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


  1. I'm very glad to hear you had a good reading year, Col. Makes all the difference, doesn't it? And your post reminds me that I really must read some Alan Parks! I've been meaning to, and just...haven't yet. That's always the way, I suppose. At any rate, glad you had a good year. I noticed you're reading another Cozy Up to... entry; I hope you're enjoying it - another series I need to catch up with soon.

    1. Thanks Margot, much more to like in the reading year than not. I hope you can find time to squeeze in some Alan Parks, I think you would like his work.

      Yep, I've finally gotten back to Colin Conway's Cozy series. Blood (3) was read last week and Trouble (4) is nearly done. Only 1 more and I'm caught up on this particular series.

  2. Thanks for the inclusion, Col. I'm so glad you liked it.

    1. Andy, you're welcome. Long past time for me to try another of yours!