Sunday, 22 September 2019

ADAM ROCKE and MARK ROGERS - THE DEATH DEALER (2019)


Synopsis/blurb......

Billionaire Joe Sinclair is bored. To him, life is one big “been there, done that. ”However, there is one thrill Joe has yet to experience and he's willing to pay any amount to make it happen: Joe wants to know what it's like to kill a man. Courtesy of his illicit connections, Joe hires Haden, a mysterious ex-mercenary to take him and his three best friends on the kind of African safari you won't read about in travel brochures. But when the bullets start to fly, Joe and company find themselves on the absolute wrong side of the predator vs. prey equation.

A bit of a Boy's Own adventure without the wholesomeness. Joe, Billy, Steve and Trey are friends, though as they grow older there's a bit of distance between them. Joe has mega bucks courtesy of an inheritance from his father. He's the alpha male; rich, arrogant, entitled, shallow and unlikable. His wealth separates him from the others. Billy is the hanger-on. He's an unsuccessful musician, craving a break, happy to take whatever crumbs Joe throws his way. Trey and Steve are the normal guys. Trey's a bit of a player and a hit with the ladies. Steve is the only one married. Em is expecting their first child. Steve is kind of conflicted about his future with a bit of regret about moving on with his life and leaving his friends firmly in the rear view mirror.

Every year Joe organises a trip for the lads and bankrolls the outing...... Vegas, the Caribbean, gambling, hookers, drugs, drinks, scuba diving, climbing. This year with Steve's reluctance to join up, pussy-whipped according to Joe, it feels like it will be the last. Time to go out with a bang.

An African surprise, a safari and some hunting in Zimbabwe with a hardened ex-mercenary as a chaperone. First to give them a crash course in survival and impart some basic hunting skills and second to deliver them to their prey. Only the three tag-a-longs are in the dark as to Joe's true target.

Hedonism, a plane journey, hookers, dancers, coke, vodka, Harare, the military, the jungle, camp, training, target practice, poachers, rebels, death, conflict, in-fighting, flight, and a helluva lot more.

Adam Rocke
I quite liked this one. It's a bit different from my usual fare and it was interesting to note the differences between the characters as far as a moral compass goes. There's an incredible amount of tension on display between the four and more than a few home truths are shared.

Loyalty, friendship, trust, bravery, sacrifice, selfishness, greed, advantage, manipulation, self-interest, power, forgiveness and regret are all under the microscope as the trip turns sour and the four along with Haden, their guide end up fleeing for their lives.

Plenty of excitement, testosterone and action - enough to fill two books. Quite a fast read. A bit of a change with the Zimbabwe setting and the contrast between the poor locals and the rich Americans in town to play.

A conclusion which confirms that money alone can't buy decency, happiness or peace.

4 from 5

Mark Rogers
This was my first time reading Adam Rocke.
Mark Rogers work has been read before - Red Thread (2016)

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 300
Source - review copy from author, Mark Rogers
Format - MOBI file read on laptop

GEORGE V. HIGGINS - THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (1970)





















Synopsis/blurb....

Eddie "Fingers" Coyle got his nickname when some men he knew put his hand in a drawer in a friendly fashion - Eddie could choose which hand - and kicked it shut: Eddie had sold a gun that was traced. Now Eddie is back in business, and taking more care.

However the police are not the only organisation that has their eye on him and Dillon, the knowledgeable barman, gets a message that spells life - or the other thing - for Eddie Coyle.

George V. Higgins' bestselling first novel was made into a film starring Robert Mitchum.

I think this is my third time reading this particular Higgins book. Goodreads tells me I read it in 2011 which is accurate, pretty sure I read it late 80s/early 90s when I started getting into crime fiction and particularly US crime fiction and again now. Tell you what, it gets better each time. 

Boston, 70s, the street, low-level hustlers, gun sellers, Black Panthers, cops, stick-up artists, bars, and more.

Pace, character, setting, dialogue, plot, outcome - all present in spades.

There's a real cadence and rhythm to the narrative, most of which is propelled forward mostly through conversation. It's a real down and dirty novel where most of the characters are up to no good and everyone is playing an angle and looking out for themselves. There's some liberal use of racist language - the n word gets bandied around more than once or twice, which may make some readers uncomfortable. I can't justify it, but would say the book was written nearly 50 years ago and you have to sense that Higgins captured the essence and attitudes of working class hustlers and grifters in Boston at the time.

Interesting characters and an interesting plot. Eddie Coyle is known to the police and he's known to the boys. He has a charge hanging over him for smuggling contraband further North. He doesn't want to do jail time. He buys and sells guns and he has information. Not hard to imagine where this one is going and how it all ends.

There's a film of the book featuring Robert Mitchum which I'd really like to catch up with at some point.

4.5 from 5

George V. Higgins wrote about 25 novels in his career, before his death in 1999. I've not read that many, more fool me.

Read - August, 2019 (re-read)
Published - 1970
Page count - 196
Source - owned copy
Format - omnibus paperback

Friday, 20 September 2019

ADRIAN McKINTY - THE CHAIN (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

You are a parent. Your phone rings. You answer it. It's a panicked stranger.

They tell you that they have kidnapped your child.

The stranger then explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger.

Their child will be released only when you kidnap a new child.

Your child will be released only when, after you kidnap the new child, that child's parents kidnap yet another child.

And most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don't kidnap a child, or if the next parents don't kidnap a child, your child will be murdered.

You are now part of The Chain. 

It's something parents do every morning: Rachel Klein drops her daughter at the bus stop and heads into her day. But a cell phone call from an unknown number changes everything: it's a woman on the line, informing her that she has Kylie bound and gagged in her back seat, and the only way Rachel will see her again is to follow her instructions exactly: pay a ransom, and find another child to abduct. This is no ordinary kidnapping: the caller is a mother herself, whose son has been taken, and if Rachel doesn't do as she's told, the boy will die.

I suppose if I had read this ten years ago when my children were at a more vulnerable age, as opposed to grown adults, I may have been more petrified by the narrative. That said you'd need a heart of stone not to feel Rachel's pain. She's our main character and she's been having a tough time of things - battling cancer and getting used to the fact that her husband, Marty traded her in for a younger model. On her way to a medical appointment, she gets the call - Kylie, her daughter has been kidnapped, photo confirmation soon confirms this and she's now part of the chain. Pay up, kidnap another child, when their parents pay, your daughter will be released. Simples.

I quite liked this one without ever being totally enthralled. Rachel enlists her brother in law, Pete as support. He's ex-military and a drug addict. Without giving all the plot away, the pair do the deed and struggle to cope with the aftermath of events once Kylie is returned....... guilt, the burden of secrecy, ongoing fear as the chain organiser still taunt and threaten them, the disruption to every day life, the effect on Kylie who was kind of complicit in the kidnapping of another, the sheer lack of normality. All of it takes its toll.

A fightback then and despite the dangers of the all seeing, ever watchful chain cottoning on to what they're up to, Rachel and Pete, now romantically entangles endeavour to break the chain.

Decent story, intriguing and a bit different. Events move fairly swiftly. Massachusetts setting - Newburyport. Other events may occur elsewhere. We get flashbacks to the childhoods of our villains and we understand their motivations and events that have shaped them - manipulative little turds that they were. Adult turds now.

Sympathetic characters in respect of Rachel and Kylie and the rest of their posse. Pete's helpful and capable, but she needs to keep an eye on that drug use. The ex-husband means well but is a bit of a tool. I enjoyed the time spent in the company of their nemesis.

Overall I quite liked it.

4 from 5

I've read and enjoyed Adrian McKinty a few times before, but not for a while - The Cold Cold Ground (2012)

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 331
Source - Net Galley courtesy of publisher Mulholland Books
Format - ePub file read on laptop





Thursday, 19 September 2019

A.K. REYNOLDS - VERY NEARLY DEAD (2019)


Synopsis/blurb....

EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING TO HIDE...

"An ending that you will never see coming; just brilliant."

"a book to be devoured in one sitting because you won’t want to put it down."

My name is Jasmine Black, and I'm an ordinary woman apart from three things:

I’m hiding a terrible secret from my youth

My past is catching up with me

When it does, I’ll be dead.

Jasmine Black, a 34-year-old alcoholic, criminal lawyer, has a secret.

At the age of 16, she was in a gang of youths that committed a horrendous crime. As members of the gang start being killed one by one, Jasmine fears for her life.

Desperate to uncover who is responsible for the murders, Jasmine starts to investigate.

But can she uncover the truth before it’s too late? 

A fast-paced read concerning events from the past catching up with an alcoholic lawyer and her old school friends. Maybe not so much friends these days, more a group of acquaintances bound together by a shared secret - their joint involvement in the death of a lad nearly twenty years previously. Every year they connect at a school re-union more to ensure that lips are sealed and the secret is intact, as opposed to any great fondness for each other.

Jasmine is our main character and she's been unable to escape from her past. Not especially sympathetic, she is a functioning alcoholic, though as the book progresses her abilities to function diminish. The bottle holds an overwhelming attraction for her. Certain recent events - a car accident and the death of one of the old gang initially - more to follow - and some unusual threats combined with blackouts and lost passages of time, see her descend deeper into a spiral of addiction.

Setting aside the storyline for a minute, its never easy spending time in the company of an addict. As Jasmine's tale progresses, I kind of flip-flopped between sadness, disgust, disappointment and anger at her plight...... self-inflicted and out of control for sure, who would willingly go down that destructive path?

The story was interesting and the author(s) kind of hoodwinked me into believing one thing was going on, when in fact there was a lot more happening. Similarly I was tricked regarding my suspicions of the culprit. I actually changed my mind several times, but neither of them were accurate.

Not too long, a South London setting, with a brief excursion to my old Luton stomping grounds, lots happening though you only get a full comprehension at the finish, unsympathetic characters throughout though not despicable enough to bump you out of the story.


Lots to like and I'll be interested to see what comes next.

4 from 5

A.K. Reynolds is a husband and wife writing team. I've read the male half before* under a couple of different names. The better half was a new-to-me author. She's also a shy bones when it comes to an author piccie! 
     
Read - September, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 238
Source - review copy from publisher - Bloodhound Books
Format - Kindle MOBI read on laptop


*Jack Strange - Manchester Vice (2017), Dirty Noir (2017)
*Jack D. McLean - Confessions of an English Psychopath (2016)

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

ROB PARKER - THE PENNY BLACK (2019)


Synopsis/blurb....

I’m dead, for all intents and purposes. Nobody knows I’m alive… 

Ben Bracken is on the run for his life. Keeping a low profile from the agencies seeking to silence him, he finds refuge in the quiet town of Horning. Working in a boat yard and lodging with an older couple, Eric and Dot, Ben uses this time to plan. He needs to escape, and realising his only chance will reveal his whereabouts to some unsavoury characters, he plans every detail. Little does he know, even that won’t be enough…

Just before he walks away, murder strikes the quiet town. Ben cannot leave until he is sure that he has not brought any further trouble to the townsfolk. Will he be able to exact revenge? One thing is certain, there is a lot more going on in the town of Horning than meets the eye…

The Penny Black is action packed from beginning to end, keeping you guessing right the way through.

The Penny Black is the third in author Robert Parker's Ben Bracken series after A Wanted Man and Morte Point . Bracken is laying low in a small Norfolk village, after the fallout from the climactic events in the last book. He very much remains a person of interest to Her Majesty's Government.

Horning is the perfect place to regroup, reassess and plot his next move - false papers and most likely permanent exile out of the country. Village life has it's advantages - an unassuming job, a welcoming elderly couple as landlords, some local hostelries and respect for the stranger in their midst.

So far, so good but you know it's not going to last. A trip to the bank raises a red flag and alerts the authorities to Bracken's sort of whereabouts and a puzzling conversation with his document provider raises questions about Horning's apparent sleepiness.

Man on the run, village life, black ops pursuit, a confrontation, a watery grave - almost, recuperation, a romantic interlude, a sickening murder, delinquent youth, a drug operation, a criminal bigwig and nemesis, grief and anger, history lessons, an unlikely ally, a helicopter, ordinance and heavy gunfire, humongous egos and a few scores getting settled.

I quite liked the lower key setting and more localised conflict in this one, as opposed to the international dynamics of the previous book. Bracken almost manages to pass off as an ordinary Joe doing ordinary things.... trips to the pub, fishing outings, friendly meals and conversations, before the boy scout, Dudley Do-right part of his brain takes over and he again becomes a man on a mission. Sometimes he's his own worst enemy, sometimes circumstances dictates his course of action. Either way, he's an interesting guy to spend some time with.

4 from 5

Robert Parker has also written a standalone country noir type novel - Crook's Hollow

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 226
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

MIKE KNOWLES - DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE (2008)





















Synopsis/blurb......

Wilson has spent his entire life under the radar. Few people know who he is and even less know how to find him. Only two people even know his real occupation, carrying out confidential--and illegal--jobs for a very bad man. But one day he crosses the line, saving his friends and earning the hatred of a vengeful mob boss. He survives only by delving even deeper into the underworld of Hamilton. His next job is deceptively simple--transporting a seemingly harmless bag whose contents are both secret and dangerously valuable. Soon Wilson discovers who the bag's real owners are and just how badly they want it back.

An enjoyable introduction to Mike Knowles' work and his recurring series character, Wilson. Wilson is orphaned at a fairly young age and is schooled by his uncle, courtesy of some tough lessons, in the art of deception, invisibility, criminality and a life off the grid. The same kind of career his family had. His uncle is now dead and Wilson is on his own.

I do like reading tales of outsiders and Wilson fits the bill. Not a character I necessarily warmed to or had much sympathy for initially despite the circumstances of his upbringing, that said I was rooting for him during the course of the novel.

Here Wilson gets played as payback for crossing the head of the Italian mob running Hamilton, and is set firmly in the crosshairs of the up and coming violent Russians, rivals to the established criminal hierarchy.

In no particular order.....a bag snatch, family history, a solitary friendship, a kidnapping, violent retribution, an uneasy peace, a set-up ..... ergo mayhem, death, rival criminal fraternities battling and our man in the middle, planning and scheming, before serious action, major bloodshed and a temporary resolution.

I quite liked the relationship between Wilson and his one friend, Steve a bar owner. There's a bond between them that transcends blood ties and each has the other's back without question. That said Wilson operates more as a lone wolf here, not willing to involve his friend anymore than necessary. There's also a curious relationship between him and the criminal head of the Italians. Wilson is expected to kowtow and dance to another man's tune, which he just won't do. He asserts his independence here, but at a price, creating a few enemies along the way. 

Independent, capable, intelligent, can-do attitude and destructive - my kind of guy.

Best book ever? No, but enough to interest me in reading further in the series. That was a bit of a given anyway seeing as my copy of this one was an omnibus edition of the first three Wilson tales from Knowles and I had taken the trilogy away on holiday with me.

Pace - good, story - interesting, character - a grower, setting - Hamilton, Ontario - another plus, length - a fraction under 200 pages - perfect, outcome - believable with only a slight stretch of the imagination that our main man survives intact the amount of flashing steel and hot lead flying around.

4 from 5

Mike Knowles has written 6 Wilson books in all as well as a standalone novel.

Read - August, 2019
Published - 2008
Page count - 190
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback omnibus edition

Monday, 16 September 2019

2 BY MAX ALLAN COLLINS

A couple from prolific author Max Allan Collins.






















Collins has a written a shed load of books and some fantastic series - Nolan, Quarry, Nathan Heller, Road to Perdition, Mike Hammer - continuing the late Mickey Spillane's series and lots more besides.

A few years ago, I used to read Collins on a monthly basis, working my way through his Nolan series, before embarking on the Quarry books. I got somewhat distracted after a few (three) and fell away from the author and series. Hopefully I'll get a bit more order in my reading in 2020 and continue where I left off. I was enjoying myself.

The good news is with another book in the series getting published this year - Killing Quarry - I'll have twelve to catch up on - a whole year's does of Quarry at a pace of one a month.


Links to my thoughts on the ones I've read - all the Nolan's and three of the Quarry's below - as well as a list of the whole series.

Nolan

1. Bait Money (1973)
2. Blood Money (1973)
3. Fly Paper (1981)
4. Hush Money (1981)
5. Hard Cash (1981)
6. Scratch Fever (1982)
7. Spree (1987)
8. Mourn the Living (1988)

Quarry

1. Quarry (1976)
2. Quarry's List (1976)
3. Quarry's Deal (1976)
4. Quarry's Cut (1977)
5. Primary Target (1987)  aka Quarry's Vote
6. Quarry's Greatest Hits (2003)
7. The Last Quarry (2006)
8. The First Quarry (2008)
9. Quarry in the Middle (2009)
10. Quarry's Ex (2010)
11. The Wrong Quarry (2014)
12. Quarry's Choice (2015)
13. Quarry in the Black (2016)
14. Quarry's Climax (2017)
15. Killing Quarry (2019)


The First Quarry (2008)

BIG MAN ON CAMPUS

Crime fiction readers know Quarry, the ruthless killer-for-hire, from Max Allan Collins' acclaimed novels - most recently THE LAST QUARRY, which told the story of the assassin's final assignment (and was the basis for the feature film The Last Lullaby).

But where did Quarry's story start? For first time ever, the best-selling author of ROAD TO PERDITION takes us back to the beginning, revealing the never-before-told story of Quarry's first job: infiltrating a college campus and eliminating a professor whose affair with one of his beautiful, young students is the least of his sins.







Quarry in the Middle (2009)

The enigmatic hitman Quarry - star of secen celebrated novels and an award-winning feature film (The Last Lullaby) - is back in this violent, steamy tale of warring crime families.

When two rival casino owners covet the same territory, guess who puts himself in the crossfire......

Sunday, 15 September 2019

HARLAN COBEN - RUN AWAY (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

A perfect family is shattered when their daughter goes missing in this "riveting" New York Times bestseller from the master of domestic suspense (Ann Patchett).

You've lost your daughter.

She's addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she's made it clear that she doesn't want to be found.

Then, by chance, you see her playing guitar in Central Park. But she's not the girl you remember. This woman is living on the edge, frightened, and clearly in trouble.

You don't stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs. 

And you do the only thing a parent can do: you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Before you know it, both your family and your life are on the line. And in order to protect your daughter from the evils of that world, you must face them head on.

An enjoyable holiday read for my wife and one I caught up with on the plane home and finished the day after.  A typical Coben book in that you don't really know what is going on until the end when all the strands of the story are drawn together and all the secrets that have been kept are uncovered.

A fractured family, a child albeit an adult lost to drugs, desperation, a couple of hitters (i.e. a hitman and a female assistant), a cult, a list of names, a PI, two investigations, a murder, a family shooting, a skedaddling, a hunt, secrets, hidden histories, inheritance, an ally, more death, a reluctant You Tube sensation, the police...... all diced together, cut up, mixed and blended and a few other ingredients as well.

Decent story line, decent pace, interesting characters, New York (and a bit further afield) setting, satisfactory conclusion, did what it said on the tin.

I'm usually entertained when I read Harlan Coben without feeling the urge to immediately start another of his. This one was no exception.

Coben has been read a few times since the inception of the blog.
No Second Chance (2003)Home (2016)Play Dead (1990), Hold Tight (2008), Tell No One (2001), Shelter (2011) - this one before.

4 from 5

Read in September, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 384
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

LAWRENCE BLOCK (as SHELDON LORD) - 21 GAY STREET (1962)


Synopsis/blurb.....

When Joyce Kendall arrives in New York, fresh out of Clifton College in Iowa, she has a job and an apartment waiting for her. The job’s as a first reader for Armageddon Publications. The apartment’s at 21 Gay Street, and the small Federal-period house is already home to a lesbian couple, Jean Fitzgerald and Terri Leigh, and an out-of-work newspaperman, Pete Galton. The relationships of these four people under one roof add up to a fast-paced story that is not only satisfying fiction but a rare window on Bohemian life in the late 1950s. A drug-fueled rent-party-turned-orgy at the apartment of one Fred Koans is just link to a world some older readers may recall. 

Gay Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village, runs for only a single block between Christopher Street and Waverly Place. The 1943 movie A Night to Remember portrays 13 Gay Street as the address of the building where most of the action, including a murder, occurs. In 1996, Sheryl Crow made a video on Gay Street for the song "A Change Would Do You Good." 

21 Gay Street, a very early Lawrence Block novel, was originally published under the pen name Sheldon Lord. It was never reprinted after its initial publication in 1960, and this marks its first appearance in 56 years. As such, it seems an ideal choice to lead off Lawrence Block’s Collection of Classic Erotica, and the book's original cover, with a painting by the great Paul Rader, is reproduced 

Probably not a book I would have considered buying in all honesty. I've a fair few of Lawrence Block's later (and probably better) books on the shelves which are singing out to me more. However a chance of a couple of freebie download codes offered on one of the author's recent newsletters had me greedily reaching out. Nothing to lose plugging the phone into the car stereo for the 20 minute journey to and from work.

After a slow start I quite liked it. There's no crime, no mystery, no thrills, not really any erotica or soft porn to titillate really, I'm guessing what was risque nearly 60 years ago is incredibly tame these days. All described action is strictly above the waist.

More a tale of the inhabitants of 21 Gay Street....... a pair of lesbians - one loving and faithful, the other loving but with a wandering eye, a newbie girl to New York - friendless and lonely and an unemployed newspaperman turned writer - looking for inspiration and no frills sex from successful pick-ups.

Drinking, bars, drug use, taxi rides and chatty cabbies, pick-ups, relationships, guilt and remorse for past actions, job dissatisfaction, sadness, sex, an orgy invitation, orgy participation and the aftermath.

After an initial introduction which doesn't bode well for a future lasting relationship, Pete and NYC newcomer, Joyce connect and leave the embarrassment of an orgy behind them and develop feelings for each other. Sex turning to warmth, passion, consideration, care and eventually love. Two of Gay Street's inhabitants find each other and move on. The beginning of the journey for the new inhabitants of 21 Gay Street brings this one to a close.

I do kind of wonder if it is kind of semi-autobiographical in nature. Pete is a young unpublished writer struggling with a first novel and under Joyce's tutelage starts crafting stories for monthly magazines and paychecks, aided by Joyce's knowledge of the market from her job at such a publisher. Lawrence Block's story might be similar. That said I can't vouch for any participation by him in New York village orgies in the late 50s/early 60s or that said at any point in his life.


Smooth narration by Dana Roth contributed to nearly 6 hours of listening fun.



3 from 5

Read - (listened to) August, 2019
Published - 1962 (maybe earlier judging by Mr Block's notes above)
Page count - 184 (or 5 hours, 54 minutes)
Source - author via an assistant with a download code
Format - Audible


Friday, 13 September 2019

AUGUST 2019 - ADDITIONS TO THE LIBRARY - 6 OF THE BEST!

Happy August! Another six crackers to look forward to......

David Owen - Why Neville Shot Gus (2019) - from author

Oh the kindness of authors, all the way from Tasmania to Leighton Buzzard - David Owen's latest. Minimalist blurb, to be sure from the author of the Pufferfish series.

I've enjoyed a couple of his in the last few years.

13-POINT PLAN FOR A PERFECT MURDER (2016) and BIG RED ROCK (2017)


Synopsis/blurb....

Read it.

Randy Kennedy - Presidio (2018) - purchased copy

Popped up in my Goodreads feed and I liked the sound of this.

Synopsis/blurb...

Set in the 1970s in the vast and arid landscape of the Texas panhandle, this darkly comic and stunningly mature literary debut tells the story of a car thief and his brother who set out to recover some stolen money and inadvertently kidnap a Mennonite girl who has her own reasons for being on the run.

Troy Falconer returns home after years of working as a solitary car thief to help his younger brother, Harlan, search for his wife, who has run away with the little money he had. When they steal a station wagon for the journey, the brothers accidentally kidnap Martha Zacharias, a Mennonite girl asleep in the back of the car. Martha turns out to be a stubborn survivor who refuses to be sent home, so together these unlikely road companions attempt to escape across the Mexican border, pursued by the police and Martha's vengeful father.

The story is told partly through Troy's journal, in which he chronicles his encounters with con artists, down-and-outers, and roadside philosophers, people looking for fast money, human connection, or a home long since vanished. The journal details a breakdown that has left Troy unable to function in conventional society; he is reduced to haunting motels, stealing from men roughly his size, living with their possessions in order to have none of his own and all but disappearing into their identities.

With a page-turning plot about a kidnapped child, gorgeously written scenes that probe the soul of the American West, and an austere landscape as real as any character, Presidio packs a powerful punch of anomie, dark humor, pathos, and suspense.


Manda Scott - A Treachery of Spies (2018) - purchased copy

Mick Herron rates it - SOLD! 

Synopsis/blurb.....

Treachery of Spies is an espionage thriller to rival the very best, a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse, played in the shadows, which will keep you guessing every step of the way.

An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France. Her identity has been cleverly erased but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two. 

Tracking down her murderer leads police inspector Inès Picaut back to 1940s France where the men and women of the Resistance were engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders. 

To find answers in the present Picaut must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim's youth: a time when unholy alliances were forged between occupiers and occupied, deals were done and promises broken. The past has been buried for decades, but, as Picaut discovers, there are those in the present whose futures depend on it staying that way – and who will kill to keep their secrets safe...

‘A Treachery of Spies is the equal of Charlotte Gray in its insights into the period and, I would say, beats it for sheer excitement… one of the most gripping spy stories I have ever read.’ Jake Kerridge, S Magazine

'This is a rich vein for fiction, and Scott does it more than justice, with this beautifully imagined, beautifully written, smart, sophisticated - but fiercely suspenseful - thriller.' Lee Child


Stephen King - The Colorado Kid (2005) - purchased copy



Recently re-published, a bit scarcer than rocking horse pooh before that. I tried the series Haven a year or two ago and didn't get on with it. I'm sure the book will be better.

Synopsis/blurb.....

Stephen King’s bestselling unsolved mystery, THE COLORADO KID – inspiration for the TV series HAVEN -- returns to bookstores for the first time in 10 years in an all-new illustrated edition.

On an island off the coast of Maine, a man is found dead. There’s no identification on the body. Only the dogged work of a pair of local newspapermen and a graduate student in forensics turns up any clues, and it’s more than a year before the man is identified. And that’s just the beginning of the mystery. Because the more they learn about the man and the baffling circumstances of his death, the less they understand. Was it an impossible crime? Or something stranger still...? No one but Stephen King could tell this story about the darkness at the heart of the unknown and our compulsion to investigate the unexplained. With echoes of Dashiell Hammett’s THE MALTESE FALCON and the work of Graham Greene, one of the world’s great storytellers presents a moving and surprising tale whose subject is nothing less than the nature of mystery itself...


Markus Zusak - Bridge of Clay (2018)



I've enjoyed Zusak's work in the past - I am the Messenger and The Book Thief. I'm not going to pass up his latest.


Synopsis/blurb.....

Here is a story told inside out and back to front

Five Dunbar brothers are living – fighting, loving, grieving – in the perfect chaos of a house without grown-ups. Today, the father who left them has just walked right back in.
He has a surprising request: Who will build a bridge with him?

It is Clay, a boy tormented by a long-buried secret, who accepts. But why is Clay so broken? And why must he fulfil this extraordinary challenge?

Bridge of Clay is about a boy caught in a current, a boy intent on destroying everything he has in order to become everything he needs to be. Ahead of him lies the bridge, the vision that will save both his family and himself.

It will be a miracle and nothing less.

At once an existential riddle and a search for redemption, this tale of five brothers coming of age in a house with no rules brims with energy, joy and pathos. Written in Markus Zusak's distinctive style, it is a tour de force from a master storyteller of the heart.

****************

'Bridge of Clay is one of those monumental books that can draw you across space and time' Washington Post



Lawrence Block (as Jill Emerson) - Thirty (1970) - from author


FREEBIE AUDIBLE CODE received from one of Mr Block's assistants - one of the benefits of receiving his newsletter. Another one to be listened to on the commute to and from work.

Synopsis/blurb.....

The edgy diary of a 1960s housewife's adventure of self-realization.

Turning 29 years old, Janet Giddings Kurland starts a journal and records her comfortably routine suburban lifestyle. But when she rolls the dice with her friend's husband, she starts down a path that will lead her to the hip streets of Greenwich Village. Amidst the sexually free, Janet blossoms and her housewife's journal turns into a sex diary filled with unexpected encounters, dangerous partners, and drug-fueled sexual escapades.

Will her adventures destroy her? Or will she find, as the poet William Blake proclaimed, that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom?

Lawrence Block, award-winning novelist and screenwriter, has written eight novels over the years as Jill Emerson. Thirty is one of them.

©1970, 2010 LB Productions (P)2014 LB Productions

Thursday, 12 September 2019

AUGUST 2019 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH

Nine books read in the month (ok eight read and one Audiobook consumed). One shy of my usual target of double digit reading.





5 STAR - PICK OF THE MONTH - not this month - but Steven Max Russo and Thieves can have the glory. It came close.

4.5 STAR READS - just scraping the crossbar x - 2 Steven Max Russo - Thieves and George V. Higgins - The Friends of Eddie Coyle - a second or possibly third re-read.

4 STAR READS x 5 - T.S. Hunter's Careless Whisper, Thomas Waugh with Enough is Enough, Lee Goldberg and Mr Monk Goes to the Firehouse, A.G. Pasquella and Carve the Heart and Mike Knowles with Darwin's Nightmare


3.5 STARS x 1 - James Sallis - Others of My Kind

3 STAR x 1 - Lawrence Block (as Sheldon Lord) - 21 Gay Street

I spent time in the company of .....

an ex-cop and his flat mate investigating murder

a survivor of years of abuse, helping others

a vigilante/bodyguard sorting out an Albanian drugs gang

an OCD former detective proving murder

some small time villains and a home invasion

a broken-hearted beau trying to get his former partner off the hook

some young New Yorkers seeking sex and love

an off-the-radar independent villain reluctantly involved with a criminal fraternity

some low-lie hustlers, selling guns and settling scores


Settings...... 80s Soho, London; somewhere in the US; London again; San Francisco; New Jersey/New York; Toronto; New York; Hamilton, Ontario; 70s Boston

T.S. Hunter - Careless Whisper (2019) (4)

James Sallis - Others of My Kind (2013) (3.5)

Thomas Waugh - Enough is Enough (2019) (4)

Lee Goldberg - Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse (2006) (4)

Steven Max Russo - Thieves (2018) (4.5)

A.G. Pasquella - Carve the Heart (2019) (4)

Lawrence Block (as Sheldon Lord)  - 21 Gay Street (1962) (3)

Mike Knowles - Darwin's Nightmare (2008) (4)

George V. Higgins - The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970) (4.5)

Anal analysis time read on if you're an insomniac ......


New to me authors in the month - 3 - A.G. Pasquella, Steven Max Russo and Mike Knowles

I have more on the pile to read from Mike Knowles and A.G. Pasquella

Authors enjoyed before - 6 - Lawrence Block, James Sallis, T.S. Hunter, Lee Goldberg, George V. Higgins and Thomas Waugh

There's more on the TBR pile from all of them.

9 reads from 9 different authors.

4 were series books .....

Lee Goldberg's Mr Monk Goes to the Firehouse is the first in about a dozen from the author

A.G. Pasquella's Carve the Heart is the second Jack Palace book, after Yard Dog

Mike Knowles with Darwin's Nightmare is the first of six or seven featuring his main man, Wilson

T.S. Hunter's Careless Whisper is the third in his Soho Noir series featuring recurring characters

Series maybes....

Thomas Waugh's Enough is Enough could spawn a series.



Gender analysis - 0 female authors, 9 male. No further comment really necessary (copies and pastes last month's comments re gender)

Another poor attempt at diversity in my reading! Deja-vous.
It looks like I'll have to sort out another all-female reading month later in the year to address the imbalance. Blah, blah, blah


Of the 9 different authors read, 6 hailed from the USA, 2 are British (can't be any more specific than that), 1 hails from Canada - as best I can tell.

All 9 of the reads were fiction,

7 of the 9 books read were published this century - 5 from this decade

3 from 2019, 1 from 2018, 1 from 2013

1 from 2008 and 1 from 2006

1 book was from 1970, and 1 was from 1962

3 came from the man-cave blue tub stash in my garage.

Mike Knowles, George V. Higgins and Lee Goldberg

Publishers -  Red Dog Press, No Exit Press, Sharpe Books, Signet, Down and Out Books, Dundurn Press, Robinson Publishing, Lawrence Block and ECW Press


4 of the 9 reads were pre-owned,

1 was accessed at Net Galley early reviewer site, cheers to publisher Dundurn Press

1 came via reviewer site Book Sirens

2 were received directly from the publisher - cheers to Red Dog Press and Sharpe Books

1 came from the author - his assistant actually in the form of an Audible download code - cheers to team Lawrence Block



Favourite cover? Steven Max Russo - Thieves




Second favourite cover -  George V. Higgins - The Friends of Eddie Coyle




My reads were this long 126 - 192 - 144 - 304 - 280 - 277 - 184 (or 5hrs 54mins) - 190 - 196

Total page count = 1893 (3816 in July) ....... a decrease of 1923 pages

1 was a Kindle read,  2 were ePub files read on the laptop, 1 was a PDF file read on the laptop, 1 was an Audible listening book, 4 were paperback - 2 of them 3 book Omnibus editions of which the first of each was consumed


0 < 50,
0 between 51 < 100,
6 between 101 < 200,
2 between 201 < 300,
1 between 301 < 400,
0 between 401 < 500
0 over 500 pages

Lee Goldberg - Mr Monk Goes to the Firehouse was the longest read at 304 pages

T.S. Hunter and Careless Whisper was the shortest at 126 pages long.


Oh....and I also did my annual August short story challenge.....

AUGUST, 2019 - 31 DAYS, 31 SHORTS!


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

AUGUST 2019 - FILMS + TV (HOME VIEWING)

Not too much enjoyed in the month, as I was somewhat disrupted by family birthdays, holidays, car trouble - MOTs and repairs, work and general all-round nonsense interfering with my reading and viewing relaxation.

One TV series continued - still doggedly pursuing it to the end slowly, slowly - maybe 5 episodes to go and 2.5 films watched - 1 a re-watch from 20 odd years ago and the unfinished film to be continued with tiredness over-taking my absorption in the plot, when watching.


The Handmaid's Tale - Season 3 (2019) - TV Drama






The slow march towards the climax of this continues. Scary as fuck really, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all pans out. Interesting to note how my sympathies and compassion for certain characters constantly changes during the course of the series.

From Google.....

Based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, this series is set in Gilead, a totalitarian society in what used to be part of the United States. Gilead is ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state, and is faced with environmental disasters and a plummeting birth rate. In a desperate attempt to repopulate a devastated world, the few remaining fertile women are forced into sexual servitude. One of these women, Offred, is determined to survive the terrifying world she lives in, and find the daughter that was taken from her.




Fargo (1996)
A re-watch from who knows when. My son had never seen it, so we dusted off the old DVD and had another look. I still really like it. The last watch was long enough ago that I couldn't actually remember everything prior to seeing it again. I do like Steve Buscemi. He cracks me up every time. Frances McDormand is excellent.

I've enjoyed the three TV series which have aired in the past few years. More than this? Hard to say. Maybe because of the longer format, probably.

From Wikipedia....

Fargo is a 1996 neo-noir black comedy thriller film written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Frances McDormand stars as Marge Gunderson, a pregnant Minnesota police chief investigating roadside homicides that ensue after a desperate car salesman (William H. Macy) hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife in order to extort a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law (Harve Presnell).

Fargo premiered at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, where Joel Coen won the festival's Prix de la mise en scène (Best Director Award) and the film was nominated for the Palme d'Or. A critical and commercial success, Fargo received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. McDormand received the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Coens won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.


The film was selected in 2006 for preservation in the National Film Registry of the United States by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"—one of only six films so designated in its first year of eligibility.In 1998, the American Film Institute named it one of the 100 greatest American films in history. A Coen-produced FX television series of the same name, inspired by Fargo and taking place in the same fictional universe, premiered in 2014 and received critical acclaim.


Django Unchained (2012)
About halfway through this one and enjoying it immensely. I got the DVD as a present about 6 or 7 years ago from my son and never watched it before, for some bizarre reason. Idiot. I think I've enjoyed all of Quentin Tarantino's films TBH. Jamie Foxx is excellent as is his nutty sidekick, not someone I can recall seeing before - Christoph Waltz.


From Google.....

Two years before the Civil War, Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave, finds himself accompanying an unorthodox German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) on a mission to capture the vicious Brittle brothers. Their mission successful, Schultz frees Django, and together they hunt the South's most-wanted criminals. Their travels take them to the infamous plantation of shady Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), where Django's long-lost wife (Kerry Washington) is still a slave.




The Big Short (2015)

Did I understand all the financial machinations and shenanigans? No, but it didn't stop me enjoying this one. Interesting expose, but in truth didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Bankers, politicians, regulators..... shady fuckers the lot of 'em. 

As a side note, our current chancellor, Sajid Javid was involved in selling CDOs at Deutsche Bank - a practice which contributed to the financial crisis. Surprised? Not really 

John McDonnell's view (Labour politician)


From Wikipedia....

The Big Short is a 2015 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Adam McKay. Written by McKay and Charles Randolph, it is based on the 2010 book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis showing how the financial crisis of 2007–2008 was triggered by the United States housing bubble.


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

AUGUST 2019 - FILMS (CINEMA)

A quiet month by recent standards with only three opportunities taken to get out and grab a film. They were good films though.


Blinded by the Light (2019)
I've been looking forward to this film for a few months now..........the 80s, Bruce Springsteen and Luton - a real dose of nostalgia and a trip down memory lane, having grown-up in the town and having enjoyed Springsteen's music a lot, around the time of Born in the USA album.

The film didn't disappoint. I have the book which inspired the film on the shelves Greetings from Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor




From Google.......

Javed is a Pakistani teenager who experiences racial and economic turmoil while living in Luton, England, in 1987. He writes poetry as a way to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the stubborn views of his traditional father. When a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteeen, Javed sees parallels between the singer's powerful lyrics and his own working-class environment. Springsteen's melodies soon inspire Javed to find his own voice and follow his dreams.


Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
I do like Jason Statham as an actor, although it might be fair to say that his range and versatility maybe haven't quite been put to the test. You kind of know what you are getting with his films ...... action, pace, a punch-up or two, a bit of brutality and usually some gun play, as well as a bit of dead pan self deprecating humour. Double the dose here with Dwayne Johnson, someone who has grown on me over the past couple of years. Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Eddie Marsan and Kevin Hart also feature.

A decent night out, entertaining, funny, silly, very OTT with the plot and the stunts - did what it said on the tin.


From Google......

Brixton Lorr is a cybernetically enhanced soldier who possesses superhuman strength, a brilliant mind and a lethal pathogen that could wipe out half of the world's population. It's now up to hulking lawman Luke Hobbs and lawless operative Deckard Shaw to put aside their past differences and work together to prevent the seemingly indestructible Lorr from destroying humanity.


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)


Much hyped and I bloody loved it.  Features Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen (every time I see him, I can't help but remember Reservoir Dogs and his funky switchblade dance to Stuck in the Middle With You.) I quite enjoy seeing Pitt and DiCaprio as they age and get older. They're not quite the pretty boys they used to be.

A great story line, great setting, fantastic acting, a bit of action, a few laughs and quite chilling in places. I found the twist at the back end quite sad and poignant really and I could quite happily have watched it again as soon as it finished.

From Google....

Actor Rick Dalton gained fame and fortune by starring in a 1950s television Western, but is now struggling to find meaningful work in a Hollywood that he doesn't recognize anymore. He spends most of his time drinking and palling around with Cliff Booth, his easygoing best friend and longtime stunt double. Rick also happens to live next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate -- the filmmaker and budding actress whose futures will forever be altered by members of the Manson Family.