FAIL reviews

You can read Rick Boettger’s thoughtful review of FAIL in Key West’s Blue Paper here.

Also, following is novelist Rosalind Brackenbury’s perceptive review of my novel, published in Konk Life:

“When I attended the 2014 Key West Literary Seminar on “The Dark Side”, I learned some things about writers of crime fiction. They know how to do plots and they are good at endings. Also, they aren’t gloomy as people – far from it, they seem rather cheerful. Perhaps it’s because they know that what they are doing succeeds. Rick Skwiot’s crime novel, “Fail”, set in St. Louis, Missouri, falls squarely into the genre, with its mean streets, its corrupt bosses and its flawed, only-too-human detective.

“But he’s hit several very contemporary nails on their heads, too. The victim here is not a corpse – although one washes up in the great Mississippi – but a system of education that lets down inner city kids and sends them, most of them African-Americans, out into the wide world unarmed, at least by learning.

“His likeable cop, a demoted lieutenant who has made some mistakes in his past, is Carlo Gabriel – black, divorced, not entirely cynical, a lapsed but not totally lapsed Catholic, a snappy dresser with an eye for women and a taste for bourbon. (Do demoted cops in St. Louis earn salaries that allow for cashmere overcoats and Ferragamo loafers, I wondered?) He’s set here between a corrupt mayor with Mob connections and an idealistic white college professor who has lost his job and his wife and may be heading for the morgue on account of what he knows. Gabriel walks an uneasy line between the two, but helped by a Jesuit priest, Saint Anthony, patron of lost people and things, the ghost of Mark Twain and some fairly smart women, comes out on the right side even if he hasn’t changed the system. Stone, the professor, hasn’t changed the system either – but who knows, things may improve incrementally – and he has become a little less squeaky-clean and wide-eyed in the process of staying alive.

“Skwiot has a good ear for dialogue and an appropriately noir sense of humor, and the action cracks along at a satisfying rate. “Fail”, with its literary allusions, hints of Catholic morality as well as Machiavellian game-playing, its sense of place – Skwiot grew up in St. Louis, and the action takes place not far from Ferguson, a place we have all, unfortunately, heard of by now – was a page-turner even for this non-reader of detective fiction. What we look for on the page, whatever the genre, is surely intelligence. This short novel has it in quantities. Rick Skwiot has found his niche in among the best of American crime writers.”


Upcoming readings/book signings in St. Louis, Columbia, Mo., and Key West



FYI, I’ll be reading from my new mystery novel Fail at these venues in the coming days and weeks:

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr St., Columbia, Mo. Also speaking that night will be plein air landscape painter Brian Mahieu.

Thursday, Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m., STL Books, 100 W. Jefferson Ave., Kirkwood, Mo. It’s a party, with wine and snacks, hosted by bookstore owner Robin Theiss and my publisher, Blank Slate Press.

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m., St. Louis Public Library, Central Library, 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis. The beautiful old Carnegie-funded building has been recently renovated, and I’m eager to see the results.

Sunday, Feb. 15, noon, Coffee Plantation, 713 Caroline St., Key West. Hosts Dianne and Theo Glorie will be serving great coffee and baked goods.


“Fail” cited in year’s favorite books in St. Louis Post-Dispatch

UnknownThanks to Robin Theiss of STL Books & Gifts for her recommendation in Sunday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch story on the year’s favorite books:

“Fail” by Rick Skwiot (fiction) • This novel has also been in high demand, possibly spurred by the situation in Ferguson. Skwiot shows off his versatility with this thriller, the story of a disgraced African-American police lieutenant who, while trying to redeem himself, lands in a life-threatening hotbed of corruption.

You can read the entire article here.

By the way, I will be doing a reading at STL Books on Thursday, January 22.




Inspector Chen creator Qiu Xiaolong praises the mystery FAIL

WU-Alum-Qiu-Xiaolong-authorQiu Xiaolong, author, most recently, of Enigma of China: An Inspector Chen Novel and ten other fiction and poetry books, recently read and praised my new St. Louis-based mystery novel Fail:

“A page-turner not to be missed in any circumstances, an eye-and-mind-opener to be held against the backdrop of Ferguson tragedy, Rick Skwiot’s Fail is a compelling crime novel in the cool and crisp language, but also much more than that with convincing insight into the cultural and political problems prevalent in today’s American society.”

Likewise, I am a fan of his work, and was particularly taken with his linked short story collection Years of Red Dust (St. Martin’s Press, 2010). His Shanghai Inspector Chen Cao mysteries show the long shadow that Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution—which rent Qiu’s family—still casts over contemporary China.

I first became acquainted with Qiu and his work two years ago when I interviewed him in St. Louis, where he now lives, for an article in Washington magazine. I spent a chill October morning sipping green tea with Qiu in his living room while he told me of his first published writing, which I described thus:

“In 1966, at age 13, Qiu was forced to write the confession for his capitalist father, who was in the hospital recovering from eye surgery, and then to stand by him at his public humiliation as it was read aloud.

“‘My father had to be mass criticized, to stand on stage as a target, where people denounced him and chanted slogans for hours,’ Qiu says.”

You can read the entire article here: China’s Punitive Past Colors Writer & Work.