Saturday, 25 March 2017

SIMON MALTMAN - MORE FACES (2017)


Synopsis/blurb….

More Faces is a crime short story collection from A Chaser on the Rocks author Simon Maltman. The twelve mystery noirs included feature published and previously unpublished stories and all series shorts currently available. Take a journey across Northern Ireland, through the beauty and darkness, with the fresh new voice in Irish Crime Fiction.

"I’m amazed how a writer can cram so much into such a short space of narrative. You hit the ground running and it’s a sprint finish."
Crime Book Junkie

“A punchy tale, told plainly, with plenty of pace… of old fashioned thuggery and backstreet skullduggery.”
Murder, Mayhem and More

“a snappy read that gives a fresh glimpse into a life of crime and where it can lead you.”
Writing.ie

Another new-to-me author and a collection of short stories – I’ve been reading a few of them lately.

Northern Ireland based and with a few repeat characters in the collection. We have a PI, Billy Chapman from the 1940s in a few stories. I did enjoy the football based one with a mention of the long defunct club Belfast Celtic. I used to know an old guy in Luton who played for them back in the day.

The more contemporary set ones were more my cup of tea, especially the set with professional heister Blake – Night at the Opera has a great pay-off. The favourite was Riot Score though. Post Good Friday agreement there’s still trust issues when law breakers from divided communities come together to achieve a score. Set against the back-drop of a street riot – very tense, very satisfying.

A couple of interesting standalone stories as well, mixing politics, coffee and killings.

Overall an enjoyable and satisfying collection. Caned them in an afternoon and evening’s reading.

4 from 5

Simon Maitland has a Facebook presence here and is on Twitter - @simonmaltman

Read in March, 2017
Published 2017
Page count – 158
Source – ARC from the author.
Format – PDF file read on the laptop.


Friday, 24 March 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH VERGE LE NOIR

Verge Le Noir, author of  Desperados and other things was kind enough to take a turn in the stocks while I fired off a few questions at him.......






















I’ll assume the writing isn’t full time, so what’s the day job?

You assume correctly. I moonlight as a condom tester. Kidding, I work for a company that does horseracing data. Not as exciting as a rubber tester, but it pays the bills.

Call it a hunch, but I’m guessing the uber-cool Verge Le Noir moniker isn’t something your parents came up with – is your real identity a well-guarded secret? Why not publish your books under your real name?

No my parents are not that cool—at all. I’m just a cat who’s scared of his own writing so he hides under a too-cool-for-school nom de guerre in order to appease the God’s of writerly things. My name is not a well-guarded secret, I’m not in the witness protection program or anything as exciting as that, matter of fact, my writer bio has just been updated on Amazon where I use my real name, (and new mug shot) I will however, still use my pen name because is way cooler than my real name which is Virgilio Feldman. Try fitting that on a small book cover.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

Honest to the Gods of Beer? Doing this Q & A. And having people read the stuff I write.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

I don’t have one; I slip the writing in whenever I can. I’m lucky I get to write at all. I typically try to cram as much writing as possible on my days off. Sorry ladies…


Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I’ve only done it in my short novel Desperados sparingly—and it’s mostly overly exaggerated anecdotes from an acquaintance here and there, or family members, but for the most part I don’t do it.

Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I like to let the characters take me wherever they want to go, so I make it up as I go along. Most smart writers swear by plotting, I see it as painting yourself into a corner and that doesn’t jive with moi. Maybe I will try it someday.


Are there any subjects off limits?

Nothing’s off limits I hate censorship.

Desperados features the journey of a young immigrant coming to America from the south, any parallels with your own life or are you a home-grown American citizen? 

Good question. I was lucky enough to migrate legally to the U. S. from Honduras about thirty years ago. I did mine a few things about my life for Desperados, let's see: I’m from the same Islands that the character Lester talks about, I was once duped by a cousin into becoming a bracero in the State of Georgia for about two months in hell, we lived in trailers in the middle of nowhere making shit money, on the weekends we would shop at a Piggy Wiggly. A manager of a restaurant I used to work at did the orange juice bit to a waitress once. The character of Leonide or Leo is based on a good friend of mine who hails from the Ivory Coast by way of France but that’s where the similarities end. These are the few things I can think of from the top of my head; the rest is pure imagination and research.

I believe you’ve self-published all your work to date, is that a conscious move? Have you tried the “traditional” route via an existing publisher?

A conscious move indeed, I don’t know anyone in the publishing business, and I wouldn’t know how to approach anyone on that side of things, besides they only seem to be interested in bestselling authors and celebrities. They want an established brand.

So yeah I’m self- published all the way. For every one of my books though, I hire a professional editor, a book formatter and make my own book covers. I just don’t see what a traditional publisher can do for a guy like me. I honestly don’t see it. For prestige? Piss-off. The world doesn’t need another ‘tastemaker’ or ‘bouncer’ at the exclusive writers club. My humble opinion and it can change, but for now I’m happy as a clam in salt water doing things this way.

How difficult is it to attract a readership?

In a scale of one to ten, I would have to say One Hundred. A Hunter Thompson quote comes to mind, he said: “It’s like trying to wrestle a T-bone steak from a hammerhead shark.” Similar to that or thereabouts.  Although a lot of it is my fault, I’m a lousy salesman, I don’t know much about promotion, pushing product etcetera, etcetera. I’m still learning, for the most part I just concentrate on writing an entertaining story.

Your works so far are Desperados – a novel, Killing Crows – a long short story, Shell Casings and Black Pills and Red Bullets – two short story collections. Is there one of your books you’re more proud of than any of the others? Which and why?

Tricky question, like: who is your favorite child? The red-headed bastard is my favorite! In this case they’re all my favorite red-headed bastards. In all honesty; the last one I wrote—Desperados—is my favorite because is the closest I’ve come to cannibalizing parts of my life in order to write a good story. It’s a bit personal I suppose. I must say though; Shell Casings seems to be people’s favorite, even my editor liked it a lot.

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

I’m juggling a couple of projects, but the one that seems to be ahead it's called Two Iguanas Lounge and it features a couple of the characters from the short story: Lizards Lounge (a short story you can find in the book: Black Pills & Red Bullets)

In Two Iguanas Lounge, I’ll introduce a private detective by the name of Troy Declan Molloy and a Lieutenant by the name of Samira Andrade, these two team up in order to take down a serial killer who’s terrorizing a small Arizona town. It’s going a bit slow. We’ll see how it turns up, in the meantime; I’ll be uploading to my website, some short- stories, and my ramblings as usual.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Bedding all the women who find the broke-ass writer irresistible. Kidding, the best thing about writing is coming up with bat-shit crazy scenarios in which your characters can play and then having people read it. It’s magical. Writing is a lot of fun, you can’t beat that.

The worst?

Meeting women who don’t fall for the broke-ass writer. Kidding, (somewhat). The worse is trying to get the story to the right audience. That’s brutal.

What are the last five books you have read?



Lee Child’s Night School
Hollywood by Charles Bukowski
Re-read Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch—brilliant book.
You by Caroline Kepnes—well plotted, well written.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty—quite possibly one of my favorite books from 2016




Who do you read and enjoy?

Love Elmore Leonard, Christa Faust is phenomenal, Charles Bukowski always kills it, Junot Diaz inspires, Stephen Hunter knows his shit, Dennis Lehane thrills and so does Michael Connelly.

I really wish Diablo Cody would write another book, because whenever I need a chuckle I grab my copy of her book Candy Girl, and I swear; whatever pages you land on in that book, you’ll sure to find a giggle or two.














Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias— mind-blowingly good.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Falling in love from a plane without a parachute. A. k. a.  Reading, hanging out in dive bars or watching Netflix.

In a couple of years’ time…

Hopefully I’ll have a few more books; therefore I’ll—hopefully—have a few more readers.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Thanks to Mr Le Noir for his time - visit him at his website here.
He's on Twitter@vergelenoir

His books and stories have featured on the blog previously.

Desperados
Killing Crows
Shell Casings
Black Pills and Red Bullets

Thursday, 23 March 2017

VERGE LE NOIR - DESPERADOS (2016)


Synopsis/blurb….

By crossing the U. S. border, Julio Roman embarks on a roller coaster ride.

With hellhounds on his trail, he navigates an America he did not imagine. The land of the free ain't paved with gold; rather it is a place where desperate men and women do what needs to be done in order to survive. Get rich or die trying is the name of the game. Question is: Will Julio play? And if so, will he live to tell the tale? The cards have been laid on the table of life. And the stakes are high indeed. Welcome to the land of milk and honey.

Includes a link to the original song "Two Summers Ago."

An enjoyable tale of one man’s odyssey to America.  Best book ever? No, but it didn’t need to be. I was invested in the story of our young Honduran trying to get on in life and secure a future for himself and his family. He’s a bit more likable than Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem in Coming to America – more humility, less irritating but both with a moral compass.

Julio encounters abuse at the hands of his coyote handlers and temporary incarceration as a result of an operation to bring the traffickers down. His subsequent adventures have him enduring life at a motel in the company of a secretive old man and a gang of wild young women – a surprising cash bonus comes his way when they depart.

Hooking up with his stateside cousin, a career as a field hand picking vegetables beckons. Crap work for crap pay and before long Julio is on his travels again. Life in New York isn’t any easier – restaurant work as a dishwasher and a temporary venture into crime, stealing expensive truffles from his employer to supplement his income. Discovered after a while, a severe beating at the hands of his boss and shady associates ensue, before employment as a driver for a rich lawyer, Lester – someone he encountered earlier in our tale.

Life at the bottom end of the food chain inevitably sees Julio crossing paths with shady grifters and ne’er do wells and our man comes across well in these encounters. Always willing to do the moral thing, though not above profiting from a bit of law-breaking himself. Violence is never too far away, though isn’t something Julio craves – a quiet life would be more to his liking.

An enjoyable saga, maybe a bit too reliant on coincidences in our plot which fortuitously allows us to come full circle – the coyotes we met at the start of the book having unfinished business with Julio towards the end. But that aside I was entertained and eager to see where Julio’s journey ended.

4 from 5

Verge Le Noir has been enjoyed previously, featuring on the blog with Killing Crows, Shell Casings and Black Pills and Red Bullets.

His website is here.

Read In March, 2017
Published – 2016
Page count – 184
Source – copy received from author

Format - Kindle 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

THOMAS PLUCK - GET PLUCKED: 13 TWISTED TALES (2015)


Synopsis/blurb….

In a tribute to Elmore Leonard, a computer nerd and an Island barmaid race against the mob; a shifty construction foreman encounters zombies and sex dungeons in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; visitors review the Overlook hotel from THE SHINING; a psychotic virus hunter plans to unleash apocalypse during the panic of 2012; a kid who hides in the woods to scare urban legend hunters gets a surprise of his own, and eight more twisted, dark and funny tales that only Thomas Pluck could write. The latest collection from the author of BLADE OF DISHONOR and "Punk Dad Manifesto."

"he combines jabs of clever humor with full-impact gut shots." - Johnny Shaw, author of PLASTER CITY

"hardcore-clean writing delivered at warp speed." -Andrew Vachss

13 short stories from a new-to-me author (though I have since read Thomas Pluck’s new novel Bad Boy Boogie).

Humour, violence, sex, guns, the end of the world, white supremacists battling a black martial arts dude, mythical goat-men, a sneaky old couple pulling a fast one on a streetwise hustler and pacts with the devil.

If I’m honest not all of them rocked me, but there were a few in the collection that did.

From Acapulcolypse – humour on an end of the world cruise.

He squirmed aside as a flabby couple stumbled past in grass loinloths……. the man laughed, and conga-ed away with his wife gripping his generous love handles. Terence winced as their grass loincloths bared secrets to which he’d rather have remained unprivy.
Terence had also read that alcohol enemas were popular among the high school set, and would have preferred his cruise mates to partake of their liquor in that fashion as well, in the solitude of their cabins.

Gunplay – sex and guns – be careful of a hair trigger when the climax approaches – funny as fuck.

Other highpoints – Mannish Water – a couple of newly-weds on the run from a mobster.

Overall an enjoyable collection 3 from 5


Thomas Pluck has his website here. He's on Facebook here
Twitter@thomaspluck

Read in February, 2017
Published – 2015
Page count – 100
Source – FREE book after signing up on the author’s website

Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

MICK HERRON - DEAD LIONS (2013)



Synopsis/blurb…..

Winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award

A BBC Front Row best crime novel of the year

A Times crime and thriller book of the year

'The finest new crime series this Millennium' Mail on Sunday

London's Slough House is where washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what's left of their failed careers. But now the 'slow horses' have a chance at redemption.

An old Cold War-era spy is found dead on a bus outside Oxford, far from his usual haunts. As the agents dig into their fallen comrade's circumstances, they uncover a shadowy tangle of ancient secrets that seems to lead back to a man named Alexander Popov, and a decades-old conspiracy with a brand-new target: London's newest, tallest skyscraper . . .

Second book in the Slough House spooks series and another riveting read.

If I’m honest I found it a fraction less enjoyable than the first one – Slow Horses. The plot was a bit of a stretch for me, though the start point to it and the set-up itself were really enjoyable. I just wasn’t totally convinced by the whole shebang.

Lies, duplicity, a retired Russian agent, an old lag from the Berlin days, a Regents Park go-getter, the Slough House misfits, a new Russian billionaire in town and a sleepy town in the Shires.

Great characters, though in truth we have one amazing stand-out and a bunch of able supports. Jackson Lamb is truly disgusting. He farts, he burps, he’s rude and he’s cruel – particularly when offering his assistant, Catherine – a recovering alcoholic a drink, knowing damn well the consequences if she accepts. I’m not too sure whether he doesn’t care or if he cares and everything’s a test.

Lamb stood, gazed at the nearest tree as if in sudden awe of nature, lifted a heel from the ground and farted. “Sign of a good curry,“ he said. “Sometimes they just bubble about inside you for ages.”

“I keep meaning to ask why you’ve never married,“ River said.

One thing for sure, he is very, very funny and when he’s off page, I miss him. Towards the end of the book he’s off page a lot.

Lots to like. I’m looking forward to the last couple of books in this series, though I’m not going to rush to get to them. I’ll savour the anticipation of reading them just a bit longer.

4 from 5

Mick Herron has his website here.

My Slow Horses – review is here.
Blog friend Tracy from Bitter Tea and Mystery has reviewed Dead Lions here.

     
Read in January 2017
Published - 2013
Page count - 350
Source - owned copy bought secondhand a year or two ago
Format - hardback

Monday, 20 March 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH LARRY D. SWEAZY



Author Larry D. Sweazy has had 13 books published to date, I've enjoyed three of them so far.

A Thousand Falling Crows still sits on the TBR pile.


Sonny Burton was forced to retire from the Texas Rangers after taking a bullet from Bonnie Parker in a shoot-out. The bullet so damaged Sonny's right arm that he had to have it amputated. 

While Sonny struggles with recuperating and tries to get used to the idea of living a life with only one arm, Aldo Hernandez, the hospital's janitor, asks Sonny to help find his daughter and bring her back home. She has got herself mixed up with a couple of brothers involved in a string of robberies. Sonny agrees to help, but is more concerned about a wholly different criminal in town who has taken to killing young women and leaving them in local fields for crows to feast on.


Just as Sonny is able to track down Aldo's daughter, he comes to an uncomfortable realization about who might be responsible for the string of murders and races to nab the killer before another girl is left to the crows.



Where I Can See You was enjoyed last month and was on the blog last week - here.



His first two Marjorie Trumaine books - See Also Murder and See Also Deception have featured before here and here.

Mr Sweazy was kind enough to spare some time and answer a few questions for me.......
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

I see from your author biography that you are a freelance indexer.  How long have you worked in that field?

It’ll be 19 years in July.

It sounds very intense, can you explain a little bit about the process to the uninformed?

Some authors write their own index, which makes sense, and that is what most people assume happens in the publishing process.  But writing and indexing are separate skills.  Some authors think every topic in the book is equally important and want everything represented in the index. That’s just not possible, or functional.  Which is where I come in.  My focus is just on the index.  I get page proofs of a book and decide what five to ten terms (or concepts) per page are the most important, and that a reader might look up.  So, I immediately become an advocate for the reader.  I use a word processing program specifically designed for indexing, and I start with a blank page.  I write the index by reading every page of the book and entering terms one word at a time, just like I do when I write a novel.  I don’t use search bots or any automated way of indexing.  It is a tedious job, and some books are more interesting than others, but the really intense part is the time that I have to prepare an index.  My deadline is usually two weeks for a three hundred page book.  Indexing comes at the end of the production process and the page numbers have be finalized before I start.  Once I send in the index, it’s proofread, then for all intents and purposes, the book is sent off to the printer.

Is it easier to index or to write? Which one came first?

Both are separate skills, and equally challenging and equally enjoyable to me.  Writing came first.  I started writing in junior high school (grades 7 and 8 here in the States).  It was my interest in reading and writing that led me to indexing.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

I think it’s the fact that I get to sit down every day and write stories that mean something to me, and knowing they will make their way out into the world to (hopefully) entertain readers. 

What’s your typical writing schedule?

I write every day.  I write a minimum of five hundred words, but it’s usually more than that.  I start writing in the morning, wrap up around noon, then start my indexing projects after lunch. I work until I’m finished.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?


I’m sure some of their characteristics and personalities work their way into my stories, but I don’t include them with intention.

Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I used to say that I was a pantser (fly by the seat of my pants), but I’m really a hybrid.  I plot out a few chapters ahead of where I am, and I have a vague idea of the end.  I remain flexible and available to any ideas that might come my way, so I’m not really a strict plotter.  E. L. Doctorow said, “Writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  I think that about covers it…

Are there any subjects off limits?

Sure, cruelty to animals or children… The odd thing about writing mysteries is that writers can kill the grandmother in terrible ways, but the cat better survive.  I don’t write gratuitous violence, but we live in a violent world, so that’s what I write about—that and justice.  The story is always about justice.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer? 

The first novel I published was the seventh novel that I wrote. One of the other six has gone on to be published (a mystery, The Devil’s Bones), but the rest remain hidden away.  They are practice novels, and I have no desire to return to them.  I’m a different writer and a different human being now, and I really doubt that I could access those old books in the way they need to be rewritten (and trust me, they need a lot of work).

Your first eight or nine books, appear to all be Westerns whereas the last few are more mystery/crime orientated, have you left the Western genre behind for now? (I kind of think Westerns are just crime novels with horses and hats anyway.)





I agree with you that Westerns are crime novels.  Most of my Westerns have been mysteries, too.  No, I haven’t left the genre.  I just wrote a couple of short stories over the winter that fit into Western genre.  I just haven’t had time to write a Western novel in the last few years, but I’m pretty sure I’ll write another Western one of these days.  The genre is rich with possibilities, and I love it too much to leave it behind.


Is there one of your books you’re more proud of that any of the others? Which and why?

I’ve learned something valuable from each novel that I’ve written, so it’s really impossible to pick. 

I’ve enjoyed the first two Marjorie Trumaine books – See Also Murder and See Also Deception and I understand there is a third planned for 2018. Is that Marjorie done, or does she have legs for a few more books yet?

I hope there will be more Marjorie books.  I have ideas for the series that go well beyond the third book.

What are the last five books you have read? 

What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren, Westport by Dean Hulse, Stranded by Matthew P. Mayo, The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey, and The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst.





















Who do you read and enjoy? 

My reading tastes vary. I read a lot of mysteries, of course. James Lee Burke, Joe R. Lansdale, Tony Hillerman, Sara Paretsky, to name a few.  And I read outside the genre a lot, too. I like E. L. Doctorow, Pat Conroy, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Louise Erdich, Barbara Kingsolver… the list goes on and on.

Is there any one book you wish you had written? 

Breakheart Hill by Thomas H. Cook.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Walking the dogs (I have two Rhodesian ridgebacks who demand to be exercised every day).

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

I’m writing See Also Deadline, the third book in the Marjorie Trumaine series.  It’s coming along…

What’s the best thing about writing? 

Being able to sit down every day and do it.  Those days when everything comes together: ideas, words, images, and plot are the best.

The worst?  

I can’t think of anything.  Publishing is a tough business, but not as tough as digging ditches.  I love writing, and being a writer.  I’m not going to complain about the every day stuff, or things that are out of my control.

In a couple of years’ time…

I hope I’m doing the same thing I am today: working on a new story, pushing myself to become a better writer, still searching for the best sentence I ever wrote. 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Many thanks to Larry for his time and to his publisher Seventh Street Books for introducing me to his work.

You can visit the author's website here.
He's on Facebook - here and catch him on Twitter@larrydsweazy

Seventh Street Books are here.



Sunday, 19 March 2017

MARK J. NEWMAN - VIOLENCE IN THE BLOOD (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Malkie Thompson's got ambition. He'll do whatever it takes to get to the top and nothing's gonna stand in his way. Follow Thompson's rise to power from the backstreets of Glasgow to the industrial heartland of the Midlands. Join the rampage as Malkie and his crew blaze a trail of mayhem and destruction north and south of the border.

There will be blood, murder and mayhem. You’ve been warned.

A fast-paced 50-odd page tale of gangsters and criminality. Taut prose, with barely a word wasted. Newman gives us the rise of Malkie Thompson in 1988, moving in on Vinnie Edwards and his turf, much to our soon-to-be-deposed king-pin's chagrin and that of the local police with whom he has a tacit understanding.

Thomson pulls a job under Edwards' nose and causes some grief between Edwards and his pet poodle copper, DI Morrison. A stand-off between the two with guns isn't going to be good for business. One bent copper with embarrassing photographs and pressure from the hierarchy for a result and a return to a more peaceful climate. One annoyed gangster, suspecting that his paid-for-copper has crossed him and has something to do with the 60k job pulled on his patch.

Malkie Thomson's only just getting started. Newman takes us back to Glasgow and Malkie's rise in the Glaswegian underworld, before more grief down south as his business with Vinnie Edwards comes to a climax.

Not many likable characters on display but an enjoyable tale of gangsters, violence, cunning and ambition. Lots to enjoy. Right up my reading alley.

4 from 5

Mark J. Newman has written a few more tales in his Crime Syndicate series, which I hope to read later this year. He has his website here. He's also on Facebook here and catch him on Twitter@marknewmanwrit1

Read in January, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 51
Source - Amazon FREEBIE purchase
Format - Kindle

Saturday, 18 March 2017

JOE R. LANSDALE - THE STEEL VALENTINE (1991)


Synopsis/blurb….

“Even before Morley told him, Dennis knew things were about to get ugly. A man did not club you unconscious, bring you to his estate and tie you to a chair in an empty storage shed out back of the place if he merely intended to give you a valentine. Morley had found out about him and Julie.”

A short story in the tradition of Fleming or Dahl, “The Steel Valentine” is a gem, exemplifying the suspense writing of Joe Lansdale.

Another short February read and a chance to keep the scoreboard ticking over on my reading stats.
Joe Lansdale serves up a gritty and graphic tale of a cuckolded husband exacting a little bit of retribution.

“Spare me the innocent act, lover boy. You’ve been laying the pipe to Julie, and I don’t like it.”

Morley, the husband and Dennis, the boyfriend discuss their differences in a storage shed, only instead of port and a couple of cigars, one’s been beaten unconscious and tied up with ropes. Seven hungry Dobermans await the conclusion of the talks.
Graphic violence, humour in our verbal exchanges and a satisfying outcome. I do like the author’s work.

Bonus material includes an introduction to his book Waltz of Shadows

4 from 5

Joe R. Lansdale has his website here. You can grab a free short story from him every Thursday I believe.


Read in February, 2017
Published 1991 (my e-version was released 2011)
Page count – 29
Source – Amazon purchase, probably free

Format - Kindle

Friday, 17 March 2017

TODD LUCHIK - THE CHILDREN OF THE TRANSMISSION (2015)


Synopsis/blurb........

Joan is a troubled woman haunted by loss and tormented by sinister voices and terrifying hallucinations. It's Christmas Eve and she walks the city streets alone looking for a missing friend, but her search leads to a shocking discovery, one that will force her to confront a painful secret from her past and set her on a collision course with danger.

A short February read from my kindle and if I'm being brutally honest not something I especially enjoyed.

Hallucinations and delusions, a controlling cult called the Microbes - real or imagined (?), a women obsessed with another woman, a dead baby in a dumpster, a showdown in a church and a bit of a twist in the tale.

I  just couldn't really feel any empathy or involvement in the characters, which is sometimes the case with short pieces. If you don't feel the story a pithy one-liner or joke is often reward enough for reading. Humour wasn't the author's intention here so that wasn't going to happen. I just didn't get it.

2 from 5

I have enjoyed Todd Luchik's work previously and I'll happily read him again in the future.

Forgotten Boy was reviewed here. Friday Night, Saturday Morning was reviewed here.




Todd Luchik has his website here.

Catch him on Facebook here.
Twitter@ToddLuchik

You can get a copy of this one and one of his novels by signing up to his mailing list.

Read in February, 2017
Published - 2015
Page count - 16
Source - FREE from the author's website
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 16 March 2017

LARRY D. SWEAZY - WHERE I CAN SEE YOU (2017)


Synopsis/blurb……

Haunted by the disappearance of his mother when he was eight years old, detective Hud Matthews begins his own investigation to find out what really happened so many years before. 

When a rare murder occurs in the lakeside community, Hud's veteran skills are called upon to capture the killer. Pulled deep into the threads of the community with ties to the past, Hud quickly becomes a target, not only of the killer, but of those who wish the past to be left alone. 

As Hud gets closer to discovering the truth about the crimes, he has to face a choice of enforcing the law, or stepping outside of it to make sure that his version of justice is served.

I do like small town crime fiction. Another trope to which I’m also partial is the return of a long time absent son to the community where he was raised. Larry D. Sweazy offers both here, so from the outset I was fairly confident I was on to a winner with this book.

Hud Matthews was being raised by his mother and grandmother, when his mother disappeared. The pair never stopped looking for her during the rest of his childhood. Fast forward to the present day, Hud’s grandmother Gee has now passed and after an incident in Detroit – the violent death of one of Hud’s informants at his hands - Hud has left the big city and returned back to his hometown community.

First day on the new job and a body has turned up lakeside, a young woman has been shot. Hud on the local police force, under the watchful eye of Paul Burke, the local police chief and a childhood friend of our main man, is involved from the outset.

Hud is viewed with mistrust and resentment from other members of the small team, as well as encountering difficulties from locals, who remember him as a boy and had a relationship with his mother. One thing you know in a mystery of this type if you tell someone to leave something alone, they’re going to do the exact opposite. Cue more digging.

Small town mystery, an escalating present day series of crimes and the obsession of one man and his past which he can’t escape. The presence of his absent mother looms large on every page.

Great setting, interesting characters, and a riveting mystery – are the present day crimes linked to the past, who can be trusted, who has something to hide? Sweazy is fast turning into one of my favourite authors.

Lots to like here.

4.5 from 5

I’ve previously read two books from this author from his Marjorie Trumaine series – See Also Murder and See Also Deception. Another standalone – A Thousand Falling Crows still awaits.

Larry D. Sweazy has a website here. As well as authoring over a dozen novels he works as an indexer.

Read in February, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 254
Source – review copy from Seventh Street Books (cheers to Jake)

Format – ARC paperback

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

ROBIN SLOAN - MR PENUMBRA'S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE (2012)


Synopsis/blurb…….

A New York Times bestseller, Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore is an entirely charming and lovable first novel of mysterious books and dusty bookshops; it is a witty and delightful love-letter to both the old book world and the new.

Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone - and serendipity, coupled with sheer curiosity, has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behaviour and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore...

'The pages swell with Mr Sloan's nerdy affection and youthful enthusiasm for both tangible books and new media... [but] the ties that bind the story are friendship and vitality for life. This is a clever and whimsical tale with a big heart' The Economist

Shortlisted for the LA Times Book Award for First Fiction.

My first read in 2017 and hopefully better books lie ahead of me. The book itself was a bit of a departure from my normal type of crime fiction reading and while I was mostly engaged by the story ultimately it was all a bit flat come the conclusion.

Clay gets a job at a bookstore just to tide him over until something better comes along. The bookstore and its mysterious owner, Mr Penumbra harbour some strange secrets, customers who come and go at all hours without actually buying anything and a journal which is kept by the staff – one which plots the items each customer has borrowed(? – two months on and I can’t actually remember whether they take the books, buy the books, or just peruse them in their natural habitat.)   Our night shift clerk’s curiosity has been awakened and so breaking all the rules of employment he digs a bit deeper.

Apparently we have a mysterious society of authors and readers, who’s books have been written and accepted and then “coded” and which become part of the society’s secret library. Only one copy of the book exists, and if you piss off the society, your book gets burned. Our historic founder of our society has his own coded magnum opus, which itself houses the mystery of eternal life, or was it the secrets of the universe – I forget (and to be honest can’t be bothered to re-check the book to decide which).  The society members are striving to unlock this secret code by virtue of studying other journals held within the society’s library.

Somewhat bizarrely I quite liked the premise of this, though a month or two on it comes across as complete and utter nonsense. The author does kind of ramp up the tension as Clay and his friends – a rich entrepreneur and a super-savvy (and Clay’s love-interest) high-flying Google executive harness their resources; namely cash for a trip to the New York branch of the secret society run by Mr Penumbra’s boss - a card-carrying Luddite, and a Google super computer to apply algorithms and logarithms and loads of other nerdy isms to reveal the secret code. Inevitably when you’ve been waiting for the secrets of the universe to be revealed, the eventual reveal is a bit of a damp squib.

Interesting characters, enjoyable friendships, a great setting in an old bookshop, housing tons of mysterious books from floor to vast ceilings, a bit of a mystery-cum-fantasy tale if you like.

Enjoyable up to a point, but a bit disappointing in the end.    

3 from 5

Robin Sloan has also penned a short prequel to Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, entitled Ajax Penumbra: 1969. One of my yardstick's for measuring a book's enjoyment is whether I would be interested in reading more from the author in the future, in this case it's a negative. 


Robin Sloan has his website here.

Read in January, 2017
Published - 2012
Page count - 304
Source - owned digital copy
Format - Kindle 




Thursday, 9 March 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH JAMES/JAIME RAVEN

Jaime (James) Raven was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding his reading and writing habits.








His book The Madam featured on the blog earlier this week - here.
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Is the writing full-time? What’s the day job or what were you in your pre-writing life?

I’ve been a full-time writer for the past seven years. Before that I had a career in journalism. I worked as a newspaper reporter for local and national newspapers and then as a television news producer for ITV. I eventually became Director of News and after being made redundant ran my own TV production company for six years.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

The most satisfying moment in my writing career was when my first book – Pinnacle of Ice – was accepted by Robert Hale publishers. It’s been re-published as Arctic Blood.

What’s your typical (book) writing schedule?

It usually takes me about six months to complete a book from the moment the idea comes to me. I don’t stick to a rigid writing routine, but will try to write at least a thousand words a day. I always write in long hand and usually in coffee shops.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I tend not to include family and friends in my books because my characters are usually coppers, murderers, rapists and prostitutes! However, I do often insert the names of people I know for my characters.

How long did The Madam take from conception to completion?

I actually started writing The Madam a number of years ago and completed about four chapters. I then put it to one side to concentrate on another project. I went back to it when I was looking for something new and finished it in about five months.

Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I usually work out a storyline with all the main plot points. But as soon as I start writing I make so many changes that the finished product usually turns out to be quite different.

Are there any subjects off limits?

I don’t think any subject should be off limits to a writer.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

There are no unpublished gems in the drawer but there are lots of ideas waiting to be developed.

The Madam and The Alibi are your two published Jaime Raven books to date, with The Punishment scheduled later this year, but you have a cache of books published as James Raven. Is there one of your books you’re more proud of than any of the others? Which and why?

One book does stand out for me because I actually chose to self-publish it. It’s entitled Malicious and it’s been one of my most successful books to date. It was downloaded 70,000 times in one weekend shortly after publication and went to the top of the Amazon UK chart. It features a female detective in the US who is addicted to online porn and gets in trouble when her webcam is hacked!



At the risk of being nosey – why the two author names?

When Avon/Harper Collins decided to take me on with The Madam they were keen for me to write under a pseudonym. So they came up with the name Jaime – which is catchy and gender neutral!


What are the last five books you have read?


The last five I’ve read as are follows:
Perfect Remains – Helen Fields
Blink – KL Slater
Watch Me – Angela Clarke
Panic Button – Charlie Gallagher
The Gift – Louise Jensen






Who do you read and enjoy?

I’m a huge fan of Jessie Keane. I like her hard-hitting, gritty novels and the way her characters come to life on the pages.


Is there any one book you wish you had written?

The Godfather by Mario Puzo. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Favourite activity when not working (writing?)


Travelling and drinking wine and cocktails in great bars.

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

I’m developing an idea as part of a two-book deal with Avon/Harper Collins. The pressure’s on because the book has to be finished by October 1 and I haven’t written a word yet!

What’s the best thing about writing?

Letting your imagination run wild.

The worst?

The isolation. When I’m stuck into a book I often don’t speak to anyone during the day.

In a couple of year’s time…

…I’d like to be one of the world’s biggest selling authors so I can ‘work’ on a luxury yacht moored in St Tropez…but I doubt it will happen….

Many thanks to James for his time. You can find out more about his books at his websites, here and here.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

CARL HIAASEN - RAZOR GIRL (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.........

Key West is a small place, but there are criminal secrets buried everywhere . . .

When jumped-up reality TV star Buck Nance aggravates the crowd in a Key West bar, he incites a riot and vanishes in the melee. His hapless agent Lane Coolman should have been by Buck's side, but has been accidentally taken hostage by two petty criminals who now think they can turn a quick profit by ransoming an LA talent agent.

As the search for Buck continues, the mystery draws in a broad cast of characters from across the island including Andrew Yancy, the disgraced cop who now works restaurants on roach patrol; a delusional fan of Buck's show; the local sheriff who's desperate for re-election; a shady lawyer and his gold-digging fiancée; the gay mayor and his restauranteur partner; a Mafioso hotelier; and a redheaded con artist named Merry who, using a razor blade and a high-speed car, has developed a signature way of luring in her victims.

Outrageously funny, fast-paced and uniquely addictive, Razor Girl will keep you utterly gripped until the final page.

Enjoyable overall but not one of his better books in my opinion. There were some moments of pure comedy gold which had me laughing like a drain, but places in the book where I kind of felt the story dragged. Maybe the thing with comedy crime is that can very often fall flat if you’re not quite in the mood for absurdity.

I haven’t picked up a Hiaasen book since July, 2010 when I read Team Rodent – a non-fiction diatribe on all things Disney. I haven’t picked up one of his novels for longer than that. Maybe my fond memories of Tourist Season and Double Whammy from 20-odd years ago are too tinged with nostalgia and false memory over how good they were, and if I read them today they would be enjoyed about the same as this. I hope not.     

I didn’t dislike the book. I liked the main character Andrew Yancy and his escapades with our Razor Girl, Merry were amusing. Yancy is suffering from matters of the heart and his career is in the doldrums. His girlfriend has gone to Europe, her return is questionable. His detective job has gone south and he’s working restaurants checking out hygiene violations. Merry may be the one to take his mind off of things! Always assuming she stops running her insurance scam, a somewhat dubious practice of causing road traffic accidents while purportedly attending to the smoothness of her lady parts with the aforementioned razor while driving. (Yancy’s fall from grace may have been documented in an earlier book – Bad Monkey, something I haven’t read yet.)

Add to the mix, a reality TV star who has disappeared after a drunken racist rant hit the airwaves, his agent who heads south to put out the flames from the incident and locate him, a dodgy lawyer who is suffering from the side effects of applying a bit too much questionable enhancement cream to his genitalia, his other half who has lost her massive engagement ring and offers Yancy payment in kind to help recover it, plus a simple-minded villain who harbours delusions of stardom and fame all fuelled by an ill-conceived kidnap plot.  

A fair few laughs, but not up there with his best.

3 from 5

I might be in a minority here, because of the 24 reviews thus far on Amazon UK - 14 award 5 stars and 8 scores are 4. I'm with the 2 that rated it at 3 stars.

Carl Hiaasen has written over 20 novels, some for YAs, a couple of book series featuring Skink in one and Mick Stranahan in another, plus more than a few standalones. His website is here.

Hiaasen is a journalist with the Miami Herald and for years I used to follow his weekly column, but kind of fell out of the habit of doing so.

Read in November, 2016
Published – 2016
Page count – 342
Source – review copy from Little Brown Book Group (thanks to Ella Bowman)

Format – new hardback.







Tuesday, 7 March 2017

JAIME RAVEN - THE MADAM (2016)


Synopsis/blurb….

Women always uncover the truth....

Three years and 11 months. That's how long Lizzie Wells has been banged up inside Holloway prison, serving time for a crime she didn't commit. Six months. That's how long it's taken Lizzie to fall in love with her fellow inmate, Scar.

Now they are both finally free, and together they are about to embark on a vengeful search to find those who framed Lizzie...and to make them pay.

The Business Man. The Copper. The Madam.

An enjoyable fast-paced read without being the best book ever.

Lizzie Wells was framed for murder and whilst away lost her young son to illness. Now she’s out, she’s embittered and she wants some answers and a lot of payback.

We have a tough female with attitude, a bit of romance and support from her old cellmate, a fractured family – her mum can’t get past Lizzie’s former lifestyle – escorting, drug use, general fecklessness and blames her for the loss of her grandson, surmising that if Lizzie had been around he would still be alive, a damaged brother – one who’s just had another beating, a brothel madam who told lies, and an untouchable businessman-cum- gangster in charge of prostitution in cahoots with some crooked police officers.

The man Lizzie allegedly killed was a journalist investigating our successful businessman. One of the investigating officers in Lizzie’s case committed suicide. She’s been out of clink 24 hours and she’s already being warned off. It all stinks.

I’m not usually a massive fan of the amateur sleuth bumbling around, but on this occasion it worked well for me. Lizzie is nothing if not determined. The police are dismissive and disinterested, what choices does she have?

Prostitution, prison, sex, nightclubs, family, investigative journalism, corruption, police, cover-ups and frame-ups, beatings, a disappeared foreign escort, a bit of violence and plenty of grit.

In the end we get a satisfying but in truth fairly predictable outcome, though there were a few twists in the leading up to it. Who exactly was the rogue in uniform? Who could be trusted if anyone?

4 from 5



Jaime Raven has written a couple of other novels – The Alibi and The Punishment which is due out later this year. As James Raven he has penned about a dozen novels. His websites are here and here.   

Read in January, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 330
Source - review copy received from author
Format - new paperback