Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Sam Hawken is an author I have yet to read, which hasn't stopped me acquiring more than one of his books. He has published 6 novels to date and I have definitely got 3,possibly 4 of them.

His debut novel The Dead Women of Juarez was short-listed for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger.

I bought it when it came out back in 2011, so it hasn't been gathering dust for too long.....3 years or so which in my world is practically nothing.

A lot of his books are set in and around the borderlands between Mexico and the US, an interesting setting for the kind of tales I like to read.

His website is here.

Cool covers too.

Tequila Sunset was published in 2012. Missing came out earlier this year.

Tequila Sunset

This is a vivid, violent page-turner set in the ganglands of the US / Mexican border. El Paso and Ciudad Juarez sit across the Texas / Mexico border from each other. They share streets, share industry, share crime. One gang claims territory in both: Barrio Azteca, or as the Mexicans call them, Los Aztecas. This single criminal organisation is responsible for most of the homicides committed in Juarez, and Felipe Morales is one of them. Recruited in prison, and now on the streets of El paso, 'Flip' has no choice but to step further into that world, but he has a secret that threatens his life. A witness to murder and intimidation, he tries one desperate gamble to get out. On the American side, El Paso detective Cristina Salas struggles to balance the [illegible] of single motherhood with those of life in the city's gang unit. When her path [illegible] with Flip, their relationship will spell the difference between a life behind bars for the young gang member, a grisly death or freedom. Meanwhile, Mexican federal agent, Matias Segura, must contend with the scourge [illegible] Los Aztecas while coordinating a long-term operation with the American authorities. The Aztecas, north and south, stand in the way if three lives. They have no qualms about crossing the line, about killing, about moving their deadly product, and it all comes together in a confrontation where the stakes are, truely, a matter of life and death. "Tequila Sunset" confirms Sam Hawken as a rising star in the crime world.


Jack Searle is an American widower, bringing up his stepdaughters alone in the border town of Laredo after losing his wife to cancer.

Jack often takes the girls to visit their Mexican family over the border in Nuevo Laredo. Marina, the elder sister, persuades him to let her go there one night to attend a concert with her cousin Patricia. Jack wants to say no - Nuevo Laredo is a very dangerous city, controlled by drug cartels. But eventually he agrees. Marina and Patricia head out to the concert, but they never come back . . .

A frantic hunt begins, with Jack leading the way. But this is Nuevo Laredo, and girls go missing all the time here. He's lucky to find that a good cop, Gonzalo Soler, is leading their investigation, but soon the whole police force is suspended due to endemic corruption.

To have any chance of finding Marina and Patricia, Jack and Gonzalo must take the law into their own hands. Their efforts to find the girls become more and more dangerous, and they uncover truths about the city of Nuevo Laredo that neither one of them ever wanted to face.

Sam Hawken lives near Washington, DC, with his wife and son. His previous novels, Tequila Sunset and The Dead Women of Juarez, were both nominated for Dagger awards.

Monday, 15 December 2014


The task continues with another 50, though it has to be said I'm starting to flag a bit. I have still to catch up on the details for last week's 50 plus do some tidying up regarding the finer details for the first few week's tubs.

Maybe I'll take a week or two off over the Christmas and New Year period and come back in January. Or conversely I'll be back in a week's time having recharged my batteries after a fairly hectic time of it recently at work.

Anyway, here's the latest tub....
Tub 11

Lee Child, Jo Nesbo, Chuck Palahniuk, Leonard Gardner and a non-fiction book about a road, Leadville.

Irving, Carofiglio, Giles Blunt, Dean Koontz and Eugene Izzi

Camilleri, Don Winslow, Chester Himes - autobiography, Bill James and some short stories.

Palahniuk, Winslow, Peter Temple, Joseph O'Connor and a bit of Rambo!

Lee Child, Gary Phillips, Tony Spinosa (aka Reed Farrel Coleman), Bill Fitzhugh and a sports biography.

A couple by Sam Millar, another Peter Temple, Irvine Welsh, Gene Kerrigan

Martin Beck series book

Eoin McNamee, Harry Crews - my favourite book of his, Simon Kernick, Christopher Brookmyre and Sjowall and Wahloo

Lawrence Block, The almost obligatory Pronzini, Harry Dolan and a couple by Richard Lange

Mr Monk appears again.

Lee Goldberg and his Monk, Lawrence Sanders and two by David Cray - who is actually one of last week's guests on the blog - Stephen Solomita.

Two more by the mighty Solomita, two by Michael Genelin and another Bill James

Quite an interesting tub with only a couple that scare me - Dean Koontz - does he rediscover his magic touch that had me raving about him in the 80's and early 90's or is it more of the same dross he has churned out recently? Paul Thomas - one of my favourite crime fiction authors, pens an auto-biography of a New Zealand Rugby Union coach......hmm, looks like fun.

Another observation.........this tub is almost a female free zone, with only Maj Sjowall with half a book offering any representation, though of course there may be some female-penned short stories in A Book of Two Halves compilation.

I'm fairly sure the next tub will be positively over-flowing with books from the fairer sex......haha course it will!

I am looking forward to in no particular order.........Block, Winslow, Solomita (plus Cray), Lange and that man Pronzini.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


A few months ago, I read and enjoyed Stinking Rich by Rob Brunet. Review here.

Rob was kind enough to submit to some questioning regarding his reading and writing.

Is the writing full-time?
It is now. I decided four years ago it was now or never. I’d always expected to be a writer and actually earned most of my income from various forms of writing early in my career. Corporate communications in the eighties and nineties led pretty directly to interactive media and before long I found myself running a boutique digital agency. I wound that down after 2010 to focus on writing.
Part of the impetus was the state of change in the publishing industry. Periods of rapid change usually mean excitement and opportunity. It feels like we’re seeing that now, with everything from multiplying markets for new voices, channels for short fiction and novellas, different ways of getting stories to readers.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of you writing career so far?
This week, in fact. As end-of-year lists start coming out, I’ve had two nods. One from Crimespree Magazine’s Jon Jordan who put Stinking Rich on his list of 2014 Book Picks. And then Scott Montgomery at MysteryPeople listed it as one of the year’s Top 6 Debuts. Both are people whose opinion resonates in the crime fiction world. Beyond that, they’re people I’ve started to get to know as I immerse myself in the crime fiction community and it means a lot personally to see them recommend my work. It makes me want to write something even better tomorrow.
Crimespree Magazine - Jon Jordan 2014 Book Picks

Mystery People - Scott Montgomery Top 6 Debuts

How long did Stinking Rich take from conception to completion?
Ha! I love that question…because I actually started crafting the story in 2000 on a car ride from Montreal to Toronto. Ten years later, I had maybe thirty thousand words and was convinced I was almost done. Very few of those words made it into the final manuscript, of course. But if I’d known at the outset how long it would take and how many rewrites would be involved, I probably would have thrown in the towel along the way.
Really, though, once I got serious, it was about two years from start to a good enough draft to secure representation and, ultimately, Down & Out Books as publisher. Every chance I got, I gave it another polish. Right to the ARC.

Was this your first serious attempt at a novel? Are there any unpublished gems in the bottom drawer?
I paw through the old files every so often, thinking maybe I’ll pull an idea or two onto my desk, but there’s little there that would serve as more than an idea. There are two favourite novel ideas that I’d like to flesh out but anything I wrote against them is pure dreck I’m afraid.

Any modern influences on your stories?
Influence is a hard thing to quantify. Although I’ve read a fair amount of crime fiction, my favourite authors range from Thomas Hardy to Carl Hiaasen, Margaret Atwood to John Irving—with plenty of variety in between. I guess they all influence me one way or another. But more than anything, I think it’s the daily news. I read, watch, and listen to it far too much. And then I rant to whomever’s within earshot. I do my damnedest to keep my reactions mute on social media and vent my frustrations on my characters. Maybe that’s why they’re uniformly whacked.

What’s your typical writing schedule?
In the city, I tend to write between 10 and 4. When I’m disciplined, that’s about six days a week. I also binge write alone in the country. I’ll disappear for three or four days, ignore the time of day, write ’til I drop, eat, sleep, repeat. It’s a terrific way to move chunks of story forward and I really should do it more.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?
People, no. Situations, yes. Or, at least, situations give me seeds that create scenes or interactions between characters. In a lot of cases, those are yanked from the news. Other times, it’s a snippet of conversation I overhear on the street which I flesh out into a completely speculative story. If strangers knew what they made me think about, I think I’d get slapped on a regular basis.

Are there any subjects off limits?
Not so much off limits but I do choose my subjects for their potential humour—when I’m writing comedy, that is. That said, my sense of humour is pretty black.

What are the last five books you have read?
LAMENTATION by Joe Clifford, DEAD BROKE IN JARRETT CREEK by Terry Shames, KILLSHOT by Elmore Leonard, BLACK ROCK by John McFetridge, CARNIVAL by Rawi Hage. All fantastic books. I’m a slow reader, so I’m careful what I pick up. Still, these past few months have been a real treat where my reading is concerned.

Who do you read and enjoy?
David Adams Richards ranks way up there. I first encountered him giving a radio interview on the CBC. I tuned in mid-segment and didn’t realize it was an author speaking—just an unbelievably interesting voice answering some questions about his life. I wound up sitting in the laneway waiting until the end of the interview to learn who it was and immediately ran out and bought Mercy Among the Children.
I’m also a big fan of Thomas Hardy. The echo I hear in Richards’s writing is the way he takes someone who’s in a bad way and beats him down further, then stomps on him a bit, until you wonder how the soul can carry on. And yet it does. And it’s a thing of beauty. I can’t recommend him strongly enough to people who enjoy literary crime, though he’s rarely categorized that way.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?
Yeah. My next one. It’s overdue.

Favourite activity when not working.
Cooking. Sometimes vaguely following a recipe, but usually just modifying some dish I already know how to cook. It’s most fun for a group of friends, but I enjoy cooking for the family and even for myself when I’m alone.

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?
The sequel to Stinking Rich which I’m calling Bible Camp Gone Bad. I’m enjoying its extra layers relative to my debut. Hopefully, readers will feel the same way.

What’s the best thing about writing-publishing?
That special high that happens when my characters take off and start writing the story for me. The creative workflow can’t be beat.

The worst?
Waiting. And I’ve been fortunate. I haven’t had to wait terribly long for feedback and responses at any point so far. But when you’re in wait mode, insecurity becomes all-consuming. The number of times I’ve spent hours, days, weeks waiting for a response, assuming it would be negative, that whatever I’d submitted was a worthless piece of crap, only to have it accepted with a strong vote of confidence in the end…well, you try to stop thinking about it and focus on the next piece but it ain’t easy.

In a couple of year’s time…
I plan to be two or three novels further down the road, at least one of them a non-comedic title. It’s an absolute privilege to be doing this full-time. My commitment to do it well couldn’t be stronger. With any luck, it’ll show in my readership.
Thank you for this opportunity to guest-blog, Colman. I do hope to be back here a couple years hence, and that your readers will welcome me.

You can catch up with Rob on his website here and over on Twitter @RRBrunet.
Many thanks to Rob for his time.

Friday, 12 December 2014



It's not hard to figure out where "One Thousand Dollars a Word" came from. The situation it describes was authentic enough, although I never heard of anyone who found the protagonist's particular solution to this dilemma. 

Back in the first half of the twentieth century, and even well into the 1950s, a prolific writer could make a respectable living writing short fiction for magazines. There was a great profusion of markets; the better ones paid generously, and even the markets of last resort would put food on a writer's table. 

TV and paperback books changed everything. Magazines folded left and right, not to mention right and left. The ones that survived were hardly thriving. They had to hold the line, and they did so by making their payment to writers the world's sole hedge against inflation. Everything else went up in price; a writer's words stayed where they were, or drifted gently downward. Some writers crossed the street to write paperback novels, or crossed the country to write television shows. But there were others who were born to write short stories, and that left them high and dry, and even dry and high. 

Thus this story. It was, as you might imagine, hugely popular among writers; Whenever our paths crossed, one colleague simply intoned, "One. Thousand. Dollars. A. Word," sighed, and walked off shaking his head. It's been anthologized from time to time over the years, and I included it in Sometimes They Bite as well as my omnibus collection, Enough Rope. 

Its first appearance, ironically enough, was in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1978, where it earned its creator the munificent sum of 5¢ a word.

Another short, short, short piece.....16 pages, but they all count in my world.

Interesting premise for a story and from a writer's perspective the thoughts and sentiments probably apply just as much today. An entertaining 15 minutes of reading, made all the more enjoyable by the fact this was free at the point of purchase over on Amazon!

It has served as a useful reminder that I have been neglecting Mr Block's unread pile of books for a while now. Borderline soon, followed by some more Scudder books next year.

4 from 5

Amazon UK download

Thursday, 11 December 2014



13 Shots Of Noir is a collection of flash fiction and short, sharp stories in the vein of Roald Dahl, The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The first story, "The Tut", was nominated for a 2010 Spinetingler Award, while the story "Anger Management" was chosen as one of the Predators and Editors top twenty crime stories. Crime, horror and dark fiction are contained within the pages of 13 Shots Of Noir.

A short book - so a short post and review!

Another shortish page turner to keep the numbers ticking over as the end of the year approaches. 13 stories – 63 pages and a great introduction to another new author for me this quarter, though I have sampled the odd short story from him previously.

Brilliant entertainment for a couple of hours……… snuff movies, necrophilia, drink, marital disharmony, vampires, werewolves, gun-toting killer priests, cops, PIs, taxidermy and embalming fluid – all played out against a less than picture postcard landscape of 21st century Britain…….run down towns, amusement arcades, snooker halls, bingo, Poundlands and Little Chefs.

The three standouts for me - The Tut, The Final Cut and M.

Time I graduated to his Luke Case series of European adventures.

You can catch up with Paul here at his website and on Twitter @PaulDBrazill

4 from 5

Purchased recently from Amazon UK 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Last month I re-acquainted myself with Stephen Solomita's New York in the form of The Striver - my best read in November. Review here.

After an e-mail or two with the ever helpful Charlotte at his UK (and US) publisher - Severn House Publishers, Stephen was kind enough to agree to a Q+A session regarding his writing. I pinged him my usual bag of questions and received this fantastic response.........

      I’m going to start by wrapping several questions into one (hopefully not overlong) response. You’ve asked me if driving a cab influenced my writing, and to recount my scariest moment behind the wheel. You also note that, “New York almost seems as much a character in your books as the police or the gangsters that live and operate there.” Finally, you’ve asked me how, since I’m not an ex-cop, I acquired my knowledge of police procedure.

      If you want to familiarize yourself with the geography and ethnicity of the any locale, there’s nothing like driving through it for twelve hours a day, going wherever your fares ask to be taken. Are the storefront signs, for example, in Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Spanish or Korean? New York is likely the most cosmopolitan city in the world, with new immigrants impacting, and sometimes overwhelming, whole neighborhoods in less than a decade. In The Striver, I describe the ongoing impact of one such migration, this one by hipsters and young professionals, on the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

      I passed the better part of six years behind the wheel of a taxicab. I wrote my first book during those years and I used everything I learned on the streets to pull it off. Even today, twenty-three books later, I commonly visit the setting of any important scene in order to pick up the odd detail. Like Devito’s Paints being located next to Polski Pyza in Greenpoint.

      Nothing turns me off faster than New York books that get everything wrong.

      I don’t mean to imply that driving a cab is a pleasant experience, or even, in the long run, bearable. My six years driving a cab were pretty much six years of continual road rage. There were a number of frightening moments along the way, but the one I’m going to describe occurred many years before I drove in New York. I have to reach back into the 1960’s when, still young and naive, I briefly drove for the Yellow Cab Company in Los Angeles. My aim at the time was simple enough. I wanted to accumulate enough money to buy an airline ticket to New York, the place of my birth. Los Angeles was so big, and so car-dependent, it seemed almost empty. I missed the crowded sidewalks, the silent interactions, the implicit understandings, the background hum of a dozen foreign languages, none of which I spoke or understood.

      I drove at night, stupidly as it turned out. Too many drunks, too many criminals. But I was, as I said, young and na├»ve. I was also preoccupied with finding my way around Los Angeles, a city as large as it was unfamiliar. Yellow Cabs didn’t cruise in Los Angeles the way they did in New York. They were expected, after dropping a fare, to pull into the nearest cab stand and wait for a call.

      On this particular weekday night, Central dispatched me from one of those stands to a single-family home in a quiet, residential neighborhood whose name I’ve long forgotten. I remember pulling up before a well-kept house and tapping my horn. As a general rule, if a fare didn’t show, we were supposed to notify the dispatcher. But after tapping the horn a second time, I decided to accelerate the process by knocking on the door. The man who answered was in his forties and friendly enough, but I never got a good look at his face. That was because the women lounging on overstuffed chairs and couches in a large parlor commanded my full attention. I’d stumbled on a brothel, which was interesting, but….

      The man didn’t ask me what I wanted. He glanced at my Yellow Cab Company hat, then called out someone’s name. A young woman appeared a moment later. She gave me an address in Watts and off we went. I don’t remember the name of the street, only that I had no idea where it was. Thus our arrival any time before dawn depended entirely on the directions she supplied. She took me south on Compton Avenue, then to a side street, then to another, then instructed me to pull to the curb before a smaller and meaner home then the one she just left.

      The gun came out a moment later, surprising me almost as much as it scared me. The cops were certain to ask me where I picked her up, as I was certain to supply the answer, as the pimp was certain to identify her. She had to know that, right?

      I didn’t hesitate when it came to the money. I held the bills out and she took then, but continued to stare at me for a moment. Then she said, “You’re probably gonna identify me, aren’t you?”

      Scary? It’s a wonder my brain didn’t melt. But I did what I do best, which was start talking. This was a matter of pure reflex. When in doubt, move your mouth. The funny part was that everything I told her was true. My stay in Los Angeles would soon be over and once I got my butt home to the east coast, I wasn’t coming back. Did I convince her? Or did she decide that shooting me was just too risky, given the circumstance? I only know that she left a moment later, taking the keys with her.

      I’m proud to say that my trousers remained dry, though I did begin to shake after she slammed the door. Once started, of course, I couldn’t stop.

      I was still vibrating when two cops showed up ten minutes later. Both were young, white and male. As they were in no hurry, I laid out my story in detail, including where I picked her up and the nature of the business conducted there. The younger of the two wrote everything down. The detectives, he told me before they left, would be in touch.

      They weren’t, not for months, not until a few weeks before I finally left town. Then I received a call from a detective at Parker Center, police headquarters in Los Angeles. He had, he believed, the woman who robbed me, had her in custody. Would I be so good as to come down and take a look?

      I met him the next day. I don’t remember his face, or exactly where we met – this was almost fifty years ago - but I do recall the first question he asked me. Could the woman who robbed me, he wanted to know, really be a man? Because, he went on to explain, they had this transvestite in custody. He was being held open, but they’d have to let him go unless they charged him with the actual commission of an actual crime.

      I kept my tone apologetic as I told him that the woman who robbed me was definitely a woman. Sorry, but…

       But look here, detective. If you really want to get the woman who robbed me, and who came close to pulling the trigger of a gun aimed at my face, you won’t have to break a sweat. There’s this pimp see, at the address where I picked up the perpetrator of this crime. If you confront him, he’s sure to give her up.

      The Detective listened to my story, and even took a few notes. I’ll give him that much. But I never heard from him, which surprised me not at all. By then, I’d come to assume that the brothel was paying to stay open. The City of Los Angeles was fabulously corrupt at that time. Pay to play was the name of the game. As for the transvestite? The prevailing system in Los Angeles simply assumed that he should be caged.

      My first five books featured a protagonist named Stanley Moodrow. Later, in 1996, I added a sixth volume, Damaged Goods. You asked if there’s any chance I’d bring him back. Cole, Stanley Moodrow’s milieu, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has changed so much that he wouldn’t recognize it. Then a mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood, the Lower East Side, including the area gentrifiers call Alphabet City, is now dominated by students and young professionals come to New York from all over the country. The crime rate is low and the greatest danger is from drunken twenty-somethings wending their way home on a Saturday night.

       One last note. You were kind enough to praise The Striver, the second book in a series I expect to be ongoing for some time. I strongly suggest that readers drawn to the series begin with the first book, Dancer in the Flames. My two main characters, Detectives Irwin `Boots’ Littlewood and Crazy Jill Kelly are both quirky, their nicknames bestowed on them by their cop peers. Why and how are best described in Dancer. I should add that I’ve written a short story that dramatizes the particular incident that gave rise of Crazy Jill’s nicknamed. It’s available, free of charge, one my website: stephensolomita.com.

     OK, that’s it. Thanks for the opportunity to communicate with mystery fans, Cole, and thanks again for the good review. Feel free to stay in touch.

My thanks to Stephen Solomita for his time.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


George V. Higgins was a Boston attorney, journalist and novelist and one of my earliest ventures into crime fiction when I read his 1972 novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle, probably in the late 80's.

This book was also turned into a well-regarded film starring Robert Mitchum in 1973.

I've read a few of Higgins books over the years, but none too recently. The last was a re-read of Eddie Coyle in 2011 and the year before that The Rat on Fire.

It's probably time to get back to him soon.

Higgins died in 1999 and with a with a novel posthumously published has 25 fiction titles to his name.

A City on a Hill

George Higgins's first venture into political fiction reads something like the Nixon White House Transcripts. His dialogues, which make up nearly the entire book, are elliptical, digressive, confusing and often seem implausible- even as the Nixon Tapes did. He can make you blush with embarrassment for the people you are eavesdropping on- embarrassment for their intimacies overheard and also for their banality. But part of Higgins's success is that the conversations in "A City on a Hill," including several that make your skin crawl, have the undeniable sound of primary-source material on life in Washington in the seventies.

Apparently from the reviews around this is one of his least regarded books.This one was published in 1975 originally.


A novel of corruption, deceit and dishonour which opens in small-town America in the long hot summer of 1967. Earl Beale, psychopathic ex-basketball star, now a used-car salesman after being jailed for corruption, is indulging in a little profitable extra-curricular activity.

Definitely the more interesting looking of the two books, so I'll probably start here. Trust was published in 1989.