As I’ve mentioned here many times, Ed Gorman is an old friend of mine, so what you’re getting here isn’t an unbiased review. It is, however, an honest one.
TICKET TO RIDE is the latest in Ed’s long-running series about Sam McCain, lawyer and private eye from the medium-sized town of Black River Falls, Iowa. Time has proceeded at almost the same pace as real life in this series. It was 1958 in the first Sam McCain novel, THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED, which came out ten years ago (hard to believe it’s been that long), and in TICKET TO RIDE the year is 1965, just as opposition to the Vietnam War is starting to increase. Sam has organized a rally to protest the war, which has attracted the attention of the mostly conservative citizens of Black River Falls. One of them, a powerful local businessman, shows up at the rally and gets into a scuffle with one of the speakers, a noted anti-war activist from out of town. When the businessman turns up dead later that night, the activist is the leading suspect in the murder and winds up in jail. Sam, of course, sets out to clear his name.
Also of course, since this is a Gorman novel, nothing is exactly what it seems, and as it turns out, nearly everyone involved in the case has something to hide, as Sam finds out when murder crops up again. This is a finely-plotted mystery novel with a number of suspects and a surprising but logical ending. As always, one of the main attractions of Ed’s work is that there is very little that’s black-and-white. None of the characters are all-noble or all-villainous, including Sam himself, who’s a very likable narrator because he’s honest about his own flaws.
And I don’t think there’s any author who has broken my heart more with poignant little moments of humanity than Ed Gorman. In every book, it seems like there’s at least one powerfully understated passage that speaks directly to the fear and sadness and joy that makes us who we are, and that’s certainly true in TICKET TO RIDE. It’s what makes Ed not just one of the best mystery novelists, but one of the best novelists, period, working today. TICKET TO RIDE will be out soon, and I recommend it highly.
THE PULP CALENDAR: October 27
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