Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Sean Doolittle

BURN
THE CLEANUP
DIRT
RAIN DOGS
SAFER



In the middle of a sweltering Los Angeles heat wave, wildfires burn out of control in the Santa Monica mountains and beyond. When firefighters happen across a body in the wreckage of an Alfa Romeo convertible while battling a blaze, it's only a matter of time and basic forensics before the apparent accident is upgraded to homicide.
Gregor Tavlin, a southern California celebrity fitness guru, has been murdered.
Andrew Kindler doesn't know anything about it. He only came to LA to start life over fresh. He risked everything to untangle himself from the mid-levels of an East Coast crime organization, and he has the scars to prove it. He doesn't intend to acquire more.
But when an LAPD homicide detective pays him a visit, Andrew discovers a few coals still smoldering in the life he's left behind.
An heiress to a health and fitness empire. Her missing brother. A hard-drinking aerobics instructor/infomercial personality with a weakness for women and snack treats. A private investigator who has yet to master the art of surveillance. A health club security guard with ambitions. A lovesick public relations man. Somehow, Andrew Kindler finds himself a strand in the same twisted fuse, which has been sizzling toward combustion since long before he arrived in California.
There's only one thing he knows from experience: everything burns if it gets hot enough.
And everybody has their flash point. ... — from the publisher

Sean Doolittle has been winning high praise from crime fiction readers, and Burn will show you why — it's deftly written, tense and intelligent, and bound to make you scramble to find his other work. — Jan Burke, author of Nine

Sean Doolittle is a cult writer for the masses — hip, smart and so mordantly funny that the casual reader might be laughing too hard to realize just how thoughtful Doolittle's work is. Get on the bandwagon now ... — Laura Lippman, author of The Last Place

Sean Doolittle combines wit, good humor and a generosity of spirit rare in mystery fiction to create novels that are both engrossing and strangely uplifting. He deserves to take his place among the best in the genre. — John Connolly, author of The White Road

Doolittle delivers a briskly plotted, hard-boiled mystery that has its roots in the Elmore Leonard school of dark comedy. . .an estimable addition to crime fiction. — South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Characterization is Doolittle's real strength, and his people stay with you ... [a] writer to watch. — John Keenan, Omaha World-Herald

Doolittle writes an exceptionally well-crafted and well-told tale of arson, police work, misplaced zeal, bad relationships, good relationships, family bonds and, oh yes, exercise videos. ... Quirky, compelling, intelligent, and funny. ... if you like Elmore Lenoard, do yourself a favor and pick up Burn. — Lincoln Journal-Star

[A] twist-filled crime caper ... — Publishers Weekly

Smooth, tight, fast-paced, addictive, and discernably original. ... [A] scorching meal ... — January Magazine

A dark, exhilerating police procedural ... never eases up until the final page ... — Allreaders.com

[A] story of fire and searing heat ... clear prose and brisk pacing ... murder, guns, fistfights, stakeouts ... a pleasure to read. — The Drood Review

Doolittle has managed a somewhat genre-bending feat in the mystery realm — he's written a feel-good, hard-boiled mystery; all the classic hard-boiled elements are combined with a sympathetic gentleness of characterization that is wholly original ... [the] prose is smooth and stylish, combining wit and intelligence into a totally readable narrative. — Trashotron

[A] confident story, interesting characters, and an unblinking look at their hopes, loves, and most importantly, their embarrassments and faults. . .Doolittle is a true Crimedog, and Burn is his thesis. And you can see it all over this nine millimeter of a novel that his best is yet to come." — Plots With Guns

Doolittle expertly weaves [his] themes into a tight plot populated by memorable characters. ... Having read hardboiled mysteries for over thirty years, it has been exciting to watch young turks become grand masters. I certainly hope that Sean Doolittle has a long exciting career ... — Mystery News


Matthew Worth is a mess. Somewhere between a good cop and a bad screwup, he botched a marriage and a career. His fellow officers think he’s a joke. His commanders are tired of cutting him breaks. Even his wife has left him for a flashy homicide detective. Busted to night patrol at a robbery-prone Omaha supermarket, Worth is doing time, wearing his uniform and asking shoppers if they want paper or plastic. If that isn’t enough, he suspects he might be falling for Gwen, the shy checkout girl who may be an even bigger mess than he is. It couldn’t get any worse. Until it does.
When Gwen comes to him one night scared and desperate for help, Worth discovers just how far he's willing to go to protect and serve. The next thing he knows, he's driving a stolen car with a corpse in the trunk, a pistol in the glove box, and no way to turn back. Everything he doesn’t know could get them killed. And things haven’t even begun to get messy yet. ... — from the publisher

The Cleanup is a wonderful discovery. Tight, taut and tough, this is the work of a writer who knows the territory inside and out. This is a great read. — Michael Connelly

Doolittle has penned a character-driven yet suspenseful novel about choice and consequence, with a well-crafted lead and a narrative style that's punchy and sincere. ... [R]eaders looking for a tense crime drama — hold the procedure — will enjoy getting inside the head of this well-meaning sad sack. — Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review." Anyone foolish enough to say that the age of pulp fiction ended years ago need only pick up one of Doolittle's little noir gems. ... Seedy, steamy, quirky, and fidgety, the author's prose feels like it stepped out of the 1950s. ... Noir fans will savor this one. — Booklist


On a clear autumn LA morning, sitting in the front row of his best friend's funeral, professional loafer Quince Bishop can't think of anything more depressing than watching yet another loved one being lowered into the ground—until a band of guerilla environmentalists crash the ceremony to deliver a lecture on the high cost of dying in America. One violent impulse later, Quince finds himself up to his waist in dirt ... and he hasn't even begun to dig himself a hole.
With the help of beautiful funeral-rights advocate Maria Casteneda — not to mention the complicated ambitions of reporter and perennial ex-girlfriend Melanie Roth — Quince learns just how an unscrupulous funeral director can turn death into a high-class living. In the process, Bishop unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with two entrepreneurial ex-cons who are hatching a burial plot of their own. Chaos, confusion, and double-dealing are on the program, and only one thing is certain: all paths lead to the cemetery. — from the publisher

After Quince Bishop gets into a fistfight with eco-activists who disrupt his best friend's funeral, his journalist ex-girlfriend covers the story and a beautiful funeral-rights advocate gets involved, upending poor Quince's lackadaisical life. But that's nothing compared to the funeral-biz scams he unearths in Sean Doolittle's uproarious first novel, Dirt. — Publishers Weekly, June 11, 2001

It's very rare for a first novel to be perfect; to have a great story, sparkling writing, interesting layered characters, a carefully balanced and realized setting, a beautifully modulated pace, and not a single misstep. This first novel comes very close. ... Doolittle is a writer with a story to tell and the skills to tell it well — clearly a writer to watch. — ForeWord Magazine

... a really top-notch thriller ... a stumbling, bumbling, lovable anti-hero ... the book is a delight. — Lincoln Journal-Star

Doolittle gives us a great comic-noir romp ... one of the best noir novels of the year. It's a creative and quirky tour de force. — Plots With Guns

Sean Doolittle takes a great deal of time with his characters ... expertly captures the moral and emotional complexities of trading on the deceased ... [and] balances realism and authenticity with the twists and turns of a mystery thriller. ... — The Reader

In a passionate flurry of curious motives, seedy characters, and a touch of the heroic, Doolittle delivers an A+ effort that should be considered one of the top crime novels of the year. . .Highly recommended. — Cemetery Dance Magazine

[Doolittle] is indeed very good at what he does. — About.com

Truly this is a book that deserves your attention. — Reviewing the Evidence

With likable characters in frequently ridiculous situations, Doolittle has created a novel that is much like life itself, too strange to be real and too real to be strange, but wonderful none the less. — Reviewlutions


A rain dog, according to folklore and a Tom Waits song, is a mutt who can't find its way home because a storm has washed away the trail of familiar scents. Chicago newspaperman Tom Coleman is drinking his way out of a broken marriage, grieving for his deceased daughter, when he inherits a backwater canoe-rental business near Valentine, Nebraska. He returns to his home state to start anew, but it seems more like a dead end. Coleman confronts family issues, small-town politics, a crooked cop, his first sweetheart, and the challenge of running a business while passed out drunk on the lawn. His employees — a ne'er-do-well stoner and a disgruntled teen — keep things running until one night when the crooked cop arrives with the flashers on. Coleman smells a story, but he's not covering this one — he's in it. — from the publisher

"Lean and mean." — Chicago Sun-Times

"A heart-stopping, gut-clenching, eye-opening, brain-tingling effort." — Chicago Tribune

"Sean Doolittle is a young writer with serious chops. With Rain Dogs he brings it strong." — George Pelecanos

"As long as there are writers like Sean Doolittle out there, American crime fiction has got a sterling future ahead of it. Rain Dogs is tense, evocative, and anchored by a main character, Tom Coleman, who I'd love to see more of. A terrific novel." — Dennis Lehane

"Doolittle's style is clipped, his dialogue terse, but the story is lifelike and nuanced. Rain Dogs will satisfy fans of hard-boiled fiction and classic noir, as well as any crime fans who don't like their plots tied up too tidily." — Booklist

Doolittle slowly builds tension int he novel. He also creates a memorable cast of characters. ... Doolittle's book is worth it. — Lincoln Journal Star

With raw emotions and even rawer dialogue, Doolittle sketches out a rough and tumble summer on the Niobrara. Rain Dogs is a fun read, even if you aren't a fan of crime novels. — News from the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraksa Authors


Safer is a high-octane, rip-roaring page-turner. I read it in one sitting — and loved every minute. &151; Harlan Coben, author of Hold Tight

In Safer, Sean Doolittle has crafted a taut, claustrophobic thriller in which our safe world of home and neighborhood becomes instead something terrifying and deadly. Safer made me look twice at my neighbors and check the locks on my doors, and that earns Doolittle a solid A+ in skin-crawling suspense. — Kay Hooper, author of Blood Dreams

Unsettling…. Admirably complex. &!51; Publishers Weekly

Slick and inventive. ... The author is skilled at ratcheting up readers' foreboding, sympathy, and fear, creating the deep need to see how things turn out. — Booklist


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