Philip Marlowe drank Old Forester. Sam Spade drank a premixed Manhattan from a paper cup. Lew Archer drank, well, pretty much anything. But Frank Marr prefers uppers over downers. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t hit the sauce, uppers are just a preference, a powdery, snortable preference. And if all of those fictional Private Eyes but Frank Marr ring a bell, well, you should treat yourself to David Swinson‘s series.
How good is the Frank Marr series? Well, let’s just say that if these books were coke, Frank Marr would probably break into your house and do a line or two right then and there. These books are frankly addicting and each chapter leaves you wanting the next. Sure, you might say, “Just one more chapter and then bed time,” but pretty soon you’ll find yourself with bloodshot eyes wondering what the hell the sun is doing up. And before you know it, you’re done and itching for the next one.
Who’s this David Swinson guy anyway?
David Swinson is a film student turned music promoter turned decorated cop turned author. As a writer, he has published four books:
Why should I read these books?
Do you love crime and detective stories? Well, there you go. But if you need more of a push than that, I’ll give you a few reasons. Frank Marr, while cast from the Hard-Boiled Detective mold, isn’t your typical private investigator. Sure, he is a retired cop who doesn’t play by the rules, but there is a little more to him than that.
Frank Marr, as stated, isn’t just your momma’s (grandma’s?) Marlowe, Spade, or Archer either. And, despite the drugs, he isn’t any iteration of Sherlock Holmes. He is an honest shady character. Whether his actions are good or bad, legal or illegal, Frank is open about them in his narration and juggles these actions and choice as only a human can. At times, he knows his actions are affecting people, people he cares or doesn’t care about, in negative ways, but he handles them with the tools and skills he has on hand to varying ends. Frank is an addict but he isn’t blind to the addiction and the problems caused by it. It is a rough duality of character. In the first book, The Second Girl, Frank breaks into a drug dealer’s house looking for a score. Besides some drugs, what he finds is a kidnapped girl and a lode of internal conflict. Frank the addict needs and wants his score while Frank the retired cop/private eye has to save the girl and come up with a pretty damn good story as to how he found the girl.
One of the reasons I love good crime novels is that they discuss society and social issues as they are. And maybe David Swinson’s career as a Washington, DC detective adds to the realism of the setting and topics of the novels in such a way which elevates these stories from just good to great and memorable books. These books aren’t just about a crime but about who does the crime, who is affected by the crime, why people are drawn into it, and how there is a lot of grey area to be explored that is often overlooked. These stories take you from the inner city to the suburbs and explore themes like the effects of gentrification, how shitty high school is, police culture in the modern times, addiction, and redemption.
The Frank Marr series ticked all the boxes for me and I recommend it to anyone whether you’re interested in the genre or not. But if you are interested in the genre, it is a must read. After picking up the first book, I barely put it down and when I did, it was to get the next book. The third book came out in February and I stopped reading whatever it was I was currently reading and read it instead. They’re that addicting.
Score: A++ (yes, that’s an extra plus)