Sunday 31 May 2020



Salisbury was a con-man with no conscience. So when the Badger threatened blackmail he had no compunction about loosing his partner, Shearer on the gangster's trail. Shearer was a villain with a reputation for fast action - he found it as he closed in on the blackmailer.

But the climax was an explosion of death and sheer horror that left even Shearer and Salisbury shocked by its raw violence.

"A consistently good writer" -  The Daily Mail

"Its feel for the English underworld in its seaside hideouts is marvellous, suitably seedy and resolute" - The Spectator

My first taste of Hugh C. Rae's work and not my last, seeing as there's a few more from him on the TBR pile. That said while I enjoyed this one, I wasn't totally blown away by it.

A couple of London villains fall prey to a blackmail scheme. A couple of the blackmailer's team get blown away in a shootout and after an insider tip and a pointer as to where to look; Shearer, the junior partner in the firm heads up north to do some investigating. And comes home with his tail between his legs. Beaten and chased out of town.

More head scratching, more consulting and conniving with another London firm, another trip up north, kidnap, torture, victim rescue, a pair of dodgy brothers - one mentally ill and a sadist, one covering up for him, some bizarre family secrets and history, more action, more violence and a resolution.

I quite liked it while I was reading it, but a couple of weeks on from putting it down and there's nothing too remarkable about it. I think the blurb kind of led me to expect more and perhaps the passage of time proves that what was considered extreme or out there fifty years ago is everyday now.

Decent writing, decent pace, an interesting puzzle to be solved without recourse to law enforcement. I like the time frame and the setting - no computers, no mobile phones, no reliance on high tech, a lot more personal interactions in gaining pointers and clues as to who is blackmailing the duo.

3 from 5

Read - May, 2020
Published - 1971
Page count - 136
Source - owned copy
Format - Paperback

Saturday 30 May 2020



A helicopter crash and burned bodies.
A faceless corpse.
A mysterious town.
It's September 1953 and Carter is drawn into a dark case from which there seems no escape.

Singapore Killer is the fifth entry in author Morgan Bailey's Ash Carter series, but read well on its own for this newbie entrant to the author and his character. I didn't feel like I had missed out on not having encountered the character before.

Carter is ex-British army and is now working as a private investigator in Singapore in the early 50s. Work is a bit slack, with his female Chinese assistant, Madame Chau trying to keep him busy with small cases such as missing dogs and local extortion. I quite liked their relationship. She exudes Oriental inscrutability on the surface, but frets when Carter is away from the office on a case, forcing him to report in each evening - a real mother hen. 

Carter catches a big one, his army contacts serving him well. A helicopter has come down with the pilot dead along with another charred corpse aboard. Carter is asked to have a look and manages to piece together some of what happened. It's apparent that its more than just pilot error or mechanical failure, a fact confirmed by the subsequent examination of the pilot's body and the bullet wound in the back of his skull. The helicopter was being used on a prisoner transportation but details about the passenger are unrecorded. The other corpse is suspected of being a military policeman.

Another murder follows, seemingly disguised as a local tribal ritual, but poorly done - deliberately so. A faceless killer is at work and leaving titbits of clues taunting whoever is on his trail. In this case our man, Carter. The narrative alternates at times and we get the killer's POV as he moves from victim to victim. There's no apparent profit motive as such for his kills. He enjoys the work, takes pride in his skill set and enjoys a challenge. He'd rather kill an able adversary than a meek one.

Events eventually lead Carter to a remote secretive cult-like settlement, Shangri-la populated by mainly ex-British servicemen, which calls for some undercover infiltration. As well as a front for a smuggling operation, the leader and his posse is also responsible for the enslavement of native women in order to satisfy certain needs. Ash believes the Blackjack killer is part of or very close to this community. There are additional dimensions to his remit now.... find the killer, free the women, close down the smuggling op.

I have to admit, I'm not usually one for a serial type killer book, playing games with his adversary, but I quite liked it here. I think the setting and timeframe of Singapore in the 50s with an established British military presence and the local colour and culture, with the small towns, the jungle, the various ethnicities of the people, and the travel throughout the country helped.

A laptop fail has denied me access to the book, so I'm kind of struggling a bit with this rambling review without having recourse to the text. The story flows a lot better than the disjointed plot points outlined above. There's a connectivity and logical progression to events which sees Carter crossing paths with old friends and other interested parties along the way, before the climax of the book.

I quite liked the main character, though there's not really an abundance of backstory for him. Perhaps it was covered in previous books. There's enough about him to view him as a decent investigator and person. He has an opportunity to dally with a lady on one of his cases, but enough scruples to decline her overtures. He's loyal and invests the same energy into his smaller cases as he does into the murder investigation. He's a gentleman. Without necessarily feeling like I need to backtrack on previous books in the series, I'd be interested in reading another future case for Ash Carter. In that respect the author has succeeded.

Plus points - setting, characters, story, pacing and resolution.
Negatives - nothing 
4 from 5

Read - May, 2020
Published - 2020 (1st June, I think)
Page count - 384
Source - review copy from author
Format - MOBI file read on laptop

Friday 29 May 2020



Cutter’s nightclub – the jewel in the crown of his business empire – is a burnt-out hulk. Despite his best efforts, he still doesn’t know who was responsible for torching the club … but he’s determined to find out and to make them pay.

Journalist Millie Redman is missing and young Jack Armstrong, whose sister Livvy lost her life after becoming involved with Cutter and his gang, sets out to discover what happened to her. When Gordon Cutter’s wife also disappears, he is certain Cutter is responsible. But can he prove it?

PC Rose Madsen is taking an interest in the search for Cutter’s missing wife. Her enquiries lead her into Cutter’s world, with potentially deadly consequences. Meanwhile, past actions and persistent paranoia mean Cutter’s firm is fragmenting. Can he hold it together, and also keep his secrets hidden?

‘Cutter’s Fall’ is the final novella in the Cutter trilogy. The story began in ‘Cutter’s Deal’ and was continued in ‘Cutter’s Firm’.

‘Cutter’s Fall’ contains extreme violence, cruelty and adult language.

Third and final book in Julie Morrigan's Cutter trilogy after Cutter's Deal and Cutter's Firm and one probably best read as part of the series and in order.

Fast paced with short, choppy chapters with three alternating points of view...... Gordon Cutter, himself and the main villain of the piece; Jack Armstrong - the young man still seeking to bring him down and get some justice for his dead sister, Livvy; and Rose, a new policewoman on the scene and as yet uncorrupted or tainted by the corruption in the local force which has most of the plod we meet in Cutter's pocket.

Best writing ever? No, but I really liked the story...... interesting characters, clearly drawn battle lines on who is good and who is a villain. While there's an over-riding story arc concerning justice or at least retribution for Livvy, there's other unfinished business from book two regarding a missing journalist and in this tome the disappearance of Cutter's second wife.

With out overly spoiling things, Cutter's chickens come home to roost - well it is kind of hinted at in the title. 

Decent ending to the trilogy and an enjoyable two-sitting read. Did what it said on the tin.

I'll definitely try more from Julie Morrigan, probably when the reading hits a slump and I need something laced with adrenaline and some hard-hitting action, and not overly long.

4 from 5

Read - May, 2020
Published - 2016
Page count - 105
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Wednesday 27 May 2020



Corporate lawyer Elizabeth Carlyle is under a lot of pressure. Her prestigious New York law firm is working on the most high-stakes case in company history defending a prominent bank. When Elizabeth gets the news that one of her junior associates has lost his phone—and the secret documents that were on it—she needs help. Badly.
Enter ex-CIA officer Valencia Walker, a high-priced fixer who gets called in when governments, corporations, and plutocrats need their problems solved discretely. But things get complicated when the missing phone is retrieved: somebody has already copied the documents, and now they’re blackmailing the firm. When the situation gets murkier still—hinting that darker forces may be churning below the surface—Elizabeth and Valencia must maneuver and outmaneuver whomever is behind this and, most importantly, keep their hands clean.
This is a world of private security, private diplomacy, and private justice. A sharply drawn cast of characters—dirty lawyers, black-market traders, Russian criminals, and extrajudicial actors—all take part in this breakneck tour through New York. Authentic, tense, and impossible to put down, Clean Hands gives a vivid look at the connections between corporation, government, and underworld.

A cracking read from Patrick Hoffman with plenty of elements which I find incredibly interesting in my reading..... corporate shenanigans, power, black ops, surveillance, blackmail, patsies - a lot more than one getting played here, fall guys, victims, manipulation, secrets, hidden agendas, phone theft, hacking, espionage, leaks, investigations, big finance.

An interesting set-up and plenty of smoke and mirrors here and just when you think you have a handle on what's going on, Hoffman reveals a deeper layer of intrigue. I could bang on about elements of the plot, but won't bother. 
Interesting characters - two strong women, though one, Elizabeth the executive has been robbed of her power and control by the theft of a junior's phone. It's not a situation that sits comfortably with her, especially as her marriage seems to be at crisis point also. The other, Valencia never seems to lose her sense of identity or who she is, despite fleeting suggestions to the contrary.

Fast paced, fast moving, a busy book with lots bubbling away and a decent pay-off.

4.5 from 5

Clean Hands is Patrick Hoffman's third book. Every Man a Menace was enjoyed before. The White Van still sits on the TBR pile.

Read - May, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 288
Source - Edelweiss Above the Treeline early reviewer site
Format - ePUB read on laptop


I recently enjoyed Rob Pierce's latest novel, Tommy Shakes, thoughts here.

Rob was kind enough to answer a few questions for me....

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

What the day job will be is up in the air. I’ve been with a printing company nearly twenty years, managing a store the bulk of it. My store closed recently, so who knows?

I’ve not long put down your most recent novel – Tommy Shakes, published by All Due Respect books. (Great book, by the way). Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less?

Tommy’s a guy with problems, physical and emotional. The physical leads to some of the sickest comedy you’re likely to read. The emotional leads to him pulling a heist he shouldn’t because he thinks the payday will save his marriage. It’s noir, so three guesses how that works out.
That’s 52 words, but I’m not Twittering it down for you.

I believe it’s your fifth book to be published and all of them have been put out by ADR, how have you managed to forge such a strong bond with them?

Mike Monson was their initial reader at the time. Their initial initial reader, I might add. Mike tells a terrific story about how he cringed when I submitted the book, because I’d been submitting to the magazine and the stories never quite worked for them. And he liked me, we were friends who’d met at an event set up by Joe Clifford. Then he read Uncle Dust. The day after I submitted he accepted the book. I’d been trying to sell that thing for years.

Is it a partnership that will endure do you think?

I would leave them only if someone offered me big money. Which is damn unlikely, despite me being the best writer alive.

Confession time, prior to reading Tommy Shakes, I’ve only read Uncle Dust, (thoughts here) though the others sit on the pile (With the Right Enemies, Vern in the Heat and the short story collection, The Things I Love Will Kill Me Yet) which is your favourite? 

I love With The Right Enemies. It was truly painful to write, and to read as well, I’m sure. It’s about what happens when you align yourself with the wrong guy. That said, I think the one coming out in September, Blood by Choice, may be better. It’s the next in the series.

 Which one would you press into the hands of a new reader? 

Uncle Dust. It’s the setup for Enemies. It’s a chronological series.

Can you remember what your first published piece was and when?

Not a clue. Flash Fiction Offensive ran a couple. I think the first was a war story, and in the second the narrator could easily be seen as a racist. I didn’t think he was, but I left it open to question. Better story that way. You can always go to the FFO site and search my name.

Do you have a favourite format to work in? Short story, novella or novel.

Not novella. I liked what we did with Vern in the Heat, a story basically saved by Chris Rhatigan. He said something late in the edits that got me to rewrite the ending, and it works now. But that started as a nine page short story that gave the female short shrift, so I bulked it up but it wouldn’t grow to novel length.

I like novels, but damn they take a long time. So I punctuate the process, hit a lull and write a few short stories. Which I love, although they also take longer than they “should.” Basically, my idea of how long a story should take to write needs adjustment.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

Not mornings generally, that’s for damn sure. I really have difficulty writing until after dark. A couple drinks in and the words flow. I’m not a day drinker. Bless ’em, though.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters? I’d be keen to hear if Tommy is based around a close acquaintance.

Tommy was based on me. Marriage crumbling, too much drinking. Not the crimes part, or the incompetence on the job. I was pretty deep into the book when my wife moved out. Made it my most noir book yet. Mike Monson asked me how I wrote the character of Uncle Dust. I had to verbalize a shrug. I was telling a story on the page. That’s the game, right?

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

Uncle Dust started with the premise, rambled on from there. With the Right Enemies started with me pretty much knowing the ending. Middles tend to be tricky. I let them write themselves, then I get pissed at them and start crossing shit out.

Are there any subjects off limits? From some of the vivid descriptions of Tommy’s unfortunate digestive system, perhaps not.

If you’d asked Jack Ketchum that before he wrote The Girl Next Door, he might have mentioned child abuse. Off limits is a limit—to the imagination. Which, as writing tools go, is pretty damn important.

How long from conception to completion did Tommy Shakes take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?
Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

I started writing it while I was sick. There’s your exegesis for the premise. It took about a year, a year of working on it damn near every day. It was hard as hell to write. I don’t remember what I expected. I liked the ending, that’s all.

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Ha ha ha. Hell no. The only possibilities are out for submission, and I guarantee someone will publish them.

What’s the current project in progress?

The sequel to Blood by Choice, if I can make it work. Another short story while I pause in thought.

What’s the best thing about writing?

When the results exceed what you were going for. That happened on a story I wrote recently. It ventured into turf that’s new for me. A lot of my short stories have a basic plot and a slam bang finish, but sometimes something organically turns into something never intended and it’s beautiful.

The worst?

The uncertainty. Not that I’ll never be able to write again, but that I won’t be able to finish this story. It’s tricky when one of your phobias is about losing control of your mind and you always count on  your mind to write. I think that’s it, the fear. My mom suffered from dementia in her later years. I already had the phobia, but I guarantee that didn’t help.

I believe you have also done a lot of editing work as well. 
Is it an easier gig than the writing or more difficult? To the uninitiated what’s actually involved in the process ……. correcting punctuation, tidying up clunky sentences, advising on pace, plot, character, direction???

It’s generally easier, and it generally pays better. Not that most of what I’ve edited has paid well. Most of what I’ve edited has been well written but in dire need of grammatical help. Which I offer, but it’s always up to them. I ain’t the fucking writer. Thing is, I also get edits from writers who are really good, whether it’s through ADR or they sought me out. Shout out to Tom Pitts, who not only sends me damn near everything he’s written, but has referred some damn good writers to me.

Are authors always receptive to suggestions and perceived improvements or can there be resistance and resentment?  

I’ve noticed resistance but not resentment. Always do your edits as suggestions and those are the results you should get. Now, when I published my own magazine, I had a couple of writers withdraw their work because they didn’t like the process. I was bothered by the second guy because I loved his basic story and I really thought our edits would have tidied it up. And again, they were suggestions. I don’t remember the writer’s name. I think that entire exchange is lost in an email account I haven’t been able to access in years.

Is it easier to edit the work of a stranger or a friend?

Depends on the friend and the stranger. I used to introduce my work in writing groups with “Eviscerate it.” Which is how I edit. So, no more writer’s groups for me except with friends who want that.

Moving on….

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Three Fifths, John Vercher. The Unrepentant, E.A. Aymar. Hollywood Homicide, Kellye Garrett. The Kingdom, Fuminori Nakamura. Dope Fiend, Donald Goines. I’ve also read a lot of dead white men; I’m currently rereading The Hunter by Richard Stark. You know this is a dangerous question to ask a writer, right?

Who do you read and enjoy?

Besides the excellent crop of new kids (always say things as though you’re talking down to people, they love it), Stark, Jim Thompson, Hammett, Himes, Highsmith. I’ll stop while I’m in the H’s. Basically, I love great noir.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

I wish I had the knowledge to write The Maltese Falcon or Red Harvest. Or damn near anything by David Goodis. But I love reading those guys, and it’s not that I’d have wanted to write their books. Other great books: Leonard Gardner, Fat City, and George V. Higgins, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Plus a zillion great books that aren’t noir. Dostoyevsky, Borges, the Eastern European World War II writers. It’s incredible that I write anything with the knowledge that there’s so much still to read.

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

The Wire. I’ve seen each episode at least a half dozen times. So brilliantly written, acted, directed, and seen. And I mean seen as a full event, a five act play, one act per season. Where certain things need to happen each season, but certain things need to happen by the end of the show. And they never knew, season to season, if it would be their last. It was like a book contract.

What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?

The latest Jason Isbell, the new one by Cup, and I don’t know. I’m currently listening to Kristofferson. “If booze was just a dime a bottle, boy, you couldn’t even buy the smell.” My music tastes run all over the place.

Many thanks to Rob for his time.
You can catch him at the following haunts..


And check out Tommy Shakes...

Tommy Shakes is a career criminal, and not a very good one. He earned his name as a heroin addict. Now he’s just a drunk, drinking so much that he spends much of his time in bathrooms, exploding from one end or the other.

He’s in a marriage he wants to salvage. He convinces himself that his wife, Carla, will allow him to stay with her and their teenage son, Malik, if he can bring home enough money. She tells him that won’t do it, he needs to quit crime altogether, but Tommy gets a crack at a big heist and decides to pull the job.

The job is ripping off a popular restaurant that runs an illegal sports book in back. A lot of money gets paid out on football Sundays; the plan is to pull the robbery on Saturday night. The back room has armed guards but, according to Smallwood, Tommy’s contact on the job, there’s no gang protection.

Tommy recons the job and finds two problems: Smallwood’s plan will get them all killed or up on murder one, and one security guy works for a local gangster, Joey Lee. Tommy’s desperate for money and figures he can make his own plan. As to the gangster, there’s enough money that it’s worth the risk.

They pull the robbery but one gang member gets gun happy and it turns into a bloodbath, which includes killing Lee’s man. Now they’re wanted for murder, and the law is the least of their problems.

Praise for TOMMY SHAKES:

“With his pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, his knack for crisp pacing, and his unerring eye for what might be called the milieu of functional dissolution, Rob Pierce has revealed himself in story after story as a poet of the luckless, the bard of the misbegotten. In the hero of his latest and best, Tommy Shakes, he has found his Frankie Machine.” —David Corbett, award-winning author of The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday

Monday 25 May 2020


My last alphabet entry on a meandering journey through some of the books in my collection - Z and over and out.

Z is for....

Zagreb Cowboy by Croatian author, Alen Mattich.

It's the first of three books featuring Marko della Torre. I think the Balkan conflict which occurred around this time and which is part of the backdrop to this book holds a ghoulish fascination for me.

Zagreb Cowboy (2015)

Yugoslavia, 1991. The State is crumbling, and in the midst of the political chaos secret policeman Marko della Torre has been working both sides of the law - but somewhere along the way he's crossed the line. When a corrupt cop called Strumbic helps three hired Bosnian thugs to hunt him down and kill him, della Torre makes a run for it through Croatia, Italy, and finally to London, where he'll take Strumbic for all he's worth. A page-turning thriller shot through with black humour and razor-sharp dialogue, Zagreb Cowboy is the spectacular debut novel in a taut new crime fiction series.

Z is for.....

James Zagel and his 2002 heist novel, Money to Burn

Money to Burn (2002)

The Honorable Paul E. Devine is a Federal District Court judge, his best friend is a fire department paramedic who makes side cash faking arson, the two defendants in his latest case can help him settle an old vendetta, and-if everything goes just right-the four of them will knock over the Federal Reserve vaults for $100 million that will never be missed.

Paulie is a good judge, but what is right and what is legal are two very different things, and watching the gap widen case after case has taken its toll.

When he sees the opportunity to walk away with millions of dollars that are slated to be destroyed by the Fed and to avenge a wrong done to his late wife, he calculates and plans and waits for the right moment before acting. Once he sets the job in motion, he quickly learns that carrying out the perfect crime and getting away with it are two separate matters.

Told in an Irish Catholic tenor indigenous to Chicago, this caper questions the true meaning of justice and probes the criminal mind from the seat of the law. In the end, Paulie must answer a question he has directed toward defendants for years: "Does crime really pay?"

And finally,

Z is for .....

Markus Zusak. I've read and enjoyed two books from him, back before I began the blog and loved them both - The Book Thief and I am Messenger.

I think his books or some of them including the two below are YA fiction. Maybe the two I've read and enjoyed are similarly aimed at a teenage audience. Do I care? Not really. I think adults can enjoy his work as well.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe (2001) - second of three books featuring the Wolfe Brothers

Fighting Ruben Wolfe (2001)

As Cameron and Ruben Wolfe walk home from school one day, a rough bloke awaits them at their gate. "Can we talk inside?" he asks.

"Well, for starters," Rube answers, "who the hell are y'?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," says the stranger. "I'm a guy who can either change your life or smack it into the ground for bein' smart."

The brothers decide to listen. They keep listening, and soon they're embroiled in a ruthless underground world of sleazy amateur boxing, 50 bucks for a win, a decent tip for a loss. The intensity of this kind of fighting goes beyond the obvious violence and danger, though, as Cameron wonders whether he even wants to come out from his brother's shadow and both boys seek an identity beyond that of their painfully harsh working class family's.

Getting the Girl (2003) - third of three in the Wolfe Brother trilogy

Getting the Girl (2003)

Cameron Wolfe is the quiet one in his family, not a soccer star like his brother Steve or a charming fighter with a new girl every week like his brother Rube. Cam would give anything to be near one of those girls, to love her and treat her right. He especially likes Rube's latest, Octavia, with her brilliant ideas and bright green eyes. But what woman like that would want a loser like him? Maybe Octavia would, Cam discovers. Maybe he'd even have something to say. And those maybes change everything: winning, loving, losing, the Wolfe brothers, and Cameron himself.

Thanks for your company....

Previous Alphabet entries........


























A couple from Deon Meyer, an author I have actually read something from.

Most of his books are set in and around Cape Town. There's thirteen in total including seven in his series featuring an alcoholic cop, Benny Griessel

To date, I've read five of his books, Trackers (2011) before I started blogging
and the following four...
The Woman in the Blue Cloak (2018)
Cobra (2012)
Blood Safari (2008)
Heart of the Hunter (2003)

I hope to read the other eight in the next couple of years.

Icarus (2015)

Selected by Marcel Berlins in The Times as one of the 50 best crime novels of the last 50 years: 'Deon Meyer is acclaimed for his portrayals of crime and the police after the end of apartheid. Non-white detectives hold positions once monopolised by their white bosses, and the tensions are high'

After 602 days dry, Captain Benny Griessel of the South African police services can't take any more tragedy.

So when Benny is called in to investigate a multiple homicide, it pushes him close to breaking point - a former friend and detective colleague has shot his wife and two daughters, then killed himself. Benny wants out - out of his job, his home and his relationship with his singer girlfriend, Alexa. He moves into a hotel and starts drinking. Again.

But Benny's unique talent is urgently required to help investigate another crime - the high profile murder of Ernst Richter, MD of a new tech startup, Alibi, whose body is discovered buried in the sand dunes north of Cape Town. Alibi is a service that creates false appointments, documents and phone calls to enable people to cheat on their partners. It has made Richter one of the most notorious people in South Africa. Can Benny pull together the strands of his life in time to catch the killer?

Fever (2017)

I want to tell you about my Father's murder.

I want to tell you who killed him and why.

This is the story of my life.

And the story of your life and your world too, as you will see.

Nico Storm and his father drive across a desolate South Africa, constantly alert for feral dogs, motorcycle gangs, nuclear contamination. They are among the few survivors of a virus that has killed most of the world's population. Young as he is, Nico realises that his superb marksmanship and cool head mean he is destined to be his father's protector.

But Willem Storm, though not a fighter, is a man with a vision. He is searching for a place that can become a refuge, a beacon of light and hope in a dark and hopeless world, a community that survivors will rebuild from the ruins. And so Amanzi is born.

Fever is the epic, searing story of a group of people determined to carve a city out of chaos.

Sunday 24 May 2020



After a miscarriage, a young couple move from San Francisco to the Sacramento suburbs to restart their lives. When the vacant house across the street is taken over by who they think are squatters, they’re pulled into a battle neither of them bargained for. The gang of unruly drug addicts who’ve infested their block have a dark and secret history that reaches beyond their neighborhood and all the way to the most powerful and wealthy men in California.

L.A. fixer Calper Dennings is sent by a private party to quell the trouble before it affects his employer. But before he can finish the job, he too is pulled into the violent dark world of a man with endless resources to destroy anyone around him.

Praise for COLDWATER:

“You know those times when your reading slows down and you can’t find the right book to read next? Tom Pitts’s Coldwater was the book I needed to pull me out of those doldrums. I tore through it, gripped by every page. Simply put, Coldwater is a damn good book. A thoughtful and violent tale of bad luck and bad choices. I loved it.” —Johnny Shaw, author of Big Maria and Undocumented

Another cracker from Tom Pitts which sees an innocent married couple crossing paths with an unstable psychopath and his motley crew of misfits and as a result unwittingly drawn into a bigger struggle with an unknown adversary. The usual motives apply..... power, control and money.

Gary and Linda are struggling to regain a sense of normality after the heartbreaking loss of their unborn baby. Suspected squatters move in across the street, the police are called and find nothing and then the threats against them begin and escalate.

Jason runs the gang of four. They take what they want when they want it. They've abused their bodies with drugs. They're cruel and heartless, a thoroughly unlikeable lot. We see encounters with victims; Jason, vicious and in charge. But as the novel develops we learn more about Jason's past, his upbringing, the relationship with his mother and the difficulties she faced, and the cruelty of his father towards them both. Is his personality and adult actions his responsibility alone? Is it his nature or how he was nurtured? Pitts opens our eyes to his previous suffering and posed a tricky question for this reader. Was he deserving of some sympathy?

A PI-type, Calder Dennings is tracking Jason and his cohorts for his employer. He could be the help that Gary and Linda need, bearing in mind that the police are worse than useless. With Gary in particular becoming reliant on Calder and Linda less trusting, there's an ambiguity about his motivations. Is he after the prize of the paycheck from his boss alone and willing for the married couple to be sacrificed as collateral damage?

Calder's employer is less convinced of his hiree's abilities and loyalty. Money's no object, so another party is introduced to the fray.

Home invasion, assault, fear, threats, secrets, history, loss, big money, influence, power, inheritance, surveillance, police, kidnapping, death, mental heath, abuse, poor choices, grief, loss, injury, healing, sycophancy, loyalty, love, a reckoning and a lot more besides.

Interesting, both in the unfolding and discovery of the plot and establishing the main drivers are for the book and why the characters behave as they do.

Dark, in the sense of the actions and motivations and behaviour of more than one character.

Satisfying, both in the groundwork Pitts lays with the plot and the skill in bringing things to a head at the climax.

Right book, right time. Lest I forget - a great Californian setting as well - San Francisco and Sacramento. 
4.5 from 5

Tom Pitts has been enjoyed before - Piggyback, American Static, 101. His earlier works Hustle and Knuckleball still sit on the TBR pile.

Read - May, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 230
Source - review copy received from author
Format - Kindle on laptop

Tom was kind enough to appear on the blog yesterday answering a few questions on Coldwater, corn and fistfights - here

Friday 22 May 2020


A new Tom Pitts novel is always a cause for celebration round these parts and Tom's latest Coldwater dropped this week.

Tom was kind enough to tell me a bit about it.....

I’m about to start reading your latest novel Cold Water (or is it Coldwater), published by Down and Out Books. Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less? 
*Read it now and it's a cracker.

Yeah, it’s Coldwater. The book starts in a suburban Sacramento on a street called Coldwater Court, but the relevance of cold water becomes clear later on. The 50-word pitch? A young couple move to the burbs only to find the squatters in the house across the street aren’t squatters, but a trust fund baby with unlimited resources to destroy everyone he comes in contact with. It’s a modern day, real life, suburban horror story. That’s 45 words. Not too bad.

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

Good lord, this one was not smooth at all. It was actually written before my last book, 101. My family was split between two residences in San Francisco and Sacramento. I was working the grave shift at the cab yard and trying to balance it all. Dark days. There was plenty of turmoil going on and I think I exorcised a lot of demons while I wrote this. It was truly cathartic because, while writing—because my own troubles—I figured it’d never be published, so I took it where led me and I experimented with language and prose more than I would have otherwise.

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

They never do. And I think that’s okay.

Would you say it’s your best work? 

No, hopefully my best work is yet to come. I’d mentioned it was written before 101. Coldwater
actually lost me an agent. We battled over some of the violence and language and parted ways. By the time I’d found a new agent, 101 was nearly finished. I felt like it was the stronger book, so we shopped it instead. But Coldwater is near and dear to my heart for different reasons. It’s darker than anything I’ve done. And, shit, that’s saying something.

How has the current pandemic situation impacted on you getting the book in front of people? 

The biggest heartbreak was losing the release party. The San Francisco Public Library had set up an event on May 20th for myself and Joe Clifford. Sort of a “from the streets to the pages” kind of thing. I’d envisioned a roomful of hyperliterate hobos trying to stay warm and accidentally getting inspired. I have no idea whether we could even fill the room, but it would have been a nice fuckin’ photo op at least.

Was it an option to defer publication or was it a case of just getting it out there?

Honestly, I didn’t ask. I figured the universe would figure it out. And when the pandemic started, mid-May seemed so distant to me, I figured things would change. And they did. Just not for the better.

What’s your favourite vegetable? 

Um … corn. But I reserve the right to change my mind.

When did you last have a fist fight? 

Not since the junkie days. Back when me and Joe Clifford were on the streets, violence would occasionally bubble up or become necessary in some ridiculous corner we’d painted ourselves into, but, in truth, I’ve never been much of a fighter. He was a bit more of a brawler than I. Being Canadian, it’s never the first option.

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

Oh yes. Bar, club, restaurant, library, rehab. Check all those boxes.

Do you have any tattoos? 

Yes, plenty. Some of them are goofy, some of them are symbolically important. Some are both.

What was your first pet’s name? 

First? Not sure. But my favorite was my old hound dog named The Goose. Hey, these are starting to sound like my bank’s security questions.

Do you have any irrational fears? 

Any fears I have seem perfectly rational to ME!

What’s your favourite holiday destination? 

These days?  Mexico. Most of my life, I’d never been south of the border towns. In the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to make it down the west coast some. If I can ever afford to retire, I’d like to do it there.

When did you last tell a lie? 

Not sure. Let me this read over and see if there’s one in here. Might’ve been the corn thing.

Thanks to Tom for his time.

Check out Coldwater or one of his other books. Hell - why not all of them?

After a miscarriage, a young couple move from San Francisco to the Sacramento suburbs to restart their lives. When the vacant house across the street is taken over by who they think are squatters, they’re pulled into a battle neither of them bargained for. The gang of unruly drug addicts who’ve infested their block have a dark and secret history that reaches beyond their neighborhood and all the way to the most powerful and wealthy men in California.

L.A. fixer Calper Dennings is sent by a private party to quell the trouble before it affects his employer. But before he can finish the job, he too is pulled into the violent dark world of a man with endless resources to destroy anyone around him.

Praise for COLDWATER:

“You know those times when your reading slows down and you can’t find the right book to read next? Tom Pitts’s Coldwater was the book I needed to pull me out of those doldrums. I tore through it, gripped by every page. Simply put, Coldwater is a damn good book. A thoughtful and violent tale of bad luck and bad choices. I loved it.” —Johnny Shaw, author of Big Maria and Undocumented