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Born in London in 1938, John Harvey taught English and Drama while studying for his English degree at the University of Hertfordshire. He followed that with a Masters in American Studies from the University at Nottingham.
Under various pseudonyms, with Angus Wells (“editor turned writer”) or Laurence James (school friend and editor/writer) he wrote or co-wrote almost fifty westerns in eight different series. During the same time, roughly the 70s and 80s, he also wrote an eight book series featuring Scott Mitchell, under his own name.

But his first breakthrough came with the 1989 publication of Lonely Hearts which was the foundation for his Charlie Resnick mystery series. Named by "Time Magazine" as one of the 100 Best Crime Novels of the Last Century, it was the first of ten novels that he would set in Nottingham, England staring this appealing, slightly overweight, deli sandwich loving, cat owning detective.

During the first decade of this century, Harvey has begun another series, centered around the recently retired Detective Inspector Frank Elder, from Nottingham who has moved to Cornwall.

In addition, he has written a half dozen stand alone mysteries, the latest of which is Good Bait, which will be released in the States tomorrow (January 8, 2013). I have already pre-ordered a copy because I finally read Lonely Hearts.

Written in 1989, Lonely Hearts takes us back to a very different time and place. No cell phones, no easily accessible internet, lonely people used the Lonely Hearts column to make contact with each other. Not quite eHarmony.com, the columns would appear in daily newspapers. The kind with real ink on paper that would smear all over your hands and clothes if not handled carefully. No pictures or videos were included with the ads, simply a box number to which anyone could write an introductory letter requesting a meeting.

In Nottingham, it seems that some women have been attacked after using the lonely hearts column of the local paper. As the attacks increase in severity to include murder, Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick and his squad are assigned the case.

An interviewer for "Shots" a crime and thriller e-zine, asked the question that I had about DI Resnick:

Q: I’m probably being a tad conservative but of all your crime fiction characters Charlie remains my favorite. I am sure you’ve been asked this hundreds of times, but how did you come up with a detective of Polish origin, based in London with a fondness for modern jazz?

A: I think you mean Nottingham. I was very aware that there was quite a large Polish population in the city, mostly families who’d come over around the time of WW2, and I liked the idea of Resnick having that background – then, because he would have been brought up in Nottingham, he would know it well yet be, in some respects, an outsider. The deli sandwiches sprang from that and so, less obviously, did the jazz. They were both ways of signaling that he was a little different from the usual home-grown cops, and had a quite rich appetite for music and food. Plus, I’ve always liked to write about jazz whenever I could – even back in the early days, one of my mercenaries, as a kid, had trailed Charlie Parker all round New York, surreptitiously recording every note he played.

They didn’t get around to discussing his four cats, but as one who knows the particular challenges that a herd of cats presents, I enjoyed Charlie Resnick’s menagerie, and Harvey's attention to each cat as an individual.

I found this to be a this well-written police procedural. Like the first book of any series, quite a bit of time was spent on character development, of not just the leading character, but the supporting ones as well. We learn about the marriage difficulties of one officer and the challenges faced by the others. We also meet Rachel Chaplin, a social worker who handled a case that Resnick had worked on and appears to be fully capable of handling Charles Resnick as well.

The investigation leads Resnick back to the Polish community of Nottingham, including a visit to one of the Saturday night dances held at the Polish community center. And as is now quite common, the higher-ups in the police department have to muck about in the investigation, trying to steer it in a direction of their choosing without having to give a direct order. Usually.

I haven't read any of his other work, and am looking forward to his latest, Good Bait, which is a stand alone novel. I'd like to read more of DI Resnick; I found the bluesy, jazz infused nature of the storytelling to be the perfect antidote to the sugar sweet high of the Christmas holiday.


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