The Big Bitch, by John Patrick Lang: A Discredited Banker Turns Detective

big_bitch2Fraud is Doc’s business, but this was personal.

The Big Bitch ($15.95, 324 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-303-7) is a work of mystery/suspense by debut author John Patrick Lang. After Doc’s friend Jesus is murdered, he searches for the killer while being paid to investigate a missing person’s case that takes him through a dozen cities and towns up and down the Pacific Coast, from Portland to San Diego. As he follows the baffling trail, he soon discovers that the clues lead uncomfortably close to home.

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The Big Bitch is Book 1 in the Jackson “Doc” Holiday Mystery series.

“A clever, surprise-filled first novel and series opener.”  Read more….

—Publishers Weekly

“No-one is ever going to be as poetic as Marlowe, or a wise-ass and tough as Spenser, but Holiday has certainly made an impressive debut. The dialogue crackles, the humour is black, and the bad guys are suitably dissolute. One-liners fly off the page like sparks from a welding torch…. I suspect I am not the only member of the Jackson Holiday Appreciation Society, and I look forward to his next appearance.”  Read more….

—David Prestidge, Crime Fiction

“John Patrick Lang’s highly entertaining first book, The Big Bitch, is a tale of murder, kidnapping, even a mutilation, set in the East Bay. It is told in gritty turgid prose with the brutal immediacy of the first person point of view, but with a generous leavening of humor, especially the Chandlerian similes (‘I’ll beat on you like a rented mule.’) As with most effective crime fiction, things are not at all what they seem. We hope to see much more Doc Holiday.” —Armand Croft, author of The Andrew MacCrimmon novels

The Big Bitch is a very, very good read with the dialogue and description of an old school hard-boiled novel. Some characters could have walked in from the world of Joseph Wambaugh and some in from the world of Elmore Leonard but they all walk off the page. I haven’t encountered a character as sophisticated, smart, savvy and with the skill for skullduggery like Doc Holiday for twenty years. In other words, not since Ross Thomas died.” —Eric Mortensen, poet and author of Green Beret Blues

“A wild East Bay mystery that doesn’t just show us the underbelly of the region, but the vitality of the diverse population, all through the eyes of a darkly whimsical sleuth.” —Nick Mamatas, author of Love Is The Law

Private Eye Jackson “Doc” Holiday investigates fraud, a crime he knows intimately. He was once a respected and successful mortgage banker who laundered more than 100 million dollars in dirty money. Although never convicted, he has been blackballed from banking.

After his drinking buddy, a Catholic priest named Jesus Cortez, is shot dead in the driveway of Doc’s Berkeley home, he sets out to find his killer. The case takes him in search of an old confederate in Portland, where he begins to suspect that the murder of Jesus is connected to a money laundering scheme suspiciously similar to Doc’s own. As Doc delves in further, he crosses swords with a scheming matriarch, a bent cop, a femme fatale, and a master criminal. Whoever’s at the bottom of this business has already killed and is facing “The Big Bitch,” or life in prison. And they’re not afraid to kill again.

Says the author, “I was attracted to the noir genre because of its capacity to convey social and cultural perceptions, indict the false values of the American Dream, create existential allegory, and ultimately turn pulp into parable. Jesus Cortez is a young, handsome, charming Catholic priest who is purported to have performed miracles, but also a man with a mysterious past, a dark and dangerous secret, and evidently a woman or two stashed away somewhere. It seems to me that such a character could only be fully realized in a hard-boiled detective novel, particularly when the detective and narrator is a man called ‘Doc’ Holiday, a name that suggests a checkered past and the dark end of the street.”

By turns, John Patrick Lang has been a lit major, a submarine sailor, a country-western singer/songwriter and a mortgage banker specializing in community lending. A native of Portland, Oregon, he makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Big Bitch is his first novel.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

An early recording of Willie Nelson singing his classic “Nightlife” played on the jukebox as Mary said, “Well, look at you now, just another loser from the boulevard of broken dreams and just another swinging dick in John and Mary’s Saloon. What are you drinking, Swinging Dick?”

“I’ll have a Bud in a bottle and a double rye in one of your cleaner dirty fruit jars.”

After Mary brought his drinks she moved to the other end of the bar. I asked Hobbs if this visit was official.

“Why?” he asked without looking up from his drink. “You got something you want to tell me, off the record?”

“I spent five hours with you and Manners last night. Told you everything I know. At least three times.”

“Maybe you left something out.”

I let that pass.

He looked up from his drink and caught my eye in the mirror. “Are you sure, Doc?”

“Like I said last night: nobody calls me ‘Doc’ anymore.”

“Let’s review our interview from last night and my subsequent research. Your legal given name is Jackson Burke Holiday, AKA ‘Doc Holiday.’ White male Caucasian, age thirty-nine, six feet, one eighty-five, blue on brown. No distinguishing marks or characteristics. No misdemeanor or felony convictions of any kind.” He swallowed the rest of his rye and signaled for another round. “But three years ago a federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon, delivered multi-count indictments against you for your role as president of a mortgage bank that went tits up. Mortgage fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to violate the Bank Secrecy Act, et cetera. Now, either you were too smart, or had too good a piece of legal talent, because the indictments all got kicked back, thrown out of court. Case never even went to trial. You walked.”

“Maybe I wasn’t culpable.”

Hobbs looked away from the mirror and directly at me for a moment. He said, “Yeah, maybe you weren’t culpable. There’s always that, Doc. Anyway, you walked. You walked but you were through in the money game. So you were blackballed from banking and you went to team up with your dad and his private investigation firm in Portland. Approximately a year and a half ago you moved here to the Bay Area and set up your own business specializing in white-collar crime. Your clients are banks, mortgage banks, and insurance companies. You specialize in insurance fraud, bank fraud, and what you evidently have some hands-on expertise in, mortgage fraud. You make a living, you don’t get rich … not so as anyone can tell. On the personal side, two years ago your dad died of an accidental gunshot wound—or he ate his gun, depending on who you talk to. Your mother died when you were a child. That leaves you with no parents, no siblings, no spouse, no live-in girlfriend and no family except a great aunt somewhere in Kentucky who you haven’t seen for twenty years. How’d I do?”

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