Friday, April 6, 2018


GRIZZLY SEASON by SW Lauden (Rare Bird Books, 2016)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Former Los Angeles police officer Greg Salem and his sidekick Marco escape to a remote cabin in the backend of the Angeles National Forest, only to have their peaceful retreat upturned after stumbling across the marijuana farm operation called Grizzly Flats. When the drug lord Magnus Ursus' latest marijuana crop leaves Greg's hometown and closest friends in disarray—setting off a series of explosive scenes including high-speed motorcycle chases, violent porn shoots, high-altitude gun fights, Mexican drug smuggling and murder—Greg is forced out of retirement to avenge his home and save the lives of those closest him

SW Lauden offers readers a lot of unique elements in his Greg Salem mystery series. This is the first I've read, but it won't be the last (in fact I've already started HANG TIME, book three).

GRIZZLY SEASON is the second of Lauden's tales starring Greg Salem, a So-Cal surfer and private eye who's past resume includes Los Angeles cop and punk rock frontman. The follow-up to BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION (the first in the series as well as the name of Salem's punk band), GRIZZLY SEASON begins with Salem and his friend and former BCC drummer Marco hanging out at a cabin in Angeles National Forest backcountry, decompressing after some high-intensity scrapes.

The pair can't stay out of trouble, however, and step right in the bear-shit when they're out hiking and  stumble into a marijuana crop run in a cult-like manner by a man who calls himself Magnus Ursus. That's just the beginning of the nightmare, as Salem tries to extricate them from Magnus - a very dangerous proposition - as well as trying to help with the son of an old friend heading off the rails, manage a private eye case digging dirt for another friend, and deal with a new relationship.

Lauden packs a lot into what is a quick, fun read. GRIZZLY SEASON is full of action and excitement. Told in straightforward fashion - Lauden's talent is for the interesting characters and situations he crafts rather than being a prose stylist - the book fair tears along with barely a pause. Readers are dipped into several different subcultures, as Salem's worlds interconnect and collide.

We hurtle around southern California, from forested mountain trails to the lapping waters of the Pacific, from dingy biker bars to high-end mansions. Salem's notoriety and fists-first attitude opens doors (or breaks them down, where necessary) all over the place, even as he tries to hold off the machinations of his former police bosses and gossipy journalists, as well as plenty of bad guys who have him in their sights. Can Salem save Marco, among many others, and himself?

An exciting read that offers something a little different.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for newspapers and magazines in several countries. In recent years he has interviewed 200 crime writers, discussed the genre onstage at books festivals on three continents, on national radio and popular podcasts, and has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is the founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

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