Here in Cardinal Country, Mike Shannon is a household name. St. Louis' former third baseman-turned-hometown broadcaster has been one of the radio voices of the Redbirds since 1972, describing memorable baseball moments under the Arch with his trademark gravelly baritone.
But, Thompsonvile-based author Ray Mileur has recently introduced a new Mike Shannon to the Gateway City. And this Shannon's enemies are slightly more imposing than the Chicago Cubbies.
Mileur's version of the St. Louis protagonist is a hard-boiled private investigator in "The Gateway to Hell," the pilot in a series of detective novels. In the book, Shannon finds himself in the crosshairs of a number of "bad guys,” including the mafia, the Escobar cartel and corrupt cops, all within the backdrop of St. Louie.
"The police corruption case was actually inspired by events in New York City, including the theft of drugs from the famous French Connection case," said Mileur.
"In that case, over a three-year period, heroin and cocaine was checked out of the police evidence room five times and then eventually stolen and replaced with a flour cornstarch substance. A prime suspect, who was a police officer, was eventually murdered. The case is still open today."
Mileur is a seasoned veteran in law enforcement having retired from a career as a police chief and private investigator following his service in the U.S. Marine Corps. His detective agency was actually located in St. Peters, Mo. near St. Louis, which adds a layer of realism as well as regional interest to the book.
"Over the years, I spent a lot of time in the city," said Mileur. "The bars and restaurants in the book are very real. Some of them like Elsher's (on Laclede's Landing), are no longer there, though the old sign is still hanging on the building. In a small way, I'd like for the series to continue to promote Laclede's Landing and the city of St. Louis."
Mileur's foray into the world of fiction originated as a way to ad a checkmark to his "bucket list." At age 40, he enrolled in professional bull riding school, but after a few run-ins with angry bulls, the semi-retired Mileur thought a career would be both a safer and healthier career.
"I had the character in mind since I started writing short stories about age 13," said Mileur. "Anyone that has a background in writing has a book inside them."