Thursday, 21 August 2014

SORRY - TEMPORARILY CLOSED!


Off tomorrow on hols, back in a week or so's time, maybe a bit longer if an Icelandic volcano goes pop - which is something I'm hoping if it does happen at least has the courtesy to wait until I get out of the country!

Bardarbunga - sounds like something a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle might shout.

Plenty to read, some hopefully I can do some catching up,

See you all in a bit

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

2 BY CHARLES WILLEFORD

One of my favourite authors and I have had these on the shelves for about 15 years and still haven't read them. Crazy? Maybe, but I'm still saving them until the mood takes me, because once they are read a part of them disappears. I enjoy the anticipation of cracking open a favourite author's books, not as much as reading it, obviously, but enough to prolong the moment for a year or two longer.

Willeford achieved some commercial success quite late in his writing career with his Hoke Moseley books, at least one of which was a film with one of the Baldwin boys (never seen it).
1. Miami Blues (1984)
2. New Hope for the Dead (1985)
3. Sideswipe (1987)
4. The Way We Die Now (1988)





There was an unpublished Moseley, Grimhaven  - parts of which formed one of the later series books. Grimhaven will in all probability never be published, but there are bootleg copies circulating. I think I have read most of his work and have the majority of it saved for re-reading. Just waiting on someone to give me a big lottery cheque so I can retire and read, or conversely awaiting the invention of the 48 hour day, 10 day week of which 3 are mandatory reading days!

Charles Willeford 1919-1988











The Shark-Infested Custard

They are just four regular guys by the pool: ex-cop Larry 'Fuzz' Dolman, airline pilot Eddie Miller, salesman Don Luchessi and drug company rep Hank Norton. They live in a 'singles only' Miami apartment block. They like regular-guy things: booze, broads, cars, and a good card game.

The Shark-infested Custard is a startlingly amoral update of Dumas' The Three Musketeers set in 1970s Miami. As our four male swingers commit increasingly barbarous crimes it becomes clear that their only guiding principle is not to get caught - by adhering to the 'all for one, one for all' maxim.


Willeford joyfully applies the scalpel to the vacuous heart of male America, where being one of the guys is always going to be more important than mere life and death.



The Second Half of the Double Feature

In this new collection of short stories, vignettes and autobiographical sketches-many previously unpublished-Charles Willeford, author of Miami Blues and The Burnt Orange Heresy creates a mosaic of the absurdities of life in the 20th century. From a malicious grandmother to prophetic depictions of the power of reality television, with his wry humor and sudden shifts to violence, Willeford seduces, amuses and repeatedly surprises you. This expanded hardcover edition adds Willeford's complete published poetry, as well as nearly 50 previously unpublished poems. "No one writes a better crime novel than Charles Willeford" -Elmore Leonard

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

DIETRICH KALTEIS - RIDE THE LIGHTNING


Synopsis/blurb……..

A fast, powerful read full of action, twists, and dark humour
Bounty Hunter Karl Morgen goes after Miro Knotts on a skipped bond, finding the dope dealer wrapped around an underaged girl at a rave in Seattle. Dragging Miro in the hard way gets Karl's licence revoked, while Miro gets off with a suspended sentence. Karl then finds work as a process server in Vancouver, thinking it's the kind of place where people settle things with middle fingers instead of guns.

But the city is teeming with two-bit criminals, drug dealers, and gangsters, and Miro seizes an opportunity to settle his score with Karl while working a major drug deal. What follows is a ride through Vancouver's underbelly with a cast of characters whose ambition exceeds their criminal acumen. With dialogue that crackles on the page, Ride the Lightning introduces a new voice in crime fiction featuring grit, realism, and a comedic touch.

Ride the Lightning encapsulates all the things I love about my reading……….characters, setting, story, pace, humour and a level of violence. I may be in a minority but I love meeting low-level criminals in my fiction…….drugs addicts, car thieves, pot growers, bouncers, enforcers, strippers, bikers – basically all round scumbags and losers. To me this type of person is a hundred times more interesting than the straight Joe – boring 9 to 5 office dude who goes home at 5.30 every evening to the wife and the home cooked meal. Who wants to read about themselves?

Dietrich Kalteis nails it in his first book.

Characters – tick….. all interesting, funny and entertaining. Not many are sympathetic or likeable, but enough of them so you know which side you’re rooting for.

Story – tick…. drug dealers, some looking to move up, some looking to get out at the top of the game, one with skewed objectives and firmly fixated on revenge and an ex-bounty hunter looking to settle in, find a bit of romance and perhaps deliver some payback if the opportunity arises.

Setting – tick, Seattle and Vancouver – two places I’ve never visited, two places I’m unlikely ever to visit, two places I feel like I’ve been to thanks to the author.

Pace – tick…. there’s a cadence to the narrative that keeps the story ticking along….short, snappy chapters, that constantly changes the focus of the reader, before a fitting climax.   
  
Humour – tick….. great scenes, great dialogue – whether it’s a mother and daughter arguing over using college funds for a boob-job, or our bounty hunter chatting to the criminal king-pin whilst he basks on a nudist beach applying oil to his wrinkly bits.

Incredibly difficult to believe that this is a first novel. Mr Kalteis has acquired himself a reader for life.

5 from 5

Dietrich Kalteis has a website here.

Many thanks to Jenna at ECW Press and Dietrich for sending this one to me. ECW’s website is here. Ride the Lightning is recommended and available!   
     


Monday, 18 August 2014

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH ALAN JONES

Scottish author and man of mystery - Alan Jones whose debut book The Cabinetmaker was kind enough to humour me when I tossed him my questions regarding his reading and writing habits.


Alan's website is here.

My review of The Cabinetmaker is here.




Is the writing a full-time or a sideline-passion-hobby? What’s the day job?

I have a full time job. Due to the gritty nature of my writing, I don't want to offend any of my customers, so at present I wish my identity to remain hidden from view. I absolutely love writing, and would give up my day job if I had a successful book. I'm not naive enough to expect this to happen, but it would be nice if it did.  I'd say it's not the money, but that's not entirely true. If I wasn't be any worse off, that would be enough.

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

Realising that although I am not the finished article, I can write interesting and compelling narrative and dialogue.

From start to finish how long did The Cabinetmaker take from conception to completion?

About ten years. About 90% of it was written in the last one of those years. Getting started and believing I could write was the biggest things.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

It varies enormously depending on work etc.  I keep my ipad by my bed, and about a third of my writing happens if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep.

Do you insert family, friends and colleagues into your characters? Would they recognise themselves?

I don't think so, but there are a lot of characters I've come across over the years that I've adapted for my books

Are there any subjects off limits as far as your writing is concerned?

Anything to do with the paranormal. I'm just not interested. Although there is the odd book (or film) that I will read or watch eg Carrie where I can suspend disbelief for a while.

What are the last three books you’ve read?

The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas Home, Holes by Louis Sachar and Natural Causes by James Oswald. I enjoyed them all.

Who do you read and enjoy?

A bit of everything. I've purposely didn't read any Scottish Crime before writing my first book so that I could have my own style, good or bad.  I love Irvine Welsh, but many authors I keep on my bookshelves are not recent. John Updike, Nicholas Monsorrat, James Clavell, John Irving, Neville Shute, John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy, Martin Amis, William Boyd, Ian Fleming and some sci-fi from Asimov and John Wyndham. Other than that, I dip into a random selection of books that I pick up here and there. I find myself reading a little less since I have started writing in earnest over the last few years. Just a time thing, really.

Do you have any literary heroes?

Irvine Welsh. I think he's a genius.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

The Shawshank Redemption

Favourite activity when not working?  

I'm torn between football, furniture-making and going out in my boat, but I've recently had to pack in the football at the age of 53 with a recurrent ankle injury, so I suppose one of the other two.

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

My second book is with 12 proof readers at the moment. I'm still tinkering with it, re-editing and re-editing. I am hoping to publish it by Christmas.

If I check back in a couple of years’ time, where do you hope to be with the writing?


I have outlines/ideas for half a dozen books. I'm trying to hone my literary skills and produce the best books I can.  I'm hoping they will be good enough for people to turn round and say they are worth reading. And help me retire early and write full time.  But I know it's a long shot!

Many thanks to "Alan" for taking time out to answer my questions. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

2 BY PETER CORRIS

Peter Corris is another author whose books I buy when I see then never read. He's an Australian author who has written about 40 Cliff Hardy PI books since the first one, The Dying Trade was published in 1980. I must have about a dozen or so of them scattered on the shelves.

He's written about 3 other series characters, Browning (7 books), Ray Crawley (6), Luke Dunlop (3) plus around half a dozen standalones and maybe 10 non-fiction books.









I'll stick with the Hardy books I have for now and will read them in no particular order as its madness for me to even consider embarking on  reading my way through a 40 book series start to finish, when I don't own most of the books and I'm guessing half of them are scarcer than rocking horse pooh and would need to be located somewhere on the other side of the world. Don't let me stop you reading your way through them though!


Peter Corris' website is here.

Cliff Hardy is described on Corris's site as.....Cliff Hardy, born and raised in working class Maroubra, ex-army, law student dropout, insurance company investigator turned Private Eye, has a love-hate relationship with his time and place. He embraces the best aspects of Australian life - the tolerance, the classlessness, the vigorous urban and rural culture - while despising the greed and the conservatism that are constantly threatening to undercut what he sees as "real Australia".

Inevitably drawn into the ambit of the people he deplores, Hardy struggles to resolve his cases while remaining true to his own threatened values. The professional challenges spill over into his personal life where he is never on firm ground.

SAVING BILLIE


Private investigator Cliff Hardy tackles one of his most difficult cases yet in this gripping detective novel that finds him in the far southwestern suburbs of Sydney. When a journalist hires him to find Billie Merchant, a woman with incriminating information about media-giant Joanas Clement and who is being tracked by both Clement and Clement's rival, Barclay Greaves, Hardy must work hard to stay one step ahead. After Hardy tracks her down, he must juggle her self-destructive behaviors while negotiating his escape from Clement and Greaves. Set against the backdrop of a federal election campaign, all outcomes are uncertain in this gritty, action-packed story full of colorful characters and close calls.






THE UNDERTOW

Frank Parker, retired senior policeman and Cliff Hardy's long time friend, has a problem. A case from early in his career involving two doctors, one of whom was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill the other and went to gaol for the crime, is coming back to haunt him. The convicted, now dead doctor may have been innocent, and Parker had been the lover of the beautiful Catherine Castiglione, the doctor's wife. Hardy tracks back through the now ageing names and faces, trying to tease out the truth. If the doctor was set up, who was responsible and why? Along the way Hardy encounters dodgy plastic surgeons, a broken-down ex-copper, a voyeuristic cripple and a hireling who wields a mean baseball bat. A charismatic player is the son of Catherine Castiglione, a super-bright charmer, who just may be Frank Parker's love child. Animosities, arrogance and ambition create a spider's web around the violence that breaks out as Hardy searches for the spider.

Monday, 11 August 2014

ALAN JONES - THE CABINETMAKER


Synopsis/blurb….

The Cabinetmaker, Alan Jones’ first novel, tells of one man’s fight for justice when the law fails him. Set in Glasgow from the late nineteen-seventies through to the current day, a cabinetmaker's only son is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs, who walk free after a bungled prosecution.
It’s young Glasgow detective John McDaid’s first murder case. He forms an unlikely friendship with the cabinetmaker, united by a determination to see the killers punished, their passion for amateur football, and by John’s introduction to a lifelong obsession with fine furniture.

This is the story of their friendship, the cabinetmaker’s quest for justice, and the detective’s search for the truth.

This unusual crime thriller contains some Glasgow slang and a moderate amount of strong language.

For a Slang Dictionary, a Cabinetmaking Glossary, an interactive map and much more, go to www.thecabinetmaker.info

My 3rd read of the month and the 3rd new-to-me author also.

A fairly interesting crime novel which is narrated by our detective McDaid. The murder of a young student, Patrick Hare is McDaid’s introduction to life in Glasgow CID. McDaid quickly decides that the manner and culture of the team, he’s been attached to doesn’t sit right with him…… brutality, abuse, a flagrant dis-regard for procedure and corner-cutting…..all abhorrent to our new detective.  Viewed as an outsider and mistrusted, McDaid is assigned photocopying duties of the paperwork and acts as family liaison with Patrick’s parents.

The case is apparently solved when a local gang are arrested and a confession follows. In the mean-time McDaid has become particularly close to Patrick’s father, Francis. This is the start of a burgeoning friendship which spans the following quarter of a century. John and Patrick have a common interest in football and McDaid almost assumes the mantle of surrogate son as he develops a passion for furniture making under Francis’ tutelage.

Re-winding slightly, our murder defendants get acquitted due to the laziness and incompetence of the investigating team and despite their obvious guilt. Our narrative outlines this and McDaid’s police career. We span 25 years, we follow the pair as they play football and Francis teaches John as much as he can about his cabinet-making craft. We follow the lives of the various police officers involved in the bungled investigation into Patrick’s death and we pick up on the lives and deaths of the accused as one by one they meet an untimely demise.

Overall a quirky tale, narrated in a slightly unusual fashion, which I’m not sure I completely bought into. I found the rationale-denouement slightly implausible and there were elements within the narration particularly when McDaid became more physically involved with Patrick’s ex-girlfriend that would have been better served either being left well alone, or conversely a more explicit detailing might have read better. The halfway there nudge-nudge style kind of felt a bit of a cop-out (no pun intended).            

I enjoyed the development of the friendship between John and Francis and his mate on the force, Andy. The footballing aspects were more interesting to me than the depiction of a cabinet-maker’s craft, though at no time did the description of the wood-working descend into tedious detail and bog down the tale. 
   
Enjoyable enough overall. Probably a 3.5 so I’ll be rounding it to a 4.

The author was kind enough to send me a copy in return for an honest review.



Saturday, 9 August 2014

2 BY GERALD PETIEVICH

Gerald Petievich was an author I discovered back in the late 80’s, early 90’s on one of my twice yearly jaunts up to London’s premiere crime fiction bookshop – Murder One.







He had 8 books, including 3 with Charlie Carr, a Treasury agent between 1982 and 1991. Then there was a 12 year gap until Paramour in 2003 and then nothing since. I wonder why…. (bloody Blogger persists in mucking around with my format!)







Petievich’s website is here.

I did try and get my wife to read one of these the other night as she was looking for her next book. I read the first page to her in bed, followed by a random page from the middle of the book – no cigar, she wasn’t having it. No accounting for taste really. Reading the Publishers Weekly review below – scant praise – I recall enjoying Earth Angels better than that; a future re-read will hopefully confirm.


Money Men

Charlie Carr is Petievich's ruthless T-Man, a hard-nosed detective in the gutsy, no-nonsense tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In Money Men, Carr is hot on the trail of two thugs who have gunned down a young undercover agent - a torturous trail that will lead from the smoke-filled hangouts of sordid Chinatown, to a desperate scheme to steal counterfeit money from counterfeiters themselves, and finally, to a brutal blood-drenched confrontation in a magnificent penthouse overlooking the streets of LA's seamy underworld.





Earth Angels

A Los Angeles drug squad crosses the line separating justice from crime in an attempt to break the backs of the city's notorious Chicano gangs

Publisher's Weekly

The author of the brutally violent To Live and Die in L.A. turns the trick again in this grisly novel that begins with the accidental murder of a little girl. L.A. detective sergeant Jose Stepanovich heads a newly formed four-member anti-gang unit striving to neutralize gang activity that has been polluting the barrio of East L.A. for generations. An innocent bystander, the girl is killed by an errant bullet fired during gang drive-by. Unfortunately, since evidence is hard to come by, and witnesses harder still, the unit fails to solve the crime. When one member of the elite unit is murdered during another drive-by, Stepanovich and his remaining cohorts take on both gangs. Many gory deaths later, Stepanovich has been transformed into the beast he once hunted. Petievich's graphic descriptions of the violence and of a gang psychology that leans heavily on retribution and machisimo are the only saving elements in an eminently predictable storyline littered with one-dimensional characters. The reader is hard pressed to feel any emotion for the players in this saga of violence, in which texture is substituted for depth.