Here’s what David Freed knows:
Murder. He covered the O.J. Simpson trial for CBS News.
Cops. He covered them for The Los Angeles Times, where he was a solo finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and shared in the Pulitzer for coverage of the Rodney King riots.
Military affairs. He reported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.
Computers. He scripted computerized training simulations for the Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Army’s Battle Command Lab.
Aviation. He is a pilot and owns his own airplane.
Secrets. He holds an active security clearance from the Department of Defense.
And he uses all of this knowledge and then some in Flat Spin, his first novel, which will be published by The Permanent Press in May. It’s already available for pre-order here.
Unlike some novelists with enormous technical expertise, Freed is superb writer. His prose is at once muscular and musical—and sometimes verges on poetry. And he skillfully mixes a hard-boiled sensibility with flashes of sardonic humor. His style reminds me a bit of two of my favorite literary crime novelists, Bill Loehfelm and T. Jefferson Parker.
The hero of Flat Spin, the first book in a planned series, is Cordell Logan, a former member of a top-secret military assassination squad. As the story opens, Logan is living in a converted garage in Rancho Bonita, California, and unsuccessfully trying to make a living by giving flying lessons to spoiled rich kids. He’s haunted by his past, aching for his beautiful ex-wife Savannah, and failing miserably—and hilariously—to find peace through his recent conversion to Buddhism.
When Savannah’s new husband, another former assassination squad member named Arlo Eschevarria, is gunned down at his front door, Logan has a very un-Buddhist reaction. He’s elated. But his mood quickly evaporates when he finds himself the prime suspect.
With police detectives both overworked and looking in the wrong places, Logan gets sucked into investigating the case himself. He takes to the air in “The Ruptured Duck,” his Cessna 172, following the killer’s trail from the mean streets of Oakland to the Las Vegas Strip, from the Arizona desert to Russian Mafia haunts in West Los Angeles.
Eventually, he gets too close to the surprising truth and is targeted for murder himself.
The way Logan sees it, being in mortal danger and suspected of murder are the least of his problems. He is consumed by his longing for Savannah, the pain made so real that your own heart will ache.
The riveting plot, well-drawn characters, and magnificent prose are sure to make Flat Spin one of the finest debuts of 2012.