(Jump over to read a review of Iron River )
(Jump down to read a review of L.A. Outlaws)
(Reviewed by Guy Savage FEB 11, 2009)
“Listen: Things in life only happen at two speeds—fast or not at all. That’s why you need to know what you want. Because when you know what you want, you’ll be able to see the difference between chaos and opportunity. They’re twins. People mistake one for other all the time. You get about half a minute to decide what you are looking at. Maybe less. Then you have to make a choice.”
The Renegades the latest thriller from T. Jefferson Parker is set predominantly in the far northern reaches of Los Angeles County in the Antelope Valley:
“The valley is the new frontier, the final part of the county to be heavily developed…the cities are booming but not quite prosperous. Thousands of homes are new. They’re affordable. The cities have nice names, like Palmdale, and Rosamond and Pearblossom and Quartz Hill.”
The Antelope Valley is a strange, desolate place--quite unlike anywhere else in the United States--and thus an interesting place to set a novel. Located on the edges of the Mojave Desert, the soil is harsh and unfriendly. A sheriff friend of mine once told me that the Antelope Valley was a well-known dumping ground for the rest of L.A. County; Toxic waste, bodies, and when a huge prison was built near Lancaster, well let’s just say that many of the residents weren’t thrilled.
The Renegades is the second novel featuring Deputy Sheriff Charlie Hood. Hood first appeared in L.A. Outlaws, and he’s back in this new gripping novel. Author T. Jefferson Parker argues that the days of the Old West are not yet dead, and the crime odyssey of bandit Allison Murrieta (L.A.Outlaws) attests to the notion that outlaws do still exist, ranging through California on crime sprees that seem to be a social response to the inadequacies of existence. And it seems therefore appropriate that Parker set his latest novel in the desolate open spaces of the Antelope Valley--a vast region that in spite of its wide open spaces hides a lot of secrets.
The novel begins with what seems to be a fairly pat assignment for Hood. He and his partner Terry Laws accompany L.A. County Housing Authority officials as they hassle a tenant--a single, black woman who lives in a fairly new, already decaying housing development in Lancaster. The Housing Authority has had complaints about the woman and her sons, and this is considered a routine call. But the simple routine call ends with Laws brutally murdered and his partner, Hood miraculously escaping the savage attack and hell bent on catching the killer. Joining Internal Affairs, Hood starts investigating the murder of Laws--a man who seems, at least on the surface, to be a straight arrow. All indications are that a Southside Crips gang member conducted Laws’ hit, but as Hood digs deeper, some things don’t add up. Laws, who was known in the department as "Mr. Wonderful," was a much-loved deputy who devoted his free time to his charitable organization. As Hood digs into Laws’ life, he begins to suspect that Laws wasn’t quite what he seemed and that Laws spent the last few months of his life struggling with guilt. Hood’s investigation eventually leads him down into Mexico and the belly of the drug trafficking trade.
If you enjoyed L.A. Outlaws, then you will really love The Renegades. This second entry in the Hood series delivers suspense, excitement and more than a couple of surprises. In L.A. Outlaws, Hood found himself in an extremely difficult moral position that questioned his integrity as a human being and as a representative of the law enforcement community. More tough choices await Hood in The Renegades, and yet once again Hood finds himself on the track of someone who leads a dangerous double life. Whereas in L.A. Outlaws modern-day bandit Allison Murrieta was motivated by a need for excitement and a sense of destiny, In The Renegades, Hood’s adversary is a highly dangerous, slippery amoral man who creates alternate lives and alternate skins to slip into.
Author Parker was very smart to select Hood for this series protagonist. He’s an intriguing character, and in spite of the fact that I’ve read two novels that feature Hood as a character, he remains unpredictable, and that makes him someone I want to read about. I have to give the author a great deal of credit for his atmospheric descriptions of the Antelope Valley. He captures the threatening silence of the nights in the desert, the pitiless, hostile wind, and the social problems of this unique desert community.
- Amazon readers rating: from 1 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Renegades at author's website(back to top)
(Reviewed by Guy Savage FEB 11, 2009)
“Here’s the deal: I am a direct descendant of the outlaw Joaquin Murrieta. He was a kickass horseman, gambler and marksman. He stole the best horses and robbed rich Anglos at gunpoint. He loved women and seduced more than a few during his twenty –three years. Some of his money he gave to the poor, but to be truthful most of it he spent on whiskey, guns, expensive tailored clothes and on the women and children he left behind.”
In the film Husbands and Wives, there’s a character named Gabe (played by Woody Allen) who admits that he’s attracted to a certain type of female: “See, I’ve always had this penchant for what I call ‘kamikaze women,’ I call them kamikazes because they crash their plane, they’re self-destructive, but they crash it into you, and you die along with them.” The term "kamikaze woman" came to mind when I read T. Jefferson Parker’s novel, L.A. Outlaws. The book’s main character, Allison Murrieta is a celebrity outlaw on the loose in Los Angeles County. With a mask, a wig and a Canonita, Allison robs restaurants, steals cars, and generally runs amok. Leaving calling cards for those she robs, her criminal life rapidly gains momentum. Meanwhile Allison Murrieta makes the L.A. County Sheriffs’ Department look like total idiots in the face of her flagrant defiance. Given the daring manner of her style of robbery combined with her growing celebrity status, it’s just a matter of time before one of Allison’s robberies turn sour.
When L.A. Outlaws, the first novel in the series featuring Deputy Sheriff Charlie Hood begins, Allison pulls off yet another daring car theft before setting her sights on a slightly different job. Allison has heard through connections about an exchange that’s going to take place at night between diamond dealer Barry Cohen and members of the Asian Boyz gang. Barry, who’s into the gang for $75,000 is going to hand over a large stash of insured diamonds in order to pay off his debt, and Allison plans to step in and simply take the loot. Instead, when Allison arrives at the Miracle Auto Body shop, all she finds is a building full of dead bodies. So she simply picks up the diamonds and heads out. It’s an eerie scene, but Allison, who’s becoming increasingly overconfident, takes the jewels and runs.
That night, a young Deputy Sheriff named Charles Hood, stops schoolteacher Suzanne Jones as she speeds through the neighbourhood. Later Hood begins to suspect that Suzanne may be a crucial police witness, and when it becomes apparent that Suzanne is being stalked by a ruthless assassin, Hood is sure she has vital information. As Suzanne goes underground, Hood finds himself playing cat and mouse with a woman who isn’t all she seems.
This fast-paced thriller juggles Hood’s hunt for the truth with Allison Murrieta’s increasingly risky robberies. Fueled by her growing celebrity status, Allison seems locked into a dangerous end game, and when Hood begins to suspect the bandit’s real identity, Allison’s addiction to the highs of a life of crime spiral out-of-control. This places Hood in an impossible position, straddling both sides of the law. As the tension builds, there’s the sense that something must "give" in this situation. Hood finds himself in an untenable situation, and ultimately, he must take a stand.
L.A. Outlaws sets the groundwork for an exciting new series from author T. Jefferson Parker. This book’s argument seems to be that the Old West is alive and well, at least in some remote enclaves of Southern California, and most certainly in the fractured mind of Allison Murrieta as she careens from the addictive highs of hold-ups to watching her media coverage. More concerned for how she looks in front of the camera than evaluating the risks she takes, Allison is a time bomb waiting to explode.
- Amazon readers rating: from 72 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from L.A. Outlaws at author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Laguna Heat (1985)
- Little Saigon (1988)
- Pacific Beat (1991)
- Summer of Fear (1993)
- The Triggerman's Dance (1996)
- Where Serpents Lie (1998)
- Silent Joe (2001)
- Cold Pursuit (2003)
- California Girl (2004)
- The Fallen (2006)
- Storm Runners (2007)
Merci Rayborn series:
- L.A. Outlaws (2008)
- The Renegades (2009)
- Iron River (2010)
- The Border Lords (2011)
- The Jaguar (2012)
- The Famous and the Dead (April 2013)
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- The Official Website of T. Jefferson Parker
- MostlyFiction.com interview with T. Jefferson Parker (2009)
- MostlyFiction.com review of Red Light and Black Water
- MostlyFiction.com review of Silent Joe, Cold Pursuit and California Girl
- MostlyFiction.com review of Iron River
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Border Lords
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About the Author:
T. Jefferson Parker was born in Los Angeles and has lived all his life in Southern California. His writing career began in 1978, as a cub reporter on the weekly newspaper, The Newport Ensign. After covering police, city hall and cultural stories for the Ensign, Parker moved on to the Daily Pilot newspaper, where he won three Orange County Press Club awards for his articles. All the while he was tucking away stories and information that he would use in his first book.
In 1980 Parker was hired by the Orange Coast Daily Pilot. By then, he was already working evenings and weekends on his first novel, Laguna Heat, a project that he ended up rewriting six times. He left the Daily Pilot in 1982 and took a job as a technical editor at Ford Aerospace Communications Corp.
In 1985, Laguna Heat was published to rave reviews and was made into an HBO movie starring Harry Hamlin, Jason Robards and Rip Torn. The paperback made the New York Times Bestseller list in 1986.
After the success with his first novel, he decided to become a full-time writer. Parker's books-all dealing with crime, life and death in sunny Southern California-have each been published to uniformly good reviews and have appeared on various regional bestseller lists.
In addition to being a successful novelist, Parker continues his career in journalism. He is an occasional contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review and Los Angeles Times Magazine, and for three years wrote a weekly column for the Los Angeles Times Orange County Edition called "Parker's Place."
He lives with his family in Southern California. When not working on his books, Parker spends his time with his family, hiking, hunting and fishing, and haunting the public tennis courts. He enjoys diving, snorkeling, and travel. He escapes to a trailer in the desert in the spring and fall, to hike the country and not answer telephones.