Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Big Beyond by Michael Lister

The San Antonio Public Library has an interesting description of noir and hard-boiled mysteries. "The difference between Hard-boiled and Noir Mysteries is subtle: both feature violence, sex and have a rough and gritty tone.  Hard-boiled mysteries usually focus on a Private Eye or a loner, ex-cop, while Noir Mysteries focus on the criminal or the victim." Michael Lister's The Big Beyond actually fits both descriptions. Jimmy "Soldier" Riley is a private detective and an ex-cop. He's also a criminal and a victim. And, The Big Beyond is definitely violent with a rough and gritty tone.

Lister's author's note strongly suggests readers read The Big Goodbye before they read The Big Beyond. And, he's definitely right. My review of the first in the series said hard-boiled novels such as those written by Chandler and Hammett are all about a dame. The Big Beyond picks up soon after the first book ends. It's 1943, in Panama City, Florida, where Riley is being tortured. However, he really has no will to live. He's killed, lost people he loved, lost people he once trusted, and he doesn't care if he's tortured to death. But, he still has a couple friends, Clipper Jones, a one-eyed black man, and Ruth Ann Johnson, a nurse who lost her leg in the war. Those two show up to save him, and set him on the track to finding killers, even though Soldier is wanted for murder. And, it seems as if Soldier, with only one arm, is always dependent on his friends to get him out of jams. Time after time in this book, he is picked up, tormented, and held at gunpoint.

So, what's the appeal of Michael Lister's books? He captures the time period and atmosphere beautifully; the war year, with its rationing, anti-Japanese sentiments, fear of German U-boats. He brings to life "the mean streets" of Florida, and makes them his own. The language is perfect. The Big Beyond is gritty, torturous, filled with history, drama, and a twisted plot. And, then there's Jimmy "Soldier" Riley, a detective who fell for a dame, and "loved not wisely but too well."

Michael Lister's website is

The Big Beyond by Michael Lister. Pulpwood Press. 2012. ISBN 9781888146349 (paperback), 223p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Joe Barone said...

These definitions are interesting. I've never thought of Noir in this way. I guess I've always used the word to mean simply "hard boiled." I'll have to consider whether I think there is a real distinction.

Lesa said...

I'm not sure either, Joe, and it's not my specialty. That's why I used someone else's definition. I think I would have just used hard boiled as well. But, I wanted to throw it out there.