Friday, 24 March 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH VERGE LE NOIR

Verge Le Noir, author of  Desperados and other things was kind enough to take a turn in the stocks while I fired off a few questions at him.......






















I’ll assume the writing isn’t full time, so what’s the day job?

You assume correctly. I moonlight as a condom tester. Kidding, I work for a company that does horseracing data. Not as exciting as a rubber tester, but it pays the bills.

Call it a hunch, but I’m guessing the uber-cool Verge Le Noir moniker isn’t something your parents came up with – is your real identity a well-guarded secret? Why not publish your books under your real name?

No my parents are not that cool—at all. I’m just a cat who’s scared of his own writing so he hides under a too-cool-for-school nom de guerre in order to appease the God’s of writerly things. My name is not a well-guarded secret, I’m not in the witness protection program or anything as exciting as that, matter of fact, my writer bio has just been updated on Amazon where I use my real name, (and new mug shot) I will however, still use my pen name because is way cooler than my real name which is Virgilio Feldman. Try fitting that on a small book cover.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

Honest to the Gods of Beer? Doing this Q & A. And having people read the stuff I write.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

I don’t have one; I slip the writing in whenever I can. I’m lucky I get to write at all. I typically try to cram as much writing as possible on my days off. Sorry ladies…


Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I’ve only done it in my short novel Desperados sparingly—and it’s mostly overly exaggerated anecdotes from an acquaintance here and there, or family members, but for the most part I don’t do it.

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

I like to let the characters take me wherever they want to go, so I make it up as I go along. Most smart writers swear by plotting, I see it as painting yourself into a corner and that doesn’t jive with moi. Maybe I will try it someday.


Are there any subjects off limits?

Nothing’s off limits I hate censorship.

Desperados features the journey of a young immigrant coming to America from the south, any parallels with your own life or are you a home-grown American citizen? 

Good question. I was lucky enough to migrate legally to the U. S. from Honduras about thirty years ago. I did mine a few things about my life for Desperados, let's see: I’m from the same Islands that the character Lester talks about, I was once duped by a cousin into becoming a bracero in the State of Georgia for about two months in hell, we lived in trailers in the middle of nowhere making shit money, on the weekends we would shop at a Piggy Wiggly. A manager of a restaurant I used to work at did the orange juice bit to a waitress once. The character of Leonide or Leo is based on a good friend of mine who hails from the Ivory Coast by way of France but that’s where the similarities end. These are the few things I can think of from the top of my head; the rest is pure imagination and research.

I believe you’ve self-published all your work to date, is that a conscious move? Have you tried the “traditional” route via an existing publisher?

A conscious move indeed, I don’t know anyone in the publishing business, and I wouldn’t know how to approach anyone on that side of things, besides they only seem to be interested in bestselling authors and celebrities. They want an established brand.

So yeah I’m self- published all the way. For every one of my books though, I hire a professional editor, a book formatter and make my own book covers. I just don’t see what a traditional publisher can do for a guy like me. I honestly don’t see it. For prestige? Piss-off. The world doesn’t need another ‘tastemaker’ or ‘bouncer’ at the exclusive writers club. My humble opinion and it can change, but for now I’m happy as a clam in salt water doing things this way.

How difficult is it to attract a readership?

In a scale of one to ten, I would have to say One Hundred. A Hunter Thompson quote comes to mind, he said: “It’s like trying to wrestle a T-bone steak from a hammerhead shark.” Similar to that or thereabouts.  Although a lot of it is my fault, I’m a lousy salesman, I don’t know much about promotion, pushing product etcetera, etcetera. I’m still learning, for the most part I just concentrate on writing an entertaining story.

Your works so far are Desperados – a novel, Killing Crows – a long short story, Shell Casings and Black Pills and Red Bullets – two short story collections. Is there one of your books you’re more proud of than any of the others? Which and why?

Tricky question, like: who is your favorite child? The red-headed bastard is my favorite! In this case they’re all my favorite red-headed bastards. In all honesty; the last one I wrote—Desperados—is my favorite because is the closest I’ve come to cannibalizing parts of my life in order to write a good story. It’s a bit personal I suppose. I must say though; Shell Casings seems to be people’s favorite, even my editor liked it a lot.

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

I’m juggling a couple of projects, but the one that seems to be ahead it's called Two Iguanas Lounge and it features a couple of the characters from the short story: Lizards Lounge (a short story you can find in the book: Black Pills & Red Bullets)

In Two Iguanas Lounge, I’ll introduce a private detective by the name of Troy Declan Molloy and a Lieutenant by the name of Samira Andrade, these two team up in order to take down a serial killer who’s terrorizing a small Arizona town. It’s going a bit slow. We’ll see how it turns up, in the meantime; I’ll be uploading to my website, some short- stories, and my ramblings as usual.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Bedding all the women who find the broke-ass writer irresistible. Kidding, the best thing about writing is coming up with bat-shit crazy scenarios in which your characters can play and then having people read it. It’s magical. Writing is a lot of fun, you can’t beat that.

The worst?

Meeting women who don’t fall for the broke-ass writer. Kidding, (somewhat). The worse is trying to get the story to the right audience. That’s brutal.

What are the last five books you have read?



Lee Child’s Night School
Hollywood by Charles Bukowski
Re-read Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch—brilliant book.
You by Caroline Kepnes—well plotted, well written.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty—quite possibly one of my favorite books from 2016




Who do you read and enjoy?

Love Elmore Leonard, Christa Faust is phenomenal, Charles Bukowski always kills it, Junot Diaz inspires, Stephen Hunter knows his shit, Dennis Lehane thrills and so does Michael Connelly.

I really wish Diablo Cody would write another book, because whenever I need a chuckle I grab my copy of her book Candy Girl, and I swear; whatever pages you land on in that book, you’ll sure to find a giggle or two.














Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias— mind-blowingly good.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Falling in love from a plane without a parachute. A. k. a.  Reading, hanging out in dive bars or watching Netflix.

In a couple of years’ time…

Hopefully I’ll have a few more books; therefore I’ll—hopefully—have a few more readers.
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Thanks to Mr Le Noir for his time - visit him at his website here.
He's on Twitter@vergelenoir

His books and stories have featured on the blog previously.

Desperados
Killing Crows
Shell Casings
Black Pills and Red Bullets

Thursday, 23 March 2017

VERGE LE NOIR - DESPERADOS (2016)


Synopsis/blurb….

By crossing the U. S. border, Julio Roman embarks on a roller coaster ride.

With hellhounds on his trail, he navigates an America he did not imagine. The land of the free ain't paved with gold; rather it is a place where desperate men and women do what needs to be done in order to survive. Get rich or die trying is the name of the game. Question is: Will Julio play? And if so, will he live to tell the tale? The cards have been laid on the table of life. And the stakes are high indeed. Welcome to the land of milk and honey.

Includes a link to the original song "Two Summers Ago."

An enjoyable tale of one man’s odyssey to America.  Best book ever? No, but it didn’t need to be. I was invested in the story of our young Honduran trying to get on in life and secure a future for himself and his family. He’s a bit more likable than Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem in Coming to America – more humility, less irritating but both with a moral compass.

Julio encounters abuse at the hands of his coyote handlers and temporary incarceration as a result of an operation to bring the traffickers down. His subsequent adventures have him enduring life at a motel in the company of a secretive old man and a gang of wild young women – a surprising cash bonus comes his way when they depart.

Hooking up with his stateside cousin, a career as a field hand picking vegetables beckons. Crap work for crap pay and before long Julio is on his travels again. Life in New York isn’t any easier – restaurant work as a dishwasher and a temporary venture into crime, stealing expensive truffles from his employer to supplement his income. Discovered after a while, a severe beating at the hands of his boss and shady associates ensue, before employment as a driver for a rich lawyer, Lester – someone he encountered earlier in our tale.

Life at the bottom end of the food chain inevitably sees Julio crossing paths with shady grifters and ne’er do wells and our man comes across well in these encounters. Always willing to do the moral thing, though not above profiting from a bit of law-breaking himself. Violence is never too far away, though isn’t something Julio craves – a quiet life would be more to his liking.

An enjoyable saga, maybe a bit too reliant on coincidences in our plot which fortuitously allows us to come full circle – the coyotes we met at the start of the book having unfinished business with Julio towards the end. But that aside I was entertained and eager to see where Julio’s journey ended.

4 from 5

Verge Le Noir has been enjoyed previously, featuring on the blog with Killing Crows, Shell Casings and Black Pills and Red Bullets.

His website is here.

Read In March, 2017
Published – 2016
Page count – 184
Source – copy received from author

Format - Kindle 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

THOMAS PLUCK - GET PLUCKED: 13 TWISTED TALES (2015)


Synopsis/blurb….

In a tribute to Elmore Leonard, a computer nerd and an Island barmaid race against the mob; a shifty construction foreman encounters zombies and sex dungeons in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; visitors review the Overlook hotel from THE SHINING; a psychotic virus hunter plans to unleash apocalypse during the panic of 2012; a kid who hides in the woods to scare urban legend hunters gets a surprise of his own, and eight more twisted, dark and funny tales that only Thomas Pluck could write. The latest collection from the author of BLADE OF DISHONOR and "Punk Dad Manifesto."

"he combines jabs of clever humor with full-impact gut shots." - Johnny Shaw, author of PLASTER CITY

"hardcore-clean writing delivered at warp speed." -Andrew Vachss

13 short stories from a new-to-me author (though I have since read Thomas Pluck’s new novel Bad Boy Boogie).

Humour, violence, sex, guns, the end of the world, white supremacists battling a black martial arts dude, mythical goat-men, a sneaky old couple pulling a fast one on a streetwise hustler and pacts with the devil.

If I’m honest not all of them rocked me, but there were a few in the collection that did.

From Acapulcolypse – humour on an end of the world cruise.

He squirmed aside as a flabby couple stumbled past in grass loinloths……. the man laughed, and conga-ed away with his wife gripping his generous love handles. Terence winced as their grass loincloths bared secrets to which he’d rather have remained unprivy.
Terence had also read that alcohol enemas were popular among the high school set, and would have preferred his cruise mates to partake of their liquor in that fashion as well, in the solitude of their cabins.

Gunplay – sex and guns – be careful of a hair trigger when the climax approaches – funny as fuck.

Other highpoints – Mannish Water – a couple of newly-weds on the run from a mobster.

Overall an enjoyable collection 3 from 5


Thomas Pluck has his website here. He's on Facebook here
Twitter@thomaspluck

Read in February, 2017
Published – 2015
Page count – 100
Source – FREE book after signing up on the author’s website

Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

MICK HERRON - DEAD LIONS (2013)



Synopsis/blurb…..

Winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award

A BBC Front Row best crime novel of the year

A Times crime and thriller book of the year

'The finest new crime series this Millennium' Mail on Sunday

London's Slough House is where washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what's left of their failed careers. But now the 'slow horses' have a chance at redemption.

An old Cold War-era spy is found dead on a bus outside Oxford, far from his usual haunts. As the agents dig into their fallen comrade's circumstances, they uncover a shadowy tangle of ancient secrets that seems to lead back to a man named Alexander Popov, and a decades-old conspiracy with a brand-new target: London's newest, tallest skyscraper . . .

Second book in the Slough House spooks series and another riveting read.

If I’m honest I found it a fraction less enjoyable than the first one – Slow Horses. The plot was a bit of a stretch for me, though the start point to it and the set-up itself were really enjoyable. I just wasn’t totally convinced by the whole shebang.

Lies, duplicity, a retired Russian agent, an old lag from the Berlin days, a Regents Park go-getter, the Slough House misfits, a new Russian billionaire in town and a sleepy town in the Shires.

Great characters, though in truth we have one amazing stand-out and a bunch of able supports. Jackson Lamb is truly disgusting. He farts, he burps, he’s rude and he’s cruel – particularly when offering his assistant, Catherine – a recovering alcoholic a drink, knowing damn well the consequences if she accepts. I’m not too sure whether he doesn’t care or if he cares and everything’s a test.

Lamb stood, gazed at the nearest tree as if in sudden awe of nature, lifted a heel from the ground and farted. “Sign of a good curry,“ he said. “Sometimes they just bubble about inside you for ages.”

“I keep meaning to ask why you’ve never married,“ River said.

One thing for sure, he is very, very funny and when he’s off page, I miss him. Towards the end of the book he’s off page a lot.

Lots to like. I’m looking forward to the last couple of books in this series, though I’m not going to rush to get to them. I’ll savour the anticipation of reading them just a bit longer.

4 from 5

Mick Herron has his website here.

My Slow Horses – review is here.
Blog friend Tracy from Bitter Tea and Mystery has reviewed Dead Lions here.

     
Read in January 2017
Published - 2013
Page count - 350
Source - owned copy bought secondhand a year or two ago
Format - hardback

Monday, 20 March 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH LARRY D. SWEAZY



Author Larry D. Sweazy has had 13 books published to date, I've enjoyed three of them so far.

A Thousand Falling Crows still sits on the TBR pile.


Sonny Burton was forced to retire from the Texas Rangers after taking a bullet from Bonnie Parker in a shoot-out. The bullet so damaged Sonny's right arm that he had to have it amputated. 

While Sonny struggles with recuperating and tries to get used to the idea of living a life with only one arm, Aldo Hernandez, the hospital's janitor, asks Sonny to help find his daughter and bring her back home. She has got herself mixed up with a couple of brothers involved in a string of robberies. Sonny agrees to help, but is more concerned about a wholly different criminal in town who has taken to killing young women and leaving them in local fields for crows to feast on.


Just as Sonny is able to track down Aldo's daughter, he comes to an uncomfortable realization about who might be responsible for the string of murders and races to nab the killer before another girl is left to the crows.



Where I Can See You was enjoyed last month and was on the blog last week - here.



His first two Marjorie Trumaine books - See Also Murder and See Also Deception have featured before here and here.

Mr Sweazy was kind enough to spare some time and answer a few questions for me.......
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I see from your author biography that you are a freelance indexer.  How long have you worked in that field?

It’ll be 19 years in July.

It sounds very intense, can you explain a little bit about the process to the uninformed?

Some authors write their own index, which makes sense, and that is what most people assume happens in the publishing process.  But writing and indexing are separate skills.  Some authors think every topic in the book is equally important and want everything represented in the index. That’s just not possible, or functional.  Which is where I come in.  My focus is just on the index.  I get page proofs of a book and decide what five to ten terms (or concepts) per page are the most important, and that a reader might look up.  So, I immediately become an advocate for the reader.  I use a word processing program specifically designed for indexing, and I start with a blank page.  I write the index by reading every page of the book and entering terms one word at a time, just like I do when I write a novel.  I don’t use search bots or any automated way of indexing.  It is a tedious job, and some books are more interesting than others, but the really intense part is the time that I have to prepare an index.  My deadline is usually two weeks for a three hundred page book.  Indexing comes at the end of the production process and the page numbers have be finalized before I start.  Once I send in the index, it’s proofread, then for all intents and purposes, the book is sent off to the printer.

Is it easier to index or to write? Which one came first?

Both are separate skills, and equally challenging and equally enjoyable to me.  Writing came first.  I started writing in junior high school (grades 7 and 8 here in the States).  It was my interest in reading and writing that led me to indexing.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

I think it’s the fact that I get to sit down every day and write stories that mean something to me, and knowing they will make their way out into the world to (hopefully) entertain readers. 

What’s your typical writing schedule?

I write every day.  I write a minimum of five hundred words, but it’s usually more than that.  I start writing in the morning, wrap up around noon, then start my indexing projects after lunch. I work until I’m finished.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?


I’m sure some of their characteristics and personalities work their way into my stories, but I don’t include them with intention.

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

I used to say that I was a pantser (fly by the seat of my pants), but I’m really a hybrid.  I plot out a few chapters ahead of where I am, and I have a vague idea of the end.  I remain flexible and available to any ideas that might come my way, so I’m not really a strict plotter.  E. L. Doctorow said, “Writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  I think that about covers it…

Are there any subjects off limits?

Sure, cruelty to animals or children… The odd thing about writing mysteries is that writers can kill the grandmother in terrible ways, but the cat better survive.  I don’t write gratuitous violence, but we live in a violent world, so that’s what I write about—that and justice.  The story is always about justice.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer? 

The first novel I published was the seventh novel that I wrote. One of the other six has gone on to be published (a mystery, The Devil’s Bones), but the rest remain hidden away.  They are practice novels, and I have no desire to return to them.  I’m a different writer and a different human being now, and I really doubt that I could access those old books in the way they need to be rewritten (and trust me, they need a lot of work).

Your first eight or nine books, appear to all be Westerns whereas the last few are more mystery/crime orientated, have you left the Western genre behind for now? (I kind of think Westerns are just crime novels with horses and hats anyway.)





I agree with you that Westerns are crime novels.  Most of my Westerns have been mysteries, too.  No, I haven’t left the genre.  I just wrote a couple of short stories over the winter that fit into Western genre.  I just haven’t had time to write a Western novel in the last few years, but I’m pretty sure I’ll write another Western one of these days.  The genre is rich with possibilities, and I love it too much to leave it behind.


Is there one of your books you’re more proud of that any of the others? Which and why?

I’ve learned something valuable from each novel that I’ve written, so it’s really impossible to pick. 

I’ve enjoyed the first two Marjorie Trumaine books – See Also Murder and See Also Deception and I understand there is a third planned for 2018. Is that Marjorie done, or does she have legs for a few more books yet?

I hope there will be more Marjorie books.  I have ideas for the series that go well beyond the third book.

What are the last five books you have read? 

What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren, Westport by Dean Hulse, Stranded by Matthew P. Mayo, The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey, and The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst.





















Who do you read and enjoy? 

My reading tastes vary. I read a lot of mysteries, of course. James Lee Burke, Joe R. Lansdale, Tony Hillerman, Sara Paretsky, to name a few.  And I read outside the genre a lot, too. I like E. L. Doctorow, Pat Conroy, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Louise Erdich, Barbara Kingsolver… the list goes on and on.

Is there any one book you wish you had written? 

Breakheart Hill by Thomas H. Cook.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Walking the dogs (I have two Rhodesian ridgebacks who demand to be exercised every day).

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going? 

I’m writing See Also Deadline, the third book in the Marjorie Trumaine series.  It’s coming along…

What’s the best thing about writing? 

Being able to sit down every day and do it.  Those days when everything comes together: ideas, words, images, and plot are the best.

The worst?  

I can’t think of anything.  Publishing is a tough business, but not as tough as digging ditches.  I love writing, and being a writer.  I’m not going to complain about the every day stuff, or things that are out of my control.

In a couple of years’ time…

I hope I’m doing the same thing I am today: working on a new story, pushing myself to become a better writer, still searching for the best sentence I ever wrote. 
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Many thanks to Larry for his time and to his publisher Seventh Street Books for introducing me to his work.

You can visit the author's website here.
He's on Facebook - here and catch him on Twitter@larrydsweazy

Seventh Street Books are here.



Sunday, 19 March 2017

MARK J. NEWMAN - VIOLENCE IN THE BLOOD (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Malkie Thompson's got ambition. He'll do whatever it takes to get to the top and nothing's gonna stand in his way. Follow Thompson's rise to power from the backstreets of Glasgow to the industrial heartland of the Midlands. Join the rampage as Malkie and his crew blaze a trail of mayhem and destruction north and south of the border.

There will be blood, murder and mayhem. You’ve been warned.

A fast-paced 50-odd page tale of gangsters and criminality. Taut prose, with barely a word wasted. Newman gives us the rise of Malkie Thompson in 1988, moving in on Vinnie Edwards and his turf, much to our soon-to-be-deposed king-pin's chagrin and that of the local police with whom he has a tacit understanding.

Thomson pulls a job under Edwards' nose and causes some grief between Edwards and his pet poodle copper, DI Morrison. A stand-off between the two with guns isn't going to be good for business. One bent copper with embarrassing photographs and pressure from the hierarchy for a result and a return to a more peaceful climate. One annoyed gangster, suspecting that his paid-for-copper has crossed him and has something to do with the 60k job pulled on his patch.

Malkie Thomson's only just getting started. Newman takes us back to Glasgow and Malkie's rise in the Glaswegian underworld, before more grief down south as his business with Vinnie Edwards comes to a climax.

Not many likable characters on display but an enjoyable tale of gangsters, violence, cunning and ambition. Lots to enjoy. Right up my reading alley.

4 from 5

Mark J. Newman has written a few more tales in his Crime Syndicate series, which I hope to read later this year. He has his website here. He's also on Facebook here and catch him on Twitter@marknewmanwrit1

Read in January, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 51
Source - Amazon FREEBIE purchase
Format - Kindle

Saturday, 18 March 2017

JOE R. LANSDALE - THE STEEL VALENTINE (1991)


Synopsis/blurb….

“Even before Morley told him, Dennis knew things were about to get ugly. A man did not club you unconscious, bring you to his estate and tie you to a chair in an empty storage shed out back of the place if he merely intended to give you a valentine. Morley had found out about him and Julie.”

A short story in the tradition of Fleming or Dahl, “The Steel Valentine” is a gem, exemplifying the suspense writing of Joe Lansdale.

Another short February read and a chance to keep the scoreboard ticking over on my reading stats.
Joe Lansdale serves up a gritty and graphic tale of a cuckolded husband exacting a little bit of retribution.

“Spare me the innocent act, lover boy. You’ve been laying the pipe to Julie, and I don’t like it.”

Morley, the husband and Dennis, the boyfriend discuss their differences in a storage shed, only instead of port and a couple of cigars, one’s been beaten unconscious and tied up with ropes. Seven hungry Dobermans await the conclusion of the talks.
Graphic violence, humour in our verbal exchanges and a satisfying outcome. I do like the author’s work.

Bonus material includes an introduction to his book Waltz of Shadows

4 from 5

Joe R. Lansdale has his website here. You can grab a free short story from him every Thursday I believe.


Read in February, 2017
Published 1991 (my e-version was released 2011)
Page count – 29
Source – Amazon purchase, probably free

Format - Kindle