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disappeared.jpgBy John T. Cullen

In the 80’s and 90’s, Gary Alexander wrote a bunch (eight, to be exact) of successful and well-received detective novels published by top name houses like St. Martin’s and Doubleday. Things change, and his protagonists Bamsan Kiet, a police chief in the fictional Southeast Asian country of Luong, and Luis Balam, a shop keeper cum tourist guide cum private investigator in Cancun, gave way to such a whole new genre, hard-boiled female PI’s such as Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone and Sara Peretsky’s V.I. Warshawsky.

Short of a sex-change operation, Bamsan and Luis were out of luck.

Now Gary’s back, with as improbable a protagonist as I can remember – a stand-up comedian who gets himself entangled in the just-as-improbable career of his neighbor – virtual mob hits. Now picture this, you’re a mob hit man, a profession more precarious than an epileptic tight-rope walker. Pays well, but I’m guessing the health care benefits are expensive. So maybe it needs to pay better. And then there is the messy factor. Dead bodies, midnight runs to the incinerator, blood back splatter if you’re standing too close. The dry-cleaning bill alone must be outrageous.

So, what does he do? He doesn’t actually kill them, just offers them the chance to disappear into a new life. For a fee, of course. Sort of a witless protection program. But it works for a while, but then the dead start to rise and Ted Snowe, the non-hit man, has, in the immortal words of Desi Arnaz, some ‘splainin’ to do.

And who better to turn to in such a situation than Buster Hightower, a, let’s call him ‘up and coming’, stand-up comedian. “So, a rabbi, a priest, and a rival drug-dealer walk into a bar and …” Buster is going to need better material than that if he and his girl friend, Carla Chance, want to avoid being disappeared for real.

alexander-gary.jpgLibrary Journal says Gary writes with “irreverent humor, comedic situations, fanciful word plays, and sly intelligence.” And Booklist added, “Framed with Buster’s jokes, this fast-paced crime story is told from multiple points of view and includes numerous plot twists, quirky characters, a romance, and some dark humor.”

Sounds like Buster might have a career, if he survives the Snowe-storm.

Gary doesn’t stop with novels. From his home in Kent, Washington, he’s also written and had published over 150 short stories, including one in the upcoming anthology THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2010 from Lee Child and Otoo Penzler, and he writes travel articles for six major daily newspapers. His extensive travels explain how he is able to create a compelling fictional Southeast Asian country, Luong, and write so authentically about Cancun. In Disappeared, the Rome apartment of one of his major characters was actually Alexander’s. (If you like what you read when you buy the book, you might want to ask him about swapping a couple of weeks in your condo in Toledo or wherever for some time in Rome. I’m sure he’ll jump at the chance.)

And as a final note, despite what you find when you Google his name, this Gary Alexander is not the 2001 Lafayette Library Friend of the Year. That was a different person altogether, although I am sure this Gary is jealous as hell that he didn’t win.