The novel 'Ranchero' by Rick Gavin's got all the makings of a pulp crime novel.

Nick Reid is your "detective" but in new, modern form. Per the genre, he's down on his luck, but he's not a private eye. Instead, he's working as a repo man. The book opens with Nick getting his head bashed in by a fireplace shovel.

It's his flaws that make Rick likable -- He's part Robin Hood, part self-governing lawman who starts his day trying to get payment for a rented TV but winds up going after one of the biggest meth dealers in the region - and a bad region at that. "When people toss off how the Delta is damned, they're just talking shorthand. The Delta's less a place than a boot on your neck. The Delta keeps you down."

Yeah, that kind of place.

He doesn't NEED to go after the bad guys, but he feels a compulsion to do so without killing anyone. He's a repo man with a heart of gold.

He's also surrounded by a cast of florid characters, like Desmond, his Sonic-loving 300+ pound sidekick whose ex wife took the Escalade, so he drives a POS Geo - with the driver's seat removed so he can drive from the back seat. Then there's Pearl, his landlord who keeps trying to fob off her dead husband's things on Nick, which is how he ends up with the Ranchero in the title (it's a car with a flat bead, like an El Camino), and a handful of Dubois boys - a bunch of bumbleheads who keep joining Nick's crew to go after bigger and bigger targets.

While the bad guy gets his due (come on - we can't possibly be spoiling this for you), all the loose ends are not tied up here. The requisite sexy love interest only drops into the story a few times. Nick is still living above Pearl's garage and driving the ranchero, so expect a few more Nick and Desmond adventures.

Just with a better ride.

P.S. Gavin has one of the best author bios around: he "frames houses and hangs sheetrock," while not writing, apparently.

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