Friday, October 09, 2009

Forgotten Books: FAMILY VALUES -- K. C. Constantine

First of all, for the FTC schmoes who might be reading this, although I'm a powerful and respected blogger who should be getting all kinds of compensation for his work, I bought this book with my own hard-earned cash. No one paid me a penny for this review, and I've never met K. C. Constantine. In fact, I don't believe K. C. even exists, since the name is a pseudonym for someone else I've never met and whose name I don't remember at the moment.

Now on to the comments. Booklist says that Constantine's books about Mario Balzic constitute "one of the best mystery series ever published." I have no idea if the Booklist reviewer got compensation for writing that. I'll bet he got a free book, at least. I think the FTC should look into it. But I digress. Mario Balzic was, for a number of years, the Chief of Police in the fictional town of Rocksburg, PA. By the time of this book, Balzic has retired and is having a bit of trouble adjusting. He's an irascible guy, and he's getting on his wife's nerves, to put it mildly. So he hires on as a special investigator for the state attorney general's office. The case he gets involved in is pretty complicated, involving "a history of mistrials, trials, convictions, appeals, convictions, more appeals, ad nauseam." One of the people convicted has filed for a new hearing. Balzic's going to investigate the case.

Balzic's a blue-collar guy. He's crude at times, vulgar at others. But he knows how to conduct an investigation and question people, and he's smart. Sometimes he slips up, but he's always aware of it. Injustice disgusts him, and what he finds over the course if his investigation is plenty disgusting. Constantine writes great dialog, and the book is full of it. Character revelations come when you don't expect them, and they always bear on the case at hand. If you think George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard write good dialog, you owe it to yourself to check out Constantine. Balzic's home situation figures heavily into things, too. The dialogs Balzic has with his wife are priceless (he's a conservative guy; he doesn't like to talk about sex).

Warning: Some people don't like all the dialog, which comes replete with "uh's" and repetitions and such. You'll have to judge for yourself.

Constantine received high praise from the FTC-approved big-time reviewers during his entire career. And now he's hardly mentioned. I don't know if any of his books are even in print. How soon we forget.


12 comments:

George said...

I read the first dozen or so K. C. Constantine books, Bill. But, like reading George V. Higgins, a certain degree of exhaustion sets in while reading all that dialog.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I loved the ones from series I read way back. Thanks for picking one I've read.

Jerry House said...

Fantastic choice, Bill. Before the author's identity was revealed, there was a strong rumor that it was Howard Fast. My favorites in the series are Always a Body to
Trade and The Man Who Loved Slow Tomatoes

Gerard Saylor said...

But he knows how to conduct an investigation and question people, and he's smart. Sometimes he slips up, but he's always aware of it.
That part sounds like Sheriff Rhode's

Bill Crider said...

This guy's a lot more competent than Sheriff Dan.

Anders E said...

This was the first of his I read and I have since then picked up all others I have come across, which unfortunately isn't that many. Constantine is on the list of Great Crime Authors Unexplicably Not Translated Into Swedish, btw.

SteveHL said...

With all respect to the many authors who post on this site, Constantine is my favorite living mystery writer. I like the Balzic books in general more than the Carlucci ones, but the only one in the whole series that I haven't liked is Bottom Liner Blues, which stops dead for a long discussion of how authors should be compensated when people take their books out of the library. (I suppose if I were an author, that would be a lot more meaningful, but I thought it was a really self-indulgent diatribe.) I agree that The Man Who Loved Slow Tomatoes is particularly good.

Bill Crider said...

Someone told me once that Constantine's editor tried to talk him out of that rant, but he couldn't do it.

KC Considine of Rocksburg, PA said...

The check is in the mail, Bill. Jeepers, the Feds are onto us! (Wait...did I send this to the private mail?)

Bill Crider said...

I'm sure the Feds will overlook it this one time.

ian said...

Can anyone tell me if K C Constantine is still writing? He is one of my favourite writers and I would love to know that I might be able to read something new by him....

Bill Crider said...

I haven't seen anything new from him in years, so I assume he's retired from the writing game.