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Violent Spring (Ivan Monk Mystery, no.1) [Paperback]

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Item description for Violent Spring (Ivan Monk Mystery, no.1) by Gary Phillips...

When the body of a murdered Korean shopkeeper is discovered during a South Central groundbreaking ceremony, private investigator Ivan Monk is thrown into a maze that pits him against the gangs, cops, power brokers, and leaders of Los Angeles.

Outline Review
This rough, strong, very political mystery marks the debut of a new kind of Los Angeles private detective--an Easy Rawlins for the '90s and beyond. Ivan Monk is hired by a group of Korean merchants to find out who killed one of their members for the specific reason that Monk is an African American, and the Koreans see him as a public relations asset. Monk sees himself more as a street cleaner or avenging angel, and on his journey of discovery he finds villains of every race and shade. Violent Spring catches the racial and social tensions of Los Angeles in a completely original way.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   108
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.4" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.5"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 31, 2004
Publisher   Point Blank
ISBN  1930997876  
ISBN13  9781930997875  

Availability  0 units.

More About Gary Phillips

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Phillips has been a security guard, printer, shade tree mechanic, labor union organizer, radio talk show host, foundation staffer, and community activist for over 22 years. He lives with his wife, Gilda Haas, and their children, Miles and Chelsea.

Gary Phillips currently resides in Los Angeles, in the state of California. Gary Phillips was born in 1955.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > General
2Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Violent Spring (Ivan Monk Mystery, no.1)?

Monk is an affable guide through the thickets  Nov 22, 2000
After being fired from his job as a union organizer in 1989, Gary Phillips took a writing class with Robert Crais (author of the Elvis Cole series) on how to write a mystery novel. Crais taught the class how to structure a book by dissecting Robert Parker's first Spenser mystery, The Godwulf Manuscript (see Orrin's review of A Savage Place). Phillips eventually found a way to incorporate his own liberal social beliefs, the elements of the classic hard-boiled private eye genre and the backdrop of post-riot Los Angeles into his first Ivan Monk mystery, Violent Spring. Then he and John Shannon (see review of Concrete River) put together their own publishing outfit and printed the book. As a result of their success, the Monk books have been reprinted by Berkley and are now readily available.

There has always been a weird dichotomy in detective fiction. The private eye is in a certain sense something of a bleeding heart--trying to protect innocents from the corrupt system, trying to heal the pain of their clients, often protecting wrongdoers whom they feel should not be punished, and so on. But on the other hand, they are fundamentally conservative--adhering to rigid moral codes, fighting evil, completely alienated from bureaucracy and government in general. So there is nothing really new in what Phillips is trying to do here.

Ivan Monk is a former Merchant Marine, former bail bondsman, now absentee owner of a donut shop and full time private eye. When the body of a Korean merchant is found at the groundbreaking for a new business development in South LA, both the Korean Merchants association and the white developers hire Monk to look into the murder. It is assumed that Monk, because he is black, will be able to investigate the seeming gang related nature of the killing without ruffling feathers in the Hood. But Monk finds himself ensnared in a vicious web of politics and ends up caught in the middle of a turf battle between black street gangs, white developers, Asian merchants and Latino community activists. As Phillips says, modern LA most resembles the Balkans, with the different ethnic groups all struggling for their piece of the pie and mostly willing to do whatever they have to do in order to get it.

Phillips does try to inject some liberal cant into his tale, but it is mostly too formulaic or downright ridiculous to take seriously:

Not that Monk laid the entire blame for gangsterism at the feet of men like Reagan and Bush. Still, he had to admit that they had set a fine example as the biggest gangbangers of all with their violent escapades in Grenada, Libya, Panama and Iraq--all while the cities went to hell and the young folk emulated their elders.

Uh huh, I can see the though process of that young hoodlum now: "I was going to finish high school and get a job at Go-Go Mart while I went to Community College, but now that we've bombed Qaddafi, I'm going to deal crack instead." You betcha.

But if you can gnaw your way through these brief servings of tripe, he does serve up an action packed mystery set in a milieu that is unfamiliar, fascinating and frightening. The tribal politics make for a classically tangled web and Monk is an affable guide through the thickets.


A great new detective series begins here!  Apr 2, 1998
Gary Phillips' _Violent Spring_ introduces readers to his detective, Ivan Monk, a great new hardboiled private eye for the 90s.

Monk is hired by two seemingly disparate groups, a Korean Merchants' group and SOMA, Save Our Material Assets, a group interested in rebuilding downtown LA, following the riots of 1992, to look into the murder of a Korean businessman, whose body is uncovered during a ground-breaking ceremony. Monk gets involved in a politically-charged, racially diverse investigation that threatens to spark more violence, the closer he gets to the truth.

I'll be honest--this book did take a while to get going. The first hundred or so pages didn't really grab me. But as I stuck with it, Monk and his group of friends and relatives really began to grow on me, enough so that I immediately started into Phillips' second book in this series, _Perdition USA_. Monk is very reminiscent of Walter Moseley's Easy Rawlins and part of a growing renaissance of African-American detectives in the 90s (see also Gar Anthony Haywood and Robert Greer, among others).

Based on what I've read, Phillips and Ivan have a great career ahead of them.


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