Tuesday 30 August 2022


Synopsis/blurb …

John Cutler Investigations is open for business. Unfortunately, things aren’t running smoothly

Starting a private investigation business isn’t as easy as the movies make it seem. Former cop John Cutler is learning this the hard way. Soon after opening, he’s running afoul of local gangsters, crossing paths with jealous husbands, and searching for killers who don’t want to be found.

It’s all in a day’s work for Spokane’s newest private eye.

But did it have to be so damn hard?

Cutler’s Cases is a collection of five short stories from Colin Conway, the author of the John Cutler Mysteries and the 509 Crime Stories. If you like fast-paced crime fiction and heroes seeking redemption, then you’ll love John Cutler.

Cutler’s Cases is the fourth John Cutler book from Colin Conway. It’s a change up from the first three, insofar as it’s a collection of 5 stories or cases that involve our PI at various times over the past 20 years or so. I’ve read all three of the novels – Cutler’s Return, Cutler’s Chase and Cutler’s Friend

Across the course of the books, it’s fair to say that Cutler’s character does some growing. He becomes less angry and more accepting of events in his past, more willing to accept the role he played in them. He’s more self-aware and no longer perceives himself as a victim.

Conway also provides a helpful essay regarding his writing from the early days when he was a dabbler, and how these stories and this character evolved and changed. In some respects, there’s a comparison to be made between the newer more likable Cutler and the progress Conway has made on his writing journey…… growth, development, maturity – but still a d*ck at the end of it all! (I’m joking!)

Five cases ….

Manny …… a misunderstanding between Cutler and Manny sees Cutler getting his ass handed to him. Cutler is working for Manny’s wife. Snap judgments, deeper hidden motives, what you see isn't always what you get.

The Problem with Suzie …. a dalliance, a beating, a warning, a level of cooperation with the police, some persistence.

Echoes of Her … a new case and a painful reminder of a woman from Cutler’s past, Paige

Sister Wives …. another case, a love triangle or is it a quadrangle? Slightly confusing early on. I needed a flow chart to get everything straight in my head. By the end, I knew what was what.

Remo Lightly …. Cutler gets involved with some villains to get a pay day. There’s some sadness to this story in how one particular character’s life has played out.

I liked every one of the stories. All of them were interesting and satisfying. What more do you need from a book?

4.5 stars from 5 

Read – July, 2022

Published – 2022

Page count – 168

Source – review copy from author

Format – Kindle

Monday 29 August 2022



The Tyler Garrett scandal rocked the Spokane Police Department two years ago. Now, a consent decree governs the agency with Washington D.C. directing its reform. It’s a tumultuous time in the city, and public outcry over local and national events is high.

Change is in the air.

Officer Lee Salter is a third-generation cop who bleeds blue. Amid the departmental chaos, he does the only thing he can—be a good officer. That means showing up for every shift, responding to calls for service, and always doing the right thing. All the while, the Department of Justice and its local supporters hope to catch another officer in its net of reform.

Salter refuses to be that officer.

Melody Weaver is a teacher and activist who believes in a better way. Despite her demanding profession, she dedicates herself to the cause of reshaping policing in her city so that the terrible events—both local and national—can stop. To understand what needs to change, she needs to see the reality of the job up close.

That means a ride-along on the graveyard shift.

One night.

Two people.

And a nation’s problems.

The Ride-Along is the fifth in the Charlie 316 series from Zafiro and Conway and it's quite different from the earlier books, in that most of the events take place over the course of a graveyard shift with a veteran officer and a civilian observer who joins him for a night on patrol. The aftermath of a court case concludes the book, though the conclusion itself is up in the air, with an afterword by the authors explaining.

Spokane PD is under special measures. Scandals have rocked the department. Activists have been vociferous in their demands for change and reform and are seen as hostile towards the police. Positions are polarised, trust is low or non-existent.

I quite liked the set-up of the book, where an officer endures a shift with a civilian who is part of an organisation that is perceived by the cops as anti-police. The book is related in alternating chapters and depicts the events of the shift from the viewpoint of the cop and then the ride-along. It's interesting seeing both perspectives on the same event. The two main characters; Lee Salter, the cop and Melody Weaver, the civilian, debate, argue and discuss Salter's interactions with the public over the course of the evening.

It's a topical book given the recent events which have polarised opinions in the US over policing, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. It's fair to say that the issues that have captured the conversation of late - the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor - are only the latest in a long line of controversial and disputed incidents. Police policies, tactics and interactions particularly with minority communities are under the spotlight.  

The two sides of the same story presentation and the conversations between the two almost combatants at times was an eye-opener. It's easy to form an opinion based around a headline or an incomplete narrative. The book was a reminder that listening and learning is always useful. Not everything is black or white, there's a multitude of grey in between.

Initially I felt the ending was a little bit abrupt and perhaps a cop-out. The afterword changed my mind.
Overall I enjoyed the book. I think it was very different from what I was expecting.

4 from 5

The earlier books in the series have all been enjoyed ...  Charlie 316Never the Crime, Badge Heavy and Code Four
Read - August, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 332
Source - review copy from authors
Format - Kindle

Sunday 28 August 2022



The second adventure in the action-packed Dakota series.

The Board of Directors of Grayson Electric have been kidnapped in Lake Tahoe. The families receive a ransom demand of three million dollars in bearer bonds...and a warning: if the police are brought in, the hostages will be killed. Dakota is hired to deliver the ransom, but while the bonds are being prepared, he enlists two Shoshone blood brothers to help him track down the kidnappers and mount a daring, perhaps even suicidal, rescue in a race against time. It's a deadly gamble, and even if Dakota succeeds, the odds are that people will die.

Hot on the heels of series opener Dakota, I read the second book in the series, Red Revenge. It was another enjoyable outing.

Decent story - a group kidnapping and the aftermath. Interesting main character, plenty of excitement and action. Multiple POVs, so at times we know what the leader of the kidnap gang is thinking, we also get the perspective of the kidnapees and their conundrum over whether to remain passive and cooperative or whether to take their chances in attempting to escape. 

Naturally most of the story centres on Dakota and his efforts to uncover who the kidnappers are and where they are hiding out, in order to effect a rescue should the ransom drop go wrong.

I like the blend of the personal along with the plot. There is enough back story for Dakota, with his previous history and his current family woes, to add some depth to his character without distracting from the story. I liked the support cast of the current woman in his life, Alicia and the young Louis Threetrees. Hopefully they feature in the rest of the series. 

I enjoyed the setting of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas. It was appropriate for the events in the story.

Plusses - pretty much everything. There's a decent clip to the story, but it never feels rushed. There's enough information about most of the captives to feel invested in whether they survive their ordeal or not. It's interesting to see how the two main partners in the company, almost use the kidnapping as a job interview to see which of their underlings are suitable to lead the company going forward.

Roll on book three! 

4 from 5 

Read - August, 2022
Published - 1974
Page count - 179
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Saturday 27 August 2022



The first novel in the acclaimed Dakota series, back in print for the first time in nearly fifty years.

Dakota is a half Piegan, half Shoshoni Native American who served as a Marine in Vietnam and afterwards became a cop in New York City. Now he's moved back to the Sierras to work his family’s ranch, ride the rodeo circuit, and take on cases as a private detective.

Dakota's old friend Sam Law, a local shopkeeper, asks him to help a woman who believes that her husband was murdered in a Nevada mining town... and that those same killers are now targeting her. Minutes later, Sam and the woman are killed by a car bomb. Dakota won't stop until he gets justice for the dead... and exposes the secret that three people were brutally slain to protect...even if it could cost him his own life.

This new edition features an introduction by Eric Compton, co-host of the Paperback Warrior podcast.

"It reads like a typical 1970s network cop show—picture Robert Forster or Clint Walker as the lead—but it also presents a decent mystery, plenty of action, and quite a body count. The hard-bitten hero is easy to root for." Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot Blog

Another new-to-me author and series that I was blissfully unaware of until the recent republication by Brash Books. There are five books in total in Gilbert Ralston's Dakota series featuring Clay Dakota, as a private detective and sometime sheriff's deputy. Dakota served in Vietnam, lost two brothers there, worked as a detective for a number of years in New York, before moving back home to be close to his parents. His father is ailing and Dakota supports his mother and helps out on the family ranch.

Here Dakota is asked to look into the death of a bar owner by the man's wife at the behest of a friend. A few minutes later, the two are killed in an explosion. Dakota now has a job to do.

The original death leads back to the small town of Poison Springs. It's a town that is pretty much owned and controlled by businessman Burton Ashton. Ashton has a big finger in all the pies, the bank, the hotel, the casino, prostitution, the newspaper and the cops. Dakota goes undercover and poses as a horse buyer when he arrives in town and is immediately under surveillance. His hotel room is bugged, he's confronted by local heavies and the cops are keeping close tabs on him. He connects with a local bank clerk and the newspaper editor, people who aren't fully under Ashton's thumb. 

Events escalate, Dakota is set up by the cops and arrested. Next he's shot and wounded. He's advised to leave town, but declines. Assistance arrives to support him and the investigation proceeds.

I liked the storyline though it's not exactly original. I warmed to the main character. I liked his integrity and decency. I liked that he cares for his parents and their way of life. He's proud of his ancestry and his heritage and doesn't hide it. He encounters racism and confronts it head on. He's a capable investigator and has the ability to get physical if the situation requires it. He believes in justice.

I found the book a decent blend of the cerebral and physical. Dakota asks the right questions and looks for evidence in documents and a paper trail. He cuts rough only when he has to. I think this is a short series that I'm going to enjoy. 

I'm partial to a 70s book, where answers aren't readily available at the click of a keyboard. I feel a connection to the time having been born in the 60s. It kind of makes me nostalgic for when life seemed a bit simpler and less hurried. I didn't feel a connection to the setting, though that was another plus. I like visiting places in my reading that I'm never going to see in real life. I doubt the Poison Springs of fifty years ago even exists today. I think it's called progress.   

4 stars from 5

Read - August, 2022
Published - 1973
Page count - 186
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle



Washed up pitching prospect, Rock Cobbler, now a hotshot detective with the Santa Lacrimosa PD likes working alone as much as he likes bourbon. That is to say, a lot. One rainy night at Santa Lacrimosa Clown College he finds himself looking out a dorm room window. Down below lay the hilariously twisted body of Mr. Rubadubdub, apparently tossed from that very same window. The investigation into the defenestration of the promising young clown will lead Rock through dive bars, contemporary Christian clowning performances, and down into the seedy underbelly of clown lore. He will discover what no non-clown should know; like the existence of dangerous, rival clown factions that will stop at nothing in search of clown dominance and the possession of one particular venerated clown relic. To crack the case, he will have to match wits, and game, with the alluring Professor Wiggles. Will Rock take a pie to the face? Or will he solve the case before more clowns die?

Murder in Greasepaint is equal parts Chandler, Christopher Moore, Bozo, and Bourbon.

A really enjoyable murder mystery set in the world of clowns, a clown college, clown folklore, clown factions, clown history, clown secrets, clown porn, clown treasure – Dan Rice’s Knucklebones - and clown wars.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one, but it was a real joy.

Great narration, an interesting main character detective in Rock Cobbler, a man who is slightly out of his depth here as several clowns have the measure of him, including the alluring and equally fearsome Professor Wiggles with her honkers amongst other attributes.

I enjoyed the investigation..... campus interviews, bar trips, library research. I enjoyed seeing how Leavins worked with his partner. He didn't for the better part, which was an interesting and unusual cop dynamic. Alcohol usually isn't a major part of police investigation, but Cobbler does have a taste for it.

I really liked the supporting characters here, especially Sara the librarian and Cobbler’s police chief boss – a man who seems more obsessed with his next dancing competition and wardrobe worries as he does having his detectives clearing cases.

The backdrop of clown history and genealogy was really interesting. I had several Google diversions, looking up people and history to try and separate the fact from the fiction. It’s been a while since I read anything quite so quirky as this.

I’m liking the look of Whiskey Leavins’ other published work – The Devil’s Own Piss and Other Stories. It sounds like my kind of book.

4 from 5   

Read – (listened to) July, 2022

Published – 2022

Page count – 244 (6 hrs 55 mins)

Source – Audible purchase

Format – Audible

Friday 26 August 2022




Fourteen million dollars in a burned suitcase. Severed body parts of a dead man in a duffel bag. Two hired killers. A drug dealer. Two organized crime kingpins; all chasing two white trash kids from New York down to the deep south as they head for what they think will be safety in Mexico. Put the story together and you have one hell of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.

Adult content. Sex and violence.

I think I was searching for a non-fiction book of the same name when I crossed paths with this one. In for a penny in for a pound, I quite liked the sound of the premise and thought I would give it a go.

Fast-paced, enjoyable, decent storyline, violence, death, drugs, money, severed body parts, opportunity, a new life, flight, pursuit, a road trip, motels, car lots, hitmen, dodgy cops and a supposedly naive young couple, David and April who upon finding a proverbial pot of gold and disappearing off into the sunset to live happily ever after. It's not like someone's gonna miss 14 million dollars and the same again in drugs.

Best book ever? No, but I had a good time with the story and where it went. We open with a car chase and shoot out and the merchandise liberated from a burning vehicle by David. April is soon introducing herself to him and before long they're off and running. 

Later in the story, we have an information dump which reveals the origins of the money and drugs and the deal and the other players. Whilst it answered a few questions, it was a bit of a clunky dump which jarred a little bit.

The rest I really liked. I sympathised and was rooting for David to come out ahead at the end of the book, preferably with young April in tow. Sometimes you don't get everything you want.

An enjoyable encounter and a profitable punt on a pair of unknown authors. I'd definitely have a look at their next collaboration.

4 stars from 5     
Read - August, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 275
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

A. L. Norton

Dell Sweet

Thursday 25 August 2022




Rule #3 – Leave when it’s time.

For a guy that lives his life by a set of written rules, former deputy Sam Strait has made a habit of casually violating one of them. He’s violated it to find the killer of a stranger. He’s broken it to solve a friend’s murder. He’s constantly disregarding it for beautiful women.

But whatever the cause, Sam is determined to adhere to all the rules this summer.

So, when an attractive woman shows up claiming she killed her friend, Sam is hesitant to get involved. The woman doesn’t remember how it happened, but the crime scene is littered with evidence proving her guilt.

It should be a slam dunk case for the investigating officers. Knowing this forces Sam to reluctantly help. Because he remembers a time when he was accused of a crime and no one believed him, and he won’t let this woman go through that drama alone.

Strait Out of Nowhere is the third book in an exciting new series from the author of the 509 Crime Stories and the co-author of the Charlie-316 series. If you like your crime fiction with a dose of humor, then pick up this book today.

An enjoyable enough entry in Colin Conway's Sam Strait series. If I'm being honest the Strait books are my least favourite of all the Conway series books that I have tried. I think it's perhaps that I feel a slight disconnect from the main character, Sam. 

Sam Strait's parents died when he was young and he was raised by his grandparents who have now passed. He was unfairly bumped from his previous job as a police deputy. He has a bit of money in the bank and is a free spirit so to speak. He's a snowbird (not a term I was familiar with prior to reading these books), every winter he heads off somewhere else to enjoy a few months in a different environment. Bak home, he has one close friend and he avoids attachments and entanglements with the opposite sex. He lives his life by a set of rules, which help him avoid the chance of caring enough about someone to get hurt. I understand all of that and it makes sense from the perspective of the main character, but it doesn't endear him to me. If you kind of like the main character at a distance, it's hard to get super excited about anything they get up to.

Strait gets entangled with a woman he knows slightly from a previous book, Jordan Withers. One of her friends, Tasha has been murdered and she fled the scene, leaving DNA and all sorts of incriminating evidence behind her. As a consequence she is the prime suspect in the murder. Jordan is fuzzy on events of the previous night, but Sam doesn't believe she is a killer. The book involves Strait sheltering her from the police, while trying to get information about the dead woman and the people she met in the run up to her demise. The more he can find out about her and her life and her circle, the better the chance of finding the real killer.

I enjoyed the dynamics of Strait with his neighbours - all of whom look out for him and have an opinion on what he should be doing with his life and in the love department. There is some cat and mouse shenanigans with the lead cop investigating the murder. There are also some incredibly funny and frustrating scenes with his ex-girlfriend, Sonja who is now hooked up with a dentist, but who still holds feelings for Sam and is irrational in her thoughts about them as a couple. She's jealous of Sam's 'new woman' who actually isn't his woman, whilst oblivious to the hypocrisy of having a new relationship herself. 

Over the course of the book, we get answers to the mystery and Sam grows a bit closer to Jordan. Might close enough to threaten the rule book and the snow bird lifestyle. Maybe not. I suppose book 4, assuming Conway continues with the series might tell us.

I enjoyed the mystery element of the book. We discover Tanya's secrets and see the cracks beneath the surface. The lifestyle she portrays is an illusion. She hurts for money and gets in over her head trying to attain it. Everything is superficial, and beneath the surface it's all a bit sad and tawdry and sleazy.

3 from 5

Strait Over Tackle and Strait to Hell are the earlier entries in the series. 

Read - August, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 311
Source review copy from author
Format - Kindle

Wednesday 24 August 2022



One man can’t start a war. But he can end it.

Laying low in Mexico, Tom meets Carmen who is searching for her little sister Rosa, recently abducted and trafficked by a vicious gang. Tom sees that Carmen is likely to get herself killed and decides he is duty bound to help her.

The hunt for Rosa pits them against a terrifying Mexican cartel and ultimately leads them back to the US and a criminal conspiracy to open a vast stretch of the border for the trafficking of guns, drugs and women.

The cartel leaders stand to make billions, but Tom’s relentless one-man campaign is making them nervous, so they bring in some elite talent to solve the problem. Meanwhile, Tom’s old enemies in law enforcement realise he’s back in the US and send a hit team to finish him off.

Caught between cartel sicarios and ex-military assassins, Tom will need every one of his formidable skills if he is to survive his deadliest adventure...

Hard to Kill – book 3 of the superb Tom Rollins action thriller series. Perfect for fans of Lee Child, Jason Kasper & David Archer.

Another enjoyable Tom Rollins thriller from Paul Heatley with the third in his series of six (so far).

Here Rollins takes on a Mexican drug cartel and their US partners on both sides of the border while trying to rescue a trafficked girl from their clutches. Events are complicated by his former Military unit colleagues - still pissed off at Tom for bailing on them overseas - taking up a contract hit on him. Hell, they’d happily do him for free.

Character, pace, action, story line, a little bit of romance, some back story, and a decent outcome. It did everything I needed it to. 

I liked it, though as with every bit of fiction I’ve ever encountered, you need to set aside a bit of disbelief at the door and just go with the flow. Three down, three to go, though undoubtedly Paul Heatley will have # 7, 8 and 9 penned and on the book store shelves before I get back to the fourth!

Blood Line and Wrong Turn have been enjoyed before. Snow Burn is next.

4 stars from 5.

Read – August, 2022

Published – 2021

Page count – 338

Source – review copy from Net Galley

Format - Kindle

Tuesday 23 August 2022



Synopsis/blurb ...

In the stifling heat of a Sydney summer, young Rhia is being hunted.

She was in the wrong place at the wrong time; now, both the police and a right-wing group of fanatics are after her. The only one on her side is Indigenous investigator Carter Thompson from the Prosecutors Office.

In Rhia's possession is a stolen USB full of secrets that could destroy the New Light Church. After NLC sets their attack dog, P.I. Sally Bois on the case, Thompson and Bois clash and race against time to find Rhia.

With a dangerous plan in motion, can Rhia and Carter clear her name - or is it already too late?

City Of Sin is the first book in Sean O'Leary's riveting crime series set in Sydney, Australia.

Dark, down, dirty, exciting and gritty to the nth degree.

Illicit sex, prostitution, a powerful church, secret assignations and trysts, a death in a dingy motel, a missing USB stick, a recovery operation, a police investigation, a hacker, political ambitions in jeopdardy, a clean-up operation, more death, impending flight and a new life, a manhunt, violent conflict and a measure of justice at the end of the tale.

Fast-paced and busy throughout. I really liked the main character, Carter Thompson and his work methods, slightly unorthodox though they might be. Cover-ups and secrets are surmountable obstacles when Thompson is on the case. There's plenty of action and tension in the book. An immovable object meets an irresistable force.

Bang on the money and my kind of reading. I even learned something new at the grand old age of 58 - a sexual peccadillo that I had manged to blissfully remain unaware of for over half a century, unlike the Prince of Wales, allegedly.

5 from 5

Sean O'Leary's work has been enjoyed before - WonderlandGoing all the Way and Tokyo Jazz and Other Stories. I'm excited about the next Carter Thompson book, whenever it drops.  

Read - July, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 178
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle

Sunday 21 August 2022



Deliver us from evil...

Drowning in a meaningless existence flipping burgers, Matthew Davis suddenly collapses from a powerful psychic connection he shares with his twin brother, Jake. The pain is violent and immediate, and Matt knows exactly what it means… hundreds of miles away, Jake has been viciously killed. But instead of severing their connection, the murder intensifies it and Matt begins to suffer the agony of Jake’s afterlife.

Hell bent on solving Jake’s murder in order to break the connection, Matt travels to his troubled hometown of Hatchett, Nebraska, where an old lover and savage new enemies expose the festering wounds that Jake left behind.

Matt tries atoning for Jake’s sins, but when a demon infests the connection between the two brothers, Matt must find a way to sever their bond before his world, and ours, become engulfed in the flames of hell.

A bit of a trip outside my comfort zone here with a touch of the paranormal added to this crime-mystery novel. I was quite happy to go with it here, as I do find the idea of identical twins being able to sense and feel each other's emotions and pain interesting. Instead of dismissing it as nonsense, a part of me actually finds it plausible.

I liked the main character Matt. He's everything his dead brother, Jake wasn't. He returns home to help bury his brother and to try and make amends to Claire the girl he callously left behind years ago. There's also an awkward relationship with his mother, one which isn't going to resolve itself anytime soon. Anger, resentment, abandonment, hurt and indifference emanates from the woman.

Matt's return to his childhood town, sees him confronting his brother's legacy and as the connection to Jake restablishes itself with a vengeance, he's got a helluva lot more to deal with. Jake was a drug dealer and just about managed to get on the wrong side of everybody in town. There's no shortage of potential killers. Matt encounters violence and hostility as he is mistaken for Jake, by a few who didn't get the memo.

I liked the connection between the brother's and could vibe the post-death continuation and Jake's efforts to control Matt and come back. The actual involvement of the devil in his scheming I could have done without. The author does a good job with the atmosphere and tension in the book, especially involving crows in some of the scenes. I've always found crows and ravens slightly intimidating and unsettling. When my wife and I spot them on our frequent walks, we're always offering up the other one as a sacrifice. Take her, she's more tender. Take him, he's fat!

We get a violent confrontation at the end. The outcome is maybe a little predictable. We all know how things are going to turn out. There's also some romance with Matt and Claire and some forgiveness and understanding of what caused Matt to flee from her in the past. 

More to like than dislike.

3 stars from 5

Read - August, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 247
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle




A lost town controlled by a ruthless family. Now one man stands against them.

Fugitive ex-special forces operative, Tom Rollins, is en-route to Mexico when he is forced to detour into the small town of Brenton, Texas, a place whose glory days are far behind it. A powerful criminal family, the McQuades, runs things now and they don’t take kindly to strangers.

When some of their thugs try to intimidate Tom, he pushes back – hard. The McQuades can’t stand for that - they have Tom beaten, arrested, thrown in jail.

If that was all they did, he’d probably let it slide, just leave town. But tough guy Earl McQuade  makes a fatal mistake – he steals a pendant from Tom, a piece of jewellery given to him by the woman he loved.

Tom wants that pendant back and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

The McQuades have powerful allies – corrupt politicians and law enforcement, a lethal biker gang, a small army of foot soldiers. They’re not worried about Tom – one guy against all of us, what can he do?

They’re about to find out.

Wrong Turn – Book 2 of the superb Tom Rollins action thriller series. Perfect for fans of Lee Child, Jason Kasper & David Archer.

I’ve long admired author Paul Heatley’s work. Gritty, dark, thoughtful and disturbing automatically come to mind when I think of his early books. His recent writing has more mainstream appeal these days, but I’m still engaged by his story telling abilities.

Wrong Turn is another enjoyable, fast-paced read from him. It’s the second in his Tom Rollins series, coming after Blood Line.

The Rollins series is about an ex-CIA black ops type military man, who rebelled on his last mission and went AWOL from his unit, after rediscovering his moral compass. He suffered loss in the first book and here he is on his way to Mexico to settle the remains of his dead ex-girlfriend. Tom is travelling incognito, as he is still wanted by the authorities.     

An unwanted diversion sends him into a small Texan town where everything is run by a local criminal family, the McQuades and their enablers. Tom isn’t famed for turning the other cheek, and despite his hotelier’s warning to avoid the one bar in town, Rollins – a shit-magnet extraordinaire - has an altercation with some local drug dealers and the big man wannabe gangster, Earl McQuade.

Events escalate thereafter… jail, more trouble, a drug gang, zombie addicts, corrupt cops, warnings, stolen property, a meth factory, a biker gang, bent politicians, kidnappings, a town under control, political ambitions, conspiracies, an election and a license to print money.

Rollins uses his considerable experience and skills to go up against the bad guys, all while trying to keep a supposedly low profile. Needless to say, the two aims are incompatible. He deals capably with the problems in front of him, while having to keep an eye over his shoulder as his past threatens to catch up with him.

Exciting, action-packed, a Jack Reacher type hero, an interesting setting with a decent plot and a satisfying outcome. My kind of reading.

4 stars from 5

Paul Heatley’s been a busy man, as he’s now had six books published in the series in little over a year. Blood Line has been enjoyed previously.  

Read – August, 2022

Published – 2021

Page count – 321

Source – Purchased copy

Format – Kindle

Friday 19 August 2022


Synopsis/blurb …

The hitman hero of the acclaimed series Quarry on Cinemax returns for his final act. By Quarry’s creator, the award-winning author of Road to Perdition!


The professional hitman known as Quarry -- star of the Cinemax TV miniseries of the same name -- has put killing behind him. But after a beautiful writer of true-crime bestsellers drops by to announce he's the subject of her next book, killers descend to give him some of his own deadly medicine, forcing Quarry to journey into his bloody past to find the answers -- and settle old scores.

QUARRY’S BLOOD brings the hitman’s decades-long saga right up to the present day as MWA Grand Master Max Allan Collins explores the startling final act of Quarry’s professional career.

I’ve been a fan of the Quarry books for a number of years, though haven’t been able to keep pace with them all. Quarry’s Blood is the 16th in the series. I read the first three or four back in 2016, but then got distracted.

Here Quarry’s an old man and is retired. A journalist/true crime author comes to him with some questions, believing that some of the fictional books he authored years ago are thinly veiled accounts of hits he carried out for The Broker before his death. She thinks Quarry was the main hitman and seeks confirmation of some of his deeds.

Between his earlier books, her first book and her intended next book some old acquaintances from the past decide to settle some outstanding blood debts. Quarry and his new confidant go on a hunt with both notebook and gun in hand to try and discover who is trying to kill him. I’m guessing some of the encounters touch on plots and characters from some of the books I haven’t yet read.

Overall I liked it. I like the main character and the trouble author Collins rains down on him. It’s interesting seeing what tricks the older hitman still has up his sleeve. I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more if I had read all the previous books, but that one’s on me not Max Allan.

It’s a definite incentive to backtrack and start again.

Quarry (read in 2021), Quarry (read in 2016), Quarry's List, Quarry's Deal and Quarry's Cut have been enjoyed before. 

4 stars from 5

Read – August, 2022

Published – 2022

Page count – 224

Source – review copy – Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Format - Kindle


Author Larry Beinhart - The Deal Goes Down and a lot more besides - answers a few questions on his reading and writing habits ...

Is the writing full time, part time, a sideline?

            Full time whenever I think I can make it pay.


Is there a day job?

            Writing is the day job.  


Can you offer us a potted biography of yourself?

            Is that a marijuana reference?

            If so, I have to say, weed's not my thing. When I was young, in order to beg off, I'd declaim that I was saving my body for hard drugs. Of course, that wasn't true either.

            Does it mean boiled down and stuffed in a mason jar?

            Grew up in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Went to SUNY Binghamton where I found out that white people were a majority group. Then SUNY Stony Brook. Co-wrote a screenplay, No Place to Hide, a super low budget indie. I thought the worst thing about it was the script so I stopped writing. Became a grip, gaffer, and film production manager. Hitch-hiked to Miami. Started a commercial film company. Left it to my partner. Back to New York. Worked mostly for a political consultant doing TV & radio. Got unemployment insurance, which I took to be a New York state grant to the arts. Wrote a book. Won an Edgar. 

*I’m about to read The Deal Goes Down.  Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less?


"Beinhart brilliantly drags Chandler to the tangled woods of the Catskill Mountains, resulting in a first rate - and first - noir-murder-Buddhist-comic-Woodstock-thriller. Fantastic fun."

            24 words. From Shalom Auslander. He has a cameo in the book.

 (*Read it. Loved it! Thoughts here.) 

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

            It depends on circumstances. Contracted, employed, deadline, seasonal sports (tennis usually means play in the AM, write PM, winter I have to ski 2 or 3 full days a week), family issues.

            Before I had a family, it was out for breakfast, come back, imagine home was an office, write 5 pages, go do something else.

            Actually, I think this last book was sort of written that way. Except I wrote most of it by hand, with a pen in a notebook, at the local coffee shop. Never did either of those before.


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?

            I think it's best to do so. Else you could get stuck in Eureka, Kansas when you want to surf in Malibu. That doesn't mean it can't change. It often does, but it's best to plan your trip so that it gets you - after great difficulties - to that great destination.  

 Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

            A blend. It varies every book.

            Narrative is, in essence, about going somewhere to achieve something.

            That has to be there in the overarching structure. It has to be there in every segment. Get to a goal, get to a goal.

            It is possible to do that totally mechanically. Many books done that way are very successful. The Da Vinci Code is a perfect example.

             My preference is to pretend the characters are just like real people. Who act for realistic motives in a reasonably realistic world. And, once launched, are consistent with themselves.

            I think that has to mean that even if you have a master plan to get your characters from Boston to London through Mexico City and Istanbul and have three killings along the way, each based on a favourite film scene, except that each fails this time, you're going to have to work out a lot of things to make it happen credibly. (Provided you care about credibly). As you do that, it creates new limitations and new possibilities, new things that you must do and certain things you can no longer do.

             A couple of writers I like told me they made it up as they went along, Bob Leuci and Elmore Leonard. Let the characters do the walking.

            This book, The Deal Goes Down, is closest I've gotten. Once I started the main characters up, their desires and needs drove the action forward.

 Are there any subjects off limits?

            Never thought of it. At least not in those terms.

            I wouldn't do a plot whose resolution rests on the revelation that someone was molested as a child. But that's a "not that again" reaction.


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

            Some books are very quick and smooth. The first one, No One Rides For Free, was. The third, Foreign Exchange, was, if you don't count skiing in St. Anton for 5 weeks or so, then traveling through Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia with my wife, baby daughter, & Isuzu Trooper for another month or so. Wag the Dog/American Hero, took a huge amount of research. Salvation Boulevard had to be put away for over a year, then totally rewritten.

            This one came quick and easy.


I believe the book brings back an old series character of yours – Tony Casella – after a 30 year absence. I’m intrigued about the long gap with the character.

Is Tony 30 years older than when he appeared in Foreign Exchange? Has he been in cold storage for all this time? (Lawrence Block literally did that with his Tanner character.)


            He's 30+ years older.

            He's done various things during those years. Various things have been done to him. By time, fate, life. He reveals some of them, as relevant, in the course of the book. If there's another book after this, I expect it will show that he's left out some important bits and been less than honest about others.

            More important, the world is 30 years older. In terms of ethos and spirit, more than technology. 

            I've come to realize - I never set out to do it consciously - that the four books are a history of the effects of economic policy on American society.

            Don't worry, you can read them all, and never notice.

            The context - the zeitgeist, the mise en scene - of the first book is the rise of corporations - the financial shells over actual production - in the 1970s. The second is the Age of Reagan, when government went from counter-balancing the power of money to publicly marrying it. The third, 1989-1990, the year the Berlin Wall came down, was the victory of American democracy and capitalism, its high mark, a time of immense relief, hope, and optimism.

            In this fourth one, that victory has eaten itself. Money has risen so high that all values are measured by money. Money, therefore, is the only value left.  


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

            It's more fun than I expected.

            When I started out, given the age of the character, of the people around him, and around myself, I thought it would be a lot more about death.


Was there one spark or germ of imagination which started the story off in your mind?

            Many years ago, I did three books with my wife. She was an actor and a detective. The heroine in the books was a lot like her. The ex-cops in the books were a lot like the real ones she worked with. They books were, comparatively, light, witty, fun. And in their own way, realistic.

            The series got so orphaned that the third was never published even though we were paid for it.

            I recently pulled it out of the drawer. I sent to an ex-agent who I was still friendly with. Her reaction was that it was no longer the current saleable style (in mysteries not spouses). She said The Girl On The Train was the contemporary in thing. I got it. I read it. The heroine was miserable, alcoholic, endlessly complaining, in a dreary self-medicated world. Oh, it was a man who had done her wrong, wrong, wrong, and made her that way.

            Imagine the pain of being trapped on a train with her.  

            The title of the first chapter The Deal Goes Down is Woman on a Train.

            It immediately takes off in very different directions.


Without spoilers, is Tony’s story finally done or can you conceive him coming back for a fifth outing?

             The short answer is show me the money.

             The long answer has to be called a shaggy dog story.

            I was explaining Tony's motivations to someone.

            It came out as a true story about Lazlo, a border collie I once owned. He was very smart. As dogs go. If he got out of the house, you couldn’t drive on my street. Fortunately, it's just a one lane dirt road. My neighbor came to me. He said, “You gotta do something. I have teeth marks on my bumper.” 

            Not the rear. Lazlo did not chase cars. On the front. Lazlo herded vehicles. If he got out on the real road, he’d stop two cars going in opposite directions. He’d stop UPS trucks. 

Lazlo needed a job. I didn’t have one for him. I finally had to give him away. He ended up demonstrating doggie exercise machines on TV, happy and successful. 

            That’s Tony. Languishing and lost.

            Then someone comes to him and offers him a job. It’s an insane, amoral, crazy job. But it calls for his skills. Forty pounds going up against 3,500 pounds (a Subaru Forester) and 5 tons (a UPS truck) at the same time.

            It's like someone left the door open. He can't help it. He's out!

             That’s Tony. That’s me. A couple of border collies. If you got sheep, we’re willing to work.  

 You’ve had a lot of success over the years with your books. Is there one in particular you are most proud of?

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



   Wag the Dog (originally American Hero) is my most ostentatious.

            Wag the Dog reads like a thriller. It's loaded with literary tricks. Real characters march through the pages beside the fictional ones. Including a cameo for Barry Levinson who ended up making it into a movie. George HW Bush who made the war that inspired the book, is a featured player. It has 100 and something footnotes. All the footnotes about real people are real. All those about fictitious characters are false. In the final chapters the main character - in a very dramatic plot situation - is telling me the story. He's not just telling it, he has transformed it. Because by then he's transformed himself from a shlub PI into a Hollywood player and everything you've heard - which is the whole book - is him pitching the story.

            When books are published as literary fiction, reviewers, if not readers, are very conscious of literary tricks and describe them analytically.

            No reviews have ever commented on all the tricks in Wag the Dog. I like to think that's because they actually worked in service to the story. Which was about turning fiction into reality and reality presented in fictional terms.  

             The book I usually give to new readers is Foreign Exchange. It's the most genial and good-natured. Especially as espionage novels go. It even has mothers and a baby.

             Now, I might say The Deal Goes Down.


I believe American Hero and Salvation Boulevard have both had big screen treatments - the former as Wag the Dog with Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro as well as other big names in a stellar cast.

Did you have any involvement in the films? Were you happy with how they turned out?


            In both cases they bought my house because they liked the view.

            Wag the Dog was a brilliant film. I'm proud to be associated with it.

            The question I'm usually asked is, "Was the film like the book?"

            My usual answer is, "It was exactly like the book. All they changed was the plot and the characters." Actually, they changed the war, too, from presenting a real war in dramatic terms to dramatically creating the illusion of a war.

            However, strange as it seems, the experience of the movie and the book are very much the same. They caught the spirit of creating a war for domestic political reasons that Americans could love on TV.


            Salvation Boulevard was a good film. I saw it three times, at Sundance, in Woodstock, and on the Jersey Shore. I liked it each time. Audiences seemed to love it. Yet it disappeared faster than any film I've ever seen.

            I got to know the director-writer and his co-writer. I told them that they treated my book like a castle made of Legos. They knocked it over, then made their own house out of the pieces. Every once and a while I'd notice a piece being used the way I used it.

            Don't get me wrong. That's not a complaint. If I were to make complaints they would be that their version needed another $5 million or so and that a faithful-to-the-book version could only have been done as a TV miniseries.  


 Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?


            I just self-published one of them.

            Zombie Pharm. You can get an e-version of it on line. It's dramatic - as zombie stories must be - and wickedly satirical. A friend of mine who is a Joyce scholar told me she never reads zombie things. I told her it was to zombie stories what A Modest Proposal by Johnathan Swift was to agricultural essays.

             The Rich Can't Be Trusted With Money, a non-fiction book about economics.

 What’s the current project in progress?

             I just did a script with Juan Jose Campanella (Oscar, best foreign film, Secrets in Their Eyes) for a TV pilot. It's supposed to go to contract for three more episodes and a bible.

 What’s the best thing about writing?

             Aside from getting paid?

            The pleasure of building things. Making them work.  

 The worst?

             Not selling a project.

 Moving on….

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Dashiell Hammett's five novels.

Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Glass Key, The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man


Who do you read and enjoy?

           I read more non-fiction than fiction these days.

 Is there any one book you wish you had written?

           Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard. I always wanted to establish a whole religion and be the top guru.


Celestine Prophecy. I could be wrong about this, but it seems like it must have been really quick and easy to write and it made $1.5 million back in the 90's.


Favourite activity when not working or writing?


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

TV has gotten better than film. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the first season of The Boys, Tokyo Vice, The Man in the High Castle

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


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

Too many to list.



 What’s your favourite vegetable?


            Any vegetables from Italy are better than anywhere else. But they're even better in Sicily.


When and where did you last have a fist fight? School, church, a sleazy neighbourhood bar?

            On the street. Broadway and 45th. A long time ago.

            There have been some physical altercations since, but I wouldn't call them fist fights. Nor are any of them particularly memorable.

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

            Why would I be?

 Do you have any tattoos?


 What was your first pet’s name?


            short for George Bernard Shaw. He was a beagle.

 What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

            I only remember the good ones.

 Do you have any irrational fears?

            The rational ones seem sufficient.

 What’s your favourite vacation destination?

            Any place with mountains and snow.

 When did you last tell a lie?


Many thanks to Larry Beinhart for his time.

Checkout out his latest from Melville House - The Deal Goes Down. Thank me later!

A legendary, Edgar-Award winning writer returns, and so does his legendary detective, with a gripping thriller about marital discord, contract killing, off-piste skiing and the deep state...

Ex-private eye Tony Casella lives in the Catskill mountains, a lonely old tough guy whose body can no longer do what it once did.  His wife and son are dead; his daughter barely talks to him; his bank is in the process of foreclosing on his home.

But a chance encounter with a rich young woman on a train changes everything. He is hired to take care of her superrich, sexual predator husband. That job leads to others and he joins a small start-up whose mission is to save women from abusive marriages. Provided their spouses are in the top 0.01%. It's a luxury service destined to make great profits. 

Tony’s problems seem to be over, but are they? An old, angry associate is determined to get his cut of Tony’s earnings, murky government agents start to tail him, and when he is sent to the Austrian alps to kill a Russian oligarch and rescue his American wife, all hell breaks loose…

Packed with action The Deal Goes Down is an unforgettable portrait of a Lion in Winter who still has a few tricks up his sleeve, from a writer garlanded with awards and critical acclaim and whose novel American Hero was made into the classic film, Wag the Dog.