Saturday, 18 August 2018

GLENN McGOLDRICK - DEAD FLIES (2017)



Synopsis/blurb...

Just a kid, really, with his whole life ahead of him. But he vanished three years ago…

In this chapter of the Dark Teesside series, the events unfold in Thornaby and Middlesbrough...

Introducing Dead Flies, a dark short story by award winning writer Glenn McGoldrick. 

"Another excellent piece of short fiction from McGoldrick, well written and excellently presented. The use of actual Northern locations and the writing style as well hints at Ian Rankin, and hopefully there will be a full length novel in time. A sad and thoughtful short story, that leaves you very much wanting more" - Amazon bestselling author Sam Burnell

A short story and another boost to the reading stats.

Dead Flies was my second taste of Glenn McGoldrick's work and another enjoyable story, one which connected emotionally.

A missing son, no note, no body, no clues, no hint and no explanation - ergo - grief, bewilderment, questions but still a modicum of hope.

One sudden change of setting mid-way gave me such a jolt, before the story settled back down. I kind of envisaged things heading in a different direction, but the author took us elsewhere.

Well written, invoking a great deal of reflection and sadness. This is reality for a number of families.

Not a story I will let go of lightly.

4.5 from 5

Glenn McGoldrick seems to specialise in short stories. His website is here.
Red Marks was enjoyed a month or two ago - thoughts here.

Read in August, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 14
Source - purchased
Format - kindle

Friday, 17 August 2018

ALAN PARKS - BLOODY JANUARY (2017)


Synopsis/blurb....

When a teenage boy shoots a young woman dead in the middle of a busy Glasgow street and then commits suicide, Detective Harry McCoy is sure of one thing. It wasn't a random act of violence.

With his new partner in tow, McCoy uses his underworld network to lead the investigation but soon runs up against a secret society led by Glasgow's wealthiest family, the Dunlops.

McCoy's boss doesn't want him to investigate. The Dunlops seem untouchable. But McCoy has other ideas . . .

In a helter-skelter tale – winding from moneyed elite to hipster music groupies to the brutal gangs of the urban wasteland – Bloody January brings to life the dark underbelly of 1970s Glasgow and introduces a dark and electrifying new voice in Scottish noir.

Seventies Glasgow and a public murder which our lead character, Detective McCoy had been warned about but which he was unable to prevent, has Bloody January off and running at a ferocious clip. Alan Parks had me hooked early and cliche or not it was a struggle to put the book down. 

Murder, suicide, manipulation, drugs, prostitution, sordid sex parties, sick minds and cameras, films and photographs, blackmail, S&M, cops consorting with gangsters, a good time girl as a girlfriend, more deaths and disappearances, an untouchable family, political interference, corruption, police rivalries and affiliations, a young recruit, a failed relationship with child bereavement a huge shadow, a disturbing upbringing at the hands of the Church, a lifelong friendship forged in terror under abuse, two different paths, massage parlours, beatings and torture, poverty, a stop start investigation and a relentless doggedness to ensure those responsible pay one way or another.

Interesting dynamics throughout - especially Harry and his childhood friend and Glaswegian criminal terror Stevie. A shared history and a perceived debt binds them together and forces Harry to overlook Stevie's criminality, despite the possible cost to his career.     

Not a book for the faint of heart, very dark and graphic in places, very in your face in the descriptions of a long ago Glasgow where poverty and crime seemed prevalent. A different time when police and thieves had arrangements and understandings.

Setting - tick.
Pace - tick.
Storyline - tick.
Characters - tick.
Grim and gritty quota - double tick.
Resolution - tick.

Debut novel from author - tick (unbelievable)
More books from Alan Parks - yes please.
A second McCoy book drops early next year - February's Son

Alan Parks might just usurp Malcolm Mackay as my favourite Scottish crime writer.

Overall verdict - bloody marvellous!
5 from 5

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 336
Source - Edelweiss early reviewer's site courtesy of publisher, World Noir
Format - kindle 




Wednesday, 15 August 2018

HENRY G. SHEPPARD - HAEMATEMESIS (2016)


Synopsis/blurb....

This book relates the journey of a medical innocent through the wilds of the hospital system. It is a comic account of life on the business side of the medical looking glass, written to encourage others as they face the uncertainties of life in the hands of modern-day medical practitioners.

Not my usual kind of reading, but flicking through the kindle it popped up and jumped out at me. I vaguely recall the author offering a copy for a review sometime and I was in the mood for something a bit different.

Here the author chronicles his second encounter with leukemia after having previously battled the disease. It's not a subject normally associated with humour, but Sheppard does his best to lighten the mood while documenting his journey.

Bowel movements, nose bleeds, self-medicating, weight loss, invasive fingers, cancelled appointments, officious hospital staff, surly doctors, argumentative nurses and yo-yo-ing blood counts, the painful and at times callous hunt to locate a vein and a flatulent bus ride.

Having seen both good and bad indifference when in hospital, both as a patient and a visitor, I can relate to a lot of the anecdotes Sheppard shares - the Australian medical profession having much in common with the NHS.

A few smiles, one laugh out loud funny moment - almost two, plenty of sharp intakes of breath and wincing and a fond wish that Sheppard retains his stoicism and sunny demeanour in his on-going fight with a cruel disease.

4 from 5

Read - August, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count - 73
Source - review copy from author
Format - kindle

* Having checked back in on the author over on Goodreads, sadly it appears that he lost his fight and passed in March, 2018

2 BY NEWTON THORNBURG

A couple from the US and the 70s and 80s by Newton Thornburg this week.

I read Thornburg's To Die in California a few years ago and it was everything I look for in a book.... pace, story, characters, setting and heart, quite haunting really. 



Thornburg had 11 books published between 1967 and 1998. A few others sit on the pile including Knockover a 1968 heist novel.

From Fantastic Fiction.......

Born in Harvey, Illinois, Thornburg graduated from the University of Iowa with a Fine Arts degree. He worked in a variety of jobs before devoting himself to writing full-time (or at least in tandem with his cattle farm in the Ozarks) in 1973.





Cutter and Bone (1976)


A thriller, and a whacking good thriller, too - shows how much can be done by a writer who knows his business - the best novel of its kind in ten years! - New York Times

First published in 1976, Cutter and Bone is the story of the obsession of Cutter, a scarred and crippled Vietnam veteran and his attempt to convince his buddy, Bone, that the latter witnessed a murder committed by the conglomerate tycoon, JJ Wolfe. Captivated by Cutter's demented logic, Bone is prepared to cross the country with Cutter in search of proof of the murder. Their quest takes them into the Ozarks - home base of the Wolfe empire - where Bone discovers that Cutter is not pursuing a murderer so much as the great enemy itself, them, the very demons that have dogged his life.

A prolific writer, Newton Thornburg lives in upstate New York. His novels include A Man's Game, To Die in California, Dreamland, The Lion at the Door, and Eve's Men.

Blog friend TracyK from Bitter Tea and Mystery read Cutter and Bone recently.
The bleakest book she's ever read, which is a cracking recommendation in my eyes.

Also made into a film entitled Cutter's Way in the early 80s with Jeff Bridges.

Dreamland (1983)

"A commanding writer of unusual delicacy and power." - THE NEW YORKER

Two apparent suicides and a pair of brutal sex murders plunge would-be starlet Foxy Reno and ex-hippie drifter Crow into the dark underbelly of Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. As Crow and Reno embark on a manhunt, they discover the dark side of desire in white-hot California.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

ADAM HOWE (ed.) - WRESTLE MANIACS (2017)


Synopsis/blurb.......

A dozen dark fiction masters bring their twisted vision to the world of professional wrestling. Twelve original stories of crime, horror, humor, and taboo. Ohhh, yeahhh! This ain’t no kayfabe, baby. This is hard-hitting wrestling fiction that grips like a Camel Clutch, and pins the reader to the page for the count of one, two…THREE!

Includes a confrontational foreword by ring legend 'Pulverizing' Pat McCrunch (as told to Jeff Strand)… An all-new story starring Nick 'The Widowmaker' Bullman from James Newman’s wrestling noir, "Ugly as Sin"… And ex-boxer turned strip club bouncer Reggie Levine ("Tijuana Donkey Showdown," "Damn Dirty Apes") returns for another action-packed misadventure.

Original fiction by:
Jeff Strand
Tom Leins
James Newman
Eryk Pruitt
Adam Howe
Ed Kurtz
Hector Acosta
Joseph Hirsch
Duncan P. Bradshaw
David James Keaton
Gabino Iglesias
Patrick Lacey
and Jason Parent

Wooooo!!!

Jeff Strand - Foreward..... very shouty, very in your face, larger than life

Tom Leins - Real Americans..... a former Native American wrestler turned drug-addled cop works a case  - I didn’t miss getting my ass handed to me by herniated middle-aged rednecks in sweat-streaked leotards. - and enjoys a re-union with a former wrestling acquaintance. Brutal and extremely harsh, climaxing in the best fight of his life. XXX-rated.

James Newman - A Fiend in Need .... Nick the Widowmaker Bullman saves the day, when a former colleague loses the plot, kills his wife and threatens his kids.

Eryk Pruitt - Last of the High-Flying Van Alstynes .... one of the last of the legendary Van Alstynes, a wrestling dynasty gets kidnapped and doped for his seed to create a new race of superhuman. Yes reallyFamily tragedies, family issues. 

Adam Howe - Rassle Hassle .... strip club bouncer Reggie Levine does a solid for a friend. Plenty going on here, a trip with a child to see his wrestling hero, destroying an undercover police op, sucking snake venom from a wrestler's ass and getting his own handed to him in the ring, before being carted off unconscious and in handcuffs. All in a night's work for Reggie.  

Ed Kurtz - Duluth ... an exhibition, a movie-man, a living nightmare and a date with his father. A bit of a strange one, truth be told.

Hector Acosta - From Parts Unknown ....  a family re-union and a reluctant acceptance of duty and obligation. Supernatural/other world elements.

Joseph Hirsch - Three Finger Bolo .... boxer turned wrestler turns boxer again in a re-enactment of WWII and a fearsome fight with The Hungry Hun and his pickelhaube helmet. 

Duncan P. Bradshaw - Glassjaw ..... some old timer advice to a young gun

David James Keaton - El Kabong ..... The brass knuckles I’d bought for the best man at our wedding were illegal, but that’s what I needed. I figured if you could commit a crime against humanity like playing an accordion in public, there was no reason they could outlaw such a beautiful natural extension of a man’s hand. - nailed it regarding accordion players! A man widowed, his wife stuffed in a guitar case. Different.

Gabino Iglesias - El Nuevo Santo's Last Fight .... a last fight, threats, intimidation and an intended fix - El Nuevo Santo has pride and other ideas in mind.

Patrick Lacey - Kill to be You .... wrestler-turned actor meets his own self several times before a switcheroo is pulled on him and a life of fame and adulation beckons for his opportunistic and manipulative other being. Yeah hard to explain rationally, but it worked when reading. Impossible, inexplicable, interesting

Jason Parent – Canadian Donkey Punch .... One of the best of the bunch. Our primary character is a wrestling ref who incurs the wrath of a hostile Canadian crowd and the vanquished wrestler when he arbitrarily decides the outcome of the bout. Being your own man comes with a consequence.

Adam Howe - Afterword ... an interesting page or two on the conception of the book and the difficult journey to press

An interesting and mostly enjoyable collection of wrestling themed short stories which I meandered my way through during June and July. There's a fair bit of diversity in the tales with a dash of supernatural elements in a couple, a tale from a referee's perspective, a bit of a crossover into boxing territory with steroid abuse, snake-bit asses, sweaty jockstraps and lots more to get your teeth into. Family crises, family abuse, family murder, familial reconciliation, old scores and long memories, broken bones and lots of blood spilled. Pride, revenge and redemption feature prominently.

Most enjoyable stories - the editor's story Rassle Hassle from Adam Howe, Tom Leins and his Real Americans and Jason Parent's Canadian Donkey Punch.
Editor - Adam Howe

Least enjoyable - hmm.... nothing sucked, I just happened to like a few a bit more than some of the others. In an anthology it would be strange for everything to rattle my bones.

Four of the authors have been enjoyed before - Tom Leins, Adam Howe, Ed Kurtz and Eryk Pruitt - so it was also an opportunity to see how I took to a few new folks. James Newman and Hector Acosta sit on the TBR pile with more from Leins, Howe and Pruitt to enjoy at some point.

4 from 5

Read in June/July, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 221
Source - review copy received from editor Adam Howe
Format - kindle


 






Monday, 13 August 2018

AIDAN THORN - WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER (2015)


Synopsis/blurb.....

When Benny Gower murders his business partner few people doubt his good reasons for doing so. Unlike Benny, it’s not as if Harry Weir was popular. But he was the heir to Birmingham’s most violent and dangerous criminal organisation.

For Wynn McDonald, dragged out of retirement for the sake of his old gangland accomplices, motive doesn’t matter. All he cares about is tracking down the nightclub manager turned killer. But before Wynn can extract necessary vengeance he’ll need to turn over every stone on his way to finding answers. And not everybody’s going to be happy with the truths that come crawling out.

Praise for Aidan Thorn

When the Music’s Over is a classic crime story of winners and losers among the music, drugs and nightclubs of Britain’s second city."A revenge filled romp into the underbelly of noir." -Just a Guy That Likes to Read

"Moves along at a good pace, but the well-developed characters (Wynn in particular) make you savour, rather than gulp the pages down. It is a story filled with sub plots and depth, with equal parts menace and melancholy, beautifully written to a satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended." -Robert Cowan (author of The Search for Ethan)

Another cracker from the Number 13 Press stable and a tale of music, nightclubs, drugs, gangland criminality, family and revenge with two very different characters at its heart.

Benny Gower is a decent man. Works hard, perhaps too hard, looks after his employees, cares for his wife which isn't easy. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone with a bad word to say about him. Totally out of character Benny kills Harry Weir, son of criminal king-pin Terry and does a disappearing act.

Wynn McDonald is not such a decent chap. A former feared enforcer for Terry Weir and Alan Castle, Wynn is summoned from retirement to track down and deliver Benny for execution. Wynn's seen better days. Physically he's a shadow of his former self, but his reputation remains intact and will go a long way towards helping him secure the answers he needs to deliver Benny to his fate.

A decent story line, concerning two intriguing characters, both with admirable qualities, both of whom we get to know much better over the course of our tale.

It was interesting to follow Benny's flight and the steps he took to evade detection. Similarly it was fascinating to see Wynn in action. His acumen and forensic logic, diligently applied to the task at hand. If he had taken a different path in life, he'd have made a decent investigator.

Lots to like, I enjoyed Benny's back story, the thwarted music career and the not so subtle manipulation by Castle and Weir, to draw him into their empire. Additionally, there's more to Wynn than meets the eye. Age, ill-health and an impending appointment with his maker, and his secondment back into reluctant service offering a chance for some much needed reflection on his life and previous actions. 

One of the best of bunch from Number 13 so far.

4.5 from 5

Aidan Thorn's work has been enjoyed before. I've previously read Criminal Thoughts.
Urban Decay and Tales From the Underbelly await.

Aidan Thorn has his infrequently updated website here. Catch him on Twitter - @AidanDFThorn

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2015
Page count - 136
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle


Like the other original Number 13 Press titles, When the Music's Over has been given a makeover and fresh re-release by Fahrenheit Press.




Friday, 10 August 2018

MICK HERRON - THE MARYLEBONE DROP (2018)


Synopsis/blurb.....

A drop, in spook parlance, is the passing on of secret information.
It’s also what happens just before you hit the ground.

Old spooks carry the memory of tradecraft in their bones, and when Solomon Dortmund sees an envelope being passed from one pair of hands to another in a Marylebone café, he knows he’s witnessed more than an innocent encounter. But in relaying his suspicions to John Bachelor, who babysits retired spies like Solly for MI5, he sets in motion a train of events that will alter lives.

Story Locale: London, UK

Another short offering from Mick Herron and a reappearance of a few characters previously encountered in The List. Herron sits comfortably in my current top ten favourite authors list.

80-odd pages long with a further 30 or so introducing the full length novel London Rules.

Really, really enjoyable, and a fantastic couple of hours reading which has me wanting to pick up something longer by him.

I liked the chain reaction of events set in place by the witnessing of a drop by a retired spy. Unintended consequences indeed and an outcome which ends well for a couple of our participants and not so swimmingly for others. In some ways its a frightening reveal of the power held by intelligence services with their ability to re-arrange and destroy a life with a couple of key strokes. Yeah I know it's fiction, but it does set you thinking.

I enjoyed glimpsing the hierarchy within the service: the woman at the top, the arrogance and stupidity of the one currently on the way up, the skill, ambition and cunning of the agent in the middle and the existence of the messenger boys or pond life running errands and doing scut work at the bottom.

John Bachelor is the latter. Career going nowhere, and dimly regarded in the service, hanging onto his job, in fear of the axe, a personal relationship ended which currently sees him residing in the back of his vehicle. Probably not a situation too dissimilar to many in modern day society - only a couple of absent pay cheques away from homelessness. I was rooting for him. Down but not out and still possessing enough wit and chutzpah to prevail, for now at least. I'm hoping he reappears in future works from Herron and that the author deals him a kinder hand. I live in hope.

5 from 5

Mick Herron is the author of about a dozen novels, including five in his Slough House series, of which this forms a tasty add-on.

Slow Horses was reviewed here. Dead Lions here.


Read in July, 2018
Published - 2018 (later this year)
Page count - 112
Source - Edelweiss early reviewer site, courtesy of publisher Soho Crime
Format - Epub file

 

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

MARK RAMSDEN - DREAD: THE ART OF SERIAL KILLING (2015)


Synopsis/blurb....

Mr Madden, Dickens enthusiast, muses with his beautiful and bohemian prisoner on possible endings to the famous author’s unfinished final mystery. 

Mr Madden, spy, infiltrates a far right nationalist group in order to set up the thugs for something far more serious than their usual boozy street fights. 

Mr Madden, serial killer, sculpts his Candidates into bizarre and macabre artworks within the bare walls of his dungeon workshop.

And if he is to keep one step ahead of the police, the secret service and his own gory instincts, Mr Madden is going to have to find the answer to the one question that hangs over all our heads:

What would Charles Dickens do? 

A short book read approximately three weeks ago, so some precied thoughts, before memory dims any further.

Another one from the Number 13 canon and a slightly strange tale featuring twisted grief, Dickens, Edwin Drood, dungeons, Rochester, more than a splash of torture, revenge, murder, prostitution, drug use, some kinky sex, undercover espionage, a couple of coppers. Oh and a rather unlikely romance.

I was scratching my head at the beginning, particularly with the frequent references to Dickens' unfinished work. By the end I was loving life. Strange, macabre, funny, clever, riveting, off-beat, graphic, violent, bizarre..... you just have to kick back and go where the author takes you.

I didn't necessarily warm to Madden our main character, but in Ramsden's hands he's never less than entertaining and interesting company. His captive turned companion seemed to think so.

Dread was my first taste of Mark Ramsden's work and I'd be interested in any further adventures with our Mr Madden should he dish out a follow up. I'm probably not minded to visit his earlier novels though.

4 from 5

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2015
Page count - 130
Source - review copy received from publisher
Format - kindle


Dread has been recently republished along with the other Number 13 Press titles by Fahrenheit Press


2 BY J.D. RHOADES

A couple from US author, J.D. Rhoades this week



I've read one book from J.D. Rhoades years ago - The Devil's Right Hand which is the first in his Jack Keller series - loved it then promptly ignored the next couple sitting on the pile.

Rhoades has subsequently written two more in his Keller series, a couple in another series featuring Tony Wolf and Tim Buckthorn and five standalone novels. His latest Fortunate Son is published next week.

I'm not quite sure why I seem to find an author I enjoy, grab a few books by them (sometimes more than a few), then promptly forget them. It seems to happen a lot.

Bullet-scarred redneck noir is my kind of thing!

He has a somewhat inactive blog here, a more active Facebook page here and is on Twitter - @JD_Rhoades

Good Day in Hell (2006)

From a skillful writer rapidly becoming the master of engrossing, bullet-scarred redneck noir comes another thrill-a-minute Southern suspense novel full of atmosphere and action. Bail enforcement officer Jack Keller is doing a skip trace on a young woman from the right side of the tracks who somehow got involved with the wrong kind of man. But Laurel Marks's history doesn't matter to Jack-she's wanted on a parole violation, and his paycheck depends on tracking her down.Meanwhile, Keller's girlfriend, sheriff's deputy Marie Jones, is called to the scene of a grisly murder-a gas station owner has been shot point-blank in the face, and his teenage stepson, plus the cash from the register, is missing. But something in the back of her mind tells Marie not to jump to conclusions. . . .When a bloody, merciless killing spree starts in a church on the other side of the county, it seems impossible that Keller's skip and Marie's murder/kidnapping case could be related. But the local media is soon involved, and the mess they make of the situation soon reveals just what Keller, Marie, and every other peace officer in the state of North Carolina doesn't want to believe: three people are viciously angry, incredibly well armed, and they're ready to strike again at any time.Good Day in Hell cements the reputation of author J. D. Rhoades as edge-of-your-seat suspense and nonstop action radiates from the first paragraph to the final page.

Safe and Sound (2007)

Jack Keller works in fugitive apprehension, and never feels more alive than when hes hunting down a skip. But when a young girl goes missing, and Keller finds out that the father is an AWOL member of the armys elite Delta Force, he knows immediately that this case will be anything but fun and games. Keller is a Gulf War vet who knows his way around the Armys red tape, but the psychological scars from his experiences in the gulf have only just started to recede enough for him to lead a normal life. No one is sure how immersing himself in the kidnapping case will affect him, least of all his girlfriend Marie, whos counting on Jacks recovery if they are going to have any future together. But a young girls life hangs in the balance, and a group of ex-Delta commandos seem to be the key to finding out where she is. For Jack Keller, its an easy decision: consequences be damned, hes going after the girl.






Tuesday, 7 August 2018

JULY 2018 - ADDITIONS TO THE LIBRARY - 6 OF THE BEST!

No book embargo in sight, 6 more onto the TBR pile.....

Paul D. Brazill - Last Year's Man (2018) - review copy
Paul D. Brazill - new book, nuff said

A troubled, ageing hit man leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him. 

Last Year’s Man is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir. 


Matt Coleman - Juggling Kittens (2016) - purchased
Can't remember how this one caught my eye. A Goodreads friend subsequently read it and rated it 1 from 5. I reckon I'll get on better.

Ellis Mazer is a soon-to-be father, a first year English teacher, and a directionless twenty-something entering the directionless 2000-somethings. Violence provided by the backdrop of 9/11 feeds Mr. Mazer's seventh graders the essay fodder that almost makes his job bearable. Then, when a little girl disappears from her rural Arkansas mobile home, teaching writing turns into a layup drill. 

Soon after that, however, Spencer—trailer trash with more ring worms than friends—stops coming to school. Ellis discovers that he may be the only person who even notices, much less cares. What begins as a good-natured attempt to deliver some make-up work tumbles headlong into a quest deep into hillbilly noir in an attempt to verify that there is still some good in what appears to be a crumbling world. 

Ellis is pitted against a preacher’s son whose sociopathic tendencies have seeped into the fabric of small-town life, and he is partnered with The Drew—full-time assistant principal, part-time private detective—who wears both his old coach’s whistle and his monotonous family life like veritable Albatrosses. He explores each dark crevice of backwoods Arkansas as both a literal nightmare of gothic possibilities and an analogous depiction of his inner struggles with adulthood.

Reluctantly, Ellis comes to the realization that Spencer’s disappearance is directly linked to whatever happened to that little girl. Unfortunately, others have made the same discovery. Somewhere in a stack of ungraded essays, Spencer has revealed the horrific truth behind the brutal murder and burial of a six-year-old girl. And it doesn’t much feel like anyone wants that truth to emerge. Even Ellis is unsure of how much he cares. He only knows that in order to believe in his ability to be a husband or father, for some reason, he must find Spencer. 

Among the swirling depravity of society, the crippling panic of impending parenthood, and the mounting scrap heap of seventh grade essays, one Arkansas town sees two kids go missing. Ellis Mazer only wants to find one of them. And if he can pull that off, he might not ever become a good teacher, but he might at least become a good person.


Masaji Ishikawa - A River in Darkness (2018) - purchased

Hat tip to my son, who read this recently and was moved by this one man's tale. A bit of hard-hitting non-fiction, I thought I'd try for myself.

An Amazon Charts Most Read and Most Sold book.

The harrowing true story of one man’s life in—and subsequent escape from—North Korea, one of the world’s most brutal totalitarian regimes.

Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. His father, himself a Korean national, was lured to the new Communist country by promises of abundant work, education for his children, and a higher station in society. But the reality of their new life was far from utopian.

In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life. A River in Darkness is not only a shocking portrait of life inside the country but a testament to the dignity—and indomitable nature—of the human spirit.



T.R. Pearson - Eaglesworth (2018) - purchased

Not read too much from Mr Pearson, but what I have I've liked - East Jesus South

A small Virginia town, long since bypassed by the interstate, has but two claims on historical significance -- a plaque marking the route where General Longstreet's army retired from a defeat and a near derelict Georgian mansion called Eaglesworth. The house sits on a hilltop, neglected and weathered, until an outlander rolls in to bring it back to life. The lively story of the sordid secrets the renovation reveals is told by a pack of local barflies, a ragged bunch of half-cocked civic boosters and gossips who give us history as seen through the bottom of a shot glass. 

Funny, bittersweet, and glancingly philosophical, Eaglesworth is a fanciful biography of a place, a latter-day slice of the Old Dominion that the Sage of Monticello would hardly recognize.


Cody Goodfellow and J David Osborne - The Snake Handler (2017) - purchased 
Can't not want to read something with a title like that. I'm slightly reminded of Harry Crews and A Feast of Snakes


Let he who is without sin… COME GET SOME. 

All his life, Reverend Clyde Hilburn has fought to protect his downtrodden flock in the tiny town of Palestine, West Virginia from the evils of the modern world. To that end, he has held a monopoly on not only their souls, but also their thriving drug addiction. 

But times have changed, and forces larger than him have moved in to take control of both the church and the flow of narcotics. 

When he suffers a lethal bite from a rattlesnake someone placed in his mailbox, a dying, venom-addicted Clyde has only hours to undo a lifetime of sin, avenge his own murder and save his godforsaken town from the human monsters he’s unleashed. 

THE SNAKE HANDLER



Scott Adlerberg - Graveyard Love (2016) - purchased
Joins Jungle Horses on the Adlerberg TBR pile.


Thirty-five-year-old Kurt Morgan lives with his mother across the street from a graveyard. He becomes obsessed with a red-haired woman who visits the graveyard often, watching her through the telescope in his room, wondering whose grave she visits like clockwork. Meanwhile, his mother pressures him to write her memoir. She wants her book finished, and soon. Among these three - Kurt, the graveyard visitor, and Kurt's mother - a twisted triangle develops, with each person pursuing their specific obsession at all costs. Set one cold winter in upstate New York, Graveyard Love is a dark and atmospheric thriller that explores the far reaches of the human psyche. 

“Another masterful, twisted, deranged tale from the scrambled, fevered brain of Scott Adlerberg, who leads the reader through the dark and winding canyons of a functioning psychopath and makes his personal horror seem normal.” 
— Les Edgerton, author of 
The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping and others 

“The ghosts of Cornell Woolrich and Edgar Allan Poe haunt the pages of this atmospheric thriller. Voyeurism, obsession and death — Alfred Hitchcock would have loved it.” 

— Wallace Stroby, author of the Crissa Stone series

Monday, 6 August 2018

JULY 2018 - FILMS + TV

Pretty rubbish month numbers-wise, with a holiday in the middle of it, the World Cup and some continuing DIY and house arranging projects interrupting one of my leisure pursuits ....

The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 

Scary as anything and we are only up to about the fourth episode as life interfered with viewing. Hopefully we'll get it all viewed during August, with less distractions pending. I'm intrigued about what is going to happen. I've got a copy of the book for a read at some point, as I'm always interested in comparing one format to the other. I don't know if the book covers both series or if this is an original departure. Either way, it's compelling viewing.

From Wikipedia...,

The Handmaid's Tale is an American dystopian drama web television series created by Bruce Miller, based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood. It was ordered by the streaming service Hulu as a straight-to-series order of 10 episodes, for which production began in late 2016. The plot features a dystopian future following a Second American Civil War wherein a totalitarian society subjects fertile women, called "Handmaids", into child-bearing servitude.

The first three episodes of the series premiered on April 26, 2017; the subsequent seven episodes aired on a weekly basis every Wednesday. In May 2017, the series was renewed for a second season which premiered on April 25, 2018.

The Handmaid's Tale has received widespread critical acclaim and its first season won eight Primetime Emmy Awards from thirteen nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, becoming the first series on a streaming service to win an Emmy for Outstanding Series.It also won Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series – Drama and Best Actress for Elisabeth Moss.

In May 2018, Hulu announced that the series had been renewed for a third season.



World Cup 2018

Football, football and more football. France were worthy winners, though I was rooting for Croatia in the final. England did well without setting the world on fire. Was I the only one who though Harry Kane was anonymous in the knockout stages? As per usual Gary Lineker was smug and annoying, I think I find only Jonathan Ross, Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand more irritating. Oh and Jack Whitehall ....


Wheelman (2017)
I did initially wonder if this was based on a Duane Swierczynski book from a decade or more ago, though after viewing it I don't believe so. None of the title credits reference it and my hazy recollection of The Wheelman is of a different plot and characters. This wasn't amazing but I did enjoy it. Most of the action takes place in the car and Frank Grillo is pretty good at catching and holding your attention. Best film ever? No, but I was happy enough and entertained for 90 odd minutes. I've seen Grillo before in The Grey with Liam Neeson and my kids have seen him in one of the Purge films.

From IMDB......

A getaway driver for a bank robbery realizes he has been double crossed and races to find out who betrayed him.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

GRANT NICOL - THE MISTAKE (2015)


Synopsis/blurb....

Everybody makes mistakes. 

A mutilated body is found on a lonely street in Reykjavík. Detective Grímur intends to see that justice is done. 

Kjartan Jónsson vows that his daughter’s killer will be punished. And that the punishment will fit the crime. 

Prime suspect Gunnar Atli desperately needs to prevent his own dark secrets from coming to light. And he’s not the only one. 

Fine lines separate truth, justice and vengeance. Put a foot wrong, and any one of them could be making the biggest mistake of his life. 

In Iceland, the winter shadows grow long...

"A tense and atmospheric Nordic Noir. Another belter from Number Thirteen Press." -Paul D. Brazill (author of Guns of Brixton and A Case of Noir)



One of my favourites so far from the Number 13 canon of novellas. 

A trip to Iceland, a dead girl, a confused witness-cum-suspect who is not entirely truthful, an angry father and a detective who is trying to make sense of it all.

Setting, pace, plot, characters, resolution - all here in spades and all done and dusted in a couple of hours intense and engrossed reading. Apparently 164 pages long but it seemed to positively fly by, so I'm unsure of the accuracy of the page count.

Secrets, history, estrangement, power, control, arrogance, prostitution, family, death, revenge, justice, mental health, violence and sadism all combined in a splendid mix.

4.5 from 5

The Mistake was my first taste of Grant Nicol's work but not my last. Another three Grimur Karllson detective mysteries are out there - On a Small Island, A Place to Bury Strangers and Out on the Ice.

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2015
Page count - 164
Source - purchased
Format - kindle


The Mistake was the third in Number 13 Press's collection of 13 publications. Fahrenheit Press has recently re-issued or is in the process of re-issuing all of them.







ALEX SEGURA - SILENT CITY (2016)


Synopsis/blurb....

"The new George Pelecanos is here." — Son of Spade

Pete Fernandez is a mess. He's on the brink of being fired from his middle-management newspaper job. His fiancée has up and left him. Now, after the sudden death of his father, he's back in his hometown of Miami, slowly drinking himself into oblivion. But when a co-worker he barely knows asks Pete to locate a missing daughter, Pete finds himself dragged into a tale of murder, drugs, double-crosses and memories bursting from the black heart of the Miami underworld - and, shockingly, his father's past.

Making it up as he goes and stumbling as often as he succeeds, Pete's surreptitious quest becomes the wake-up call he's never wanted but has always needed - but one with deadly consequences. Welcome to Silent City, a story of redemption, broken friendships, lost loves and one man's efforts to make peace with a long-buried past to save the lives of the few friends he has left. SILENT CITY is a gritty, heartfelt debut novel that harkens back to classic P.I. tales, but infused with the Miami that only Alex Segura knows.

Silent City is the first in Alex Segura's Pete Fernandez PI series and also his debut novel. With some of the subsequent offerings in the series starting to stack up on the device I thought it was time to get acquainted with his work.

Fernandez is a barely functioning newspaperman. His star shone brightly for a while, but is now on the wane. Personal issues have overwhelmed him. The recent death of his father and the break up of his relationship with his fiancee, Emily has him seeking permanent solace at the bottom of a bottle. That Emily is still a presence in his life may or may not be helping him. To be truthful, I found him irritating. The whole alcohol thing, drinks after work, no stop bottom, oblivion beckoning, that crappy next morning feeling and next day repeating the cycle, kind of irked me and was tiresome. When he pulled his head out of his arse, he wasn't too bad company. Intelligent and capable when compos mentis I'm hoping in future books he gets a handle on his problem. It'll be a short love affair with the series if he can't. 

Pete gets asked to check into the disappearance of another journalist Kathy Bentley at the paper, by the girl's estranged father, another newspaper legend who Pete admires. Somewhat surprisingly he accepts and is quite dogged in his efforts to track her down. Kathy is working on a story regarding a Miami hitman who has been plaguing the city for years, or so the urban legend goes. The authorities don't admit to it and the Miami police - allegedly corrupt and complicit have no interest in pursuing any sort of investigation into the killer. Pete's dead father was a cop and had his own theories on the killer - the typical one case that haunts the cop scenario.

Initially I kind of felt the premise for Pete's involvement was weak, but as the story unfolded and it became clear that Fernandez was being used as a patsy it made sense.

Miami, a killer, newspapermen, personal issues, alcohol, bereavements - from death and the ending of a relationship, job jeopardy, childhood friendship, cop father, cop father's partner, urban myths, Florida Keys, current friendships, restaurants, bars, more death, more bereavement and more guilt and responsibility, criminality, conspiracies and lots more besides.

Once I was sold on the story line, I did enjoy it. There was a decent pace and flow to the narrative and a fair few twists and reveals. By the end of the book I was grudgingly enjoying Pete's company. I'm a big fan of US PI fiction and big city settings and can't remember my last visit to Miami in my reading.

Eventually - my kind of story, but it was touch and go for a while.

Overall 3.5 from 5

The subsequent series entries are Down the Darkest Street, Dangerous Ends and Blackout.

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count - 304
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle