Straka, Andy 1958-
STRAKA, Andy 1958-
PERSONAL: Born September 29, 1958, in Norwich, NY; son of Andrew H. (a manufacturing plant owner) and Bernice (a secretary and homemaker; maiden name, Presnell) Straka; married Bonnie Foster (a physician), June 27, 1981; children: Chris, Kelci. Ethnicity: "Caucasian/Czech ancestry." Education: Williams College, B.A. (English), 1980.
CAREER: Writer. Formerly a medical equipment salesman; president and CEO of Trans World Imaging Corp.
MEMBER: International Association of Crime Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, Outdoor Writers Association of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nominations for an Anthony Award, Shamus Award, and Agatha Award, all for best first novel, all 2002, all for A Witness Above; nomination for Anthony Award for best paperback original, 2003, for A Killing Sky.
"frank pavlicek mystery" series
A Witness Above, Signet (New York, NY), 2001.
A Killing Sky, Signet (New York, NY), 2002.
Cold Quarry, Signet (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Andy Straka was a salesman who quit his day job to become a full-time writer and father, with the support of his dermatologist wife, Bonnie. Straka writes mysteries that feature Frank Pavlicek, a private detective who is involved with falconry, the sport in which birds of prey and humans cooperate in the hunt. Frank left the New York Police Department after he shot an unarmed teenager he thought was carrying a weapon, and he has relocated to Virginia, which is where the first novels of the "Pavlicek" books are set.
In the first book, thirteen years have passed since Frank left the NYPD. Frank and his red-tailed hawk, Armistead, are in the Blue Ridge Mountains when they come upon the body of a teenage boy who is linked to Frank's own estranged daughter, Nicole, who lives with her mother. Frank is aided in untangling the mystery by his former partner and fellow falconer Jake Toronto as he attempts to prove Nicole's innocence.
In reviewing the novel for BookBrowser online, Harriet Klausner said that "the plot never slows down." Diane Gotfryd, writing for Mystery Reader online, compared Straka's formula to that used by Robert Parker in his Spenser books, remarking, "the P.I. is a literary man with a hands-off love interest and a semi-mysterious sidekick. The writing is smart and interesting, the dialogue and settings are good."
Lee Chichester reviewed the novel for Falconers' World online, commenting that Frank and Jake "are every bit eccentric enough, as well as being typical inward-seeing, egocentric personalities, that it would be easy to see them fit in with most falconers I know, were they real. And the falconry itself is nearly real enough to have been written by a licensed falconer."
Klausner called A Killing Sky, Straka's second entry in the "Frank Pavlicek" series, "a delightful investigative tale." The detective is called upon by the daughter of a Virginia congressman to investigate the disappearance of her twin sister, and she suspects that her father is somehow involved. Even as Frank discovers a twenty-year-old cover-up, he is suspected in the current investigation of the missing girl. His computer-savvy daughter is a big asset in sorting through the facts and clearing her father. As a result, the two become closer as she helps him in his work and as he introduces her to falconry, which they now enjoy together. Mystery Reader's Jennifer Monahan Winberry called The Killing Sky "a fun, quick read with many twists and turns to hold readers rapt."
Straka came upon the idea of falconry as his protagonist's avocation when he began observing a pair of hawks that had nested near his house. Although not a licensed falconer himself, he spent considerable time with experts in researching the background for his stories. On his home page, Straka wrote: "I believe falcons and private eyes can make for a potent literary mix. Dashiell Hammett certainly thought so when he wrote The Maltese Falcon, the legendary Sam Spade novel that was made into the movie classic starring Humphrey Bogart. Frank Pavlicek will never be Sam Spade, of course. But maybe, if he's lucky, he'll get to troll the wilderness for some time to come, before heading back out to troll his own version of the mean streets."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Andy Straka Home Page,http://www.andystraka.com (December 12).
BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (March 11, 2001), Harriet Klausner, review of A Witness Above; (February 9, 2002) Harriet Klausner, review of A Killing Sky.
Falconers' World,http://www.falconersworld.falconry.org/ (July 25, 2002), Lee Chichester, review of A Witness Above.
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (July 25, 2002), Diane Gotfryd, review of A Witness Above; Jennifer Monahan Winberry, review of A Killing Sky.