Life is good for Nick Kepler. The Cleveland-based private investigator gets free office space, secretarial help, and plenty of work from his former employers at an insurance company. It’s a sweet deal until a manager gives him a couple of referrals. One is to a life insurance underwriter desperate to save his job. It seems the holder of a two-million dollar policy had a heart attack, putting the underwriter in danger of the unemployment line. Kepler thinks he can mail this one in, since the claims manager is ready to pay. That same day, the wife of a powerful attorney wants to know if her husband is being indiscreet. She’s concerned about his political ambitions, which doesn’t sit well with Kepler. He doesn’t do political cases. He takes the case, though, since the client offers a larger-than-usual fee for his time. A simple cheating spouse case and a quick background check, right?
Wrong. In Northcoast Shakedown, Kepler finds himself in the middle of something much more complex and dangerous than he anticipated. The two cases become intertwined, with consequences reaching into local political circles, management at Kepler’s former company, and to the seedy underside of Cleveland.
Northcoast Shakedown will be published November, 2004. Please check the EVENTS schedule to catch James at a book signing.


“James Winter really delivers in this solid debut. Nick Kepler is a great addition to the private eye field — a truly likeable character doing his best to make things right. This is classic, hard-boiled stuff — it reminds me why I fell in love with private eye novels in the first place.”
– Steve Hamilton, author of North of Nowhere and Blood Is the Sky
“Finally, here’s a hardboiled that isn’t imitative, but which will entice and invite even those of us who don’t usually read this particular subgenre. The author’s voice is authoritative and the noirish story strikes just the right updated 50s note.”
– G. Miki Hayden, author of Writing the Mystery and Agatha and Anthony nomination, Macavity winner
“Jim Winter’s Nick Kepler walks the mean streets and the hallowed halls of Cleveland.
Winter does for the city’s dark side what Drew Carey did for the light side–he brings it to life. In Northcoast Shakedown, Jim Winter nails the insurance business, he nails
political shenanigans, and he nails the modern PI, complete with updated metaphors
and on-target dialogue.”
– Jack Bludis, author of The Deal Killer and The Big Switch
“All the ingredients of a classic noir, but fresh as a new corpse and utterly compelling.”
– Kevin Wignall, author of the forthcoming For the Dogs
“If you thought the P.I. genre was dead, think again. In unleashing Cleveland-based Nick Kepler upon the mystery scene with NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN, Jim Winter has not only staked his claim upon keeping the genre resurrected, but thriving. This is one protagonist who’ll get
better with each successive outing, and I’m already impatient for Kepler’s next case.”
-Sarah Weinman, fiction editor, SHOTS Magazine and editor of the book blog “Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind”
Jim Winter’s NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN is an exciting, action-packed tale. This guy knows his stuff.
-Bob Stevens, Derringer-nominated author and licensed private investigator

In NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN, freelance investigator Nick Kepler must untangle a twisted and violent web of conspiracy and murder involving denizens of greater Cleveland politicians, cops, executives, and thugs on both sides of the law, each with at least one ax to grind and interests to protect, bloodily if need be. In the classic hardboiled tradition of good guys are gray and bad guys are worse, SHAKEDOWN puts Kepler through his paces: separating truth from lies, fact from fiction, and nearly his head from his shoulders. The story moves swift and clean with strong sense of place, characters etched in acid, and sudden surprises that keep the pages turning. Like Cleveland, Kepler rocks.
–Rob Kantner, Author of the Ben Perkins series

If Jim Winter was a performer instead of a mystery writer, he’d be a lot like Springsteen, or Mellencamp, or maybe one of the great straight ahead jazz musicians. Go to his concert and you’d always know what to expect. Blue collar, no frills, a relentless, up-tempo pace, and unvarnished, honest lyrics. He’s going to give you your money’s worth, and he’ll deliver exactly what you hoped to find when you walked in the door.

Those who have read Winter’s Nick Kepler short stories know that Kepler is a tough, smart guy, a tenacious PI who specializes in insurance investigations, and a man who believes that moral justice trumps the legal process every time. Kepler bends rules, but not the ones he makes for himself. He’s a guy “from the neighborhood” who is loyal to his friends, faithful to the woman in his life, and more than willing to take a beating if that is the price of self respect.
Those who haven’t met Kepler can find a new best friend if they rush out and buy a copy of Winter’s excellent first novel, Northcoast Shakedown. It is first rate PI fiction, a story that makes the reader feel determined to punish whoever killed Sandy Lapinsky. It is also a book that hits a strong pace on page one and never lets up.

Winter’s writing places the reader in Cleveland and makes you glad you’re there. It will have you rooting for the Indians, drinking beer at The Sidebar, and enjoying the company of an interesting array of smart, sexy, fearless and sometimes dangerous women. Northcoast Shakedown is a midwestern novel, told in clear, clean, straightforward prose. It is unapologetically working class, and it is marvelously entertaining. It makes you want to cut out of work at three o’clock so you can hang out with Nick Kepler at the Sportsman’s Deli.

Do yourself a favor. Clear a space on the shelf where you place the “read everything this guy turns out” fiction in your house. You’ll want Jim Winter to be on that shelf.
— J. Michael Blue, author of Second Sinning, 3 Lady Blues + 12, and A Favor for Zodiac