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Shortcut Man
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Shortcut Man

3.5 6
by p.g. sturges

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A smart and entertaining crime series debut set in the underbelly of Los Angeles, with a cast of characters that runs the gamut from saints to sinners.

In the City of Angels, not everyone plays by the rules. When people need a problem fixed fast, and discreetly, they call Dick Henry. Henry is known as a “shortcut man,” someone who believes


A smart and entertaining crime series debut set in the underbelly of Los Angeles, with a cast of characters that runs the gamut from saints to sinners.

In the City of Angels, not everyone plays by the rules. When people need a problem fixed fast, and discreetly, they call Dick Henry. Henry is known as a “shortcut man,” someone who believes that the shortest answer to many problems may not always be legal. As he cuts through the red tape for his clients, who range from an elderly woman ripped off by shady contractors to a landlord with a tenant many months behind on the rent, Henry always gets the job done, no matter what the cost. In Shortcut Man, Henry spends his days hunting down slimy con men and his nights seducing Lynette, an intoxicating, long-legged vixen. But when Henry gets an assignment from porn producer Artie Benjamin, his life suddenly becomes much more complicated. Now Henry must complete the job, avoid being killed, and somehow figure out what to do with Lynette. Filled with dark comedy, whip-smart writing, and a memorable cast of characters, Shortcut Man evokes Chandler and Hammett—hard-boiled crime at its best—and is an exciting beginning to a crackling new series.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The son of legendary film director Preston Sturges takes an evocative Raymond Chandler spin through crime-haunted Los Angeles with his first novel, which introduces problem-solver Dick Henry. Henry, who rides around in his '69 Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible, backed up by sideman Enrique Montalvo Rojas and the Laurel Canyon Irregulars, cuts straight to your problem. A deadbeat tenant? First, he asks nice. Then muscle comes into play. But when porn king Artie Benjamin hires Henry to find out who's sleeping with his wife, it gets personal. The shortcut specialist learns his own latest affair is with the very same femme fatale. His work often puts this modern-day Marlowe into "an unprofessional, biblical rage." ("Moses did not come down from the mountain and file a grievance report. He smashed the evil he beheld.") The bad guys perhaps could be a trifle badder, but the writing is a pleasure to read. More Southern California shortcutting, please, Mr. Sturges. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“This book is a blast! Wry, mysterious and, most of all, telling in the ways of desire and deception, Shortcut Man is one hell of a debut. p.g. sturges has proved himself a worthy successor to Chandler.”
—Michael Connelly

"This is an assured and diverting performance, with an ending that should impress even the most seasoned fan of hardboiled detective stories. You thought every twist ending in the noir bag had been taken out and used up, p.g. sturges seems to be saying as the book rushes toward its final page. Well, get a load of this."—Washington Post

"Shortcut Man is a glorious read: powerful, clever, suspenseful and filled with enough dark humor and shady characters to satisfy the most rabid noir fan, and convert those who aren't already."—Associated Press

"Shortcut Man joins the wisecracking, bone-breaking tradition of California noir stretching from Chandler to Hammett to Robert Crais's latest Elvis Cole novel. . . A gripping read."—The Boston Globe

Library Journal
Lessons learned from reading this debut crime novel: (1) Whether when serving a subpoena or just living, it's best to start out pleasant. With that in mind: this novel is offered as the first in a series so there is opportunity for improvement. (2) The plot revolves around Dick Henry, the "Shortcut Man," i.e., someone whose job is to sort things out; he's hired to find out who's been sleeping with the wife of porn movie producer Art Benjamin. The culprit is close to home. End of, and extent of, story. (3) It takes heroic doses of chutzpah to flesh out that slim plot to novel length. (4) One trick to spinning out a story is to repeat favorite phrases. If it's good the first time, it's even better the third, plus the phrase might grow on you. Thus, "Craftsman homes" and "Moe Greene shot" appear and reappear. (5) It's handy to have a recognizable name. The author is the son of 1940s movie screenwriter/director Preston Sturges, who rates a couple of mentions here. VERDICT There's more to gripping a reader than attitude, which this novel has in spades. While we await further developments, this initial outing is not recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO
Kirkus Reviews

The son of legendary filmmaker Preston Sturges debuts with the fast, funny, nostalgia-laden tale of a hero who slices through Gordian knots.

Dick Henry is the guy you go to when you're snarled in red tape. Need to evict a tenant who won't pay his rent, or get rid of a squatter who won't fold his tent, without going through months of messy litigation? Henry's your man. And he's not just a hired thug, either. He's happy to help Betty Fraiden protect her father, Franklin Tillman, from the Filipino woman he wants to bring to America to marry, even though she probably doesn't exist except as a vacuum for Tillman's savings. And he's available to confirm porn producer Artie Benjamin's fears that his wife is cheating on him. His very first day on the job, he discovers that Judy Benjamin is indeed conducting a torrid affair with Henry, who's known her as Lynette the private-airline stewardess. But his further discovery that Judy, aka Lynette, has been a lot less private with her favors than with her coffee and tea leads the promising setup down a familiar, not very interesting road of multiple betrayals with violence, as Judy keeps swearing eternal loyalty to men about to die at her bidding. Will Henry be among them? Of course not.

This freelance vigilante fantasy is the first of a crime series most likely to appeal to movie buffs who wish the punchy dialogue from vintage film noir could be spiced with some serious sex.

Dennis Drabelle
Sturges has an ample supply of authorial ingenuity, which he distributes throughout the novel…this is an assured and diverting performance, with an ending that should impress even the most seasoned fan of hardboiled detective stories. You thought every twist ending in the noir bag had been taken out and used up, P.G. Sturges seems to be saying as the book rushes toward its final page. Well, get a load of this.
—The Washington Post

Product Details

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6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Tisdale Regrets

Tisdale was a professional nonpayer of rent and I’d been sent to see about him. He lived in a court up off Hollywood Boulevard on Hobart.

A professional nonpayer paid his deposit, his first and last, a few more months to establish his bona fides, then settled in for a spell of hard luck.

It had come down to this, he would declare, choking a sob, his mother’s medicine or the rent.

Just this once slid into twice and after a while his mother died again. By then the landlord knew he was in for a porking but too late. The nonpayer would claim hardship and file for bankruptcy. In like a tick, it could take two years and lots of money to get him out. Sometimes ten grand in legal fees alone. That’s when a heads-up landlord would call me.

I’m Dick Henry. The Shortcut Man.

Tisdale’s place was in the back, in the middle. The lawn on either side of the cracked concrete walk was weedy and unkempt. A few scraggly bushes surrounded one of those towering Hollywood palms whose image had lured millions to false paradise.

Meanwhile, someone nearby was torturing a guitar Van Halen style, and when I got closer it was coming from Tisdale’s.

I stepped up on the little porch. I knocked through the screen and waited. The guitar quieted, someone rumbled across the floor, and the door opened.

I didn’t like him right off. Approaching three hundred doughy pounds and six feet tall, red rat eyes peered through long stringy hair. The face was fat and dirty, and gave evidence of recent rib eating. I smelled cheap marijuana.

“Yeah?” said Rib Face.

I waved. “I’m Dick Henry.” I tried to be pleasant.


“You Mr. Pissdale?”

“It’s Tis-dale. With a T. And if you’re here about my guitar, you can split right now. ’Cause I don’t turn it down for nobody. I know my rights.”

These guys always knew their rights. I felt a tingle in my fist.

“Actually, I don’t give a shit about your guitar.” I was still trying to be pleasant. “I’m here about the rent.”

The concept of rent took an appreciable amount of time to make its way through the circuits. Finally it arrived.

“The rent? The rent? You should know better than to harass me here, fuckhead. I know my rights, Landers knows my rights, and you know my rights.”

Tisdale ran his fingers back through his hair. “You don’t come to Landers’s freezy drafty leaky piece-of-shit house when I’ve declared bankruptcy.” His teeth were a yellowish green. “Now should I call my lawyer?”

It was an option.

But by this time the tingle in my fist had turned into a buzz and suddenly it was drawn, as if by a celestial karma vacuum, right through the fly-specked screen and directly into Tisdale’s nose. There was a satisfying crunch and down went Tisdale.

I pulled the door open and went in. The sight of his own blood had weakened his resolve and reorganized his priorities. I grabbed him by the collar, helped him to his feet.

“Your rights have come to an end, friend, and your obligations have begun.” I checked my watch. “You got twenty-five minutes to get everything you own out of this house.”

Tisdale held up a cautionary hand, eyes watering. “My nose, man. You broke my fucking nose.”

I checked my watch again. “Now you’ve got twenty-four minutes to get out.”

Tisdale attended his nose with a grayish T-shirt that had been lying around. Now it was red. Soon it would be brown. “Hey,” he resumed, “you just can’t throw someone out on their ass. There’re laws.”

In principle I agreed. In principle. “Yeah, there are laws, but they don’t apply to you anymore.” According to my preliminary investigation, his mother had died five times. Three times of cancer, twice of tuberculosis, once of intestinal blockage. Wait a second. That made six. And his father. A cerebral hemorrhage. And kidney failure.

There was a knock at the door. I checked my watch. It should have been Rojas.

It was.

Rojas exuded menace like a whore exudes cheap perfume. Of medium height, stocky, tattooed, unsmiling, with eyes concealed by Wayfarers under a black leather porkpie hat, Rojas was a badass Eastsider. We shook hands and a hint of a grin played in and around his soul patch.

I introduced the parties. “Enrique Rojas, meet Michael Tisdale, a.k.a. Mike Jones, Mike Smith, Mike Bush, and Mike Lane.”

Tisdale searched Rojas’s face for mercy.

“Buenas tardes, motherfucker,” said Rojas.

Tisdale looked back at me. I hooked a thumb at friend Rojas. “Mr. Rojas is here to see that you don’t backslide on your promise to vacate the premises. Otherwise I’ve asked him to beat the piss out of you.”

“My promise to vacate?”

I checked my watch again. “You got twenty minutes.”

“Hold on, man. I can’t get everything out in twenty minutes. Look at this place!”

I shrugged. “Save what’s most important. The rest is going in the Dumpster.”

“I’m going to call the police.”

“Go right ahead. I bet you have lots of friends down there.”

Tisdale’s only recourse was the practical. “I can’t move out of here in twenty minutes, dude. It can’t be done.”

I looked at Rojas. “Mr. Tisdale says it can’t be done.”

Rojas nodded, looked around. Then he walked over, grabbed the TV, lugged it, connecting wires and all, out the door and dumped it over the railing. In the house, various items crashed off shelves and slouched toward Bethlehem.

“What’s next?” Rojas brushed his hands upon his return.

“Start with the guitar.”

Tisdale interceded with a shriek. “Please. Please.

Now you get the gist of how I saved Mr. Landers $7,500. And earned $2,500 for myself. I’m Dick Henry. The Shortcut Man.

© 2011 P. G. Sturges

Meet the Author

p.g. sturges was born in 1953 in Hollywood, California. Punctuated by fitful interludes of school, he has subsequently occupied himself as a submarine sailor, a dimensional metrologist, a Christmas tree farmer, an optical metrologist, a musician, a songwriter, an author, a playwright, and a screenwriter.

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Shortcut Man 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Los Angeles, Dick "Shortcut Man" Henry is the best at helping clients work through barriers whether it is a cuckolded spouse or a tenant not paying their rent. Not one for the Power and the Glory, Dick always starts off with a polite request to the individual stonewalling his customer. However, if that fails he employs Enrique Montalvo Rojas and the Laurel Canyon Irregulars to persuade the person to do the right thing as defined by the Shortcut Man or else face the consequences. Porn movie producer Artie Benjamin hires Dick to identify the person who is sleeping with his wife Lynette. The Shortcut Man knows he does not need any time to investigate because he sees the lover in the mirror every time he shaves. Dick knows he cannot fail on a mission or lose the mojo PR image he created, but he also must avoid some nasty killers and finally decide what to do about Lynette and Artie. This is a delightful urban noir starring a hardboiled sleuth who does not want to be hailed as a conquering hero and his even harder boiled sidekicks; as they sweep the streets of Los Angeles not afraid of either side of the law. Although the villains seem emaciated in comparison to the great Shortcut Man and crew, fans will appreciate Henry's travels in this is dark humorous thriller. Harriet Klausner
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