Monday 30 April 2018


A house move (at long last) in the middle of the month severely disrupted my viewing and reading in April - something which was probably to be expected. We did squeeze in a couple of cinema trips in the month, watch one DVD and enjoy about an hour and a half of television. Hopefully May proves more fruitful on both fronts.

Come Home - BBC drama (2018)
Second episode of three watched - this week focussed primarily on the wife, who walked out. Hard to sympathise with her if I'm honest. The new girlfriend's got a few issues.

From i News.....

Situated in the same Tuesday evening drama slot that has given us the likes of Shetland and Broken, Come Home tells the story of a family struggling to come to terms with a mother’s sudden departure. Eccleston plays Greg, a now-single father struggling to care for his three children after wife Marie (Paula Malcomson, who appeared opposite Sean Bean in the aforementioned Broken) leaves her family behind seemingly out of the blue.

I, Tonya (2017)

Fan-bloody-tastic. Margot Robbie is amazing. I'm old enough to remember some of the fall-out from the real-life Tonya Harding - Nancy Kerrigan rivalry and kneecapping, but time has eroded some of my memory of events. An interesting refresher. Well worth a look, funny, and not least a little bit sad, seeing Tonya's upbringing. Definitely one to watch again when it comes out on DVD 

From Wikipedia.....

I, Tonya is a 2017 American biographical film directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Steven Rogers. It follows the life of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. It features interviews with the characters in mockumentary-style set in the modern day, as well as fourth wall breaking. Margot Robbie (who also produced) stars as Harding, Sebastian Stan plays Harding's husband Jeff Gillooly, and Allison Janney plays Harding's mother LaVona Golden; Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver, Paul Walter Hauser, and Bobby Cannavale also star.

The Leisure Seeker (2017)
Based on Michael Zadoorian's book of the same name - a book both my wife and I loved equally - I wasn't aware of this film until entering the cinema to see I, Tonya at my local library. The trio - myself, my wife and one of my daughters pitched up to see this one on the week of it's release. Not quite as emotionally wrenching as the book, my daughter still was in floods of tears at several points throughout. Warm, touching, sad, funny, thoughtful......Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland - a long married couple take one last road trip together. I would still take the book over the film, you just don't feel the same connection or empathy to the characters in an hour and a half, despite some enjoyable performances. Still it was a worthwhile and enjoyable family outing. I'd recommend both formats to anyone.

From Google...

Traveling in their family Leisure Seeker vintage recreational vehicle, John and Ella Spencer take one last road trip from Boston to the Hemingway House in the Florida Keys before his Alzheimer's and her cancer can catch up with them.

Santa Clarita Diet Season 2 (2018)

One episode watched in April. I love Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant. Probably the funniest comedy from across the water since Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

From Rotten Tomatoes....

Picking up right where we left off, Season 2 of Santa Clarita Diet finds the Hammonds trying to adapt to Sheila's now-advanced undead state -- even though she's desperately working to hold on to her suburban lifestyle and not be defined as just another monster. Unfortunately -- while the family has become markedly better at murder -- the number of missing people in Santa Clarita is starting to pile up and it's no longer going unnoticed. Meanwhile, the Hammonds are chasing the source of the virus so they can stop it from spreading and save humanity -- which seems important. Through it all, Sheila and Joel are grounded by their unconditional love for one another. Sure, being undead -- or loving someone who is -- isn't always easy, but don't all relationships have their challenges?

Wild at Heart (1990)
I tried this one years ago and bailed. Second attempt at watching it was more successful. Definitely a bit weird - but probably normal for David Lynch - I suppose. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern look young, which considering this was nearly thirty years old, is a statement of the bleeding obvious. I'll have to try something else by Lynch before deciding if I'm a fan. I kind of avoided Twin Peaks for some reason. Maybe Lost Highway next.

From Wikipedia....

Wild at Heart is a 1990 American film written and directed by David Lynch, and based on Barry Gifford's 1989 novel of the same name. Both the book and the film revolve around Sailor Ripley and Lula Pace Fortune, a young couple from Cape Fear, North Carolina, who go on the run from her domineering mother and the gangsters she hires to kill Sailor.

Sunday 29 April 2018


Ten books enjoyed in the month - two stand out reads and one my top pick of the month, which was a bit of a surprise as I'm not usually a massive fan of supernatural or paranormal events, but Down to No Good by Earl Javorsky ticked every box for me.

The other book which was pretty damn good - Midday by David B. Lyons!

The other eight reads weren't too shoddy either. The full list was....

Sam Wiebe - Invisible Dead (2016) (4.5)

Max Everhart - All the Different Ways Love Can Feel (2017) (4)

Sam Wiebe  - Cut You Down (2018) (4.5)

Keith Nixon - Dig Two Graves (2017) (4)

Jack Strange - Manchester Vice (2017) (4.5)

Keith Nixon - Burn the Evidence (2017) (4.5)

David B. Lyons - Midday (2018) (5)

Robert Parker - A Wanted Man (2017) (3.5)

Earl Javorsky - Down to No Good (2017) (5)

Steve Liszka - Dead Watch (2018) (4)

Dissecting the month to the nth degree.....

4 x 4.5 STAR READS...... Sam Wiebe twice, Jack Strange and Keith Nixon - all authors who have been enjoyed before and all authors with more from them on the TBR pile.

3 x 4 STAR READS..... Steve Liszka, Keith Nixon (again) and a collection of short stories by Max Everhart. Liszka was a new to me author, Everhart had been read before.

1 x 3.5 STAR READ ..... enjoyable, but a few niggles regarding the plot and motivation - Robert Parker's debut A Wanted Man

10 reads from 8 different authors, 2 from Sam Wiebe, 2 from Keith Nixon

3 of the 8 were new-to-me authors....... Steve Liszka, David B. Lyons and Robert Parker

There is more on the pile from Keith Nixon, Sam Wiebe, Earl Javorsky and Jack Strange. There was another one from Robert Parker, Crook's Hollow which has now been read in April.

Gender analysis -  8 male authors, 0 females - despite assertions that I'm going to correct the imbalance in my reading, I never do.
(An all female reading month is coming soon! Yada yada yada - seeing is believing)

I believe of the 8 authors I read, 4 are English, 2 hail from the US, 1 is Canadian and 1 is Irish

All 10 of the reads were fiction - 9 novels and a collection of short stories.

All of the books were published in the last three years....3 from 2018, 6 from 2017, 1 from 2016 - whatever happened to me reading older books?

1 of the books was pre-owned. 2 came from Net Galley, 1 from Edelweiss, 2 from a publishers, 1 from a publicist and 3 from the authors

Favourite cover? Sam Wiebe's Cut You Down

Second favourite – Robert Parker's A Wanted Man

My reads were this long 321 - 240 - 356 - 226 - 325 - 229 - 291 - 320 - 220 - 381

Total page count = 2909 (4170 in February)....... a near 1300 page decrease

8 Kindle reads, 1 x ePub  on the laptop and 1 paperback.

0 < 50,
0 between 51 < 100,
0 between 101 < 200,
5 between 201 < 300,
5 between 301 < 400,
0  > 400 pages

Steve Liszka's Dead Watch was the longest read at 381 pages.

Robert Parker with Crook's Hollow was the shortest at 220 pages long

Friday 27 April 2018



An edgy and intense thriller with a touch of the paranormal.

Private investigator Charlie Miner, freshly revived from his own murder, gets a call from Homicide Detective Dave Putnam. Self-styled "psychic to the stars" Tamara Gale has given crucial information about three murders, and the brass thinks it makes the Department look bad. Dave wants Charlie to help figure out the angle, since he has first-hand experience with the inexplicable. Trouble is, Charlie, just weeks after his full-death experience, once again has severe cognitive problems and may get them both killed.

At once a riveting mystery and a completely unique character study, DOWN TO NO GOOD will both captivate you and work its way into your heart.

"Earl Javorsky's DOWN TO NO GOOD is wildly original, wildly energetic, wildly funny - it's just straight up wild, and I mean that in the best possible way.
- Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE

"DOWN TO NO GOOD is a deep dive into the weird and wild that had me staying up far later than normal. A whacked-out thrill ride filled with psychics and cops and a drug-loving PI who just can't stay dead. What's not to love?" 
- Brett Battles, USA Today bestselling author

"Will tear your head off and make you like it." - Bookreporter

I'm not usually a fan of paranormal elements in my reading, but Earl Javorsky and his main man Charlie Miner have gone some way towards persuading me to reassess my attitudes to books featuring this trope in the future. I read the previous Miner outing - Down Solo - a few years ago and liked it. This one was even better.

Miner was killed in the previous book, got up off the slab in the morgue and gradually repaired his body and in time his mind (mostly). Here he is still coming to terms with his situation, when friend and cop Dave Putnam asks for help with a case. Dave Putnam? WTF! I've read most of ex-cop Putnam's books involving Bruno Johnson.

Putnam is getting heat from his PR sensitive boss, over some psychic involvement in a few cases. Our celebrity psychic provides information on where a missing body has been dumped. She's correct. She anticipates a forthcoming tragic event. Again she's correct. Perhaps Charlie with his recent experiences, could do his friend a favour and offer some insight.

Javorsky's portrayal of Putnam cracked me up and provided some great entertainment. Dave's character has more than a few defects and acts less than professionally on occasions. There are some humorous exchanges between Dave and Charlie which added to my enjoyment of the book.

The case itself is interesting, as is the investigation, with Charlie's ability to leave his physical body and have his spirit-mind-intellect wander short distances and scope out the landscape a useful investigative tool.

Ticks in every box - pace, plot, characters, humour, banter, dialogue, imagination, setting, resolution.

My most enjoyable March read and highly recommended.

5 from 5

Earl Javorsky has his website here.

Down Solo was reviewed here. His non-Miner novel Trust Me sits on the TBR pile, maybe it's time to dust it off.

Read in March, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 220
Source - review copy received from author
Format - Kindle


Wednesday 25 April 2018


A mixed bag of viewing in the month...... a crappy wannabee I-Robot that I couldn't finish, a BBC domestic drama started, a documentary on NYPD corruption, a bit of mountaineering, some sci-fi, some twisted British comedy and Cameron Diaz's arse.

Precinct Seven Five (2014)

A bit of real life drama and history in the form of a documentary charting the corruption of certain elements of the NYPD and their subsequent downfall. Fascinating. Michael Dowd - the main focus of the film, seems unapologetic about his behaviour to this day.

From Wikipedia....

The Seven Five, also known as Precinct Seven Five, is a 2014 documentary directed by Tiller Russell, and produced by Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, and Sheldon Yellen. The film looks at police corruption in the 75th precinct of the New York Police Department during the 1980s. The documentary focuses around Michael Dowd, a former police officer of 10 years, who was arrested in 1992, leading to one of the largest police corruption scandals in New York City history. The documentary uses footage from the Mollen Commission investigation in 1992 and also provides in-depth commentary from Dowd, Ken Eurell, and Adam Diaz, among others. The documentary premiered at DOC NYC November 14, 2014. Sony Pictures recently purchased the rights of The Seven Five documentary in an auction.

Chappie (2015)
One I stuck for half an hour or so then killed, I just wan't engaged or interested enough to persist with it. A decent cast and few people involved who I usually enjoy seeing on the screen - Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and Dev Patel. Dire and a half hour of my life I'll never get back.

From IMDB....

In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

Come Home (2018) BBC
Powerful drama - a three parter, though preparing for a house move in the middle of the month meant we only watched the first episode so far. Hopefully it's still available on catch up, or I'll be annoyed. Christopher Ecclestone stars as a husband who's wife (the excellent Paula Malcomson) inexplicably (to him at least) walks out on their marriage and their three young kids.

A bit of story background.......

The premise for Come Home, the new BBC One three-parter, appears to set up a fraught, harrowing relationship drama with very little to smile about. Christopher Eccleston plays Greg, a now-single father struggling to care for his three children after wife Marie (Paula Malcomson) leaves her family, out of the blue.

Annihilation (2018)
A bit of sci-fi with Natalie Portman and others. Interesting enough with plenty of tension and mounting terror, as Portman and her team try and discover what happened to the team prior to them who investigated a mysterious shimmer around a lighthouse.

From IMDB...

A biologist's husband disappears. She puts her name forward for an expedition into an environmental disaster zone, but does not find what she's expecting. The expedition team is made up of the biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a linguist.

Everest (2015)
Based on a true life expedition which ended in tragedy for some. Decent cast, compelling personal stories, amazing mountain scenes which made me want to put my coat and scarf on. But ultimately I just don't understand the psyche of adventurers, explorers, mountain climbers, free divers, pot-holers, and those of a similar ilk. I kind of think of the families anxiously waiting at home for them to return... or not.

From Wikipedia....

Everest is a 2015 biographical adventure film directed and produced by Baltasar Kormákur and written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, adapted from Beck Weathers' memoir Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest (2000). It stars an ensemble cast of Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, and focuses on the survival attempts of two expedition groups, one led by Rob Hall (Clarke) and the other by Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal).  

Sex Tape (2014)
I do like Cameron Diaz, probably more as a comedy actress than when she's playing it seriously and this one is mildly amusing. Not the best film ever, but enough laughs to make it an entertaining watch. I recognise the husband in this, but haven't a scooby who he is.

From IMDB....

A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts.

The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse (2005)
The past month or two has seen my son watching the TV series of League of Gentlemen on demand. I watched this on and off back in the day and was always slightly disturbed and unsettled by the creepiness of some of the characters. Dipping in and out with him, I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed it and how many scenes I could remember. We tracked down the film as a result. Well worth the couple of quid invested. Not quite wholesome family entertainment but plenty of laughs had in the Keane household.

From Wikipedia.....

The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse is a feature film spin-off of the British television comedy series The League of Gentlemen. Starring Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, the film was written by the cast with Jeremy Dyson, and directed by Steve Bendelack. Also featuring in guest roles are Michael Sheen, Victoria Wood, David Warner, Alan Morrissey, Bruno Langley, Bernard Hill, Simon Pegg and Peter Kay.



Ten plate-steel short stories with a beating heart. A great mixture of noir, crime, humour and slice-of-life dramas.

McDroll’s crime fiction has a nip of noir and a splattering of Scottish humour and can be found floating around in the digital world, most notably in Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect and Near To The Knuckle. Other stories can be found in the anthologies Off the Record, The Lost Children, Burning Bridges and True Brit Grit. 

McDroll is the author of the crime novella The Wrong Delivery and the short story collections Kick It Together and Kick It With Conviction.

A shortish collection of stories from Scottish writer McDroll.

1. The Glasgow Bus ….. a couple of criminal geniuses (not) on a day trip

2. Primroses At My Feet ….. hmm, beyond my ken this one - a relationship? a meeting?

3. Third Party Insurance …. love and obsession, a white van and jealousy

4. Gone ….. hmm hard to summarise, an intervention from a good Samaritan is ignored. Fantastic sense of place - the sea, the wind, the weather

5. Burying My Children ….. malt whisky, grief and a laying to rest

6. An Angel’s Face ….. domestic violence, a fearful existence, a tragic accident, nothing more to lose

7.  A Promise Is A Promise …. "Revenge was sweet and a little evil now and then felt so good."

8. Fishing For Trouble … abandonment, fly-fishing, a pervert and a comeuppance

9. More Than A Bargain ….. a lost family and a new hobby

10. Bleeding Lipstick …. a short con and one of Strathclyde’s finest

Ten in total, the majority with a great sense of place and setting. I could feel the wind and the spray of the sea as I read. Powerful, evocative descriptions and all in a few short pages. There’s a mix of stories with some hard-hitting tales and some slightly less serious and a couple if I’m honest I didn’t really get. That said I enjoyed the collection and will read more from the author in the future.

4 from 5

Read in April, 2018
Published - 2013
Page count - 68
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Saturday 21 April 2018


Keith Nixon, on the blog yesterday with my thoughts on his Burn the Evidence, answers a few questions for me.....

I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

Haha, I wish, Col! By day I’m a Business Development Director in the digital print industry. 26 long years. Originally I’m a chemist but basically I talk too much to work in a lab. I get to work with companies developing printers in all sorts of industries like 3D printing to ceramic tiles.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

Any spare moment really. But typically early morning before people are up, maybe after they’ve gone to bed depending upon the time (I’m a morning person), seven days a week pretty much 365 days a year.

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

I used to, but a lot less now. My debut, The Fix, was a cathartic exercise – I wanted to kill a work colleague, but not go to prison. These days the characters have their own personalities.

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

Historically I’ve been an evolver – I typically have the kernel of an idea, get a few ideas down and go from there. But I end up wasting a lot of time and rewriting huge chunks. For the four Gray books I’ve been working with the rather brilliant Allan Guthrie and I’ve become a plotter now and won’t change.

Are there any subjects off limits?

A bacon sandwich with tomato ketchup.

Horror stuff, anything to do with kids, needless violence for the sake of it. By mistake I once reviewed a book with all three of these in, I couldn’t finish it.

How important is setting to your work? I’ve read a few of your books set in Margate and they resonate with me. For a number of childhood years, my wife and her family had an annual pilgrimage there for their holidays. Nostalgia won out a few years back and we re-visited the town. Fair to say it’s a little bit different now from when she visited during the 70s. You must have a strong connection with the town.

A sense of place is always really important, I think. The location can be a character in itself. I lived in Thanet (basically Broadstairs, Margate & Ramsgate) for many years. Margate is a great mix of grime, sleaze and wistful fun. I think it’s a great backdrop for crime. And I know the place really well. We still visit regularly & it doesn’t change much. And really, to my knowledge, there wasn’t a crime book set there at the time.

How long from conception to completion did your latest Solomon Gray book, Burn the Evidence take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

There have been plenty of speed bumps along the way because of my lack of planning at the outset of the series. However, the editing team at Bastei, the publisher, are great and in the end it worked out fine. Interestingly, the ‘cliff hanger’ at the end of Burn The Evidence really exercised some early reviewers, but it was supposed to be an introduction, really.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

Well, if talk about Dig Two Graves, that’s massively different. It was a 50,000 word Nanowrimo entry back from 2008. It went through a vast number of plot, character and title changes. Typically though, what I end up with is never the same as what I expected – some idea always pops up along the way. I believe as a writer you have to be flexible.

What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?

Working with Allan Guthrie, he’s been a proper mentor.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Unpolished maybe! I’m a third of the way through a crime / black comedy stand-alone and I also have a part-written third instalment in my Caradoc historical fiction series, but they take a year to write because of the detail.

What’s the current project in progress?

I’ve just put in what I hope are the final edits on the third Gray novel quickly followed by submitting the fourth (and final) Gray. Otherwise it’s a few days off then onto the part written black comedy for a bit of fun.

I think Burn the Evidence is about your tenth novel to date, does it get easier with each passing book or is it still a challenging process?

Ninth, I think, Gray three is number ten which is amazing! In my humble opinion it should be a challenging process, otherwise you’ve got a simple book on your hands. As I mentioned above now I’ve become a lot more planned then Gray four (book eleven) was the easiest for a while to write but tough to plan. Really before I worked with Al Guthrie I’d backed myself into a writing cul-de-sac and it wasn’t enjoyable any more.

Do you have a favourite from your canon? If you could press one of your books into the hands of a new reader, which one would you choose?

Wow, that’s a tough choice! Probably Russian Roulette – seven partially interlinked short stories about Konstantin. Quick to read each one.

Regarding your earlier books, any plans to return to Konstantin or Caradoc? (I’m fairly sure I spotted an enigmatic tramp in the pages of one of the Solomon books!)

Yes, Konstantin squeaked in. All of my books have at least one recurring character – the landlord of the English Flag (the last character I based on somebody I knew) usually makes it. I’d like to write both. But Caradoc takes a year to properly research and Konstantin would have to be self-published because nobody is willing to pick up a series somebody else has handled, but I definitely plan to go back to them. One day.

Re Solomon Gray, I think you recently said you are working on the fourth in the series, do you have a finite number planned or is it a series and character which will run and run?

Very good question. The story arc concerns Gray’s missing son, Tom. That will definitely finish with book four. After that it’s up to Bastei, whether Gray has sold enough for them to want him back. If they don’t then, as I mentioned above, other publishers are very unlikely to be interested (it’s a market thing) so I’d have to self-publish. I’d definitely like to write more about Gray, he’s developed nicely over the series and has a dark side.

Regarding the story arc with Gray’s missing son Tom, without spoilers, I’m guessing there might be progress and some sort of resolution achieved at some point…. or maybe not?

Totally right, Col. Finishes in book four. It has to be resolved really. It can’t be Inception – loved the film but the ‘is it, isn’t it’ ending was a pain. The ending for Tom is totally black and white.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Killing people.

No, not really. I love the inventive process. And the feedback from readers, particularly when they enjoy it.

The worst?

The solo aspect. I’m a social animal, being alone is okay in short bursts. Oh, and editing.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Not many recently! Just on Christopher Fowler’s latest excellent Bryant & May. Jason Beech’s City of Forts and Paul D Brazill’s new one – both indie mates. And two by MW Craven, his new Poe series – neither of which are published yet, but they are rather brilliant.

Who do you read and enjoy?

I’m stuck on crime novels at the moment. I started writing because of Ian Rankin so I read his when they come out, likewise with Christopher Fowler. Otherwise it’s newer up and comers like Luca Veste, MW Craven, Mason Cross.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Pullman’s Dark Materials, because I’m incapable of being that brilliantly inventive and far reaching.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Drinking beer or coffee with friends and family.

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

Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

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

Once the kids clear off to bed! We tend to binge watch series, Game of Thrones, The Good Place, Star Trek Discovery and Preacher were the most recent. I’m a bit sick of Grand Designs at the moment, though.


Many thanks to Keith for his time. Catch him at the following....


If you've not tried his work, you're missing out - and there's plenty to choose from....

Konstantin Files
1. The Fix (2013)                    (thoughts here)
2. Russian Roulette (2014)      (thoughts here)
3. I'm Dead Again (2013)
4. Dark Heart, Heavy Soul (2016)

Konstantin Novellas
1. Dream Land (2014)             (thoughts here)

1. The Eagle's Shadow (2014) (thoughts here)
2. The Eagle's Blood (2015)

Detective Solomon Gray
1. Dig Two Graves (2017)        (thoughts here)
2. Burn the Evidence (2017)     (thoughts here)
3. Beg for Mercy (2018) - published in June by Bastei Entertainment

The Corpse Role (2015)

Friday 20 April 2018



Mixing business with family can be a murderous affair ...

A body washes up on the beach near Ramsgate in the South of England. For DS Solomon Gray, the case appears cut and dried—a drowning. An immigrant. Another victim to the sea in his desperate attempt to reach the UK.

As the tidewaters recede, two more corpses surface. One appears to be a refugee, stabbed to death. The other, Gray recognises immediately. Regan Armitage: son of business tycoon Jake Armitage. Gray knows this means trouble.

A post mortem reveals ligature marks on Regan's wrists. Drugs in his bloodstream. All signs indicate murder. Armitage swears to track down his son's killer and avenge his death.

Gray's investigation points to a deadly fire ten years prior, and soon Armitage comes under suspicion. But DS Gray knows what it's like to lose a child and puts aside his distrust of Armitage to help.

How are the dead men connected to each other—and to the infamous fire?

It's then that Gray gets another tip on the whereabouts of his own missing son, Tom...

Burn the Evidence is the second book in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray. The crime series is perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

Another encounter with Nixon's Solomon Gray on the Kent coastline and another read with murders to be solved, while at the same time touching on some topical issues of the day.

Dead bodies on a beach - drownings maybe, only one of the bodies has been stabbed. One victim is the son of a local criminal turned businessman and and old friend from way back when of Gray's. The others - refugees-cum-illegal immigrants. A quick sweep of the area, indicates someone survived the encounter and is on the loose - witness, potential victim or perpetrator?

There's more going on here than immediately meets the eye, which is as it should be....... murder, revenge, family, secrets, history, people smuggling, drugs, criminal enterprise, competition, Syria, deceit, arson, corruption, abandonment, shelter, charity, re-connection and plenty more.

Lots to like, the same police team as before in Dig Two Graves, the same frictions. Gray still has the shadow of his son's loss hanging over him and while it distracts him temporarily during the investigation it's a minor chord in the background which doesn't detract from the main narrative.

It's another shortish book and none the worse for that. We spend a bit of time in the company of the surviving refugee and we see a snapshot of his life..... loss, pain, separation, sacrifice and bereavement which gives pause for thought. (Maybe not if you're Katie Hopkins, but anyone else with a beating heart and an ounce of humanity.)

Characters - tick
Setting - tick
Plot - tick
Pace - tick
Resolution - tick

My kind of book.

4.5 from 5

Keith Nixon has his website here.

Dig Two Graves was reviewed here. The third in the series - Beg For Mercy drops in June.

Read in March, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 229
Source - Net Galley courtesy of publisher Bastei Entertainment     
Format - Kindle

Thursday 19 April 2018


Cormac O'Keeffe's "5 STAR READ" Black Water appeared on the blog the other day - here.

Cormac was kind enough to submit to a bit of questioning on his reading and writing habits...

I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

I'm a journalist, working as security correspondent in the Irish Examiner, a national daily. I've been working in journalism full-time since I left with a Masters in Journalism in 1996. From the very start I covered the drugs area and expanded to the wider crime, policing and justice areas when I started in the Irish Examiner in 2000.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

Ah, no. I wish I was more structured in terms of writing. I have a very demanding day job, with long and unpredictable hours. And, I have young kids. When I was writing Black Water I got up early several days a week and wrote as much as I could. Several times a year, I took three or four days off and went home to my mother's house and did large chunks of writing and subsequently rewriting and editing.

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

Family no, nor friends, but to some extent, people that I have met or come into contact through work. There are certain characters - but not any of my main characters - that this would be a factor. But in the main, they are creations of my imagination and they develop their own characteristics.

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

I had no idea whatsoever where I was going. I had no construct or plot, which came much later, literally years later. In hindsight, it would have been a big advantage if I had more of a plan or plot, as I spent huge amounts of time and effort (and pain) hammering and stitching my novel into shape. But, I'm not sure how you do that, plot to a high degree, when characters and plots take on their own life as you write.

Are there any subjects off limits?

Not in terms of subjects. I have some fairly graphic scenes of violence, and exposure of violence to children, and one scene of a violent sexual nature. I think they need to be true to the context of the novel.

How important is setting to your work? I do like a Dublin setting in my reading, having originally hailed from there many years ago.

Setting was hugely important to me. I consider my setting - that along an evocative stretch of the Grand Canal in Dublin - as a main character. My novel begins and ends there and is a constant companion throughout. It forms the bones of the novel itself.

Is Black Water your debut novel?

Yes, it is. Hopefully the first of many!

How long from conception to completion did Black Water take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

In all, it took about eight years. I started in 2010, initially taking notes of scenes and setting and descriptions of what I saw in my area. It certainly was not a smooth process. Anything but. It was uneven, with ups and down, with self-doubt being a constant companion. Completing the novel took a very long time, and that in itself involved many stages of completion, which really continues during the editing process with the publisher. Getting an agent was a long and difficult journey as was finding a publisher.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

I really had very little picture on an end result. I knew from other writers that the whole process was very difficult and getting published a very long shot. I am happy that the end result regarding my main characters is true to my conception, for want of a better world, of them.

How difficult was it to find a publisher for your book?

It was difficult, as everything else was in the process. As a debut writer I had little idea how it worked. I got a good reaction from a number of publishers, and some very complementary assessments. But getting it across the line is a different story. This is a major commercial decision for them - is there a market for this novel? My novel is not a psychological thriller, it's not a domestic noir and might not readible fit in with the dominant sub-genres at the moment. So it was a bit of a punt for a publisher, one who, not just saw something in the novel, but was willing to take the risk.

What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?

At the moment, I would say getting my personal delivery of ten copies of the finished book, which happened the other day. It was very moving and almost overwhelming. But I suppose the biggest moment is getting an email from my agent Ger Nichol that Black and White had made an offer. That was special.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

There are all in my head, swimming around!

What’s the current project in progress?

Ah, that am slow to go into. But really things are just mad busy at the moment.

What’s the best thing about writing?

I suppose seeing the finished book in my hands is really extraordinary. It still hasn't sunk in. During the process of writing/rewriting, that realisation that you are creating something of real quality (not that it's brilliant, just that you have unearthed something pure) is special.

The worst?

Self-doubt has to be up there. For me, and really for most writers I'd say, it's a constant, either just simmering away in the background and hollaring in your head.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

I'm just finishing Donal Ryan's A Slanting of the Sun, his collection of short stories. His work is just sublime. I also do some reviews for the Irish Examiner, mainly non-fiction. So last one was Good Cop, Bad War by former British undercover cop Neil Woods. It was an excellent insight into the 'war on drugs'. Before than was The Cartel by Stephen Breen and Owen Conlon on the Kinahan crime cartel. Before that was Trouble Is Our Business edited by crime author Declan Burke. It's a collection of short stories by Irish crime writers. Top drawer stuff. The fifth most recent was Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, an utterly beautiful, moving and stunning novel.

Who do you read and enjoy?

Donal Ryan is probably top of my list. He is a truly gifted writer, but one with plenty of bite. He writes about the ordinary man and woman, and those on the margins of society, and perfectly captures the rural underbelly of Ireland.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Hmm, that's a tricky one. Before I ever read crime or literary fiction I was a big fantasy reader in my youth. So maybe Lord of the Rings. The imagination, the characters, the setting and the mind-numbing detail in that is simply extraordinary. 

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Football. I still play every week, five-a-side that is. And in recent years, I co-manage a boys' team.

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

Wow, probably many I could say this about. I'm a big sci-fi/fantasy fan, so the likes of BladeRunner 2049 would be there. But one that 'rocked' me? One that has stuck in my mind in recent years is The Prisoners (director Denis Villeneuve), which I came to late. I've seen it a couple of times and it is just such a powerful film, with great performances, good characters and a thrilling climax.

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

Yes, time permitting. We have loads of series on the go - from Stranger Things to Homeland, and with the tenth anniversary of the end of The Wire I'm tempted to go back. But in terms of the family as a whole, it would be the likes of Masterchef or Grand Designs...or Horrible Histories!

In a couple of years’ time…

Who knows. Living by the sea, writing novels, having a newspaper column, eating fish and hanging out with my family!

Many thanks to Cormac O'Keeffe for his time.


Black Water is published by Black and White Publishing and is available here - AM UK - AM US