After a successful career as an international private investigator, Steven Gore "retired" to his home in Oakland and began writing books -- something tens of thousands of readers and a bunch of international crooks are very happy about.

Gore has five great books out with two impressive heroes: Graham Gage and Harlan Donnally. Here's what Grit Lit has said about Gage in the past: "Gripping. Relentless. Authentic. Takes the high stakes political thriller to a new level. The year's best."

In "Power Blind" (Harper, $9.99 softcover, 528 pages), Gage takes on a deadly political trio: a presidential candidate, a federal judge and Charlie Palmer--a specialist in burying the crimes of the political and financial elite. When Palmer is murdered, his wife's pleas for justice plunge Gage into a morass of murder, corporate cover-ups and money laundering that threaten our democracy.

Meanwhile, Gore's latest Donnally novel is, "A Criminal Defense" (St. Martin's Press, $9.99 softcover, 352 pages). And here's all you need to know about it: "What do you call a criminal defense attorney hanging by his neck? When he's Mark Hamlin, every cop in San Francisco calls it justice."

New York Times best-selling author Veronica Rossi, of Danville, writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction. At least those are the big words the publisher uses to describe her work. The series is targeted at young adults, but I loved it, which must mean I've achieved my last year's resolution to remain young at heart. Her trilogy may have been aimed at people younger than I am, but so was Harry Potter.

Start with the first book, "Under the Never Sky," progress to "Through the Ever Night" and promise yourself and your younger readers the gift of "Into the Still Blue" -- on sale Jan. 28, 2014. Published by HarperCollins, this exciting series features interwoven narratives from heroic male and female lead characters. It is incredibly original and most closely compares in feel, but not content, to "Hunger Games." Film rights have been optioned by Warner Bros. And the series has been published in 25 foreign markets.

San Francisco Bay Area writer Kirk Russell, of Berkeley, has eight books featuring two outstanding male leads. The John Marquez novels are well-researched eco-thrillers that delve into the underground world of abalone, bear gallbladder and paws, and sturgeon roe smugglers. These illegally "harvested" animal products are worth big bucks and come surrounded by dangerous, careful crooks. "Shell Games," "Night Game," "Dead Game" and "Redback" all deserve space on your reading list, as does the latest Marquez book, "Die-Off" (Severn House Publishers, $28.95, 256 pages)

In his Ben Raveneau series, Russell delivers crime novels with depth. I think he explains it best: "A thing I love about crime fiction is that you can take something morally ambiguous and put it in the background of a novel. ... You can never preach. No one ever wants to hear that, but you can write with things in the backdrop."

And maybe even more important is this belief of his: "The old adage is you write what you know, but maybe you write best what you care about."

Check out all three: "A Killing In China Basin," "Counterfeit Road," and "One Through the Heart."

And now, another Northern California legend, John Lescroart, of Davis. First, let's get this part right: His name is pronounced "less-kwah." His books are printed in 16 languages and more than 75 countries, and with famous heroes and heroines such as defense attorney Dismas Hardy, Wyatt Hunt and Gina Roake, it isn't hard to imagine why. There are 14 books in the Dismas Hardy line. The latest is "The Ophelia Cut" (Atria Books, $26.99, 432 pages). Brittany McGuire, Hardy's niece, is raped by a recent ex. Within 24 hours, the ex is dead, and the leading suspect is Brittany's father and Dismas' friend, Moses McGuire. Evidence piles up. Dismas focuses on planting doubt in the minds of the jury. A solution appears. Staggering in both implications and simplicity, it might save them all. But the cost might be too high.

If you are looking for real life, flesh-and-blood characters, complex ethical and moral issues, great storytelling, superb plotting and the ultimate in suspense, check out Lescroart or any of our other great local authors.

Read past columns by Myles Knapp at www.grit-lit.com. Contact him using the site's Contact Me tab.