By: John Clarkson
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Publication Date: 11/8/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars +++
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The death of Paco "Packy" Johnson shouldn't have surprised anyone.
Paco Johnson spent a lifetime in the system -- starting in juvie at age 10, then prison for most of his adult life.
But he managed to make some real friends in prison, friends who helped him get parole, a place to stay, and plans to help him adjust to a life outside prison after seventeen years behind bars. But only seventeen hours after he was released, he was found dead -- murdered -- in the streets of the Bronx.
James Beck can't save Packy any longer -- but he can try to find out what happened to Packy, and why, and exact a measure of justice. Beck, ringleader of a tight clique of ex-cons based in Brooklyn's Red Hook section, is determined to accord Packy at least some dignity and a measure of justice. But what drove Packy out onto the streets of the Bronx his first night back? Who did he run into that hated him enough to viciously beat him before executing him, and yet left behind his wallet full of cash?
But what at first appears to be a simple, if tragic, street killing, quickly becomes something much more difficult and complex. And it will take all the skills, connections, and cunning of Beck and his team not only to learn the truth but to survive the forces they've unwittingly unleashed.
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A special thank you to St. Martins' Press, Minotaur, and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
Talented crime writer, John Clarkson returns following the sensational thriller, Among Thieves (2015) with my favorite tough guy, James Beck, (My hero) who runs a slick operation in Red Hook, Brooklyn- to give employment and a second chance to his fellow ex-cons . . .
BRONX REQUIEM —Multi-layered, non-stop action, suspense, twists, adrenaline-fueled; a true “murder mystery,” with an unstoppable inner circle, of unconventional friends, led by Beck; you most definitely, want him in your corner. "I LOVE these guys!"
Top 10 Books of 2016! Hard-boiled crime fiction, "at its finest." If you could only read one thriller this year, this would be "the one."
James Beck met Packy Johnson (Paco) in prison.
They forged a friendship and an unbreakable bond. Packy Johnson had been incarcerated for most of his life and had earned his status as a respected, righteous con. Beck had never asked Packy why he had decided to help him along ago.
Packy never questioned him. How a man with no criminal record had killed a cop? In Clinton maximum-security prison, James Beck learned the meaning and value of a true friend.
Beck knew two things: He would never return to prison. And no person, or institutions or circumstances would ever stop him from being the man he wanted to be.
Presently, as the book opens, it is nine years later. Packy was being released, after a seventeen-year sentence. Plans were made. Walter (parole officer) had taken care of the arrangements. Beck was to pick up Packy at the bus station. He was one of them.
However, he does not show. Later they find out he has hitchhiked when the bus broke down. Now, he is dead. How could this have happened?
Why now, less than a day out of prison, not far from his mother-in-law’s apartment, beaten to death and shot in the head? No robbery (money in his pocket with his ID). Left in a gutter, seventeen hours later in Northern Bronx. What went wrong?
Packy had lived 42 years, 32 of which had been spent in juvenile institutions, foster homes, or prisons. 80% of his life confined, focused on simply surviving. Now was the chance to finally experience life. They have to make this right and find the killer. Justice for their loyal friend.
Who shot Packy Johnson? What made him risk his parole hitchhiking into town, and then rush over to the housing project minutes after he arrives, ready to take on a whole crew?
At the same time, there is a girl named Amelia Johnson (street name, Princess) who is trying to escape the clutches of an evil monster, Derrick Watkins—a pimp. A low-echelon criminal like many of the young men in her neighborhood – the Bronx River Houses-who dealt in drugs, theft, and prostitution. She knew the game.
When he took her in to give her food, clothes, and a place to stay, Amelia knew she had entered into a dangerous game. But knowing the game did not make her able to win at it.
A sixteen-year-old, girl trying to escape first her mother’s boyfriend at the age of twelve. A father she never knew who should have protected her. A hopeless selfish "drug addict" mother who died and left her alone. A crazy grandmother; angry, volatile, and a nag—a poor foster system which failed her and now- prostitution, control, and abuse.
Packy’s daughter (she is hilarious). He has not seen since she was three years old. Her unstable grandmother, Lorena Leon told her she was useless, finally forcing her to be in this inescapable situation before they would finally kill her. She has to find a way to escape the clutches of Derrick, Tyrell, Johnny Morris, Eddie, Jerome, Eric Juju Jackson, and Whitey Bondurant. Someone had sent for her. A criminal enterprise.
Detective John Palmer is on the (Paco Johnson) case with his partner, Raymond Ippolito. Ippolito was the senior detective, whereas Palmer had been a detective for a little over a year. Palmer saw this case an opportunity for advancement – he was overly ambitious. (what a dick).
It ran in the family since Palmer’s father, John Palmer senior had a reputation for being a hard-charger, a well- known lobbyist, lawyer, and political operator. A well know advocate for law enforcement and his influence extended to the NYPD, the Department of Corrections, NY Police, the Justice Department, and Homeland Security. (do you smell corruption?)
There was no drugs or burglary involved. This is a homicide. Murder. The parole officer assigned to the case was Walter Ferguson.
James Beck and his team, (Manny Guzman, Demarco Jones, Walter Ferguson) have their offices out of an old oak bar on the ground floor of the building at the far end of Red Hook, on the waterfront, providing a measure of safety and security for them.
It had taken them a year to renovate the place with the help of local workers and ex-cons. He had restored the ground floor bar, gutted the second and third floors to add bedrooms, bathrooms, storage rooms, workout space, with an open loft, divided into an office space, kitchen/dining, and seating area. (What a cool place, adding to the intrigue)!
Walter, a distinguished African American man as part of their group is devastated since he was responsible for Packy. Packy was one of them. They have to call in the "big gun" for help: Ciro Baldassare, the strongest of the crew.
Beck and his team, who operate out of his Red Hook saloon, set out to find who killed Packy. In the meantime, they are trying to help Amelia and Queenie (older madam) who work for pimp Derrick Watkins, one of the Bronx’s most vicious criminals.
A race against time, Beck and his gang, not only have to face some of the most violent gang leaders, now they have to go up against politics, corruption, and power; Detective John Palmer, the ambitious cop not above skirting the law, who has his own agenda. He wants to send a cop killer back to jail. Forever. Does he know who he is messing with?
Intense, suspense, gritty!
Wow, having read Among Thieves enjoyed listening to the interview with Clarkson afterward, and his inspiration for the character, James Beck, and his inner circle continuing with Bronx Requiem (see below). Please, please let there be more....Loving this series!
Clarkson has created a unique, captivating series, with believable topics and flawed characters--inspired by our society. You root for them. These guys know the ins and outs of crime.
Beck is a complex character. He has a heart of gold. A loyal friend. A hero, even though he is not a bully and can stand up to bullies. Intelligent and street smart. He is not impulsive. He carefully plans, looking at all options before he acts. A man with a past, and relies on his group of friends for support—and did I mention, what an awesome setting?
So vivid and realistic, I want to pull up a bar stool, have a drink, and better still feel the spine tingling action within these walls, spend the night, and have their yummy breakfast the following morning, and be a part of the well-laid plans, to take down the bad guys.
Meticulously written, a plot "out of this world", and well-developed characters. Mixed with lots of humor, action, and emotion. The good (bad guys) taking down the (really) bad guys; and helping the innocent in the process.
The strong bond between Packy and Beck, the inner circle, the loyalty of friends, and the added addition of Amelia (so good)--with the crew taking her under their wing, which was quite challenging after she was set on revenge; Amelia, Queenie, and Lorena brought a nice balance of female kick ass emotion and wit, which sets the novel apart from the norm. All the ingredients for a blockbuster movie hit. (keeping fingers crossed)
Not only did I LOVE the book, and was beyond excited to receive an early reading copy; I always pre-order the audiobook, as well. Peter Berkrot is my all time favorite narrator. He was exceptional in Among Thieves, and cannot wait until Nov 8 to listen to the highly anticipated performance of Bronx Requiem. (stunning cover)
A huge Clarkson, Beck, and Berkrot fan!
This is "as good as it gets, folks." A hero you will not soon forget. Fans of true crime, hard-boiled fiction, mystery, and suspense thrillers will devour! Move over Lee Child, David Baldacci, and Michael Connelly.
From the Author:
"Around 2011, John became interested in the fact that the US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. With 5% of the world’s population, we have 24% of the world’s prisoners. There are over 2 million people in prison and over 4 million on parole or probation.
How did this happen? What are all those people doing? How do they survive in and out of prison? Out of all this grew the idea of writing a crime novel with ex-cons as the heroes. The result: Among Thieves and Bronx Requiem."
Nov Top Reads
Ex-con James Beck places loyalty above all else, as shown in Clarkson’s highly entertaining sequel to 2015’s Among Thieves. With a firm belief in the brotherhood of criminals, Beck unconditionally trusts his crew of fellow ex-cons, many of whom he met in prison before his first-degree manslaughter conviction was overturned. He’s especially anxious to bring into his fold Paco “Packy” Johnson, who’s being paroled after 17 years in prison. But soon after being released, Packy is murdered on a Bronx street. Beck and his team, who operate out of his Red Hook saloon, set out to find who killed Packy and try to help his 16-year-old daughter, Amelia, who works for pimp Derrick Watkins, one of the Bronx’s most vicious criminals. Beck and company run up against not only Watkins but also Det. John Palmer, an overly ambitious cop not above skirting the law. Strong storytelling combined with breathless action and a high body count keeps the solid plot churning, as do the complex characters. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, Janklow & Nesbit. (Nov.) Read More
A fast-moving, bloody visit to the Bronx featuring the return of tough guy James Beck (Among Thieves, 2015). Packy Johnson has just been released after a 17-year stint in the New York prison system. Less than a full day out, his corpse lies in a gutter not far from his mother-in-law’s apartment, beaten to a pulp and shot in the head but not robbed. His old prison friend James Beck is anguished and outraged, determined to learn what happened. A friend warns Beck that if he does “anything foolish—it won’t do anybody any good.” Meanwhile, detectives John Palmer and Raymond Ippolito catch the case. The ambitious young Palmer wants to pin the crime on Beck, a convicted but eventually exonerated cop killer. Still, says Ippolito, “You kill a cop, you’re supposed to fry.” Packy’s daughter, Amelia, street name Princess, is a teenage hooker controlled by pimp Derrick Watkins. She hasn’t seen her father since she was 3. Her grandmother Lorena Leon, a nasty piece of work, dismisses Amelia as a “whore and a drug addict.” This yarn has a lot of colorful bad guys such as the evil albino “Whitey” Bondurant and “Juju” Jackson, whose youthful acne reminds people of jujube candies, and, of course, Derrick, who calls Amelia a “broke-ass bitch [who] can’t even earn a pimp his money” seconds before she blows his brains out and disappears. The fights are spectacular and not for the squeamish. Beck gets a bad beating outside a bar despite his brass knuckles: “Beck knew he might die this night. But not as a beaten, helpless, handcuffed ex-con.” But stomping, crushing, smashing, kicking, fracturing, and crunching win the day for our hero. And that’s not even the main event. Readers who take their novels strong and dark will savor this one. But if you want sweetness and light, move along. There’s nothing to see here. Read More
AMONG THIEVES 5 Stars !!
Read My Review
“[An] outstanding thriller… Fans of Lee Child's Jack Reacher will find a lot to like” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“With crisp prose, masterful plotting, and building suspense, this is a real treat for fans of gritty crime fiction, who will want more from Clarkson.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Among Thieves is hardboiled urban noir from the pen of a master … highly recommended.” ―Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of Personal
About the Author
AMONG THIEVES is a reentry into writing novels for John Clarkson. His first crime thriller, AND JUSTICE FOR ONE, was published in 1992, followed by two more in that series: ONE MAN’S LAW in 1994, and ONE WAY OUT in 1996.
John wrote the screenplay adaptation of the
first novel for PARAMOUNT PICTURES, and also worked on a first-run syndicated TV series around that time.
The ONE series was followed by two standalone books: NEW LOTS, 1998 and REED’S PROMISE 2001.
All during that time Clarkson worked in advertising as a copywriter, first for several New York agencies, and then running his own advertising agency for many years. After closing his agency, Clarkson began consulting directly with major corporations developing marketing strategies, positioning their brands, developing creative, and managing their advertising agencies.
The advertising and marketing consulting became all-consuming on the creative front, particularly during the seven straight years Clarkson had at least one and sometimes two TV commercials he helped develop running on the Super Bowl.
But even though the advertising work dominated, Clarkson knew he would get back to writing crime- thrillers at some point. It was just a matter of when.
Around 2011, John became interested in the fact that the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. With 5% of the world’s population, we have 24% of the world’s prisoners. There are over 2 million people in prison and over 4 million on parole or probation.
How did this happen? What are all those people doing? How do they survive in and out of prison? Out of all this grew the idea of writing a crime novel with ex-cons as the heroes. The result is AMONG THIEVES, which has brought John Clarkson back to writing crime thrillers full time.
John and his wife Ellen divide their time between Brooklyn and upstate New York. Read More
Always a Pre-Order
Double the pleasure!
Guess who is reading?
My Favorite Narrator!
Bronx Requiem: A Novel
Written by: John Clarkson
Narrated by: Peter Berkrot
Length: 13 hrs and 11 mins
Publisher: Macmillan Audio