Turns out I’ve been a Lee Goldberg fan for a very long time without having read any of his detective thrillers and mysteries. I’ve been enjoying his writing for a variety of detective shows, including Diagnosis Murder, which starred Dick Van Dyke as a doctor who solved murders, Spenser: For Hire starring Robert Urich as a P.I., and, (my absolute favorite), Monk, starring Tony Shaloub as Adrian Monk, a brilliant detective whose acute OCD saddles him with a bucketful of fears and phobias. (Even though Monk ended its run on the USA Network in 2009, there are frequent marathons on the Hallmark Channel for diehard fans.)
In addition to 15 Monk books and eight Diagnosis Murder ones, Goldberg had written with Janet Evanovich eight Fox & O’Hare mysteries, more than 20 Dead Man paranormal thrillers, and four in the .357 Vigilante Jury series. He’s also written half a dozen nonfiction books focusing on television writing, and others that resist being categorized and are listed on his Wikipedia page as “miscellaneous.”
In other words, Goldberg is prolific. He’ll be even busier with the publication of True Fiction, his first book in a new series featuring the very appealing Ian Ludlow whose resume resembles Goldberg’s. Ludlow is a New York Times bestselling author whose thrillers feature Clint Straker, “a six-foot-tall Special Forces vet who looked great wearing anything and could be mistaken for the model for Michelangelo’s David when he wore nothing at all.”
Ludlow is in Seattle promoting his latest, The Dead Never Forget, when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pops up on the TV in the hotel bar to report a 9/11-like plane crash, this time on Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach. “Thousands are hurt, hundreds feared dead,” Blitzer says. While everyone in the bar is stunned, Ludlow is gripped with terror. Thee years ago, he and several other mystery writers met with CIA officials, ostensibly to come up with doomsday scenarios that could help the U.S. prepare for the unimaginable. Ludlow’s idea was a plane crash just like the one carried out on Waikiki. His fears grow when he discovers that the other three mystery writers at that meeting are all dead under circumstances that might be termed suspicious. When Ian, and Margo, his “author escort,” are nearly killed by a runaway, driverless car, Ian knows he’s next on the hit list. With no where to turn, Ian and Margo have no choice but to run.
What Ian doesn’t know is that Bob, the CIA official the authors met with, is really Wilton Cross, who staged the plane crash to position his company, Blackthorn, to take over the agency’s covert operations, a government contract that would be worth billions. Blackthorn’s plan was meticulous, even setting up two Middle Eastern men as the terrorists. Ian, and now Margo, are loose ends that must be tied up. But disposing of the pair proves to be more problematic than Cross and his team expected. Although Blackthorn’s surveillance capabilities keep the pair in sight, the game changes when Ian seeks out an old friend, Ronnie Mancuso, who once starred in a TV show Ian wrote. Ronnie (comparisons to Monk crop up here) is convinced that the End of Days are near and the government will target its citizens. He’s built a compound in a remote area of Oregon, complete with an underground bunker stocked with five-years worth of food, an unlimited supply of DVDs and books, even a lifelike doll to satisfy sexual urges. Also, Ronnie has amassed an arsenal of weapons that comes in handy when Cross’ mercenaries arrive by helicopter ready to kill the trio.
Ian has an epiphany. He is, after all, the brains behind his Straker character. Rather than run, why not take the enemy on, just as Straker would? The tables are turned and the fun begins.
Ludlow bears more than a passing resemblance to Goldberg, so we assume there is some true fiction in True Fiction. He’s also created very likable characters and, in the case of Ronnie, a quirky one. Hopefully, both Margo and Ronnie will return in the second book, scheduled for publication in 2019. Until then, start with True Fiction. I’ll be watching Monk and picking up some of Goldberg’s other thrillers.
Author Photo: Ron Scarpa