I am pleased and excited to be able to announce that the back list of Joe Hannibal novels are now being re-issued as eBooks, starting with first in the series, THE BURNING SEASON, currently available on Amazon Kindle. Up until now, unfortunately, many of these books have been out of print. The older titles will start coming out an on average of two a month and then, in August, an original, never-before-published title --- GOSHEN HOLE --- will be available.
I've written a brief overview of the series that appears as an Author's Introduction to each of the re-issued books. You can preview it here:
The Joe Hannibal Series
The first Joe Hannibal story, "The Fancy Case", appeared in a now-defunct small press magazine called Spiderweb. That was 1982. And now, nearly three decades later, Joe and I are still open for business. In the interim, many other fictional PIs—some arriving to considerable acclaim—have come and gone. That makes the Hannibal books and short stories one of the longest-running, still-active PI series on the scene. And, if nothing else, it makes Joe and me a couple of durable old bastards.
I wrote that first story while I was recovering from kidney stone surgery. This was back in the pre-lithotripsy days, when they damn near cut you in half to get at those pesky little pebbles, so the recovery time was several weeks. In the beginning and through the handful of short stories to follow, Hannibal was stamped from a pretty stereotypical mold—just another a sock-and-shoot PI; another "Mike Hammer wanna-be", if you will. Which was okay, as far as it went. I am, after all, a huge Spillane/Hammer fan and I couldn't dispute my obvious pulp roots if I tried.
However, by the time I wrote my first Hannibal novel (The Burning Season – 1988), I had begun to focus on giving Joe considerably more depth. This was also true for the recurring cast of characters I had built up around him, as well as those he came in contact with during the course of a given story. There is a saying in the acting profession that goes something like: "There are no small parts, only small actors." Along similar lines, I once heard an old-pro writer say: "Each character in a story should want something." I took that to mean what they should want was to be memorable to the reader, and I have strived to follow that guideline in all of my writing since.
Joe remained plenty tough, seldom hesitant to throw a punch or a wisecrack if the situation warranted, but I also gave him a very human—and humane—side. To do this I drew upon my own experiences and those of friends and family I had known growing up. Since I came from a deeply-rooted blue collar background it was inevitable, I suppose, for that to start show-ing through. Peers and reviewers alike quickly dubbed Joe Hannibal a "blue collar" private eye. And I had no issue with that. In fact, I kinda liked it.
Initially operating out of Rockford, Illinois, also played a part in shaping Joe's image. Hardly a metropolis at under a quarter of a million people, Rockford provided a backdrop with little in the way of glitz or distinction in and of itself, thereby making Joe seem less urban-oriented than most other fictional PIs who tended to function in much larger, better-known cities. In fact, many of Joe's cases—and this is especially true in the novels—take him out of the city entirely.
The Burning Season is set completely in the moonshine region of southern Illinois; The Brutal Ballet (1992) takes place mostly in the Quad Cities area along the Mississippi River; And Flesh And Blood So Cheap (2001) is set in and around the fictional southern Wisconsin resort of Crescent Lake (patterned after real-life Lake Geneva); The Fight In The Dog (2005) ventures into Chicago but most of the action occurs in rural northwestern Illinois and then climaxes near the Racine-Kenosha area on Lake Michigan; and, finally, The Day After Yesterday (2007) takes Hannibal to the very rural setting of Nebraska's high plains. Only The Skintight Shroud (1988), the second of Joe's novel-length adventures, is set wholly in Rockford.
None of this was the result of any particular plan on my part. In fact, I hadn't fully realized the trend until I began reviewing the books as I sat down to write this piece. Upon reflection, I guess this speaks to my own comfort zone—as a writer seeking to capture scenes and settings to wrap my stories in—lying primarily outside the confines of any city or highly populated urban area. Again … my small-town, blue collar roots showing through and being reflected onto Hannibal and his world. And now, in its current phase, I have completely removed the series from an urban backdrop, even a smaller-sized city like Rockford. Following events detailed in The Day After Yesterday, Joe (like his creator) has relocated to Keith County in west central Nebraska. As chronicled in a handful of subsequent short stories and in the forthcoming new Hannibal novel (Goshen Hole, available soon in e-book format) these days Joe runs a private security patrol serving homes and businesses around popular Lake McConaughy. Although he no longer actively solicits investigative work, out of habit he's taken out a Nebraska PI license and, being who he is, trouble just naturally seems to have a way of still finding him …
Whatever the setting, the Hannibal stories and novels are not lacking (in my humble opinion) when it comes to complex plots, a reasonably solid mystery element, colorful characters, nasty bad guys (including a few who aren't all bad), a healthy sprinkling of sexual encounters, and plenty of action.
As the character of Joe Hannibal has evolved over the years, he has—partly by design, partly at a subconscious level—taken on certain aspects of his creator. In the beginning I was in my thirties, Joe was forty-plus; I have now edged into my sixties, Joe is sort of "frozen" in his late fifties; Joe used to smoke (although I never did), he has since quit; we both drive Honda automobiles; our tastes in music and food are the same; we have the same personal biases, political views, and religious outlooks; we both have the aforementioned blue collar back-grounds; we both fight the battle of a thickening gut; I have developed a bum knee and bad back, Joe now has a bum hip (resulting from being caught on the periphery of an explosion, as related in The Day After Yesterday) … Still, as a fictional extension, Joe remains different from me—and probably a lot more interesting—in many ways. He has an edgy, dangerous side for one thing. He's double-tough and capable of being quite ruthless when backed into a corner. He packs a gun every day of his life, has killed a number of people, and walks around constantly aware and alert to the fact that there are those still alive from previous encounters who would not hesitate, if given half a chance, to do him serious harm. I don't know that I would ever want to be Hannibal, but at the same time if I were to spend a day living in his shoes I hope I'd have the guts and toughness to handle things pretty much the same as he does.
If you are reading these words, that means you have purchased an e-book edition of one of the previously out-of-print Hannibal novels. For that I am sincerely grateful and I hope that by the end of the book you are able to look back and say you enjoyed it. For whatever reason, the Hannibal series has always received decent (albeit limited) critical acclaim—including nominations for an Edgar, an Anthony, and six Shamus Awards—but it has never enjoyed a wide readership. I am in hopes that, through the magic of e-books, this may now be accomplished and new readers will keep coming back for more. Like I said at the beginning, Joe and I are a couple of durable old bastards; we're in it for the long haul.
Persevere … That is the single trait in life that can take you the farthest and gain you the most.
Wayne D. Dundee
For those of you who've supported us in the past, I hope you pay Joe and me another visit. For those of you who may be hearing about us for the first time, I hope you give us a try. In either case, we'll be doing our darnedest not to disappoint
Persevere --- WD