Wednesday, 26 July 2017

LOU BERNEY - WHIPLASH RIVER (2012)


Synopsis/blurb….

Having left his life of crime behind, former getaway driver Charles "Shake" Bouchon has finally realized the dream of owning his own restaurant in Belize. Unfortunately, to do so he's had to go deep in debt to a murderous local drug lord named Baby Jesus. And when Shake thwarts an attempted hit on an elderly customer named Quinn, things go from bad to worse.


Next thing Shake knows, his restaurant's gone up in flames and he's on the run from Baby Jesus, two freelance assassins, and a beautiful but ferocious FBI agent. Out of options, Shake has to turn to the mysterious Quinn for help. Suddenly Shake's up to his neck in a dangerous score that he'll never pull off unless he can convince an even more dangerous ex-girlfriend to join him.

Another mid-2016 read and my second time with author Lou Berney and his retired Armenian wheelman Shake Bouchon. Gutshot Straight introduced me to the character and was one of my favourite reads of 2012.

In Whiplash River, Shake returns and is trying to go straight. Needless to say things quickly get complicated. He owns a restaurant and he owes money. He saves the life of a customer in the restaurant, an old guy named Quinn, who was regaling him with tales of dark deeds in South America.

Shake’s restaurant subsequently gets burned down and this time he is the target. Before long Shake is involved in a caper in Egypt, dreamed up by the mysterious Quinn and involving his ex-lover Gina.

The book had the right combination of ingredients that I enjoy in my reading…..an interesting but somewhat unlucky protagonist - one with a chequered past and in a tight pinch; a bit of a love interest, but as it’s a former rather than a current beau there’s plenty of scope for tension and humour; a couple of hitmen; a drug-boss money lender; a mysterious figure with a shady past, one who you aren’t quite sure if he’s a serial fantasist or if he has lived the life and the seemingly tall tales of derring-do are genuine; the FBI in pursuit and a proposal for a crime which if it can be pulled off might offer a get out of jail free card.

Plot – great, characters – interesting and funny, action – plenty, dialogue – entertaining, setting – Belize and Egypt – ok.

Enjoyable but not as memorable as the first. 12 months down the line, I can’t actually recall what they went to Egypt to do, but that’s fine. Not every book I read has to remain seared in my memory banks for ever.

Enjoyable, entertaining, nothing else I wanted to be reading once I got stuck into this one.

4 from 5

A few thoughts on Gutshot Straight here.
I have another Berney book on the pile – The Long and Faraway Gone, a novel which doesn’t feature Shake Bouchon and apparently won a few awards - an Edgar, an Anthony, a Barry, a Macavity.


Lou Berney has a website here. He's on Twitter@Lou_Berney

Read in June, 2016
Published – 2012
Page count – 312
Source – purchased copy
Format - paperback

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

NIGEL BIRD - BEAT ON THE BRAT (AND OTHER STORIES) (2011)


Synopsis/blurb......

'A fantastic writer.' Donald Ray Pollock

Beat On The Brat (And Other Stories) is the second collection to be released by prize winning author Nigel Bird, following the success of his debut, the critically acclaimed Dirty Old Town (And Other Stories).

Here are 9 more pieces from the shadows.

BEAT ON THE BRAT

Winner of the Watery Grave Invitational Contest 2011
Published in Needle Magazine Summer 2010
Nominated for ‘Best Story Online’, Spinetingler Awards 2011

HOODWINKED

First published at ‘All Due Respect’ 2011
Nominated for ‘Best Story Online’, Spinetingler Awards 2011

MIND YOUR STEP

Published in Microw,Winter 2010

TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG

5th place, Watery Grave Invitational Contest 2011


SNOW-ANGEL

First published at ‘Not From Here Are You?’ 2011

SUGAR AND SPICE

First published at ‘A Twist Of Noir’ 2010

and making their first apprearance in this collection:

REGRET

DANCE WITH ME

KILLER HAIKU


Praise for the work of Nigel Bird:

"A rare talent." Allan Guthrie

"Grim, but really good." Ian Rankin

"I’ve not seen Bird take a misstep yet.’ Heath Lowrance

"I sought out everything I could from him. I dare you to read and not do the same." - Chris F Holm

Nine shorts from Mr Bird, with a few absolute belters and the rest pretty good, with a poem and a couple of haikus.

Highlight of the bunch - Beat on the Brat. It's amazing how much is packed into this 15 page multi-narrator tale. A couple of young kids, a neighbourhood clown with a history and a heart, a disaffected teenager and a drunken parent. An inevitable collision occurs.

Too Much Too Young is another powerful tale. A funeral, the return of a disgraced son and some local community action.

Hoodwinked is another tale of revenge and an evening up of the scales.

76 pages long - an excellent collection. An hour and a bit's entertainment and cheaper than a decent cup of coffee!

4.5 from 5

Smoke from Nigel Bird was read and enjoyed a couple of year's ago.
A few more offerings from him sit on the device - Southsiders, In Loco Parentis and Dirty Old Town (And Other Stories)

Nigel Bird has his blog here.

Read in November, 2016
Published - 2011
Page count - 76 pages
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

GRANT JERKINS - ABNORMAL MAN (2015)


Synopsis/blurb…….

Chaos? Or fate? What brought you here? Were the choices yours, or did something outside of you conspire to bring you to this place? Because out in the woods, in a box buried in the ground, there is a little girl who has no hope of seeing the moon tonight. The moon has forsaken her. Because of you.


"There is some dark magic in this one. I mean, really dark. Like whittle-my-bones-to-a-bloody-point dark. Jerkins calmly, unflinchingly goes about his business of crafting some troubled yet sympathetic characters who are in dire straits. That he manages to make these characters sympathetic, their problems understandable, is impressive and prompts the reader to consider the justice in violence. But despite the skill of its execution … I must pass." — HarperCollins, Acquisitions Editor

A 4 star read from last November, which I have to think says I enjoyed it.

Eight or nine months down the road, I’m scratching my head. I’ve read the blurb. I’ve skim read the 20 plus positive Amazon.com reviews and I can’t recall anything about it. So a totally forgettable book in other words. Or one so dark and disturbing I’ve suppressed all thoughts of it from my memory. Or more likely I’m getting old and forgetful and I read too many books to remember them all.

I’ve re-read the first couple of pages and still I’m groping in the dark.

Some more then….50 pages…WTF – how could I forget this?

Billy Smith, a disturbed teenager, alone and friendless, an unhealthy obsession with the moon and a propensity for starting small fires and getting himself aroused in the restroom at school. A difficult home life - a mother dead from cancer and a vicious, vindictive step-father and an unlikely saviour in the form of Frank, a one-legged ex-con, short order cook and possibly his only friend.

Frank loves popping pills and he loves, maybe not loves but has a capacity and capability for extreme violence. Just ask Sid. Sid was hustling Billy at the diner and Frank intervened. Sid’s arm was fed into the waste disposal unit in the kitchen and he passed out. How thoughtful of Frank to revive him, albeit by dragging his face across the hot grill.

It might be just be a good time for the pair of them to go on a road trip. Visit Billy’s home and collect some belongings on the way. Maybe deal with that piece of trash step-father and then hit the road. A visit to Frank’s out-of-the-way friend Chandler to lay low for a while might be just the ticket.

Chandler is not a nice man. Chandler is a pedophile. Chandler has a plan and Frank (a former plaything of Chandler’s) is supple and compliant. Billy is powerless and is in way, way over his head.

From the structure of the book, we know from the start that things will not end well ultimately for Billy, but it’s an impressive journey that Grant Jerkins takes us on. Throughout you empathise with Billy, you feel his pain, his loneliness and solitude, his disassociation from the normal and every day. His one slight connection with a lady at school who cares and tries to swim against the tide and rescue Billy as much from himself as from his circumstances. You feel events spiralling out of control and you watch helpless as he gets swallowed up by individuals and a system far more potent than him.

Frank despite his propensity for violence I liked. He kind of dispenses a street justice on those that he feels wrong him. Chandler is despicable and abhorrent.

Not a pleasant book, but an engrossing and compelling read. A peek behind the curtains at the dark side of human nature. I wasn’t necessarily shocked at the tone of the book. Jerkins kind of displays the darkness matter-of-factly without glorying in it. Not too much compassion or kindness on display here. A measure of understanding maybe. Raw and hard-hitting. Surprised at my book amnesia, all things considered.

Definitely not a book for everyone – approach with caution!

4 from 5

Plenty more from Grant Jerkins on the pile…….. A Very Simple Crime (2010), At the End of the Road (2011), The Ninth Step (2012), Done in One (2015)

Grant Jerkins has a website here.

Read in November, 2016
Published – 2015
Page count – 256
Source – purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Saturday, 22 July 2017

PHILIP REED - OFF AND RUNNING (2015)


Synopsis/blurb…….

IMAGINE AN ELMORE LEONARD STORY, INSPIRED BY BOB HOPE AND DIRECTED BY QUENTIN TARANTINO. GOT THE PICTURE? NOW WE’RE OFF & RUNNING…

Struggling writer Jack Dillon’s personal and professional life is falling apart…until he gets a lucrative gig writing the biography of TV comedy icon Walt Stuckey, who mysteriously walked away from Hollywood at the height of his popularity…and left his millions of fans wondering why for decades. Now Walt’s going to answer the tantalizing question, assuring that his biography will become a massive bestseller and Jack’s salvation. But when Walt is finally ready to tell Jack his big secret, things go terribly, unpredictably wrong, pushing the desperate author into kidnapping…becoming a fugitive chased by the police, the FBI, the news media, a crazed assassin, and Walt’s talentless & psychopathic son…just to finish the book. It’s a brutally original, crazy ride through California, Death Valley and TV history as Jack tries to solve the mystery and craft a perfect finale that doesn’t end with him going to prison… or to his grave.

"Philip Reed’s smartly written novel will have readers off and running from the first word and they won’t stop until the pages run out." Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times Bestselling author of Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot

Selected by Kings River Life Magazine as ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2015 - "This book is wacky, surprising, and a great read."

Another one I read and enjoyed over a year ago and then never posted on. I seem to recall liking the first part of the book better than the second.

A journalist has been hired to write a biography of one of America’s best loved TV hosts, one who is loved and remembered fondly by the public, but who mysteriously quit when at the top. There’s a really interesting set-up as our writer Jack Dillon gets to know his subject Walt Stuckey. There’s a real connection between Dillon and Stuckey and you sense that Jack can get the biography done and really turn his life around. Currently his finances are bleak and his personal relationship with his wife (or partner, can’t remember which) is rocky. Things go swimmingly until they don’t – Walt suffers a stroke.

As a consequence, Walt’s idiot son Garrett gets involved in his care and exercises artistic control over Jack’s work in progress. Garrett really is a twisted individual and him and Jack clash. Jack gets the boot and with genuine concerns for Walt’s well-being and not just his book deal, career and relationship disappearing over the horizon - he kidnaps our stroke victim.

Mayhem ensues, the police get involved. Jack and Walt are on the run. Jack aided by a strange women, Mary who may or may not have been a girlfriend of Walt’s. I really can’t remember, other than recalling she’s a bit of a strange fish. Garrett’s turns psychopath. And the inevitable media circus descends.

A bit far-fetched and a suspension of disbelief is required, but it was a really enjoyable romp.
Highlights were the connection between Jack and Walt and Walt and his public. Really heart-warming. Reed also does an excellent job in portraying Garrett as a larger-than-life villain with no redeeming features. You really bat for Jack and Walt and hope that the douche-bag doesn’t get to profit from his father’s (historic) success and continued celebrity.

Plenty of humour and plenty of tension, especially when the hunt for the kidnapper and kidnappee is in full flow.

4 from 5

My first time reading Philip Reed but I have a few other offerings from him on the shelves – Bird Dog, Low Rider and The Marquis de Fraud.

Philip Reed has his website here.

Read in July, 2016
Published – 2015
Page count – 321
Source – review copy from publisher Brash Books
Format - Kindle



JONATHAN STONE - DEAD LETTERS (2014)


Synopsis/blurb......

The US mail is rarely a matter of life and death. And the Postal Police sit on the lowest rung of the law enforcement ladder. Real cops make fun of them. Cases generally amount to little more than crimes against mailboxes and bungled counterfeit attempts. But when an investigation leads partners Marcie and Schottsie to the post office’s dead letter section—the deadest beat of all—what they discover propels them into a very live world of drug cartels, smuggling, and shoot-outs. Finally they face real action. Can they handle it?

A short November read from last year - 30 pages long and obviously an effort on my part to pad and inflate the numbers. It also gave me an opportunity to sample the author's writing. Something that may have been prudent to do before acquiring five of the author's novels - but hey hoh, that's not the way I roll.

As it happened I really enjoyed the story and scored it a 4.5 immediately after reading it.

Intriguing plot, I was interested to see where the story and the why of these "dead letters" was going. On the surface it seemed inexplicable, but Stone had a convincing explanation. Clever, but not too clever which would just be annoying.

I liked the two Postal Police characters and their stoicism in the face of the abuse and ribbing they endured on a daily basis from the "real" police. Solving the riddle may give them some respect and without spoiling it - solve it they do.

A 61p story when purchased in July, 2014 and well worth the enormous outlay! £0.98 currently and worth a punt if you want to try a new author before making a major commitment.

I look forward to reading at least one (but hopefully all) of the following - Moving Day, Parting Shot, The Heat of Lies, Breakthrough, The Cold Truth. I have managed to not buy his last three books - there's hope for me yet!

4.5 from 5

Jonathan Stone has his website here.

Read in November, 2016
Published - 2015
Page count - 30
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Friday, 21 July 2017

DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI - CANARY (2015)


Synopsis/blurb….

Every student needs a part-time job.

Hers is hunting criminals.

Sarie Holland is a good kid. An Honors student. She doesn't even drink.

So when a narcotics cop busts her while she's doing a favour for a friend, she has a lot to lose.

Desperate to avoid destroying her future, Sarie agrees to become a CI - a confidential informant. Armed only with a notebook, she turns out to be as good at catching criminals as she is at passing tests.

But it's going to take more than one nineteen-year-old to clean up Philadelphia. Soon Sarie is caught in the middle of a power struggle between corrupt cops and warring gangs, with nothing on her side but stubbornness and smarts.

Which is bad news for both the police and the underworld. Because when it comes to payback, CI #137 turns out to be a very fast learner...

My sixth book from this author, though the last time I read him was in 2013 – Fun & Games.

Canary gives us …… a drugs bust, a strait-laced college girl, a dogged detective, a distracted father, an irritating brother, an annoying friend and frequent trips to Philadelphia’s dark side.

Sarie, our heroine is inadvertently caught holding the bag when a friend flees after a drugs purchase is observed by a cop on surveillance. Refusing to give up the identity of her friend (why? I’d have dropped the dime on him in a flash) she ends up as a confidential informant for Ben Wildey, a cop on a mission to clean up the city.

Wildey wants to use Sarie to snag the city’s drugs king-pin. Sarie reluctantly wants to assist him, but more importantly wants to avoid the wrath of her father and the destruction of her promising future.

Bearing in mind I read this over a year ago, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details. I enjoyed the plot; the portrayal of the difficult family dynamics with Sarie’s grief at the loss of her mother and the effect of the death on her father. I bought into Wildey’s enthusiasm for his mission. Swierczynski has some great characters on display.

I liked the near-miss escapades as Sarie helps in the arrest of several criminals, just not the one target that an increasingly exasperated Wildey wants.

Plenty of humour and a fair few twists and turns in the plot. The actual resolution I kind of forget, though it does see father, daughter and brother coming together in a rare display of family togetherness.

I really enjoyed the read and look forward to more from the author in the future. I’ve read his earlier work – Secret Dead Man, The Wheelman, Severance Package, The Blonde and Fun & Games. This one and Fun & Games seem slightly more mainstream than his previous books. A fair few more of his sit on the pile.

4.5 from 5

Duane Swierczynski is on Twitter@swierczy 

Boring story - he once posted me a book of his about 10 years ago, after I won a competition on his then active blog/website. I think it was Severance Package

Read in June, 2016
Published – 2015
Page count – 401
Source – Net Galley review copy
Format - Kindle


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

GRAHAM WYND - SATAN'S SORORITY (2015)


Synopsis/blurb….

The devilish girls of Sigma Tau Nu

There's simply nothing they wouldn't do-
1958: Sandra Delites is packed off to college in Connecticut after an ‘incident’ with another girl. Her father thinks a small town university will be just the thing to straighten her out, only he hasn’t reckoned on the sisters of Sigma Tau Nu. Not just any sorority, their rites are bloody and the girls are hot – but not for the boys! President Trixie Faust sees a lot of potential in the newest pledge and Sandra is eager to learn: the thrill of the kill is just the beginning for these college girls gone wild.

Halloween will be extra scary this year. Forget black cats, you don’t want one of these sisters to cross your path.

"Wynd delivers the usual excellence in Satan’s Sorority. The hopes and dreams of college life distilled brilliantly into devil worship, orgies and murder, deftly handled by the order to leave the readers thinking ‘damn, I really picked the wrong University’. Therein lies the genius of Graham Wynd." -Adele Wearing (Fox Spirit Books)

"Having read some of Wynd's shorter fiction I had a good idea what to expect. I wasn't disappointed. I read through the quickly - a sure sign that it's a thumping good read. Top marks here, Wynd is a talent I'd love to read more from." - Darren Sant (author of The Bank Manager and the Bum and Tales from the Longcroft)

Number Thirteen Press is publishing #13 quality crime novellas in #13 months, on the 13th of each month.

Another enjoyable outing with Number 13 Press and another novella I read last year and never got around to posting a few thoughts on.

Graham Wynd AKA K.A. Laity dishes up some pulpy, pervy fun in a tale set in late 50s America.

College girls, a secret sorority, Satanism, sex within the sisterhood, a naïve but rebellious Sandra, a disappointed parent, an interfering aunt, some arrogant frat boys who need teaching a lesson, candles, rituals, pentangles, mirrors, a circle of 13, jealousy, power, control and a rapid progression to murder.
Sandra soon flourishes with the assistance of her sisterhood. Isn’t college fun?

Entertaining, fun, titillating and a wee bit disturbing.

4.5 from 5

I’ve previously enjoyed Graham Wynd’s Extricate – thoughts here.

You can follow Graham on Twitter@GrahamWynd

Read in November, 2016
Published – 2015
Page count – 106
Source – purchased copy

Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH TOM LEINS

Skull Meat author Tom Leins is the latest participant for the Q+A treatment.




















Skull Meat was enjoyed immensely earlier this month - here.

Q. I don’t think the writing is full-time, what’s the day job?

I currently work as an analyst for a telecoms research company. It is far more interesting than it sounds, and I’m happy to say that writing plays a big part. I have managed to make a living out of putting words on a page for more than a decade now: agony uncle, film critic, writer of underwhelming business articles… telecoms has been my favourite subject of all. 

Q. What’s constitutes a typical Tom Leins writing day?

Nowadays I try to write three or four evenings a week, depending on deadlines and reviewing activity. That said, I write a lot of notes during the day: random scenes, excerpts of dialogue, character descriptions… my approach to writing is rarely linear!

Because I’m desk-bound five days a week, I actually write on the sofa, with a Poundland action movie on in the background! Weird but true. Ultimately, I hope one of my books gets turned into a Poundland action movie one day – that would seem horribly appropriate!

Q. Are you a plotter? Do you have a beginning, middle and end all mapped out before you start, or does the story unfold of its own accord as you write it?

Good question. Yes, but in a ramshackle way. Anything upwards of 2,500 words I will have an ending in mind. Flash fiction (see below) is a different kettle of fish. It is satisfying when I write a whole short story in one quick burst, but a lot of stuff is stitched together from loose scenes, offcuts and narrative scraps. Whether it’s 500 words or 25,000 words I do like to maintain a three-act structure. That never changes.

Q. How long did Skull Meat take from start to finish? Is it your longest piece to date?

From start to finish? Technically, it took me eight years! An earlier version of the first chapter, ‘Bloody Kisses’, first appeared at A Twist of Noir back in November 2009 (Don’t look it up!). Some of the subsequent material made it into a follow-up story, ‘Bloody Fingerprints’, and another chunk languished on my hard-drive for almost a decade. Assembling the finished version – which includes excerpts that previously appeared on Akashic Books, Straight From The Fridge and A Twist of Noir (again) took less than a week. Ultimately, this is the book I should have written many years ago, when I was less focused, and paves the way for a whole series of Paignton Noir books that have been gestating for a long time. So, yeah, it is my longest published piece, but not the longest thing I have written.

Q. Did it end up as the book you anticipated writing at the start?  

You know what? I think it comfortably surpasses what I originally intended back in 2009 (the accessibility of Kindle helps to validate a 10,000 word novelette), and the end-product exceeded my modest expectations. I only started cobbling it together as an exercise in nudging away a stubborn dose of writer’s block – the idea to publish it as a novelette came afterwards.

Q. Can you tell me a bit about your published work to date? You seem to have short stories dotted around all over the internet at various haunts – Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, Out of the Gutter, to mention a few – have you been focussing on this format mainly?

To cut a long story short, I started writing fiction in around 2002, and my first ever story, ‘The Box’, was published by a UK press called Skrev the following year, in one of their Texts’ Bones anthologies. I notched up a bunch of publications in small-scale British literary magazines over the next five years, and switched to writing crime fiction in 2006-2007, when my reading tastes shifted. (Coincidentally, this year marks the 10th anniversary of my story ‘Paignton Noir’, which was published by a Canadian literary magazine called Front & Centre).

I took a break from writing between 2011 and 2014, and have attempted to re-establish myself in recent years. Luckily for writers – and readers – there are a bunch of great crime sites on the web (Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Out of the Gutter, Pulp Metal Magazine and Spelk [not exclusively crime, but still excellent]), and I have gained the acquaintance of dozens of top-notch writers through reading their work on the above websites.

The immediacy of flash fiction makes it my favourite format to write, but I’m probably around 100 stories in at this point, so I’m more concerned with finishing off my stack of unfinished novellas right now.

Q. On your website there’s a collection of wrestling themed noir stories – The Good Book – which is close to completion, any updates on that and what format are you going to be publishing that in, assuming you do?

Provisional cover
Yes, ‘The Good Book’ is very close to completion – only a few more stories to go. I hope to find a publisher for it in due course, but if no one bites, I’m happy to publish it myself. Despite the dark tone and murderous degeneracy on display, I think this collection is the most sale-able thing I have written to date, so I’m quietly optimistic about finding a home for it!

For readers unfamiliar with this little project, ‘The Good Book’ is an interlinked short story collection set against the backdrop of a chaotic southern wrestling promotion called the Testament Wrestling Alliance. Unhinged wrestling promoter Frank ‘Fingerfuck’ Flanagan rules his territory with an iron fist, but his personal road to hell is paved with dead wrestlers. The stories take place between the mid-1970s and the early-1990s, fit together like a blood-soaked jigsaw puzzle…

The Good Book is another project that has been bubbling away for a long time, before I decided to give it a proper crack last summer (my first ever wrestling story, ‘Other People’s Pussy’, was published by A Twist of Noir way back in 2010). Writing these stories has been a nice change in pace from working on the Paignton Noir material for so long, and has also helped me to engage readers who were previously nonplussed by my work!

Q. Who are you reading and enjoying?

My current must-read author is Adrian McKinty, whose Sean Duffy series – about a cop in 1970s and 1980s Northern Ireland – is phenomenal. His earlier ‘Dead’ trilogy was top-notch pulp-crime, but his current series reaches George Pelecanos levels of greatness. Seriously impressive stuff, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my recently purchased copy of ‘Rain Dogs’ (Book #5).

Q. Last 5 books you’ve read?

My reading habits have changed dramatically over the last few years, and independent crime fiction dominates my Kindle. The last three books I read were: ‘Down on the Street’ by Alec Cizak (ABC Group Documentation, 2017), a grubby little thriller about a cab driver who becomes a pimp; ‘Everglade’ (All Due Respect, 2017) by Greg Barth, which is the fifth book in the tremendous ‘Selena’ series; and ‘Fatboy’ by Paul Heatley (All Due Respect, 2017), which is

enjoyably nasty Americana from a young British writer to look out for. Currently on the Kindle is ‘Black Neon’ by Tony O’Neill (Blue Moose, 2014). The last paperback I read was ‘This Is How You Lose Her’ (2012), a short story collection by Junot Diaz, which was a random charity shop purchase.  

Q. Is there one all-time favourite book you wished you had written?

Probably ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, which was brilliant and intense.














Q. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I’m 15 years in, and I still get a buzz when I get an acceptance email from an editor. Getting paid for stories is a great feeling, and getting contributor copies of anthologies that my stories have appeared in gives me a real buzz too. Especially when they are close to my heart, such as ‘Walk Hand In Hand Into Extinction: Stories Inspired by True Detective’ (edited by Christoph Paul and Leza Cantoral) and ‘This Book Ain't Nuttin to Fuck With: A Wu-Tang Tribute Anthology’ (edited by Christoph Paul and Grant Wamack), both of which were published by Clash Books.


More recently, getting positive reviews from my peers – and crime fiction enthusiasts such as yourself – is a real boost. Ultimately, I’m writing for my own pleasure. I know my work is too abrasive for mainstream consumption. Picking up like-minded writer friends on the journey is a big plus.

Q. What’s the worst?

Probably the rejection. Not a cool response, but an honest one!

Q. What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

One of the highlights that sticks in my mind was getting long-listed in a short story competition run by No Exit Press, the UK publisher of books by James Sallis, Daniel Woodrell, Robert B. Parker and Edward Bunker. I didn’t make the short list, but it was great to get a slither of recognition from a publisher who I have admired for so long.

The story, ‘A Brief History of Bad Men’, remains a personal favourite of mine, and ended up being published in the aforementioned ‘Walking Hand In Hand Into Extinction’ anthology. I’m pretty sure that it is currently available dirt-cheap for Kindle, if anyone is curious! 

Q. What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

The next book which should see the light of day is ‘Meat Bubbles (& Other Stories)’, a collection of Paignton Noir short stories. ‘Skull Meat’ actually functions as a teaser for Meat Bubbles, and will slot in alongside a bunch of loosely interconnected stories. I’m editing it this month, and it should be available via Amazon later this summer, all things being well.

The dreaded work in progress is ‘Boneyard Dogs’, which I’ve been wrestling with for a while. If you liked ‘Skull Meat’, you will love ‘Boneyard Dogs’! This one was started years ago – and always intended to be ‘Year Zero’ for the Paignton Noir series – I think there is definitely more of an appetite for it now.

Here’s the synopsis: Hired to track down the missing teenage daughter of a demented local lounge singer, Paignton private investigator Joe Rey quickly finds himself surrounded dead bodies. The police are determined to pin the murders on Rey, and as his investigation spirals bloodily out of control, it becomes apparent that the real killer may actually be a man he knows all too well… (Like ‘Skull Meat’, it is far more deranged than the synopsis makes it sound!)

Q. What are your hopes for the future, publishing-wise? 

If I knuckle down – and quit writing flash fiction (a hard habit to kick, after all these years) – I want to try and put out at least a novella a year. I’ve got ten Paignton Noir novellas either underway, or loosely plotted out – I just want to see them through. My commercial ambitions are minimal, but I think there is a modest market for something darker and nastier than what the British crime fiction mainstream currently offers. Cult status is fine by me, but it would be good to find a publisher that shares my vision. Watch this space!

---------------------------------------------------
Many thanks to Tom for his time.

You can keep an eye on him and his work via his website - Things To Do In Devon When You're Dead.

He also reviews and does other bits and pieces at the blog - Dirty Books

Monday, 17 July 2017

ANTHONY MAGUIRE - SORRY TIME (2017)


Synopsis/blurb….

You're driving along a lonely outback road when suddenly a kangaroo leaps out in front of you. Your car is wrecked and then things rapidly go downhill from there as you find yourself under attack from a pack of wild dogs. Having survived that, you cross bloody paths with a pair of violent criminals who've murdered two people on a remote Aboriginal community.

And then things go REALLY pear-shaped as you find yourself caught up on a rollercoaster of bloody revenge that takes you to the other side of the globe and to the edge of madness.
Sorry Time is a breakneck story that offers a rich and entertaining reading experience, and will travel well to film. You'll meet a cast of memorable characters like Glen of the Outback, who claims to be the man in the orange T-shirt in a David Bowie clip, and rat-faced mortuary attendant Mal Kite, who runs a profitable sideline stealing valuables from bodies. And last but not least, the villain of the piece, Ali Fazir, a meth addict with a penchant for beheading. The story is steeped in an ominous, occult sub-current as Dreamtime spirits lash out after the removal of a fabulous opal from an Aboriginal burial ground.

Sorry Time starts with a trip to the Australian Outback with Jonathan Chaseling, a doctor on his way to a new job at Alice Springs. Chaseling, somewhat unwisely uncovers and trousers a buried opal from an Aboriginal tomb and if the folklore is to be believed has just incurred the wrath of some vengeful spirits. A collision with a kangaroo soon after which incapacitates his vehicle, could be the least of his problems.

Anthony Maguire serves up an entertaining adventure as Chaseling is introduced to a welcoming but isolated Aboriginal community, then gets himself involved in a manhunt after a drug-crazed Asian criminal attacks and murders a girl in the community. The consequences resonate through the book with fatal effect on Chaseling’s family and of lesser importance, his career prospects.

An interesting setting, a great sense of place, plenty of Aboriginal culture on offer, plenty of local wildlife and some social commentary regarding historic government practices which destroyed Aboriginal families and communities by separating children from their parents. 

In addition, we have a peek inside a criminal enterprise, with a dysfunctional Sydney crime family, one of whom, Ali Fazir when he's not frying his brains with drugs is fantasizing about a life changing trip to Syria where he can succeed Jihadi John as ISIS's chief beheader. We get to see how this particular family deals with its business rivals.   

The book meanders a bit at times, we have some distractions with Chaseling's family history and also his meeting with his potential employer, but it all added to the mix and I was happy enough to follow wherever the author was going to take me.

There's more than a few laughs along the way, a bit of sex with an entertaining encounter with a couple of German tourists and some extreme violence. I was kind of shocked by a couple of events in the book, kind of thinking….no - he’s not going to go there. Well he did and somewhat gruesomely. In the context of the story, it was plausible, but I still felt sorry for the victims and by extension their families.

At the climax we have the inevitable showdown between Chaseling and Ali Fazir.

Enjoyable, entertaining, educational in places, a fast paced story, some memorable characters on both sides of the fence – a hero and a villain. All in all, not a bad trip to Down Under with a trip to Turkey thrown-in for good measure.

4 from 5
I believe Sorry Time is Anthony Maguire’s debut novel. There's a Facebook page relating to the book here.

Read in July, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count  - 325
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle




ACE ATKINS - THE FALLEN (2017)

Synopsis/blurb......

Mississippi sheriff Quinn Colson had to admit he admired the bank robbers. A new bank was hit almost every week, and the robbers rushed in and out with such skill and precision it reminded him of raids he'd led back in Afghanistan and Iraq when he was an army ranger. In fact, it reminded him so much of the techniques in the Ranger Handbook that he couldn't help wondering if the outlaws were former Rangers themselves.

And that was definitely going to be a problem. If he stood any chance of catching them, he was going to need the help of old allies, new enemies, and a lot of luck. The enemies he had plenty of. It was the allies and the luck that were going to be in woefully short supply.

Another read, another new author, another mostly enjoyable book - a solid but unspectacular read in my opinion.

Quinn Colson is an ex-US Army Ranger now serving as a sheriff somewhere in Mississippi. In The Fallen we have a few over-lapping story threads. A series of bank robberies have being taking place in the vicinity and from their execution, Colson fancies that the culprits are ex-military. A domestic burglary, sees Quinn back in contact with an old childhood friend - a rather attractive one and one who is going through a difficult divorce from her husband.

In the background, Quinn's once troubled sister, Caddy her life now back on track is concerned about the disappearance of two vulnerable young teenagers who she met while conducting her work at a church-cum-charity. The girls, who weren't averse to using their bodies as a means of gaining approval have gone off radar and Caddy believes a prostitution and trafficking ring is responsible. Trying to convince her brother to investigate is another matter.

We get some of Caddy and Colson's backgrounds during the course of the tale. An errant father, a difficult mother and some failed relationships and we cross paths with characters which I assume were the subject of previous books in the series. We spend some time with Quinn's close colleague in the police service, Lillie and we observe the tensions in their relationships, both professionally and with some personal stuff.

All the strands of our seemingly separate crimes, inevitably get woven together with different connecting protagonists, each harbouring different motives and agendas for their actions. It was convincingly done, but despite the appeal of the bank robber theme - one of my favourite tropes in the genre I was just vaguely unsatisfied by the overall narrative.

I enjoyed the setting - Mississippi with the odd diversion to Memphis. Colson with his background and his pursuit of romance was an okay character, but not especially memorable or stand-out. He didn't actually seem to do an awful lot of investigating, more kind of showing up after events and reacting as opposed to being particularly pro-active in solving the crimes. Maybe a small town sheriff's role is more crime prevention than detection.

We did have some interesting themes covered in the book which were a plus for me....bank robbery, prostitution, trafficking, domestic trouble and small town politics. They didn't manage to elevate the book above average entertainment though.

The Fallen is the eighth Quinn Colson book in this series. I have something else from it on the pile and while I liked this one, I'm not minded to seek out all previous entries in the series.

3 from 5


I did request this via Penguin Random House's First to Read programme but didn't complete the book in the time I was given to read it before it disappeared from my device. I wasn't particularly enamoured by the format I was reading in, so ending up purchasing a kindle copy to complete.

Read in July 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 370
Source - purchased copy,
Format - Kindle



Thursday, 13 July 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH TONY BLACK

Tony Black, co-author of Bay of Martyrs with Matt Neal takes a turn answering a few questions.




A few thoughts were posted on Bay of Martyrs here and co-author Matt Neals's Q+A session here.


I believe the writing is full time, you have a career as a journalist as well as being a prolific novelist (about a dozen books in the past nine years), which field do you enjoy working in the most?

Definitely writing fiction, it was always about the novels for me.

When working on a book what’s your typical writing schedule?

It's really all a matter of when I can get to work, until the deadline starts to loom and then I don't stop.

Are you a plotter your books or make them up as you go along? Does the end result usually differ greatly from how you envisaged a book at the start?

A bit of both. The crime books definitely have much more pre-plotting but I always keep my options open. The end result, and funnily enough the end, always seems to alter along the way.
Matt Neal


Bay of Martyrs, your latest is a co-authored book with Matt Neal, how was it conceived?

Over many beer-fuelled chats along the lines of 'we should really write a book together'.

How long did it take from conception to birth and the publication of the book?

Not that long, all within a year maybe.

I kind of think it must be difficult enough writing and creating something on your own, a collaboration seems to me to be twice as hard?

I wouldn't recommend it for two strangers, but I've known Matt for many years, we've worked together and understand each other. I could see there being difficulties if all that wasn't in place, but nah, we cruised it.

I have an overly simplistic thought in my head that you write one chapter, Matt writes the next, you write the third, back and forth etc - kind of thinking “what hole has he left me in now”…….no doubt it’s absolutely nothing like that – how did it work?

We brainstormed the concept, mapped it all out, Matt did the first draft and I did the second. There was a lot of re-drafting and re-writing after that, especially during the editing process but it was really very smooth. 

Were you both happy with the end result?

I think so, yes. I know I was and I haven't heard any complaints from Matt.

Will you be doing it again, will we see a second collaboration and a return of Clay Moloney?

Yes, we've a two book deal and we're well on with The Cutting.

Back to your own output – five Gus Drury books, a couple of Rob Brennans, three Bob Valentines – all PIs and Policemen, have you finished with these characters or is there more to come from them all?

It's only four Gus Dury books and a couple of long short stories. I'm doing another one right now, so Gus will be back soon. There's another Valentine book due next year too and I'd like to do another Brennan but it's all about finding the time.

Anything coming from the other side of the tracks, from an outlaw’s perspective?

I loved writing RIP Robbie Silva and The Ringer but they were really just novellas, if I could, again, find the time, I'd love to do another, lengthier novel from that perspective. I have a great one with a female protagonist mapped out, I've even managed to get a few chapters written, but it's been hamstrung by all the stuff I'm actually contracted to write.

You’ve also written a couple of non-crime novels relatively recently, one a historical book – The Last Tiger - is that what you see yourself writing more of in the future?
Short answer, yes. His Father's Son and The Last Tiger had great responses and I still get emails from people who really identified with those stories and characters, which isn't something you get that often with murder mysteries. I'd like to do more, perhaps when the demand for crime dries up.








What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

I'm working on the new Gus Dury and the new Bob Valentine right now. They're both pretty well on, I'm just waiting for one to hit critical mass and then start dominating all of my time.
Who do you read and enjoy?

Barry Graham. He's a Scottish author with a great back-list of incredible books. The Book of Man, by Graham, is one of my all-time favourite books.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Hanging out with my son. He gets all my free time and I have no complaints there.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

The last film I can remember watching was Despicable Me 3. There's an 80s vibe running through it, which suited me to a tee.

In a couple of years’ time……. I'll still be here, hitting those word counts.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Many thanks to Tony for his time.

Tony has a website here. He's on Facebook here and on Twitter@TonyblackUk

Mr Black is a hard man to keep up with - see below for a full list of his books courtesy of Fantastic Fiction website - something for everyone!

Novels
His Father's Son (2012)
The Last Tiger (2014)

Series books.....
Gus Dury
1. Paying for It (2008)
2. Gutted (2009)
3. Loss (2010)
4. Long Time Dead (2010)
5. Long Way Down (2012)
6. Last Orders (2013)

DI Rob Brennan
1. Truth Lies Bleeding (2011)
2. Murder Mile (2012)

Doug Michie
1. The Storm Without (2012)
2. The Inglorious Dead (2014)

DI Bob Valentine
1. Artefacts of the Dead (2014)
2. A Taste of Ashes (2015)
3. Summoning the Dead (2016)

Clay Moloney (with Matt Neal)
1. Bay of Martyrs (2017)

Collections
Killing Time in Vegas (2013)
London Calling (2013)
The Lost Generation (2013)
The Crime Shorts (2013)
The Sin Bin (2014)

Novellas
RIP Robbie Silva (2012)
The Holy Father (2012)
Ten Bells at Robbie's (2013)
The Ringer (2013)
Stone Ginger (2015)

Non fiction
Hard Truths (2013)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

J. B. KOHL/ERIC BEETNER - OVER THEIR HEADS (2015)


Synopsis/blurb…..

The drugs are missing and four lives are about to collide.

Clyde just wanted to make a little extra cash on the side to raise his new baby. Now his life and the lives of his wife and newborn daughter are in jeopardy.

Brent just wanted to do his job and be left alone. Now he’s in a race against time for his life.

Sean just wanted to escape the crime he committed in Detroit. Now he’s stumbled into another. The money he embezzled is nothing compared the load of narcotics that fell into his lap.

And Skeeter? Well, Skeeter wants the drugs back, and he’ll use any means necessary to get them.

When these four are let loose on a mad scramble to locate the drugs, they cut a path of mayhem and bloodshed across Virginia. Inept would-be criminals clash with ruthless drug dealers in a violent weekend where no one is safe.

The only certainty: Everyone is in over their heads.

“Hard boiled pulp, hot off the press. The writing team of JB Kohl and Eric Beetner give the middle finger to polite crime writing and splatter the pages of Over Their Heads with foul mouthed, two-fisted action delivered in a hail of bullets. Neo-noir, transgressive fans will cheer. Drawing room mystery readers may need smelling salts. Don’t say you weren’t warned.” 
—Anonymous-9, author of Hard Bite and Bite Harder

Another book from last year that I read, loved and never got around to posting a few random thoughts on. Over a year on, my retention of events unfolding is more than sketchy. Enough has been retained that indicates it was a better than average book, though probably not enough to form a coherent review.

Drug dealing as a sideline, a splash of white-collar crime, an innocent employee and a psychotic menace who's happy to break a few heads to recover the prize when a stash inadvertently goes AWOL. Right up my street then!

Interesting characters abound - Clyde runs a car hire business and ships drugs around the state under the cover of his business. His wife is heavily pregnant and a bit of drug money might help the family financials. Clyde loves his wife, but his idea for some extra cash puts his family in jeopardy.

Brent works for him and inadvertently rents the wrong vehicle to the wrong customer. Clyde's at the hospital with his wife and the drugs are now heading off into the distance. Brent's in trouble with Clyde and Clyde takes advantage of Brent's better nature to have him track down the vehicle while the architect of it all holds his wife's hand in hospital.

Sean is a hen-pecked husband and he's had enough. His wife and kids are stressing him to breaking point, or is it the fact that he's embezzled money from his employer and is only days away from discovery. A trip to his in-laws isn't going to help the situation. Discovering the drugs in his hire car, might give him an opportunity to profit and get out of a hole.

Skeeter is a douche-bag and recovering the drugs for the boss man may elevate him up the organisation's career ladder. A bit trigger-happy and not the smartest tool in the box; he is funny as hell to read about.

I really liked the energy in the book, the characters, the pacing, the lurching from one misadventure to the next, the shifting of sympathies as characters that annoyed me at one point I was rooting for further on in our tale.

Over Their Heads was a fun read - unfolding frenetically with ample doses of humour, violence and general mayhem.  I do like a bit of drug-dealing going awry in my books. The more mishaps and misadventure the better.

Not everyone is going to come out of this one well.
  
Well that's how I remember it.

4.5 from 5

Mr Beetner I've read and enjoyed before with about a dozen from him still to enjoy. I was a JB Kohl reading virgin before this one. I do have another collaboration of theirs to enjoy at some point in the future - One Too Many Blows to the Head. Looking forward to it.

Read in May, 2016
Published - 2015
Page count - 291
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle