Street Level

Street Level

by Bob Truluck

Winner of the 1999 St. Martin's Press/ PWA Award for Best First Private Eye Novel

When we meet private detective Duncan Sloan he's just handed back a five thousand-dollar check meant as advance payment on a job. The wealthy prospective client wants Sloan to find a woman with an eyeball tattooed on her bottom. All he knows is the tattoo, that she's very young,


Winner of the 1999 St. Martin's Press/ PWA Award for Best First Private Eye Novel

When we meet private detective Duncan Sloan he's just handed back a five thousand-dollar check meant as advance payment on a job. The wealthy prospective client wants Sloan to find a woman with an eyeball tattooed on her bottom. All he knows is the tattoo, that she's very young, white and probably somewhere in or near Orlando, Florida, Sloan's hometown. Thanks but no thanks; that's not enough. But when the five grand reappears in Sloan's mailbox, he uses it for a Costa Rican vacation and never mind the job.

Pike, however tracks him down. When he explains the assignment, Sloan finds it bizarre enough to say "yes." Isaac Pike is the only son of a top-ranked tycoon. He is also gay. Because he genuinely wants to be a father, he has deposited sperm with a reputable clinic while he searches for a suitable mother. But a paroled convict working at the clinic steals the sperm, impregnates a teenager with it, and blackmails Pike - send money or we abort the child.

Although Pike's idea of a suitable mother is not quite a waif from an Orlando trailer park, he is decent enough to be genuinely concerned about both mother and child.

Sloan pursues the thief and his buddies and, he hopes, the girl, through the Florida city's sad neighborhoods and outlying cheap motels, calling on his drug-enhanced informers and a contact in the police. Getting closer brings him to the mangled bodies of the young mother-to-be's relatives, and closer to his own danger as well. On he goes — Duncan Sloan may be a reluctant detective, but when he's wound up he's hard to stop.

Street Level is Bob Truluck's first novel. It was chosen as the Best First Private Eye Novel of 1999 in the contest sponsored by Private Eye Writers of America and St. Martin's Press.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Blistering shards of dialogue, nonstop action and one of the neatest slices of sunburned, low-rent Florida since Charles Willeford passed away mark this first novel, winner of the 1999 St. Martin's/PWA contest. Isaac Pike is a rich gay man who wants a child. His semen may or may not have ended up residing inside the womb of Orlando topless-bar dancer Crystal Johnson. So maybe there's a child to be; but the potential mother has vanished. Pike is anxious to trace Crystal--as is apparently every deadbeat scam artist in the Orlando area. Duncan Sloan, the fast-talking private dick on the case, has an unlicensed gun, an unlicensed practice and a shrew of an ex-wife. Sloan looks in all the right places: a cheap motel, a go-go bar, a trailer park. When Crystal's parents turn up murdered, things get really serious. The author, a builder in Orlando, has created an irreverent gem of a crime novel. With less irony than Elmore Leonard, and none of the ecological baggage with which Carl Hiaasen sometimes burdens his yarns, Truluck offers a fresh take on hot weather crime. Indelibly coarse characters rotate around an illogically escalating scam loaded with dead rednecks and brazen demands for major money from potty-mouthed thugs who surface on the profanity-riddled pages with scant introduction. Scoring very poorly on credibility, this is nonetheless a splinter-sharp first take from a raw new voice sure to be heard from again. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Winner of the St. Martin's/PWA Contest, this first novel features clipped prose, an acid-tongued Florida private eye, and a colorful diversity of supporting characters. Duncan Sloan, the unlicensed detective, stumbles over several dead bodies while trying to find the surrogate mother/stripper impregnated with his wealthy gay client's stolen semen sample. A surprising number of suspects surround the gay guy, including his unaccepting father, entrenched family security people, and an estranged evangelistic sister. Uncharacteristic descriptions, dry humor, and Orlando settings add more spice to the mix. Exciting and adventurous. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 9.26(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt


If there was a significance, I wasn’t getting it. I turned the sketch 180. It still looked like an eyeball with wings.

“You had it right the first time.”

I looked over at the guy I was sharing the booth with and grunted. “What’s it supposed to be?”

I got a shrug that said he hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about it. “A flyin’ eyeball.”

I was thinking this was not the person whose name was on the check lying between us on the Formica. The one for five grand. If he was, and that’s what he thought I was asking, he would have grabbed his check and been on his way.

“Yeah, I got that part. What’s it mean?”

“It’s just a tattoo, so far as I know.”

I put the drawing down and looked at the guy. He was boring me.

We were in a round corner booth at a chili joint called Angel’s on the south end of Orange Blossom Trail, and the guy was sitting closer than I would have preferred. The waitress drifted by; he ordered food, I didn’t.

A couple of county cops showed and started in with the waitresses, the ladies laughing, acting bawdy for the heat. One of the cops was talking to a girl, maybe our waitress, I wasn’t sure, the other one checking out the room. When his gaze slid past, I gave him a decent upstanding-citizen smile, as decent and upstanding as I can do sitting in a grease trap at two o’clock in the afternoon with a fat guy wearing a plaid hat and a shiny suit.

With all the guy was giving to go on, I felt his best bet was a psychic with a bloodhound. We were wasting each other’s time, and I wasn’t hungry, so I tried to put the conversation out of its misery. “Where do you find a hat like that?”

He looked up like he could see the narrow brim snapped over his eyes and grinned. “St. Paul,” telling me he was proud of it by the way he laid it out.

“St. Paul?” He nodded me on. “What’d you say your name was? John?”

I knew that wasn’t what he had said his name was, but no surname had been offered. I was trying to prompt him. I didn’t expect it would work, and it didn’t.


I pushed the check back in his direction, threw the drawing on top of it, said, “Tell you what, Don. You go on back up to St. Paul and tell the man who writes the checks that he’ll have to do better than this.”

Don’s eyebrows did a jig. So did his Adam’s apple. “This is not sufficient to meet your needs, Mr. Sloan?” putting four syllables to sufficient, pointing at the check.

I shook my head. “The five’s fine. But tell your guy that I don’t have the resources or the inclination to find some nameless girl who might be in the Orlando area. Somewhere. We don’t know what she looks like, but she’s maybe pregnant and she’s got a flying eyeball tattoo.” I gave him a sincere grin, said, “She might stand out back home in St. Paul, Don, but down here she’s just another white girl with ink on her ass. Tell him the money’s nice, but I need a little more to go on. And I’m sure your man’s got his reasons for sending you to check me out instead of coming himself, but I’m gonna need to hear a little more of the story, too. And I’d prefer to hear it from him. He wants to arrange something, you let me know.”

Don was grinning, looking smarter than I thought he could. “This man will want to know something.”

“What’s that, Don?”

“He will want to know if you are good enough to justify these demands.”

“And what’ll you say?”

“I will say you have decent stats.”

“And what’ll he say?”

“He will say if you are so good, how come you did two years in a federal penitentiary and still do not have a valid investigator’s license.”

He caught me cold. I’m sure it showed.

Don was kind. “What will I say, Mr. Sloan?”

I caught up with real time, said, “Tell him I’ve got a letter from the Feds saying it was all just a big misunderstanding.”

Don nodded, he liked that. “I will tell him this.”

Don’s chicken-something came, and I left him with it. I was thinking I’d wasted the afternoon on something I’d never hear from again.

Three days later the mailman dropped the same check at my place. No note. No nothing. Just an envelope with the check for five big fish.

Meet the Author

Bob Truluck lives in Orlando, Florida and is a building contractor when he's not busy writing mysteries.

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