A Milan Jacovich Mystery (#16)
by Les Roberts
#16 in the Milan Jacovich mystery series . . .
An oversized appetite for fine dining, flashy suits, and Las Vegas call girls has made Cleveland councilman Bert Loftus the target of media scrutiny and an FBI investigation that may end his career. Now he says someone is trying to kill him. Eager to identify his attacker but not so eager to work with the cops, Loftus turns to private investigator Milan Jacovich (pronounced MY-lan YOCK-ovitch) for help.
A working P.I. can't afford to be too choosy about his clients, so Milan takes the job—though he's not inclined to take Loftus's story seriously. At least it will be an opportunity to break in his new employee, young powder-keg Kevin "K.O." O'Bannion.
Milan and K.O. quickly notice that something smells fishy—and it isn't just the Whiskey Island Marina, where local power brokers down pricey drinks in front of Lake Erie sunsets. Loftus and several Cleveland landlords appear to be involved in something much darker than a typical cash-for-favors trade.
After a kinky call girl is found dead near the Cleveland Zoo and secret sex tapes are discovered in her downtown high-rise, Milan and K.O. must follow a trail of bribes, bullet casings, and debauchery to find the killer and uncover the true menace amid the muck of local government corruption.
Luckily they have the help of Cleveland police detective Tobe Blaine, a tough-as-nails officer recently relocated from Cincinnati. She and Milan team up in their search for clues and discover they have much more in common than crime . . .
The sixteenth Jacovich may be the best in an always-solid series. The addition of O'Bannion and a shifting narrative point-of-view elevate the series to the premier level of ongoing detective fiction. A significant leap forward for Roberts and Jacovich. Booklist.com
Les Roberts offers up another delicious slice of Northeast Ohio life in his 16th Milan Jacovich mystery . . . Our detectives take us all over the city, introduce us to interesting local characters (including their own love intereststwo unusual women), but the star of the story is Cleveland. The mirror Roberts holds up shows a city full of beauty, quirks, and eccentrics. CoolCleveland.com
There's never a dull moment . . . a fast-paced intelligent book, that is quite possibly my favorite of all the Milan Jacovich books. I hope there are sixteen more of them in our future. CoolCleveland.com
A classic good-guy versus bad-guy story with enough gray area to keep me turning the pages and reading on. Eastern Standard Crime.com
The plot is up to the minute, all about favors and payoffspolitics as usualand includes Roberts' expected local color. Akron Beacon Journal
A fast paced and riveting read of fiction . . . a much recommended addition to mystery and thriller collections. Midwest Book Review
Fans of the Jacovich series will find a lot to enjoy about "Whiskey Island." The storyline will resonate with readers in the area, with the recent government scandals. But what's really fun are the interactions and dialogue between the experienced private eye and his new assistant, Kevin "K.O." O'Bannion, who was introduced in the previous novel, "The Cleveland Creep." It remains to be seen whether the two will forge a lasting alliance or become rivals; time will tell. Tobe Blaine, an officer relocated from Cincinnati, is another fun addition to the story, and someone who readers will hopefully see again in future installments. Record Publishing
About Les Roberts
Les Roberts is the author of 17 mystery novels featuring Cleveland private investigator Milan Jacovich, as well as 11 other books of fiction. The past president of both the Private Eye Writers of America and the American Crime Writer's League, he came to mystery writing after a 24-year career in Hollywood writing and producing television shows. He has been a professional actor, a singer, a jazz musician, and a teacher. A native of Chicago, he now lives in Northeast Ohio and is a film and literary critic. More About Les Roberts
Question & Answer with Les Roberts
Q: What inspired the plot of Whiskey Island?
A: I'm very much a news junkie, so when the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal started to break several years ago, I was fascinated. After all, it was right in my (and Milan's) home town. As the scandal grew, the subject matter was just crying out to be included in a book. Of course, I didn't base characters directly on the people involved. I work very hard to create my own characters (my books are fiction, after all). But some of the situations we were reading about in the papers I did use. I couldn't use it all, or I would have wound up with a 1,500-page book!
Q: How did you decide which parts of the actual county corruption scandal would go in the book and which parts would be fictional?
A: The basic bribery plot line in Whiskey Island includes things that were actually happening. You have tenants complaining to their landlords about the lack of heat in their apartments and mold in their walls and the landlords bribing politicians to keep quiet about this. There's also the fancy gifts, trips, football tickets, and free services done at a politician's home. And, of course, there's the issue of those 18-year-old hookers . . . .
Q: You don't mention political parties in your book. Why leave them out?
A: If you follow me on Facebook, you know I have strong political opinions. I am not, however, a political writer. My goal is to entertain people, and I don't think it would entertain them if I slammed one party or another in my novels. Besides, Cuyahoga County government is essentially a one-party operation, so party politics wouldn't provide a lot of plot action anyway.
Q: Milan made it clear in previous books that he likes to stay out of politics. What motivates him to become involved in this case?
A: Milan certainly knows about councilman Bert Loftus. But Milan's a working private eye. So when the guy calls up and says somebody is trying to kill him, Milan takes the job. If a crooked politician called me and said the same thing, I'd worry about him, even though he's a crook. There are a lot of crooks out there who don't deserve to be murdered. That's the way Milan feels, too.
Q: How did you select Whiskey Island for the title of the book?
A: When I first came to Cleveland in 1990, Whiskey Island was basically a garbage dump. The Hulett ore unloaders were still there, though, and everyone was making a fuss about saving them, so Whiskey Island was in the papers a lot. I thought, what a great name for a book. When I got the idea of writing about corrupt politicians, I thought it would fit. I had to figure out a way to make the location fit the action, in terms of plot. I started out with the book title and worked outward from there.
Q: Do you know where the real Whiskey Island got its name?
A: I had assumed the name came from Prohibition days—from people smuggling liquor over from Canada. But that's not the story. About 150 years ago, it was an Irish community—most of the folks who lived there worked on the railroad. And there were a lot of working class bars and also a distillery, so it was very much involved with whiskey.
Q: Are there any other northeast Ohio locations in this book that have not previously appeared in one of your Milan Jacovich books?
A: With each novel, I try to put in new places. Milan is like me. We go to the same places all the time. He seems to always end up at Nighttown in Cleveland Heights and John Q's and places like that. But I do try to place him—and other characters—in different locations if I can. What's new to this novel? I don't think I ever set any scenes in the Galleria before, or the Harp in Ohio City. I don't think I've included any restaurants from Chardon before, either.
Q: Milan's assistant, Kevin O'Bannion (who first appeared in your previous Milan Jacovich novel, The Cleveland Creep) returns in Whiskey Island. How does his character develop in this book?
A: K.O. hasn't had much time to change because Whiskey Island starts the day after the previous book, The Cleveland Creep, ends. I did spice up his love interest (He's now madly in love with his new girlfriend, Carli) which is very important to his character development. Kevin is a very angry man. He spent years in jail and right after that, as a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he killed people. He's very cynical and sarcastic. So I wanted to soften him. This is the first time in his life that K.O. has cared about a woman. All of his other relationships have been one-night stands. And speaking of love interests, Milan has a new girlfriend, too. Tobe might be around for a while. We'll see . . . .
Q: If K.O. has such a hot temper, why does Milan keep him on?
A: Milan needs an assistant. He's gotten older. When I started writing about him back in 1988, he was a Vietnam veteran with two little kids. After 25 years, he's not physically up to a lot of the challenges. He needs a little extra muscle.
Q: You mentioned Milan's new love interest, Cleveland Police detective Tobe Blaine. How is she different from Milan's previous love interests?
A: First off, there's the race issue, which I think is very, very interesting to write about. Tobe is a African American. To Milan, a beautiful woman is a beautiful woman, whether she's black, white, or whatever. She's also a lot tougher than Milan's previous girlfriends, who often left him because they couldn't deal with the fact he's in such a dangerous business. Tobe Blaine is a cop. She's even tougher than Milan. She's not going to say, “You're risking your life, I can't deal with that.” She deals with that every day of her life and can stand up to Milan and stand up for him. I think he has needed that.
Q: You've said that women readers love Milan. Why is that?
A: I think because he's a lonely guy and has had trouble finding a wife or girlfriend. If he found a real girlfriend, settled down, and married her and lived out the stereotype of the old Irving Berlin song—“The girl that I marry will have to be/As soft and as pink as a nursery”—they wouldn't like him anymore. With his new girlfriend, Tobe, I think my readers will like the fact that Milan has found a woman who understands him, does the same thing he does, and sometimes even does it better. I think they're going to like her, as they seem to be attracted to K.O.
Q: What prompted you to use both first-person and third-person narration in this book?
A: I've been writing Milan in the first person forever and I couldn't possibly start writing about him in the third person. But with the new character K.O., it's impossible to write about him in the first person. For one thing, readers would get really confused. And K.O. is twenty-four years old; try as I might, I can't write like him. I'm not twenty-four years old anymore. Finally—I have fought with myself over this for years—I want things to happen in the book where the reader can see the action and Milan doesn't necessarily have to be standing there when it happens. For example, K.O.'s dates with Carli. Writing the K.O. stuff in the third person allows me to do that.
Q: Is Milan going to retire soon?
A: Oh, he'll be back. He'll always be back, mostly because people do love him. I'll continue to write about Milan as long as I can continue to write.
Other books by Les Roberts:
- The Best-Kept Secret
- A Carol For Cleveland
- A Carrot for the Donkey
- The Cleveland Connection
- The Cleveland Creep
- The Cleveland Creep
- The Cleveland Local
- Collision Bend
- Deep Shaker
- The Duke of Cleveland
- The Dutch
- Full Cleveland
- The Indian Sign
- An Infinite Number of Monkeys
- The Irish Sports Pages
- King of the Holly Hop
- The Lake Effect
- The Lemon Chicken Jones
- Not Enough Horses
- Pepper Pike
- Seeing the Elephant
- A Shoot in Cleveland
- Snake Oil
- We'll Always Have Cleveland
- Win, Place, or Die