An Appreciation of Loren D. Estleman

Loren EstlemanLoren D. Estleman feels as though he’s as integral to Aunt Agatha’s as our purple paint or over-stuffed bookshelves. We’ve been lucky enough to have known him for almost 25 years now. When we first met he was newly married to the lovely Debi, and ever since then he’s continued to write book after wonderful book.

When we first met him, he was hard at work on the spectacular historical series he’s nowfinished, each featuring a different decade in Detroit. Spanning from prohibition (Whiskey River, 1990) to the 80’s (King of the Corner, 1992), with both those volumes being stand-outs, he takes a look at race, economics, and culture as well as telling a memorable story in each volume.

He’s also one of the best regarded Western writers in the business, with over 20 Western novels to his credit, which have garnered him several Spur awards as well as a lifetime achievement award,

He also writes the now five volume Peter Macklin series, as well as the film historian Valentino series beginning with Frames (2008) to the most recent Brazen (2016). He’s written some fine stand-alones—a personal favorite of ours is Gas City (2008)—and indulged in some Sherlock love—Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula (1978) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes (1979). He wrote his first novel fresh out of Eastern Michigan University, The Oklahoma Punk (1976), while balancing an early career as a reporter.

But for mystery fans I think I can say that the love fest ignites with his Amos Walker books, one of the finest series of private eye novels ever written. Set in and around Detroit, Amos has been going strong since Motor City Blue in 1980, right up through this year’s The Lioness is the Hunter, which brings the Amos count to 26. His voice really roars to life with the first sentence of Motor City Blue: “Faces from the past are best left there. If, two hundred-odd pages from now, you agree with me, this will all be worthwhile.” He goes on to indelibly describe the Detroit street corner where Amos is trying to light a cigarette and tailing a man suspected of insurance fraud.   Amos has even been to Ann Arbor—in one memorable scene, he even visits Aunt Agatha’s (The Sundown Speech, 2015), which was lifetime achievement enough for me.

I read an Estleman book slowly, to savor the prose. I think he’s one of our state treasures, He’s been nominated or has won just about every literary award imaginable—including the National Book Award—and his book count is 82 and rising. He’s only in his 60’s with no signs of letting up. He’s also an incredibly kind and incredibly knowledgeable man—he loves old movies, classic private eye novels, and his home state. He has shared some great stories, his love of books (he can sometimes be found scouting our shelves) and he’s generous to other writers. When I ask him to share an event with someone else, he never objects, and is unfailingly kind to whoever the other author may be. We once had a panel at the Kerrytown BookFest titled “Mentored by Estleman” and other writers lined up to participate.

There’s no doubt our literary culture would be poorer without Mr. Estleman to enrich it. Of all the blessings we’ve counted at Aunt Agatha’s through the years, he’s one of the biggest.