L.A. Stalker by David Kilpatrick

The protagonist of the novel is Los Angeles police detective Jerry Leger, and he’s working on the case of Pandora Collins, sexy superstar actress. Pandora’s problem is that she has a stalker. It has been going on a long time, but lately the stalker’s advances have been getting more dangeous and sick. Worse still, not long ago, another actress who was the target of a stalker turned up dead. When the police fail to apprehend Pandora’s stalker, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She hires a contract killer. Everything goes smoothly until a misunderstanding about payment turns the assassin against Pandora. And, as the novel’s blurb puts it so well: “Pandora soon learns that the cure she called upon is worse than the disease.”

This novel grabs your attention even before page one, with a striking and touching dedication:

This book is dedicated to that small army of underpaid, overworked and forgotten people who wage a near-silent war against sexual predators. Your dedication and humanity may not always be recognized, and the good you do cannot be measured. Your success is measured in the things that never happen; the things you prevent from happening. Your reward can be seen in the joyous faces of those would-be victims who never have to face the horror and heartache of sexual predation, and in the normal lives of those victims you’ve led to recovery.

It comes as no surprise to me that the novel is very well written, as I’ve already read and enjoyed the author’s Undercover White Trash. David Kilpatrick belongs to that tiny group of self-published authors who care deeply about the quality of their work. Usually, in self-published books, grammar and punctuation errors are leaping out at me on every page. They were pretty hard to find in L.A. Stalker.

The novel contains material that some readers may find offensive: scenes of violence and sexuality (and both of those together). But the book was written in such a way that I never once felt the author was being gratuitous – just bravely honest – even when writing about rape and child molestation. One very daring scene for the author was a flashback of Pandora being molested by her father when she was about twelve. What Kilpatrick drew attention to was the idea of a child’s tolerance and acceptance of a father’s long-term abuse – something that is as true and tragic as the more horrific forms of abuse that tend to claim the spotlight. The violence of the story is complemented by an undercurrent of tenderness, brought about by detective Jerry Leger falling in love with Pandora.

I wasn’t offended at all by the sex and violence, but there was something else that bugged me – something you only detect if you read between the lines: the morality of ending. It’s difficult to talk about that without spoilers. Suffice it to say, taking into account eveything that was at stake coming up to the end, I didn’t like the author’s resolution to the story. It had the bitterness of a fall from grace, only it was written as the opposite.

Regardless, I think L.A. Stalker is a great thriller, populated by believable characters about whom the author skilfully makes you care.

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Undercover White Trash by David Kilpatrick

With the word “undercover” in the title, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a novel about crime. It’s really a story about an elite advertising executive, Edward Vincent Prescott III, who makes a terrible blunder in his campaign for the BillyMart wholesale consumer store. The blunder doesn’t cost him his job, however; in a maverick move, his boss suggests that he spend several months undercover as a member of the blue-collar society. It’s an opportunity to research the target audience first-hand. So, Ed Prescott prepares to leave his rich life behind (at least temporarily) and embark on his mission. First, he heads for a BillyMart store (a place he would never normally shop) to check out the people. After singling out one family and following them home to their trailer park, he decides to rent the trailer opposite and observe them more closely. Prescott doesn’t know it yet, but his stay with the “white trash” is going to change him more than he could ever have predicted.

I discovered the author, David Kilpatrick, through his website, and got particularly interested in him because of his blog. It is both honest and sensitive but sometimes hard-hitting, and usually full of dry wit. One of Kilpatrick’s best lines, in describing a particular woman’s attractiveness, was, “I’d be on her like a hobo on a ham sandwich.” That just cracked me up. I figured that if this guy can write like this on the fly in his blog, then his fiction has got to be good. He has written four novels, but I got particularly interested in this one due to him mentioning that some of the events in it were true (but he’s not telling which ones).

Both the title of the book, and the author’s sales pitch, led me to believe this would be a raw read, where humanity at its worst is put under a microscope. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The story is sensitive, concerning itself mostly with exploring the issue of friendship between people at opposite ends of the class spectrum. What a great theme. Another thing that becomes apparent as you read it is that you have absolutely no idea where the story is heading; there is no clear goal for the protagonist to achieve (other than advertising research); no disaster to be averted; no one to save. Usually that makes for a boring read, but not in this case. Each chapter was consistently interesting, and kept dragging me back for more.

Kilpatrick’s style is happily loaded with the same dry wit that you’ll find in his blog. His novels are self-published through print-on-demand, which usually means you get a novel loaded with typos and poor sentence structure. For once an author has done the necessary editing work, and despite the occasional missing comma, you have a smooth read.

I look forward to reading the rest of David Kilpatrick’s novels in due course. This one, at least, deserve a mass-market publishing deal.