Saturday, 31 January 2015

2014 - PICKS OF THE YEAR

A month after everyone else has selected their books of the year, I have come up with my list for 2014. With my arbitrary scoring of 1 to 5 stars, I had 29 contenders.

I think it would be a bit ridiculous having 29 books of the year, so on the basis of if I was choosing to re-read 10 in the next month what would I choose? This obviously is unfair to those read most recently because they are still fresh in the mind, but hey hoh and off we go.....(in no particular order)

Unknown author, no reviews, bought on spec - loved it, but was unsettled by the climax. Subsequently had an e-mail from the author thanking  me. We had a bit of a chat. Turns out she's an Irish lady - writing about small town America 

Loved it, really clever. I still think about this one at odd moments. Would I understand it all better second time around, or would it spoil it?

British Cold War espionage - not sure if I liked the ending or if I hated it. I loved it today, tomorrow who knows....

Thrilling tale set in Chicago, I nearly selected O'Shea's second John Lynch book - Greed as well.

A short read, bleak, black, dark and hard.


Loved the main characters and their chemistry and the ending!
French noir - short and sour!

Love this guy - hard-boiled New York 

Classic crime novel about race and bigotry.
Short tale with plenty of tension. 
Links to reviews of each below

Craig Faustus Buck - Dead End

John Ball - In the Heat of the Night

A E Greystone - A Prospect of Death

Pascal Garnier - The Front Seat Passenger

John Fusco - Dog Beach

Joel Townsley Rogers - The Red Right Hand

Brian Freemantle - Charlie M

Dan O'Shea - Penance

Jonathan Ames - You Were Never Really Here

Stephen Solomita - The Striver

If I was choosing again in another month's time the list would undoubtedly be a little different, so hat-tips and apologies to Adrian McKinty, Dietrich Kalteis, Keith Nixon, Matthew McBride, Nic Pizzolatto, R.C. O'Leary, John Stonehouse, Lawrence Block, Antonin Varenne, Brian Stoddart, Charles Dodd White, Sam Wiebe, Joseph Koenig, Mike Monson, Olen Steinhauer, J.F. Freedman and Allen Eskens.

Friday, 30 January 2015

2014 - READING ROUND-UP AND STATISTICS

2014 kind of felt a bit stop-start as far as my reading went, I had a few months were I couldn't particularly be bothered to read and towards the end of the year, I was the complete opposite.

I didn't really get involved or commit to any of my signed-up challenges or indeed my own little personal ones with much gusto, other than a last quarter scramble to bump up the numbers to hit my one Holy Grail challenge – 120 total reads for the year. This I managed to achieve by virtue of stacking the decks and devouring a lot of short reads at the end of the year.

All my sidebar challenges I have arbitrarily extended for a couple of years so I should complete eventually. I do also need to update them as I have read more towards my Vintage Mystery Bingo Card and definitely more on the 50 States goal.

I’ll be doing another post on my favourite half dozen or so reads, but I have some statistics from 2014’s 120………..

Length………..
Does size matter? I keep telling my wife it doesn't!
500 pages plus – 1
400 pages plus – 2
301-400 pages – 20
201-300 pages – 33
101-200 pages – 19
51-100 pages – 21
Under 50 pages – 22

I think my ideal book is probably 200 – 250 pages long, maybe a bit less. (If I had Bernadette’s skill set, I would be illustrating with some fancy graphs!)

Gender……..
Male – 100
Female – 16
Co-authored – 3 = 1.5
Anthology – 1 = 0.5 (Some of the stories must have be penned by women)

I was kind of optimistic that I could achieve 20 – 25% female reads, but I still think (18/120) 15%  is an improvement for me, though I will try and do better in 2015.

Nationality…….
USA – 74
England – 21
Britain – 7
Canada – 6
Australia – 3
Scotland – 3
Ireland – 3 (2 Republic, 1 Northern)
France – 2
? – 1


No great surprises here I don’t think. My introduction to the genre was US fiction and the love has maintained ever since. After pushing myself to read some Scandinavian crime fiction in 2013, I stepped away from it in 2014. Nothing from any African or Asian authors either.

Format …….
Digital – 91.5
Paperbacks – 22.5
Hardbacks – 6

I think this figure really surprised me. I hadn't expected there to be such an imbalance between the two formats, particularly as I claim to prefer real paper books to imaginary ones. I’m probably not such a Luddite after all, though with less than 30 physical books read in the year, it doesn’t bode well for the thousands of books sitting in the attic……..100 years plus reading at a conservative estimate.
Longer books are a problem for me on the Kindle. I find myself constantly checking time left in book and % read instead of going with the story a lot of the time.

Type of read…….
Fiction – 118
Non-fiction – 2

I used to think I read roughly 1 non-fiction a month, but apparently I’m more deluded than I thought. Of the non-fictions, one was an observational piece on life and the other was a really long essay-type thing on books.

Year of publication…….
2014 – 51
2014 - year of the book!
2013 – 23
2012 – 9
2011 – 8
2010 – 3
2000’s – 4
1990’s – 5
1980’s – 3
1970’s – 3
1960’s – 4
1950’s – 2
1940’s – 2
1930’s – 2
1920’s – NIL
1910’s – 1

Being a self-confessed fan of 70’s and 80’s pre-tech crime fiction, I’ve kind of let myself down here managing to pretty much ignore it for the whole year. I’m not surprised at the paucity of pre 40’s reads as I don’t go for early 20th Century books. I suppose my addiction to Net Galley is responsible for a few of the new reads as is my willingness to accommodate newbies chucking books at me.

New v. old……..

120 read,

83 never before tried,

37 previously read which includes 2nd and 3rd books from authors who featured in the 83 count. 


I do like trying new things, or do I just like free books? Obviously this pattern to my reading won’t help reduce the number of tubs in the attic, I need to seek a better balance obviously.






Most prolific…….

Our Keith!
Keith Nixon – 4
Olen Steinhauer, Lawrence Block, Janet Evanovich/Lee Goldberg – 3
Daniel Pembrey, Dan O’Shea, Tom Kakonis – 2

The rest were one shot wonders.





Origins……
Pre-owned or bought and then read – 59
Library books – 3
Freebies from authors or publishers or review sites - 58


Same conclusion as above, if I keep requesting on Net Galley and the like, I’m never likely to do anything more than scratch the surface on my own books………I've been buying them at a faster rate than I can read them for the past 25 years – time to start reading them! 

Quality......

On my arbitrary and subjective rating system of 1 - 5 STARS, with my minimum hope when cracking a book open being a 4, I enjoyed more than endured last year

5 STARS - 29
4 STARS - 70
3 STARS - 19
2 STARS - 2
1 STAR - 0 

Nearly 1 in 4 I really liked/loved -not a bad percentage.

19 or 1 in 6 were ok, enjoyable but probably forgettable, only 2 weren't that great. Nothing overly sucked.


Blog stats...... 1 curiosity - Linda Grant's I Murdered My Library  

My blog is far from the most popular in the Crime Fiction world which isn't a matter of any regret. I enjoy what I do and I enjoy the visitors who do stop by and comment.

Most of my posts average between 60 and 200 views (if I'm lucky). On the odd occasion that an author like Lawrence Block links back to one of my reviews from his site I may get 300 hits.

I Murdered My Library has been viewed over 1000 times? Strange.....

Thursday, 29 January 2015

MAX AUSTIN - DUKE CITY HIT (2014)

Synopsis/blurb……….

For fans of Breaking Bad and the bestselling fiction of Don Winslow and George Pelecanos, Max Austin takes readers back to Albuquerque for another action-packed thrill ride inDuke City Hit, as an elite assassin takes aim at—well, everyone.

According to Vic Walters, the secret to happiness is low overhead and few demands. Living rent-free in a modest bachelor pad behind his boss’s house, he has no debts, no entanglements, and no expensive relationships. He works just a few days a month, but his bank accounts keep growing.
 
Vic is a high-priced hitman with a legendary record of success. That is, until someone starts eliminating his marks before he can get to them . . . until his manager puts him in the middle of a vicious drug-cartel feud . . . and until a young man walks into his life with a big .45 and a startling revelation.
 
For Vic Walters, it’s time to step out of the shadows. Which means it’s killing time in Duke City.

Praise for Duke City Hit
 
“An action-packed, adrenaline ride.”—Book Nerd
 
Duke City Hit is the kind of book you want to settle in with when there’s just too much going on around you.”—No More Grumpy Bookseller
 
“Just plain fun.”—Tales of a Book Addict
 
“He strikes a great balance between brevity and description and I definitely stayed up late to finish the book.”—Reading to Distraction

Another fast-paced action read which ticked a fair few boxes for me. I read the first in Max Austin’s (AKA Steve Brewer) proposed Duke City trilogy back in December and was expecting a follow-on with the reappearing characters, which wasn’t the case.

Disappointed? Not really, I was soon absorbed in the life of a loner hitman, Vic Walters. Can you warm to a guy who cold-bloodedly kills for a living……err, yes I can.

Vic’s life is fairly straightforward……..eat, sleep, kill…..repeat……..obviously eating and sleeping a few more times than actually killing. He’s no family to worry about, no close attachments or friendships – the closest thing is his manager, Penny; the only one privy to Vic’s career choice. He’s ultra-professional, he’s careful in his approach to his assignments and he is content with his life.

All of which is the cue for an approaching storm cloud on the horizon. A couple of Vic’s assignments are compromised and suddenly the hunter has become the hunted. Who is killing Vic’s intended targets before he can? And more importantly why? Vic’s uncomplicated life just got complicated.

A satisfying read, plenty of action, a decent twist in the plot, probably not too much in the way of emotional depth to our characters, but that’s alright.

Did I like the people involved, did I like the storyline, did I enjoy the action, did the resolution work, did I turn the pages quickly enough, was there something else I would rather have been doing or reading, would I go back to the author for more…..yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, no, yes….enough said.

Roll on book 3!

Duke City Split review is here.

Steve Brewer/Max Austin’s website is here

4 from 5


I got access to this one via Net Galley   

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

SAX ROHMER - THE YELLOW CLAW (1915)


Synopsis/blurb….

Then--his brows drawn together--he stooped to the body of the murdered woman. Partially raising the fur cloak, he suppressed a gasp of astonishment. "Why! she only wears a silk night-dress, and a pair of suede slippers!"

The elusive Oriental villain known as Mr. King masterminds an insidious plot to hold London's wealthy at his mercy.

His henchmen have already killed one socialite, and more are threatened. Hot on the trail are two of Sax Rohmer's greatest detectives, Gaston Max and Inspector Dunbar, as they undertake a case that threatens to destroy the cream of British society.

About the Author

Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward (15 February 1883 – 1 June 1959), better known as Sax Rohmer, was a prolific English novelist. He is best remembered for his series of novels featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu.

My 1915 read for Rich Westwood’s monthly meme over at Past Offences blog was I’m sad to say a less than enjoyable affair.

I wasn't exactly spoiled for options to be honest and after establishing that this was available as a freebie on Project Gutenberg that swung it for me over the other possibility – Russell Thorndike’s Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh. Doctor Syn was a fictional character I could dimly recall from my childhood. I was quite taken with him particularly as I used to holiday for a week at Cub Camp in St. Mary’s Bay – a stone’s throw from Syn’s stomping ground of the Romney Marshes. Maybe 30 pages into The Yellow Claw and I realised I made the wrong choice!

We had a murder and subsequent investigation into the crime, initially by Scotland Yard and Dunbar before the world famous French detective, Max Gaston arrives on the scene to contribute. Our crime has its roots in the opium trade and the mysterious Oriental, Mr King who Gaston has been pursuing since he smashed an opium den in Paris.

In truth, I found the mystery a bit dull and a bit stop-start though it did have its moments; most notably when Gaston goes undercover and infiltrates the opium den as an addict and devotee of the pipe. I found this section of the narrative quite chilling and claustrophobic.

Rohmer does offer up a couple of interesting characters which did help me turn some pages in between contemplation of whether to lacerate my eyeballs with a cocktail stick or not. Soames, our lowly servant, bed egg and chancer was entertaining; despite his cowardice. He did have my support and I was rooting for him to survive the inevitable conclusion. Helen Cumberly, the doctor’s daughter was the other character of interest who attracted my empathy…..all the rest I was fairly indifferent to.

There was an the odd pointless interlude, notably when Gaston turns up in disguise in the pub and tricks the investigating detectives as they are having a drink, almost shouting ………look at me, look how clever I am – you stupid English buffoons. The odd scene owing a bit too much to coincidence to be credible – Soames in the cinema, when the detectives who are seeking him stroll in and have a conversation at the back of the film-house.

Ending was a bit ambiguous……. does the elusive Mr King escape to fight another day or not?
We did have a lovely bit of romance at the end, as the guy who loses his wife, gets the girl, or at least secures his wife’s tacit deathbed permission to get the girl, but actually it’s the wife giving the girl tacit permission to get the guy.

209 pages long, though at times it appeared to be 2000 pages long.  Not great and I can safely say I’m done with this author. Best thing about it was that I didn't spend any money on it.

A few reviewers over on Goodreads have made mention of racism within the book, with Rohmer taking a swipe at the Chinese or Yellow Peril. I take their point, but it wasn't something that particularly jarred me as I read.

Overall a 2 from 5.

Acquired from Project Gutenberg.

Click here to see what other crime fiction readers found for 1915. I hope they had a better time than me.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

2 BY MICHAEL SIMON

Another author on the shelves that I haven't yet tried - Michael Simon. I bought all 4 in the series after initially reading something about the first - Dirty Sally, which caught my eye.

All 4 were recent additions to the piles late last year.

Looking at the dates of his books, I do wonder why he has been quiet for the past 7 years, at least in terms of new books.


Michael Simon hails from Long Island and is a former actor and playwright, having previously worked in Texas as a probation officer. His website is here.






Dan Reles
1. Dirty Sally (2004)
2. Body Scissors (2005)
3. Little Faith (2006)
4. The Last Jew Standing (2007)











Body Scissors

Set in the oil bust days of late 1980s Texas, Michael Simon's explosive debut, Dirty Sally, introduced readers to Detective Dan Reles, Austin Homicide's only New Yorker and its only Jew. In Body Scissors, a brand-new decade brings a new criminal web of intrigue and violence for Dan to untangle.

It's January 1991, and as America watches the bombs drop on Iraq at the start of Desert Storm, a botched assassination attempt on Virginia Key, a rising black community leader, captures the attention of the local press. With one of Key's children in a coma and the other dead, Dan is eager to investigate. That is, until department politics bump him off the case.

Meanwhile, several affluent white college kids fall comatose and doctors are frantic to find an explanation. As a bizarre chain of events puts Dan on the trail of a psychotic drug dealer with a broad network of influence and a hit list (featuring Dan's name prominently), Dan is certain he can catch the dealer and break the case wide open - unless the dealer gets to Dan first. A violent and thrilling adventure ride, Body Scissors confirms Michael Simon as the next big talent in hard-boiled crime fiction.


The Last Jew Standing

Will detective Dan Reles arrest his own father . . . or will the mob find him first?

Lieutenant Dan Reles has a new house, a wife, and a son, and a great career as head of Austin Homicide, but it's funny how your past catches up with you. When Dan's deadbeat father Ben Reles, a Mafia legbreaker who's spent the last twenty years on the run, shows up on Dan's doorstep with an escaped prostitute in tow, trouble is sure to follow.


That trouble is Sam Zelig, a sociopathic godfather with limitless resources and boundless rage. In several diabolical strokes, he now holds Austin hostage, forcing Dan to choose between the town he's sworn to protect, his new family, and his father. In the process he faces trial by fire, bullet, bridge embankment, and one very angry woodchipper. Sure to satisfy Simon's core devotees as well as fans of Dennis Lehane and James Ellroy, Last Jew Standing is fastpaced and suspenseful from start to finish.

Monday, 26 January 2015

LOGGING THE LIBRARY - PART SIXTEEN

The task continues with another 50 and some of the worst photos ever taken. Half of them are out of focus, in the other half the light is rubbish and they are caught in shadow and others don't even have the title of the book captured. I have managed to decipher the titles, probably in the same amount of time I could have read half the books in!
Tub 16!

Walter Mosley, K.O. Dahl, Dan O'Brien, G.M. Ford, Len Deighton,

Anyone need a wedding photographer? Don't call me! Dan O'Brien book.

Tim O'Brien, John Baker, Mark Timlin, Ed McBain, Paul Levine,

John Tilsley, Mark SaFranko, Chris Cleave, Iceberg Slim, Tom Gilling,

Mark SaFranko - author,playwright and actor - his work “has its roots in painfully lived experience”


Prison novel by Roderick Anscombe, early John Le Carre, Lawrence Block burglar book, Day Keene - pulp and Reginald Hill!

1964 carny crime!

Loved Warren Clarke in the TV series, not tried the books yet!

Ethan Coen - one of the film-making brothers, Massimo Carlotto, Paul Thomas, Stona Fitch, Donna Moore,

Richard Aellen - Vietnam novel, Malcolm Braly - prison again, Iceberg Slim, Alex Wheatle, Anthony Cartwright 

Wensley Clarkson, Mike Ripley and Angel, Ross Thomas, Joe R. Lansdale - Hap and Leonard book, and THE BOOK WITH NO NAME by ANONYMOUS!

Crimewave short stories, John Baker, Michael Curtin, Massimo Carlotto and Jim Thompson!

Italian crime fiction author - Carlotto - lovely cover, crap photo!

Unheralded British crime author - John Baker.

A two-fer pulp from Gil Brewer, Peter Corris Cliff Hardy novel, Mari Jungstedt,

Aussie PI fiction!

Graham Greene and a couple of Dibdin books,

John Lydon's first autobiography, his second came out a few months ago.

Bill James - Harpur and Iles police procedural,

My man Harry Crews again. A whole issue of The Southern Quarterly devoted to him!
Highlights - I'm glad I have started uncovering my John Baker novels. I haven't read too much from him in the past but what I have I enjoyed,especially Poet in the Gutter. Probably John Le Carre is overdue an outing, as is Mark SaFranko and Joe R. Lansdale - I do like his Hap and Leonard series.

Lowlights........nothing here that I'll put off reading or will try and avoid.

Michael Dibdin's Vendetta has been swapped out for John Fowles - The Collector, as I have another copy in a previous tub.......not too bad I suppose - 800 books logged and only the second duplicate copy of something.

Full list of 50 is...........


AUTHOR TITLE YEAR SERIES FICTION/NON
AELLEN RICHARD CRUX 1989 F
ANONYMOUS THE BOOK WITH NO NAME 2011 BK1 F
ANSCOMBE RODERICK SHANK 1996 F
BAKER JOHN THE CHINESE GIRL 2000 CG1 F
BAKER JOHN WALKING WITH GHOSTS 1999 ST4 F
BLOCK LAWRENCE THE BURGLAR WHO STUDIED SPINOSA 1980 BR4 F
BRALY MALCOLM FELONY TANK 1961 F
BREWER GIL 13 FRENCH STREET 1951 F
BREWER GIL THE RED SCARF 1958 F
CARLOTTO MASSIMO THE COLOMBIAN MULE 2003 A1 F
CARLOTTO/VIDETTA MASSIMO/MARCO POISONVILLE 2009 F
CARTWRIGHT ANTHONY HEARTLAND 2009 F
CLARKSON WESLEY ONE BEHIND THE EAR 2010 F
CLEAVE CHRIS INCENDIARY 2008 F
COEN ETHAN GATES OF EDEN 1999 F
CORRIS PETER O'FEAR 1990 CH13 F
COX ANDY CRIMEWAVE 10 NOW YOU SEE ME (ed.) 2008 F
CREWS HARRY THE SOUTHERN QUARTERLY (FALL 1998) 1998 F
CURTIN MICHAEL THE COVE SHIVERING CLUB 1989 F
DAHL K.O. THE FOURTH MAN 2006 FF1 F
DEIGHTON LEN WINTER 1987 F
DIBDIN MICHAEL DARK SPECTRE 1995 F
FITCH STONA SENSELESS 2001 F
FORD G.M. LAST DITCH 1999 LW5 F
FOWLES JOHN THE COLLECTOR 1963 F
GILLING TOM DREAMLAND 2008 F
GREENE GRAHAM A SORT OF LIFE 1971 N
HILL REGINALD THE WOOD BEYOND 1996 D+P15 F
JAMES BILL TAKE 1990 H+I6 F
JUNGSTEDT MARI UNSPOKEN 2007 AK2 F
KEENE DAY NOTORIOUS 1964 F
LANSDALE JOE R. RUMBLE TUMBLE 1998 HC+LP5 F
LE CARRE JOHN THE LOOKING GLASS WAR 1965 S4 F
LEVINE PAUL NIGHT VISION 1991 JL2 F
McBAIN ED DOWNTOWN 1989 F
MOORE DONNA OLD DOGS 2010 F
MOSLEY WALTER FEAR OF THE DARK 2006 FJ3 F
O'BRIEN TIM NORTHERN LIGHTS 1975 F
O'BRIEN DAN SPIRIT OF THE HILLS 1988 F
RIPLEY MIKE ANGEL ON THE INSIDE 2005 FMA12 F
ROTTEN JOHNNY NO IRISH NO BLACKS NO DOGS 1994 N
SAFRANKO MARK LONERS 2008 F
SLIM ICEBERG TRICK BABY 1979 F
SLIM ICEBERG DEATH WISH 1988 F
THOMAS PAUL WORK IN PROGRESS 2006 F
THOMAS ROSS VOODOO LTD 1992 ACW3 F
THOMPSON JIM THE TRANSGRESSORS 1961 F
TILSLEY JOHN BE A GOOD BOY JOHNNY 1995 F
TIMLIN MARK ROMEO'S TUNE 1990 NS2 F
WHEATLE ALEX EAST OF ACRE LANE 2001 F