Morris Baker

Created by Josh Weiss

When MORRIS BAKER  first appeared, in 2022’s Beat the Devils, he wasn’t a private eye.

Or was he?

With alternate history novels, it’s hard to keep track, sometimes, as history is folded, bent and mutilated to fit the author’s vision.

In Beat the Devils (2022), set in a hellish version of the post-WWII United States gone terribly, horribly awry, the Red Scare is still chugging away, and former Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy is now president, ruling a country suffering under an iron grip; a country reeling being torn apart by vicious and barely‑concealed racism and anti‑Semitism and the barely-in-control Hueys, a secret police force dedicated to hunting down and stamping out—by any means necessary–the “Commies.”

Meanwhile, poor Morris is an alcoholic Holocaust survivor and LAPD homicide detective, assigned to cover the double murder of a once‑promising film director, John Huston, who’s fallen on hard times, and a hot-shot young reporter named Walter Cronkite. It’s a lose-lose case, and nobody really wants him to solve the case.

No wonder Morris drinks so much schnapps.

Not that his lot in life has improved much by the sequel, 2023’s Sunset Empire. McCarthy is still president, and the Korean War is still being fought (why stop when you’re having fun?), and America’s still a shit hole. The biggest difference?

Morris is now a P.I., having lost his both his job and hiss LAPD pension, still drinking and still struggling to keep it together.

And then a dame walks into his shabby office, with what could be a big case. Her name? Mrs. Kissinger.

Yeah, that Kissinger.

And so it goes. It’ll be interesting to see if the author, Josh Weiss, can keep this thing going, and just how far he’s willing to ride his alternate version of history. But so far he’s applied a consistently palpable and satisfying retro noir vibe to the proceedings, with plenty of intrigue, corruption, sex, murder, and conspiracy to go around, while the numerous parallels to our present—or at least what some hope our future will be–are as disturbing as they are numerous.

And frankly?



Jersey’s Josh Weiss was raised in “a proud Jewish home, he was instilled with an appreciation for his cultural heritage from a very young age, and grew up utterly fascinated with the convergence of Judaism and popular culture in film, television, comics, literature, and other media,” according to his bio on CrimeReads. A freelance entertainment journalist, his work has appeared in SYFY WIRE, The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, and Marvel Entertainment. He currently resides in Philadelphia with his wife, an adorable Cavapoo, and an extensive collection of T-shirts, movie posters and vinyl records, and, we’re assured, “a few books.”.


  • “Reading Josh Weiss’s debut novel feels like riding shotgun with a friend who’s driving expertly through a winter storm… Weiss creates palpable emotional depth, particularly for Baker, whose yearslong tactic of burying trauma has stopped working.”
    — The New York Times on Beat the Devils
  • “A thought-provoking dive into an alternative USA even weirder and wilder than our own. Weiss and his world-weary protagonist LAPD detective Morris Baker put the reader eerily at home in a twisted world of prejudice, privilege and murder, but amid the dark deeds there’s hope and humour and heart. A fun, intelligent and satisfying read.
    Ian R MacLeod on Beat the Devils
  • “Josh Weiss has announced himself as a bold new voice in the world of pulp noir fiction. One part Raymond Chandler, one part Philip Roth, a dash of Ben Hecht — and you’re about halfway there.”
    J.D. Lifshitz on Beat the Devils


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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