav’s puss like a big chomping bite of raw lemon.
“Well, hell,” he groaned. “It is the only time we had real badges pinned to us.”
“But we was fired.”
“We quit before we was fired.”
“Yeah, but a lot of folks died before we quit.”
“Most of ’em woulda died whether we’d been there or not,” my brother pointed out halfheartedly.
“How ’bout the train that got blowed up, then? It’d still be haulin’ folks up and down the Sierras if we’d never stepped aboard. And if the Pinks check on us with the S.P.—and the Pinks bein’ the Pinks, they will—then it’ll all come out.”
“Fine, then. Don’t mention the S.P. Just say that . . . .”
Gustav screwed up his face again, silent for a moment as he dictated in his head.
“Say we’ve made a scientific study of the detectin’ and deducifyin’ methods of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”
I looked back down at the line about experience.
None, I wrote.
Old Red was watching me, though, so I added a few more words for appearance’s sake.
But we’re young and eager to learn—and cheap, to boot.
“Alrighty,” I said. “Let’s trade.”
We swapped sheets fast, Gustav hacking out a phony little cough to cover the sound of rustling paper. He needn’t have bothered—no one was paying us any mind. The slick-looking Pinkerton was filling out paperwork of his own, while the only other person in the room—a prim, pretty office girl who had so far evaded my every attempt at eye contact—was clacking away on one of those ear-pummeling “type-writing” contraptions.
I licked the tip of my pencil and got back to work.
Name: Otto Albert Amlingmeyer
Aliases: “Big Red” (frequently used by friends and colleagues), “You Handsome Devil You” (frequently used by female acquaintances)
Address: The Cosmopolitan House, Eighth Street, Oakland
Telephone exchange/number: If the Cosmopolitan House has a telephone, it’s used about as often thereabouts as a broom, feather duster, or mop—which is to say never.
Date of birth: June 4, 1872
Place of birth: The kitchen table
Height: Six feet, one inch
Weight: 200 pounds, more or less (It was actually more at the time—city living does tend to soften a man.)
Scars, birth marks, disfigurements, or other notable physical features: Damned ugly knees and elbows (from being dragged halfway across Texas by a roped steer); bite marks on foot (from finding a Gila monster in my boot the hard way); Cross J brand on right buttocks (it’s a long story)
Education: Six years of formal schooling; a lifetime of informal schooling via newspapers, magazines, books, open ears, open eyes, and an open mind
Previous occupations: Farmboy, granary clerk, cowboy, drifter, yarnspinner
Law enforcement/private investigation experience: I am pleased to report that I remain unmolded clay, unmarred by the fumbling fingers of employment with government authorities or private parties unequal to the exacting standards of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
“There,” I said, jabbing down the final period. “Done.”
Old Red glanced back at the thin Pink, who was listening listlessly to a pair of mumbly men who’d just wandered into the office. “You think we got much of a chance?”
“Sure. That feller wouldn’t have asked us to fill out these forms if—”
The Pinkerton opened his desk drawer and pulled out two more applications.
“Fill these out.” He jerked his head at the table we were using. “Over there.”
“Well, anyway,” I muttered. “I’ll do my best to sweet-talk him.”
We passed our competition on the way to the front of the office. They were of a type we’d seen often since arriving in the San Francisco area a month before: men with shuffling gaits and downcast gazes wearing well-tailored suits that seemed a size too large. The Panic (as the newspapers had taken to calling the latest wave of bank runs) had dumped hundreds of such unfortunates on the streets in recent weeks, and it was remarkable and sad to see how quickly a proud, prosperous businessman could shrivel into a desperate, hungry beggarman.
Still, I couldn’t feel too awfully bad for most of them. At least they’d had heights from which to fall. Gustav and I were pretty much born at rock bottom and had somehow managed to sink even lower from there. Now we had nowhere to go but up—or so I hoped.
“Here you are, sir—our ‘cur-icky-cullum vetoes,’” I said to the Pinkerton, sliding our applications onto his desk. “I’d just ask you to keep in mind as you look ’em over that me and my brother are men of experience, men of the world. Men, to boil it down to its essence. And while the, shall we say, unconventional credentials of men such as ourselves might be hard to quantify on paper, they have imparted to us the very qualities that Mr. Allan Pinkerton himself would have sought when recruiting—”
“Well, well. Brothers, huh?” the Pink cut in, looking up from the forms to give us each a quick, up-and-down once-over.
We hardly made a matching pair, aside from our scarlet hair. Not only do I have a few inches and more than a few pounds on my brother, I’d citified my look over the last weeks, swapping out my work denims and boots for a secondhand suit and patent leather shoes. I’d even gone so far as to buy myself a bowler. But Old Red had no interest in slicking himself up, and he still dressed as if we might be ordered to hop atop a horse and round up strays any minute.
“Yessir—brothers,” I said. “Though I reckon nobody’d mistake us for twins . . . thank God.”
Gustav rolled his eyes.
“No, twins you’re not,” the Pinkerton replied, his lips so pursed they bent his feathery little mustache into a gray V. “Funny thing, though. Your handwriting’s absolutely identical.”
My brother shot me a glare hot enough to pop corn by.
“Ho ho—you are a detective, ain’t you!” I said to the Pink. “You see, we’ve got ol’ Mrs. Wiegand to thank for that. She was our schoolteacher back in Kansas. How that woman fussed about penmanship! Made us write the same sentence over and over till the letters looked exactly—”
“And no experience, huh?” the Pinkerton said, looking back down at the papers on his desk.
“Not of the kind y’all were askin’ about on them forms. But experiences, we’ve had aplenty. Rough and tumble stuff. Just the kind of thing that prepares a man for work as a—”
The Pink started shaking his head, and he didn’t stop till I’d stopped talking.
“Forget it,” he said. “We can’t use you.”
“Hold on, now—don’t be hasty, mister,” I protested. I had only one card left up my sleeve, and I figured it was about as much use as a joker . . . when you’re playing dominoes. But I played it anyway. “We might not have on-the-job type detective trainin’, but that don’t mean we ain’t got no know-how. Why, for the last year, we been makin’ us a scientific study of the cases of Mr. Sherlock—”
I was silenced by a mighty thud—the sound of the Pinkerton picking up his wastepaper basket and whacking it down on his desk. It was already overflowing with identical sheets of crumpled paper.
“This is one day’s worth of applications,” the Pink said.
He picked up our forms . . . and placed them on the top of the pile.
“Well, dammit,” I snapped. “If y’all ain’t hirin’, why didn’t ya just say so in the first place?”
The prim’n’proper office girl finally turned away from her type-writing, but the look she gave me wasn’t the come-hither kind I’d hoped for earlier—it was more of the get-the-hell-out-of-here variety.
Her boss-man’s gaze went even icier than hers. Slight and spruce though the Pinkerton was, I sensed that he’d had plenty of rough-andtumble experiences himself—that, in fact, he’d probably done more of the roughing and not so much of the tumbling.
He straightened his back and placed his bony hands side by side on his desk.
“Who says we’re not hiring?”
He left the rest unsaid.
We’re just not hiring the likes of you.
Ever. Copyright © 2008 by Steve Hockensmith. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from The Black Dove by Hockensmith, Steve Copyright © 2008 by Hockensmith, Steve. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Meet the Author
Steve Hockensmith is the author of the novels Holmes on the Range and On the Wrong Track, as well as numerous short stories. His first novel featuring Big Red and Old Red, Holmes on the Range, was a finalist for the Edgar, the Anthony, the Shamus and the Dilys Award. He lives in Alameda, California.
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Did my scalp get all scorchy? I read Holmes on the Range (the first book in this series) quite a while ago, but I do remember it’s overriding charm and wit. I was pleased to find these same qualities in the sequel; if only I had paid attention to the timeline! Turns out this is book three, not two as I had thought. Even with that oversight on my part, this book was as amusing and fun as I remember the original to be. In fact, I think I like it better. Maybe I’m just more comfortable around the two Amlingmeyer brothers at this point, but I was thoroughly entertained at every turn. If you can manage to read these in the correct order I don’t see how you could fail to love them.
Exceptional Book! Steve Hockensmith has done it again, and the The Black Dove (the 3rd book in the Holmes on the Range Mysteries) about Big Red and Old Red is a real treat! The brothers are unique and hilarious, and Hockensmith's writing is sharp, witty, and creative. The Black Dove is set in historical San Francisco's Chinatown, and the story blends an intriguing plot with fascinating historical details. As an avid reader of all types of Mysteries, I can honestly say that this series (and this book specifically) are well above par for the genre. Hockensmith just gets better with each new book. (NOTE: If you haven't read the first two books in the series: Holmes on the Range & On the Wrong Track, I highly recommend reading those before The Black Dove. You will be able to follow along just fine without having read them, but it is much more fun if you know all the back story. Order them all at the same time, because once you start reading you won't be able to put them down! Each book gets better and better, and at my house there is always a fight on who gets to read the book first!)
Old Red and Big Red have become two of my favorite people. This book takes a lot of the old standards of westerns, mysteries, Victorian age events, railroads, Chinatown, you name it, and makes it all fresh and new - an adventure anyone would love to be on. I can't wait to see where this journey is going to take us!
Mr. Hockensmith's smooth and humorous writing style continues to entertain but this third installment of the Amlingmeyer brothers disappoints. There is way too much adventure and not enough 'deducifying'. I hope the series continues but with more emphasis on 'Old Red' Gustav's keen eye for a lie.
In 1893 brothers Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer recover from their work as rail cops (see ON THE WRONG TRACK) by visiting San Francisco in order to partake of some of the city¿s world renowned wickedness as well as look into a personal matter. When they worked as railroad cops, the luggage of the late Dr. Chan was tossed off the train that was their beat. Knowing their hero would investigate, the siblings emulate HOLMES ON THE RANGE albeit this time Holmes in San Francisco to determine who killed Dr. Chan and why. Joining them is former railroad sleuth Diane Corvus, who also has a personal reason to learn the truth.------------------- The Reds assume that hired Chinese ¿highbinders¿ killed Chan, but the clues take them everywhere in the City by the Bay not just Chinatown. With local police and Chinatown's ¿Napoleon of Crime¿ assisting them Old Red and Big Red land in whorehouses where they are a bit distracted, but with Diane and Napoleon coaxing them, their escapades lead everyone into a final confrontation in which being shanghaied appears to have a greater life expectancy.----------------- The third Holmes on the Range historical mystery is another superb zany caper as the Red siblings land in one egg drop soup after another. The humorous story line is fast-paced especially when the heroes begin to follow clues that have more twists than Lombard St. Fans of the series will appreciate the Reds¿ escapades as Gaslight San Francisco comes to life as rarely seen in a whodunit with a terrific insane ending.-------------- Harriet Klausner