Thursday 25 April 2019



Prowling the grimy streets of San Francisco, low-life Helen is a beautiful, sensuous drunk - and a pathetically easy pick-up. That is until she meets Harry, who buys her a coffee and takes her home with him. Harry just wants to help, but before long he and Helen are both adrift in a sea of alcohol - until Harry conceives the ultimate crime ......

Another re-read from long ago, sometime early 90s maybe, but certainly long enough that elements of it pricked at my consciousness without total recall spoiling the surprise element of the tale.

Alcoholic man meets alcoholic woman and almost immediately you get a sense that it isn't going to end well. Harry on his own is functional and managing his drinking. Work, drink, work, drink, run up a tab, get an advance on wages, drink more, get paid, clear tab, drink more, work, repeat ad nauseum.

Harry has failed periodically throughout his life.... as an artist, with the army, as a husband, as a father, as a teacher and here again he fails. Helen's issues and history aren't explored to the same degree...... a failed marriage, a difficult relationship with her disapproving mother and a flight to the city of San Francisco.

As a couple, at least there's some solace in not drinking alone. There are brief attempts, driven by Harry to seek help for their drinking - treatment sought and a drying out period of forced abstinence. There's an effort to establish a routine of a work life and regular domesticity, but Helen lacks the strength to persist and soon Harry is dragged back down to the gutter. One way out of their mutual misery beckons.

A dark book, a bit of a character study of lives ruined by addiction, assisted by a weakness of character. It's interspersed by the small tolerances and kindnesses shown to them throughout the book.... by their landlady, Mick the bar owner, and to Harry by his jailers later on in the book. Willeford's surprise twist two lines from the end of the book, does give you pause to reflect and reconsider everything - absolutely everything you've read before.

Not my favourite Willeford book - the Hoke Moseley series he started 30 years after this one are - but it comes close.

4.5 from 5

Read - April, 2019
Published - 1954
Page count - 196
Source - owned copy
Format - hardback omnibus edition*

* The omnibus consists of Pick-Up, The Burnt Orange Heresy and Cockfighter. I originally read the paperback version of this with the cover illustrated up top. I bought the omnibus as I couldn't find a reasonably priced copy of one of the other two in the set - The Burnt Orange Heresy from memory.

Tuesday 23 April 2019




It's 1985, and Joe Stone is excited to be joining his old school friend, and lifelong crush, Chris, for a long weekend in London's Soho—home to a vibrant, developing gay scene, and a million miles from the small town where Joe and Chris grew up. 

When Chris is found brutally murdered, the police write his death off as just another rent boy fallen foul of a bad hook up. But Joe knows his friend was killed deliberately, and joins forces with former police detective, Russell Dixon—Chris's flatmate—to find out why. 

Spiralling debt, illicit sex, blackmail, spurned lovers and hard-nosed gangsters all play their part, but who among the celebrities, fashionistas, drag queens, ex-lovers and so-called friends is Chris's killer? 

A noirish whodunnit set in 1980s London, with all the big hair, electro-pop, shoulder pads, police discrimination and lethal killers that the era had to offer. 


A trip back in time to the 80s with the murder of a gay man in London's Soho; a time of police indifference, with gay-bashing as a sport and general hostility towards the LGBT community.

Chris is at home in the bright lights of London, carving out a career with his fashion designs for his partnership in a small company, confident with his celebrity friends and the life and soul of the party.

Joe, his old school friend is less assured. A visit to London to see Chris - his old crush - ends in tragedy when Chris is murdered. Chris's flatmate Russell, an ex-cop and also gay, teams up with Joe to investigate the murder, in the knowledge that the detective assigned to the case couldn't be bothered. Detective Skinner and Russell have history with no love lost between the two.

An unlikely double act, secrets, dirty cops, dodgy politicians, a West End criminal with money and influence, a powerful family, a business partnership, history, family disappointment, a falling out, a drag queen with a crush, debts, manipulation, sex for sale, arrogance, AIDS, a charity in the community under threat, jealousy, grief, ambition, loss, assault, answers.

Short and sweet at about 130 pages long. I liked it. There's a peek inside a community under siege, harassed and prejudiced against. I felt a connection to the setting and the era with the music and fashions, the cultural references to the miner's strike and the support offered by the LGBT community, the fear of the killer disease on the block and the ever-present threat of violence from the intolerant.

Along the way, Joe gains confidence in himself as a person, something that is lacking at the beginning of our tale. He gains a friend in Russell, a better investigator than Skinner ever will be, but unfortunately drummed from the force, the victim of a sex-sting arranged by Skinner.

Our victim, Chris wasn't a particularly sympathetic victim......vain, arrogant as opposed to confident, a user, a manipulator, always longing to be the centre of attention, always self-centred and never too shy about letting down a friend. If I was around at the time and knew him, I might have been tempted to do the deed myself. That said, he had friends who loved and cared for him and who missed him. He couldn't have been that bad!

Lots to like and an assured debut from T.S. Hunter. Tainted Love is the first in a planned series of novellas. I'd be interested in the second offering whenever it drops.

4 from 5

Read - April, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 132
Source - review copy from publisher Red Dog Press
Format - paperback

The Buy link for Tainted Love is  
This will take you straight to the Amazon page for the book in your country.

Monday 22 April 2019


A couple this week from Donald Goines and the 70s.

Donald Goines penned 16 novels over a five year period, after he turned to writing during a prison sentence. He served in the US military during the Korean War, became addicted to heroine and turned to crime to support his habit.

He was murdered in 1974, along with his common-law wife, Shirley Sailor - both the victims of multiple gunshot wounds. The killer(s) was never caught.

Popular theories involve Goines being murdered due to his basing several of his characters on real life criminals as well as the theory that Goines was killed due to his being in debt over drugs. (Allen, Eddie (2003). Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines. MacMillan. ISBN 0312383517)

Black Gangster (1972)

A large part of Goines' thirty nine years of life was spent being a successful pimp, a heif, an operator of corn liquor houses, an armed robber, and a small time dope dealer. He lived the life of the streets and out of that experience he created Prince, the anti-hero of Black Gangster!

It's the story of the shocking underworld of black organised crime and the fledgling black "godfather" who goes from teenager ganglord to powerful Detroit mobster. Like the gangsters of the 1920's, he begins with boot-legging and branches out into every known crime.

Dopefiend (1972)

For twenty-three years of his life Donald Goines lived in the dark, despair-ridden world of the junkie. It started while he was doing military service in Korea and ended with his murder at the age of thirty nine. He had worked up to a hundred dollars a day habit and out of the agonizing hell came Dopefiend!

It is the shocking nightmare story of a black heroin addict. Trapped in the festering sore of a major American ghetto, a young man and his girlfriend- both handsome, talented, and full of promise- are inexorably pulled into death of the hardcore junkie!

Sunday 21 April 2019



The second novel in the unforgettable, long lost series by Ralph Dennis is finally back in print… after being coveted for years by collectors of the very best in hardboiled fiction. 

Jim Hardman was a mediocre Atlanta cop until he was wrongly accused of corruption and thrown off the force. Now he works as an unlicensed PI, trouble-shooter and bodyguard…often partnered with his drinking buddy Hump Evans, a black, ex-NFL player who supports his playboy lifestyle by working as hired muscle. 

Five kids rip off a gambling party attended by Hump Evans and some of Atlanta’s criminal and political elite. Hardman is hired to recover the loot and find the kids before they are caught and butchered by a hitman from Charleston with a very sharp knife.

This new edition includes an introduction by Joe R. Lansdale, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hap & Leonard crime novels.

Another trip to mid-70s Atlanta and more time spent in the company of ex-cop, Jim Hardman and hard-ass buddy, Hump Evans.

Hardman and Evans go up against a legendary hitman, the Charleston knife in a race to find the five kids who ripped off an after fight party, depriving Atalanta's criminal elite of cash, jewels and furs, as well as administering a few lump's to Hump's head. A contract has been put out on the kids, while a concerned grandmother has hired Hardman to save her grandson's skin. He's off the rails and involved.

Lots for me to enjoy here. I like the pre-tech era of payphones and street maps, instead of mobiles, computers and apps. (I'm old enough to remember the days when you made sure you left the house with change in your pocket.)

I like the dynamics of the relationship between Hardman and sidekick Evans, one white one black but equals. I enjoyed the plot and the chase to the end, with the earlier crossing of paths between Hardman and the Knife before the inevitable collision at the climax. I also liked the reappearance of several characters from the first book in the series, Atlanta Deathwatch. Art, Hardman's friend - a reliable, pliable policeman is an asset to Hardman and we also gain information from The Man, the black gangster and architect of Hardman's last case.

Hardman is an intriguing character. Drummed off the police force, he's not averse to breaking the law to earn his living, but he retains a level of integrity and a moral compass which mostly dictates his behaviour. He was a pretty poor cop, by his own admission, but he's a decent investigator and knows how to gets answers. He's in an on/off relationship with Marcy and for the most part respects that - when it's on, by refusing to take advantage of a desperate girl who thinks her body is the only way she can compensate Hardman. On another occasion, his quest for information in a high-class knocking shop and with a cover story to maintain, his compass gets left at the door along with his trousers. Hump, by contrast is a confirmed player and an entertaining rogue to boot.

Plenty of pace, plenty of action, plenty of death and violence, but a lot more besides. This is a series I intend to see through to the end - twelve in all. The third in the series - The Golden Girl and All is the next one up.

Thoughts on Atlanta Deathwatch here.

4.5 from 5

Read - April, 2019
Published - 1974, republished 2018 by Brash Books
Page count - 171
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Wednesday 17 April 2019



If your daughter went missing, how many years would it take for you to admit she’s never coming home?

Betsy Blake was only four years old when she vanished outside her family home in Dublin.

Her father – wracked with guilt for the past seventeen years – still can’t bring himself to admit the search is over, despite the fact his wife has moved on and police have closed off the investigation.

When he is informed he must undergo major heart surgery that he only has a fifty percent chance of surviving, Gordon Blake hires a local PI to give the investigation one last try.

But surely rookie PI Lenny Moon – who has little or no experience in such high-profile investigating – doesn’t have what it takes to make a breakthrough in this case before Gordon is put to sleep.

…or does he?

The clock is ticking…

Whatever Happened to Betsy Blake? will stay in your head for a long time. A very, very long time.

An enjoyable enough read and a hard one to discuss in any great detail without running the risk of spoiling it for someone who might want to read it later.

Plot - interesting. A dying man - maybe - it's 50-50 that he survives an urgent heart operation wants answers in five hours regarding the disappearance of his young daughter 17 years ago. A naive PI is hired, with the promise of a big pay-off - one which will improve his family's prospects considerably if he can bring something new to the table in the short period of time allowed.

Setting - Dublin - my hometown birthplace, albeit half a century ago..... car journeys, taxi rides, home visits for interviews, a hospital ward and a cellar or two.

Characters - Gordon, our hospital patient and bereft parent; Lenny, our PI; a kindly nurse; Gordon's ex-wife, ex-business partner and a couple of dodgy former business associates; Lenny's wife, a couple of taxi drivers, Gordon's doctor, an investigative journalist, a retired police officer involved in the original investigation into Betsy's disappearance, a man named Dod and a significant other.

Pace - driven. The clock is ticking down - five hours to find some answers.
We do have a twin narrative-cum-dual timeline of sorts, as events starting from seventeen years back and moving forward into the present day are interspersed into our five hour story.

Resolution - surprising - with a big F*** OFF twist, which definitely leaves its mark.
Did I see it coming? No. Should I have? Maybe, as lack of motivation for a particular character's actions troubled me throughout. Until the reveal, that is.

Overall, quite a clever book (or an ordinary book with a stupid reader), a fast read, never less than interesting, a few irritating/annoying characters - the sort of people I deal with every day at work, so nothing I couldn't handle - or more accurately ok characters who irritated at times.

Well worth the time invested in reading it. I'd be curious to hear other seasoned crime-mystery-thriller readers' reactions, to see if they caught what I missed.

4 from 5

David B. Lyons previous book Midday was enjoyed last year. Thoughts on that one here.

Read - April, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 305
Source - review copy from author
Format - kindle

Tuesday 16 April 2019



Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead. 

But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules - a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. 

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it's stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes - and save himself in the process - before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

An interesting and entertaining read and my first taste of Attica Locke's work.

Two deaths in Lark, East Texas, one black, one white and Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger wants to investigate. Even though he's in a bit of trouble with his bosses, an investigation is what we get.

Racial undertones, a small divided community, a hostile welcome from both sides, a drink problem, a suspension, an earlier incident, marital difficulties - more than one, family histories - more than one, job insecurity, infidelity, power, privilege, standing, politics, perceptions, white supremacists - the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, interviews, reluctance, forced cooperation, local law enforcement, violence, drugs, previous deaths, motive, secrets, stored resentments, a lot more besides and eventually answers.

I quite liked the book overall. The initial set-up of the crimes kind of leads you to believe that there is a rather simple motive and solution to the crimes, which inevitably then has you feeling the opposite is the truth. All is revealed at the end and one of the characters who is a little bit hinky throughout is part of the denouement. There's nothing I could quite put my finger on about him, other than he was a bit off.

I liked the setting, which with it's race divisions offers plenty of scope for drama. I'm not too sure if I enjoyed the main character's company or not. Darren Mathews is flawed - inevitably. He's rather too fond of the drink which effects his judgement and spills over into his working life. He's committed to his work and has a thirst (not only for booze) but justice. His family history relating to his uncles and his upbringing are important to him and have helped mould him. His mother is the wild card. His wife is tired, impatient and not too understanding.

The investigation seemed to be a little too personal for him, there's a lack of objectivity on display and what was he thinking allowing one of the victim's wife to get so close both to him personally and to his enquiries. That said it's all part of the outsider element trying to penetrate a small community.

Post-investigation, Locke serves up another twist, which I kind of feel is going to feature at some point in a future book further down the line. (The second Highway book featuring Darren Mathews - Heaven, My Home drops later this year.) It was a twist I could have done without TBH. I'm not especially a fan of this kind of snare/writer tactic to keep a reader hooked. If anything it makes me dig my heels in and switch off.

On balance, I found a lot more to like and enjoy than grumble about. I enjoyed the writing, the plot worked, the characters had substance and flesh and were more than stereotypes. I guess I'll read the next in the series if I cross paths with it, as I like the blurb I've seen. I don't think I'd be too bothered about back-tracking on the author's previous books.

4 from 5

Read in April, 2019
Published - 2017
Page count - 249
Source - Net Galley, courtesy of publisher Mulholland Books
Format - ePub read on laptop.

Monday 15 April 2019


A couple from Deathwish author, Brian Garfield this week.

I've read a few from him in the past - Deathwish, What of Terry Conniston? and the amazing Hopscotch, but he's not really someone I turn to very often, even though I must have a dozen or so more of his books in my collection and bearing in mind everything I have read from him I've really enjoyed.

He wrote nearly 40 novels and some non-fiction in a publishing career spanning the years 1960 to 1989. He sadly died last year.

From Wikipedia....

Brian Francis Wynne Garfield (January 26, 1939 – December 29, 2018) was an American novelist and screenwriter. He wrote his first published book at the age of eighteen and wrote many novels under such pen names as "Frank Wynne" and "'Brian Wynne" before gaining prominence when his book Hopscotch (1975) won the 1976 Edgar Award for Best Novel. He is best known for his 1972 novel Death Wish, which was adapted for the 1974 film of the same title, followed by four sequels, and the 2018 remake. His follow-up 1975 sequel to Death Wish, Death Sentence, was very loosely adapted into the 2007 film of the same name; it had an entirely different storyline, but with the novel's same look on vigilantism. Garfield is also the author of The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for History. Garfield's latest book, published in 2007, is Meinertzhagen, the biography of controversial British intelligence officer Richard Meinertzhagen.

Deep Cover (1972)

A Soviet spymaster launches an audacious plan against the American military.

The KGB calls it Amergrad. Buried deep in Siberia, just a few hundred miles from the Chinese border, it's the most tightly guarded secret in the Soviet Union. Away from the frigid tundra, behind wall after wall of barbed-wire fence, is a perfectly ordinary small American city. It has gas stations, diners, movie theaters, and more cars than all of Leningrad. The residents speak English at all times, observing every custom of American life until it becomes second nature. When they graduate, they move to Tucson.

Two decades later, Tucson is the center of the American military-industrial complex, and graduates of Amergrad are in positions of power at every level. These perfect Soviet spies hold the keys to the American nuclear array, and their mission is about to begin.

Recoil (1977)

Years after going into hiding, a witness must run from the mob again.

Fred Mathieson was not an ordinary witness against the mob. He was never in the organization, and didn't testify against gangster Frank Pastor to save his own skin. Mathieson is a lawyer, and took the stand simply from a desire to do the right thing. His conscience destroyed his life, but he built a new one. Now his long-ago testimony is about to put him and his family back in danger.

For nearly nine years, Mathieson has been safe in the Witness Security Program, working as an entertainment attorney in California. But Frank Pastor is a few days away from parole, and he has decided to take revenge. By blackmailing a clerk in witness protection, the mobster finds Mathieson's new name, so the chase will start again.

Thursday 11 April 2019



In David Gordon's diabolically imaginative new thriller, The Bouncer, nothing and no one is as expected--from a vial of yellow fragrance to a gangster who moonlights in women's clothes.

Joe Brody is just your average Dostoevsky-reading, Harvard-expelled strip club bouncer who has a highly classified military history and whose best friend from Catholic school happens to be head mafioso Gio Caprisi. FBI agent Donna Zamora, the best shot in her class at Quantico, is a single mother stuck at a desk manning the hotline. Their storylines intersect over a tip from a cokehead that leads to a crackdown on Gio's strip joint in Queens and Joe's arrest--just one piece of a city-wide sweep aimed at flushing out anyone who might have a lead on the various terrorists whose photos are hanging on the wall under Most Wanted. Outside the jailhouse, the Fed and the bouncer lock eyes, as Gordon launches them both headlong into a nonstop plot that goes from back-road gun show intervention to high-stakes perfume heist and manages to touch everyone from the CIA to the Flushing Triads. Beneath it all lurks a sinister criminal mastermind whose manipulations could cause chaos on a massively violent scale.

For readers who like a heavy dose of fun with their murder, this is crime fiction at its freshest, from a virtuoso of the "darkly comic, stylish literary thriller" (Associated Press).

After a slow "uh-oh what am I in for here" start, I enjoyed this one.

Quite a bit to like - heists, robberies - I'm a fan and there's a few here. I do like the recruitment, the planning and the execution of robberies, with the inevitable mishaps, bumps and wrong turns that occur.

Another plus point - chemistry ...... fleeting connections and crossing of paths of two of the main characters - the bouncer, Joe Brody and an FBI agent, Donna Zamora. She tries to look into his background and gets red-flagged which brings her ex-husband - a CIA agent sniffing around. They encounter each other more than once during the course of this book.

Double crosses, betrayals, informers, conspiracies, gun freaks, a military past, a feisty grandmother, a Russian gymnast-cum-stripper-cum-robber-cum trusted ally, a mob type with a predilection for getting disciplined, a suspicious wife, a terrorist plot, a perfume but not perfume robbery, a falling out amongst criminals and more.

One aspect of the plot didn't quite work for me with one of the characters only seeming to add a bit of padding to the book and serving as a vehicle to get us some background information on Joe and support the element of the story that I didn't quite believe in. I kind of got bored whenever he was around, which fortunately during the latter half of the book wasn't too often.

Overall - after an iffy beginning, not too bad. I enjoyed spending time in the company of Brody and I liked the scenes with Donna. There's a second book featuring Brody - The Hard Stuff out this year which I'll read and I'm hoping she makes a reappearance.

3.5 from 5

Read - April, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 224
Source - Net Galley
Format - kindle

Monday 8 April 2019


A couple this week from the 1950s and prolific Belgium born author, Georges Simenon.

Simenon is probably best known for his Inspector Maigret books, of which there are a few - 75 according to Fantastic Fiction.

According to Wikipedia......Georges Joseph Christian Simenon; (13 February 1903 – 4 September 1989) was a Belgian writer. A prolific author who published nearly 500 novels and numerous short works, Simenon is best known as the creator of the fictional detective Jules Maigret.

Simenon was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day. His oeuvre includes nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. Altogether, about 550 million copies of his works have been printed.

I've read one! Maigret's Dead Man (1948) back in 2017 - thoughts here.
Only 499 to go.

The Stain on the Snow (1953)

At nineteen, Frank Friedmaier is thief, pimp and murderer. He has never known his father, his mother keeps a brothel. His mind is cold and inhospitable. But Simeonon reveals the obsession with self torture that lurks within it, and explores the intricate psychology of a young criminal, even lending the repellant Frank a chilling grandeur as he faces remorseless interrogation and his fate. A bleak and brilliant masterpiece from Simenon at his superlative best.

Act of Passion (1952)

For forty years Charles Alavoine has sleepwalked through his life. Growing up as a good boy in the grip of a domineering mother, he trains as a doctor, marries, opens a medical practice in a quiet country town, and settles into an existence of impeccable bourgeois conformity. And yet at unguarded moments this model family man is haunted by a sense of emptiness and futility.
Then, one night, laden with Christmas presents, he meets Martine. It is time for the sleeper to awake.

Sunday 7 April 2019


Last month's reading saw 10 books completed in the month, all very good books, all very enjoyable reads

No FIVE STAR READ, but seven of the 10 were close run things at 4.5 STARS - Mark Brandi - Into the River, Paul D. Brazill - Last Year's Man, Ralph Dennis - Atlanta Deathwatch, Bill James - Hitmen I Have Known, E. A. Aymar's The Unrepentant and two from David Swinson - The Second Girl and Crime Song.

Pick of the month!
I'll choose Ralph Dennis and Atlanta Deathwatch as my pick of the month, maybe because it's freshest in my memory. I could easily have chosen any of the others.

The other 3 were 4 STARS READS each - Peter Ritchie and Where No Shadows Fall, Nigel Bird with Mr Suit and Julie Morrigan and Cutter's Deal

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

an investigation into a Scottish prison suicide and more

two Australian boys and a deed done in later life

an ex-cop, PI with a dirty habit hunting a missing girl and in another book, a more personal case - the murder of his cousin

an ageing hitman, past his sell by date

a couple double act, one under suspicion of a couple of killings

a girl fleeing traffickers and forced prostitution

another ex-cop and his sidekick investigating the death of a gangster's girlfriend

a fractured family, some missing money and a possible mercy killing

a criminal gang on the up an up and an ordinary family caught in their web

Settings..... Glasgow and Edinburgh; Wimmera - Australia; Washington DC; London and Seatown - a fictional NE town in England; the Virginia, Maryland, D.C. triangle; a fictional town outside London; Atlanta; Washington DC again; London and Sunderland

The full list of ten read as follows, with links to my thoughts if you're inclined....

Peter Ritchie - Where No Shadows Fall (2019) (4)

Mark Brandi - Into the River (2019) (4.5)

David Swinson - The Second Girl (2016) (4.5)

Paul D. Brazill - Last Year's Man (2018) (4.5)

Bill James - Hitmen I Have Known (2019) (4.5)

E.A. Aymar - The Unrepentant (2019) (4.5)

Ralph Dennis - Atlanta Deathwatch (1974) (4.5)

David Swinson - Crime Song (2017) (4.5)

Nigel Bird - Mr Suit (2012) (4)

Julie Morrigan - Cutter's Deal (2015) (4)

If you're not asleep yet - anal analysis for my own amusement - read on if you're an insomniac ......

New to me authors in the month - 6 - Peter RitchieDavid Swinson, Mark Brandi, E. A. Aymar, Ralph Dennis and Julie Morrigan

I have more on the pile to read from Swinson, Aymar, Dennis and Morrigan

Authors enjoyed before - 4 - Bill James, Paul D. Brazill, Nigel Bird and David Swinson. He counts in both columns as I read him twice!

There's more on the TBR pile from all of them - Bird, Brazill, James and Swinson

10 reads from 9 different authors. David Swinson was read twice.

6 were series books - David Swinson's The Second Girl and Crime Song are the first two in his Frank Marr trio of books. Trigger is the third. Where No Shadows Hide is the fourth in Peter Ritchie's  Grace Macallan series, Hitmen I Have Known is the 35th or 36th entry in the Harpur and Iles series from Bill James, Atlanta Deathwatch is the first in Ralph Dennis's 12 book Hardman series. Julie Morrigan's Cutter's Deal is followed on by Cutter's Firm and Cutter's Fall

Gender analysis - 1 female authors, 8 male.
Another poor attempt at diversity in my reading, but it is 1 more than February!

Of the 9 different authors read, 4 hailed from the US, 2 possibly 3 from England - the 3rd UK born definitely, 1 from Scotland, 1 from Australia, 1 from Wales,

All 10 of the reads were fiction,

9 of the 10 books were published this century and all this decade.
4 from 2019, 1 each from 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2012

1 book was from 1974, re-published last year

Only 1 came from the man-cave blue tub stash in my garage.

Publishers - All Due Respect Books - Black and White Publishing - Mulholland Books x 2 - Legend Press - Severn House - Down and Out Books - Brash Books - Sea Minor - Morrigan Publishing. (I think a couple of the presses above disguise the fact they they are the author's own output, not that it makes a difference to me.)

5 of the 10 reads were pre-owned,

3 were accessed at Net Galley early reviewer site, cheers to publishers Down and Out Books, Legend Press and Severn House

2 were received directly from the publisher - thanks to All Due Respect and Black and White Publishing

Favourite cover? David Swinson - The Second Girl

 Second favourite cover - David Swinson - Crime Song

My reads were this long 400 - 184 - 368 - 136 - 188 - 220 - 230 - 368 - 82 - 89

Total page count = 2265 (2795 in February) ....... a decrease of 530 pages

3 were Kindle reads, 3 were ePub files read on the laptop,  4 were paperbacks,

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

Peter Ritchie and Where No Shadows Fall was the longest read at 400 pages

Nigel Bird and Mr Suit was the shortest at 82 pages long.

Friday 5 April 2019



With a brutal hand, up-and-coming gangster Gordon Cutter and his associates are making a good living doing bad things, and heaven help anyone who gets in their way. Cutter has big ambitions to expand his firm’s operations in the north-east of England, and that’s going to mean cutting a deal to take control of the criminal network currently run by ailing local crime boss Howard Mackintosh.

The Armstrong family’s lives collide with Cutter’s illicit dealings when he sets his sights on young Livvy. Drawn into his web and flattered by the attention of this charming and successful older man, she doesn’t see what seems clear only to her brother Jack – that Gordon Cutter is a very bad man indeed.

With Cutter and his firm prepared to go to any lengths necessary to build their criminal empire, Jack is pushed to desperate measures to try to protect his family … and with a man like Gordon Cutter involved, it looks ever more likely that the Armstrongs are hurtling towards tragedy.

‘Cutter’s Deal’ is the first novella in the Cutter trilogy. The story continues in ‘Cutter’s Firm’ and is concluded in ‘Cutter’s Fall’.

Another short-ish read and one dealing with a criminal gang on the up and the effect it's rise has in particular, on one family.

The Armstrong's are struggling. The father's broken by unemployment and they all suffer from the damage to his pride, vanity and the family finances. The mum's a trouper, rushing from one cleaning job to another to earn enough to scrape by. One of her clients is Gordon Cutter. Livvy, the daughter 15 or 16, crosses paths with Gordon when helping her mum and is soon working for him in his arcade. Brother Jack is angry. He sees through Cutter's veneer. The rest of the family are blinded and oblivious.

I like the way the story unfolded. How Cutter manipulates Livvy, bests Jack in several ways and slowly brings about a sea change in his thinking - all the while making plans for growing his empire. We see early on Cutter's true colours and that his surname is incredibly apt.

Before we're done all the family will be on the same page regarding Gordon Cutter.

Short, sharp, violent, and populated by well-drawn characters that left a mark. I wasn't totally convinced by some of the goings on with Cutter and his gang, but hey I was enjoying the story, so was happy enough to see where Julie Morrigan wanted to take things.

This was my first taste of the author's work, but not my last. The second in the trilogy, Cutter's Firm sits on the kindle waiting. Perfect for when a longer book sags and I need to give my reading mojo a quick, jolt of adrenaline.

4 from 5

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2015
Page count - 89
Source - owned copy
Format - kindle

Thursday 4 April 2019


Numbers-wise February's viewing was a bit of a disappointment really - two films at the local library theatre, one crime drama on TV watched, another one started and a smidge of Les Mis consumed.

The Mule (2018)
Absolutely loved this one. I'm a bit of a fan of Eastwood anyway and I think he gets better with age. Based on a true story apparently. Bradley Cooper and Lawrence Fishburne have small parts here. I could quite happily have sat through it again once it ended. I hadn't read too much up on it beforehand and was keen to see what unfolded. Sad, funny, gripping - 9/10.

From Wikipedia....

The Mule is a 2018 American crime drama film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also plays the lead role. The screenplay, by Nick Schenk, is based on The New York Times article "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule" by Sam Dolnick, which recounts the story of Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran who became a drug courier for the Sinaloa Cartel in his 80s.

Along with Eastwood, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, and Andy García. It is Eastwood's first acting project since 2012's Trouble with the Curve, and his first starring role in a film directed by him since 2008's Gran Torino. Filming began in June 2018, taking place in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia, with other film locations in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Mule was released in the United States on December 14, 2018, by Warner Bros. Pictures. It has grossed over $166 million and received mixed reviews from critics, who called it "poignant and charming" and praised Eastwood's performance, but also noted the lack of true dramatic heft.

Destroyer (2018)
When watching The Mule we saw the trailer for this one, which floated my boat. Nicole Kidman is pretty amazing as an cop revisiting her undercover days and an operation that went badly wrong. I was scratching my head a bit afterwards trying to work out the timelines for all the events that occurred . I did enjoy it, though it got a bit slow in places. Maybe a 7/10. Not enough about it to have me checking for the release date of the DVD.

From Wikipedia......

Destroyer is a 2018 American crime film directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. It stars Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford, and Sebastian Stan, and follows an undercover LAPD officer who must take out members of a gang, years after her case was blown.

The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2018 and was released in the United States on December 25, 2018, by Annapurna Pictures. At the 76th Golden Globe Awards, Kidman was nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama.

Line of Duty Series 5 (2019) - BBC DRAMA
BOOM! That's my Sunday nights sorted for the next month or so. Episode one watched on the last day of March. I'm happy to see the old gang back in action and pleased to see Stephen Graham involved here. I loved him in This is England. Roll on next Sunday!

From the Radio Times ........

Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston are confirmed to be reprising their roles as the officers of AC-12, returning to the job as Supt. Ted Hastings, DI Kate Fleming, and DS Steve Arnott.

The new series will also see the return of Maya Sondhi as PC Maneet Bindra, Polly Walker as public relations expert Gill Biggeloe, and Aiysha Hart as Murder Squad cop (and Steve’s ex girlfriend) DS Sam Railston.

Tony Pitts will return as Detective Chief Superintendent Les Hargreaves, while Andrea Irvine plays Ted’s estranged wife Roisin Hastings.

A first-look image has also been released, revealing “Balaclava Man” John Corbett (Stephen Graham) and Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall). These two guest leads are pivotal figures in a deadly organised crime group which is known to have links with corrupt police officers.

Stephen Graham’s character is the “most dangerous” Line of Duty villain yet
Other newcomers joining the cast include Taj Atwal as PC Tatleen Sohota, Richard Pepple as PS Kyle Ferringham, and actors Susan Vidler, Sian Reese-Williams, Ace Bhatti, and Elizabeth Rider.

Take a look at the trailer and you get a few clues as to what he’s hinting at – including an ominous shot that appears to show Ted Hastings standing in a prison cell. The pressure is clearly on as we see not just one balaclava man but a whole gang, headed up by Stephen Graham’s John Corbett, with three police officers murdered in a hijacking.

And over it all hangs the big unanswered question: who is “H” – the shadowy police insider with direct command of a network of balaclava-clad criminals? (And no, Adrian Dunbar is NOT happy about those Line of Duty hints that Hastings could be H.)

Les Miserables (2018/19)  - BBC DRAMA
A bit of episode one watched before life interfered with what I was trying to do. Probably a good job it's going to be up on BBC iPlayer for 10 months. It might be a close run thing getting it watched in time!

From Wikipedia.....

An adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel: an extraordinary cast of characters struggle to survive in war-torn France. A story of love, injustice, redemption and hope.
First episode date: 30 December 2018
Final episode date: 3 February 2019
Number of episodes: 6

Shetland Series 5 (2019) - BBC DRAMA
Enjoyed the whole series in March, though not as much as the previous one. I do like the setting and the main characters. Sandy, the cop comes across as a drip at times, and I did feel the urge to reach through the screen and give him a bit of a slap. Love Tosh. Jimmy with the shall we shan't we love angle was annoyingly indecisive. Well he used to be, but now he's not so sure. People trafficking and kidnap. Tough storyline, which I wasn't totally convinced about, though who am I to say it's not credible. There were a couple of irritating bits which just annoyed.
For example - Perez pays a visit on a big businesswomen in Glasgow and two minutes after his departure, she exits the building on a busy street and lo and behold, her car just happens to be parked right outside the building. Fuck off, I'm not having that. It would have been towed 10 minutes after she parked there. Once I find one bit which irritates the shit out of me, I then find myself trying to spot other lazy, convenient and implausible set plays instead of enjoying what the whole programme is about. 

I'll have to read one of the books from Ann Cleeves sometime.

From the Radio Times.....

Douglas Henshall is back as DI Jimmy Perez – and he's joined by some familiar faces as well as exciting newcomers

Tuesday, 19th March 2019 at 8:30 pm
DI Jimmy Perez returns for series five of Shetland with his team of dedicated detectives and police officers, ready to take on a brand-new murder case.

A severed hand has washed up on the beach, while a young man’s head has been discovered badly mutilated inside a holdall. Who killed him, and why?

Wednesday 3 April 2019



David Swinson returns with a thrillingly dark novel, featuring Frank Marr, 'a masterly piece of characterisation.' (Tana French)

Frank Marr was a good cop with a bad habit. Now forced to retire from the Washington D.C police, he scrapes a living as a private investigator.

His latest case is personal - Frank's cousin Jeffrey is involved with a drugs operation. But when Jeffery's body is turns up in Frank's house, it's clear he was in deeper than anyone realized.

Stolen from the scene are Frank's revolver - the murder weapon - and his cherished music collection. With his reputation on the line, Frank is as determined to uncover the truth as he is to feed his habit, and both pursuits could prove deadly.

My second David Swinson - Frank Marr outing in the month and another top read.

The Second Girl focused on Frank's efforts to save a victim of forced prostitution. Here his skills are concentrated on saving his own skin, after his cousin and the subject of his latest case is found dead in his own house.

Drug use, drug dealing, burglaries, nightclubs, cops moonlighting, fenced goods, a criminal enterprise, a stolen gun, a stolen record collection, a dead family member, a set-up and though we don't know it yet - possible payback, a taxi cab involved, a concerned relative, another death, stakeouts, a shakedown, a violent interrogation, a frail and helpless elderly relative, cooperation with the police - up to a point, stepping over the line, a fractured friendship-cum-romance, an addiction needing feeding, a plan, a motel hideout, another death, a brutal confrontation, a suicide, a stitch-up, the end - with a helluva lot more in-between.

A busy book, that gets down and dirty on Washington's streets with a main character that I was rooting for, despite his many faults and issues. Plenty of lowlifes in the mix, plenty of criminality on display as Frank - impatient with the pedestrian progress of the police investigation into his cousin's murder and just as importantly his stolen record collection (his last sentimental link to his mother) - takes things into his own hands, unbound by the niceties of police rules and regs.

Harsh, tough, uncompromising, populated by villains and victims with an imperfect, flawed hero at its centre.

My kind of book and roll on Trigger - the third Frank Marr offering from David Swinson.

4.5 from 5       

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2017
Page count - 368
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Tuesday 2 April 2019



The first novel in the unforgettable, ground-breaking series by Ralph Dennis is finally back in print… after being coveted for years by collectors of the very best in hardboiled fiction. 

It's Atlanta, 1974. Jim Hardman was a mediocre cop until he was wrongly accused of corruption and thrown off the force. Now he works as an unlicensed PI, trouble-shooter and bodyguard…often partnered with his drinking buddy Hump Evans, a black, ex-NFL player who supports his playboy lifestyle by working as hired muscle. 

Hardman is hired by The Man, a black mobster, to investigate the murder of his white girlfriend, a college student. It’s a case that plunges Hardman and Evans into the center of a violent street war that stretches from Atlanta’s seedy back alleys to the marbled corridors of power.

This new edition includes an introduction by Joe R. Lansdale, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hap & Leonard crime novels.

Praise for the HARDMAN novels:

""Exceptional characterization, strong and vigorous prose, and a glimpse into a place and time that has long since disappeared." Mystery Scene Magazine

Not an author or book, I would ever have had on my radar without Lee Goldberg and Brash Books breathing new life into the series, by republishing all 12 of the Hardman series of books by Ralph Dennis. (Eight or nine to date with the remaining to follow soon.)

After reading this one, I'm so glad they did. Lots to like here in this mid-70s novel of an ex-cop PI looking into the murder of a white college girl for her black gangster boyfriend. Pace, characters, plot, setting and outcome - all ticks in the box.

I liked the investigation from Hardman..... his persistence, his unwillingness to be frightened off by threats, his attitude, his intelligence, his humour and probably most of all his relationships with those around him. I liked the way he helps his cop friend out with money without embarrassing him.

We get Hardman's back story; the loss of his cop career and more importantly the demise of his relationship with Marcy King, the friendship with Hump - a black ex-football player - a relationship of equals, full of trust and loyalty. I enjoyed the fact that Hardman and Hump are prepared to get on the wrong side of the law to earn a crust.

It's an interesting story that moves along at a decent clip. We get to see both sides of Atlanta - the white, monied political elite and the black criminal side and they're not so very different in a lot of respects, both with their dirty secrets, both interested in power and money. I soon gave up trying to guess who was making all the moves in the background and was responsible for events, I just went with wherever Dennis decided to take me. There's a fair few twists and turns before a decent outcome.

I liked the scenes in the redneck bar with Hardman and Hump struggling to get served. I chuckled at the outcome of that. I can tell I'm going to have fun reading this series of books.

There's an enjoyable introduction from Joe R. Lansdale at the start of this book as well, which whets the appetite for what comes afterwards and also has me possibly adding to my TBR pile with a mention of a Brian Garfield book which sounds intriguing.

Overall - a very tasty book.

4.5 from 5

Read - March, 2019
Published - 1974 (Brash Books republished - 2018)
Page count - 230
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle