In Praise of a Hard-Boiled Dame

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Miranda shrugged, and crushed the cigarette butt under her pump. Back to Sacramento, start again. She turned down Grant, and almost ran into one of the downtown beat cops.

“Well, well. Miranda Corbie.”

Red face on a short, stout neck. Doyle always reminded her of a bordello lamp. She tried to sidestep him. He extended a beefy arm out and held it against her shoulder.

“I hear you were at the Hall yesterday. As a witness.”

“Then your ears still work. Let me go.”

He leaned closer, all bad breath and stale beer.

“I hear a lot. I hear you rode Phil pretty hard. The lieutenant’s tryin’ to protect you. It’s good of him. Too good.”

She shrugged her shoulders. His arm stayed in place. She reached over with her right hand and flung it off.

“He can quit being a saint any goddamn time he wants. I don’t need the fucking missionary act, Doyle—from him, you, or anybody else.”


That’s tough talk from a tough dame.

And you won’t find better, tighter, pitch-perfect, stick-in-the-eye dialogue than that. The writer is Kelli Stanley and the excerpt is from her novel, City of Dragons (Minotaur Books), which made its debut last year to the delight of hard-boiled addicts. Billed as “A San Francisco Mystery,” I was cautious at first, because a lot of regional mysteries aren’t worth their weight in pulp.

But then I read the first sentence:

Miranda didn’t hear the sound he made when his face hit the sidewalk.

I was hooked. Right off the bar stool I knew Miranda Corbie was here to stay.

Stanley is a helluva writer. She brings her characters (as well as Fog City in the 1940s) to life.  Make that larger than life.  She drops the little details that make San Francisco loom above the page like a pop-up book. As for Miranda Corbie… she’s hell in heels. A PI with killer  curves and a smile that could  charm a thug on his way to the gas chamber. She’s fast with a wisecrack; determined to crack the case when the odds are stacked against her.

Minotaur Books brings us more reasons to cheer.



City of Secrets has arrived in time for the rain in northern California.

No matter where you live you’ll enjoy this hard-boiled trip back in time.

Word of Caution:

If you’ve quit smoking these novels will have you on your knees scrounging for these…