East of Texas, West of Hell

Rod Davis’s New Addition to his ‘Jack Prine’ Private Investigator Series Offers Plenty of Action, Gunplay, and Southern Geography

Labels can be attached to this new novel, the second book in Rod Davis’s “Jack Prine” private investigator series. For example, you might call it “Southern noir” or perhaps “grit lit.” Whatever. I call it “good reading,” and if you’re looking for a new detective series to follow, I recommend checking out East of Texas, West of Hell. However, if you prefer to always begin with the debut book in a series, start with the first “Jack Prine” book, South, America. There, you can pick up more of Jack Prine’s back story and his approach to life, danger, and justice.

Prine, an ex-Dallas TV reporter/anchor turned New Orleans private detective, has a good and generous heart when he’s among friends he can trust. But he can be reckless and quick to use his fists, guns, or other weapons when the action and danger get hot. For example, during an tense incident in East of Texas, West of Hell, he sneaks into a rural drug lab and finds two men in the middle of cooking meth. They respond by making sudden moves, and Prine recounts: “I didn’t know if they were reaching for guns or tending to their cook, so I shot them anyway.” Prine’s quick-triggered reaction also inadvertently sparks a big fire and raises the stakes quickly for some of the book’s major characters. In short, Jack Prine not only looks for trouble but sometimes creates trouble for himself and others as he tries relentlessly to get to the truth behind some bad situations.

East of Texas, West of Hell, published by New South Press, Montgomery, AL

Rod Davis, who now lives and writes in San Antonio, Texas, is a veteran writer of both journalism and fiction. He is a former editor of The Texas Observer and has written for numerous other publications and has taught writing at the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University.

Si Dunn

The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories: Chicano noir…and more

Skull of Pancho Villa, The

The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories

Manuel Ramos

Arté Público Press – paperback


Seemingly mundane moments in life quickly spin out of control in this engaging collection of 22 short stories. And Denver writer Manuel Ramos frequently comes up with surprising endings for his tales.

Some of his short stories can be labeled “Chicano noir.” They get dark and gritty as they move along through the struggles and ragged edges of Mexican-American life in the United States. Meanwhile, other stories in the collection explore different themes, such as the thoughts of a young Mexican-American soldier as he lays dying in Vietnam and what happens when a Mexican-American shoeshine boy gets pulled into a barroom fight and is defended by the writer Jack Kerouac.

Manuel Ramos has won several literary awards and is the author of a number of novels from a variety of publishers. At least one prominent writer who admires his work has labeled Ramos “the godfather of Chicano noir.”

His stories, however, are entertaining and easily accessible at a universal level. And he writes with a smooth clarity that looks simple on the page, yet is very difficult for most authors to achieve.

Si Dunn

Order The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories here.