Earl W Emerson Books In Order

Thomas Black Books In Order

  1. The Rainy City (1985)
  2. Poverty Bay (1985)
  3. Nervous Laughter (1985)
  4. Fat Tuesday (1987)
  5. Deviant Behavior (1988)
  6. Yellow Dog Party (1991)
  7. The Portland Laugher (1994)
  8. The Vanishing Smile (1995)
  9. The Million-Dollar Tattoo (1996)
  10. Deception Pass (1997)
  11. Catfish Cafe (1998)
  12. Cape Disappointment (2009)
  13. Monica’s Sister (2013)
  14. Two Miles of Darkness (2015)
  15. Jackson Street (2017)

Mac Fontana Books In Order

  1. Black Hearts and Slow Dancing (1988)
  2. Help Wanted: Orphans Preferred (1990)
  3. Morons and Madmen (1993)
  4. Going Crazy in Public (1996)
  5. The Dead Horse Paint Company (1996)


  1. Fill the World with Phantoms (1979)
  2. Vertical Burn (2002)
  3. Into the Inferno (2003)
  4. Pyro (2004)
  5. The Smoke Room (2005)
  6. Firetrap (2006)
  7. Primal Threat (2008)

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Mac Fontana Book Covers

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Earl W Emerson Books Overview

The Rainy City

‘Earl Emerson is one of the best of the new private eye writers.’ Chicago Sun TimesSomething made Melissa Nadisky flee her husband and their daughter. The note she left behind paints a picture of a woman haunted by a private hell. Now Thomas Black’s friend, Kathy Birchfield, wants him to find Melissa before she’s consumed by her secret, terrifying demons. Yet the straightforward missing persons case turns deadly when a killer starts silencing key witnesses in Black’s investigation. But there’s no turning back especially after the sometimes psychic Kathy tells him about her terrifying vision: a weeping little girl and a pit full of human bones…
.’Emerson is right up there with the best in the genre when it comes to bringing the elements of mystery to a rolling boil.’ Mostly Murder

Poverty Bay

‘Emerson is at the top of his game, and very few are better.’ Mostly MurderAs sole heir to his beloved granddaddy’s fortune, noble and naive Lance Tyner wants to use the money for the good of mankind. But some not so good specimens of the species including Lance’s conniving father, sleazy brother, and spoiled sister have much more selfish plans in mind. Now Lance has vanished. And P.I. Thomas Black must follow his trail into the sad and scary places where the dregs of humanity struggle to stay alive and where men like Lance and Black too often end up dead…
.’Emerson is carving his own special niche among a new generation of private eye writers.’ The Washington Post Book World

Nervous Laughter

‘Destined to rank among the best of the new generation of American private eye writers.’
Chicago Sun Times

Thomas Black hits P.I. pay dirt when he shadows a alleged philanderer to a tryst. But instead of two illicit lovers, he finds two bodies, an apparent murder suicide. The dead man’s grieving widow doesn’t believe her late husband pulled the trigger on his lover or himself.

Everyone including Black’s own sexy client seems to be hiding something. Maybe the name of the murdered man’s equally dead girlfriend, Bea Hindenburg, should have warned Black that this case was destined to crash and burn…

‘Emerson’s sense of creating lean plot and dialogue improves with each book.’
The Seattle Times

Fat Tuesday

When Fred Pugsley receives a dead rattlesnake in the mail, ex Seattle cop Thomas Black and his friend, lawyer Kathy Birchfield, are called in to investigate. But when they get there, Fred is dead, and his stunned wife sits huddled in the kitchen, clutching a tool used on racing bicycles the murder weapon. But the wife says she’s innocent, and suddenly there are plenty of other suspects. Just as Seattle stages its own Mardi Gras, Black is getting ready for a wild blow out of his own…

Deviant Behavior

When seventeen year old Todd Steeb has been missing for eight days, his wealthy parents hire Thomas Black to investigate. Faith Steeb is worried by her son’s obsession with suicide, though her husband dismisses it as youthful ‘deviance.’ Aided by his lawyer friend Kathy Birchfield, Black finds forgotten crime, buried treasure, possible murder, and enough ‘deviant’ behavior to blow Seattle off the map. From the Paperback edition.

Yellow Dog Party

Four successful businessmen want Thomas Black to track down the four women they’ve had secret crushes on for years and set up ‘dream dates’ with them. But Black, on the trail of the first dreamgirl, finds a woman battered into a coma instead. And then a double murder and the disappearance of another dreamgirl make Black realize how quickly dreams can turn into deadly nightmares…

The Portland Laugher

‘Emerson is carving his own special niche among a new generation of private eye writers…
. He writes lean, muscular prose to carry his fast moving action.’ The Washington Post Book WorldA curious couple offers Seattle private eye Thomas Black a strange proposal: play guardian angel to an unlikely stalking victim named Billy Battle, a brooding ex con with a psychotic history of unproven murder and mayhem. Hot on Billy’s trail is the man who helped send him up the river, and who just may want Billy dead for his own peace of mind. It’s a case that puts Black in the hospital partially paralyzed, plagued with memory loss and a monstrous sense of doom. And when menacing phone calls from a maniacally laughing stranger begin to haunt Black, he can’t help but wonder if the last, wicked laugh will be on him. ‘EMERSON’S BIGGEST, DARKEST NOVEL YET, a clangorous three alarmer that’ll leave you wound tighter than Billy Battle…
Hair raising.’ Kirkus Reviews’Earl Emerson writes with the richness and grace of a poet. This guy is good, and The Portland Laugher is the best book yet in the Thomas Black series!’ Robert Crais

The Vanishing Smile

‘EMERSON AGAIN DELIVERS THE GOODS, dishing out humor, suspense, and heart pounding action in heaping portions.’ BooklistMarian Wright is an amateur sleuth in the employ of two attractive young women eager to catch up with their no account ex lovers. But when Marian’s investigation ends abruptly and ferociously, Seattle private eye Thomas Black has a new case on his hands. Picking up the pieces of Marian Wright’s search for her clients’ rogue boyfriends, Thomas encounters a network of people from ex cons and prostitutes to other private investigators all webbed together by a chilling common thread. It’s a discovery that speaks volumes about the zealousness of Marian’s manhunt, and even suggests a monstrous reason for her sudden death. Yet equally monstrous is an unknown, baseball bat wielding assailant who seems hell bent on making sure Thomas Black’s investigation stays closed…
.’Emerson adds another smoothly written book to his popular series.’ The Seattle Times’GRITTY.’ Publishers Weekly

The Million-Dollar Tattoo

Seattle P.I. Thomas Black is sound asleep when he gets a panicked call from ‘Snake,’ a fellow gumshoe, with a case that’s one for The X Files. There’s an exotic looking woman dead in Snake’s bed. He’s not sure how she died, but he’s certain about where she came from outer space. Even a murder rap and the specter of prison can’t make Snake change his story. Thomas Black’s job? To rescue the increasingly paranoid Snake and discover if indeed ‘the truth is out there.’ But what Black finds will prove to be more ‘out there’ than he could ever imagine…

Deception Pass

‘Mother Teresa with a bankroll’ is P.I. Thomas Black’s first impression of Lainie Smith. Her rise from rags to riches and her bottomless generosity on behalf of Seattle’s children are something out of a Frank Capra movie. But that sentimental as*sessment is obliterated as Black investigates Lainie’s hidden past and a purportively tranquil spot called Deception Pass. As a rebellious teen, Lainie hooked up with a drifter named Charlie and she may have been an eyewitness to murder in the shadow of cliff walled Deception Pass, where the water runs river swift and turbulent. When justice, and the executioner, finally caught up with Charlie, Lainie was long gone. But somebody who knows the truth the whole truth about Lainie’s dark history is blackmailing her. Lainie won’t tell Thomas Black why she’s being blackmailed, only that her tormentor ‘knows things he couldn’t possibly know.’ Just how far will Black’s saint like client go to bury her past forever?For a one way passage to nonstop suspense, travel no farther than Deception Pass.

Catfish Cafe

Everyone who knew Balinda could have told Seattle private eye Thomas Black that the ex choir girl thumbed a ride with the devil a long time ago. Still, no one expected the pretty young woman to vanish off the face of the earth leaving in her wake an empty purse, a wrecked car, and a dead Eagle Scout in the backseat. What’s more, Balinda never even gave notice at her last job at a backwater diner where a freezer might keep more than crawdads on ice. When Balinda’s driver is identified, Thomas Black suspects big trouble. For it turns out that the victim was a fifth grade Tacoma schoolteacher with an impeccable reputation. But tracking the past of that white bread teacher is increasingly hazardous. Especially when it leads Thomas back to that modest little eat in/take out…
called Catfish Caf .

Cape Disappointment

A man and a woman, their coastal getaway interrupted, say goodbye on an isolated landing strip in Washington State. She then calls from the air. And he watches from the base of a lighthouse as the plane, with eleven people on board, plummets into the steely gray sea. The man remembering this tragic event is in a hospital room, the victim of a bombing weeks after the crash. In this extraordinary thriller by award winning author Earl Emerson, Seattle private eye Thomas Black returns after more than a decade and he must put together the shattered fragments of his life. His life and his country depend on it. Cape DisappointmentThe bomb that nearly killed Thomas Black went off in a school gymnasium after a Senate candidate had spoken. Amid the carnage, Black nearly bled to death. But he survives and enters a tunnel of dreams and hallucinations, oblivion and unconnected memories. People come and go from his hospital room. A beautiful woman kisses him. A madman’s rant echoes in his mind. Then, when Black widower, hero, and private investigator is released from the hospital, he faces the twin tragedies that have devastated his life, and the fact that his lovely wife Kathy is really gone for good. Or is she? Thomas believes he sees Kathy as a passenger in a passing truck. Her cell phone, which should be on the bottom of the sea, calls his in the middle of the night. And the explanations investigators give for the plane crash just don t make sense. Now, step by step, Black is beginning to understand what a paranoid, alcoholic former CIA hit man has been trying to tell him about the plane crash, about the death of a reporter s husband, about suspicious things that nobody ever gets around to questioning. Suddenly, Black is on the run, chased by mysterious people, caught in a web of personal and political lies and something even worse: a plot that is killing everyone it touches. Brilliantly told and emotionally galvanizing, Cape Disappointment is a political thriller and a gut wrenching tale of conspiracies the kind that are too crazy to believe and too deadly to ignore.

Black Hearts and Slow Dancing

Fire Chief Mac Fontana has agreed to temporarily assume the role of acting Deputy Sheriff of Staircase, Washington. But his investigation into the torture slaying of a lone wolf Seattle firefighter is dragging him into a deadly inferno of lies, corruption and murder that could reduce Mac’s carefully protected world to smoldering embers.

Going Crazy in Public

Staircase, Washington, fire chief Mac Fontana struggles to get past his wife’s death, as a serial arsonist hits town, Staircase residents call for action, and members of the media start poking into Mac’s private life. By the author of Morons and Madmen.

The Dead Horse Paint Company

Fire Chief Mac Fontana finds himself digging deep into his memory of a devastating conflagration that leaves nine firefighters dead and their helpless compatriots stunned and scarred for life. It is the fire at The Dead Horse Paint Company, a huge old barn of a store with a stuffed horse in the window. The fire takes a tragic toll, but not before an out of control team commits a series of grave missteps and ends up covering its tracks. Now, years later, the horror of the fire comes roaring back to haunt the Seattle firefighting community. Simultaneous hardcover release from William Morrow. June publication date. 2 cassettes.

Vertical Burn

Earl Emerson is the poet laureate of men and women who make their living where the heat is, bringing to life the terror of a burning building and the moments of solitude, solace, and camaraderie that happen in between. Now, Emerson has written a mesmerizing novel of suspense about a man who goes into a fire as a hero and a friend, and comes out as an outcast and a target. Vertical BurnTwenty eight paces. John Finney counted his steps as he fought his way for help from inside a Seattle warehouse burning on Leary Way. And when he reached his rescuers, he told them where his partner lay waiting twenty eight paces away. But they didn t reach Finney’s partner until the building had cooled. Now, six months after that tragic day, no one remembers Finney giving the directions that pinpointed his partner s position. No one can remember anything about Finney except that he left his friend to die. For Finney, the son of a fire chief, losing his reputation and the trust of his fellow firefighters is a bitter blow. But Finney doesn t believe the fire was an accident. And he doesn t believe the campaign against him is one either. Trying to reconstruct the events at Leary Way, Finney uncovers suspicious actions by men at the scene. With only one person on his side a female firefighter who is herself an outcast in the department Finney begins to piece together an astounding conspiracy that will turn friends into suspects, good men into conspirators, and every man inside the department into a potentially deadly enemy. And the most horrific fire is yet to burn. From the terrifying darkness of a smoke engulfed room to the politics that plays out behind closed doors, Earl Emerson captures with passion and pathos the life and times of the men and women dedicated to the service. In Vertical Burn he fuses his feeling for real life heroes with a white hot tale of suspense and betrayal the kind of betrayal that burns bodies, burns a city, and burns a soul forever.

Into the Inferno

Earl Emerson, bestselling author of Vertical Burn, turns up the heat with this dynamic, fact based depiction of the world of firefighting. In a frantic race against time, one man must unlock the secret to his own potential demise and that of his entire department as they venture…
Into the InfernoIn the freezing heart of the Pacific Northwest winter, a group of firefighters from North Bend Fire and Rescue responds to a freeway accident. Two trucks have collided on the icy pavement. One of the trucks was transporting livestock; the other carried within its cargo an unmarked, innocuous looking container. Now the highway is chaos with irate drivers, volunteer fire crews, and hundreds of escaped chickens. The trucks are cleared, the highway reopens, and another day ends. But the repercussions of the crash are enormous. For six months later, the firefighters who were at the scene begin to mysteriously succumb to unexplained accidents and ailments. Jim Swope wakes up with the first, strange symptom a symptom of an unknown disease that renders its victims brain dead within a week. Now he has only seven days to determine how he and his fellow firefighters have been poisoned and to discover an antidote…
if one exists. If he doesn t, these will be the last seven days of his life. In a red hot pursuit to the end, Earl Emerson puts real life heroes up against seemingly insurmountable odds. Intense in the third degree, Into the Inferno is a brilliant melding of fact and thriller. Prepare yourself for the sweltering heat of wickedly good suspense.


In his pulse pounding thrillers, Earl Emerson takes readers into the heart of the world’s most dangerous profession, where the next alarm might bring sudden death. Based on stunning, actual events in the author s life, this electrifying new novel is a frightening duel between a Seattle firefighter and a man who wants to burn him down…

To a firefighter, there s nothing worse than a nuisance arsonist. His multiple fires keep a station up at night, running in circles, and more vulnerable at the next real call. And in Seattle, Lt. Paul Wollf of the Station Six s ladder truck hates a pyro more than most. Two decades before, an arsonist s fire killed Wolff s firefighter father, sending his mother into a spiral of depression and triggering a chain of events that left his brother in jail for murder and Wollf alone, seething in anger and isolation.

Already disciplined for punching out a superior officer, Wollf is now taking a young female firefighter under his wing. Despite the stationhouse leers and jokes, Wollf is only doing what comes naturally, helping out an underdog and bucking the system. But soon he and Cindy Rideout find themselves in a fierce political battle inside the department, just as a pyro starts to turn Seattle into his private little hell.

With fires springing up across the city, Wollf begins to see a pattern. The fires being set are coming closer and closer to Station Six. And when a crucial piece of evidence turns up, Wollf suspects the unthinkable: this pyro has turned him into a fiery target.

In Paul Wollf, Earl Emerson has created a hero on the brink. For when the pyro s rampage puts Wollf in the public limelight, Wollf must choose between his burning rage and the chance to step back for once and see a shocking truth hidden beyond the heat.

The Smoke Room

From the terror of a lightless, smoke clogged building to the secrets kept by the men and women who trust their partners with their lives, Earl Emerson knows the world of firefighting like no other author and writes about it with passion and piercing honesty. In his remarkable new thriller, Emerson fuses together a gripping drama with unforgettable scenes of peril that, in this realm, can explode at any second. Jason Gun, a risk taking rookie firefighter who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, has found in his firehouse the family he never had as a child. Then, in one ill fated turn of events, it all begins to go wrong.A bizarre accident brings a thrill seeking woman into Engine Company 29 and into Jason’s life. Suddenly, his future on the job is at risk. Two fellow firefighters know that he missed a call because of some sexual heroics at the wrong time and place. Now, deeply in their debt, he will find out what kind of men his partners really are. When these two firefighters come upon a fortune in missing bearer bonds money found in a dead man s house Jason is forced to become an accessory to their crime. And when evidence of their greed, foolishness, and thievery begins to emerge, Jason is witness to an even darker deed. Suddenly, the twenty four year old, who only wanted to do the right thing, is trapped behind a wall of silence. Trying to undo his mistake, Jason moves further into the darkness, where a beautiful young woman might just be his emotional rescue or yet one more very wrong move. Unfortunately for Jason, the worst isn t behind him. Like a fire hit by wind, the killing has raged out of control. Capturing the thin line that separates a hero from a criminal, and an enemy from a friend, Earl Emerson s new novel is a gripping tale of a man s dangerous fall from grace and of his fierce battle for redemption. From the Hardcover edition.


No one writes with the power, authority, and poetry that Earl Emerson has demonstrated in his action packed novels about fire and the people who make their living fighting it. In Firetrap, Trey Brown is a man tormented by race, by family, and now by a political firestorm that has erupted because fourteen people died in an illegal Seattle nightclub…
and someone must take the fall. Captain Trey Brown is a black man in a Seattle fire department where the color of his skin keeps him largely on the outside looking in. As a child, Trey was adopted by a white family whose children were bred for wealth and power but now Trey simply does his job, rides his Harley, and lives in bitter solitude. Then the Z Club goes up in flames, killing more than a dozen people, all of them black, and the city’s African American community demands to know: Did these people die because of their skin color?Jamie Estevez, the beautiful, ambitious reporter who becomes Trey’s partner in the investigation, is everything Trey is not. Outgoing and gregarious, she tries to bring the lone wolf fireman back into the world. But as their relationship heats up, Trey is forced to relive a painful episode from his past, when he was accused of a horrible crime and shunned by his adoptive parents. Suddenly, two mysteries one of passion and family, the other of fire and murder are unraveling around Trey. But so is everything he has done to protect himself…
. Firetrap is vintage Earl Emerson: a gritty, emotionally charged novel set in a world of camaraderie and urban chaos, where one man has been a hero, a villain, and a victim and hasn t even faced the deadliest danger yet. From the Hardcover edition.

Primal Threat

On a late August day in the foothills of the Cascades, five bicyclists climb into the hot, dry air, the breeze of their movement cooling their overheated bodies, the stress of a workweek slipstreaming behind them. But another group has entered the park, too. They re in cars, for pleasure and for vengeance. In Earl Emerson’s gripping new novel, a grudge turns an idyllic setting into a terrifying landscape of men and nature at their most dangerous.

Zak Polanski doesn t do long term relationships, doesn t like rich people, and, after saving Nadine Newcastle from an accident scene, isn t ready to be loved back. When the improbable affair sours, Zak returns to his old ways. But Nadine s former boyfriend, William Potter III, can t let it go. Potter knows that Zak is one of five mountain bikers at an isolated camping ground at Panther Creek, and has come for a little payback.

What starts as a nasty prank soon escalates. Someone has a gun. Someone makes a move. And a spark ignites amid a volatile mix of anger and alcohol, pride and betrayal. Now, men and women cut off from their urban environment are making choices, choosing sides, facing one another s demons and their own. And when human hatred merges with nature s fury, the only goal is to get out alive.

A mesmerizing novel that weaves the story of a charged love affair with a drama of sheer survival, Primal Threat is a thriller delivered with the brawny, vivid, and lyrical style that makes Earl Emerson one of the most compelling storytellers of our time.

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