Black, Michael A. 1949- (James G. Dancer)
Black, Michael A. 1949- (James G. Dancer)
Born 1949. Education: Northern Illinois University, B.A.; Columbia College, Chicago, IL, M.F.A., 2000.
Home—Blue Island, IL. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and law enforcement officer. Former soldier and martial arts instructor (black belt in tai kwon do).
Tanks: The M1A1 Abrams (juvenile), Childrens Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Volunteering to Help Kids (juvenile), High Interest (New York, NY), 2000.
A Killing Frost (mystery novel), Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2002.
Windy City Knights (mystery novel), Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2004.
The Heist (mystery novel), Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2005.
Freeze Me, Tender (mystery novel), Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2006.
A Final Judgment: A Ron Shade Novel, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2006.
Author of short stories under pseudonym James G. Dancer. Work represented in anthologies. Contributor to periodicals.
For a decade, Michael A. Black wrote short stories under the pseudonym James G. Dancer before penning his first novel, the mystery A Killing Frost, under his own name. Booklist critic Jenny McLarin wrote that "Black's novel rings with the authenticity of an author who is also a full-time Chicago-area policeman." The novel, set in Chicago, features Ron Shade, who served on the police force and is now a private investigator and champion kickboxer. As the story begins, Ron is getting over a failed relationship and preparing for a professional full-contact karate championship fight when an old friend, social worker Maria Castro, seeks his help on behalf of Juanita, whose illegal Salvadoran boyfriend Carlos has disappeared. What Ron discovers in visiting Carlos's employer is corruption and cover-ups, but his investigation is slowed when his Camaro Z-28 is stolen. A romance with Maria adds to the story. Harriet Klausner reviewed the debut for Booksnbytes.com, calling it "an exciting private investigation tale because the lead protagonist is an intriguing All-American hero." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called A Killing Frost "a brawny debut so foursquare in its characters and prose that you can hardly wait till Shade finally gets to put those kickboxing skills to use."
Black continues the adventures of Ron Shade in the 2004 series installment, Windy City Knights, which finds Shade at the heart of a murder investigation—as the prime suspect. When an old flame turns up dead the day after Shade and she accidentally meet, Shade sets out to find her killer, aided by the victim's female cousin, Laurie. Shade and Laurie soon become romantically involved, but that is put on hold when a second body complicates matters and Shade must prove his innocence. Reviewing this second novel in the series, Booklist contributor McLarin felt that readers "will appreciate both the hard-boiled yet soft-hearted Shade and the way in which former cop Black captures the grit of Chicago's streets." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly similarly found kickboxing Shade "an attractive blend of tough guy and sentimental softie."
With the third novel in the series, A Final Judgment: A Ron Shade Novel, the kickboxing private investigator takes a commission from a lawyer and from the police lieutenant who was responsible for Shade losing his job on the police force. Up to his neck in work, Shade still finds time to take part in a kickboxing competition. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "Despite a less than credible plot, … [A Final Judgment] has its charms, not least a street-smart, likable hero." Higher praise came from a Kirkus Reviews critic who concluded: "Black's smooth style makes Shade's third escapade … brisk and entertaining." Similarly, Booklist writer Connie Fletcher termed the same work "a crisp, fast-moving mystery."
Black has also written a pair of stand-alone crime novels. In The Heist, a couple of Gulf War marine veterans get in over their head with the mob. Booklist contributor Wes Lukowsky praised Black's "no-nonsense style and Chicago setting" in this work. With Freeze Me, Tender, an Elvis-like country western singer, dead a decade and cryogenically preserved, is at the center of evil doings in Las Vegas, covered by a persistent Chicago reporter. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found this a "breezy crime thriller."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Jenny McLarin, review of A Killing Frost, p. 209; April 1, 2004, Jenny McLarin, review of Windy City Knights, p. 1350; July 1, 2005, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Heist, p. 1904; September 15, 2006, Connie Fletcher, review of A Final Judgment: A Ron Shade Novel, p. 30.
Drood Review of Mystery, March 1, 2004, review of Windy City Knights, p. 11.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of A Killing Frost, p. 1174; December 15, 2005, review of Freeze Me, Tender, p. 1300; August 15, 2006, review of A Final Judgment, p. 810.
Library Journal, October 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of A Killing Frost, p. 131; April 1, 2004, Rex Klett, review of Windy City Knights, p. 126.
Publishers Weekly, March 22, 2004, review of Windy City Knights, p. 67; December 19, 2005, review of Freeze Me, Tender, p. 45; August 28, 2006, review of A Final Judgment, p. 35.
School Library Journal, February 1, 2001, Elizabeth Maggio, review of Volunteering to Help Kids, p. 126.
Booksnbytes.com,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (April 28, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of A Killing Frost.
Michael A. Black Home Page,http://www.michaelablack.com (April 17, 2007).