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Guilty City by Dan Leissner - A Book Review

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2022

Quick Links

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Note: For the "origin story" of the nameless hero of this novel (and his "girl Friday" for that matter) see Dan Leissner's earlier The Big Farewell.


New York 1929, the Wall Street Crash of the Black Tuesday has pretty much just hit the city, and many bankers, traders, nouveaux riches and even people coming from old money suddenly found themselves hitting rock bottom pretty much overnight - to a degree where suicide became a citywide pastime. Our hero though never had much and manages to churn out a decent living as a private eye, helped by his girlfriend and girl Friday - who just happens to be a ghost. And since she's a ghost it shouldn't come as a surprise that some of our hero's clients are also ghosts, like young Benita, who committed suicide after her mother's murder, Vivian Gordon. Now when alive, Vivian, a former showgirl turned prostitute, ran a prostitution ring, and one that was very high class and thus failed to attract the authorities' attention - but sex was really only a sideline in her business, her actual game was blackmail, meaning she used her girls' charms to get as much damning info out of their clients to turn the knowledge against them. For years her business was booming - well, until her murder that is.

Our hero investigates, and soon gets hold of Vivian's "black book", where he finds all her clients/victims - and finds himself shocked at how many people might have legitimate reasons to want her dead. What's worse even is that many of the names in the black book belong to prominent members of Tammany Hall, back then pretty much New York's shadow gouvernment - an organisation probably too big to handle for a single private eye. And yet, our hero follows lead after lead, and things seem to go somewhere as many of those he suspected turn up dead, creating a bigger and bigger picture. And yet, the bigger the picture, the more difficult it gets to find out the truth - and maybe the truth might be found somewhere completely else ...


Above all, this novel shows writer Dan Leissner's remarkable growth as an author: When he started out approximately 15 years ago, his books - most prominently probably the Cool Cat series - were hommages to yesteryear's pulp literature and even more so pulp cinema, books that sure were highly enjoyable, but also books never intended to do anything more than entertain.

Now sure, Guilty City - just like The Big Farewell before it - still borrows heavily from hardboiled crime literature of the 1920s and 30s, but moves away from the hommage bandwagon to tell a serious story in front of a well-researched historical backdrop, and as far-fetched the supernatural elements might seem on first sight, they're well integrated into the narration and actively add to the proceedings rather than detract from them. And thanks to a very vivid writing style, Guilty City has also turned out to be a regular page turner, making this one fine read indeed.


If this has gotten you at all interested, Guilty City can be obtained, as e-book or paperback, from the following:




... and from pretty much all Amazons worldwide J


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD