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Thomas Black Books In Order

Publication Order of Thomas Black Books

The Rainy City (1985) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Poverty Bay (1985) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Nervous Laughter (1985) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Fat Tuesday (1987) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Deviant Behavior (1988) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Yellow Dog Party (1991) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Portland Laugher (1994) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Vanishing Smile (1995) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Million-Dollar Tattoo (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Deception Pass (1997) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Catfish Cafe (1998) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Cape Disappointment (2009) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Monica's Sister (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle


The Thomas Black Series is a collection of Detective novels written by American Mystery Author Earl Emerson.

The Story

The Thomas Black Series is eponymously named after its hero, Thomas Black; set in Seattle in the 1980s, Earl Emerson’s series chronicles Thomas Black’s story as he maneuvers the criminal elements of his city, accompanied along the way by Kathy Birchfield, the quirky law student whose decision to rent a room from Thomas allows her to revel in the various events that diffuse through the P.I.’s life.

Thomas Black spent ten years on the Seattle Police Force before an unfortunate incident (shooting and killing a 15 year old thief) brought his world crashing down around him. Not only did he lose his nerve, unable to carry a gun despite being quite the impressive shot, but Thomas quit the force.

Choosing to live on his police pension along with any funds he could attract by renting the basement of his two room house out to students in the University district, Thomas Black essentially makes do, taking on the occasional P.I. job and rarely making use of the downtown office he shares with an old Ford Pickup and a religious nut.

The Thomas black series has been described as quirky and witty, a black comedy that keeps its various plots bouncing forward by placing special emphasis upon the various crazy antics that Thomas and Kathy get up to.

Earl Emerson’s characters are pretty well rounded, though it is the fact that they are so flaky, often swept away by the slapstick madness that surrounds Thomas Black that makes Earl’s cast so enticing. First emerging on the scene with ‘The Rainy City’ in 1985, then moving forward with ‘Poverty Bay’ (a novel that won the ‘Best Private Eye Novel’ Shamus Award for the attention it brought to the homeless) and ‘Nervous Laughter’ in the same year along with the litany of stories that followed over more than two decades, Thomas Black has attracted a sizeable loyal following, his humorous approach to crime on the mean streets setting him apart from many a rival.

The Author

Earl Emerson was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1985; he has been a published author since 1985. Specializing in the mystery/thriller genres, Earl’s fame has grown primarily as a result of his two series of mystery novels, namely: the Thomas Black Series and the Mac Fontana Series.

The author’s efforts have attracted Accolades such as the Edgar Award (best mystery novel of the year) and the Shamus Award (Best Private Eye Novel). His novel “Black Hearts and Slow Dancing’ was also recognized by the New York times as one of the best thrillers of the year it was released. Earl Emerson has written many thriller novels set within the arena of firefighting and fire departments, this interest in the field probably emanating from the three decades Earl spent as a firefighter in Seattle.

The Rainy city

Melissa Nadisky was impelled to flee from her daughter and husband by an unknown force, the note she left behind creating the image of an individual haunted by her own private demons. Now Thomas Black must get involved, forced into the situation by her friend Kathy Birchfield.

Yet when the seemingly simple missing person’s case turns deadly, Thomas begins to reconsider his decision to interfere, especially when his witnesses, one by one, begin to fall to a mysterious killer. He quickly discovers that there is little room left for him to maneuver back into a place of safety, especially when Kathy’s visions take a terrifying turn.

Set in Seattle, Washington, The Rainy City is the first novel in the Thomas Black series. The novel wastes little time in introducing the titular character of the series to readers and the events within which he is immediately mired regarding the death of his dog.

And this is before Kathy’s visions begin to manifest, forcing Thomas to pursue her dark premonitions about the fate of her friend Melissa. While far from perfect (but largley appropriate for a first novel by a first time writer) ‘The Rainy City’ will surprise many fans of fiction.

It isn’t the mystery that makes this Earl Emerson novel so compelling but the strong characters that populate his story; Kathy and Thomas are simply too delightful. There is a depth to Thomas that underlies the bicycle riding detective, this especially emanating from the tragedy he inflicted as a member of the police force, and which he has never been able to overcome.

Not only is Kathy quirky, she revels in the idea of being different; together they make’ The Rainy City’ a decent first novel in the series, complimenting a fast paced plot with what some might say was a flat conclusion.

Fans of the P.I. genre can expect a tightly written story, realistic dialogue and a lot of action. While Earl’s first novel is the farthest thing from perfect, it delivers the sort of entertaining read few first novels can muster.

Poverty Bay

Lance Tyner is noble and naïve. Being the sole heir to his grandfather’s fortune offers him the opportunity to do some good. But while Lance has every intention to utilize his new found wealth for the good of mankind, there are those around (his father, sister and brother) for whom the wealth presents an opportunity to indulge in their selfish fantasies.

When Lance disappears, Thomas Black, a private eye, will have to tread into some dark and dank places, corners where the dregs of humanity struggle for life every day, in order to secure the safety of the noble Lance.

Poverty Bay is a very easy read; the second novel in Earl Emerson’s Thomas Black series, Poverty Bay is pitch perfect, one of those great mystery novels that come along once in a while.

Once more, private eye Thomas Black will have to place his life on the line to bring justice to those most deserving members of society. Cynical, amusing, often surrounded by a cool cast of characters, Thomas Black only seems to shine brighter the second time around, even as he sheds light upon those places in society often forgotten in his attempts to save the life of a wealthy yet noble gentleman.

If Poverty bay fails, it is in the conclusion which many readers found flat and unsatisfying.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Thomas Black