Still, there are Southern California authors I will stay with no matter what because they write so well and craft their stories in and around the landscape that is their home (and mine) so adeptly. Parker is one of them. As well, he regularly delivers a consummate perspective (through a myriad of new and continuing characters) on the Drug War theatre happening on either side of the California-Mexico border through the four novels I've read. This author manages to give all the personalities he puts on the page a depth that poorer writers just turn into stereotypes and caricatures. Although, what I've finally come to recognize in the Hood novels is that Charlie is not so much the lead character, but is the platform that forms the basis of Parker's narrative. CH remains relatively interesting, but he can pale when compared to some of those TJP puts into orbit around him by way of southland crime.
That realization of mine began with last year's Iron River, the third book in the series. The history of southern California gun-making and gun-running, and its impact on both sides of the border, were manifest. Let alone the acts of devilry and butchery perpetrated among the drug cartels which Parker chronicled in that novel. Still, the SoCal native raised it up another notch with the fourth in the series published last month, The Border Lords. The synopsis of which has Sean Ozburn, a lone ATF agent 15 months into a deep undercover with the Baja Cartel, going rogue and devising his own strategy for doing good acts and 'fighting evil' that his own people would never condone, let alone authorize. It'll be left to Charlie Hood to ferret out the truth and what is behind the madness on both sides of the border. Jeff Parker has admitted that Border Lords is his implicit homage to his favorite work, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. IMO, it is one of his best books in the series (one that is projected to be six novels in length) and the genre.
A bit of fair warning, however: the author, who's research and detail of crime and the bureaucracy of law enforcement in the southland is extraordinary, introduced what many have perceived as a bit of mysticism into the last two Charlie Hood novels. Some readers have found it oft-putting (if you bother to read some of Amazon's customer reviews). If that seems incongruent, you may want to steer clear. However, if you do, you'll miss some compelling storytelling by this author and the spellbinding amalgam he's managed to capture on the page. Tim Rutten in his L.A. Times book review may have described it best:
"The border, for both peoples, always has been a moral frontier and a boundary of the imagination as much as a political one, and in this latest novel Parker takes full advantage of the physical and mental landscape's ambiguities. Almost nothing or no one in this gripping narrative is exactly who or what they seem to be. The author, moreover, has a knowing hand and pushes — in a sophisticated but never merely ironic way — against familiar literary memories as varied as Cormac McCarthy's border-hopping cowboys, Carlos Castaneda's Native American shaman and Graham Greene's whiskey priest. In fact, the book's most chilling character — and it's a tight competition — is a twisted pirouette off Greene's memorable character and one of the most appalling clerics in contemporary literature, if he really is what he appears to be."Brilliance Audio once again produced the audiobook of this novel, as they've done for many of Parker's novels, with their usual fine production values. As well, David Colaci performed the narration with his customary skill, and he's been involved with the entire line since L.A. Outlaws. If you've heard him before, I think you can tell this narrator has become quite comfortable with the Hood character through his readings. Still, Colaci really seems to get a kick out of the variety of individuals Parker brings on to his stage. Although, having to assemble a large and distinct stable of vocal characterizations would not be his strong suit, IMO. Still, he's an asset for the audiobook listener and delivers on what the author has in store for fans who savor what he brings to the table.