Friday, 29 November 2013



In this wonderful bite-size slice of yuletide magic, the very future of Christmas is in doubt. It's Christmas Eve, but just at the moment when he should be putting on his red suit and checking his beard for snowy whiteness, Santa is sitting in his underwear, drinking hot chocolate and singing the blues. Fortunately, anyone who thinks that Christmas can no longer be left in the hands of little people in green outfits, is about to be proved wrong. With fabulous characters and madcap rhymes, 
SANTA'S CHRISTMAS EVE BLUES is set to become a seasonal favourite with young and old for generations to come.

SANTA'S CHRISTMAS EVE BLUES is a 5000-word short story.

"A cute little story with more than a disturbing truth about what Christmas has become." -- Not The Baseball Pitcher

Short story – so a short review!

This was another short read and something a bit topical for the time of year, even though I’m not yet in the festive spirit.  Lindsay waxes satirically on what Christmas has become – big business,  rampant commercialism and profit. Interesting enough and a decent way to spend the best part of an hour.

Douglas Lindsay
I would have to say Lindsay's writing talent is better suited to standard prose, as opposed to the song-writing skills employed here, but maybe his lyrics are intentionally bad. (You can hear him wailing away somewhere on his website, or at least you could last time I visited. Susan Boyle can sleep easy for now!)

I have read a few of his novels mainly from his humourous Barney Thomson, serial killing barber series. I will try and read something else by him in 2014 for my Scottish challenge.

3 from 5

Picked up as a freebie on Amazon a year or so ago.

Thursday, 28 November 2013



The shocking murder of a wounded veteran challenges the investigative skills of ex-chief Samuel Craddock.
Just before the outbreak of the Gulf War, two eighteen-year-old football stars and best friends from Jarrett Creek, Texas, signed up for the army. But Woody Patterson was rejected and stayed home to marry the girl they both loved, while Jack Harbin came back from the war badly damaged. The men haven't spoken since. Just as they are about to reconcile, Jack is brutally murdered. With the chief of police out of commission, it's up to trusted ex-chief Samuel Craddock to investigate. 

Against the backdrop of small-town loyalties and betrayals, Craddock discovers dark secrets of the past and present to solve the mystery of Jack's death.

Well earlier this year I unearthed a real gem in Terry Shames’ debut novel A Killing At Cotton Hill. The author introduced us to a fictional small town in Texas called Jarrett Creek and the engaging and interesting company of the retired police chief, Samuel Craddock.

Her second outing for Craddock is just as interesting as the first with the same blend of small-town intrigue and murder. Craddock is called upon again to investigate the brutal murder of a disabled war veteran, shortly after he suffers the loss of his father.

Terry Shames
Small town life, high school football, disability, injury, First Gulf War, family, fatherhood, failed marriage, abandonment, loss, compassion, cowardice, California, relationships, friendship, loyalty, religious cults, firearms, Waco, police, betting, casinos, coaching, funerals, brotherhood and bikers all figure to a greater or lesser degree this time around.

Craddock in the hands of his creator, Terry Shames is sympathetic, decent and caring. Always striving to do the right thing and determined to restore some equilibrium to his home-town by ensuring the culprit is caught. A quiet and thoughtful mystery that has me hoping for more of the same in the future.

At 260 pages long, the book was an ideal length to race through in a couple of days reading. No extremes of violence or language employed by the author, just a pleasurable reading experience.   

Fractionally or slightly less enjoyable than the first, for some indefinable reason, that I’m unable to pinpoint.........why is that(?)....... but still highly recommended. (Maybe I’m just reluctant to accord a fifth 5 star rating in the same month!)

Overall a 4 from 5

My review of A Killing At Cotton Hill is here.

The Last Death Of Jack Harbin is released in January, 2014. Thanks to Meghan from Prometheus/Seventh Street Books for the ARC.


Crossing The Line is a short story which introduces the reader to Hayden Glass who is the anchor in Schwartz's two novels; Boulevard.and Beat. Glass is a detective in the Robbery-Homicide department of the LAPD. Hayden endeavours to fight crime and corruption whilst battling his own issues with sex-addiction.

I have the two novels lying on the shelves of unread masses and I have provisionally pencilled in Boulevard to fill the Californian slot of my US State Reading Challenge for 2014.

Ever the completist, I was always puzzled by the mentioning of Crossing The Line on the bibliography page for the author on the Fantastic Fiction, particularly as the "book" seemed conspicuous by it's total lack of availability anywhere. In the end I e-mailed the author to query it.

A day later Stephen responded explaining the origins of Crossing The Line and attaching the story for me to read. I do like it when an author takes the time out to answer a question. It kind of makes me feel more inclined to take notice of their work.

The author is currently working on a standalone thriller set in Amsterdam with a young FBI agent and there is a third Hayden Glass book on its way - presently a work in progress.

As for Crossing The Line..........interesting, gritty, dark and dirty - Glass' job exposes him to the seamier ugly side of LA. Just 20-odd pages of prose and I want to read more about Glass. Hopefully soon.

I can rate this story/book on Amazon and Goodreads, so I'm kind of inclined to include it in my reading figures for the month and year. It's my rules so there and as I'm up on my personal target anyway the inclusion doesn't make a difference either way.

4 from 5

Story was obtained from the author.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013



Peter Leonard has already begun to establish himself as a distinctive, must-have voice in suspense fiction. Now he delivers his most compelling, most jaw-dropping novel yet, introducing us to a character you're not likely to forget anytime soon.

The year is 1971. The place is Detroit. Harry Levin, a scrap metal dealer and Holocaust survivor, has just learned that his daughter was killed in a car accident. Travelling to Washington, DC to claim the body, he learns that the accident was caused by a German diplomat who was driving drunk. This is only the beginning of the horror for Harry, though, as he discovers that the diplomat will never face charges - he has already been released and granted immunity. Enraged and aggrieved, Harry discovers the identity of his daughter's killer, follows him to Munich, and hunts him down. What Harry finds out about the diplomat and his plans will explode his life and the lives of everyone around him.

Brimming with action and dark humour, Voices of the Dead, firmly positions Peter Leonard as a writer ever suspense fan needs to read.

After recently lapping up the excellent sequel to this one, Back From The Dead a couple of months ago I was offered the opportunity to travel back in time and see where scrap-metal dealer and holocaust survivor, Harry Levin first crossed swords with Third Reich Nazi executioner, Ernst Hess.

Voices Of The Dead didn’t disappoint. It’s fast-paced and addictive. Levin’s a likeable protagonist, with a funky, freaky and unlikely sidekick, Cordell Sims. Sims is young, black and in-between jobs; still deciding what sector of the career criminal ladder to aim for, after a failed stint as a heroin dealer and a dishonourable discharge from the US army. A great double act is borne when fate has them collide with each other and some young Nazi skinheads in a Munich bar.   

Harry Levin is in Munich to track down Hess, a German diplomat responsible for the death of his daughter, Sara. Hess is another Holocaust survivor, but from the dark side of the tracks. Hess is intelligent, capable, cunning and successful. He’s a ruthless operator with a penchant for survival and dark secrets that he feels no remorse for.

Our calculating Nazi sets his sights on tidying up some loose ends, with some extreme housekeeping, while Harry Levin tries to achieve some measure of justice for his daughter and Hess’s other victims, by taking him down. Inevitably they collide at the climax of the book.

Leonard effortlessly blends this heady mix of characters in an explosive cocktail. I don’t know if a writing style is hereditary, but Peter the son, exercises the same level of economy with his words as his late father, Elmore. 2014 has introduced me to some fantastic new writers; John Florio, Terry Shames, Leif G.W. Persson to mention a few – Peter Leonard is the latest addition to my list of favourites.          

I do have some of his earlier books on the shelf to get to, Quiver (2008), Trust Me (2009), All He Saw Was The Girl (2011). Next year sees a new book published – Eyes Closed Tight. By then I hope to have relaxed the loose embargo on adding books to my collection.

This short series would definitely benefit from being read in order, and my enjoyment was slightly tempered by kind of knowing how things would pan out – but for that I’ll blame myself.

My review of Back From The Dead is here.

4 from 5  

Thanks to Lou at The Story Plant for my copy of this.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Two more books here from the mountain. 

Fountain’s first novel “Billy Lynn” was shortlisted for the 2012 National Book Award as well as scooping a few other trophies.  

The “Che Guevara” book which preceded it is a collection of short stories.

I wouldn't bracket them in the crime section of my library, but they both intrigue and interest me and that's the least I would expect from a book prior to opening it. Both garner a fair bit of praise, so whilst they are an unknown quantity at this stage, I'm fairly confident I will be in safe hands when I get around to reading them, sometime this century.



Nineteen-year-old Billy Lynn is home from war. Back in Texas, he has become a national celebrity. A Fox News crew filmed Billy and the rest of Bravo squad defeating Iraqi insurgents in a ferocious firefight. Now Billy is a decorated soldier and Bravo's three minutes of extreme bravery under fire is a YouTube sensation.

Seizing on this PR gift, the Bush administration has sent the surviving members of Bravo on a nationwide 'Victory Tour' to reassure the folks at home. Today, during the final hours of the tour, they arrive at Texas Stadium, guests of honour as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Chicago Bears in a nationally broadcast Thanksgiving Day game.

The story follows Billy and his fellow Bravos through a climactic afternoon, as they mix with the rich and powerful, endure the politics and affections of their fellow citizens, aspire to sex and marriage with the famous Cowboys cheerleaders, share centre stage with Destiny's Child during the halftime extravaganza and attempt to close a movie deal with the help of a veteran Hollywood producer. They will learn hard truths about love and death, family and friendship, duty and honour. Tomorrow, they must go back to war.

Tender and full of humanity, this is a wickedly funny and urgent novel about a young man, the citizens who sent him to war, the family he left behind and the era that let it happen. In Billy Lynn, Ben Fountain has created a new American hero for our times.


"* 'This book will be the Catch-22 of the Iraq War. Instead of skewering the military, however, it skewers the society responsible for sending it to war, namely us. This funny, yet totally sobering, dissection of the American way of watching war will have you squirming at the same time you are laughing out loud; Fountain applies the heat of his wicked sense of humor while you face the truth of who we have become' - Karl Marlantes * 'As close to the Great American Novel as anyone is likely to come these days - an extraordinary work that captures and releases the unquiet spirit of our age, and will probably be remembered as one of the important books of this decade' - Madison Smartt Bell * 'Passionate, irreverent, utterly relevant, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk offers an unforgettable portrait of a reluctant hero. Ben Fountain writes like a man inspired and his razor sharp exploration of our contemporary ironies will break your heart' - Margot Livesey"



This debut collection from the man Malcolm Gladwell described as a genius took readers by storm. From the slums of Haiti to a golf course in Myanmar, and from the Colombian jungle to the diamond mines of Sierra Leone, Ben Fountain's impeccable and devastatingly funny stories describe a world in political and social upheaval, and the lives caught in the balance.


Exceptional . . . Each of these eight stories is as rich as a novel . . . Heartbreaking, absurd, deftly drawn (New York Times)

Fountain has the storytelling gifts to bring the world home to us and a moral compass set to true north (Gary Shteyngart)

Brave, intelligent fiction (Independent on Sunday)

The work of a very talented writer who is keenly engaged with analysing American identity in the wider world... Beyond the pleasures of Fountain's vivid image-making and fluent storytelling, his collection's great accomplishment is the depth of reality it gives the foreign settings (Chris Power Guardian)

It is such an unexpected joy, in this age of introspection, to discover an American writer with a global outlook (Jim Crace, author of BEING DEAD)

Fountain writes with sparkle and dark humour (Daily Express)

In this first collection the author brings the virtuosity of Greene and le Carre to tales of foreign adventures (Boston Globe)

Impeccable . . . an heir to Paul Theroux (Kirkus Reviews)

A collection of stories dealing with moral choices, with the complexity of what being decent can mean . . . It's funny. And human. There's no pretense or cleverness - it's just a beautiful book (Boston Globe)

Fountain prowls similar turf to that of Tom Bissell, Gary Shteyngart and even early Thomas Pynchon . . . an impressive performance from an author with a gift for reaching into the past and producing something compelling and new (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

Ben Fountain writes the kind of stories that Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene used to write . . . full of complex adventure and off-balance humour (San Diego Union-Tribune)

[Fountain] offers pointed prose, nimble revelation . . [and] a rueful generosity towards a string of well-intentioned bumblers (Philadelphia Inquirer)

 2 more next week!

Monday, 25 November 2013




San Francisco antiques dealer Jim Brodie recently inherited a stake in his father’s Tokyo-based private investigation firm, which means the single father of six-year-old Jenny is living a busy intercontinental life, travelling to Japan to acquire art and artefacts for his store and con­sulting on Brodie Security’s caseload at home and abroad.

One night, an entire family is gunned down in San Francisco’s bustling Japantown neighbour­hood, and Brodie is called on by the SFPD to decipher the lone clue left at the crime scene: a unique Japanese character printed on a slip of paper drenched in blood.

Brodie can’t read the clue. But he may have seen it before—at the scene of his wife’s death in a house fire four years ago.

With his deep array of Asian connections and fluency in Japanese, Brodie sets out to solve a seemingly perfect crime and at the same time learn whether his wife’s tragic death was more than just an accident. And as he unravels a web of intrigue stretching back centuries and connected to the murders in San Francisco, the Japantown killer retaliates with a new target: Brodie’s daughter.

Another debut author and another intriguing mystery set in part in present day San Francisco, part New York, part modern Tokyo and part Japanese village.

We open with the execution of a family of five and the placement of an indecipherable Japanese kanji (hieroglyphic) at the scene of the murders. Half-Japanese, half-American antique and art dealer, Jim Brodie gets called in by the police to help decipher the clue.  Brodie, a widower is unable to ascribe a meaning to the kanji, but is determined to unlock the puzzle, as it may be connected to his wife’s death a few years previously.

Within a short period of time he is followed and attacked after confronting his pursuer, his stateside business is burgled and he is approached by the Japanese business magnate, whose family were slaughtered in the recent slaying. Katsuyuki Hara wants Brodie’s Tokyo-based PI team to start looking into the slaughter.

Brodie, with the blessing of the SFPD, heads to Japan to try to find answers for Hara, the police and more importantly himself as it may unlock the key to his wife’s death. The killer though, always a step ahead; has Brodie in his sights. In taking him on, he opens a can of worms which ultimately threatens his 6 year-old daughter.

Part murder mystery, part thriller, part history and culture lesson; Lancet introduces us to a modern-day Japan, still in the grip of its historic past.

Murder, family, revenge, betrayal, Japanese art, antiques, kanjis, martial arts, Tokyo, San Francisco, New York, Soga clan, Samurai, village-life, loyalty, business, corruption, technology, murder and greed all play a part in this enjoyable tale.

Satisfying, entertaining and a little bit different from what I’m used to reading. Quite unlike anything I have read for a few years, perhaps in the same ballpark as Barry Eisler’s John Rain, with their shared ethnicity and same likeability, durability and capability. I don’t feel like I need to visit Japan, because Barry Lancet’s already taken me there.

4 from 5

Author Barry Lancet (photo by Ben Simmons)
Thanks to Glen (Tracy’s friendly other half!) for alerting me to this mystery and thanks to Barry Lancet the author for arranging for his publisher to send me a copy.        


Friday, 22 November 2013


Mystertious Movember

Well I already have a tash, though it sports a few more grey hairs than these - and I have read a bit of Eddie Bunker and Joseph Koenig.

But if you haven't and you'd like to, I'm sure those nice folks at OpenRoadMedia will sort you out!

No - I didn't receive any payment for this plug - but it does make a change from me banging on about all my reading likes and dislikes.




Sometimes a little violence is a good thing

You can't go on the kind of spree ex-cop Tom Bishop did and not face consequences.
After three years of rotting in a cell, Bishop is busted out of prison in the dead of night and thrown into the middle of a police war where the stakes are high and personal.

Now, the very man who put him away calls on his help. But what starts out as a simple rescue mission escalates into an adrenaline-fuelled, action packed thrill-ride as Bishop plunges into a web of conspiracy that threatens to destroy his soul, but may provide the truth about his past.

Out of Exile is the anticipated follow up to the award-nominated Dark City Blue.

Praise for Dark City Blue

"Noir on no-doze" – Fair Dinkum Crime

"The cage fighting equivalent of a police procedural: violent, gaudy and packing heat." – Trent Jamieson, author of the Death Works trilogy

"As far as hard-boiled goes this is a hard-boiled, deep-frozen, sharpened implement." – Jon Page, Bite the Book

Last month I read the author’s first book Dark City Blue and in truth didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped to.  Why read the second one then you ask........well it was on Net Galley, so it was free and hey, I’m quick to judge so perhaps I needed to give the author a second chance and how many writers do you know whose first book was their best ever book?

Second time around, I enjoyed it more than last. This perhaps leads me to think that the problem last time was more one of my mood, as opposed to the writing, as this is written and unwinds at the same pedal-to-metal, breakneck pace as the first.

Our hero/villain, ex-cop and current jailbird Tom Bishop is sprung from prison after 3 years and lands straight back in the brown stuff. At gunpoint he’s forced to participate in a kidnapping as the in-fighting and corruption within the Victorian Police Department shows no sign of letting up.
Kidnap, torture, severed digits, broken noses and fractured ribs share top billing with C-4, guns, shootings, death, bombs, getaway planes and a fair few million dollars of skim as Bishop continues his pursuit of Justice and tries to save a former colleagues family.

Entertaining and enjoyable. Quite cinematic, as I could easily see this converted into an action flick. Probably not for the squeamish.

4 from 5........and on balance I would be prepared to go back for a 3rd helping from the author.

Accessed on the Net Galley website.

Thursday, 21 November 2013



In the underworld of San Francisco, a broken cop searches for his daughter
Seven years ago, Frank Hastings quit on his family. After a half-baked pro football career, he had fallen in love with the bottle and needed to go west. In San Francisco, he got sober, and now he’s one of the toughest police officers around, in a city whose counterculture does not make life easy for the men in blue. San Francisco in 1969 is an ugly place, torn apart by drugs and crime and indifference—and it’s about to destroy Hastings’s daughter.

Claudia comes to town following a boy, a hippie kid who has filled her head with dreams of psychedelic happiness in Haight-Ashbury—and she quickly vanishes into the district’s rainbow-colored underbelly. To find the daughter he abandoned, Hastings will push himself closer to the edge than he has in years. His first lead is a gruesome one—a young male flower child slaughtered in the Haight—but the bloody trail may lead to Claudia.

Until earlier this year, I was unaware of Sergeant Frank Hastings of the San Francisco Police Department and his creator, author Collin Wilcox. Wilcox penned 19 Frank Hastings books in total between 1969 and 1992, before his death in 1996. Hastings collaborated with Bill Pronzini on the book Twospot which features Hastings and Pronzini’s own PI – Nameless. This collaboration was an enjoyable book for me when I read it earlier this year.

The Lonely Hunter is the first in the series with Frank and as a short police procedural it was interesting enough without ever catching fire.  We discover a bit about Hastings’ back story as he goes about his work; his marital disintegration, the abandonment of his children, his issues with drink and his subsequent return to sobriety and his re-incarnation from pro-footballer to fully functioning police detective.  We view the world through his eyes and we get an understanding of his frustrations with his colleagues and their deficiencies as well as his own failings as a father and husband.

Pretty much what you would expect in a novel set in the late 60’s in San Francisco ........hippies, drugs, sex, long hair, youthful idealism, mystics, gurus and dodgy fashions. Introduce a few murders and the police; a straightforward investigation where you ask questions of enough people and eventually the answers, the lies and the evasions allow you to join the dots up and point you in the direction of your culprit.

Despite the build-up describing Hastings and the search for his missing daughter, this aspect of the book seemed more of a back-story than the raison d’être for the book. Diverting enough, but the crimes Frank investigated didn’t particularly concern his daughter, though some of the people we crossed paths with knew both. 

Interesting enough, but I’m not yet sold on the series. I think I would need to read the 2nd in the series before deciding whether I would like to read further on.

Mysterious Press/Open Road Media have made the series available as e-books, as well as offering other non-Hastings Wilcox books.

3 from 5  

I  accessed this one through Net Galley.


I have managed to read crime fiction for over 20 years without ever cracking the spine on a Ross Macdonald – Lew Archer book. I have most of the Archer series on my shelves in spite of this aberration. Perhaps it’s less chancy buying up a series of books that has been described by William Goldman as   "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American."

In total Macdonald penned 18 Lew Archer novels between 1949 and 1976, plus about 9 or so short stories or novellas which featured his PI. He wrote a couple of books prior to the Archer series starring a character Chet Gordon and another 4 standalone novels.

Macdonald AKA Kenneth Millar was married to Margaret Ellis Millar. Margaret was an established author long before Kenneth made into print, under his pen name. He initially chose John Ross Macdonald as his pseudonym , but dropped the John to avoid confusion with John D MacDonald.  

If I haven’t already lined up too many books to read next year, hopefully 2014 will see me sample at least the first in the series!


Like many Southern California millionaires, Ralph Sampson keeps odd company. There's the sun-worshipping holy man whom Sampson once gave his very own mountain; the fading actress with sidelines in astrology and S&M. Now one of Sampson's friends may have arranged his kidnapping.

As Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints where you get beaten up between sets, The Moving Target blends sex, greed, and family hatred into an explosively readable crime novel.


When a millionaire matriarch is found floating face-down in the family pool, the prime suspects are her good-for-nothing son and his seductive teenage daughter. In The Drowning Pool, Lew Archer takes this case in the L.A. suburbs and encounters a moral wasteland of corporate greed and family hatred--and sufficient motive for a dozen murders.I

Wednesday, 20 November 2013



The Master Returns--With Never-Before-Collected Tales of Murder and Desire

One of the most highly acclaimed novelists in the crime genre, Lawrence Block is also a master of the short story, with award-winning work ranging from the macabre to the slyly comic, from heart-stopping tales of revenge to memorable explorations of lust and greed, all told in Block's unforgettable style. The sixteen stories (and one stage play!) collected here feature appearances by some of Block s most famous characters, including gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr and alcoholic private detective Matt Scudder, as well as glimpses into the minds of a rogue's gallery of frightening killers, dangerous sociopaths, crooked cops, and lost souls whose only chance to find themselves may be on the wrong side of a gun.

You'll meet a compulsive hoarder whose towering piles of trash and treasures hide disturbing secrets...a beautiful young tennis star with a rather too possessive secret admirer...a dealer in stolen art who is unwilling to part with his most prized possession at any players with agendas that have nothing to do with the cards in their hands...and a catch-and-release fisherman whose preferred catch walks on two legs.

Terror and passion, cruelty and vindication--it's all here, in a collection that will thrill you, scare you, and remind you why Lawrence Block is still the best there is at what he does.

Having previously confessed  more of an indifference to, as opposed to a dislike of short stories, it’s kind of ironic that I have read two collections of them this month in close proximity to each other. The second of which Lawrence Block’s Catch and Release I have been enjoying on and off for the past week or two.

Among the 17 in total, there are some more enjoyable than others, as you would probably expect. The collection has just recently been released, but the author provides some history as to the origins of each story and what inspired its creation as well as a rough indication of when it was written. This in itself was quite interesting. I will have to go back in time and read one of his soft-porn books penned under the pseudonym of John Warren Wells, at a later date. A few of the stories here have a sexual content.  

Highlights for me would include;

A Chance To Get Even – a poker game with an interesting last hand.

Clean Slate – a woman tries to re-establish her virginity.

Part Of The Job – what’s in your job description and how far would you go to satisfy the boss?

Speaking Of Greed – a cop, a priest, a soldier, a doctor..........oh, and an old man with flatulence.  

I could choose others as well and in truth none of the collection hit any real bum notes. Whilst reading about Block’s burglars, cops, hitmen and perverts committing robberies, murder and incest among other crimes, Block sometimes stops me short with a line that imparts a certain wisdom or knowledge. Here’s three, that resonated with me, all from the same story I think..........

“I always thought the Irish wake made a lot of sense. Pour down the booze until you can think of something good to say about the deceased.”

The old fellows didn't mind; they were just trying to make a glass of beer last until the next pension check arrived.

 “The few arts not yet lost,” Mick said, “have their heads on the chopping block, waiting for technology to lop them off.”

Entertaining and enjoyable.

4 from 5

My copy was requested from one of the author’s assistants who kindly obliged. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Peggy Anne at Peggy Anne's Post has come up with this challenge for next year.

The rules and the level of commitment are not too intense and you can aim high at 13 plus or set your sights a little bit lower.

Challenge levels:

Just A Keek (a little look): 1-4 books read
The Highlander: 5-8 books
The Hebridean: 9-12 books
Ben Nevis: 13+ books 


Read and review Scottish books - any genre, any form- written by a Scottish author (by birth or immigration) or about or set in Scotland.

Challenge runs January 1 to December 31, 2014 

Books you read may count for other challenges.

Peggy Anne has also set up a Goodreads - Read Scotland, 2014 group for the challenge.
I have a fair few Scottish authors on my shelf and won't need to add any books to my collection in order to participate. I will aim for Ben Nevis myself,

Roll on 2014 when I expect to read some or all of the following; Ian Rankin, Hugh Collins, Gordon Ferris, Christopher Brookmyre, James Oswald, Tony Black, Val McDermid, Doug Johnstone, Craig Russell, Malcolm Mackay, Doug Johnstone, Denise Mina, Douglas Lindsay,

Thanks to Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery for alerting me to this reading challenge for 2014.

Monday, 18 November 2013



Detroit businessman Harry Mitchell is a self-made man, happily married for over twenty-two years and a pillar of the community. But then he slips - he meets a young 'model' and begins an affair. One night he arrives at his girlfriend's apartment and finds more than he bargained for. Two masked men have caught his misdemeanours on camera and now they want a cool hundred grand. But they've picked the wrong man, because Harry Mitchell doesn't get mad - he gets even.

This was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. 52 Pick-Up was November’s selected read for my Pulp Fiction group over on Goodreads. In truth the monthly poll was comprised solely of Elmore books, as a tribute in memory of his recent passing.  52 Pick-Up would also have been one of my first introductions to the crime fiction genre, back in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Originally published in 1974, this was Leonard’s second or third foray into crime fiction having previously been penning westerns.

Well did the passage of time and the reading of a thousand-plus books in the intervening 20 years, diminish my enjoyment second-time around?

Hardly, I was still thrilled by the premise of the novel and the re-read came long enough after the first outing for me to have forgotten most of the detail and for the second visit to be fresh. (I drank champagne at my wedding 25 years ago; I know I enjoyed it, but I can’t remember what it tasted like!)

Mitchell despite his transgression is a likeable and capable main character. Unwilling to be pushed around when confronted by the blackmailers and put on the spot; he refuses to panic and decides to fight back, albeit initially against a faceless enemy. Shrewd and analytical, he calmly retraces his footsteps to the point where it all began. If he can put names and faces to the schemers, he has enough confidence in his abilities to defuse the situation, one way or another.

After confessing to his wife, Barbara; unsurprisingly relations on the home-front get frosty and matrimonial bliss is suspended. On the work front, union negotiations provide a further unwelcome distraction for Mitchell, particularly after his blackmailing adversaries up the ante and instead of punishing Harry for his infidelity, decide to frame him for murder instead. Mitchell whilst juggling a few balls in the air at the same time keeps his focus and endeavours to successfully multi-task.   

Interesting, engaging, amusing, great scenes, fantastic dialogue, superb action, wonderful characters, satisfying climax. If you were to sample only one of Leonard’s books, you could do a lot worse than this one. 190 pages long, read in a day!

5 stars from 5 (for the 4th time this month!)

Unable to locate my copy, I had to make a sneaky second-hand purchase on e-bay. 




Jersey Leo is the quintessential outsider--an albino of mixed race. Known as "Snowball" on the street, he makes a living as the bartender at a mob-run speakeasy in Prohibition-era Hell's Kitchen. Being neither black nor white, he has no group to call his own. His own mother abandoned him as a baby. And his father-a former boxing champ with his own secrets-disapproves of Jersey's work at a dive owned by one of New York's most notorious gangsters. So when he inadvertently purchases counterfeit moonshine ("sugar pop moon") with his boss's money-a potentially fatal mistake-he must go undercover to track down the bootlegger who took him in. The clues lead to Philadelphia, where he runs into a cleaver-swinging madman out for his femurs and a cold-blooded gangster holed up on a Christmas-tree farm. Now with a price on his head in two cities, Jersey seeks help from the only man he can trust, his father. As the two delve into the origins of the mysterious sugar pop moon, stunning secrets about Jersey's past come to light. To ensure his future, Jersey must face his past, even if it means that life will never return to normal.

Bang.......and I’m floored by another fantastic book, worthy of another 5 star rating, which is the 3rd this month. (4th to follow next!)

Author John Florio’s debut novel introduces an interesting bunch of characters to us; Jersey Leo and his father Ernie, plus an assortment of friends, associates and acquaintances; in a story spanning two time frames – 1930 and 1906.

1930, opens with Jersey or Snowball as he’s known working for Jimmy McCullough. McCullough, a businessman is Jersey’s employer. He’s also a criminal as his business selling booze happens to be illegal. (Prohibition ran in the US from 1920 to 1933.) Jersey’s father Ernie disapproves of his son’s choice of career and there are some difficulties between the two and a degree of estrangement as a consequence. Jersey is smart, intelligent and eager, if not a little bit naive in nature.  With Jimmy out of town, Jersey tries to impress him by cutting a deal for some quality shine – 80 cases of Sugar Pop Moon. Soon after the deal is concluded, Jersey realises he’s been taken and has maybe 96 hours to recover the near $5k of Jimmy’s money he’s shelled out before his boss is back in town and our albino bar-keep sees the explosive side of Jimmy’s nature. His head’s on the block.

The 1906 time frame has us interested in Ernie and his struggles as a black boxer, trying to secure the New Jersey title and more importantly the $20 prize that goes with it. Ernie doesn’t just have to overcome his opponents in the ring; there are major difficulties to be surmounted outside, as Edward Albright another “businessman” has his own designs on boxing’s bigger prize for his fighter Higgins. Eddie can step aside gracefully or perhaps Albright might need some stronger means of persuasion. Either way he doesn’t intend to settle for no, if Higgins is to become a world champion. Ernie’s on his own......... or perhaps he has a couple of allies in Dorothy Albright and newspaper journalist, Walter Wilkins?

In parallel narratives we fluctuate between stories as we discover more about Ernie and Albright, whilst Jersey goes after his conman-bootlegger with the help of his father and friends. Crossing paths with some occultists with peculiar ideas as to healing powers of Albino bones, throws Jersey another set of problems to solve.

From start to finish Florio had me hooked.........moonshine, prohibition, speak-easies, bootleggers, albinos, occultists, boxing, fight-fixing, corruption, cops, newspapermen, religion, New York, Philadelphia, love, family, race, separation, secrets, loyalty, principles and decency....... with a smattering of bingo and Christmas tree farms thrown in.

Totally satisfying.

5 from 5

I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this from the author.

August 2014 sees the publication of Florio’s second Jersey Leo novel, Blind Moon Alley. By then I hope to have dented the TBR mountain sufficiently to add the next outing onto the library shelves.               

Saturday, 16 November 2013



A collection of crime stories from the world of writing, editing, publishing and reviewing

A shortish review for a short book of approximately 141 pages.

Contributors to the anthology are as follows;
Martin Edwards (Author), Pamela Griffiths (Author), Paula K. Randall (Author), Jane Risdon (Author), Elizabeth S. Craig (Author), Sarah Ward (Author), Margot Kinberg (Editor), Lesley Fletcher (Illustrator)

For your money you get......
Introduction ……………………..   Margot Kinberg  
The Agency ……………………..   Pamela Griffiths  
The Story…………………………. Paula K. Randall
The Million Seller……………….. Margot Kinberg
Hollywood Cover-up…………….. Jane Risdon
A Beach Report From Myrtle Clover…………….. Elizabeth S. Craig  
La Lotte .…………..................... Sarah Ward  
The In-Box…………………………. Margot Kinberg  
The Killing of Captain Hastings………… Martin Edwards
Dreamer ……………………………   Jane Risdon

Well this was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours night time reading before lights out. All the stories worked for me, but if pressed to choose a couple of favourites I would have to plump for both of Jane Risdon’s stories; Dreamer and Hollywood Cover-up, with the former on top of the pile.

Dreamer gives us a glimpse inside the world of music, with a rock band intent on resolving some artistic differences. Fantastic!

As previously mentioned in another post, purchasing the book which was conceived in the memory of Maxine Clarke will help support the Princess Alice Hospice.

Enjoyable and entertaining.

3 from 5

Purchased from Amazon in aid of a worthy cause.

Friday, 15 November 2013


Not mine, but you get the drift, who even has a book on shells?

Before imposing an embargo adding more books to my library, I suppose I ought to examine why one might be necessary.

Well if I can reach the prescribed biblical age of three score years and ten, I have about 20-odd years reading ahead of me. If I can maintain my current reading pace over that period, say 140 books a year. Simplistically, I should be able to get through nearly 3000 more books in my lifetime. Chances are at some point I will slow down as my eye sight deteriorates, but conversely I may have more time if I ever retire, not that it’s on the cards anytime soon.

At a conservative estimate, I have maybe 2000-2500 books in various formats. Only recently have I started getting rid of books once I have read them. If I can organise and catalogue them at a rate of 50 a week, I could have a better understanding of whether I’m over-stocked by the middle of next year. Plus I could then be in a position of knowing whether or not I have a particular book and exactly where it is, if it’s the one I want to read next. My children have shown no inclination to share my passion for crime fiction, so I don’t really want them having to dispose of my old books once I have shuffled on. Amongst the books are many that I have already Irving, Elmore Leonard, Andrew Vachss, but as I kept them before, they could withstand a re-read before I move them on.

Either way, I have enough books already stock-piled to satisfy my short, medium and long-term needs and it’s a bit daft buying anymore.

If people want to send me books and I think I would enjoy them, it would be churlish to decline. If family want to buy me a voucher for my newly received Kindle, I’m not going to turn it down. Similarly if there is something I like on Net Galley, I’m going to request it.

Rather than going totally cold turkey, I could allow myself 1 addition to the library for every 10 books read. Even this purchase, ought to have a modicum of logic applied to it though.


1. Never buy a 3rd book by a virgin author that you have never read before.
2. Never buy another book by an author you have previously read, if you have 2 or more books by them unread on the shelves.
3.  Never request a book on Net Galley if you have more than 1 unread title on your dashboard. 
4. Don’t list your finished books on a swapping website, as you’re only fuelling the fire. 
5.  Avoid the library. 
6.   Don’t visit local charity shops, with their cheap pre-owned and tantalising books.
7.   Avoid car boot sales.
8.   Stop visiting Munsey’s.
9.  Stay off Project Gutenberg.
10.Stop chatting up authors and publishers.

I could keep visiting blogs and websites and make a list of titles that pique my interest without actually pressing the instant gratification, purchase button.

Do these rules make sense? How many books are too many? How many do you have at home? Am I totally out of step with other readers and bloggers? Is my obsession/collection/passion par for the course or out of control?

I would like to get all my books catalogued, so at least I know what I have and where it is. I made a start yesterday – 77 books listed, labelled and boxed......McBain, McDonald x2, Macdonald, Meyer, Muller, Miller , Millar and McGown.........2423 to go. I’ve just got the monotonous task of entering them on a spreadsheet and probably adding them to my Goodreads page.

77 down, 2400-odd to go! (I added to the box after taking the photo)

Thursday, 14 November 2013



JOEY’S PLACE is a novel about an unknown Las Vegas, when there was still open desert along the Strip, Frank and Dino ruled the showrooms, the casinos took care of their own problems, and the cops just picked up the pieces.  If they could find them. September, 1970. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because nobody gives a damn. Then a man with two slugs in his head is discovered in the parking lot of the resort where Elvis is filling the showroom every night. Bad for business. The case should go to the Sheriff’s elite Boulevard unit, but outcast Detective Heber Parkins mysteriously gets the call.  A soft-spoken, hard-headed “Jack” Mormon, Heber usually collects the anonymous victims of the most anonymous town of them all — the waitresses and keno runners who met the wrong man and the card mechanics and grifters who weren’t important enough for a deep hole in the desert and fifty pounds of quicklime.  The kind of job you get when your partners keep getting themselves killed.  That’s all about to change.

Every once in a while you come across a novel that just ticks every box for you. Joey’s Place was such a book.

Setting.........70’s Vegas, casinos, the strip, diners and bars, the surrounding desert, ü

Characters....Cops – good, bad and incompetent, criminals – good, bad and a few somewhere in-between, ü

Plot.... a murder – 2 in the back of the head, followed by a knife between the ribs, ü

Perfect pace, an easy writing style, nothing ambiguous but nothing over-explained, great conversations and confrontations, gun-play, death and violence......all perfectly blended and meshed.....end result - totally satisfying.

Our main protagonist, Heber Parkins is a detective with the Clark County Sheriff’s Department. Parkins is disregarded and disrespected by most of the Vegas police. Un-partnered and alone, our”trash-man” is a sympathetic character. Undeservedly maligned, he ends up investigating a hit on a Mormon-family man and part-owner in a casino, under the watchful eye of Captain Carson. Career opportunities beckon for FBI agent Randall if he can shoe-horn, old-time mob man Joey Ross into a cell, for the murder of Joey’s partner.

Trash-man, with Carson running interference on Randall and the rest of the Vegas law enforcement takes the investigation to the heart of the power in the city and the prime mover and shaker, Spencer Lyman. Lyman’s running scared in Trash-man’s opinion and if he can press him, in spite of the Feebs, he can get answers as to why Stan Wallace, a Mormon bishop died, listening to the strains of the Tabernacle choir in his brand new Toronado.     

At various points we encounter..........hippies, gamblers, waitresses, barmen, hairdressers, city cops, FBI, Sheriffs, medical examiners, security guards, punks, minders,  mob-types and bosses, Mormons, casino owners and absent bankers........ pragmatists and dreamers, losers, winners, wannabees and victims......everyone trying to get-along, get-by, get-even or get-ahead in a changing Vegas. Some players are happy to maintain the status quo, with the more driven anxious to speed up the changes and see the city re-shaped to suit their design and vision.

Nelson’s portrayal of 1970 Las Vegas doesn't paint a particularly pretty picture, but it’s never less than interesting.

5 from 5

My copy of Joey’s Place was acquired directly from the author, after a sympathetic response to my request. Joey’s Place will be available as an e-book in December, just in time for the holidays! 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


Another day, another new book onto the already creaking shelves of the Criminal Library, so what?

Does the product description entice and lure you in........err, with due respect probably not.

Product Description  - A collection of crime stories from the world of writing, editing, publishing and reviewing

Well it’s a book designed to make a small difference to a number of lives.

A book conceived out of friendship, and yes, probably love.

 A book that will do more than entertain the readers that crack its spine or download its file.

Margot Kinberg, author and blogger extraordinaire and a team of friends have contributed to this worthy project. Please read on for Margot’s own take on the project.......

This collection includes a variety of crime stories, all with a focus on crime in the writing, editing, reviewing and blogging world. They’re terrific stories written by talented authors.  You know you want this. And if you don’t, someone you’re buying a gift for probably does. OK, advert over.  ;-)  
This anthology’s a lot more than just any collection of crime stories. Any proceeds will be donated to the Princess Alice Hospice, in memory of Maxine Clarke. Maxine was a dedicated and knowledgeable friend to the crime fiction world, and is sorely missed. By getting a copy of these delicious little crime stories, you’re not only picking up some great stuff to read, you’re also helping a very worthy cause. What could be better?    

OK, maybe, but I couldn’t get hold of Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen to personally visit you. ;-) 
Don’t want to make a purchase just now? That’s fine. Please help this cause by helping me to spread the word. It would mean a lot. You can talk it up on your blog, tweet about it, or mention it on Facebook or your other social networks. Thanks in advance!
My sincere thanks also go out to all of the contributors. It has been a real honour to work with each of you on this project. I am truly grateful to you all for your hard work and your contribution to this effort.
We did it!! Here’s to you, Maxine…
Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to cross paths with Maxine, as she passed away before I arrived on the mystery blogging scene. From comments I have read about her presence on the web and the encouragement and friendship she offered to so many, whilst imparting her knowledge of crime fiction I missed out.  
I’m happy to break my recently self-imposed embargo on additions to my book shelves for this worthy cause.
 PS – I’m about halfway through the stories and so far, so good.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


As so often is the case, I go on the internet to look up an author and scoot around sites checking out books, blogs, reviews etc – in this case Mark Haskell Smith – but I rebound onto another author that excites me and who I probably have never heard of previously. That’s the case with Seth Greenland, a novelist, playwright and screenwriter. Big Love is one of his, though in my cave somewhere in the Chiltern Hills in the UK, I've managed to remain oblivious to it. 

He has 3 books to his name and on a whim I bought the first two.

They've been praised by other people who I have never heard of...........Jerry Stahl (author of I, Fatty....which obviously needs checking out now), Larry David, Joy Nicholson and David Mamet.

Will I like them? Well if the first couple of lines in both books are anything to go by, I guess so. In an attempt to keep the blog reasonably clear of profanity, I won’t repeat the opening to The Bones, but the start of Shining City has captured my interest already.

Julian Ripps was too fat to be reclining in a hot tub between a pair of naked women, unless he was rich or they were prostitutes. He wasn't  but they were.”   

Is it crime fiction? Who cares....


A hysterically scathing first novel about ambition and its discontents.
Frank Bones is a self-destructive, take-no-prisoners, bad boy comic whose recent stage stunt with a firearm has cost him his audience and his bookings. Back at the bottom rung, Frank has no choice but to take his gigs where he can get them until, by virtue of a Hollywood miracle, he gets a call from his manager. A network has offered Frank his own sitcom, but there's only one problem with this long-awaited shot at success: Frank has to play an Eskimo, and ride an animatronic walrus.

Desperate, Frank calls on Lloyd Melnick, a long lost acquaintance whose position on the smash hit The Fleishman Show has made him the hottest comedy writer in town-even though he has never actually written a single episode. If Lloyd signs on as the head writer, Frank can have any kind of show he wants. But Lloyd is tired of his gilded trappings-the network job, the Brentwood mansion-and his social-climbing wife has left him mystified and unmoored. He would trade it all in for just a sliver of Frank's notorious recklessness or artistic integrity. When Lloyd turns Frank down, the consequences involve a crashed Hummer, corrupt police officers, enraged ex-husbands, sultry bartenders, and high-speed chases to Mexico and back.

A brilliant satire, The Bones is a stunning debut that reveals, in all its hilarity and ache, the dark heart of comedy.


A witty and sexy satire about how contemporary American culture defines right and wrong, good and bad, from the acclaimed author of The Bones.

When good guy Marcus Ripps takes over his black sheep brother's lucrative dry cleaning business, he has no idea what he's in for. Before long, he is running one of the most popular escort services in West Hollywood. As the money starts pouring in, he revitalizes his marriage, buys a new Mercedes, and gives his son a bar mitzvah he'll never forget. But, when his conscience - and the law - starts to catch up with him, Marcus must decide if his sudden financial windfall is worth all the risk.

A wild, clever, consistently hysterical romp, Shining City is an L.A. adventure that will keep you guessing to the very end.

I'll aim to read at least one in 2014.