Thursday, 16 November 2017

ANTHONY NEIL SMITH + VICTOR GISCHLER - TO THE DEVIL, MY REGARDS (2001/2011)


Synopsis/blurb....

Z.Z. DelPresto is a ne'er-do-well private eye who stumbles into trouble along the beaches of Alabama and Florida. But this time he may have waded out too far. The evidence appears to show him killing the seventeen-year-old girl he'd fallen for. But Z.Z. knows good and well he didn't do it, and now he's in the fight of his life to prove it. Throw in the girl's rich and ruthless parents, some cops who have been trying to put DelPresto away for years, a topless tourist and a stuttering psychic who knows all of tomorrow's sports scores today, and you have a story you just can't put down. 

Combine Gischler's colorful eccentricity with Smith's grinding noir, and you end up with this unique novella: To the Devil, My Regards. Originally published in 2001, Gischler and Smith now bring this crazy tale to Kindle, with a new cover by "Pokerben" Springer.

It's been a while since I read anything from either of these two authors after faithfully following them both more than a decade ago. On a bit of a downer after my last book, a quick pick-me-up was in order. Well - at 66 pages it was quick, and enjoyable but not amazing.

Mr Smith
We have a PI in the frame for murdering the daughter of his client. The client hired him to gather evidence on his cheating wife, not to sleep with his daughter and definitely not to kill her!

Z.Z. DelPresto surprisingly gets released from custody and works to clear himself. Managing to avoid the attentions of a hitman, turning the tables on him, having a steamy encounter with the dead girl's mother (who just happened to hire the would-be-assassin), an impromptu boat trip with a couple of unsuspecting tourists, and a few more deaths, DelPresto gathers the evidence and cracks the case. News Flash - he didn't do it!

Action, pace, humour, snappy dialogue, a bit of sex and a few decent twists before a believable resolution, I liked it. Worth a pound of anyone's money.
Mr Gischler

I'm sure they've written a lot better both before and since.

3.5 from 5

Smith's All the Young Warriors was one of my favourite reads of 2013. All the other books I've read from the pair were in my pre-blogging days.


Read in November, 2017
Published - 2001 (re-published 2011)
Page count - 66
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

JOHN FLORIO - BLIND MOON ALLEY (2014)


Synopsis/blurb....

It's Prohibition. It's Philadelphia. And Jersey Leo doesn't fit in. Jersey is an albino of mixed race. Known as "Snowball" on the street, he tends bar at a speakeasy the locals call the Ink Well. There, he's considered a hero for having saved the life of a young boy. But when his old grade school buddy, Aaron Garvey, calls from death row and asks for one last favor, all hell breaks loose. Jersey finds himself running from a band of crooked cops, hiding an escaped convict in the Ink Well, and reuniting with his grammar school crush - the now sultry Myra Banks, who has shed a club foot and become a speakeasy siren. Through it all, Jersey tries to safeguard the Ink Well with no help other than his ragtag group of friends: his ex-boxing-champion father, Ernie Leo; the street-savvy Johalis; a dim-witted dockworker named Homer; and the dubious palm reader Madame Curio. With them, Jersey digs for the truth about his friend Aaron Garvey - and winds up discovering a few things about himself.

My second time with John Florio and his mixed race albino Jersey "Snowball" Leo. Sugar Pop Moon, Florio's fiction debut was a pretty amazing read back in 2013 and this one has sat on the pile for a year or two simmering. High expectations then.

Slightly unfulfilled unfortunately. I didn't enjoy it quite so much as the last one. It's a fairly short book - around 230 pages long, but it still felt kind of saggy around the middle.

Jersey's childhood friend, Aaron Garvey is on death row awaiting execution. Jersey gets the phone call he's been dreading; Garvey wants Leo to join him for his last meal, a request that our man can't turn down. Garvey later escapes and seeks Jersey's help in shelter and also trying to recover some seed money invested in a nightclub. Money he needs to flee the country and start up elsewhere. As a convicted cop-killer he won't find any rest in America.

Therein follows our tale...... corrupt cops - vicious to boot, a speakeasy, nightclubs, gangsters, police raids, harbouring a fugitive, missing money, a playground romance rekindled, racism, shootouts, confrontation and death, prostitutes, a boxing club precious to Jersey and his father Ernie, dreams of a new life, a showdown, more death and an outcome and resolution.

I liked the setting with the seedy atmosphere of illegal drinking clubs in 30s Philadelphia. (World's apart from a recent book I read set in 30s Texas.) I liked the main character Jersey and his relationship with his father and his loyalty to his friends and his dreams of escape with childhood sweetheart Myra. His constant striving to do the right thing and his permanent fretting over money and his responsibilities. He has a good heart. Some of the supporting characters also had some depth and decency - Leo's father Ernie and the cop Thorndyke.

I think I just couldn't really get into the story. There seemed to be a lot of chasing around and to me at least repetition. We seemed to replay the same events a few times. Cops hunt Garvey, Jersey being watched and worrying etc etc. Maybe we needed to get to the point a bit quicker, which might be harsh on a book not especially long to begin with.

I enjoyed the ending and segments of the book. Just a bit of a disappointment when compared to the first in the series.

3 from 5

Thoughts on Sugar Pop Moon here.

John Florio shares his website with his wife, Ouisie Shapiro  here.

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2014
Page count - 226
Source - review copy from publisher, Seventh Street Books
Format - paperback.






Tuesday, 14 November 2017

2 BY MARTIN STANLEY

2 this week from Teesside author, Martin Stanley.






















I have a stack of his Stanton Brother books on the pile but to date have only managed to read one of them - The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah, thoughts here. More fool me.

From the horse's mouth.... The Stanton Brothers series comprises of ........

Sort of... In order 1) Curious Case 2) A Funny Thing 3) Green-eyed Monster 4) Bone Breakers 5) The Hunters 6) The Glasgow Grin 1/2 

With the exception of The Hunters & Glasgow Grin they can be read and enjoyed on their own (unless you're OCD about things)

Billingham Forum came afterwards.

There's also a stand-alone novel The Gamblers and a collection of short stories - The Greatest Show in Town (and other shorts).

Martin Stanley has his website here.
You can catch him on Facebook here and over on Twitter - @MStanleyAuthor




The Glasgow Grin (A Stanton Brothers thriller Book 6) (2015)

In the aftermath of The Hunters, the Stantons are in hiding. They have a pile of money that doesn’t belong to them, and a lot of dead bodies to show for it. They’ve never had a problem with doling out violence to Middlesbrough’s villains, but now the stakes are different: A mother and her innocent daughter have been savagely mutilated in a revenge attack by a twisted maniac. An attack for which the Stantons are being blamed…

Bob Owden, feared local crimelord and businessman, wants to know exactly what happened at the Hollis Haulage Massacre. As Bob’s investigation progresses, and victims mount up, he comes to realise that the Stanton brothers might just know a thing or two about it. And anyone who comes to the attention of Bob Owden is not likely to have a long and happy future.

In order to survive, the brothers are going on the warpath. Bringing their own brand of street justice to the scum who cross them, while - of course - making sure that they still make a profit at the end of it. They’ll use blackmail and intimidation to flush out the culprits, all the while dodging hitmen, gangsters, and the ever-increasing bounty on their heads. But even they might have bitten off more than they can chew this time…

Set in a world where everybody’s motives are suspect, where the good guys are bad and the bad guys are worse, where every favour can cost the ultimate price; The Glasgow Grin combines intense, fast-paced plotting, ferocious ultra-violence, snappy, foul-mouthed dialogue, and a rogue’s gallery of twisted villains to create a crime thriller so wild that it just might leave you grinning from ear-to-ear.

WARNING: CONTAINS VERY STRONG LANGUAGE AND VIOLENCE THROUGHOUT. NOT FOR THE EASILY OFFENDED OR THOSE OF A SENSITIVE DISPOSITION.

The Gamblers  (2011)

What would you do for seven hundred and fifty grand?

Would you betray your friends? Would you gamble your future? Would you kill?

Four men with dirty pasts and uncertain futures discover just what they're capable of when they have the chance to get their hands on a fortune, in this action-packed noir from the author of The Hunters and The Glasgow Grin. They lie, they steal, they double-cross, they kill, and they gamble it all for the big score.

But one thing’s for certain, when the gamble is this big somebody has to lose.


The Gamblers is a powerful, complex, well-plotted crime thriller that makes the most of its gritty British setting. A cast of strong characters spout profane and snappy dialogue at each other and, once experienced, its explosive blood-spattered finale is difficult to forget. It would be a crime to miss it.



Because of my book-related series OCD, The Glasgow Grin will have to wait awhile.
The Gamblers is a bit of a monster at 500 plus pages, but it ain't gonna read itself, so one to kick back with over Christmas I think.

* The Glasgow Grin outside of fiction has a more sinister connotation dating back to the 1920s.
see Glagow smile


Monday, 13 November 2017

OCTOBER 2017 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH


Another decent month's reading, both number-wise and quality. Only one read which didn't hit the mark and seeing as that was a shorty short, not really a problem.

One 5 STAR READ and an obvious choice for Pick of the Month - Robin Yocum's A Welcome Murder!

The full month's reading list was .......

Heleyne Hammersley - Closer to Home (2017) (4.5)

Steve Goble - The Bloody Black Flag (2017) (4)

Rebecca Bradley - Three Weeks Dead (2016) (4)

David DeLee - Whose Greater Good (2012) (3.5)

Joel Hames - Victims (2017) (4)

Robin Yocum - A Welcome Murder (2017) (5)

Sean Costello - Last Call (2015) (4)

Thomas Waugh - Nothing to Lose (2016) (4.5)

Allen Eskens - The Heavens May Fall (2016) (4.5)

Joel Hames - Caged (2017) (4)

Terry Shames - An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock (2016) (4)

Solomon Carter - Rack and Ruin (2016) (2.5)

Larry D. Sweazy - A Thousand Falling Crows (2016) (4.5)

Eric Beetner  - The Year I Died Seven Times: Book 6 (2014) (4)

Eric Beetner  - The Year I Died Seven Times: Book 7 (2014) (4)

Eric Beetner - The Year I Died Seven Times (2015) (4) (Round-up)

4 very good books at  4.5 STARS - Closer to Home from Heleyne Hammersley, Larry D. Sweazy's A Thousand Falling Crows, Nothing to Lose by Thomas Waugh and The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens.


4 STAR READS - Eric Beetner's episodic The Year I Died Seven Times, Terry Shames, a couple from Joel Hames, Sean Costello, Steve Goble and Rebecca Bradley

David DeLee's shortish story merited 3.5 STARS, with Solomon Carter's Rack and Ruin, a disappointing  2.5 STARS

More awaits me on the TBR pile from Heleyne Hammersley, David DeLee, Sean Costello, Thomas Waugh, Allen Eskens, Terry Shames, Eric Beetner and Solomon Carter.

More useless trivia......

15 reads from 13 different authors,

6 of the 13 were new-to-me authors....... Heleyne Hammersley, Joel Hames, Rebecca Bradley, Steve Goble, Solomon Carter and Thomas Waugh

Eric Beetner, Terry Shames, Larry D. Sweazy, Allen Eskens, Sean Costello, Robin Yocum and David DeLee have been read and enjoyed before.

Gender analysis - 10 male authors, 3 female....... a bit better than before, but still unbalanced

I believe of the 13 authors I read, 1 is Canadian, 5 are English, and 7 hail from the US.

All 15 of the reads were fiction - 8 novels and 7 depending on your definition were short novels, novellas, long short stories, cliff-hanging episode-cum-installment jobbies or just short stories.

No old stuff enjoyed - all 15 were published this decade -  5 from this year, 6 from 2016 and 1 from 2015, 2 from 2014 and 1 from 2012. I still love older books, I just seemed to have temporarily stopped reading them

4 of the 15 books were pre-owned/purchased

6 of the 15 came via the publisher, 1 from Bloodhound Books, 5 from Seventh Street Books.

5 of them came from the authors, all courtesy of signing up to author’s newsletters on their websites, via Insta-Freebie in a couple of cases.




Favourite cover? Thomas Waugh’s Nothing to Lose



Second favourite – Rebecca Bradley’s Three Weeks Dead







My reads were this long – 262 – 240 – 144 – 40 – 77 – 272 – 266 – 94 – 304 – 45 – 270 – 20 – 256 – 40 - 42

Total page count =  2372 (2379 in September).......more or less the same as last month

10 were Kindle reads, 5 were paperbacks,

5 < 50,
2 between 51 < 100,
1 between 101 < 200,
6 between 201 < 300,
1 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages

The Heavens May Fall from Allen Eskens was the longest read at 304 pages.

 Solomon Carter’s Rack and Ruin - the shortest at just 20 pages.





















Sunday, 12 November 2017

OCTOBER 2017 - FILMS + TV

Another cracking month's viewing - a couple more cinema outings and plenty of TV enjoyed! 


Killer Joe  (2011)

The darkest film I've seen Matthew McConaughey in. Not a particularly easy watch, but I liked it.
A cop (Matthew McConaughey) who moonlights as a hit man agrees to kill the hated mother of a desperate drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) in exchange for a tumble with the young man's virginal sister (Juno Temple).



Fargo Season 3 (2017)
Binge watched about the last 5 or 6 episodes. I enjoyed it, but the ending was slightly unsatisfying for me. Not as enjoyable as the first two series, but if there is a fourth - deal me in!

From Wikipedia.....The third season is set primarily between December 2010 and March 2011, in three Minnesota towns: St. CloudEden Valley, and Eden Prairie, and is the only season to not feature the titular Fargo, North Dakota. It follows the lives of a couple, Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who, after unsuccessfully trying to rob Ray's brother Emmit (also played by McGregor), become involved in a double murder case. One of the victims is an old man with a mysterious past whose stepdaughter, Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), is a policewoman. Meanwhile, Emmit tries to cut his ties with a shady organization he borrowed money from two years ago, but the company, whose employees include V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) and Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan), has other plans.

Security (2017)
A film with Antonio Banderas down on his luck after leaving military service. Starting a temporary job as a security guard at a shopping mall, he gets a chance to use his skills when a young girl in witness protection flees from a ruthless gangster after her minders get ambushed. Probably not winning any Oscars but I enjoyed it. Ben Kingsley oozes menace as the bad guy.

A mall security guard has to protect a female witness from a gang after they lose all forms of communication during a storm.


American History X (1998)
I hadn't realised this film was nearly 20 years old, as it seems quite relevant today. Popped up on the small screen and I was happy to record and view. Another film with a hard-hitting message. The two Edwards are very good - Furlong and Norton.

Living a life marked by violence and racism, neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) finally goes to prison after killing two black youths who tried to steal his car. Upon his release, Derek vows to change his ways; he hopes to prevent his younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), who idolizes Derek, from following in his footsteps. As he struggles with his own deeply ingrained prejudices and watches their mother grow sicker, Derek wonders if his family can overcome a lifetime of hate.



The Snowman (2017)

Cinema trip number one and a crime thriller based on a Jo Nesbo book of the same name. I haven't yet read the book. Enjoyable enough and I wasn't demanding my entrance money back. Last time I saw Michael Fassbender was in an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. (Mac-shit in my opinion.) Maybe a 7 out of 10.
For Detective Harry Hole, the death of a young woman during the first snowfall of winter feels like anything but a routine homicide. His investigation leads him to "The Snowman Killer," an elusive sociopath who continuously taunts Hole with cat-and-mouse games. As the vicious murders continue, Harry teams up with a brilliant recruit to try and lure the madman out of the shadows before he can strike again.


Liar (2017)
Six episodes of an ITV drama. The couple pictured go out on a date and have sex afterwards, though was it consensual or was it rape? We spend a few episodes building the tension. Is the woman slightly unhinged and vengeful? Or is our man a predator? Interesting, tense, quite disturbing in places. Not quite sold on the ending personally. The two leads - Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Guffard are pretty good.

Created and written by BAFTA- and Golden Globe-nominated producers and screenwriters Harry and Jack Williams, and featuring "Downton Abbey" star Joanne Froggatt and "Fantastic Four" actor Ioan Guffard, "Liar" tells the story of two people whose initial attraction leads to far-reaching consequences for them and their friends and families. Laura Nielson, a smart and capable teacher in the middle of a breakup, is set up on a date with recently widowed surgeon Andrew Earlham. However, the day after it is apparent that something has gone wrong, and the subsequent fallout rapidly spirals out of control, exposing the power of truth, deception and trust.


Tracker (2010)
I'm a bit of a Ray Winstone fan and in spite of his dodgy South African accent here, I quite enjoyed this one. Set around the turn of the century in New Zealand. Winstone goes on a bounty hunt, but things aren't too straight forward once he catches his man. Great scenery.

An Afrikaner veteran of the Boer War has just immigrated to New Zealand and is hired to track a man accused of killing a soldier. While hunting through the countryside he captures his fugitive, only to learn that he's innocent of the crime. When faced with the life changing decision to turn him in or set him free only one man will walk away alive.


1922 (2017)
An adaptation from a Stephen King novella. Didn't recognise any of the cast. Pretty enjoyable, not especially horrific, more tense I suppose.

A rancher conspires to murder his wife for financial gain and convinces his teenage son to participate.


Jigsaw (2017)

Cinema trip number two and a horror spin-off from the Saw franchise. Just what I needed on my birthday! Worse ways of spending a couple of hours, but not one that will live too long in the memory. Ingenious set-ups as per usual.


After a series of murders bearing all the markings of the Jigsaw killer, law enforcement officials find themselves chasing the ghost of a man who has been dead for over a decade, and they become embroiled in a new game that's only just begun. Is John Kramer back from the dead to remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life? Or is this a trap set by a killer with designs of his own?

Get Out (2017)

Interesting film which reminded me a bit of The Stepford Wives. I was enjoying it and the tension was building as our main man seemed to be dragged deeper into the clutches of his girlfriend's freaky family. Lo and behold the doorbell rang and we paused mid-film for about an hour. When we returned to it, some of the suspense had vanished. Still an enjoyable film and another one where I wasn't recognising any of the cast and playing the "what where they in before" game.


Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.
Tower Heist (2011)
A light offering and a bit of comedy crime. I do like Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. Plenty of laughs as the gang try to take down Alan Alda. Matthew Broderick is pretty good also. I'd probably watch it again if it came on, but wouldn't cry if I missed it.

For more than 10 years, Josh Kovaks (Ben Stiller) has managed one of New York City's most luxurious and well-secured residences. One of the condo's most-notorious residents, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), is currently under house arrest for the theft of more than $2 billion from his investors -- including Josh and his co-workers. Determined to reclaim the retirement funds Shaw stole from them, they turn to a petty crook named Slide (Eddie Murphy) to help them break into Shaw's home.

OCTOBER 2017 - ADDITIONS TO THE LIBRARY - 6 OF THE BEST!

Another month with a few more additions to the shelves...

Amazon Purchase
Blacky Jaguar, ex-IRA hard man, devoted greaser, and overall hooligan, is furious. Someone’s made off with Polly, his 1959 Plymouth Fury, and there’s not much that can stop him from getting her back. It doesn’t take him to long to get a name, Osito, the Little Bear. This career bastard has Polly in his clutches, and Blacky doesn’t have long until she’s a memory.

The sudden burst of righteous violence gets the attention of Special Agent Linda Chen, FBI pariah and Blacky’s former flame. Linda’s out to get her man before he burns down half the Bronx and her superiors get the collar.

All roads will lead our heroes to an unassuming house in one of the worst parts of the South Bronx, where fists and bullets will surely fly, but maybe, just maybe, Blacky will find a better reason to fight than a car. The Fury of Blacky Jaguar is the story of friends, enemies, and one sweet ass ride.

Praise for THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR:

“Angel Luis Colón’s writing mixes brutal violence with dark humor, but he never forgets the emotional truth of his characters. Colon and The Fury of Blacky Jaguar should be on everyone’s radar now. Readers are going to love this exciting new voice.” —Dave White, Shamus Award-nominated author of Not Even Past.


An early birthday present to myself!

An ex-cop who navigates by a moral compass stubbornly jammed at true north, Dave Wakeland is a talented private investigator with next to zero business sense. And even though he finds himself with a fancy new office and a corporate-minded partner, he continues to be drawn to cases that are usually impossible to solve and frequently don't pay.

When Wakeland is hired by a terminally ill woman to discover the whereabouts of her adopted child-who disappeared as an adult more than a decade earlier-it seems like just another in a string of poor career decisions. But it turns out this case is worse than usual, even by his standards. With only an anonymous and vaguely worded tip to guide him, Wakeland interviews an imprisoned serial killer who seems to know nothing about the case, but who nonetheless steers him toward Vancouver's terrifying criminal underworld.

And it all goes downhill from there.

Whatever ghosts drive Wakeland, they seem to drive him inexorably toward danger-a journey he's content to take so long as it means finding out what happened to someone the rest of the world seems happy enough to forget. With nothing to protect him but his wit and his empathy for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, Wakeland is on the case.

Review copy from Endeavour Press

Cop Andy Bastian is offered a thousand dollars in exchange for a favour – not an insignificant amount in the early Sixties.

He’s to deliver Ralph, the brilliant son of wealthy parents, to Kansas to be detained in a mental health facility. 

It’s a long journey from California, but they don’t get far before it’s clear they’re being followed.

Initially suspecting the boy’s father is merely keeping a close eye, it quickly becomes clear that something much more sinister is afoot.

Just who is trying to get to them?

And can he get Ralph safely to the asylum before they do?



Copy from author
When an innocent family is taken hostage in their home no one is prepared for how fast it all goes terribly wrong. With the close knit community of small town Lawrence still reeling from shock, detectives Nick Cooper and Tobe White stand among the dead bodies knowing that it’s not over. Because while grateful that at least the two young daughters survived unscathed, they now know that their father is missing, somehow impossibly vanishing from a house surrounded by police. The mystery deepens as Nick and Tobe realize that they know every gunman lying dead here – up to last night they were the leaders of the biggest criminal gang in the country. As the desperate search and rescue mission begins it soon collides with their own challenging investigation leading them into a deeper, older tragedy. Where they begin to learn just how far someone will go for those he truly, dearly hates.

Amazon purchase
“See you in Hell.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Turns out they were both right.
Enemies in life continue to be enemies in the afterlife in Hell, a hard boiled supernatural action horror tale.
Hell is pulpy action-noir at its best

Another Amazon purchase!

Dead girlfriend…check
Alcohol problem…check
Gambling debt…check
Looming death…check

Jack Andrelli is a private eye. He’s also a booze-sodden, big-mouthed, gambling addict with a death wish.

Haunted by the suicide of his teenage girlfriend and in hock to a gangster, Jack meets a femme fatale who offers him a case that might just solve his problems once and for all.

PRAISE FOR DRAWING DEAD

"Drawing Dead is a brilliant noir from one of Australia's most exciting new novelists." – Adrian McKinty, author of 'Dead I Well May Be', 'Fifty Grand', 'Falling Glass' and 'The Cold, Cold Ground'

Friday, 10 November 2017

LARRY D. SWEAZY - A THOUSAND FALLING CROWS (2016)


Synopsis/blurb....

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.

The 30s and rural Texas in the middle of a depression isn't somewhere I go very often in my reading, but if Sweazy wants to take me back there in future with Sonny Burton I'll be happy to join him.

Impressive sense of time and place and an interesting lead character. Burton is widowed and now retired from the Texas Rangers; a shoot out with Bonnie and Clyde saw to that. After losing his right arm he feels less than whole, exacerbated by the loss of his career as well. Despite living on his own their are plenty of family tensions in the book. Sonny's son, Jesse is also a Texas Ranger, though he is struggling in the long shadow of his father. That Jesse always felt closer to his mother than his dad, adds a layer to their troubled relationship.

There's been a series of murders in the area and Jesse is part of the team looking into them. The local police and populace look at the younger Burton and compare him to his father and Jesse is a poor second. Sonny meanwhile is trying to put his life back together and also loosely investigating the disappearance of a Mexican girl, as a favour to the janitor who helped him in the hospital.

It's quite a busy book...... murder, boot-legging, criminal twins, absconding followed by regret, stick-ups, coping with disability, familial loss, a dog - which plays an important part in Sonny's healing and crows - Sweazy uses a lot of imagery as we have our feathered friends observing events and anticipating carrion having become familiar with our killers MO.

I really enjoyed this and I think what contributed to that was the rich cast of characters and the decency and kindness they displayed to each other. Times are troubled, money is tight, Texas is a dustbowl and the rain has stayed away. Those with little to spare, always seem to have the most generous of spirits. 

We have a resolution to all our open strands at the end and a reconciliation to a degree between father and son all of which satisfied without being over done with saccharine. Impressive.

4.5 from 5

I've enjoyed Larry D. Sweazy's books before. Twice with indexer Marjorie Trumaine and another standalone.

Where I Can See You, See Also Murder, See Also Deception.

Larry D. Sweazy has his website here. He is on Facebook here and Twitter - @larrydsweazy


Read in October, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 256
Source - review copy from publisher, Seventh Street Books
Format - paperback


Q + A with Larry D. Sweazy here.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

CHRISTOPHER FARNSWORTH - HUNT YOU DOWN - BLOG TOUR

Thanks to Emily at publisher Bonnier Zaffre for inviting me to be part on Christopher Farnsworth's Hunt You Down Blog Tour.


Hunt You Down hit the shelves in paperback a week or so ago. It's my current read and something of a departure for me......

John Smith is no ordinary gun for hire.
Smith is a man of rare gifts, and he knows your every thought . . .

Hired to track down a shooter targeting the rich and famous, Smith must complete his mission before another attack takes place. But when a website on the dark net is found to have connections to the murders, Smith realises that taking down a shadowy figure who has weaponised the internet will prove more difficult than he first thought.

And no matter how hard he tries, this criminal mastermind continues to remain one step ahead.
--------------------
I'm not too far into it yet, so haven't formed an opinion on whether it's right up my street or not.

Here are a few thoughts from Chris on serial killer in fiction.....



Goodbye, Hannibal Lecter
By Christopher Farnsworth



I was at the Men of Mystery luncheon a couple of weeks ago. It’s an annual event in Irvine, California, where mystery writers have a chance to sit with readers and each other and talk about their books. I get to act like a bigtime author while also spending a few hours as a total fanboy with the people who have inspired me. This year, I got Jonathan Kellerman to sign my ancient paperback copy of his first book, When the Bough Breaks, which I first read when I was 14 and can still quote from memory.


But the moment that stayed with me came when Hart Hansen, a wildly successful television writer and author of The Driver, spoke. He and Matt Goldman were talking with Stephen Jay Schwartz about the differences between writing books and writing for the screen. Then someone asked them a question about the plot devices they’re tired of seeing.

Hansen said he was done with the trope of the sadistic, ritualistic slaughter of women by a genius serial killer type. Goldman and Schwartz both nodded, and I thought there was a general murmur of agreement throughout the room.

I was glad to hear it. I’m not about to say I’m above using the idea, or that I didn’t enjoy the work of Thomas Harris when he created Hannibal Lecter and the dogged profilers who fenced with him. In some ways, I even find these stories less horrifying than the bloodless “cozy” murder mysteries, where someone expires politely in a house full of suspects and everyone behaves as if there isn’t a corpse in the room.

I have, in my own work, written sadists who delight in torture, who mutilate and kill with glee, and who feed off the pain of their victims. For one book, I spent a whole year eyeball-deep in serial-killer lore in an attempt to create the ultimate Boogeyman. I was out to disturb and to frighten — and I wouldn’t want to stop anyone else from trying to do the same things with their work.

But more and more, as I’ve written this stuff, I’ve wondered what these stories are saying. We have heroes like James Bond and Jack Bauer and John McClane — all of whom I love — who fill dozens of graves by the time the end credits roll.

Even in my work that doesn’t feature vampires and monsters, violence is the main engine that drives the plot. There is always a man with a gun, and he is set in a world where other people will kill to achieve their aims. There is always blood on his hands by the end.

I’ve thought about that a lot in the past few weeks, as men with guns have slaughtered dozens of innocent victims in Las Vegas and in Texas. And I wonder if they saw themselves as heroes in their own action movies.

I’m not an action hero by any means, but I have occasionally seen real violence. And it is never like the movies. I was a bystander in a lone-gunman situation a few years ago, and no John McClane emerged with any snappy lines. Instead, there was chaos and a lot of running and people who will wake up with nightmares for years and one man who will never get to go home to his family because he’s dead.

That’s why fiction is comforting. It makes sense of senseless acts. It provides a narrative, and puts random events in an order we can understand.

But I cannot escape the truth behind all of these fictions I’ve written: there is something monstrous in the ability to commit violence, to decide whether another person should live or die.

What I have tried to do with my books lately is show the cost of violence. My protagonist, John Smith, literally feels the pain of the people he hurts. Even the bad guys were once children with infinite possibilities before them, with parents who once looked at them with love and hope, and when Smith kills one, he feels a hole open up that threatens to consume him as well.

I still believe we need these fictions to deal with the nightmares that are out there. I believe we need heroes who will stand against the horrors we imagine and the ones we see in the media all too often.

But my heroes are not allowed to walk away unscathed, because I don’t believe that’s possible. Not anymore.

Christopher Farnsworth is the author of six novels, including HUNT YOU DOWN, available now from Bonnier Zaffre.


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

ERIC BEETNER - THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES (2015)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Deaths = 7 Body count = 1

Well, okay, there were more bodies than that once the year was over. But for me, I wasn't going to let a little thing like death stop me from finding out what happened to the girl of my dreams.

* * * * * 

In this one-of-a-kind novel, amateur investigator Ridley tests the limits of what a man will go through for true love. With the help of trained assassins and a stoner best friend, Ridley is thrown head-first into a dark world of drugs, kidnapping and violence. As a detective, he's not the best. Not even close. But Ridley is determined to find his girl -- or die trying.

I've covered this on the blog in seven separate posts from reading episode one back in November, 2016 to finishing the last installment in October.
So more for my own amusement than anyone's else.....

Overall impression - a solid 300-odd pages of entertainment; enjoyable, amusing without always being laugh out loud funny with a touch of profundity at times as our hero, muses on life and death all the while investigating his Japanese girlfriend's disappearance.

Our main man Ridley dies seven times in all, (perhaps he's in possession of some feline DNA) as these minor inconveniences, prove a mere irritant in his relentless quest for the truth. Relentless, apart from the times when he kicks back and tries to relax and forget Miho.

To get the best out of this, park your skepticism at the door, buckle up and enjoy the ride..... death and lots of it, Japanese gangsters, best friends, spiteful flatmates, the shadow of a long time dead father - one with a legendary status as an FBI agent, his one-time partner now a hit man, an invitation to star in a porno film, some intimidation and torture.........and lots more beside. All presented with a deft touch and some disarming humour, which stops this being just another read with an insanely high body count.

I'd definitely sign up for some more Ridley adventures should Beetner choose to give us the next chapter or two in his life.

4 from 5 

I do like Eric Beetner's work, although to be fair there's more of it unread than actually enjoyed to date. Hopefully 2018 will be the year of reading Beetner, as well as a few other favourites.

11 unread plus bits... so I'm a fan then!

4 to come on here!

I thought I had enjoyed more from him than this one, but maybe not - Over Their Heads - with J. B. Kohl

Eric Beetner's website is here and you can catch him on Facebook here and over on Twitter @ericbeetner

Read in October, 2017 (as well as November, 2016 and a few months in-between)
Published - 2015
Page count - 310
Source - purchased copy (albeit in a sprawling 7 episode format)
Format - Kindle