First Look: The Riley Reeves Series

Riley Reeves Series

P.I. Tales’ inaugural private detective novel, Throwing Off Sparks, is set for release May 12, 2020. The novel is also the first book in the Riley Reeves Mystery Series featuring our first of many series detectives, Riley Reeves.

We sat down with the series’ author Michael Pool to discuss what makes Riley a compelling character, and why he chose East Texas as the locale for the series. It’s a great interview with excellent insight into what to expect from the Riley Reeves Series. Read on below!

P.I. Tales: Tell us a little about how Riley Reeves came into being, and why you chose a female East Texas P.I. as the basis for your first series character?

Michael: A few years ago, a friend of mine, Michael Bracken, put out a submission call for The Eyes of Texas, which was an anthology of private detective stories set in locales across Texas (published by Down and Out Books). Having grown up in East Texas, I loved the idea and wanted to contribute a story. So I put together the concept for a story called “Weathering the Storm” that revolved around a private eye chasing a serial killer operating in the chaos of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, which was a big ecological happening around that time.

From the moment I started writing it was like Riley jumped fully formed onto the page. It just became clear that she had a lot to say, and that she had a chip on her shoulder when it came to the way men sometimes try to dominate women, particularly in old fashioned East Texas.

Riley is a conglomeration of the many strong women I knew and interacted with growing up in East Texas. As I’m sure other writers have experienced, she was just one of those characters who came clawing out of the void and insisted that her story be told, NOW. I knew within a page of starting the short story, which did end up being selected for inclusion in The Eyes of Texas, that I was going to write an entire series of books featuring her.

P.I. Tales: Tell potential readers a little about East Texas, and what they can expect to experience there through Riley’s series.

Michael: Most people picture a flat, barren landscape when they picture Texas. But it’s a huge, diverse state, culturally and geographically. For example, it is faster to drive from Tyler, Texas to Chicago, Illinois than it is to drive to El Paso, Texas. The cultures in each are as different from Tyler as they are from each other, too. East Texas is in the piney woods region and has everything from huge pine forests to swamps dotting the humid, tropical landscape. It has a history as an insular, divided place that is full of secrets.

East Texas was home to one of the original oil booms (and the second-largest oil field on the continent, outside of Alaska), and that meant, on the one hand, a few people got enormously wealthy, while on the other thousands of people roughnecked out a hard paycheck working in the oil fields and living in places like Kilgore. Most of the families of both ends of that spectrum still inhabit the area. It has always had an odd juxtaposition of working-class and affluence. Not to mention the dialect is quite charming (think Matthew McConaughey, who is from Longview 30 miles down the road from Tyler).

Fans of Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series have heard of Tyler in passing, as Joe’s characters occasionally make their way there from the fictional town of LaBorde while working out their cases. It’s the kind of place where a girlie girl might be able to shoot a rifle better than your country-ass grandpappy, and she’s not likely to let you forget it.

P.I. Tales: What makes Riley unique in terms of being a series detective worth reading?

Michael: There is a paradox at the center of Riley, much like there is to the place she grew up. On the one hand, Riley desperately desires peace and harmony. On the other, she has a problem with risk-taking and looking for the exact kind of trouble that prevents peace from taking root in her life. These two parts of her are in constant conflict for control. But the series is also about what that conflict does to Riley’s personal life, which is rife with its own paradoxes. I wanted to explore that idea in particular because it is something I’ve experienced through my own real-life work as a private detective. It can be an isolating, lonely job, and it can absolutely take over the rest of your life.

When Throwing Off Sparks  first picks up, Riley is recently divorced, down to one living relative, and often neglectful of her best friend and guiding light, Latonya Johnson. She finds that what is good for her loved ones and what is good for her clients are generally at odds, and how she navigates those odds makes for a compelling, emotional, exciting story.

When you add in the chaos of her brother Chip’s addiction to alcohol and his connection to Riley’s ex-husband, and how they contribute to her inner conflict, it ramps her stress up to the point where something has got to give or Riley will be pulled apart. I think that’s her most compelling feature. She will absolutely pull herself apart for the people she loves or is tasked to protect, losing valuable parts of herself each and every time.

P.I. Tales: What were some of the challenges of writing a female protagonist as a male author?

Tough question, but a good one. I mean, I can never really know if I’ve gotten it right or not when writing female characters, so that’s one thing. But I didn’t want that to stop me from trying. I can tell you that there is a deep part of me in Riley, but also deep parts of women I have greatly admired in her, as well. I can’t pretend to fully understand any of them, but I can understand parts of them.

Writers are nothing if not perceivers. I feel like our talents, to the degree that they exist, are in our ability to see intrinsic parts of people that transcend concepts of gender or culture or race. That doesn’t mean getting it perfect, but it does mean trying to understand. I did not seek to get women correct so much as to get Riley correct. That took getting to know her and getting out of the way to let her tell her own story, which is written in the first person.

Riley gets her indomitable spirit from her father, mostly, with a few details from her mother, mainly stubbornness and a sense of tradition. In my own life, I get my indomitable spirit from my mother, a great example of the kind of Texas woman who inspired Riley in the first place. Tough, smart, and unmovable when it comes to the people they care about, Texas women are some of the most powerful people I have encountered in my life.

I see some of these traits in myself (the stubbornness, anyway), and it may be that this is the part of Riley that is the most a part of me. If so, it comes from the women in my life and my mother in particular, and I think in that sense I have gotten it as right as I’m ever going to get it.

Riley can bring me to tears because I care deeply about what happens to her, and my hope is that this comes out through the writing and the reader feels the same way about her as they move through her character arc. Anything I got wrong will hopefully find context in the extreme love and admiration that I feel for Riley (and for Latonya), which is born from the love and admiration I feel for the powerful women who have shaped my life. She’s my favorite character I’ve ever created, and I know readers are going to love her too!

Throwing Off Sparks comes out May 12, 2020, as the inaugural title from P.I. Tales. The eBook is currently up for pre-order with both the paperback and eBook editions released worldwide on May 12th. For a sneak peek at the prologue to Throwing Off Sparks, fill out the form below!

4 modern private detective series we love

Modern private detective series

Elvis Cole

It’s hard to imagine any fan of the modern private detective series who hasn’t at least brushed up against Elvis Cole. Robert Crais’s “World’s Greatest Detective,” along with his no-nonsense partner Joe Pike, have been wowing readers for decades with their relentless pursuit of the truth. And in recent years, the series seems to have taken on new momentum. Cole is as moral of a man as can be imagined, and he is willing to sacrifice anything for the good of those he decides to help, clients or not.

But what makes the series shine is Cole’s witty comebacks and roll-with-the-punches style. He is the epitome of what a hero should be, and almost any reader with a pulse will fall in love with him.

Frank Marr

Fans who like a little noir in their modern private detective series need look no further than David Swinson’s Frank Marr.  Swinson is an ex-police detective, and that experience lends a realism to the way his protagonist, disgraced ex-cop Frank Marr, goes about his work. All three installments in this short series, The Second Girl, Crime Song, and Trigger, bring with them both Marr’s streetwise dialog, and the constant reminder that the line between good and evil is often transgressed even by those we consider to be just.

Marr is likable in spite of deep character flaws, and this makes him a fresh voice in a genre that occasionally flirts with white knighting. Although Swinson has apparently moved onto a new series, readers will not regret getting to know Frank Marr.

Lincoln Perry

Much like our own series author Michael Pool, Michael Koryta spent time working as a real-life private investigator. Koryta’s experience shines through in the Lincoln Perry series without derailing the storytelling in his books. Perry’s fieldwork has a realistic rhythm to it, but Koryta never sacrifices the larger-than-life storytelling that makes a good P.I. mystery work.

Perry has a quiet dignity that climbs off the page. He has hopes and dreams that echo the reality of real working private investigators, and these imbue him with a familiar and engaging quality that keeps the pages turning.

Koryta is a master of the genre, along with being an incredible thriller writer outside of it. These books do not disappoint, period.

Dave Wakeland

Engaged fans of the P.I. genre have been buzzing about Sam Wiebe since his debut P.I. novel, the Unhanged Arthur Award-winning Last of the Independents. And although rights issues kept what would have been an incredible series featuring protagonist Michael Drayton from ultimately getting off the ground, Wiebe bounced back a few years later with Invisible Dead, his first novel featuring Vancouver private eye Dave Wakeland.

The series displays to perfection why we feel Wiebe is one of the premier artists writing in the P.I. genre. Wakeland is tough and introspective, with a keen eye that tracks social change but never misses an inch of the behavior displayed by those he questions.

He has a deep longing for a past that may or may not have existed, as well as a future that may not arrive if things keep going the way they are. The second novel Cut You Down only added to Wakeland’s depth as a series character while continuing to display Wiebe’s developing mastery of mixing the genre with modern social issues. Last we heard the series was in momentary limbo, but we hope to see much more from Dave Wakeland in the future, fingers crossed.

Find your next modern private detective series, Riley Reeves

Psst… We’ve got a pretty great detective series of our own coming out. Yeah, you knew we were gonna say that, right? Shameless… But the truth is, we’re excited about the launch of the Riley Reeve’s series via her debut novel by Michael Pool, Throwing Off Sparks. We know readers will fall in love with her fearless commentary and boundless devotion to her clients.

And like the other detectives on this list, she possesses a fearless focus bordering on obsession. Readers of each series mentioned above will find much to love in Riley. We hope you’ll consider checking out Throwing Off Sparks when it is released on May 12, 2020!

Fans of these 3 fictional female private investigators will love Riley Reeves (here’s why)

fictional female private investigators

Private investigators have a long and storied history in crime fiction. 

Over the years, a powerful cast of fictional female private investigators have made their way onto the scene to great fanfare. Over time, readers have come to understand that underestimating these women is a critical, and possibly fatal, error.

And the same can be said for our own female private eye, Riley Reeves, whose debut novel, Throwing Off Sparks, is scheduled for release May 12, 2020. In preparation for that release, we’ve made a list of 3 fictional female private investigators whose fans will definitely want to meet Riley (and why).

Kinsey Millhone

fictional female private investigatorsShrewd, determined, and haunted by the loss of her parents, the late Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone  is one of crime fiction’s most dynamic female private investigators. And, like Kinsey, Riley Reeves is also haunted by the loss of her parents, though to natural causes rather than anything sudden. Like Kinsey, Riley is constantly trying to determine what her place is in a world without her family, and always coming up shorter for answers than she might have hoped.

Both are at their best when working their cases. For Riley, this quality creates a conflict between her two selves, and nowhere is this more present than in the events of her debut novel,Throwing Off Sparks.


Jessica Shaw

fictional female private investigatorsTough. Courageous. Determined. Many readers apply these labels to Lisa Gray’s traveling female private investigator, Jessica Shaw.  And these characteristics also describe Riley Reeves to a “T”. Both characters live and breathe their work. Each shows a willingness to lay it all on the line, even when the costs may not be worth it, and even when their choice is not the only viable path forward.

Jessica is often focused on uncovering her past, even at the expense of the present. Riley, too, is unable to leave the past out of her day-to-day life. Readers will love the similar fast pace these two work at, and Riley’s efficient, obsessive approach to her cases is sure to feel familiar to Jessica’s fans.


Nichelle Clarke

fictional female private investigatorsNichelle Clarke is a reporter by trade but has all the hallmarks of a private investigator in her approach. Unafraid to wade into danger in service to a story, Nichelle will stop at nothing to solve the mysteries uncovered by her reporting. She readily sticks her nose where it “doesn’t belong,” which often gets her into hot water in the process.

Like Nichelle, Riley Reeves is also unafraid to wade into the danger. She may be a woman working in a man’s world, but she’s no pushover. Undeterred by violence or threat of death, Riley is one to do her research, but even more of one to get her hands as dirty as it takes to solve her cases and protect her clients. Fans of Nichelle will find a kindred spirit in Riley and are sure to love everything about her thoughts and stories.


Meet Riley Reeves

Book one in the Riley Reeves private investigator series, Throwing Off Sparks, releases May 12, 2020. We are BEYOND excited to share her stories with the world. Learn more HERE.

Wait! You don’t have to wait for May to meet Riley. Join our email list and we will give you an eBook copy of the prologue to Throwing Off Sparks, which serves as the perfect introduction to how Riley conducts business! Use the form below to get your free e-copy and get ready to pre-order the novel after Riley steals your heart.