Saturday, 27 May 2017

JOE R. LANSDALE - DEAD AIM (2013)

Synopsis/blurb….

Dead Aim marks the always welcome return of Joe R. Lansdale’s most enduring fictional creations: Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. The result is a spare, beautifully crafted novella in which Lansdale’s unique voice and inimitable narrative gifts are on full—and generous—display.

The story begins simply enough when the two agree to provide protection for a woman harassed by her violent, soon-to-be-ex husband. But, as readers of this series will already know, events in the lives of Hap and Leonard rarely stay simple for long. When a protracted stakeout ends in a lethal shooting and a pair of moldering corpses turn up in an otherwise deserted trailer, the nature of this “routine” assignment changes dramatically. The ensuing investigation unearths a complex web of lies, duplicity, and hidden agendas that leads from an upscale Texas law firm to the world of organized crime, culminating in the kind of explosive, anything-can-happen confrontation that only Joe Lansdale could create. Violent, profane, and often raucously funny, Dead Aim is a tautly written, hugely entertaining thriller and a triumph of the storyteller’s art.

Another shortish read in January and a bit of a surprise insofar as my inner OCD was temporarily suppressed and I read this one out of series order. I wanted something short and sharp and pretty much guaranteed to entertain and Lansdale can generally be relied upon for that.

Dead Aim has our intrepid duo of Hap and Leonard - one black, one white, one gay and one straight - hired to protect Sharon Devon - her 10ft tall ex-bear of an angry husband, Henry has been threatening her. Needless to say all is not as its seems and before long Henry is dead and one of our boys is fancied for the crime.

Lawyers, gambling, life insurance, debts, marital breakdown, a wild step-child, Dixie Mafia, stakeouts, a dead ex-husband, a deader ex-boyfriend, unrequited love (maybe), a lot of smoke-blowing deceit with half-truths and untruths and a fat pile of money at stake.

Great banter between our two friends - three if you count in Hap's live-in girlfriend Brett. A dash of social commentary - countering the gay effeminate stereotype, plenty of laughs, plenty of action and a mean finale.  

4 from 5 and a kick up my own ass to get back to some of the novels in the series. I don't think I've read one since I started the blog in 2012! Tooooo long.

Joe R. Lansdale has his website here.

Read in January, 2017
Published - 2013
Page count - 104
Source - owned copy
Format - Kindle




Friday, 26 May 2017

DAVID PUTNAM - THE VANQUISHED (2017)


Synopsis/blurb….

"Bruno Johnson believes so passionately in justice that he'll lie, cheat, and steal to achieve it - and he'll pulverize anybody who gets in his way." - Booklist

Former cop and ex-con Bruno Johnson and his wife Marie, living in their safe haven in Costa Rica with the children they illegally rescued from certain death, find a message from their outlaw motorcycle gang enemies written on the back of one of their beloved children. The motorcycle gang, Sons of Satan, out for revenge, will stop at nothing to lure the now furious Bruno back into their web. Bruno and Marie, forced to return to Southern California, battle additional demons in the form of an ex-spouse's entanglements.

The FBI, watching the Sons of Satan, recognizes Bruno's unique skills and ties. They recruit him to recover a stolen military drone armed with Hellfire missiles, while Bruno struggles to keep pregnant Marie out of the crossfire. Ultimately, Bruno's inability to ignore a woman in peril yields unspeakable consequences.

A fourth reading outing for me with Dave Putnam and Bruno Johnson and if I’m being totally honest, probably my least favourite of the bunch. Still an enjoyable read with lots of positives, but I think my reading association with the main character might be drawing to an end.

Bruno, Marie and their extended family – the kids they rescued a few years ago - are making a life for themselves down in Costa Rica – still personas non grata and outlaws as far as the US authorities are concerned. Bruno and Marie get sucked back yet again to the States, imperilling their freedom in order to resolve some differences with biker gang – The Sons of Satan – a nemesis from previous books and an ongoing thorn in their collective sides.

Back in the US, Bruno has an unwelcome reconnection with an old flame, Sonja from his days on the force many years ago. His former colleague and lover gets in touch out of the blue and causes a slight blip in spousal relationships between Marie and Bruno. Marie’s a bit of a jealous type.

Sonja is now involved with another biker gang – The Visigoths and needs some help from Bruno. One thing leads to another, then another and before too long Bruno is caught up in problems far removed from those he thought he was returning to the States to resolve.

Bikers, law enforcement, family, pregnancy, old flames, children, criminality, violence, a highway altercation with deadly consequences, TV footage, more bikers, a fatality, stolen weapons and a lot more besides.

I like Bruno as a character, I like his decency, his ability to look after himself, the care he has for his children and Sonia and his father, his striving to do the right thing and not run from a confrontation or a difficult choice. He does seem to be a shit-magnet though, which I suppose makes him such an interesting character to read about.

I felt a sense of deja-vous here, with Bruno returning to fight his battles back in the US – the third book in a row that this has happened after his involuntary exile to Costa Rica. It was one trip too many in my eyes and I kind of wished he could have something to sort out on his own patch now.

The plot if I’m being uber-critical did seem to rely on a bit of suspension of disbelief and made use of a couple of unlikely coincidences to move things along (in my opinion anyway).

I did like large portions of the book, especially the early narrative where Bruno and Sonja work together and their shared experiences and developing relationship, before it all fractured. I enjoy reading about Bruno when he spends time with his kids and with Marie. I like the banter and the conversations and their obvious affection for each other. Similarly, there are some well-written confrontations and action scenes – something Putnam excels at.

A fast read and a bit of a page-turner and while reading I was fully involved in finding out how the latest scrape would resolve itself, but a few niggles.

Overall score 3 from 5 (originally a 4 - something which in hindsight seems a tad high)     

David Putnam has his website here. His earlier books – all enjoyed are  The DisposablesThe Replacements,  and The Squandered

Read in April, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 314
Source - copy received from author
Format - trade paperback


Thursday, 25 May 2017

CHARLES BUKOWSKI - SOUTH OF NO NORTH (1975)


Synopsis/blurb.....

South of No North contains some of Bukowski's best work. Among the short stories collected in the book are Love for $17.50, about a man named Robert whose infatuation with a mannequin in a junk shop leads him first to buy it, then make love to it, and then eventually fall in love with "her," much to the consternation of his real-life girlfriend; Maja Thurup, about a South American tribesman with an enormous penis who is brought to Los Angeles by the woman anthropologist who has "discovered" him and become his lover; and The Devil is Hot, about an encounter with Old Nick at an amusement pier in Santa Monica, where Scratch himself is caged and on display, fed only peanut butter and dogfood, exploited by a cynical carnie.

The collection also features two of Bukowski's finest and most famous short stories: All the Assholes in the World Plus Mine, an autobiographical rumination on the treatment of his hemorrhoids, and Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live With Beasts. (The latter story originally was published as a chapbook of 500 copies by Bensenville Mimeo Press in 1965.)

The short stories collected in the volume are evocative of Bukowski at his best, when he was one of the premier short story writers still at the top of his talent.

A collection of Bukowski short stories enjoyed back in January, though scratching my head now, I can only recall one of them. There's 27 in total!

Flicking back through, we're in usual Bukowski territory.......drink, loneliness, women, sex, more drink, horses, gambling, card games, drinking, sex, Vietnam, bodily functions, overdue rent, Henry Chinaski, boxing, Hemingway and more.

Not what I want to read all the time, but every now and again, its good to reacquaint myself with his work - to read of the ordinary, the mundane, the down-but-not-quite-out types, the unambitious where the primary concern is for the next drink or sexual encounter.

From Guts...

Like anybody can tell you, I am not a very nice man. I don't know the word. I have always admired the villain, the outlaw, the son of a bitch. I don't like the clean-shaven boy with the necktie and the good job. I like desperate men, men with broken teeth and broken minds and broken ways. They interest me. They are full of surprises and explosions. I also like vile women, drunk cursing bitches with loose stockings and sloppy mascara faces. I'm more interested in perverts than saints. I can relax with bums because I am a bum. I don't like laws, morals, religions, rules. I don't like to be shaped by society. 

Not my most enjoyable encounter with his work, that would still be Post Office, though it was years ago that I read it, but I'm still glad I read this collection.

Bukowski passed in 1994.

3 from 5

Read in January, 2017
Published - 1975
Page count - 192
Source - purchased copy
Format - trade paperback

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

JO NESBO - BLOOD ON SNOW (2015)


Synopsis/blurb...

From the internationally acclaimed author of the Harry Hole novels - a fast, tight, darkly lyrical stand-alone novel that has at its center the perfectly sympathetic antihero: an Oslo contract killer who draws us into an unexpected meditation on death and love. 

This is the story of Olav: an extremely talented "fixer" for one of Oslo's most powerful crime bosses. But Olav is also an unusually complicated fixer. He has a capacity for love that is as far-reaching as is his gift for murder. He is our straightforward, calm-in-the-face-of-crisis narrator with a storyteller's hypnotic knack for fantasy. He has an "innate talent for subordination" but running through his veins is a "virus" born of the power over life and death. And while his latest job puts him at the pinnacle of his trade, it may be mutating into his greatest mistake. . . .

A few thoughts on a book I read back in January.........

Our main character is a hit man and I do like my hit man novels - tick one

Nesbo keeps it short and sweet - 188 pages including the first chapter of the sequel Midnight Sun - tick two

Setting - Oslo in the Winter...
The snow was dancing like cotton wool in the light of the street lamps. - tick three

Fine descriptive writing - see above - tick four

Fine descriptive writing that doesn't interfere with the pace of the story - tick five

An intriguing plot - our hit man has some decision-making to do - defy the boss and there's no turning back - tick five

As Blackadder once said - "more twists and turns than a twisty-turny thing" - well maybe not that many, but enough to keep this reader on his toes - tick six

Finale - a bit of a dream-like sequence and perhaps a touch of ambiguity over the outcome, or maybe I'm over-thinking things - I prefer a bit of finality if I'm honest. Perhaps an outing with Midnight Sun would set me straight. - cross one

Overall enjoyable and the best Nesbo I've read yet.

4 from 5

Headhunters and The Bat have been read before. Most of the Harry Hole series waits on the pile for me.

Mr Nesbo probably doesn't need any more new readers, but if you're interested his website is here.

Read in January, 2017
Published  - 2015
Page count - 188
Source - owned purchased copy
Format - second hand paperback










Tuesday, 23 May 2017

FRANK WESTWORTH - THIRD PERSON (2014)


Synopsis/blurb.......

A target is being stalked through rain-soaked city streets. Someone is seeking JJ Stoner, independent operative, covert investigator and occasional contract killer. Caution is advised: with Stoner you often get more than you bargain for and this is Ireland, not so very long after the Good Friday agreement. The cease-fires are holding firm, so far, but someone wants to put a cat among the peace process pigeons…

THIRD PERSON, a short story, features characters from the JJ Stoner / Killing Sisters series. 
The first full-length book in that series, ‘A Last Act of Charity’, is available in paperback and ebook formats. 
As well as a complete, stand-alone story, THIRD PERSON includes an excerpt from ‘A Last Act of Charity’ and behind-the-scenes bonus material, ‘It Begins In The Middle.’

Please note that THIRD PERSON is intended for an adult audience and contains explicit scenes of a sexual and/or violent nature. 

Ha, my third time with one of Mr Westworth's Stoner short stories and another 40 pages of fun and philosophy along with copious helpings of kiss-ass violence.

A story concerning the North of Ireland and an effort to involve Stoner in a high profile assassination. He kills without breaking too much of a sweat, but does he want the job?

Pithy observations, a bit of banter between Stoner and his companion - Bernadette, a street fight, a bit of a drinking session and a meeting at an isolated locale in the north. A messy outcome.

Lots to like as usual.

4 from 5

Unlike me, but I've jumped around with these short offerings reading out of order. Oh well - it's not like the world stopped spinning on it's axis because of it.

First Contract and Fifth Columnist have been enjoyed. Two Wrongs and Four Cornered await, oh and the longer stuff.

Frank Westworth has his website here. Catch him on Facebook - here.

Read in February, 2017
Published - 2014
Page count - 40
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle








Monday, 22 May 2017

T. R. PEARSON - EAST JESUS SOUTH (2014)


Synopsis/blurb......

Meet Buck Aldred, a former big-city homicide detective who has opted for a quieter and simpler life in the Virginia Blue Ridge. That was the plan anyway. When Buck noses around in an old missing persons case by way of returning a favor to a neighbor, he unearths more corruption and criminal mischief than he ever suspected the rugged uplands could hide. A departure for T.R. Pearson, East Jesus South is not a comedy. It’s a creepy, unsettling look at the rot beneath the honeyed, 'Aw Shucks' veneer of the American South.

Hard to do this book justice in a few sentences, but I'll try.

Setting - backwoods Virginia and a tale told in three alternating viewpoints. Buck - a retired detective earning his corn now mainly chasing car repossessions or following up on matrimonial discord; P. J. - a young reporter trying to carve out a career for herself and Buddy - the creep and villain of our tale.

Buck after a seemingly chance encounter with Mickey Dunbar, gets persuaded to look into the disappearance of Mickey's daughter Kiki, many years previously.  The case is cold. After reviewing the original investigation, re-interviewing witnesses and the cop who conducted the initial investigation, it’s apparent it never rated any higher than tepid at best, even in the days immediately after Kiki vanished. Buck tells Mickey he’s wasting his time and money, but Mickey won’t let it drop.

P. J. our reporter, gets wind of Buck’s enquiries and has a few revelations for him – namely that other young women have gone missing and she feels there’s a possible link. True - false? We'll find out eventually.

Our third voice, places us inside Buddy’s head – and it’s not a pleasant place to be.     

Pearson skilfully weaves the three narratives together creating a fantastic story - a superb mystery, populated with credible, memorable characters, not just the leads – Del, the short-order cook at the diner and Calvin the tire guy, just two for example – have a depth to them even though they are only encountered fleetingly.      

Impressive, dark and believable, a great sense of place, with some lovely writing and not short of a touch of humour in places ….

“What do you do, Buck?” Mickey wanted to know.
I said like always, “This and that.”
“Which one did Del get -- this or that?”
“Repo job.”  Toot brought our coffee.  “I helped the tow guy find him.”
“You a cop or something?”
“Used to be.”
“Quit?”
“Retired. Got shot.” 
“Sounds exciting.”
It did sound exciting.  It hadn’t been though. Me and my partner had stopped in at Grey’s Papaya for a couple of hotdogs.  The one in the Village that attracts chiefly hipsters, cabbies, and nasty vagrants.  A homeless guy had come in to plague us while we were trying to eat.
We’d been newly assigned together and were only in our second week.  My partner’s name was Rinzo, and he was fat and lazy and stayed down in his back.  When the homeless guy asked him for a dollar, Rinzo tried to shove him but missed. He lost his balance and lurched and stumbled, bounced his Sig out of his holster. It discharged when it hit the floor and put a round straight in my ass.

Not least a little sad and thoughtful either, as the impossible happens and Buck and P. J. give us answers to Kiki’s fate.

My first time with T. R. Pearson but definitely not my last.

4.5 from 5

T. R. Pearson has published about 15 or 16 novels, as well as a few under the pseudonym Rick Gavin.

He has a Goodreads page with blog here.

Read in April, 2017
Published - 2014
Page count - 300
Source - owned copy
Format - Kindle

Sunday, 21 May 2017

A. P. BATEMAN - THE TOWN (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.......

Amazon #1 Bestseller

Rob Stone is taking time out to climb in the mountains of Oregon. Taking a break, drinking coffee in a diner in a small mountain town he watches a helpless man humiliated. Stepping in to help, he sparks a confrontation. Within an hour somebody tries to kill him. 

A message has been sent, but Stone will not be pushed. As he starts to investigate what some people in the town do not want uncovered, the truth becomes unthinkable. Cruelty on a scale unimaginable, Stone is determined to shut it down and reclaim the town for its people.

Outnumbered, hunted through the dense forest and mountain terrain, his enemy are unaware that they haven’t gained the advantage. They have merely released him into his element.

Murder, abduction, betrayal… 

Sometimes you can’t see the woods for the trees

Another author that prior to taking a punt on this book I knew nothing about. I liked the premise of the book and not being risk averse in my reading I thought I would give it a go.

Without being the best book ever and exercising a slight suspension of disbelief at the final conclusion and in truth with a bit of a credibility stretch regarding the seeming indestructibility of our main man, Rob Stone - I really enjoyed it.

A lot of the Amazon reviews for this compare Stone to Lee Child's Jack Reacher and the thought did occur to me as well during my reading so there must be some nugget of truth there. I was also reminded of David Morrell's John Rambo - Stone is a don't push me, I'll push you back twice as hard type of guy and at the moment of reading this was the perfect book for me.

Plenty of action, with Stone a lone wolf type, trying to uncover the dark secrets that this isolated town in Oregon is harbouring. I liked Stone - he kicks ass, he's resilient, he's capable, he's on the side of the little people and he kicks more ass.

Fairly decent plot, again a bit of a leap for me when the reveal came as to who was doing what and why. Fast-paced with a decent setting and some interesting secondary characters within our town's populace. In particular the waitress in the diner-cum-bar and the lady running the hotel - names escapes me.

There's plenty of confrontational scenes with dialogue - talk before we fight - that add a touch of dark humour to our tale. A few opportunities for a bit of romance occur, but Stone only has his eyes on one prize - reclaiming the town from the bullies.

I've read better, I've read a helluva lot worse - right book right time.

4 from 5

A. P Bateman has six published (self?) novels so far in two series. There are three in his Rob Stone series of which The Town is the second and he has three in his Alex King series about an M16 agent. I would definitely like to read more in the future from this author.

His website is here. He's on Facebook here. Twitter@BatemanAP123

Read in May, 2017
Published  - 2016
Page count - 297
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF file