Dawson takes her book’s title from a song, “Silver Stallion,” sung by the folk super-group The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson): “We’re gonna ride/ like a one-eyed jack of diamonds/ with the devil close behind.” There are several devils in this story that the characters are trying to outride: a missing young woman named Laurette is bedeviled by a load of grief. Her volatile boyfriend, guitarist Slade, is trying to outrun his outlaw past, from city to city, gig to gig. The most dangerous devil of all is his friend Marsh, whose evil energy feeds off Slade’s like a fire tornado feeds off the heat generated by the blaze.
Dawson’s plot is inspired by true life: nine (so far) unsolved arson cases in the Oakland area of large developments under construction. Theories on possible motives range from firebugs to resentment over gentrification. No perpetrators have been identified or charged in this most difficult of crimes either to catch the criminals in the act or to collect evidence.
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Janet Dawson is the author of thirteen novels about PI Jeri Howard. Kindred Crimes won the St. Martin’s Press/PWA best first PI novel contest, also earning Shamus, Macavity, and Anthony nominations. Dawson’s short stories include a Shamus nominee and a Macavity winner, and other novels include her California Zephyr series. She is past president of the Northern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and lives in the East Bay region.