Monday 30 September 2019




‘The definitive grime biography’ NME

’A landmark genre history’ Pitchfork

Beginning at the start of the new millennium in the council estates of inner London, Inner City Pressure tells the full story of grime, Britain’s most exciting musical revolution since punk. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, grime’s teenage pioneers sent out a signal from the pirate radio aerials and crumbling estates of London’s poorest boroughs that would, 15 years later, resonate as the universal sound of youthful rebellion, as big in the suburbs as in the inner city.

By 2018, the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Skepta have long since become household names. But have the conditions that produced this music now gone forever? What happens to those living on the margins when those margins become ever-smaller spaces? And what happens to a rebellious, outsider sound when it is fully accepted by the pop cultural mainstream? Inner City Pressure tells the astonishing story of a generation dancing, fighting and rioting against the forces gentrifying the capital.

I can't claim to be an aficionado of grime music or know much about this particular youth culture, but it was a book that caught my eye and having seen the genre character assassinated by the right wing tabloids over the years, I thought I'd have a closer look and get the view from the other side.

Hancox writes about more than just the music and the main players in the genre, some of whom I've heard of. I might be middle-aged but I don't live in a cave..... Stormzy, So Solid Crew,  Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Tinchy Stryder. Others are less familiar.

There's a lot about London in the past twenty years and the changing face of the capital.... Cameron, Labour, Tony Blair, Boris Johnson, urban renewal, poverty, surveillance, underground scene, tower blocks, public transport, Grenfell, Theresa May, sexism, machismo, musical rivalries, collaborations and support structures, pirate radio, police powers and abuse, riots, protest, kettling, Corbyn, Canary Wharf, public transport, tuition fees, Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, ASBOs, benefit cuts, child poverty, education, changes to support structures, Form 696, racism, profiling, opportunity - or lack of, persistence, drill music, mainstream acceptance, Garage, Jamaica, Africa, reggae, origins, family, hierarchy, MCing, rapping, beats, "hug a hoodie", public perceptions, and a helluva lot more.

I might have benefited from a print version which I could have run in tandem with some music samples from the artists mentioned throughout the narrative, but that wasn't really an option as this was an audio book. I'm not a student of music so a lot of the jargon about the construction of the music and the pace of it - 140 beats, 16 bars, blah blah blah was just kind of white noise to me.

I liked the information which was imparted. It was educational, informative, angry and an effective counter argument to the shallowness and distorted viewpoint of the mainstream media's depiction of the grime scene.

Looking back I think most forms of youth culture get vilified before ultimate acceptance ...... rock n roll, hippies, punk. The point of acceptance might just signify the death of something exciting, energised and vibrant.... possibly.

Narration was good, though the pronunciation of a word or two which recurred during the narrative slightly irritated me.... MACHISMO - is it said MUH-KIS-MOW or MACHISMO? A minor gripe.

Overall very good and a bit of a change from my usual reading.

4 from 5
Dan Hancox

Dan Hancox is a journalist and writes for The Guardian and other publications. Undoubtedly he does a helluva lot more than that. Narration was by Ash Hunter.

Read - (listened to) September, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 352 (10 hours 51 minutes)
Source - Audible after allowing my Edelweiss ARC download to lapse
Format - Audible
Ash Hunter

Sunday 29 September 2019



O Rose thou art sick. / The invisible worm, /That flies in the night / In the howling storm: /Has found out thy bed / Of crimson joy: /And his dark secret love / Does thy life destroy.

Those eight lines constitute the complete text of “The Sick Rose,” published by William Blake in Songs of Experience in 1794. I took to Blake early on, and thought Of Crimson Joy would make a dandy title. I accordingly fastened it on this novel when I sent the manuscript to Harry Shorten at Midwood. Someone there changed the title to Of Shame and Joy, and while I was a tad annoyed at the time, I have to say they made the right call. Of Shame and Joy’s not only a better title, it’s a damn good one.

I remember where and when I wrote the book, although I can’t say I recall much of the writing, or indeed of the book itself. It would have been in the late summer or fall of 1959. I’d gone to New York in July, settling in at the Hotel Rio on West 47th Street, planning to stay there until it was time to return to Antioch College for my final year. What I soon learned was that I’d already had my final year at Antioch, at least as far as the school was concerned. I’d written Campus Tramp, my first book as Andrew Shaw, just before they informed me of this decision, and then I went to work on something else, and a bad morning led me to pack a bag and move back to my parents’ home at 422 Starin Avenue in Buffalo.

(“A bad morning.” Is that unnecessarily cryptic? Think of the opening scene in After the First Death, but without the dead hooker on the floor. That's the kind of morning it was, and it led me to conclude that New York Wasn't Working Out, and that maybe I'd do better back in Buffalo.)

And, back in Buffalo, I set up my typewriter on the little maple desk on which I’d written Strange are the Ways of Love and Carla, and resumed writing books for Harry Shorten at Midwood,—and for Bill Hamling at Nightstand, who’d liked Campus Tramp enough to want more. For the next eight months or so I wrote books on that desk. My routine was an interesting one; I’d join my mother at the kitchen table for a cup of coffee around midnight, then write all night, then have breakfast with my dad around seven—and then go to bed. It worked for me, and I found things to do with the rest of my time; notably, I bought a partnership in a coffeehouse, The Jazz Center, and began keeping company with the woman whose ill fortune it would be to become my first wife.

And how did OF SHAME AND JOY fit into all this? Well, the Provincetown setting came from a two-day trip while I was living at the Rio. This girl whom I knew vaguely was going there, and I decided to join her. I remember we took a Greyhound bus, and that her name either was or wasn’t Suzy. (But then that’s true of almost everyone, isn’t it?) We went to P’town, and she had friends there, and I didn’t, and I wandered around for an evening and slept on somebody’s couch and went back to New York by myself in the morning. I never saw Suzy again, so for all I know she’s still there, though it strikes me as doubtful.

Of Shame and Joy has never been republished since its appearance as a Midwood Book, and I’m glad to be able to bring it out again—not least of all for the opportunity to use the wonderful Paul Rader cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Another Audible commuting listen courtesy of a free download code off the back of a response to a Lawrence Block newsletter. Not one I regretted listening to, but not one which has me hoovering up all Lawrence Block's early erotica works, pushed out under pseudonyms about 50-60 years ago.

A Princetown love story of sorts via....... denial of true self, an addiction to sex with a history of nymphomania, casual sexual encounters, nude swims, sex on the beach, parties and flings, unrequited love, obsession and a marriage proposal, a suicide attempt, a change of mind, a rescue, a rape, an encounter with a passive partner, a heart to heart and an acceptance of identity, an exciting encounter or two and a happy ever after (possibly).

A fairly small cast of characters who we get to know during the summer at a resort town. Boys and girls, though in the end the main focus is on a couple of women. I can't claim to have been on the edge of my seat regarding the outcome for our couple, though I'll profess an interest in seeing how it all turned out.

I think this one shows it's age a bit as the sex is incredibly tame by today's standards. Not especially memorable really. One traumatic event and the ability of the victim to move on incredibly quickly and put it behind her, struck me as unlikely and unbelievable and kind of left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth, if I'm honest. Apart from that bump in the road, I was happy to learn our characters' back stories, ambitions, hopes, failures and adventures.

I did enjoy the narration by Barbara Nevins Taylor.

3 from 5

Read - (listened to) September, 2019
Published - 1960
Page count - 178 (4 hours 42 minute listening time)
Source - author via an assistant with a download code
Format - Audible

Friday 27 September 2019



Does Milton Grant, an evil, vindictive ex-police officer, reflect the hatred that lies within modern society? Milton has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Divorced, and with an estranged daughter, he feels he has nothing to live for – and nothing to lose. He begins a self-imposed mission to ‘correct’ what he believes are some of the main faults of his fellow human beings. In his way are a fumbling old lady at the supermarket checkout, an inconsiderate driver, selfish users of mobile phones, and self-satisfied chief executive Ray, who boasts about tax avoidance. Milton’s acts of corrections become more extreme and violent as the novella progresses. He is spiralling out of control. In the meantime, two police officers, Lucy and Dave Smith, are close to exposing Milton. In the explosive finale Lucy finds herself facing him, as he points a gun at her head. She is alone and has no backup. Dave is four minutes away. Will Milton kill Lucy? Or will good triumph over evil? The Man Who Hated is inspired by the 1993 film Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas. It is the fourth in the Novella Nostalgia series, which links cinema classics with modern stories.

A fast one sitting read with a main character a man on a mission.

Milton Grant is a former police officer with a death sentence hanging over him. He has cancer and not very long to live. There's a few scores to be settled before he goes.

Fat people, mobile phone users, dog owners too entitled to pick up after their dog has a dump, tax avoiders, drunks, distracted motorists, a woman he meets for sex with an annoying laugh, an elderly shopper that holds up the queue at the supermarket - all of them better watch out.

I think all of us have at one time or another become frustrated and impatient at the actions of others. Red mist can descend. Most of us keep it in perspective or locked down. Not Milton Grant.

On the other side of the coin, we have a husband and wife both police officers, both trying very hard not to talk shop at home, both failing with the man who hated getting under their skin.

Milton and the couple inevitably collide at the climax.

Quick, pacey, dark, funny and hand over the mouth shocking. It's an interesting character study of a man with nothing to lose and an agenda.

Probably not a book that will reside too long in the memory, but I enjoyed it while it lasted and would be interested in re-visiting the author's work again in the future. I can see the connection to the Michael Douglas film Falling Down, that inspired this.

Tony Drury has written about a dozen novels and novellas, including five in his DCI Sarah Rudd series.

4 from 5

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 77
Source - Net Galley
Format - ePub file read on laptop

Thursday 26 September 2019



An artist is murdered. We know who did it. But why?

The year is 2012. The end of the world is near. Set in the moral badlands of contemporary Los Angeles, a motley crew of unemployed characters is brought together by self-loathing, boredom and defeat. Facing hard times and no prospects, they gather in a run-down apartment to change their fates. But a destructive, nihilistic stranger has other ideas. Ideas that will change their lives forever.

From Harlin Hailey, the award-winning author of The Downsizing of Hudson Foster, comes this Literary Crime tale of desperation, depravity, and murder. Darkly funny, sad and fiercely honest, this evocative, hardboiled whydunnit captures the mood of those forgotten, and how far they'll go once they've lost it all.

East of Lincoln is an unforgettable story of the black heart of the American dream, and the enduring power of friendship.

For fans of Los Angeles noir, dirty realism, James Ellroy, Bret Easton Ellis, Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Raymond Chandler, and Joan Didion.

A blind punt on a book or author I had previously never heard of and one that paid off as I really liked this one.

Friendship, desperation, disconnection, loss and a perpetual downward spiral affecting family, job, prospects, hope, possessions - the car and city mobility, home, a viable future, and in the end a best friend.

Our narrator is Richard Jenkins and he tells us of the death of  The Artist. The book then backtracks and we have a linear unravelling of the story and how we get to the point of murder.

For a lot of the book not a lot happens as such, but that's perfectly fine. We get to know the characters, their demons and insecurities, their failures and the back drop of the times. Richard used to work in real estate. Fat chance of that now, he's reduced to humiliating Skype interviews where he has to amuse the interviewee by singing his favourite song. Too old and with no skill set that is relevant to the current day economy. The day before yesterday's man. He trades down from a car to a pushbike to fund a holiday for his college going daughter. Prospects aren't great. His father's health is failing and his friendships are the only crutch supporting him.

His best friend, The Artist is on his downers as well. He continues to paint, but hasn't sold one in years and is suffering a crisis in confidence. He's painting houses to pay the rent, though on occasions even that's not enough. He has real talent and is easy-going, affable, popular and well-regarded by the locals. Always happy to chat as he works at his easel on the streets.

Into their midst, comes The Artist's neighbour, Bales. Manipulative, bitter, twisted and cruel. Similar story to Richard or Clean as he nicknames him - with one major difference. Bales is dark and disturbed. Broken marriage, unemployed and unemployable with rumours circulating about the reasons for his demise - a severe sexual assault/rape which was hushed up. Bales takes everything just that little bit too far...... drinks at a bar - he skips out on the bill; some women celebrating a birthday - he pops all her balloons. Controlling, jealous and scheming he's on his way down, but determined not to go out alone.

I liked the connections and relationships on show here. Friendships or cliques very rarely seem to be evenhanded or balanced. There's always a more dominant personality, coming to the fore. Here it just gets magnified to the nth degree. If I was picky, I might wonder why Bales was allowed to intrude and invade and ultimately spoil the relationships of the group of friends. In addition to Richard and The Artist, there's the trust fund kid upstairs who is the group's gopher and another, who is the source of the group's weed supply.

There's also a sadness about the outcome. Not just the cruel death of the artist, just as things were starting to turn for him. The loss for his friends, family, acquaintances and this reader is palpable, even though we know it's coming. I think its more zeitgeist .... the ever changing world, re-gentrification and the loss of community, a sense of disenfranchisement and a feeling that there aren't better times ahead. Ironic to think that this takes place during Obama's watch. The spray-tanned orange blimp hasn't exactly changed the narrative.

Lots to like and ponder.

4.5 from 5

The Downsizing of Hudson Foster is Hailey's earlier novel. I may have to check it out.

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2019 (next month)
Page count - 448
Source - Reedsy Discover early reviewer site
Format - PDF file read on laptop.

Wednesday 25 September 2019


I had Adam Rocke, co-author of The Death Dealer on the blog yesterday answering a few questions; today it's the turn of Mark Rogers

It's been a couple of years since our last chat*, what have you been up to? Are you still a 1000 words a day man?

Ideally, every writer will find a method that suits them. My method is to shoot for 1,000 words a day, stringing together as many writing days in a row as possible. Working this way I can have a complete first draft of a crime novel in three months or less.


What can you tell us about your latest book, a collaboration with Adam Rocke?

The Death Dealer is a balls-to-the-wall thriller. I think Adam and I have brought something fresh to the “man hunting man” literary trope. Our book has the additional appeal of being based on a true-life notorious adventurer, Jonathan Idema. Wiki Idema to find out how controversial he was.

Can you pitch it to readers in a few words?

The Death Dealer is a kind of mash-up of one of my favorite stories, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, and the Cornel Wilde film, The Naked Prey.

Was this your first time collaborating on a book? How did it work? (I've had Adam's version, I'm keen to hear yours.)

I’d collaborated on screenplays before, but this was my first crack at collaborating on a novel. Screenplays are much more schematic, present tense, and lacking in any kind of internal monologues by characters. When Adam brought the project to me, The Death Dealer existed as a screenplay that while complete, had some problems in its third act. I responded to the material instantly and began writing the first draft of the novel with the screenplay as my guide. In the novel, there was much more room to develop the characters, provide an internal voice for each character, and to add scenes that would have slowed a film down, but enriched the novelistic reading experience. Once a first draft was complete, Adam and I passed it back and forth so many times that the work is truly a blend of our sensibilities. After nailing the novel, we then went back and fine-tuned the screenplay. One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Well, Adam and I clearly think we can, and we did.

Did the end result mirror your expectations?

In all the ways it counts, it exceeded my expectations. Each draft deepened the characters and themes, as well as streamlining the narrative.

Any further scope for future projects together?

The anti-hero of The Death Dealer is Haden, an ex-mercenary who brings rich clients to hot spots around the globe for the express purpose of providing them the experience of killing another human being. This concept contains a high-powered story engine to develop Haden as a series character. Adam and I have already discussed possibilities for the next four books in the series. To some extent, we’re waiting to see what kind of reception The Death Dealer gets in the marketplace.

Random question time.....

What’s your favourite vegetable?

Believe it or not, kale. The way I prepare it is a kale soup with potatoes, onions, sausage, and plenty of spices, with a side of garlic bread and a glass of chilled white wine.

When did you last have a fist fight?

I was 36 and living in Hoboken, NJ. Two of my friends pounded on the door of my apartment, waking me up from a sound sleep, with blood streaming down their faces. They’d been jumped by four guys. My friends washed the blood off in my kitchen sink and we went down to the street looking for their assailants. We found them and trashed them. I only got in one punch before they ran, but the cops told me I put the guy in the hospital with five stitches in his face. So that was a good night.

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

I should have been thrown out a dozen times. The only time I actually got thrown out of a bar was when a friend and I walked into what at that time you’d call a yuppie bar. My friend was a huge guy wearing a tiny Eisenhower jacket. I was wearing a distressed (really distressed) black leather jacket and a coonskin cap. We were stone-cold sober but they wouldn’t serve us and hustled us out to the sidewalk.

Do you have any tattoos?

I’ve been married three times. Unfortunately, I have my first wife’s name tattooed on my right bicep. Not smart; not recommended.

What was your first pet’s name?

Shadow, a beautiful spaniel mix I got when I was five. I was taking an afternoon nap and my dad came in with Shadow as a puppy, waking me up. One of those pure moments of joy I look back on.

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

Thanksgiving at my former sister-in-law’s house. It was bad enough that the first course was peanut butter soup. She was a bird lover and the dining room table was surrounded by 20 birdcages – parrots, cockatiels – you name it. As we ate, there was a continuous visual and aural dropping of poop from the birds.

Do you have any irrational fears?

At this stage in my life I don’t think I have any irrational fears, but for a long time I had a fear of driving a car. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 38 and my son was born. I didn’t want to humiliate myself in front of my son or humiliate my son by not being able to drive him somewhere, so I bit the bullet and learned – and in learning how to drive realized there was no basis for my fear. It was all in my mind. Since then I’ve driven in all kinds of conditions, including cross country in the U.S. and in foreign countries.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

I’ll take that as a U.K. term and figure you mean vacation destination. As a travel writer with assignments to 56 countries, I often travelled alone. Today, my favourite holiday destination is anywhere with my wife Sofia – whether it’s to the Caribbean or down to the corner for a fish taco.

When did you last tell a lie?

I’m capable of lying – in fact, the first time I was interviewed for the evening news I lied. Looking at the tape, I still laugh at the way my eyes shifted from side-to-side. I presently live in Mexico, with my wife and our family. The problem is, I don’t speak Spanish, and many of the people I interact with daily don’t speak English. This has put a serious crimp in my ability to pull off a whopper.

Many thanks to Mark for his time.

Mark's been read before - Red Thread (2016) in 2017.

A few of his other books sit on the TBR pile including

Koreatown Blues from Brash Books
Sky Dog from Endeavour Press

Check out the book The Death Dealer if you're so inclined......


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

Amazon links


Tuesday 24 September 2019


Adam Rocke, co-author with Mark Rogers of The Death Dealer, answers a few questions on the blog...

First, a bit about Adam Rocke ....

Inspired by Hunter S. Thompson's "gonzo journalism," Adam's unusual skill set (firearms/weaponry expert, tactical/CQB training) combined with hardcore adrenaline junkie tendencies resulted in countless high octane articles for hip men’s lifestyle publications. When editors had a wild story idea that could get a journalist maimed or killed, Adam was the go-to scribe. Somehow he always came back alive and intact—with the story!

These participatory adventures resulted in Adam being shot, stabbed, tazed, stun-gunned, maced, sapped, zapped, brass knuckled, pepper-sprayed, arm-barred, knee-barred, knocked out, choked out, body-slammed, roundhouse-kicked and water-boarded long before "enhanced interrogation" became a household term.

Adam has dived for pirate treasure in the Caribbean, hunted for poachers in Africa, played poker with cartel kingpins in Juarez, scouted for UFOs in the Sonora Desert, raced in the Baja 1000 and the Gumball Rally, swam with great white sharks sans cage, jumped out of a plane sans parachute (and sanity!), and taken part in Sasquatch safaris, Chupacabra sojourns and other “crypto-quests” around the world.

I see from your lively biography that you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie (an understatement), how did you manage to stay still long enough to collaborate with Mark Rogers on your latest book?

You're right, I do have a hard time sitting still—although I find taking it easy is becoming more enjoyable as I get older! But this is a story that I definitely wanted to tell, at least in some capacity, and partnering with Mark was the ideal scenario as it resulted in a truly awesome finished project—story, characters... I know I'm biased but it's a helluva read!

How did the collaboration with Mark come about? Did you know each other from before?

I didn't know Mark prior to The Death Dealer. I read something of his—not sure what, it's been that long—but I know I was really impressed by how he attacked a story and layered his characters. Plus, I had different variations of The Death Dealer story in my head for the longest time and I was absolutely certain it needed work... Needed a fresh set of eyes and different sensibilities and experiences to go from a story that was just okay to something that was really special. As soon as Mark and I started discussing it, I knew the end result was going to be something we'd both be proud of.

The book – The Death Dealer - can you pitch it to potential readers in a short paragraph?

I'd pitch it as The Billionaire Boys Club meets The Most Dangerous Game

Briefly... Millennial trust fund billionaire Joe Sinclair has checked off every item on his bucket list except one — he wants to know what it's like to kill a man. With a former mercenary as their guide, Joe and his three best friends travel to the Dark Continent for the kind of safari you'll never find in travel brochures.

How long from conception to completion did it take?

We wrote the screenplay first, and that took a number of months to refine and polish. Mark wrote the first draft of the novel, and then we just kept taking turns, tweaking here and there. But it's been a few years all told from where we started to the manuscript that's being published on August 26th.

Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?
Any creative differences that you can tell us about?

This was, without question, the easiest and best time I've ever had collaborating with another writer. By and large, I'm not very fond of collaborative projects. I've just never "played well" with others. I think what worked so well in this instance is that Mark and I are two very different people, with very different life experiences. But we both love to travel, we both love adventures of all types, and we both love to write. There weren't any hiccups between us at any stage of the process. Quite the contrary. Any time one of us had an idea, that idea spring-boarded the other into building on that thought. It sounds too easy, I know, but it was truly enjoyable every step of the way.

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

No, it turned out much better—with far more interesting characters—than I thought it ever would. That's the truth. "Most Dangerous Game"-type stories are a case of been there, seen that. They're a dime a dozen. But The Death Dealer really turned into something special. It's not just an action/adventure. Or an action/thriller. It's a very real story with very real characters. And it poses some hard questions about life and morality that I think people will appreciate.

Apparently, it’s loosely based around a rather shady character no longer with us? 
Did you know this man?

The mercenary in our story, "The Death Dealer," is based on a real life mercenary/criminal/con
man/soldier by the name of Jonathan Keith Idema. I know JK Idema since I was a kid; he was my "dark arts" Yoda, teaching me all about self-defense, how to shoot, CQB tactics... And yeah, he definitely was a shady character. But I knew a different side of Idema. He loved animals, especially dogs, and he always stood up for the underdog, no matter what the situation. He also never backed down from a fight, and he was definitely not someone you wanted to fuck with, that's for sure.

*Jonathan Idema - Wikipedia

You’ve been published before – several Shag-party cocktail books? – not something I’m familiar with, what can you tell us about them?  I have to say your latest The Death Dealer seems a bit of a departure from your previous ventures into publishing.

I've been fortunate to play in many different genres. Growing up, my family owned a resort hotel in Upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where I learned to bartend. So when I was just getting started as a writer, before paying gigs were readily available, I tended bar to make ends meet. I came up with a wild idea for a cocktail guide, combined with my crazy Hollywood stories, and that resulted in a publishing deal with Surrey Books. Ultimately, I would publish seven books with Surrey—six were illustrated by renowned "kitsch culture" artist, Shag (real name Josh Agle). The books did very well—more about Shag's artwork than my drinks!

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

I try to write every day, and for the last few years I've been blessed to have numerous projects going that keep me busy on a daily basis.

Have you swapped your life of adventure for a more sedentary existence now? Is the PC and keyboard your new playground?

I've definitely slowed down... My body doesn't recover nearly as quickly as it used to. That's not to say I don't enjoy a high octane storyline every now and again, but when it comes to getting beaten up or knocked around for the sake of a story, no—those I'm really not interested in tackling anymore. However, if it involves shooting (like competing in a sniper competition), or testing a hot new sports car on the track, or checking out a great diving destination, sign me up!

What can we look forward to next? Another collaboration with Mark? 

Mark and I have talked at length about both a prequel and a sequel to The Death Dealer. Hopefully, the public (and Hollywood!) responds well to the novel and we're "forced" to give it another go!

What are the last five books you’ve read?

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans by A.J. Baime

SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard Wasdin & Stephen Templin

Silat for the Street by Burton Richardson

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

Blade Runner 2049 was absolutely brilliant in every respect!

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

There are a number of TV shows that I really like. Ozark, Animal Kingdom, Billions, The OA... and I truly loved Bloodline and Justified.

Random question time…..

What’s your favourite vegetable? 

Although I typically don't like vegetables that require me to "work" to eat them, I really like artichokes—although it's a toss-up between 'chokes and oyster mushrooms.

When did you last have a fistfight? 

Pretty funny experience, actually... About five months ago I was playing poker at a small card club in Ventura, CA. One guy at the table was more than a little drunk and more than a little bad at playing poker. Okay, I'm being kind—he positively SUCKED at poker. And I'm sure being shit-hammered didn't help. Anyway, he lost three or four big pots in a row to me, and then on the fifth hand, after he folded to my all-in bet, I showed him and everyone else at the table a stone-cold bluff. That really got him froggy. About a half-hour later, when I went to leave, he followed me into the parking lot. He had a buddy with him, and they were both pretty drunk and babbling. I suppose I could have let it go, but...

So I turned around and stood there as he approached. He made another comment and threw this dreadfully slow, looping punch that a corpse could have blocked and I just sorta side-stepped it a bit and decked him. He staggered back a bit—and I was very disappointed that he didn't drop. So I tagged him again and this time he went down. His friend just stood there, not sure what to do. That was basically it and I just walked to my car and left.

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

A few times. I was at a rather famous bar fight in the D.C. area — bar called "The Exchange"— that pitted students from the U of Maryland (where I was attending) against students from George Washington U. None of the people I was with started it, but we jumped in when we recognized some of the combatants. It turned into a slightly tamer version of "Rage in a Cage" and about 30 people got tossed; some got arrested. We just went to Denny's!

Do you have any tattoos?

Yes, plenty of ink. I have a big tribal orca (killer whale) on my back that I got following a great white shark encounter in which a killer whale chased away three great whites while I was free diving and spearfishing at Guadalupe Island. On my left forearm I have the names and birthdays of my three dogs and one cat. On my right forearm is a special combination of Atlantean symbols that hold special meaning to me.

What was your first pet’s name? 

Darla - a Boston Terrier

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

Years ago, before I got married, a girl I'd been dating for a few weeks wanted to cook me dinner. She turned a beautiful cut of filet mignon into something that resembled a leather satchel. Before the steak, she tried to make a caesar salad—keyword "tried." That was our last date!

Do you have any irrational fears?

All my fears are rational, although not much scares me anymore.

What’s your favourite holiday destination? 

Truthfully, I HATE travelling during the holidays. I much prefer to travel off-peak and stay home for the holidays. When I do travel, if it's got an ocean and a beach, I'm good.

When did you last tell a lie?

Last week. I was at a writer's event and bored off my ass, so I told everyone my wife had an emergency. Instead, I went to a bar just down the street and had a beer and a shot.

Many thanks to Adam for his time. You can catch up with him at his website:

Check out his book The Death Dealer if you're so inclined......


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

Amazon links


Monday 23 September 2019


A couple of books from way back when - ok 15 years one of them, 25 the other - and Dutch author Tim Krabbé

I've not tried him yet, but one of these years.

In addition to the writing he's also been a champion chess player.

He has a couple more novels to his name - The Rider and Delay. Both of them sound pretty damn good.

Here's a piece with him in The Guardian from 2003

The Vanishing has been filmed a couple of times.
Once in Dutch as Spoorloss and remade by the same director in Hollywood. The original is supposed to be better.

The Vanishing (1993)

Petrol gauge broken, anxiety and tempers flaring, young lovers Rex and Saskia pull in at a service station on their way to a holiday the South of France to refuel. As soon as they stop the tension is relieved. Rex buries two coins in a crack at the base of fence post as a secret sign of their love: Saskia goes off to buy a couple of cold drinks and vanishes. Eight years later Rex is still haunted by her. Then one day he sees scrawled in the grime on the roof of a yellow car parked below his window two lines: REX YOU ARE SO SWEET SANDRA and WHEN I WRITE THIS IT SHOWS THE PAIN... And the obsession rages in his blood again.

The Cage (2003)

Respectable geologist Egon Wagter has always found the amoral Axel van de Graaf's charisma difficult to resist. But from their first meeting as adolescents on a field trip to Belgium, when three lives became inextricably linked in the caves of La Roche, he has never yet allowed himself to be drawn into his friend's criminal life. Instead he has kept his independence, preferring to learn about Axel's exploits as a drug baron from the papers. Now his life as a family man is in tatters and the escape route offered by an expedition to South America lacks only $40,000 to become a reality. So here he is, far from home in a South East Asian country where the penalty for running drugs is death, running drugs for Axel, but maybe also on the brink of finally understanding the secret of the cave and the love that might have been.

Sunday 22 September 2019



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 from 5

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 from 5

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

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