Sunday 26 January 2020


A Christmas gift, a couple of review copies from authors (or assistants on their behalf) and some purchases.....

Martin Michael Driessen - The Pelican (2019) - Christmas present

A Christmas present from my son. Not a book or author I have previously heard of, somewhere at the front or the back of the book is a comparison to Pascal Garnier's work, and I do like him. Ergo, I should like this....

From award-winning Dutch author Martin Michael Driessen comes a fearlessly funny tragedy about an improbable friendship, unstable dreams, missed opportunities, and epic coincidence.

In a quiet coastal town in Yugoslavia, two men seeking more than the Communist regime can offer find their lives deceitfully entwined.

Andrej is a postman in complete denial of his existence. He yearns for respect and fame but commits petty crimes for reasons he doesn't fully comprehend. Josip is an increasingly irrelevant cable car operator and unfaithfully married. Life was so much simpler when neither one knew the other's secrets. Now that they do - discovered quite by accident - each man has resorted to blackmailing the other. As their anonymous misdeeds escalate, a farce of mutual dependency begins. So does the unlikeliest of friendships when Andrej and Josip finally meet face-to-face.

In a tale set against the impending wars, Martin Michael Driessen ingeniously explores the foibles of two painfully ordinary men boldly staking their claims on life.

Clayton Lindemuth - Shirley F'N Lyle Viva The Revolution (2019) - purchased copy

There's a few books from Lindemuth on the pile, but I've not read him yet. This one looks good.

Shirley Lyle hooks for a living. She's a big girl who keeps her profile low. But when a drug lord and his son toss her trailer, she adds a couple letters to her name.

Now, she's killed the drug lord's son and two meth zombies. Fed up, ready to set fire to her past, her job - and her trailer - she's dragged back into the role she's forsworn by a man who presses her buttons with a hammer.

Shirley realizes she'll never be more than a 400-pound hooker. But when her partner-in-revolution, Ulyana the Ukrainian stripper, disappears, her car empty and bullet holes in the glass, Shirley reaches deep, finds her sass, and puts flame to fuse.

Who took Ulyana?

The Russian mob?

The man who beat Shirley down?

The 83-year-old drug lord who refuses to die?

When all your life you've been one thing, but your survival - and your friend's - demand you be the hero...

You put on the F'N cape.

Prepare yourself for a battle of good and evil unlike any you've seen. With rave reviews from Publishers Weekly (starred review and best of the week), IndieNext List, Kirkus, BlueInk Review, Foreword Reviews, San Francisco Book Review, Seattle Book Review, Manhattan Book Review, Indie Reader, and more, if you haven't read Clayton Lindemuth's unique brand of literary noir, what are you waiting for?

Mitchell S. Jackson - Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (2019) - purchased copy
A bit of non-fiction that caught my eye.

'A mesmerising book, full of story, truth, pain, lyricism, humour and astonishment: the stuff of a difficult life, fully lived, and masterfully transformed into art' SALMAN RUSHDIE

'Intimate and wise, poignant and compassionate, redemptive and raw. You have to read this beautiful book' CHERYL STRAYED, author of Wild

An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations that award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon, of his youth.

This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, the concept of 'hustle' and the destructive power of addiction - all framed within the story of Jackson, his family and his community.

Mitchell S. Jackson presents a microcosm of struggle and survival in contemporary urban America - an exploration of the forces that shaped his life, his city, and the lives of so many black men like him. As Jackson charts his own path from drug dealer to published novelist, he gives us a heartbreaking, fascinating, lovingly rendered view of the injustices and victories, large and small, that defined his youth.

'Jackson's mesmerizing voice and style draws you into the survival calculations for millions of American kids and families, revealing a need-to-know reality for all of us' PIPER KERMAN, Author of Orange is the New Black

Joyce Carol Oates - The Triumph of the Spider Monkey (1976) - purchased copy

I quite like books from this publisher, Hard Case Crime, but I can't keep up with their output. Oates is an author I've heard of but never tried.

Unavailable for 40 years, this seminal novel of madness and murder is acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates' powerful trip into the mind of a maniac.

Abandoned as a baby in a bus station locker, shuttled from one abusive foster home and detention center to another, Bobbie Gotteson grew up angry, hurting, damaged. His hunger to succeed as a musician brought him across the country to Hollywood, but along with it came his seething rage, his paranoid delusions, and his capacity for acts of shocking violence.

Unavailable for 40 years, The Triumph of the Spider Monkey is an eloquent, terrifying, heartbreaking exploration of madness by one of the most acclaimed authors of the past century. This definitive edition for the first time pairs the original novel with a never-before-collected companion novella by Joyce Carol Oates, unseen since its sole publication in a literary journal nearly half a century ago, which examines the impact of Gotteson's killing spree on a woman who survived it, as seen through the eyes of the troubled young man hired by a private detective to surveil her...

Peter Ritchie - Maxine's Story (2019) - review copy from publicist

I became familiar with Ritchie's work in the past year or so, enjoying
Where No Shadows Fall (2019) and Our Little Secrets (2019). This latest one looks good.

Maxine Welsh works the streets of Leith, her world collapsing beneath the weight of addiction and mounting debt. A meeting with her only friend leads to a series of incidents that open up new possibilities until her life is threatened and events spin out of control.

Police, gangsters and friends old and new all play their part in another story of crime and its consequences set in the world of the bestselling Detective Grace Macallan series.

First published as a novella in 2015, this revised and extended edition follows Maxine's journey beyond the streets of Edinburgh in a gritty, poignant tale of hope and redemption.

Lawrence Block - Hunting Buffalo with Bent Nails (2019) - review copy from author or one of his team

A new book from Lawrence Block is always a cause for celebration!

While he is probably best known as a novelist and short-story writer, Lawrence Block has produced a rich trove of nonfiction over the course of a sixty-year career. His instructional books for writers are leaders in the field, and his self-described pedestrian memoir, Step By Step, has found a loyal audience in the running and racewalking community.

Over the years, Block has written extensively for magazines and periodicals. Generally Speaking collects his philatelic columns from Linn’s Stamp News, while his extensive observations of crime fiction, along with personal glimpses of some of its foremost practitioners, have won wide acclaim in book form as The Crime of Our Lives.

Hunting Buffalo With Bent Nails is what he’s got left over.

The title piece, originally published in American Heritage, recounts the ongoing adventure Block and his wife undertook, criss-crossing the United States and parts of Canada in their quixotic and exotic quest to find every “village, hamlet, and wide place in the road named Buffalo.” Other travel tales share space with a remembrance of his mother, odes to New York, a disquisition on pen names and book tours, and, well, no end of bent nails not worth straightening. Where else will you find “Raymond Chandler and the Brasher Doubloon,” an assessment of that compelling writer from a numismatic standpoint? Where else can you read about Block’s collection of old subway cars?


  1. You can't go wrong with Block, Col, so it's good to see you've got one of his waiting for you. And the others look interesting, too. I like Garnier's work, myself, so I'll be especially interested in what you think of the Driessen (some of those 'if you like ____, you'll like ____' aren't exactly accurate...).

    1. I love Block, Margot. I know what you mean regarding the comparisons with other authors, sometimes they can be a bit misleading (as can blurbs)>

  2. Oh some good-sounding books there. The Block sounds hilarious, and some good female protagonists in the others.

    1. I'm looking forward to the Block one Moira. I've enjoyed listening to some of his non-fiction on Audible over the past few months, and whether he's writing about writing or race walking I'm thoroughly entertained.

  3. I think The Pelican sounds really interesting and has a great cover. The Lawrence Block book might be good also.

    1. Agreed, it's a very eye-catching cover and the premise sounds good. I do like Block and expect to have a good time with this one.

  4. Col, the new Lawrence Block book goes on my list, though I have so much to read by the celebrated author. And then there's the Hard Case, an imprint I'm always on the lookout for. I like the covers.

    1. Prashant, you and me both. I'm having a damn good go at catching up with him though. HCC have some great covers, don't they?

  5. The Lindemuth and Ritchie books are going on my list.

  6. Boom! I hope you like them, Elgin.