CLE Reads: Les Roberts' Whiskey Island

October’s CLE Read

A bit of a blog fail: We’re still in catch-up mode from Hurricane Sandy and one of the things that got pushed back was my October CLE Read originally scheduled for mid-week. Better late than never, though.

For my second CLE Read, I picked Les Roberts’ Whiskey Island, a book that brought together two passions of mine – mysteries and (of course!) Cleveland.

Starting with Murder She Wrote and Encyclopedia Brown, I was raised on a steady diet of mysteries since I was 5. My mom is an avid murder mystery fan and everyday after school I would watch crime procedurals with her. Years later, we still swap the latest mystery novels we’re reading.

So last year when I read my first Milan Jacovich mystery The Cleveland Creep, I couldn’t wait to share a Cleveland-written and -based murder mystery with her.

Whiskey Island, recently published through Gray and Co., is the next installment in Roberts’ Milan Jacovich series.

Jacovich is a blue-collar guy in a blue-collar city. After growing up in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, he attended Kent, served in Vietnam and became a Cleveland cop.

Now he’s a tough P.I. with a love of Strohl’s solving some of the more ghastly crimes committed in Roberts’ (semi-)fictional Cleveland.

While he often sees the grittiest sides of Cleveland, make no mistake – Jacovich loves his city. In Whiskey Island, Jacovich describes the best part about Cleveland:

My town is full of nice people. They are open, warm, sometimes funny – huge sports fans, great music lovers of both classical and rock, and dedicated supporters of art, theater and dance. They’re generous; even when times are tough, charities do well here. And Clevelanders love to eat; great new restaurants open here all the time.”

And in part that’s a reflection of the author’s own passion for Cleveland. Roberts came here after a 24-year career in Hollywood where he wrote for the Hollywood Squares, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

He was asked to create a lottery game show for Ohio, which ultimately became Cash Explosion Double Play and moved back in 1990 where he’s lived since – spreading his love for Cleveland in his mystery novels and other writings.

Les Roberts on the cover of his memoir

In Whiskey Island, Jacovich is tasked with finding out who is trying to kill Cleveland councilman Bert Loftus.

Loftus’ proclivity for food, call girls and bribes has put him at the center of an FBI investigation that’s set to bring down many city officials and invested individuals.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Although Roberts got his inspiration from recent scandals, the turns of Whiskey Island should keep you guessing on who’s going to ‘get it’ and who’s guilty.

I enjoy Roberts’ mystery novels because there is a classic PI sensibility to them – reminiscent of the crime novels that first hooked me.

And as usual, it was a treat to read the spot-on Cleveland cameos from downtown to the suburbs. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the city I don’t think the worldbuilding bogs the story down.

In Whiskey Island specifically, Roberts’ descriptions show why Jacovich would fight for Cleveland in the face of so much ugliness.

The addition of a partner for Jacovich also sets this apart from previous installments. With his age catching up with him, Milan brings on young vet Kevin “K.O.” O’Bannion.

Splitting the narrative between the two gives a more well-rounded perspective and made it more enjoyable to piece the puzzle together.

You can purchase Whiskey Island and other Les Roberts books online from Cleveland publisher Gray & Company. It can also be found at many of Northeast Ohio’s local bookstores:


This is the latest in my CLE Read series. Check out the first installment:

If you’ve read Whiskey Island or have a suggestion for a Cleveland book I should clue into, leave a comment or send me an email at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com.

I’ll be back later this month with Rust Belt Chic The Cleveland Anthology.

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  1. Check out his book “The Duke of Cleveland” at some point. That’s my favorite in the series. (Of course that might be because he slightly taps into the art world of Cleveland in that one) The Holly Hop was another pretty good one. Some of his mysteries get downright depressing though. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the books stocked at Native Cleveland and CLE clothing co. downtown as well.

  2. Pingback: CLE Reads: The Man from Primrose Lane by James Renner

  3. Hi Les, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your books. I got the first one for a birthday present from my daughter (Christine Sonnie Sears). I know that you know her husband Jon also. Thanks so much for turning me on to great reading. I really never sat down and read a book until now. They are so exciting. I love you Milan character. I’m reading Whiskey Island now. I think K.O. Is a perfect fit for Milan’s partner. Thanks again. Sincerely. Toni Esser

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