James DF Hannah – Because The Night – Book Review

Written by on January 22, 2024

James DF Hannah – Because The Night – Book Review

Back Alley Crime – Highlighting the grittiest tales in fiction (pulp and otherwise. By Terrence McCauley.

BECAUSE THE NIGHT by James D.F. Hannah

Since becoming a crime novelist in 2008, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many interesting writers along the way. I met most of my colleagues through social media first, then in person at writing conferences like Bouchercon and Thrillerfest.

Like any group of artistic folks, crime novelists are a pretty eclectic bunch. You’ve got people who write cozies, police procedurals, thrillers, private eye stories, crime sagas and even paranormal novels. And while subsections of the genre vary and often blend, every crime writer I know has one thing in common: they’ve discovered that exploring the dark underbelly of the human condition is both addictive and demanding. It requires a piece of any author who wants to tell an authentic, relatable story.

I don’t know what motivated James D.F. Hannah to make crime writing his genre of choice, but I’m glad he made it. So will you. Hannah is part of the growing Southern Crime Fiction trend that has taken root in the genre for the past few years. It’s also known as ‘Hillbilly Noir’. Whatever you call it, it’s the same movement that includes well known writers like Frank Bill, Ace Atkins, S.A. Cosby and more. Hannah is a Kentucky native, so he’s in some excellent company.

While a lot of crime writers resort to the usual tropes we’ve come to expect in such novels. An example: the haunted, alcoholic loner unable to come to terms with their past while trying to do good against formidable odds.

Hannah has a talent for covering familiar ground without allowing his story to become mired in the quicksand of pastiche.

His Henry Malone series of novels deserve all the attention and acclaim they’ve received. Don’t let the idea of a series scare you off. This isn’t LORD OF THE RINGS or GAME OF THRONES. You don’t have to read the entire series in order, though it’s nice to see how Hannah’s art has evolved over time.

I recommend you start with his latest effort, which I think is his best yet. Yes, BECAUSE THE NIGHT (Down & Out Books, 254 pages) starts with some of those familiar tropes I mentioned above, but don’t roll your eyes. Hannah’s books aren’t your grandparents’ crime fiction. Here’s a stripped down description of the plot:

Henry Malone is a private detective in West Virginia who agrees to look for a pregnant woman’s missing ex-con boyfriend. Malone’s search quickly coincides with a homicide investigation run by an old friend, Lt. Jackie Hall. After Lt. Hall is injured, Malone doubles down on his quest to get to the bottom of things. The stakes are raised even higher when an old enemy from Malone’s past returns to raise hell in a final and satisfying confrontation.

See? All the tropes are there, but that’s not a bad thing. To tell you any more about the plot would risk spoiling the book’s many entertaining twists and turns, which are part of the charm of Hannah’s work. BECAUSE THE NIGHT is far from boring or predictable. Malone isn’t just a private detective. He’s also considering a run for sheriff thanks to the financial support of a local strip joint owner.

Hannah does an excellent job of crafting a tale that’s a lightning fast read without feeling rushed. It features plenty of interesting characters, wry humor, and great dialogue that’s practically a character of its own.

If you’re looking for your next great read, and to maybe try something different, BECAUSE THE NIGHT is a book you should certainly consider trying out. And if you do, please leave a review, and recommend it to your friends. Doing so is the best way to help artists of any medium. Please follow him on Twitter: @JamesDFHannah and Instagram: @jamesdfhannah. His website is https://www.jamesdfhannah.com/

Terrence McCauley is an award-winning, bestselling author of thrillers, crime fiction and westerns with more than thirty books to his credit. He is also the host of the Spies, Lies and Private Eyes podcast through the Authors On The Air Global Radio Network. Please visit his website at http://www.terrencemccauley.com


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