Doolittle, Sean 1971-
Doolittle, Sean 1971-
PERSONAL: Born 1971; married; children: two.
ADDRESSES: Home— Omaha, NE.
Dirt, UglyTown (Los Angeles, CA), 2001.
Burn, UglyTown (Los Angeles, CA), 2003.
Rain Dogs, Dell (New York, NY), 2005.
The Cleanup (includes excerpts from Rain Dogs), Dell (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to anthologies, including The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII, DAW Books, 1994;Noirotica, Masquerade/Rhinoceros, 1996; and Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium, Penguin/ROC, 1998. Contributor to magazines, including Cavalier, Crimewave, and Kinesis.
SIDELIGHTS: Sean Doolittle has written mystery novels that some critics have characterized as being in the “hard-boiled” vein of crime fiction, with violent action, dark humor, and uncluttered prose. David Pitt, in a review of The Cleanup for Booklist, described Doolittle’s novels as being “little noir gems,” while David J. Montgomery, discussing Rain Dogs for Mystery Ink Online, called the author’s writing style “lean and mean.” Various commentators have compared Doolittle’s work to that of Elmore Leonard, James M. Cain, and Jim Thompson.
Author Stephen King inspired Doolittle to write several short stories in the horror genre early in his career. “After a while I found myself trying too hard,” Doolittle remarked in an interview with fellow mystery writer Victor Gischler for the Web site Mystery Net. Having switched to crime fiction, he noted to Gischler, “I think crime fiction seems to be really wide open in terms of what you can do (or what fits within the boundaries after you do it).”
Doolittle’s first novel, Dirt, focuses on unscrupulous business practices at a funeral home. Dirt, Doolittle told Gischler, is “sort of a slacker crime novel sprinkled with industry satire.” He followed it with Burn, in which a well-known Los Angeles fitness instructor is murdered, his body discovered by firefighters trying to put out wildfires near the city. A retired organized-crime arsonist, Andrew Kindler, becomes involved in investigating the murder. This novel led some reviewers to apply the “hard-boiled” label, while noting some unconventional aspects of the story. Terry D’Auray, critiquing for the online publication Agony Column, reported: “Doolittle has managed a somewhat genre-bending feat in the mystery realm—he’s written a feel-good, hard-boiled mystery; all the classic hard-boiled elements are combined with a sympathetic gentleness of characterization that is wholly original.” D’Auray went on to praise Doolittle’s prose as “smooth and stylish,” his characters as “realistic and humanistic,” and his plot as “suspenseful and well-paced.” In a similar vein, South Florida Sun-Sentinel contributor Oline H. Cogdill dubbed Burn“a briskly plotted, hard-boiled mystery” featuring “off-the-wall but believable characters.”
Rain Dogs deals with a onetime Chicago journalist who has retreated to his Nebraska hometown to manage a campground after the death of his young daughter and the breakup of his marriage. His life in Nebraska, however, is complicated by his heavy drinking, difficult relationships, and corrupt local police. His protagonist, Tom Coleman, is “an original,” observed Cogdill in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, adding that the tale is “compelling.” Keir Graff, writing in Booklist, deemed the story a “lifelike and nuanced” one that will appeal to readers who enjoy “hard-boiled fiction and classic noir.” Montgomery, in Mystery Ink Online, complimented the “quality and authenticity of the writing.”
The Cleanup is set in Omaha, Nebraska, where police officer Matthew Worth assists in a cover-up when an appealing young woman kills her violent boyfriend. Some critics found the novel a suspenseful and stylish effort. A Publishers Weekly contributor described it as a “tense crime drama” told in “punchy and sincere prose,” commenting further that Worth is a “well-crafted read.” In Booklist, Pitt concluded: “Noir fans will savor this one.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, November 15, 2005, Keir Graff, review of Rain Dogs, p. 29; October 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of The Cleanup, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, September 11, 2006, review of The Cleanup, p. 40.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, November 12, 2003, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Burn; June 7, 2006, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Rain Dogs.
New York Sun, December 6, 2006, Otto Penzler, review of The Cleanup.
New York Times Book Review, December 24, 2006, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Cleanup.
Agony Column, http://trashotron.com/agony/ (December 8, 2003), Terry D’Auray, review of Burn.
The Cleanup Web site, http://www.thecleanup.com/ (December 26, 2006).
Mystery Ink Online, http://www.mysteryinkonline.com/ (January, 2001), David J. Montgomery, review of Rain Dogs.
Mystery Net, http://www.mysterynet.com/ (December 26, 2006), Victor Gischler, interview with Sean Doolitte.
Mystery One Bookstore Web site, http://www.mysteryone.com/ (October 20, 2001), interview with Sean Doolittle.
Sean Doolittle Home Page, http://www.seandoolittle.com (December 26, 2006).