Thursday, 28 February 2019

RICHARD GODWIN - ERSATZ WORLD (2016)


Synopsis/blurb......

His bestselling author has vanished, he’s under surveillance, and a killer is trying to hack bits off his wife. It’s not easy being a publisher in the 21st century...

Samuel Verso is an ordinary, old-fashioned publisher trying to resist the lure of e-books. As his wife fills the hallway with prosthetic limbs and his business partner is replaced with an exact replica he realises that his problems run deeper than books on a computer screen. But it is only when he is serially abducted, beaten and accused of terrorism that he understands it isn’t that he’s paranoid – it’s that he isn’t paranoid enough.

Soon, his reality becomes as malleable as the genres and narratives of the books that he publishes, fading away to be replaced by the mysterious code. And only the missing author holds the key to the code. 

"A deliciously weird novella. I expected nothing less... Godwin has a real talent for sucking you into a story and I found myself finishing this fantastic novella the same day I started it. If you read closely enough I believe Godwin is trying to teach the reader a lesson about our gadget reliant society but do you have courage to listen? Top marks for a great read." -Darren Sant (author of The Bank Manager and the Bum and Tales from the Longcroft)

"Marvellous. A veritable cornucopia of crime fiction, bizarro, sci-fi, noir, gangsters, voyeurism, lyricism, paranoia, vanity and violence. And more. Another winner from Fahrenheit 13." - Paul Brazill (author of Guns of Brixton and Cold London Blues)

Weird - definitely. Marvellous - hmm, maybe not enjoyed quite as much by me as by Mr Brazill, but an entertaining enough read, which served as a decent introduction for me to Richard Godwin's prose.

An author has gone missing, his publisher fears for his business and the future, unless he can find him, get him to edit his latest work, publish it and then all will be right with the world. Well, apart from the mental health issues and delusions, his wife is suffering from. Oh and the two Herberts who keep following him around.

I kind of felt compelled to keep turning the pages on this one, without ever feeling fully invested in the outcome for our main man, Samuel. I wanted to know how things transpired and turned out, without especially feeling too bothered about where the chips eventually fell.

Elements and portions of the book reminded me of the film Groundhog Day as certain events seemed to keep resetting and repeating. There's a bit of perversion and sex on display - a peeping Tom neighbour, visits to an escort and fantasies about our busty business partner. Disturbing scenes with the wife, who is obviously an unwell woman and healthy doses of espionage and paranoia as our main man gets surveilled, followed, intercepted and interrogated. Lots going on and I'm not sure I understood the half of it. There's probably some salient points regarding the future of publishing that Godwin articulated and he entertained me plenty while doing so.

Overall - 3.5 from 5

Richard Godwin has written about a gazillion books and a few more from him sit on the pile.

Read in February, 2019
Published - 2016
Page count - 127
Source - review copy from publisher, Number 13 Press
Format - Kindle







Ersatz World has been re-booted and republished by Fahrenheit 13 with a sexy new cover.





Wednesday, 27 February 2019

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH DAVID PUTNAM

David Putnam, author of the Bruno Johnson series and more, joins me for a catch-up a few years after our last chat.























Our last chat was back in 2015 and I think the second Bruno Johnson book, The Replacements had just been published. Nearly four years on, the sixth - The Reckless has just dropped and you've published two other works of fiction - Fire at Will and The Bun Boy of Baker. 
How does this author-writer malarkey compare to 20 plus years working in Law Enforcement? 

I worked in law enforcement a total of 31 years and during most of that time I wrote in the morning before I left for work. I wrote 38 novels before I sold the first one, the Disposables number 34. I guess it took this knuckle-dragging street cop that long to figure out how to write. It seems though, that I am working harder now as a full time writer than when working the street. And in many ways the writing job is more difficult. I never like talking in public and now I’m doing a great many talks every year.


Your latest Bruno Johnson book - The Reckless is the sixth in the series and another jolt back in time to an early part of Bruno's career. Can you pitch it to a reader in a short paragraph?

 Every Bruno book is a snapshot of something that happened in my career. The Reckless is loosely based on my time working on the violent crimes team. We were tasked with chasing a husband wife team who recruited teens off basketball courts in South Central Los Angeles. The teens were brainwashed into believing that if caught robbing banks they would not serve time in prison. Our problem: how to take down misguided juveniles armed with guns without anyone getting hurt. During the real life case while under cover I had the occasion to sit down in a bar and talk with one of the male adult suspects without him being aware I was a cop on his tail. It was surreal to me and thought it would blend well in this story. He became the Darkman.

Is there one of your series books you are more prouder of than any of the others? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader and why?

The Reckless, because its an emotional one for me. A fifteen-year-old rock coke dealer killed a good friend I worked with on the street. I incorporated this part of my experience in this book. And the reviews coming in are great especially from unbiased readers.

I'm guessing you haven't yet exhausted your cache of police experiences and memories and that there will be further Bruno tales ahead, can you confirm?

Yes, I had a pretty busy career and still have plenty of stories to draw from.

And what direction might they take, early parts of his career or back up to the present day and his exile?

The publisher just picked up the third prequel titled for right now as The Heartless. I am almost done with the fourth and final prequel where I finish catching up the readers on all of the back story. That book for right now is called The Ruthless, and is really turning out to be one of the better in the series. My opinion of course. In The Ruthless I delve a little into what happened to Bruno’s mother. In all the other books the topic of his mother is discreetly ignored. Now I’ve given it motivation, and action and reaction. I like the conflict that arose out of it. Now I’m thinking I might write an early book (with Bruno as a small child) with the story centered around Bruno’s father, Xander Johnson. Readers always tell me how much they like Xander.

But in addition I have two story lines sketched out for the current day storyline, one is where Chelsea resurfaces, and another where Blue, the bad guy from the Innocents comes back and wreaks havoc from his wheel. I would probably do those first. One plotline I have not utilized as yet was an armed robber/kidnapper who I shot way back at the beginning of my career. He’s still in prison but will forever be riding a wheelchair. That storyline is going to be an emotional one as well.

Are you surprised at the popularity the Bruno Johnson books seems to be enjoying?

I appreciate the idea that you think they are popular, I’m still a very small fish in a large pond. I do truly enjoy when I talk to a fan at a signing, or via email and they like the stories. So I guess the answer to your question is yes. The Reckless seems to generating a higher response from regular readers and that is heartening.

Any sniffs from film and TV types for an adaptation of the character's stories?

There was interest by a couple of producers but national politics intervened and put the kibosh on it. Since it is political I have a policy not to air it.

I'm also curious about the two standalone novels you've got out there, can you tell us a bit about both and what the inspiration or seed was that sparked Fire at Will and The Bun Boy of Baker?


I write two novels a year, one Bruno book and one that is exciting and fun, a real departure from my old friend Bruno. The Bun Boy of Baker idea came from a deputy I worked with who at one time had been assigned as the Resident Deputy for Baker. The Resident Deputy is alone to patrol a vast stretch of desert between Barstow and the Nevada border (including Baker). He’s given a ten percent bump in pay and a doublewide mobile home to live in. This deputy told me that he came home to his mobile home one day and found four women in his living room, three including his wife. He didn’t know they would be there and they were having a quiet social get together drinking wine and chatting. He came in sat down and joined the conversation. What no one knew in that room but him was that he was having an affair with all three women at the same time. I thought this an amazing story fraught with conflict and decided to write it.

Fire at Will was just an idea. I liked the old Topper movies and thought I’d give it another spin. I had a great deal of fun writing both of these novels. Of course neither found a home with a New York publisher so I decided to put them out myself in selfpub. I have a sequel to Fire at Will I have also completed and I think it’s better than the first. I’ve yet to put it up as a selfpub or to even market it for that matter. (Col If you’re interested I can email you a digital copy).


Is this the way forward for you as an author, continuing the series as well as exploring other characters and ideas with standalone offerings?

I have my hands full with the Bruno series, the writing and marketing which doesn’t leave enough time for selfpub. I have written a great FBI novel with a High Concept that I’m very optimistic about and plan on sending it out to New York in the up coming weeks.  I have two more in this series lined out in case someone picks it up. Do you know any publishers on your side of the pond who would be interested in picking up Bruno and over a high concept FBI book with a female protagonist? It’s called Wicked Red. She’s a redhead.

Any hints on the current work in progress and what we can expect from you next?

As I said, I have finished The Heartless, which the publisher picked up for 2020 and I’m just finishing The Ruthless (should finish next month) which if picked up would come out in 2021. I have several books in mind to write I had a lot of fun writing Wicked Red and will probably write a sequel of that one next.

I’m also tinkering with a memoir called Killing Uncle Don and other normal life stories. My aunt and my cousin hired a hitman and murdered my favorite uncle. It's a pretty good story.

Any advise for prospective authors out there?

The old saws regarding writing have great merit: have perseverance and never quit. And the other; write everyday, no matter what. Do your writing before all else. Get your four pages completed.

What are the last five books you're read and enjoyed?

I really loved Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk (but I realize this book would not be a good fit for mystery readers)
The Widow by Daniel Silva
The Other Woman by Daniel Silva
Savage Country by Robert Olmstead
and Blood Relations by Jonathan Moore

      
Anyone I should be reading that's escaped my radar? 

If you have not read Jonathan Moore, The Poison Artist, The Darkroom, Night Market and Blood Relations, this author is amazing and I don’t know why he is not more widely read.

Also, Harry Dolan. I don’t know why these two authors aren't talked about. Both 
are great craftsmen-prose masters.














What's the last film that rocked you?

David Lean movies have always been and always will be my favorites. Next Stanley Kubrick (most of his anyway). The Coen Brothers, Millers Crossing, No Country for Old Men etc.
But the most recent that really hit me between the eyes was Hell and High Water, what an amazing story, performance and production value.



Random question time - just as a bit of fun....

When did you last have a fist fight? 

My big mistake in my career was promoting from detective to sergeant. I went from total autonomy to supervising and in some cases supervising nightmare detectives like I used to be. My memory is fading but two come to mind. I was working patrol as a sergeant out in Joshua Tree. San Bernardino is the largest county in the United States, 20 thousand square miles. Joshua tree had 2200 of those square miles and we patrolled that area with four deputies per shift. A call went out of an assault with a deadly weapon, I was much closer than the responding deputy so I jumped the call. When I arrived I found an angry six foot seven, three hundred pound suspect who had just brutally assaulted some one. The responding deputy and closest back up was at least thirty minutes out. I told this guy to turn around and put his hands behind his back so that I could cuff him. Of course he attacked me. By the time I got him in custody, I was bruised and dirty from head to foot. I had to link two sets of handcuffs together to cuff him and he wouldn’t fit in the back of my cop car so I leaned his bloodied body against the trunk until the deputy with a larger car got there. I honestly didn’t think the fight was a big deal. I’d been in a lot worse with multiple suspects. When the deputy got there he was a little stunned. He said, “Do you know who this is? I shrugged, “nope.” He said the last time they had to arrest him it took five deputies. This was a nice ending fist fight for my career. I’ve been retired since 2011 and a deputy just two weeks ago came out for a book signing for The Reckless. With old age I had forgotten all about this incident. He told me that they are still telling that story all these years later. 

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?

Who hasn’t? One night, while celebrating my transfer from Ontario Police Department to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s my friends took me out drinking. We were kicked out of three places that night. I think that was my record. Of course there is lots more to that story with gunshots involved.

 Do you have any tattoos? 

Not one.

What was your first pet’s name? 

Copper

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten? 

This is a tough one as my wife is not a gourmet by any stretch. She only cooks things with three ingredients…Yikes. One time she put some instant stove top stuffing in the microwave. She used a non-microwave safe plastic bowl and…and she forgot to add the water. The stuffing and the bowl caught fire. I wasn’t made aware off the issue until the house fire alarm went off. The house smelled like plastic for weeks. So if asked for one particular meal I’d have to say I can’t remember there were many….Too many. An odd footnote to this story, my wife is a highly intelligent engineer who at one time worked at JPL so she is actually a rocket scientist.

Do you have any irrational fears? 

Spiders. There’s a good story here about spiders and author John Connolly and my wife at a book conference.





What’s your favourite holiday destination? 

We spend a lot of time in Hawaii





When did you last tell a lie? 

I stretch the truth everyday I sit down behind my laptop to write the days four pages. Though I have some great stories about lying to crooks. The law allows the cops to use whatever ruse or subterfuge on a crook. I used to lay awake at night thinking up ways to trick the crooks into my handcuffs. I was only limited by my creativity. As an example I’d tell crooks I had a portable polygraph machine in my cop car. I’d wrap the cord to the radio around his arm and hold the mic where couldn’t see it. I’d tell him to watch the little red light on the console if it goes on it means he’s lying. I’d ask him if he stole car, he say no. I press the mic button and turn the light red. I got a lot of cop outs that way.

Another one I later found other cops had been using though I thought I was unique. When copy machines first came out I'd write on a piece of paper, “Your lying,” And put it on the copier under the flap. Then ask, did you steal the car…well you get the idea.

I made case law three times in my career and in all the cops I have run into in my career I was the only one I came across. I’d walk the line of evidence to get someone in custody. I once searched a guy’s stomach for heroin balloons without a search warrant. That’s another good story.
A good cop uses lying as a tool in his toolbox. I got pretty good at it.

--------------------------------------

Many thanks to David Putnam for his time.

You can catch up with him at the following haunts...

Website     https://dwputnam.wordpress.com/
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/davidputnambooks/
Twitter      https://twitter.com/daveputnam

And a bit more on his latest book The Reckless

Perfect for fans of Robert Crais and John Sandford

Bruno Johnson, a young and inexperienced LA County Deputy Sheriff, is trying to balance his life as the single father of a four-year-old daughter and his responsibilities as a cop in the Violent Crimes Unit. When he and his impetuous partner Ned Kiefer are put on loan to the FBI to help out with a "special problem," Bruno finds himself in a real bind.

The FBI hands Bruno and Ned a case that the Bureau prefers not to touch - a group of teenage criminals that are being run by a nefarious criminal known as the Darkman. Bruno discovers the identity of the Darkman and is stunned to realize that he is the perpetrator from a lingering unsolved case - a triple homicide that continues to haunt Bruno.

The problem is how to stop the juvenile criminals without killing kids, and at the same time, avoid being killed by the kids - or by the Darkman - and keep his reckless partner Ned under control.




2 BY ALAN CARTER

A couple of New Zealand/Australian set crime novels from Alan Carter.






















The author originally hails from Sunderland, before emigrating to Australia in the early 90s.

Carter has written four novels in his Cato Kwong series - Prime Cut, Getting Warmer, Bad Seed and Heaven Sent, as well as the standalone novel Marlborough Man.


Alan Carter has won the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (2018) for Marlborough Man and the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction (2011) for Prime Cut.

He's not someone I've read yet, but hopefully I'll put that right later this year.

Bad Seed (2015)



When wealthy property developer Francis Tan and his family are found slain in their mansion, Cato Kwong is forced to recall a personal history that makes his investigation doubly painful. The killer is elusive and brutal, and the investigation takes Cato to Shanghai. In a world of spoiled rich kids and cyber dragons, Cato is about to discover a whole lot more about the Chinese acquisition of Australian land - about those who play the game and those who die trying.











Marlborough Man (2017)


Nick Chester is working as a sergeant for the Havelock police in the Marlborough Sound, at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. If the river isn’t flooded and the land hasn’t slipped, it’s paradise. Unless you are also hiding from a ruthless man with a grudge, in which case, remote beauty has its own kind of danger. In the last couple of weeks, two local boys have vanished. Their bodies are found, but the Pied Piper is still at large.

Marlborough Man is a gripping story about the hunter and the hunted, and about what happens when evil takes hold in a small town.

Monday, 25 February 2019

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH PETER CHURCH

Peter Church, author of Crackerjack which was enjoyed last month and which is published today, answers a few questions on the blog.....















Is the writing full-time? If not what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself? 

I wish it was full time. I studied Computer Science at University then worked in the IT industry for 20 years. I still do some IT consulting work. I live in Cape Town, South Africa with my wife and 3 children.

Have you always written?

As a kid I typed novellas on a Royal typewriter that my mother brought home from the States. In those times, we were all keen readers of mystery and adventure stories - I read the whole series of Franklin W Dixon’s Hardy Boy series. I have always enjoyed the imagination involved in designing a thriller. But only when I decided to take a less active role in IT business did I find the time to actually sit down and write a full novel.

Your latest work is titled Crackerjack. I believe it’s your fourth published novel. Can you pitch it to potential readers in a short paragraph?


I wrote two thrillers Dark Video (2008) and Bitter Pill (2011), which are about to be republished in the US. Then I tried my hand at humour and wrote Blue Cow Sky, inspired by one of my favourite authors Charles Bukowski.  Crackerjack is the third in the thriller trilogy. It’s set in Cape Town. A determined young woman enlists the help of a reclusive hacker to track down a missing businessman whose car is discovered at the bottom of Chapman’s Peak Drive.

How long from conception to completion did Crackerjack take? What was the spark or germ of imagination that set you on the road with this particular tale?

The idea for Crackerjack was conceived in 2010. In that year, there had been a mysterious incident of a businessman who fell to his death from a fourth floor parking garage in Cape Town. The cause was never resolved. It was definitely a seed for Crackerjack.

Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

I thought I had a complete manuscript in 2014, but I didn’t get the interest from my previous publishers, Random House or Two Dogs/Mercury. So I basically rewrote it. The breakthrough came from California-based Catalyst Press. I had previously discussed South African crime writing with Jessica Powers of Catalyst. I sent her the new Crackerjack for review and one thing led to another. I see Jessica as a key partner and she has played a major role in sharpening and improving the read of the text. 

Did it end up being the book you anticipated at the start of the process?

The story remained the same but, through the process with Catalyst, we developed deeper insights into the thoughts and motivations of the main characters, and also tightened the plot. The ending changed a few times before it finally stuck.

Prior to Crackerjack, you’ve written Dark Video, Bitter Pill and Blue Cow Sky.
Is there one of your books which you are most proud of? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first?



I think I would press Dark Video in first. It was published in Australia as well as South Africa, Ant Colony bought the film rights (though they haven’t made the movie yet!) and my alma mater listed it as one of 7 must-reads before graduation. It will be interesting to see how Dark Video and Bitter Pill work with an American readership. Although they are set in South Africa, I always had an international audience in mind. I loved writing the novella Blue Cow Sky (the publisher wanted to call it The Dirty Business and it may have sold better under this title) especially the freedom in working with a loose and rambling plot.  Blue Cow Sky has a very personal connection for me, but lots of readers didn’t ‘get’ the boozing, womanising main character, Leo.

On your writing in general, do you have a typical writing schedule? Do you write every day?

I am not very disciplined. There are times when I can work throughout an entire day and deep into the night, and there are other times when I don’t write for weeks. I am always thinking about my story though. I find that the best inspiration comes with, and after, exercise. I carry a little book to the gym and I jot down thoughts after a session.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct a story – do you know what the end result is going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I am a careful plotter and I think I have developed a useful design methodology. I was a computer programmer and there are many similarities between the logic of developing a software program and that of creating a novel. I try to articulate my plot in a single document with one sentence (row) describing the action in each chapter. It helps to ensure that the story is moving forward at the correct pace. Then associated with each chapter description is a series of columns representing the characters and backgrounds involved in that scene. I find this method an important reference as the body of text develops.

What can we look forward to next? Any hints on the current work in progress?

If all goes to plan it will be another crime thriller, this time set in Mauritius. I have 35,000 words but no title yet. My aim was to publish five crime thrillers, each titled with one of the senses. There was dark (see), bitter (taste), cracker (sound). So the new title will have something to do with touch or smell...

Ever tried your hand at short stories? Have any been published?


A short story, The One, about compulsive love, featured in a compilation of South African crime fiction called Bad Company. Lee Child wrote the primer for this compilation stating “They told me there were gold mines in South Africa – and look what just came out.” ­čśŐ Another shortie, My Side, was selected for the annual Short Sharp Story collection Bloody Satisfied which is sponsored by the National Arts Festival.

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

It would have to be the first time I held a physical copy of my first novel. I don’t think a writer ever forgets that.  It’s like an immortality moment – the book is in print and its existence will outlast its creator. But every interaction with an interesting reader, whether their feedback is positive or negative, is a highlight.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Haha. There are a few unpublished, but I am not sure I would call them gems. My first novel was A Strike of Lightning, an adult fairy tale about a middle aged man who started to run faster, instead of slower, with each passing day. It didn’t get a great reception from reviewers. Then I have a completed novel called Waiting for Porcupines. One reviewer called it ‘mundane misogyny’ which kind of ended its chance of life beyond the hard drive.

Any advice for prospective authors out there?

If you can tell a story, then you are halfway there.  Lots of people have a story, but don’t know how to tell it. Don’t worry if you are not the best writer. An editor can help you. There is only one way to find out if you can do it. Sit down and start writing.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Building a story with imagination. That’s why I like fiction. I avidly read non-fiction, but writing it is work rather than pleasure. I often consider the difficulties faced by writers of old before the Internet. Perhaps that is why we have such a proliferation of published works today.

The worst?

Self doubt is an enemy that must be conquered. Writing can be a lonely and isolated pastime. Then finding a publisher who understands, and is enthusiastic, about your work can be a mission.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Clean Cut by Lynda Le Plante         

The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan

Good Me, Bad me by Ali Land

Arnhem by Antony Beever

Sharp Objects by  Gillian Flynn

Who do you read and enjoy? Is there anyone I should be reading who has snuck under my radar?

I have a diverse reading list and focus on crime thrillers when I am actively writing one.  Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Peter Temple, Tami Hoag, Lynda La Plante, Stephen King, would all feature multiple times on this list. I notice South African crime writers Deon Meyer, Mike Nicol and Roger Smith feature prominently on your site. I would be interested in your views on Peter Temple’s In the Evil Day or South African writer Andrew Brown’s award winning Coldsleep Lullaby.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

There are so many! But definitely I would choose Catcher in the Rye first. Patricia Highsmith’s Deep Water would be high on the list. I would also love to have written Stieg Larssen’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Swimming, hiking, watching sport/news on TV, socialising with friends.

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

The Scent of Rain & Lightning for its riveting plot and dramatic atmosphere. I watched it with subtitles because the dialogue was difficult to follow.



TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Church household?

I watch a reasonable amount of TV, mostly sport and news. I am not a big TV series enthusiast. My all time favourite is Larry David’s Curb your Enthusiasm. On the crime scene, season 1 of The Sinner with Jessica Biel had a stunning debut, but didn’t quite maintain the intrigue. I found Big Little Lies a bit predictable. Strike, based on the book written by J. K. Rowling under pseudonym, was pretty watchable. The plots were a little far-fetched but the character interaction was excellent.



In a couple of years’ time.....

We are allowed to dream here? OK. A maven will read one of my books and his/her praise will catch the attention of the New York Times and I will be invited to the USA to a fabulous gala dinner, meet with glamorous and amazing people, then travel the country visiting bookstores.
------------------------------
Many thanks to Peter for his time.

You can catch him at the following haunts.....


Sunday Times Books LIVE                                 http://peterchurch.bookslive.co.za/

Twitter                                                                   @PeterGChurch

Peter Church – Writer of Thrillers                    https://www.facebook.com/BitterPillChurch/



Crackerjack is published today

Young, bright and sexy, Carla Vitale has been handpicked to run Supertech, Africa’s leading independent Engineering firm. Then one Friday afternoon in Cape Town, her dream is shattered. Her boss and mentor, Nial Townley, disappears, his luxury vehicle is found in a crevice at the bottom of Chapman’s Peak and $USD 20m is missing from the Supertech’s overseas accounts. Three months later and the police are no closer to solving the riddle.

No job, no car, no phone, Carla turns to the one person she believes can help: software hacker turned day-trader, Daniel Le Fleur. But Le Fleur’s maintaining a low profile in Bantry Bay and he’s in no mood to ruin the serendipity.

AMAZON links ........

UK    US   CANADA  AUSTRALIA

Sunday, 24 February 2019

DAVID PUTNAM - THE RECKLESS (2019)


Synopsis/blurb....

Bruno Johnson, a young and inexperienced LA County Deputy Sheriff, is trying to balance his life as the single father of a four-year-old daughter and his responsibilities as a cop in the Violent Crimes Unit. When he and his impetuous partner Ned Kiefer are put on loan to the FBI to help out with a "special problem," Bruno finds himself in a real bind. The FBI hands Bruno and Ned a case that the Bureau prefers not to touch - a group of teenage criminals that are being run by a nefarious criminal known as the Darkman. Bruno discovers the identity of the Darkman and is stunned to realize that he is the perpetrator from a lingering unsolved case - a triple homicide that continues to haunt Bruno. The problem is how to stop the juvenile criminals without killing kids, and at the same time, avoid being killed by the kids - or by the Darkman - and keep his reckless partner Ned under control.

The Reckless is the second prequel in the Bruno Johnson series but the sixth overall from author David Putnam. It's one of the few contemporary series I have managed to keep up with.

Bruno and a couple of members of his unit are seconded to the FBI to assist in tracking down some bank robbers. After proving themselves in a matter of days, they are then handed a poisoned chalice. Track down a notorious criminal who is running a bunch of young delinquents, coercing them into robbing banks, while steering clear of the dirty work himself. Avoid killing the kids, and catch the mastermind, who after some covert surveillance is identified by Bruno as a killer from a previous case. Win, win - kill two birds with the one stone then.

All the while this is going on, Bruno is juggling his domestic life - living with his father, raising his young child as a single parent and dealing with the tug on his heart strings from the reappearance in his life of FBI agent and former lover Chelsea Miller - the woman who saved his life a few years back and saw her career tank as a result. Throw another young child and her father into the mix, in the form of Ned Miller and his daughter, staying at the Johnson's because of complicated relationship issues and things get busier.

The Reckless is a fast-paced blend of action and investigation, with a splash of romance, as the case and the former lovers reawakened feelings crossover and collide. Bruno is a man who has difficulties keeping the two aspects separate. He does however have great instincts when it comes to catching criminals.

I liked the different strands to the book which give it a broader appeal than just Bruno working the case like a dog with a bone. The personal elements - Bruno's relationship with his father and daughter, the efforts to do the best thing for Ned and his child and his attempts to resurrect his relationship with Chelsea and protect her - added to my enjoyment.

On the case, there is competition and conflict within Bruno's team, as well as the usual police politics at play, with the distrust between Bruno's unit and the FBI, who want to be calling the shots. There are more than a few bumps in the road as the case unfolds, and the team take a few powerful hits. In the end we discover there is more going on than is at first apparent.

Plenty of positives from this book - a strong main character, and a decent set of recurring supports who's company I enjoyed, a solid story line, plenty of muscle combined with plenty of grey matter at play in the progress of the investigation, a twist or two in the tail and a decent resolution. Lots to like. David Putnam will get me reading more police procedural books yet.

4 from 5


The earlier books in the series which have all been enjoyed are....
1. The Disposables (2014)
2. The Replacements (2015)
3. The Squandered (2016)
4. The Vanquished (2017)
5. The Innocents (2018)

Read in February, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 324
Source - review copy received from author
Format - trade paperback



Tuesday, 19 February 2019

ALAN PARKS - FEBRUARY'S SON (2019)


Synopsis/blurb....

Bodies are piling up with grisly messages carved into their chests. Rival gangs are competing for control of Glasgow's underworld and it seems that Cooper, McCoy's oldest gangster friend, is tangled up in it all.

Detective Harry McCoy's first day back at work couldn't have gone worse.

New drugs have arrived in Glasgow, and they've brought a different kind of violence to the broken city. The law of the street is changing and now demons from McCoy's past are coming back to haunt him. But vengeance always carries a price, and it could cost McCoy more than he ever imagined.

The waters of Glasgow corruption are creeping higher, as the wealthy and dangerous play for power. And the city's killer continues his dark mission.

Can McCoy keep his head up for long enough to solve the case?

Bruised and battered from the events of Bloody January, McCoy returns for a breathless ride through the ruthless world of 1970s Glasgow.

Bloody January from Alan Parks was one of my favourite books of 2018 and I was curious to see if the second in a planned 12 book series measured up. I'm happy to report it does.

70s Glasgow, a murdered professional footballer - not just murdered but mutilated into the bargain and one with links to a heavy hitter criminal boss, Jake Scobie. Celtic player Charlie Jackson was engaged to Scobie's daughter and it looks like one of Scobie's close confidants and enforcers, Kevin Connolly has done the deed. Apparently Connolly had a thing for Elaine Scobie.

Simples then - find Connolly and close the case. If only.

Mental illness, a struck off doctor with a penchant for conducting lobotomies, unrequited love, a falling out of criminals, a picture in a paper, a suicide, a terminal illness, an obstructive lawyer, ghosts from the past, an escalation, a river rescue, family friction, an insider takeover (?), manipulation and scheming, more victims, a peeping Tom act, a hotel raid, a disturbing look inside a diseased mind, a kicking with the promise of more, some plans for retribution, a childhood bond, a busy reporter, a poorly mother, dabbling with drugs, revenge goes awry, an escalation, a funeral, a plan of action, a few bevvies, a few pies and some tension between old friends, shooting for the stars, a lucky escape, a guilty conscience and a tearful confession, and a helluva lot more going on here.

Harsh, brutal, graphic and enlightening. There's a lot of pain in this book and a lot of ghosts that get exorcised, particularly for our main character, Harry McCoy in a story strand that runs tangentially to our main aim of capturing our very obvious villain, Kevin Connolly. All the bits and bobs of the tale overlap and entwine and eventually get wrapped up with consummate skill and very satisfactorily too.

I loved the main character Harry. Parks makes us care about him and we feel his pain and the suffering the weight of his memories causes him. His casual drug use and over indulgence on occassions with alcohol is understandable and cathartic for him in many respects. That he is an honest copper mostly, is a testament to his strength and resilience. I do like the loyalty to and the interactions with childhood friend and up-and-coming major villain Stevie Cooper. I enjoy his banter with young Wattie and their partnership with Wattie feeding off the old pro McCoy and having his eyes opened to the sights and perils of big city Glasgow. I like the fact McCoy has a boss, Murray who has his back.


Looking forward to book three, whenever that drops. 2020 - hurry up!

4.5 from 5

Read in February, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 368
Source - review copy from publisher Canongate
Format - paperback

 

Monday, 18 February 2019

2 BY LEONARD CHANG

A couple from an author I haven't read for a year or two - Leonard Chang.

I previously read his novel - The Fruit 'n Food way way back, long before the blog began and I remember little about it.  I obviously must have enjoyed it enough to get a few more books from him, including these two.
























Fade to Clear is part of a three book series featuring Allen Choice. It's the third in the series after Over the Shoulder and Underkill, and was nominated for a Shamus Award in 2005. Choice is a security specialist-cum-Korean American investigator.

Leonard Chang's latest - The Lockpicker dropped in 2017 and is on my wishlist. I need more books like a hole in the head, but that's a discussion for another day.

Chang was a writer and producer on one of my favourite TV series of recent times - Justified.




Dispatches from the Cold (1998)

What would you do if strange letters began appearing in your mailbox? Read them? When the narrator of this novel opens misdirected letters, he enters the harsh, disturbing world of Farrel Gorden who hates his new Korean-American boss and is on the verge of losing control of his hatred. As we watch the narrator reconstruct the recent events in Gorden's life, including an affair with his boss' wife and the wrenching consequences that follow, the paths of these two disparate characters - letter writer and letter reader - converge violently as each intrudes in the life of the other. This is a story that blurs the distinction between the real and the imaginary, and negotiates the exterior world and interior workings of a vengeful mind.








Fade to Clear (2004)

In this new installment, Allen Choice, now a full partner at Baxter & Choice Investigations, finds his life in upheaval by the reappearance of his ex-lover Linda. Over the objections of his current girlfriend Serena, Allen reluctantly takes on the case of finding Linda's niece, who was abducted by her father in a bitter divorce battle.

Fade to Clear is Leonard Chang's most electrifying and riveting crime novel, following the critically-acclaimed successes of Underkill and Over the Shoulder.

As Allen delves deeper into the investigation, unearthing links to drug smuggling and money laundering, he becomes the target of larger, deadlier forces that strike a tragic blow. In the wake of personal loss, he compels himself forward in this perilous case and at the same time makes profound decisions that will reverberate throughout his life.

Once again, Chang weaves a masterful tale that is as much an edgy, fast-paced mystery as it is a deep look into the complex interior life of Allen Choice, a fallible and human character who is quickly becoming a truly memorable name in the world of noir.