Thursday 31 March 2022




George “Mase” Masaryk knows about secrets. He has a few of his own, including the reason he left the police department. The son of Czechoslovak hippies, his life has been a strange journey from rebel to cop to private investigator.

It is a path his parents would never have chosen for him.

One full of secrets and regrets.

He is mulling over those secrets when businessman Andrew McDonough sits down next to him at the bar and the pair start drinking heavily. McDonough eventually asks Mase to help him with some “women problems.” It is a request Mase doesn’t even remember the next day, only recalling the foggy memory when Faye McDonough, Andrew’s wife, shows up at his office to hire him almost a week later.

Faye wants him to find McDonough, who is now missing. She doesn’t know if he’s run off with a lover, been kidnapped, or is dead somewhere, but expects Mase to find out. As he delves into the twisting secrets that surround Andrew McDonough, Mase encounters more questions than answers. All the questions are dangerous ones and if he’s going to survive to learn the truth, he needs to figure out that one fact that will make all of the pieces fall into place…

The third and latest (published today actually) in Zafiro's Spo-Compton series and a slightly different bent this time with an ex-cop PI taking the lead.

George Masaryk has a new case. Find the man he got drunk with a week ago in a bar. Andrew McDonough's wife is worried and with George's business card in her missing hubbie's things with a pencilled meeting date, George is the best place to start.

Wife, work, lovers, a business partnership, an investigation, shady dealings, disgruntled ex-employees, cash flow problems, an annoying and persistent cop dogging him, large bank withdrawals, blackmail, marital disharmony, and an encounter with a feared ex-cop-turned-crim. Life might have been easier for George Masaryk if he hadn't gone drinking that night.

I like how this one unfolded from a seemingly straightforward missing persons case to a more dangerous tangled web of deceit and manipulation. Characters from the two previous entries in the series reappear (Jake Stankovic and Kyle Falkner) and are an unwelcome complication in Masaryk's life. 

Enjoyable storyline, interesting plot and characters, an easy writing style which keeps you turning the pages to uncover a bit more of what's going down quickly. Most of the characters involved in the drama are seemingly respectable individuals, but not above a bit of dodgy dealing to either survive or in the case of the more ruthless to get richer.
I look forward to getting reacquainted with the main players in the next (as yet unwritten) entries in Zafiro's Spo-Compton series. 

4 from 5

At Their Own Game and In The Cut are the first two bangers in this cracker of a series.

Read - March, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 186
Source - review copy from author
Format - ePUB read on laptop

Wednesday 30 March 2022




Boone has been prospecting with the Iron Brotherhood outlaw motorcycle gang for almost a year, trying to earn his patch with the club. When a simple muscle job goes terribly wrong, his world changes forever.

He is quickly plunged deeper into a world of drug and intimidation, and the lines between right and wrong blur. The bonds of brotherhood that he forges with other members clash with the dark actions they take. His girlfriend, Faith, represents a danger of another kind, but Boone can't stop himself where she is concerned, either.

When someone close to him dies, and rampant rumors of a rat in the clubhouse puts everyone in danger, Boone comes to learn what it really means to live his life in the cut.

In The Cut is the second in author Frank Zafiro's Spo-Compton series after At Their Own Game and it's another book I enjoyed just as much as the first. Here we have a different main character with Boone taking centre stage. Jake Stankovic, the main focus from the earlier book has a minor walk-on part here.

Bikers, a gang, prospects, criminal enterprise, strong-arm tactics, tests, violence, and an unforeseen outcome with massive life-altering consequences, and secrets - big secrets!

A lot of the characters in the book have them .... Boone, Tall Ed - a member of the biker gang, Faith - Boone's sort of maybe girlfriend and a kind of biker groupie though possessed of a little more self worth than some of the hangers on and Jerry, Boone's old friend and confidant. 

I liked keeping company with the main character. On the surface he has strong alliances. He has a best friend, A.C. and they share a close bond. This friendship is continually tested throughout the book, as Boone sometimes takes issues with A.C.'s behaviour and actions while carrying out tasks for the gang. He is making progress in his relationship with Faith. They have a strong attraction and connection to each other. And he has the loyalty of the Iron Brotherhood, though like many organisations that operate as a business/work environment, there are rivalries, tensions and levels of distrust and mutual animosity. The consequences of transgressions here though aren't an office meeting, a warning and a note in his personnel file. Valka, Jericho and Smiley - the Brotherhood's hierarchy - are a little more direct keeping discipline in the ranks.

Boone spends a lot of time in his own head. Thinking, planning, speculating. He's conflicted and torn - forward or back, one gang or another, the girl and their future, keep his secrets or trust in someone and unburden himself. It might have been simpler if he was Catholic and had the easier option of the confessional. Boone is forever trying to emulate his late brother, a cop who walked a different path to him. He ends up in an unenviable situation with limited options for manouever. He's in a box with the walls closing in on him. 

The outcome when it comes has a certain symmetry to it. It's not pretty but it's credible and in keeping with all that has come before. Fair to say things don't end well for all of our participants.

Another top, tense and exciting read from author Frank Zafiro. 

4.5 stars from 5. 


Read - March, 2022
Published - 2020
Page count - 240
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Tuesday 29 March 2022



Jake Stankovic has been flying below the radar for years, dealing safely in stolen property crime with his two-man crew. But times are tough, so he decides to step up to the big money with a drug deal. Everything that can go wrong, does. The deal goes bad, a vengeful detective sets his sights on Jake, one of his crew might be a turncoat, and a woman from a long past affair suddenly reappears. All of this would be complicated enough on its own, but for Jake, it’s even worse.

The woman is the detective’s ex-wife.

And Jake Stankovic used to be a cop.

Now Jake must face new problems and old vendettas in an all-in proposition with lives on the line. He has to find a way to get his money back, keep the girl, and beat everyone involved…At Their Own Game.

One of my favourite discoveries in the crime fiction genre in the past couple of years has been the work of author Frank Zafiro. Zafiro has co-written with the likes of Colin Conway, Lawrence Kelter and Eric Beetner to name-drop three, as well as publishing standalones, several of his own series, short story collections and YA fiction under his own name. I haven't met a book of his yet that I didn't like.

At Their Own Game is the first in his three book (to date) Spo-Compton series.

Here we follow the adventures of an ex-cop turned crim, Jake Stankovic. We get Stankovic's back story and fall from grace while on the job, with his breaking the unspoken rule of the boys in blue - don't mess around with another cop's wife. 

Stankovic and his small crew are trying to change up from fencing stolen goods, to getting a piece of the local drug action. Things are not going to plan. One of Jake's boys has been pinched and he's out of pocket with no money and no product. Options - take the hit on the chin, or try and step up and take on the bigger fish, Ozzy?    

Spokane setting, crims vs crims while staying clear of the cops, a femme fatale and some unresolved issues with her cuckolded husband, a possible traitor in the ranks, and a second new opportunity.

I really liked this one. It's a proper page-turner with plenty of little twists and tangents and off-shoots and possibilities. You get for the feel for police work, as Zafiro's years on the job show on the pages. I also get the sense that he could have been just as successful working the other side of the street. There's a wealth of knowledge and experience on display. 

The main character was never less than interesting. It's a class juggling act from Zafiro, as he's not totally lovable but I was still rooting for him and his team to triumph and come out on top. His nemesis, Kyle Falkner offers up as a worthy adversary, as does local drug lord, Ozzy and his bigger crew.

Action, violence, strategising and planning as well as off-the-cuff reactions and decision making and a satisfying outcome - all add up to a top, top read. 

4.5 from 5

Read - March, 2022
Published - 2014
Page count - 268
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Monday 28 March 2022




The exciting new dramatic Western from Best-Selling Western author Cliff Roberts! All the action, all the tension and all the greatness the Western can provide.

The first four days riding the trail proved to be boring and uneventful. The young Lieutenant spent the majority of his time silently riding, while Sergeant Weaver was busy barking orders at the troopers, mostly trying to keep them in line, as if they were in a parade, instead of out on the trail.

The four days of boredom hadn't improved Slate's attitude regarding the mission he was on, they had only provided him with plenty of time to think about the challenges he may have to face.

Plus, he'd was beginning to realize the escort he was with, was a troop of greenhorns. Not a single man had been in Indian Territory before. Slate knew this by the fact, not one man had made a single mention of the Indians trailing along with them. At times, there was just a single brave about 200 yards off. If you love action-packed Westerns you will not want to miss Fort Tipton by Cliff Roberts!

A bit of Western action, not so much cowboys vs Indians, but the US Army in transit and housed at an isolated fort, with a Government man - Slate on-board vs Indians and a gang of Mexican banditos. 

Main character, Slate has been asked by the Governor to ride out to Tipton to collect a prisoner. The prisoner is the brother of the local Indian chief and his imprisonment has caused a ruckus. The chief and his braves and other ne'er-do-wells ambush the escort enroute and then after a failed negotiation attack the fort. 

Plenty of action ... multiple casualties, death, combat inexperience, naivety, incompetence, a peeing competition over authority, arson, strong leadership, bravery, escape, pursuit, a kangaroo court in a bar, a hostage situation and a final shootout.

Fast-paced, enjoyable, interesting characters and relationship dynamics, and a satisfying outcome. All brought to life nicely by one of the best narrators around, Theo Holland. One yardstick I use for measuring my enjoyment of a book, is asking myself whether I would want to read the author again in the future. A definite yes in this case. 

4 stars from 5

Read - (listened to) March, 2022
Published - 2017
Page count -  approx 50 (1 hr 36 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Sunday 27 March 2022


Part 2 of my best of 2021 and #10 - 18 ...

220-odd books read and 18 crackers, this 9 gives...

10 authors, but Philip Elliott was on the first list as well

1 female, 9 male

7 US authors, 1 English, 2 Scottish co-authors

9 fiction books

4 new authors - Spencer Quinn, Michael Underwood, James Kestrel and Erin Flanagan

5 were series books.... Chet and Bernie from Spencer Quinn, Laidlaw from McIlvanney and Rankin, Sonny Burton from Larry D. Sweazy, an unnamed protagonist from Tony Knighton and Simon Manton from Michael Underwood

7 of the books were from 2021, 1 from 2009 and 1 from 1964

I have more on the TBR pile from McIlvanney, Rankin, Quinn, Sweazy, Kestrel, Knighton and Smith, albeit under different publishing names for two of them - Kestrel and Quinn - have books published under their own names

Philip Elliott Porno Valley (2021) 

“Nobody knows Los Angeles until they’ve been entranced by it, corrupted by it, cast out from it, and returned to it on their knees begging it to save them, and Richie knew Los Angeles. He knew it better than anyone. This time he would tame the beast and make it his own—this time he would win.”

It’s the year 2000 and 78-year-old Mickey O’Rourke has been a Los Angeles PI for a very long time. He’d thought he’d seen it all until the disappearance of porn star Jeffrey Strokes sends him from the sex-filled studios of the San Fernando Valley to the desperate streets of Compton where Mickey’s final case becomes his biggest test.

Flash back to 1998 and struggling hair salon employee Jemeka Johnson, suspecting boyfriend Ray-Ray of infidelity, follows him one night from their East Compton home to what turns out to be a drug deal gone sour where a twist of fate finds Jemeka tossed onto a dark and dangerous path—one that offers huge reward for someone bold enough to seize it.

Meanwhile, in 1999, tired of robbing small-town diners and shooting bad dope in filthy motel rooms, newlyweds Richie and Alabama return to LA in search of the perfect score.

Paths cross and past meets present as bad decisions hurtle toward worse consequences—and no one will ever be the same.

William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin - The Dark Remains (2021) 

If the truth's in the shadows, get out of the light . . .

Lawyer Bobby Carter did a lot of work for the wrong type of people. Now he’s dead and it was no accident. Besides a distraught family and a heap of powerful friends, Carter’s left behind his share of enemies. So, who dealt the fatal blow?

DC Jack Laidlaw’s reputation precedes him. He’s not a team player, but he’s got a sixth sense for what’s happening on the streets. His boss chalks the violence up to the usual rivalries, but is it that simple? As two Glasgow gangs go to war, Laidlaw needs to find out who got Carter before the whole city explodes.

William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw books changed the face of crime fiction. When he died in 2015, he left half a handwritten manuscript of Laidlaw’s first case. Now, Ian Rankin is back to finish what McIlvanney started. In The Dark Remains, these two iconic authors bring to life the criminal world of 1970s Glasgow, and Laidlaw’s relentless quest for truth.

Spencer Quinn - Dog On It (2009) 

Meet Chet, the wise and lovable canine narrator of Dog on It, who works alongside Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. Chet might have flunked out of police school ("I'd been the best leaper in K-9 class, which had led to all the trouble in a way I couldn't remember exactly, although blood was involved"), but he's a detective through and through.

In this, their first adventure, Chet and Bernie investigate the disappearance of Madison, a teenage girl who may or may not have been kidnapped, but who has definitely gotten mixed up with some very unsavory characters. A well-behaved, gifted student, she didn't arrive home after school and her divorced mother is frantic. Bernie is quick to take the case -- something about a cash flow problem that Chet's not all that clear about -- and he's relieved, if vaguely suspicious, when Madison turns up unharmed with a story that doesn't add up. But when she disappears for a second time in a week, Bernie and Chet aren't taking any chances; they launch a full-blown investigation. Without a ransom demand, they're not convinced it's a kidnapping, but they are sure of one thing: something smells funny.

Their search for clues takes them into the desert to biker bars and other exotic locals, with Chet's highly trained nose leading the way. Both Chet and Bernie bring their own special skills to the hunt, one that puts each of them in peril. But even as the bad guys try to turn the tables, this duo is nothing if not resourceful, and the result is an uncommonly satisfying adventure.

With his doggy ways and his endearingly hardboiled voice, Chet is full of heart and occasionally prone to mischief. He is intensely loyal to Bernie, who, though distracted by issues that Chet has difficulty understanding -- like divorce, child custody, and other peculiar human concerns -- is enormously likable himself, in his flawed, all-too-human way.

Larry D. Sweazy - Winter Seeks Out the Lonely (2021) 

"The law and circumstances never leave Sonny Burton alone for long. As the Great Depression lingers, a circus camps outside of Wellington, bringing with it suspicion and rumors of stolen cattle to feed the animals. The local Texas Ranger office is set to close, pushing Sonny's son, Jesse, out of a job. And Aldo Hernandez shows up on Sonny's doorstep asking for help. Aldo's cousin, Rafael, got into a fight and caused another man, Leo Dozier, to lose his spot in the CCC (Civilian Conversation Corps). Aldo thinks the sheriff is behind the trouble, and Sonny agrees to look into the situation-which thrusts him and Jesse into an investigation that exposes unknown corruption in his small town, and bigotry and hate that leads to a string of brutal murders. Edith Grantley has written Sonny several letters and has not received any answers. She is encouraged by one of her boarders to make the five-hundred-mile drive north to find out where she stands with Sonny after their brief relationship. On the way, Edith encounters a man set on terrorizing her for the entire journey. A cat and mouse game of survival ensues, and Edith is left to consider how much she really cares for Sonny, whether her feelings are worth pursuing, and if her life is worth risking her heart for. As Sonny and Edith reach out for each over the miles, they are both confronted by their fears, life and death situations, and an unforgiving world that seems intent on keeping them apart forever"

James Kestrel - Five Decembers (2021) 

Major new hardcover launch by an acclaimed author: a gripping thriller, an unforgettable portrait of war, and a heartbreaking love story, on par with ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.

Read this book for its palpitating story, its perfect emotional and physical detailing and, most of all, for its unforgettable conjuring of a steamy quicksilver world that will be new to almost every reader. Pico Iyer

December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police detective Joe McGrady is assigned to investigate a grisly homicide that will change his life forever. Because the trail of murder he uncovers will lead him across the Pacific, and though the U.S. doesn't know it yet, a Japanese fleet is already heading toward Pearl Harbor. This extraordinary novel is so much more than just a gripping detective story--it's a story of survival against all odds, of brutality and ruthlessness, of love and loss, all unfolding against the backdrop of the most cataclysmic conflict of the 20th century. Spanning the entirety of World War II, FIVE DECEMBERS is a beautiful, masterful, shocking novel that will live in your memory forever.

Tony Knighton - A Few Days Away (2021) 

On Valentine’s Day, a professional thief and his partner robbed a bank in a Central Pennsylvania town. It all went well... until the getaway. His partner was killed, the money was lost, and the injured thief barely escaped with his life. Now, four months later, he’s going back for his money. But he’s not the only one after it. Corrupt cops, warring street gangs, white nationalists and crooked politicians all agree on one thing – they want him gone. Permanently.

"He's very good, and he's a genuine Pennsylvanian. Knighton's A Few Days Away is hard-edged and suspenseful, with action that feels real and an anti-hero who can keep all the moving parts in his mind at once." Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author

"A must-read for aspiring criminals, who will learn that going straight offers a much simpler life. I was with Knighton’s anti-hero thief all the way, figuring whatever he netted from this caper, he earned it. Taut writing, crisp dialogue, non-stop action. What more could you want?" Linwood Barclay, New York Times bestselling author

Anthony Neil Smith - The Butcher's Prayer (2021) 

Called to a crime scene when a terrified woman raises the alarm on a horrifying murder, Detective Hosea Elgin finds the victim’s body has been dismembered with professional precision.

Very quickly, two small-time drug dealers are identified as the probable assailants and a manhunt is launched to bring them into custody.

With the two suspects on the run, the consequences of their actions continue to spiral out of control and it becomes clear that while one of them is focused on survival, the other wants only revenge.

As the net begins to tighten on the fugitives, Detective Elgin finds that the case begins to move very close to home and what began as just another murder investigation is developing into something much more personal.

The decisions he makes and the actions he takes may well solve the case and bring the criminals to justice, but in the process he might just tear his family and his church to pieces.

With The Butcher’s Prayer, Anthony Neil Smith shows once again he’s a writer at the very top of his game. This immersive piece of Southern Gothic Noir certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted but with the skill and nuance we’ve come to expect from Smith he dazzles with writing that is precise, measured and never gratuitous.

Erin Flanagan - Deer Season (2021) 

It’s the opening weekend of deer season in Gunthrum, Nebraska, in 1985, and Alma Costagan’s intellectually disabled farmhand, Hal Bullard, has gone hunting with some of the locals, leaving her in a huff. That same weekend, a teenage girl goes missing, and Hal returns with a flimsy story about the blood in his truck and a dent near the headlight. When the situation escalates from that of a missing girl to something more sinister, Alma and her husband are forced to confront what Hal might be capable of, as rumors fly and townspeople see Hal’s violent past in a new light.

A drama about the complicated relationships connecting the residents of a small-town farming community, Deer Season explores troubling questions about how far people will go to safeguard the ones they love and what it means to be a family.

Michael Underwood The Crime of Colin Wise (1964) 

The crime is murder - cold blooded, pre-meditated and motivated by sheer greed.

Colin Wise, a television repair man, is a well-mannered youngster. Among the homes he visits is that of Geoffrey Goodwin, whom he befriends.

And while Goodwin is preparing for an extended business trip to Australia, Colin Wise is also making plans: plans to ensure Goodwin will not be seen again, and will never be missed ...

Other cracking books from the same and previous years...







2011 - SUMMARY

2010 - SUMMARY

Saturday 26 March 2022


Another six into the collection....

Lee Goldberg - Movieland (2022) - Net Galley review copy

Lee Goldberg - author, publisher, TV writer, all-round good guy and someone I've read and enjoyed previously. I really need to get to more by him though. This is a fourth in series, but I'm sure that won't matter. McGrave was fun. As was Mr Monk Goes to the Firehouse. As were some of the co-authored books with Janet Evanovich.

Malibu Creek State Park is a beautiful locale for campers, tourists, hikers, and Hollywood. For Detective Eve Ronin, it’s a backdrop for murder in a riveting thriller by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg.

For decades Malibu Creek State Park was the spectacular natural setting where Hollywood fantasies were made. But when a female camper is gunned down, it becomes a real-life killing ground. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives Eve Ronin and Duncan Pavone are assigned the case…which Duncan fears is the latest in a series of sniper attacks that began long before Eve came to Lost Hills.

Seven victims over fourteen months…and top officials still refuse to see a connection. Eve and Duncan are stonewalled, threatened, and ordered to keep quiet. But Eve won’t back down. She’s no stranger to intimidation or corruption—she’s had a target on her back from day one at Lost Hills station.

Despite finding no evidentiary links between the shootings, Eve and Duncan follow their instincts into the shadows of Malibu Creek, where it’s not enough to expose the secrets and break the conspiracy of silence. They also have to make it out alive.

Lawrence Block (ed.) - Collectibles (2021) - Audible copy from author's assistant

Of recent years, Mr Block has turned his hand to editing anthologies and fair play to him. There's some cracking authors here ... the man himself, Lee Goldberg, Joyce Carol Oates, S. A. Cosby and a few more I've enjoyed over the years. And all regarding a topic that I can relate to having amassed and disposed of a few collections over the years myself.... coins, cigarette cards, football programmes and of recent years books.

A COLLECTION… OF COLLECTIONS What leads one person to collect stamps and another coins, one fine art and another butterflies? Who can say? But one thing is certain: those who've got the collecting bug care passionately—sometimes violently—about the objects of their obsession. No one covets like a collector; and as you will find in the pages of this brand new anthology from MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block, a truly dedicated collector will ignore the other nine commandments, too, in his quest for his personal Holy Grail. From Joyce Carol Oates' tale of the ultimate Marilyn Monroe collectible to Dennis Lehane's bookseller with a penchant for other people's tragic correspondence, from Lee Goldberg's Hollywood hustler with a collection of unaired TV shows to Joe R. Lansdale's stylish foray into noir, culminating in Lawrence Block's own classic story of a killer with a unique approach to choosing his victims, Collectibles illustrates the range of the collecting impulse and the lengths people will go to in their hunger to possess the perfect piece.

Jack Probyn - A Deadly Vice (2021) - Amazon purchase

Amazon FREEBIE, new-to-me author, cops and crime - what's to lose? Nothing.

There’s no fate worse than inheriting a dead man’s debt.

Jake Tanner, a trainee detective constable with Croydon CID, is eager to impress his bosses. So when a body is found face-down in the city’s farmlands, head crushed, split in two, Jake jumps at the opportunity.

The victim is soon identified as Zeke Harrison. A successful businessman and philanthropist. A man who had it all.

But, as the investigation into his death develops, it becomes clear that Zeke had more secrets than success.

And he had his debts - debts that got him killed.

But now they've been passed on to someone else. And Jake must find out to whom before history repeats itself.

A Deadly Vice is the exciting introduction into the Jake Tanner universe.

Meet Jake today before everyone else does. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham, Peter James, Simon McCleave, JD Kirk, Ian Rankin, LJ Ross, Joy Ellis, and Val McDermid. Download for free now to experience the new series that everybody is talking about.

Eli Cranor - Don't Know Tough (2022) - Edelweiss Above the Treeline reviewer site

Another book I had on my radar having heard great things in the Twitterverse. Excited? Yes.

Friday Night Lights gone dark with Southern Gothic; Eli Cranor delivers a powerful noir that will appeal to fans of Wiley Cash and Megan Abbott.

In Denton, Arkansas, the fate of the high school football team rests on the shoulders of Billy Lowe, a volatile but talented running back. Billy comes from an extremely troubled home: a trailer park where he is terrorized by his unstable mother’s abusive boyfriend. Billy takes out his anger on the field, but when his savagery crosses a line, he faces suspension.

Without Billy Lowe, the Denton Pirates can kiss their playoff bid goodbye. But the head coach, Trent Powers, who just moved from California with his wife and two children for this job, has more than just his paycheck riding on Billy’s bad behavior. As a born-again Christian, Trent feels a divine calling to save Billy—save him from his circumstances, and save his soul.

Then Billy’s abuser is found murdered in the Lowe family trailer, and all evidence points toward Billy. Now nothing can stop an explosive chain of violence that could tear the whole town apart on the eve of the playoffs.


Sean O'Leary - Tokyo Jazz and Other Stories (2022) - review copy from author

I do like short story collections and I do enjoy this author's work. Stoked to read this.
For thoughts on Going All the Way and Wonderland - click on the title.

A private investigator - a stranger in a strange land - searches for a missing girl in Tokyo.

Two brothers have a life-long pact. But what happens when a deal goes wrong?

A homeless man gives up his drug and alcohol-fuelled life. But is the good life all it's supposed to be?

Stopped by police one night, a group of friends runs into trouble. Soon, one of them must confront his past.

These and other lives collide in Tokyo Jazz & Other Stories, a collection of crime and literary stories set in Japan and Australia.

Julieann Campbell - On Bloody Sunday (2022) - Net Galley review copy

A bit of hard-hitting non-fiction on an outrageous crime, perpetrated and covered up by the British State. 

In January 1972, a peaceful civil rights march in Northern Ireland ended in bloodshed. Troops from Britain's 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment opened fire on marchers, leaving 13 dead and 15 wounded. Seven of those killed were teenage boys. The day became known as 'Bloody Sunday'.

The events occurred in broad daylight and in the full glare of the press. Within hours, the British military informed the world that they had won an 'IRA gun battle'. This became the official narrative for decades until a family-led campaign instigated one of the most complex inquiries in history. 

In 2010, the victims of Bloody Sunday were fully exonerated when Lord Saville found that the majority of the victims were either shot in the back as they ran away or were helping someone in need. The report made headlines all over the world. 

While many buried the trauma of that day, historian and campaigner Juliann Campbell - whose teenage uncle was the first to be killed that day - felt the need to keep recording these interviews and collecting rare and unpublished accounts, aware of just how precious they were. Fifty years on, in this book, survivors, relatives, eyewitnesses and politicians shine a light on the events of Bloody Sunday, together, for the first time.

As they tell their stories, the tension, confusion and anger build with an awful power. On Bloody Sunday unfolds before us an extraordinary human drama, as we experience one of the darkest moments in modern history - and witness the true human cost of conflict.

Friday 25 March 2022


A couple from author Alec Cizak, someone who's been on my radar for a few years, without me actually ever getting around to reading him.

From Fantastic Fiction....

About the Author
Alec Cizak is a writer and filmmaker from Indiana. His most recent books include Lake County Incidents, Breaking Glass, and Down on the Street. He is also the chief editor of the multi-genre fiction digest, Pulp Modern.

   Manifesto Destination (2013)   
   Breaking Glass (2018)
   Cool It Down (2021)
   The Collected Adventures of the Drifter Detective: Volume One (2021) (with Wayne D Dundee and Garnett Elliott)
   L.A. Stories (2022) (with Andrew Miller and Scotch Rutherford)
   Crooked Roads (2015)
   Lake County Incidents (2019)
   Down On the Street (2017)

Series contributed to
Guns + Tacos
   9. Four Shrimp Tacos and a Walther P38 (2020)

Breaking Glass (2018)

It's summer, 2016. Chelsea Farmer has awoken from one nightmare into another. Once a call girl with no control over her life, she's lost even more control, becoming another statistic in the opioid epidemic eating America from the inside out. Shacking up with a woman she may or may not be in love with, and three men unaware of just how useless they've become, she participates in home invasions to steal material goods that can be traded for pills or, even better, heroin. In between hits, the gang finds other ways to scrape together money, such as getting paid to march in a protest-turned-riot against presidential candidate Donald Trump. As the habit increases, calls for more crimes to feed it, the boys get increasingly violent with the victims of their home invasions. How long will it be before they actually kill a homeowner who refuses to cooperate? Chelsea must decide whether or not she's willing to hang around and find out.


"Alec Cizak hits streets we don't want to live on and he hits them hard. For a writer as good as Cizak, that isn't enough. Breaking Glass is the story of an addict who stumbles into a chance at recovery only to have her past come back on her. Can she redeem herself while maintaining her newfound peaceful self? This book raises brutal questions and gives the answers it must." - Rob Pierce

Breaking Glass is so dark and troubling it will make you cry for mercy as he joins Poe and Lovecraft in finding new ways to disturb you." - David Nemeth

Cool it Down (2021)

There Are No Heroes In This World 

After fleeing a deadly romance, Blake Ness finds himself on an obscure island off the Gulf Coast. He befriends the island’s owner and mayor, a Cuban counter-revolutionary, and takes a job as a bouncer at a local massage parlor. Just when he thinks he’s found a home in paradise, he meets a Sarasota land baron who knows his real identity. Blake must choose between paying for his crimes of the past, or committing a new crime he may never escape from…

"In Cool It Down, Alec Cizak’s follow-up to Breaking Glass, Blake Ness wends through a Florida town’s web of paranoia and conspiracy. He soon realizes he’s addicted to murder, and, like a Jim Thompson character interwoven with one of David Goodis, all he has to do to survive is surrender all he believes...Does it end well? Does anything by Cizak? A stunning novel"—Rob Pierce, author of Blood by Choice

"Just when Florida couldn't get any weirder, Alec Cizak pulls you into Raro Key, a fictional coastal town rife with alligator worship, coffee-sipping spiders, pedophilic preachers, ghosts, and sins from the past, characters whose allegiances shift like shadows on cracked pavement. David Lynch meets Carl Hiassen in this sun-soaked revenge yarn"

—Hector Duarte Jr., author of Desperate Times Call

Thursday 24 March 2022


It's March so it must be that time of year when I pull together my list of best books for last year!

2021 was a cracking year when I read more than I've ever done - 223 in total in all shapes, sizes and formats.

18 of them I gave top marks to and it's too many for one post.

The first nine were....

all male authors (no surprise), 

from 8 different authors, with 2 from Alan Parks

6 American authors, 1 Scottish and 1 Irish who actually lives in Canada and sets his books in the US,

8 were fiction, 1 non-fiction

3 were new-to-me authors - Philip Elliott, Ryan Gatiss and Chris Offutt

2 were series books - both from the Harry McCoy series by Alan Parks, 1 from Chris Offutt, wasn't but now is with a second book featuring Mick Hardin dropping in 2022

1 was a re-read - Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn

3 were from 2021, 2 from 2020, 2 from 2019, 1 from 2011 and one from way back when - 1985

The good news is I have more on the TBR pile from 7 of the 8 authors enjoyed. 

Philip Elliott needs to pull his finger out and get another book written and published!

Andy Rausch - Bloody Sheets (2019) 

When a young black man is lynched in a small Alabama town, his estranged father — a crime world enforcer — sets out for revenge, embarking on a blood - soaked journey that will leave the ravaged bodies of dead Klansmen in his wake.

"Rausch unleashes a flurry of gut-punches both painful and thrilling, his prose brimming with righteous anger and stark, no-bullshit wit. This racially charged and crackling tale reads like a startling mash-up of Jim Thompson and Iceberg Slim, making Bloody Sheets that rare achievement: hardboiled and hard-hitting, but transcendently heartfelt as well." - Wesley Strick, screenwriter of Cape Fear.

“Andy Rausch’s prose is passion filled rage incarnate. ‘Bloody Sheets’ is a must read revenge tale, drenched in catharsis and blood. The dialogue is lively and energetic, full of just the right balance of humor and hate. It shows the timeless tragedy of racial injustice in America that’s been present for centuries and it does something about it. ‘Bloody Sheets’ tackles America’s racial divide with the same composure and intensity of recent works like ‘Get Out.’” - Billy Chizmar, author of Widow's Point.

"Bloody Sheets by Andy Rausch is a violent and powerful crime drama choc-full of great characters and crackling dialogue." – Paul D. Brazill, author of A Case of Noir.

Stephen Solomita - Angel Face (2011) 

Angela Tamanaka, called Angel by friend and client alike, is a beautiful young prostitute working for an escort agency in Manhattan.

Leonard Csrter is ex-Special Forces and has been living off the grid ever since he returned from overseas to work as a hit-man.

Their two worlds collide when Angela witnesses Leonard executing one of her clients, who also happens to be a high-profile gangster, and they soon form an unusual alliance as they take on one of New York's toughest crime organisations.

Just before he died, Angel's client hinted at a large sum of money hidden in a safe house. For Angel, it will provide an escape to a new life - but can she trust Leonard? And can they get to the stash before the gang track them down...?

Kem Nunn - Tapping the Source (1985) 

Sometimes the only way to understand evil is to plunge into it headlong - and just pray you don't drown.

People come to California's Huntingdon Beach in search of the endless party, the ultimate high and the perfect wave. Ike Tucker came looking for his vanished sister - and for the three men who might have murdered her.

In that place of gilded surfers and sun-bleached blondes, Ike looked into the shadows. He found parties that drifted towards pointless violence and joyless violations, highs that he might never come down from - and a sea of old hatreds that was wilder, deeper - and deadlier - than the ocean.

'Unique, colourful, suspenseful and mysterious. A very fine writing debut.'     Joseph Wambaugh

Ryan Gattis - The System (2020) 

On December 6, 1993, a drug dealer called Scrappy is shot and left for dead on the lawn outside her mother’s house in South Central Los Angeles. Augie, a heroin addict, witnesses the whole thing—before he steals all the drugs on her person, as well as the gun that was dropped at the scene. When Augie gets busted, he names local gang members Wizard and Dreamer the shooters.

But only one of them is guilty.

A search of Wizard and Dreamer’s premises uncovers the gun that was used in the shooting, and a warrant goes out for their arrest. They know it’s a frame-up, but the word from the gang is to keep their mouths shut and face the charges.

With these two off the streets and headed for jail, Dreamer’s friend Little, the unlikeliest of new gang members, is given one job: discover how the gun got moved, and why.

Played out in the streets, precincts, jails, and courtrooms of Los Angeles, Ryan Gattis's The System is the harrowing story of a crime—from moments before the bullets are fired, to the verdict and its violent aftershocks—told through the vivid chorus of those involved, guilty, the innocent, and everyone in between.

Alan Parks Bobby March Will Live Forever (2020) 


July, 1973. The Glasgow drugs trade is booming and Bobby March, the city's own rock-star hero has just overdosed in a central hotel.

Alice Kelly is thirteen years old, lonely, and missing.

Meanwhile the niece of McCoy's boss has fallen in with a bad crowd and when she goes AWOL, McCoy is asked - off the books - to find her.

McCoy has a hunch. But does he have enough time? 

Chris Offutt The Killing Hills (2021) 

A veteran on leave investigates a murder in his Kentucky backwoods hometown in this Appalachian noir by the acclaimed author of Country Dark.

Mick Hardin, a combat veteran and Army CID agent, is home on a leave to be with his pregnant wife—but they aren’t getting along. His sister, newly risen to sheriff, has just landed her first murder investigation—but local politicians are pushing for someone else to take the case. Maybe they think she can’t handle it. Or maybe their concerns run deeper.

With his experience and knowledge of the area, Mick is well-suited to help his sister investigate while staying under the radar. Now he’s dodging calls from his commanding officer as he delves into the dangerous rivalries lurking beneath the surface of his fiercely private hometown. And he needs to talk to his wife.

The Killing Hills is a novel of betrayal within and between the clans that populate the hollers—and the way it so often shades into violence. Chris Offutt has delivered a dark, witty, and absolutely compelling novel of murder and honor, with an investigator-hero unlike any in fiction.

Alan Parks The April Dead (2021)

When an American sailor from the Holy Loch Base goes missing, Harry McCoy is determined to find him. But as he investigates, a wave of bombings hits Glasgow - with the threat of more to come. Soon McCoy realises that the sailor may be part of a shadowy organisation committed to a very different kind of Scotland. One they are prepared to kill for.

Meanwhile Cooper, McCoy's longtime criminal friend, is released from jail and convinced he has a traitor in his midst. As allies become enemies, Cooper has to fight for his position and his life. He needs McCoy to do something for him. Something illegal.

McCoy is running out of time to stop another bomb, save himself from the corrupt forces who want to see him fail and save the sailor from certain death. But McCoy discovers a deeper, darker secret - the sailor is not the first young man to go missing in April.

Lawrence Block - A Writer Prepares (2021) 

Sometime in 1953, I knew with unusual certainty what I intended to do with my life. I would become a writer.

By the time I was 25, I had published more than 50 books. Most of these bore pen names, and for a time I resisted acknowledging my early pseudonymous work. Then, in one astonishing and feverish week in 1994, I recalled those early years in 50,000 words of memoir.

A publisher contracted to bring out my memoir once I'd completed it. Instead I put it on a shelf and never looked at it again. Early in 2020, I had a fresh look at A Writer Prepares. By the time I was ready to stop, I'd written about my life as a writer well into 1966, when I'd completed The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep.

A Writer Prepares, an examination of the first quarter century of one writer's life, is arguably the work of two writers. There's the middle-aged fellow who wrote about half of it at a blistering pace in 1994, and there's the octogenarian who finished the job another quarter century later. The older fellow brought less raw energy to the task, and his memory is a long way from infallible, but one can only hope he's offset these losses with a slight edge in judgment, in perspective, in maturity.

Philip Elliott Nobody Move (2019) 

Eddie Vegas made a terrible mistake. Now he has to pay the price. After a botched debt collection turned double murder, Eddie splits, desperate to avoid his employer, notorious L.A. crime boss Saul Benedict, and his men (and Eddie's ex-partners), Floyd and Sawyer, as well as the police. Soon he becomes entangled with the clever and beautiful Dakota, a Native American woman fresh in the City of Angels to find her missing friend--someone Eddie might know something about. Meanwhile in Texas, ex-assassin Rufus, seeking vengeance for his murdered brother, takes up his beloved daggers one final time and begins the long drive to L.A. When the bodies begin to mount, Detective Alison Lockley's hunt for the killers becomes increasingly urgent. As paths cross, confusion ensues, and no one's entirely sure who's after who. But one thing is clear: They're not all getting out of this alive. As much a love letter to neo-noir cinema and L.A. as it is satire, the first book in the Angel City novels is a lightning-speed crime thriller equal parts Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarantino.

Previous faves....






2011 - SUMMARY

2010 - SUMMARY