Bakersfield brings the dark side of the 1950s dust-choked town to life in this Raymond Chandleresque tale of crime and corruption. A winner from a talented writer who knows how to keep the surprises coming.
— Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author
of The Third Victim
Mid-1950s, and the post-war American dream has come into full focus in Southern California. Suburbia, freeways, fast food, television and nuclear paranoia. James Stone, a career cop in LA, is along for the ride – until he becomes enmeshed in an LAPD scandal that costs him his job, his wife and his home.
He finds himself exiled to Bakersfield, California, the only place he can still find work as a cop. It’s a mean little town. Hot, flat and dry. Dominated by agribusiness and oil and little else. But it’s also brewing the flip side of the American dream, with wild honky-tonks playing the first electric music, motorcycle gangs, the Ku Klux Klan, and test pilots from nearby Edwards air base slumming on weekends.
Stone works homicide and his first case is a murdered young girl found floating face down in the Kern River. It puts him in touch with Christine Harmon, who contracts as the county’s forensic pathologist and runs a small clinic on the side. At the time, woman doctors are almost non-existent, and Stone finds Harmon’s spirited independence fascinating.
His investigation takes him deep into the local bar scene, where young players like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard are just getting their start. But then a second homicide pops up, a very sticky one for this ultra-conservative, bible-thumping community. A wealthy businessman is found murdered in his home, apparently the victim of a vicious young drifter living at a seedy motel bar on the edge of town.
With the aid of Dr. Harmon, Stone follows a trail of depravity and corruption that reaches into the highest levels of the local business and legal community. And once again he finds himself caught up in a scandal that threatens to ruin him – and this time maybe even kill him.
Pierre Ouellette’s first two books were the science fiction thrillers The Deus Machine and The Third Pandemic. Writing as Pierre Davis, he published A Breed Apart in 2009 and Origin Unknown in 2011. Under his own name, The Forever Man came out in 2014. Starting his working life as a professional guitarist, Pierre played in numerous Portland-area rock bands and jazz ensembles, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jim Pepper and David Friesen. He was a co-founder of KVO, a Portland-based ad/PR agency focused on science and technology, and served as creative director for two decades before the agency was sold in 2000. Pierre now works as a video/film producer and guitarist when not writing. He lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
The following excerpt from Bakersfield: a Crime Novel
appears in Retreats from Oblivion: The Journal of NoirCon,
“You ever meet Hitchcock?”
“I hear he hates cops. That right?”
“Wouldn’t know. Never asked him.”
“What about Bogart? Is he really an asshole?”
“Hard to say. He didn’t talk much.”
“I bet he drove a Cord or something […]
“5.0 out of 5 stars. A NOVEL TRUE CRIME STORY
An A+ real life crime novel. Pierre Ouellette, author of the near future science fiction classic The Deus Machine, has reinvented a true story of depraved Greatest Generation city fathers gone wild.
Happy Days noir. In 1955, Bakersfield was home to every Okie in California short of the Joads, here in the middle of mid-century American nowhere. Gas stations, liquor stores, no-tell motels and great country music– the young Buck Owens played all over town – and, thanks to the “Cradle Club,” drop dead beautiful fourteen-year-old girls dropping dead all over the place.
Enter James Stone, an unassuming exiled Los Angeles police detective who stumbles – as did his counterpart in real life – into one of the most bizarre crime cabals in American crime history.
Not pretty and if you want to see how old school cops really worked, this is the book to read. Bakersfield has everything but a soundtrack and will make a great movie – LA Confidential meets Nashville and they have a baby. It should be well worth the wait.”
“5.0 out of 5 stars. An unlikely setting for a quintessential tale
in the mode of LA noir
This is a great read. Convincing voice, to start with – calm, knowing, sharp. Then there are all the period details of Bakersfield, especially about the music, which Ouellette obviously knows from his fingertips up and didn’t just Google! His musical chops knead the prose. Same savvy with the sense of the town – how to move around it, images of the walking beams pumping away like nodding horses, keeping local time and sucking up all that oil. He’s really nailed the setting, and we haven’t even started with a comment on the plot, which is chilling and propulsive. Set in the early fifties, it evokes the matter-of-factness of the gender privilege of the day. Echt LA noir, too, with a detective we’d like to see taking on another case soon. Would make a great movie, too.”