All posts by KCSivils

Science fiction and classic crime novels have long been favorites of author K.C. Sivils. The combination of film noir and science fiction in director Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep into the masterful Harrison Ford vehicle Bladerunner encouraged him to consume as much of both genre’s as possible. A fan of past noir masters such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Sivils also enjoys the current generation of storytellers like Renee Pawlish and Alex P. Berg. Author of over twenty non-fiction books, including an Amazon Best Seller, Sivils has now ventured into the realm of fiction with his Inspector Thomas Sullivan series. Married to the former Lisa Green and the father of three children, Sivils is a dog lover and a fan of Classic Rock bands like The Rolling Stones and New Wave rockers The Cars.

My TOP TEN List of Crime Noir and Hard Boiled Crime Novels

I enjoy reading crime fiction from past masters like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Rex Stout. I also enjoy contemporary writers like Renee Pawlish, who writes modern crime noir, in a humorous style, combining her love for classic noir in a modern, present day setting. In addition to her Reed Ferguson stories, Ms. Pawlish writes classic noir in her Dewey Webb series. If you like a does of snark and snide humor with your detective mystery, along with a cute half-elf and her human partner, you'll enjoy the Daggers and Steele series by Alex P. Berg.

This list is my choice for the ten best crime noir stories I have read. Feel free to disagree if you want. If you like crime fiction, particularly noir or hard boiled, you should at least check this list. These authors and their stories are part of my inspiration for my own Inspector Sullivan stories.

Number One: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Sam Spade is the best tough guy private detective to ever grace the pages of a novel and Bogie's portrayal is the best to ever hit the silver screen. Hammett's plot is filled with twists and turns, complete with hopeless love, greed and betrayal. If that isn't enough, the villains are almost as fascinating as Spade. Sydney Greenstreet's portrayal of the Fat Man, Kasper Gutman is both creepy and fascinating at the same time.

Number Two: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Included on Time Magazine's list of Top 100 novels, The Big Sleep​ is a novel about death and introduces Raymond Chandler's detective Philip Marlowe. Filled with intrigue, double crosses and social commentary, it is one of the best examples the genre has to offer.

Number Three: The Post Man Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

Banned in Boston in 1934, Cain's novel combines violence with eroticism as the solution to an inconvenient husband leads to one problem after another.​

Number Four: Web of Deceit by Renee Pawlish

For fans of hard boiled crime stories who can do without swearing a graphic sex, modern mystery writer Renee Pawlish has written a wonderful introduction to her second crime series, introducing Detective Dewey Webb to her readers.​

Number Five: Dark Passage by David Goodis

​Made famous by the movie version staring Bogie and Lauren Bacall, Dark Passage tells the story of a man unjustly convicted for the murder of his wife and the need to live with a false identify after escaping from prison. A wonderful commentary on urban life and loneliness.

Number Six: The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett

The Continental Op, the prototype for hundreds of tough guy detectives. This nameless, faceless detective was actually Hammett's primary character, not Sam Spade, appearing in two novels and over 70 short stories.​ Callous, brutal and indifferent at times to suffering of others, the Op always got the criminal, one way or another.

Number Seven: In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

​American noir at its finest, examining the mind of a serial killer in post WW II Los Angeles. This dark story is told from the point of view of the killer who enters a game of cat and mouse with his old army buddy who is now a detective. Adapted for film, starring who else, Bogie, the story was changed to focus on domestic violence.

Number Eight: L.A. Confidential by James Elroy

Centered around three detectives, each with a different view of the world and the job, LA Confidential is filled with plot twists, violence and fast paced noir style writing. Partially biographical, the​ detectives must deal with death and violence as it impacts their lives.

Number Nine: Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

​Los Angeles, 1948. Devil in a Blue Dress will draw you in with its noir atmosphere as the story introduces Easy Rawlins. The story will set its hooks, so be sure to have time to read it in one sitting.

Number Ten: The High Window by Raymond Chandler

​Murder, rape, blackmail and human exploitation, what more could you want in a classic noir novel from the master Raymond Chandler. A mean spirited widow and a missing daughter-in-law plus facts that don't add up for Chandler's detective, Philip Marlow, make this a fascinating mystery.

Number Eleven: Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

Being from Louisiana originally where we always throw in something extra, a cultural practice known as Lagniappe, this list as an eleventh book included, Rex Stout's introduction to the brilliant detective Nero Wolfe and his legman Archie Goodwin. Presented with a gift of one of the most deadly snakes known to man, the fer-de-lance, Wolfe must solve the mystery of the murder of an immigrant and a college president.

Why Is The World of Beta Prime Not As Futuristic As Most SciFi Worlds?

If the movie or TV rights to The Predator and The Prey were purchased, would Capital City look like some fantastic, futuristic vision of urban life?

Probably not.

Parts of the Capital City would certainly appear as if they came from the wildest dreams of architectural fantasy. Certainly the Northwest Quadrant, where the wealthy and politicians make their homes, would appear to be futuristic. The Northeast Quadrant, with its industry, upper middle class and the SpacePort terminal would look futuristic.

But what about the Southern Quadrants? Where the poor and working class live?

Picture the tenements of North American industrial cities, where instead of brick and mortar, the buildings are converted containers left over from colonization with plastisteel facades. Buildings would have the same design and construction as the poured concrete buildings built in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Ugly, cheap to build and made for those considered beneath the ruling elite.

Hovercars require some type of fixed path to travel on requiring roads to be constructed. Perhaps the only advantage of a hovercraft over a wheeled vehicle is the roads will last longer.

There is very little that is truly new. Ideas are recycled all the time. Joe’s Restaurant, with its cliche neon lights, Classic Rock decor and North American comfort food, plus whatever the locals consider solid fare, is an example of retro styling and architecture some 500 years in the future.

Besides, Joe’s is home away from home. It’s an interesting place like Rick’s Cafe American of Casablanca fame is. The locals gather at Joe’s as do all sorts of interesting denizens of Capital City.

Old technology that works fine will be used on many Alliance worlds. As they say, if isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it. Railroads as we know them today, steel wheels on steel rails, are still used on many worlds where issues of climate and expense of construction and maintenance prevent the successful use of more “modern” technologies like Maglev Trains.

On a world like Beta Prime, a visitor would find a curious mix of the old, albeit updated, technology with the new. Soldiers and police would carry modern energy weapons with a variety of capabilities. Some soldiers and police prefer old school projectile weapons. As Inspector Sullivan constantly tells the pup Josephson, “a big exit wound is one way to make sure the perp stops shooting back.”

Fashion is one area where futuristic designs do make sense on a world like Beta Prime. But then again, what has come before often makes its way back through the fashion world. A tourist could expect to see the miners and industrial workers to be dressed in typical coveralls, designed both to protect the worker and keep the worker warm in the freezing environment of Beta Prime.

White collar workers, particularly the so-called elite and politicians would be those more inclined to wear the more daring fashion designs. Middle and working class fashions on Beta Prime tend to resemble those found in the 1940s and 50s with updates in materials. Life is dreary for many on the planet and the dark browns, blacks and blues of clothing reflect this aspect of life.

Classic styles, such as pin stripe suits, tailored to fit perfectly, never go out of style, regardless of the century, planet or city.

Other worlds, with different climate or life support needs, will have different levels of technology. Life on a moon, such as the two moons of Beta Prime, Serenity and Persephone, with no atmosphere, requires a more futuristic vision of the structures. The same is true of a colony on an asteroid of the space station serving as the terminal for large starliners and space freighters.

Why is the world I created for Inspector Sullivan and his companions to inhabit a mix of such commonly found items from today and the hoped and dreamed for technology of tomorrow? Because it is the way man does things.

We still make furniture from wood don’t we?

Still, if you look around, there is plenty to find that is not what one would expect to see in a city today.

Take Sarah. When was the last time you saw a human clone?

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Understanding Sarah

In the process of preparing The Predator and The Prey for publication, the manuscript has been read by beta readers, book reviewers and others. So far, the response has been highly favorable, which as an author is encouraging. Of particular interest to those who have read the manuscript are three of the characters: Inspector Sullivan, Father Nathan and Sarah.

Of the three, I'm most reluctant to expound too much on the character Sarah. One simple reason is sharing too much about her character and its development would provide spoilers for the second novel in the Inspector Thomas Sullivan franchise, Last Train to Nowhere, which will feature heavily clones as part of the story line.

Having said that, there are a few things I am willing to share about the character Sarah. Her physical description is based on the actress Summer Glau as she appeared when playing the role of Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It is revealed her genetic code has been modified to provide her with enhanced capabilities, just a few of which include the ability to age, or look younger, without the use of cosmetics. Sarah has the ability to appear as young as her early twenties or as mature as her mid-thirties.

Sarah informs Sullivan she is a military grade clone. She can withstand extremes in temperature, survive on less food and water and heals extraordinarily fast if the wound is nothing more than a bad laceration.

In addition, her senses are heightened. Sarah's sight, hearing, sense of smell, touch and taste are superior to the average human. For some reason, which Sarah cannot explain, she even has a sixth sense of sorts that allows her to spot things or be aware of things others cannot notice. She can spot another clone without having to examine the individual.

The most common question asked about Sarah is how old is she? The answer is five, going on almost six. The reader's response is how can that be? She's always described as being in her early 20s or mid-thirties. The answer is simple. Sarah was "born" fully grown, or as she would put it, "I hatched as a woman. I can have kids and all that stuff."

This fact makes for a lot of fun writing her character. Sarah can act like an immature child because, well, she's five years old. She can act like the young woman she is because physically, she is a young woman.

As the series continues, I will reveal more about Sarah as she grows and develops as a person. For those who want to learn about Sarah's backstory in order to answer questions such as how did Sarah get to Beta Prime or what was her relationship with her other two sisters, take heart.

All three of the main characters, Sullivan, Father Nathan and Sarah will be the subject of prequels!

The third installment in the series has a working title of Murder on Persephone. It will be followed by the backstory, in novella form, of Inspector Sullivan. My plan for the series afterward the release of the as yet unnamed back history of Inspector Sullivan is to release the next installment in the Thomas Sullivan series followed by a another prequel. For fun, both for myself and the hoped for many followers of the series, I plan to write short stories and make them available on this site.





The Predator and The Prey Receives 5-Star Review!

​I was both ecstatic and surprised my novel The Predator and The Prey received a 5-Star review from The Reader's Favorite. Sending your novel off for its first editorial review is a bit like sending your child off to school for the very first time. Here's the review:

The Predator and The Prey by Kevin Sivils is a gripping story featuring police inspector Thomas Sullivan and a cast of very compelling characters. Sullivan has had a very dirty past, a past that may catch up with him any time. Now, he’s sent to a new planet to redeem his past, but things become more complicated when a mysterious young woman from that past resurfaces. Sullivan has to solve a series of crimes and his new turf is sprinkled with danger and potholes. Can he trust anyone and can he navigate the complicated setting without giving himself away?

Kevin Sivils’ writing got me hooked from the very first page. I enjoyed the intelligent dialogues, well crafted to build character and plot. The conflict is introduced from the very beginning of the story and the reader understands the dilemmas which investigators are caught up with, but as one reads on, it becomes more complex, and the author explores deeper levels of conflict, especially the psychological conflict communicated through a stream of consciousness that is as absorbing as it is entertaining. The Predator and The Prey features very compelling characters, including an ex-con who works as a cabbie, a priest who seems more corrupt than a con man, and many others.

The writing is excellent, punctuated with powerful descriptions. There is a pervading sense of suspense that makes the reader ache to know what happens next. For instance, I couldn’t help longing to find out more about the mysterious young woman and to see what would happen between her and the main protagonist. The action is intense, making it impossible to put the story aside. This is a great read for anyone looking for something entertaining and fun in the area of police investigation, crime, and redemption.

Readers Favorite 5-Star Award

What Does The Future Hold For Inspector Sullivan?

The Predator and The Prey will be available soon on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

What lies in the future for the good Inspector Sullivan and his friends?

The second installment of The Chronicles of Inspector Thomas Sullivan is currently being written with the working title of Last Train to Nowhere.

Also in the works are a series of prequels, novellas that will provide the back history to the mysterious Sarah, the devious Markeson and answer the question of how Father Nathan became a priest. A full length novel is planned in the future based on Sullivan's time in the Space Marines and the events leading up to his transfer to Beta Prime.

Why Crime Fiction on an Alien Planet?

My late mentor Don Meyer liked to say “there is nothing as difficult as original thought.” Life experience has taught me he was right. Another concept he liked was “there is nothing original under the sun.” Finally, he liked to say “you can get all the good ideas, you just can’t use them all.”
So what does this have to do with writing stories about a crime fighter who lives on an alien planet? It means I like crime fiction, science fiction and film noir movies. I’m not smart enough to come up with a totally original universe or story concept. But I can get good ideas from what has been done in the past and come up with something that is a slight variation of what has been done before.
Not that science fiction thrillers or futuristic crime stories are anything new. Bladerunner and Outland come to mind as a couple of my favorites. Then I ran across the quirky but delightful Firefly series that lasted for an all too short run on TV. A space western? What an idea!
Throw in the fact that I’m a fan of classic noir detective novels by writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and you can see where this is headed. So why not send my hero to fight crime and corruption on a frozen planet sometime in the future?
If Joss Whedon could create the universe for space westerns in the stories told in Firefly and Serenity, then I can certainly have Clint “Dirty Harry” Eastwood and Humphrey “Sam Spade” Bogart serve as inspiration for my own Thomas Sullivan.
Not original and perhaps a bit risky since cross genre stories don’t always do well. I mean, what niche does the story fall in? How do you attract a reading audience? Sci-fi fans might not think the story has enough futuristic elements. Crime fiction and noir fans might think the story is not gritty enough.
But they’re my stories and its what my imagination has come up with. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The first of in my Thomas Sullivan: Lawman of Beta Prime series should be in print, I hope, no later than February of 2017. With a working title of The Predator and the The Prey I hope readers enjoy the story and look forward to reading more about the adventures and struggles of one Thomas Sullivan.