Friday 29 November 2019


Not too much watched at home in the month - a couple of films which were enjoyed and a TV series started off the back of a recommendation from my son.

More time was spent at the cinema than in front of the goggle box.

The rest of the family watched Dublin Murders and The Accident, which I wasn't too bothered about and which I managed to ignore.

Vera Drake (2004)
Not a film I ever got around to seeing at the time of its release, nor in any of the 15 years afterwards, despite the rave reviews, especially regarding Imelda Staunton's performance as Vera. I found the outcome incredibly sad, though there was an inevitability about it. I do enjoy seeing Phil Davis and Eddie Marsan on screen and they were both very good as the husband and future son-in-law. I don't always take to Daniel Mays, but he excelled as her angry son.

Recommended viewing if you've not seen it.
*Plot spoilers below in the Wikipedia summary.

From Wikipedia....

Vera Drake is a 2004 British drama film written and directed by Mike Leigh and starring Imelda Staunton, Phil Davis, Daniel Mays and Eddie Marsan. It tells the story of a working-class woman in London in 1950 who performs illegal abortions. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and it was nominated for three Academy Awards and won three BAFTAs.

Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) is devoted to her family, looking after her husband and children, her elderly mother, and a sick neighbour. Her shy daughter, Ethel (Alex Kelly), works in a lightbulb factory, and her son, Sid (Daniel Mays), tailors men's suits. Her husband, Stanley (Phil Davis), is a car mechanic. Although Vera and her family are poor, their strong family bonds hold them together. During her working day as a house cleaner, Vera performs constant small acts of kindness for the many people she encounters.

She is a kindly person who is eager to help others. Unknown to her family, she also works secretly, providing young women abortions. She receives no money for providing this service because she believes that her help is an act of charity to women in trouble. However, her partner Lily (Ruth Sheen), who also carries on a black-market trade in scarce postwar foodstuffs, charges two guineas (two pounds and two shillings: equivalent to £67 in 2018) for arranging the abortions, without Vera's knowledge.

The film also contains a subplot about an upper-class young woman, Susan (Sally Hawkins), the daughter of one of Vera's employers. Susan is raped by a suitor, becomes pregnant, and asks a friend to put her in contact with a doctor, through whom she can obtain an abortion. The doctor refers her to a psychiatrist, who prompts her to answer questions in a certain way, so that he can legally recommend an abortion on therapeutic psychiatric grounds: that she has a family history of mental illness and that she may commit suicide if not allowed to terminate the pregnancy. The abortion costs her a hundred guineas.

After one of her patients nearly dies, Vera is arrested by the police and taken into custody for questioning. She is held overnight and appears before a magistrate the next morning. Sid is shocked by his mother's secret activities and tells his father that he does not think that he can forgive her. However, in a later conversation with Vera, he expresses fear for what could happen to her in prison, before finally telling Vera that he loves her.

Vera is bailed to appear at the Old Bailey. None of Vera's employers will give her a character reference. Her solicitor thinks she will receive the minimum sentence of 18 months in jail; the judge sentences her to two and a half years imprisonment "as a deterrent to others." This affects all the people who previously depended on Vera's kindness.

While in prison, Vera meets others who have been convicted of performing illegal abortions. They discuss their sentences, until Vera tearfully leaves, to go to her cell.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Not a film I would necessarily have chosen to watch through choice, a friend lent us the DVD a month or two back and we were seeing them soon, so thought we'd better watch and return. I was never a fan of Queen back in the day. Don't get me wrong, they produced some fantastic songs, but they weren't my cup of tea.

Really enjoyed the film though, the performances of the cast, particularly the guy playing Freddie (name escapes me - might have won an Oscar?) were pretty damn good. I think I came away with a greater appreciation for them than I had at the start of the film. I still won't be buying any of their CDs though.

From Google....

Freddie Mercury -- the lead singer of Queen -- defies stereotypes and convention to become one of history's most beloved entertainers. The band's revolutionary sound and popular songs lead to Queen's meteoric rise in the 1970s. After leaving the group to pursue a solo career, Mercury reunites with Queen for the benefit concert Live Aid -- resulting in one of the greatest performances in rock 'n' roll history.

The End of the Fxxxing World Series 1 (2018)

The second series has just dropped and we were told by number one son to watch the thing, so have been immersed in the first season. Semi immersed I suppose as the episodes seem to be 20 minutes long each and there are only eight of them. About halfway through and I'm quite enjoying this tale of two disconnected teenagers.

From Wikipedia....

The End of the F***ing World is a British dark comedy-drama television programme, based on a graphic novel of the same name by Charles Forsman. The eight-part programme premiered its first episode on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom on 24 October 2017, after which all eight episodes were released on All 4. Netflix handled international distribution and released it internationally on 5 January 2018. The programme follows James (Alex Lawther), a 17-year-old who believes himself to be a psychopath, and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a rebellious classmate who sees in James a chance to escape from her tumultuous home life. Gemma Whelan, Wunmi Mosaku, Steve Oram, Christine Bottomley, Navin Chowdhry, Barry Ward and Naomi Ackie appear in supporting roles.

The series is based on Forsman's mini-comics The End of the Fucking World, which were collected into a book in 2013. Series creator Jonathan Entwistle contacted him about making a film, and a short was made in 2014. Instead, an eight-part serial was commissioned, with filming beginning in April 2017. It was written by Charlie Covell, and episodes were directed by Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak. In August 2018, the programme was renewed for a second series, which premiered on Channel 4 on 4 November 2019, after which all eight episodes were released on All 4, and internationally on Netflix the next day. Covell stated before the second series' release that she does not intend to produce a third series for the programme.

The programme has been praised for its writing, execution and subject matter, as well as for Lawther's and Barden's performances. It was nominated for the 2018 British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series.


Not as many books enjoyed in October as in the previous month, but I did hit double figures which is my usual reading target. That said 5 of the 12 were all Lawrence Block audio books which were listened to on the commute to and from work, with probably a few snatched minutes elsewhere. Written word reading was only 7 then.

Another month with no absolute banger of a FIVE STAR READ, but there were four books which came very close..... book of the month by virtue of the fact it's the one I would pick first if forced to choose for a re-read - Robert Bailey and his first legal thriller - The Professor

4.5 STAR READS - x 4 - Robert Bailey - The Professor, John Vercher - Three-Fifths, Dietrich Kalteis - Call Down the Thunder and John Farrow - Ball Park

4 STAR READ - x 2 - Lawrence Block - Four Lives at the Crossroads, T.S. Hunter - Crazy For You

3.5 STAR READ - x 2 - Edwin Hill's The Missing Ones and Lawrence Block's Thirty

3  STAR READS - x 3 - all early Lawrence Block - Jill Emerson books

2.5 STAR READ - x 1 - Ed McBain's disappointing Goldilocks

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

a law professor dusting off his courtroom skills

a man conflicted over his racial identity and caught up in a hate crime

a women letting her hair down as she approached a milestone

a young woman exploring her sexual identity

missing children and an amateur sleuth on the case

a poverty stricken Kansas farmer with a plan

four strangers crossing paths and an armoured car heist

a Floridian lawyer and his client accused of murder

another young woman exploring her sexual identity

two friends investigating a London murder

a thief and a cop vs the mob

and another young woman discovering her true self

Huntsville, Alabama; North Oakland, Pittsburgh; 60s New York; 60s New York (again); Finisterre Island, Maine; near Hoxie, Kansas in the 30s; Cedars Corner, Indiana in the 60s; Calusa, Florida 70s; 60s New York; Soho, London in the 80s; Montreal, Canada in the 70s; 50s New York 

The full list of 12 reads with links to my reviews below......

Robert Bailey - The Professor (2014) (4.5)

Lawrence Block (as Jill Emerson) - Thirty (1970) (3.5)

John Vercher - Three-Fifths (2019) (4.5)

Lawrence Block (as Jill Emerson) - Enough of Sorrow (1965) (3)

Edwin Hill - The Missing Ones (2019) (3.5)

Dietrich Kalteis - Call Down the Thunder (2019) (4.5)

Lawrence Block - Four Lives at the Crossroads (1962) (4)

Ed McBain - Goldilocks (1977) (2.5)

Lawrence Block (as Jill Emerson) - Warm and Willing (1965) (3)

T.S. Hunter - Crazy For You (2019) (4)

John Farrow - Ball Park (2019) (4.5)

Lawrence Block (as Jill Emerson) - Shadows (1959) (3)

More information than you'll ever need to know ......

New to me authors in the month - 4 - Robert Bailey, John Vercher, Edwin Hill and John Farrow

There's more on the TBR pile from Edwin Hill, John Farrow and Robert Bailey

Authors enjoyed before - 4 - Dietrich Kalteis, Ed McBain, T.S. Hunter and Lawrence Block

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

12 reads from 8 different authors - Lawrence Block was good company driving to and from work - 5 of his were enjoyed.

5 were series books .....

Ed McBain's Goldilocks is the first in his Matthew Hope series

John Farrow's Ball Park is the seventh in his Emile Cinq-Mars series

Edwin Hill's The Missing Ones is the second in his Hester Thursby series

Robert Bailey's The Professor is the first in his McMurtie and Drake series

It was my first time with all these protagonists, but probably not my last.

T.S. Hunter's Crazy For You is the fourth in the author Soho Noir series set in the 80s. I've enjoyed two of the earlier ones thus far - Tainted Love and Careless Whisper

Gender analysis -  0 female authors, 8 male.

No further comment really necessary (copies and pastes last month's comments re gender)

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

4 of the 5 Lawrence Block books were originally published under a female pseudonym - Jill Emerson. I don't suppose that counts?

Of the 8 different authors read, 5 hail from the USA, 2 hail from Canada, 1 from Great Britain. He claims to be half-Welsh, I'm not sure about the other half

All 12 of the reads were fiction,

6 of the 12 books read were published this century - all 6 from this decade

5 from 2019, 1 from 2014

Of the 6 older books, 1 was from the 50s - 1959
 3 from the 60s - 1 from 1962, 2 from 1965

2 were from the 70s - 1970 an 1977 

1 came from the man-cave blue tub stash in my garage - Ed McBain's Goldilocks

Publishers -  Lawrence Block Production or Associates (x5), Exhibit-A,  Agora Books (an imprint of Polis), ECW Press, Corgi Books, Red Dog Press, Severn House and Dafina Books

1 of the 19 reads was pre-owned,

4 other books were Net Galley reads - thanks to Dafina Books, Severn House, Exhibit-A and Agora Books (Polis)

1 was received directly from the publisher - cheers to Red Dog Press

6 came from the authors - thanks to Dietrich Kalteis and Lawrence Block - his assistant actually in the form of an Audible download code - cheers to team Lawrence Block i.e. David

Favourite cover? Dietrich Kalteis - Call Down the Thunder

Second favourite coverBall Park - John Farrow

My reads were this long 416 - 176 - 210 (or 5hrs 11mins) - 192 (4hrs 26mins) - 261 - 325 - 210 (5hrs 3mins) - 210 - 198 (4hrs 47mins) - 132 - 267 - 198 (4hrs 23mins)

Total page count =  2795 (4610 in September) ....... a decrease of 1815 pages

2795 or  1787 written pages and 23 hrs 50 ear-hole mins

1 was a Kindle read, 3 were ePub files read on the laptop,  5 were Audible listening books, 2 were paperbacks, 1 was a PDF read on the laptop

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

Robert Bailey's The Professor was the longest read at 416 pages

T.S. Hunter's Crazy For You was the shortest at 132 pages long.

Wednesday 27 November 2019



The craft of writing is a lot like spinning a web: You take threads and weave them skillfully together, and only you know where this intricate network of twists and turns begin and how it will end. Now, with Lawrence Block's expert advice, you can learn this art of entrapping your reader in a maze of fascinating fiction. Spider, Spin Me a Web is the perfect companion volume to Block's previous book on writing, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, which Sue Grafton noted "should be a permanent part of every writer's library".

As helpful and supportive as always, Block shares what he's learned over the course of writing over a hundred published books: techniques to help you write a solid piece of fiction, strategies for getting a reader (or editor) to read - and buy - your book, ideas for increasing your creativity, and developing an environment that will nourish you and your craft. Spider, Spin Me a Web is a complete guide to achieving your full potential as a writer.

Having no aspirations whatsoever to write fiction in any format or genre - I know my limitations, I wasn't too sure whether I would enjoy this offering. But I really did.

It probably worked better for me as an audio book than if I was reading the written page, that way the thoughts, opinions, musings, advice, experiences, anecdotes (you get the picture) came through as if I was having a conversation with the author, albeit a very one-sided one. I found myself listening to it more times than just the commute to work

It's based around a monthly column Mr Block wrote for Writer's Digest back in the 80s and while the world of publishing and pretty much everything else has changed radically since then, I guess the art of getting it down on the page hasn't.

There are frequent mentions of his then latest Matthew Scudder book - Eight Million Ways to Die - that have me longing for a re-read. Some of his earlier pulp work is mentioned, as is the first short story he ever sold to Manhunt magazine for $100. Hopefully more than 60 years after first putting pen to paper he has a few more stories left in him.

An enjoyable diversion from my usual reading, aided by a pleasant narration from Richard Neer.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) November, 2019
Published - 1988
Page count - 243 pages (10 hours 5 minutes)
Source - Audible download code  received from one of the author's assistants
Format - Audible

Tuesday 26 November 2019




Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyber bullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.

Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she's leading the acquisition of Edinburgh's most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.

Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up's annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She's determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn't playing ball.

As the women's paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light.

Emboldened by Emily's tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who've wronged them.

But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?

A pacy suspense fiction novel with its feet firmly in the #MeToo era. 9 to 5 meets Suits with a dash of Black Mirror.

"A topical, engaging thriller." —Booklife Prize

A timely and topical reminder of misogyny, cyber bullying, sexism in the workplace and sleazy corporate culture, explored in this engaging tale of three women who's paths cross after the death of a fourth, Emily.

Most of our story revolves around Laura, her reaction to her best friend's death and the feelings of guilt over her failure to support Emily through some difficult times. Emily was identified after giving anonymous details of a reluctant sexual encounter with a celebrity. Her exposure left her vulnerable, isolated and suicidal. Laura is suffering and blaming herself. Revenge on the bullies that drove her to it is uppermost in her mind, though there are some pressing work distractions.

These see her come in contact with Suki. Suki is trying to negotiate the takeover of Laura's company with a high-tech Californian company. If the American acquisition goes through, Laura and old uni friend, and joint partner Justin stand to make a bundle. Suki herself won't do too badly out of the deal and it will enhance her position and reputation at her own firm. 

Clare is arranging a PR event for Laura's company, having taken over Emily's brief. The conference will be used to make the announcement of the high flying takeover.

The three are thrust together and each in their own way are victims of inequality and sexism, either in the form of lewd jokes, demeaning remarks, a stunting regarding prestigious future assignments, denied career opportunities and equality over rewards for comparable efforts. This band of sisters endeavour to fight back.

I enjoyed reading this one. In addition to the reminders of the #MeToo furore there are also some interesting issues regarding data mining and analytics regarding online profiles and the way in which they can be used, both as a predictive tool regarding spending habits, but also by employers seeking to evaluate the positive or negative impact of employees in the workplace. I'm unsure if some of what is suggested here is fanciful at present or not a million miles away in reality. The scary age of Big Brother is definitely with us and despite our main character Laura having our sympathy and support throughout the book, I'm not entirely comfortable that all these tools she is developing and creating are actually benign.

Decent Edinburgh setting, with it's bars and hotels and the back drop of the Fringe in the city. Decent, likeable characters involved, mostly supportive of each other, but each driven and capable and not afraid to stand their ground, even if it causes some tension within the group. Laura, through the course of the book and mainly under Suki's tutelage becomes more assertive and confident and by the end of the book has a fully developed spine.

The plot simplistically is a good vs evil tale which resolves itself fairly satisfactorily for each of the three, after a few bumps in the road. Revenge, justice of a sort and a levelling of the playing field are established - at least for these three ladies, if not the rest of the universe.

4 from 5

Stay Mad, Sweetheart is author Heleen Kist's second book, after In Servitude from 2018

Read - November, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 336
Source - review copy from publisher, Red Dog Press
Format - paperback   


A is for........

Aberdeen....... granite city in North of Scotland and the setting for Claire MacLeary's Cross Purpose, a novel I really enjoyed. Cross Purpose is the opener in her Maggie and Wilma series.

Cross Purpose (2017)

Two Women, One Quest, Grave Consequences 

When Maggie Laird's disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour ‘Big Wilma’. And so an unlikely partnership is born. 

But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes... and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen's sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers.

Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous – a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how ‘women of a certain age’ can beat the odds.

Stuart MacBride's Logan McRae series is also set in Aberdeen, the early ones at least. The series is about 12 books long. Pretty sure I read Cold Granite, the first but I've kept it, so maybe false memory. I can't remember anything about it if I did.

One thing probably holding me back from immersing myself in the series (other than more books than available time to read them) is the apparent length. They all have the appearance of house bricks. I'm a less is more kind of guy - that's the line I've fed my wife for over 30 years anyway.   

Cold Granite (2005)

The debut thriller from a bright new Scottish talent set to rival Ian Rankin. It's DS Logan McRae's first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and it couldn't get much worse. Four-year-old David Reid's body is discovered in a ditch, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. There's a killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood. If that wasn't enough, Logan also has to contend with a new boss, DI Insch, who doesn't suffer fools gladly and thinks everyone's a fool, and his own ex-girlfriend, the beautiful but chilly Isobel MacAlister, who also happens to be the chief pathologist. The only good news is WPC 'Ball Breaker' Watson, Logan's new guardian angel. The dead are piling up in the morgue almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going missing. More are going to die. If Logan isn't careful, he's going to end up joining them. Set in Aberdeen, where the rainy season lasts all year, criminal gangs vie for supremacy on the streets and the oil industry brings an influx of wealth and vice, this is a gritty, powerful and page-turning debut thriller by a writer with a wonderfully observant eye and a characteristically Scottish sense of gallows humour.

The Ax, a 1997 novel by Donald E. Westlake  

The Ax (1997)

For 25 years, Burke Devore has provided for his family and played by the rules. Until now. Downsized from his job, Devore is slipping away: from his wife, his family, and from all civilized norms of behavior. He wants his life back, and will do anything to get it. In this relentlessly fascinating novel, the masterful Westlake takes readers on a journey of obsession and outrage inside a quiet man's desperate world.

Abbott...... Megan, Patricia or Jeff - from the stacks in front of me.

Eeny, meeny, miney, Megan

I've not read her yet, though everything I've seen written about her work tells me its very good. I have a couple on the pile - Die a Little and Queenpin

Queenpin (2007)

A young woman hired to keep the books at a down-at-the-heels nightclub is taken under the wing of the infamous Gloria Denton, a mob luminary who reigned during the Golden Era of Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. Notoriously cunning and ruthless, Gloria shows her eager young protegee the ropes, ushering her into a glittering demimonde of late-night casinos, racetracks, betting parlors, inside heists, and big, big money. Suddenly, the world is at her feet -- as long as she doesn't take any chances, like falling for the wrong guy. As the roulette wheel turns, both mentor and protegee scramble to stay one step ahead of their bosses and each other.

Monday 25 November 2019


Another author I have yet to get around to reading - Nick Quantrill, and I'm disappointed with myself for that........... Brit, grit, crime, Hull... why ever not?

Years ago when My Space was a flourishing website, I was in regular contact with Nick. Reading some samples of his work and in a lot of messages, pondering the downside (there were never too many ups) to supporting two less than glamorous football clubs - him Hull City, me - Luton Town.

His career as an author has been on an upward curve ever since.

In the intervening years he's had published three novels in his Joe Geraghty series and a standalone novel. Definitely in 2020 I'm going get a couple of these under my belt.

Joe Geraghty
   1. Broken Dreams (2010)
   2. The Late Greats (2012)
   3. The Crooked Beat (2013)

   The Dead Can't Talk (2016)

Nick Quantrill's website is here 

Broken Dreams (2010)

Broken Dreams is the first urban thriller from Hull based writer ,Nick Quantrill, featuring private detective Joe Geraghty. Northern gritty realism. A cracking authentic crime thriller Joe Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull. Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff's absenteeism, it's the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death in her bed, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry. As the woman's tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city's regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends. With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.

The Crooked Beat (2013)

When Joe Geraghty's brother finds himself in financial trouble, it's only natural that he turns to the Private Investigator for help. But when it relates to a missing consignment of smuggled cigarettes, it's not so easily sorted. Drawn into the murky world of local and international criminals around the port of Hull, Geraghty knows the only way to save his brother is to take on the debt himself. But as he attempts to find a way out of the situation, the secrets and conspiracies he uncovers are so deeply buried in the past, he knows he's facing people willing to do whatever it takes to keep them that way.

Recently the series has been given a sexy make-over by Fahrenheit Press and been re-published. They're available direct from their website. Along with a barrel load of other great authors.

Saturday 23 November 2019



Still reeling from the scandal that cost him his badge, Randy Mayhill―fallen lawman, dog rescuer, Dr Pepper enthusiast―sees a return from community exile in the form of a dead hog trapper perched on a fence. The fence belongs to the late Van Woods, Mayhill’s best friend and the reason for his spectacular fall.

Determined to protect Van’s land and family from another scandal, Mayhill ignores the sheriff who replaced him and investigates the death of the unidentified man. His quest crosses with two others: Birdie, Van’s surly, mourning daughter, who has no intention of sitting idly by and leaving her father’s legacy in Mayhill’s hands; and Bradley, Birdie’s slow, malnourished but loyal friend, whose desperation to escape a life of poverty has him working with local criminals, and possibly a murderer.

A riveting debut novel about family and loyalty, old grudges and new lives, AIN’T NOBODY NOBODY is like a cross between Faulkner and “Breaking Bad”, from a talented new writer with an authentic Texas voice.

Family, friendship, loss, grief, regrets, duty, loyalty, dogs, hogs - lots of them, depression, scorn of a community, loss of respect, drugs, decisions and a dead body on a fence.

An enjoyable novel set in backwoods East Texas where the feral hogs outnumber the people. Former sheriff, Randy Mayhill feels guilt at the part he played in his friend's apparent suicide and aims for redemption when a dead body pitches up on his friend's land. Mayhill finds a sense of purpose. Discover the who and the why of the corpse and protect Van Woods' family. Simple enough, until the body disappears from under his nose.

A smallish cast of characters, well-developed and imperfect, each with their flaws and issues.....

Birdie - Van's daughter - young, intolerant of Mayhill, mourning her father, but impatient with her grieving grandmother, protective of Bradley her part time employee and possible friend,

Bradley - impoverished but not bereft of his small ambitions and dreams of something for himself one day, limited choices regarding earning money, poor personal hygiene (blame his mother), an ill-advised cannabis curator-cum-security guard-cum-harvester.

Mayhill - ex-police, a loner, living in disgrace, loves dogs, not averse to kidnapping them if he perceives neglect, poisoned his friend's cannabis crop and lost his job, gonna do his best for his friend's family.

Significant and minor others.......

Van - deceased but casting a long shadow over proceedings,

Birdie's grandmother - withdrawn, depression, mental disintegration or a mask, immersed in a funk with a constant diet of daytime television,

Dale - farmer, businessman, friend(?), employer, snitch, and a lot more besides

Dead body - a wife abuser, hog trapper, rumoured hit man

Storekeeper, his cronies, the sheriff, the police despatcher, Bradley's mother, the couple at the dump, employee #2 - name escapes me Jason(?), the buyer, the dogs - loyal and trusting.

A decent rural setting, there's a real sense of place about events.......the distances between neighbours, back trails and woodlands, overgrown, under used and at the mercy of the feral hogs, the hand-drawn maps, the gossipers in the store, everyone thinking they know your business and judgemental about it, not a place where national or international events would ever seem to resonate or have an impact on the lives of the characters.

I quite liked how this one unfolded from start to finish; the people we meet along the way, their motivations and the odd bit of scheming from a character or two, the way their ambitions affect other mostly passive participants. I was happy enough with the resolution of the book. There's closure without a particularly happy outcome for all we've become invested in.

Ain't Nobody Nobody is author Heather Harper Ellett's debut. I look forward to what she does next.

4.5 from 5

Read - November, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 167
Source - Net Galley, courtesy of published Polis Books
Format - ePub read on laptop

Thursday 21 November 2019



John Warren Wells introduces you to men and women who are trying every possible kind of sexual combination to make marriage work in bold new ways. Threesomes. Open adultery. Swapping. Group marriage. And a hundred variants of every possible sexual experiment within the marital relationship, surpassing the most erotic fiction.

Here's a sampling of what they have to say:

"Once you've taken the first big step of having sex with another couple, it's easy to start doing a lot of other things society regards as perverted." --a swinging husband

"I tend to get into trios a lot. I don't know why, exactly. It happens. Being bi probably has something to do with it." --a girl member of a threesome

"He was a man I had slept with a couple of times, and I thought of just starting an affair with him and not letting him know I was getting pregnant, but I rejected that. ...So I went to him and told him what I wanted." --an unmarried mother (by choice)

These are some of the men and women who candidly tell their stories in-- WIDE OPEN: THE NEW MARRIAGE

I can't quite decide whether this is a serious reporting of marriage and sex and the different interpretations of its meaning to different people back in the 70s - via letters received by Mr Wells and shared with the reader (in my case listener), or if the whole John Warren Wells things is a spoof by Block. If it's a spoof he got some mileage out of it with about 9 books under the pen name.

Block as a marriage guidance counsellor or sex reporter? It's got to be a giggle.

From Mr Block's website.....

John Warren Wells
JWW is another self of Lawrence Block, and one who flourished in the early 1970s. His books are non-fiction studies in the field of human sexual behavior, comprised in large measure of case histories. Because our Mr. Wells engaged in considerable correspondence and in-person interviews with shock troops and camp followers of the Sexual Revolution, the books can claim a good deal of authenticity; because he brings the imagination and literary resourcefulness of a fiction writer to the task, the work can also be classed as fiction in sheep’s clothing.

Well here we have examples of the different marriages - living arrangements, partners, boundaries and sexual behaviour exhibited by some Americans in the 70s - as opposed to the conventional portrayal of a monogamous heterosexual partnership.

Not particularly titillating if I'm honest, each arrangement or set-up in described in smooth brush strokes as opposed to graphically depicted. Society has moved on a lot in the 45 years since this one first appeared and I guess a lot of what was considered experimental or risque wouldn't cause an eyebrow to be raised these days.

Interesting enough as an accompaniment to the car ride to and from work, but unlike a novel or a well written short story there are no characters to latch onto and invest in.

It's a tick in the box for another book read and I've at least eliminated the urge to want to read all of the Warren Wells persona books at some point in the future. That said I guess time allowing I'll read the couple I do have on the Kindle.

Didn't hate it. didn't love it.


Read (listened to) - November, 2019
Published - 1973
Page count - 154 (5 hours 34 minutes)
Source - Audible download code from author's assistant
Format - Audible 



After Texas Ranger Sonny Burton loses his arm in a shootout with Bonnie and Clyde, he is asked by the Rangers to help find an escaped convict, Billy Bunson, who took a pregnant woman hostage. Once he begins his investigation, Sonny suspects there is more to Billy's plan than meets the eye. He suspects it's a plan for Billy to be free of Sonny once and for all. The story unfolds over a period of twenty-five years as Sonny Burton's life as a Texas Ranger intersects with Billy Bunson's life as a simple thief, who then transforms into a ruthless man killer. Sonny uses all of his skill as a lawman to track Billy down, where they face off for one last time.

This is the second in Larry D. Sweazy's Sonny Burton series featuring the retired Texas Ranger.
The first A Thousand Falling Crows was much enjoyed.

Texas, 1934......Sonny gets a call after Billy Bunson escapes from prison taking the warden's wife hostage. Sonny and Billy have previous form together. The novel tracks back and forth in time to encompass Billy's present on the run and Burton's efforts with son Jesse, also a Texas Ranger, to track him down and rescue the hostage, as well as their shared history and Sonny's experiences in the great war.

Texas, 1911.... Billy is an unloved child, his grandmother a powerful matriarch running a stable of girls in whatever town sees fit to entertain them. His mother is part of her entourage, but neither have any time or affection for Billy. On one occasion, he's offered to a punter for a couple of coins and flees before the deal is struck. An action that sees him whipped upon his return. His only friend is the older black man, Jim Rome who works for his grandmother as driver, security, and general jack-of-all-trades. Billy is taught to steal and is tutored fully by Jim, how to run, how to hide, how to plot and scheme and always have an option for escape. Sonny catches Billy stealing a chicken - the first of many encounters over the years.

Billy..... constant upheaval, abandonment, moving towns, an encounter with some racists, Sonny and a Ranger to the rescue, short-lived, a prank, an encounter, a lynching, a murder, a bereavement, a solitary life with limited choices, cunning, intelligence, increasing criminality, prison, planning, plotting, a patsy, ambition and more.

Sonny.......a difficult marriage, a disconnection from family, the trauma of war, an encounter with Bonny and Clyde not without severe consequences, widowhood, amputation, strained family relations, retirement, a continued sense of duty, compassion, strength, intelligence.

I really enjoyed this book. There's a connection between the two main characters, both of whom I really liked. Billy's upbringing leaves him with limited choices. The lack of stability and a firm guiding hand depriving him of a more fulfilling and valuable life. Sonny feels a sense of failure in that he couldn't rescue Billy and lead him down a different path. A mistake by the authorities which results in Jim Rose's death finally fractures any possibility of early redemption for Billy. Sonny's role in the matter ignites a slow-burning flame of revenge in Billy's heart.

I enjoyed the flipping back and forth in time, discovering more about both main characters, from their  shared encounters and other events. At some point Billy's ruthlessness reveals itself and I kind of stopped feeling too much sympathy for him. Once he's out of prison, there's a vindictive and vicious streak revealed and plenty of blood is spilled. There's an inevitability about the impending final collision between Sonny and Billy. Sonny during the course of the book, has found something he never really had before.... a widowed landlady, a sense of companionship, romance, a shared tenderness - call it love..... as well as forging a closer bond to his son. The stakes are much higher when he has more to lose.

Fantastic setting and sense of place throughout the novel, whether in a war field in France, on a horse on a Texan trail or driving a truck one-handed plus an artificial hook. The changes in the ages and the societal shift from the reliance on the horse to an automobile add another layer of authenticity to the story.

Great writing, great plot and story-telling. Memorable characters. Satisfying outcome. I'm hoping there will be a third outing with Sonny Burton in the future.

4.5 from 5

In addition to A Thousand Falling Crows, I've enjoyed a couple of Sweazy's Marjorie Trumaine books - See Also Murder, See Also Deception  and the standalone novel Where I Can See You

Read - November, 2019
Published - 2019 - just yesterday
Page count - 332
Source - review copy received from author
Format - paperback ARC

Tuesday 19 November 2019




It’s 1988. A mild summer after a turbulent political year for LGBT rights. While working as an assistant to a successful Theatre Director, Joe Stone finds himself unwittingly embroiled in another murder investigation.
Lexi Goode, a young, up and coming actress has her bright future cut short when she is found murdered in her exclusive top floor apartment in the posh end of Soho. Knowing that the police are as racist as they are homophobic, Joe and Russell inevitably take it on themselves to investigate what happened to the young woman.

Along the way they discover illicit liaisons, a string of admirers, a secret life that was helping to pay for the glamorous lifestyle no young actress should have been able to afford. But who would want to kill Lexi?

Finding the answer to that question puts Joe in mortal danger and a young police officer in an awkward position.


Busy author, T.S. Hunter's latest offering is another 80s Soho set murder novella featuring Joe Stone and best friend Russell. In his fifth book of the year (another to come soon) Joe and Russell do a bit of digging into the death of an actress, Lexi Goode someone Joe knows from his work. They're a dangerous pair to know, considering the number of people in their circle that wind up dead!

A bit shorter than the other books in the series, I enjoyed the trip back to the 80s, though I didn't quite pick up on so many musical references this time around - Pet Shop Boys and Bananarama the only two I caught. Joe and Russell are both gay, as are most of their social circle and without ever sounding preachy, the author conveys the challenges encountered by the LGBT community at the time...... discrimination in the workplace, danger on the streets showing who you are, suppressed identity, a lack of respect from authority especially the police, Thatcher's Britain with Section 28 and the enshrinement in law that homosexuality is something to be feared and ashamed of and a danger to minors. I liked this element of the books and they fit seamlessly into the narrative with another murder to be solved and another potential injustice averted.

Theatre, plays, actresses, understudies, family, a secret sideline, lingerie, hotel trysts, a knife, the apple of the director's eye, a fling, jealousy, depression, infidelity, a cantankerous neighbour, the police and the homophobe Skinner, secrets, and a bouquet of flowers which unlock the key to the guilty party.

Short, sharp, satisfying. Decent characters and sense of time and place. Gets where we are going quickly, but without undue haste. Lots to like. But not Noir in my opinion

4 from 5   

I've read 3 of the 4 previous offerings from T.S. Hunter - Tainted Love, Careless Whisper and Crazy For You. I'll get to the missing one sometime soon.

Read - November, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 76
Source - review copy from Dylan at Red Dog Press
Format - ePub file read on laptop

Monday 18 November 2019


Target - 12 books from Canadian authors in 2018/2019

A challenge that initially I thought I could complete last year, but obviously not. I'm a bit tardy when it comes to completing these things. You only have to look at the US State Challenge which I started in 2014 and haven't kept on top of or updated in years.

Well I finished this one anyway and encountered some good books and a few great ones.

A few authors I've read before..... Dietrich Kalteis, Sam Wiebe, Tom Pitts, Linwood Barclay

A few new-to-me authors...... Margaret Millar, Mike Knowles, John Farrow

And more than a few that I never got around to this time..... John McFetridge, Giles Blunt, Howard Shrier, Brad Smith, Michael Van Rooy

Settings mostly Canada, but also Kansas, Vietnam and San Francisco

Looking forward to more of the same in 2020, possibly stretching to 2021!

Full list below, which came in at more than 12

1 - Sam Wiebe - Invisible Dead (2016) (March, 2018)

2 - Sam Wiebe - Cut You Down (2018) (March, 2018)

3 - Margaret Millar - Vanish in an Instant (1952) (November, 2018)

4 - Elka Ray - Saigon Dark (2016) (November, 2018)

5 - Tom Pitts - 101 (2018) (January, 2019)

6 - Sam Wiebe - Hollywood North (2018) (February, 2019)

7 - Michael J. Clark - Mahoney's Camaro (2019) (May, 2019)

8 - Linwood Barclay - The Twenty-Three (2016) (July, 2019)

9 - Mike Knowles - Darwin's Nightmare (2008) (August, 2019)

10 - Dietrich Kalteis - Poughkeepsie Shuffle (2018) (September, 2019)

11 - Mike Knowles - Grinder (2009) (September, 2019)

12 - Tom Pitts - Piggyback (2012) (September, 2019)

13 - Mike Knowles - In Plain Sight (2010) (September, 2019)

14 - Dietrich Kalteis - Call Down the Thunder (2019) (October, 2019)

15 - John Farrow - Ball Park (2019) (October, 2019)

*16 - nearly Texas born author, now based in Canada

A.G. Pasquella - Carve the Heart (2019) (August, 2019)

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