Every time I open a new Dev Conrad book I win an entertainment hat trick: I get another ticket to join consultant Conrad behind the scenes of a nasty political campaign; I get a major caliber murder mystery, and, best of all, I get another lesson in the craft of storytelling from Ed Gorman, one of the master yarn spinners of our day.
I've just finished Blindside, Gorman's third and latest novel in the Dev Conrad series. It's his best yet -- of the series and, in fact, of all the Gorman novels I've read to date.
My wife introduced me to Ed Gorman on June 19, 2005, when she gave me a copy of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? The novel is one of a series of mysteries featuring small-town Midwest lawyer/detective Sam McCain, who, for the sake of these stories, does more detecting than practicing law. His sole client is the eccentric, irascible female judge who uses McCain as a foil to embarrass the brutish, inept police chief, who secretly thinks he's the movie actor Glenn Ford.
I've since read the entire Sam McCain series, all nine of them set in the 1950s and '60s and each sharing its title with a pop song from the period. I've also come to know Ed through his blog – http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com /– and have learned he's a prolific writer in other genres, including horror, noir, westerns, and historical and science fiction. I haven't sampled all of his wares, but nothing I've read of his has disappointed. I'm partial to mysteries, and I'm hooked on the Dev Conrad series.
Part of the attraction is a feeling of authenticity. Gorman has worked in political campaigns as a speechwriter and a TV producer. His novels capture the language and the personalities, the cynicism of the professionals trying to handle and sell candidates who rarely live up to the portrayals they want voters to believe.
Dev Conrad is the consummate professional, having inherited the Chicago-based political consultancy from his father after a stint in Army intelligence. Despite his pragmatic approach to the political game, Conrad has a streak of decency. He'll work for scalawags but only if their politics are righteous, and if electing their opponents would be worse. His client in Blindside is spoiled, philandering rich boy Jeff Ward, a liberal congressman who's being challenged by a yahoo demagogue who vows to shut down the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, and who would prove “once and for all that the president was a Muslim Manchurian Candidate.” Sound familiar?
Things heat up when Ward's speechwriter is found shot dead in his car behind campaign headquarters. The opposition hints publicly that Ward murdered his own staffer. Meanwhile, Conrad tries to smoke out a spy in Ward's camp rumored to be working for his opponent. Gorman's plot has just enough twists and surprises to keep me guessing without getting hopelessly confused, as I do with many lesser mystery craftsmen. I hereby vow to read as many Dev Conrad mysteries as Ed Gorman chooses to write.