Wednesday, 25 April 2018

MARCH 2018 - FILMS + TV

A mixed bag of viewing in the month...... a crappy wannabee I-Robot that I couldn't finish, a BBC domestic drama started, a documentary on NYPD corruption, a bit of mountaineering, some sci-fi, some twisted British comedy and Cameron Diaz's arse.



Precinct Seven Five (2014)

A bit of real life drama and history in the form of a documentary charting the corruption of certain elements of the NYPD and their subsequent downfall. Fascinating. Michael Dowd - the main focus of the film, seems unapologetic about his behaviour to this day.

From Wikipedia....

The Seven Five, also known as Precinct Seven Five, is a 2014 documentary directed by Tiller Russell, and produced by Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, and Sheldon Yellen. The film looks at police corruption in the 75th precinct of the New York Police Department during the 1980s. The documentary focuses around Michael Dowd, a former police officer of 10 years, who was arrested in 1992, leading to one of the largest police corruption scandals in New York City history. The documentary uses footage from the Mollen Commission investigation in 1992 and also provides in-depth commentary from Dowd, Ken Eurell, and Adam Diaz, among others. The documentary premiered at DOC NYC November 14, 2014. Sony Pictures recently purchased the rights of The Seven Five documentary in an auction.



Chappie (2015)
One I stuck for half an hour or so then killed, I just wan't engaged or interested enough to persist with it. A decent cast and few people involved who I usually enjoy seeing on the screen - Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and Dev Patel. Dire and a half hour of my life I'll never get back.

From IMDB....

In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.


Come Home (2018) BBC
Powerful drama - a three parter, though preparing for a house move in the middle of the month meant we only watched the first episode so far. Hopefully it's still available on catch up, or I'll be annoyed. Christopher Ecclestone stars as a husband who's wife (the excellent Paula Malcomson) inexplicably (to him at least) walks out on their marriage and their three young kids.

A bit of story background.......

The premise for Come Home, the new BBC One three-parter, appears to set up a fraught, harrowing relationship drama with very little to smile about. Christopher Eccleston plays Greg, a now-single father struggling to care for his three children after wife Marie (Paula Malcomson) leaves her family, out of the blue.



Annihilation (2018)
A bit of sci-fi with Natalie Portman and others. Interesting enough with plenty of tension and mounting terror, as Portman and her team try and discover what happened to the team prior to them who investigated a mysterious shimmer around a lighthouse.

From IMDB...

A biologist's husband disappears. She puts her name forward for an expedition into an environmental disaster zone, but does not find what she's expecting. The expedition team is made up of the biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a linguist.




Everest (2015)
Based on a true life expedition which ended in tragedy for some. Decent cast, compelling personal stories, amazing mountain scenes which made me want to put my coat and scarf on. But ultimately I just don't understand the psyche of adventurers, explorers, mountain climbers, free divers, pot-holers, and those of a similar ilk. I kind of think of the families anxiously waiting at home for them to return... or not.

From Wikipedia....

Everest is a 2015 biographical adventure film directed and produced by Baltasar Korm├íkur and written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, adapted from Beck Weathers' memoir Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest (2000). It stars an ensemble cast of Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, and focuses on the survival attempts of two expedition groups, one led by Rob Hall (Clarke) and the other by Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal).  



Sex Tape (2014)
I do like Cameron Diaz, probably more as a comedy actress than when she's playing it seriously and this one is mildly amusing. Not the best film ever, but enough laughs to make it an entertaining watch. I recognise the husband in this, but haven't a scooby who he is.

From IMDB....

A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts.


The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse (2005)
The past month or two has seen my son watching the TV series of League of Gentlemen on demand. I watched this on and off back in the day and was always slightly disturbed and unsettled by the creepiness of some of the characters. Dipping in and out with him, I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed it and how many scenes I could remember. We tracked down the film as a result. Well worth the couple of quid invested. Not quite wholesome family entertainment but plenty of laughs had in the Keane household.

From Wikipedia.....

The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse is a feature film spin-off of the British television comedy series The League of Gentlemen. Starring Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, the film was written by the cast with Jeremy Dyson, and directed by Steve Bendelack. Also featuring in guest roles are Michael Sheen, Victoria Wood, David Warner, Alan Morrissey, Bruno Langley, Bernard Hill, Simon Pegg and Peter Kay.

McDROLL - FEELING IT (2013)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Ten plate-steel short stories with a beating heart. A great mixture of noir, crime, humour and slice-of-life dramas.

McDroll’s crime fiction has a nip of noir and a splattering of Scottish humour and can be found floating around in the digital world, most notably in Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect and Near To The Knuckle. Other stories can be found in the anthologies Off the Record, The Lost Children, Burning Bridges and True Brit Grit. 

McDroll is the author of the crime novella The Wrong Delivery and the short story collections Kick It Together and Kick It With Conviction.

A shortish collection of stories from Scottish writer McDroll.

1. The Glasgow Bus ….. a couple of criminal geniuses (not) on a day trip

2. Primroses At My Feet ….. hmm, beyond my ken this one - a relationship? a meeting?

3. Third Party Insurance …. love and obsession, a white van and jealousy

4. Gone ….. hmm hard to summarise, an intervention from a good Samaritan is ignored. Fantastic sense of place - the sea, the wind, the weather

5. Burying My Children ….. malt whisky, grief and a laying to rest

6. An Angel’s Face ….. domestic violence, a fearful existence, a tragic accident, nothing more to lose

7.  A Promise Is A Promise …. "Revenge was sweet and a little evil now and then felt so good."

8. Fishing For Trouble … abandonment, fly-fishing, a pervert and a comeuppance

9. More Than A Bargain ….. a lost family and a new hobby

10. Bleeding Lipstick …. a short con and one of Strathclyde’s finest


Ten in total, the majority with a great sense of place and setting. I could feel the wind and the spray of the sea as I read. Powerful, evocative descriptions and all in a few short pages. There’s a mix of stories with some hard-hitting tales and some slightly less serious and a couple if I’m honest I didn’t really get. That said I enjoyed the collection and will read more from the author in the future.

4 from 5

Read in April, 2018
Published - 2013
Page count - 68
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Saturday, 21 April 2018

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH KEITH NIXON

Keith Nixon, on the blog yesterday with my thoughts on his Burn the Evidence, answers a few questions for me.....
















I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

Haha, I wish, Col! By day I’m a Business Development Director in the digital print industry. 26 long years. Originally I’m a chemist but basically I talk too much to work in a lab. I get to work with companies developing printers in all sorts of industries like 3D printing to ceramic tiles.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

Any spare moment really. But typically early morning before people are up, maybe after they’ve gone to bed depending upon the time (I’m a morning person), seven days a week pretty much 365 days a year.

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

I used to, but a lot less now. My debut, The Fix, was a cathartic exercise – I wanted to kill a work colleague, but not go to prison. These days the characters have their own personalities.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

Historically I’ve been an evolver – I typically have the kernel of an idea, get a few ideas down and go from there. But I end up wasting a lot of time and rewriting huge chunks. For the four Gray books I’ve been working with the rather brilliant Allan Guthrie and I’ve become a plotter now and won’t change.

Are there any subjects off limits?

A bacon sandwich with tomato ketchup.

Horror stuff, anything to do with kids, needless violence for the sake of it. By mistake I once reviewed a book with all three of these in, I couldn’t finish it.



How important is setting to your work? I’ve read a few of your books set in Margate and they resonate with me. For a number of childhood years, my wife and her family had an annual pilgrimage there for their holidays. Nostalgia won out a few years back and we re-visited the town. Fair to say it’s a little bit different now from when she visited during the 70s. You must have a strong connection with the town.

A sense of place is always really important, I think. The location can be a character in itself. I lived in Thanet (basically Broadstairs, Margate & Ramsgate) for many years. Margate is a great mix of grime, sleaze and wistful fun. I think it’s a great backdrop for crime. And I know the place really well. We still visit regularly & it doesn’t change much. And really, to my knowledge, there wasn’t a crime book set there at the time.

How long from conception to completion did your latest Solomon Gray book, Burn the Evidence take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

There have been plenty of speed bumps along the way because of my lack of planning at the outset of the series. However, the editing team at Bastei, the publisher, are great and in the end it worked out fine. Interestingly, the ‘cliff hanger’ at the end of Burn The Evidence really exercised some early reviewers, but it was supposed to be an introduction, really.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

Well, if talk about Dig Two Graves, that’s massively different. It was a 50,000 word Nanowrimo entry back from 2008. It went through a vast number of plot, character and title changes. Typically though, what I end up with is never the same as what I expected – some idea always pops up along the way. I believe as a writer you have to be flexible.

What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?

Working with Allan Guthrie, he’s been a proper mentor.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Unpolished maybe! I’m a third of the way through a crime / black comedy stand-alone and I also have a part-written third instalment in my Caradoc historical fiction series, but they take a year to write because of the detail.



What’s the current project in progress?

I’ve just put in what I hope are the final edits on the third Gray novel quickly followed by submitting the fourth (and final) Gray. Otherwise it’s a few days off then onto the part written black comedy for a bit of fun.

I think Burn the Evidence is about your tenth novel to date, does it get easier with each passing book or is it still a challenging process?

Ninth, I think, Gray three is number ten which is amazing! In my humble opinion it should be a challenging process, otherwise you’ve got a simple book on your hands. As I mentioned above now I’ve become a lot more planned then Gray four (book eleven) was the easiest for a while to write but tough to plan. Really before I worked with Al Guthrie I’d backed myself into a writing cul-de-sac and it wasn’t enjoyable any more.

Do you have a favourite from your canon? If you could press one of your books into the hands of a new reader, which one would you choose?

Wow, that’s a tough choice! Probably Russian Roulette – seven partially interlinked short stories about Konstantin. Quick to read each one.

Regarding your earlier books, any plans to return to Konstantin or Caradoc? (I’m fairly sure I spotted an enigmatic tramp in the pages of one of the Solomon books!)

Yes, Konstantin squeaked in. All of my books have at least one recurring character – the landlord of the English Flag (the last character I based on somebody I knew) usually makes it. I’d like to write both. But Caradoc takes a year to properly research and Konstantin would have to be self-published because nobody is willing to pick up a series somebody else has handled, but I definitely plan to go back to them. One day.



Re Solomon Gray, I think you recently said you are working on the fourth in the series, do you have a finite number planned or is it a series and character which will run and run?

Very good question. The story arc concerns Gray’s missing son, Tom. That will definitely finish with book four. After that it’s up to Bastei, whether Gray has sold enough for them to want him back. If they don’t then, as I mentioned above, other publishers are very unlikely to be interested (it’s a market thing) so I’d have to self-publish. I’d definitely like to write more about Gray, he’s developed nicely over the series and has a dark side.

Regarding the story arc with Gray’s missing son Tom, without spoilers, I’m guessing there might be progress and some sort of resolution achieved at some point…. or maybe not?

Totally right, Col. Finishes in book four. It has to be resolved really. It can’t be Inception – loved the film but the ‘is it, isn’t it’ ending was a pain. The ending for Tom is totally black and white.

What’s the best thing about writing?


Killing people.

No, not really. I love the inventive process. And the feedback from readers, particularly when they enjoy it.

The worst?

The solo aspect. I’m a social animal, being alone is okay in short bursts. Oh, and editing.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Not many recently! Just on Christopher Fowler’s latest excellent Bryant & May. Jason Beech’s City of Forts and Paul D Brazill’s new one – both indie mates. And two by MW Craven, his new Poe series – neither of which are published yet, but they are rather brilliant.

Who do you read and enjoy?

I’m stuck on crime novels at the moment. I started writing because of Ian Rankin so I read his when they come out, likewise with Christopher Fowler. Otherwise it’s newer up and comers like Luca Veste, MW Craven, Mason Cross.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Pullman’s Dark Materials, because I’m incapable of being that brilliantly inventive and far reaching.



Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Drinking beer or coffee with friends and family.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Nixon household?

Once the kids clear off to bed! We tend to binge watch series, Game of Thrones, The Good Place, Star Trek Discovery and Preacher were the most recent. I’m a bit sick of Grand Designs at the moment, though.



----------------------------------------

Many thanks to Keith for his time. Catch him at the following....

Website      http://www.keithnixon.co.uk/
Facebook   https://www.facebook.com/keith.nixon.5811
Twitter       https://twitter.com/knntom

If you've not tried his work, you're missing out - and there's plenty to choose from....

Konstantin Files
1. The Fix (2013)                    (thoughts here)
2. Russian Roulette (2014)      (thoughts here)
3. I'm Dead Again (2013)
4. Dark Heart, Heavy Soul (2016)

Konstantin Novellas
1. Dream Land (2014)             (thoughts here)

Caradoc
1. The Eagle's Shadow (2014) (thoughts here)
2. The Eagle's Blood (2015)

Detective Solomon Gray
1. Dig Two Graves (2017)        (thoughts here)
2. Burn the Evidence (2017)     (thoughts here)
3. Beg for Mercy (2018) - published in June by Bastei Entertainment

Novel
The Corpse Role (2015)

Friday, 20 April 2018

KEITH NIXON - BURN THE EVIDENCE (2017)


Synopsis/blurb....

Mixing business with family can be a murderous affair ...

A body washes up on the beach near Ramsgate in the South of England. For DS Solomon Gray, the case appears cut and dried—a drowning. An immigrant. Another victim to the sea in his desperate attempt to reach the UK.

As the tidewaters recede, two more corpses surface. One appears to be a refugee, stabbed to death. The other, Gray recognises immediately. Regan Armitage: son of business tycoon Jake Armitage. Gray knows this means trouble.

A post mortem reveals ligature marks on Regan's wrists. Drugs in his bloodstream. All signs indicate murder. Armitage swears to track down his son's killer and avenge his death.

Gray's investigation points to a deadly fire ten years prior, and soon Armitage comes under suspicion. But DS Gray knows what it's like to lose a child and puts aside his distrust of Armitage to help.

How are the dead men connected to each other—and to the infamous fire?

It's then that Gray gets another tip on the whereabouts of his own missing son, Tom...

Burn the Evidence is the second book in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray. The crime series is perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

Another encounter with Nixon's Solomon Gray on the Kent coastline and another read with murders to be solved, while at the same time touching on some topical issues of the day.

Dead bodies on a beach - drownings maybe, only one of the bodies has been stabbed. One victim is the son of a local criminal turned businessman and and old friend from way back when of Gray's. The others - refugees-cum-illegal immigrants. A quick sweep of the area, indicates someone survived the encounter and is on the loose - witness, potential victim or perpetrator?

There's more going on here than immediately meets the eye, which is as it should be....... murder, revenge, family, secrets, history, people smuggling, drugs, criminal enterprise, competition, Syria, deceit, arson, corruption, abandonment, shelter, charity, re-connection and plenty more.

Lots to like, the same police team as before in Dig Two Graves, the same frictions. Gray still has the shadow of his son's loss hanging over him and while it distracts him temporarily during the investigation it's a minor chord in the background which doesn't detract from the main narrative.

It's another shortish book and none the worse for that. We spend a bit of time in the company of the surviving refugee and we see a snapshot of his life..... loss, pain, separation, sacrifice and bereavement which gives pause for thought. (Maybe not if you're Katie Hopkins, but anyone else with a beating heart and an ounce of humanity.)

Characters - tick
Setting - tick
Plot - tick
Pace - tick
Resolution - tick

My kind of book.

4.5 from 5

Keith Nixon has his website here.

Dig Two Graves was reviewed here. The third in the series - Beg For Mercy drops in June.

Read in March, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 229
Source - Net Galley courtesy of publisher Bastei Entertainment     
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 19 April 2018

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH CORMAC O'KEEFFE

Cormac O'Keeffe's "5 STAR READ" Black Water appeared on the blog the other day - here.
















Cormac was kind enough to submit to a bit of questioning on his reading and writing habits...



I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

I'm a journalist, working as security correspondent in the Irish Examiner, a national daily. I've been working in journalism full-time since I left with a Masters in Journalism in 1996. From the very start I covered the drugs area and expanded to the wider crime, policing and justice areas when I started in the Irish Examiner in 2000.


Do you have a typical writing schedule?

Ah, no. I wish I was more structured in terms of writing. I have a very demanding day job, with long and unpredictable hours. And, I have young kids. When I was writing Black Water I got up early several days a week and wrote as much as I could. Several times a year, I took three or four days off and went home to my mother's house and did large chunks of writing and subsequently rewriting and editing.

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

Family no, nor friends, but to some extent, people that I have met or come into contact through work. There are certain characters - but not any of my main characters - that this would be a factor. But in the main, they are creations of my imagination and they develop their own characteristics.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I had no idea whatsoever where I was going. I had no construct or plot, which came much later, literally years later. In hindsight, it would have been a big advantage if I had more of a plan or plot, as I spent huge amounts of time and effort (and pain) hammering and stitching my novel into shape. But, I'm not sure how you do that, plot to a high degree, when characters and plots take on their own life as you write.

Are there any subjects off limits?

Not in terms of subjects. I have some fairly graphic scenes of violence, and exposure of violence to children, and one scene of a violent sexual nature. I think they need to be true to the context of the novel.

How important is setting to your work? I do like a Dublin setting in my reading, having originally hailed from there many years ago.

Setting was hugely important to me. I consider my setting - that along an evocative stretch of the Grand Canal in Dublin - as a main character. My novel begins and ends there and is a constant companion throughout. It forms the bones of the novel itself.


Is Black Water your debut novel?

Yes, it is. Hopefully the first of many!

How long from conception to completion did Black Water take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

In all, it took about eight years. I started in 2010, initially taking notes of scenes and setting and descriptions of what I saw in my area. It certainly was not a smooth process. Anything but. It was uneven, with ups and down, with self-doubt being a constant companion. Completing the novel took a very long time, and that in itself involved many stages of completion, which really continues during the editing process with the publisher. Getting an agent was a long and difficult journey as was finding a publisher.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

I really had very little picture on an end result. I knew from other writers that the whole process was very difficult and getting published a very long shot. I am happy that the end result regarding my main characters is true to my conception, for want of a better world, of them.

How difficult was it to find a publisher for your book?

It was difficult, as everything else was in the process. As a debut writer I had little idea how it worked. I got a good reaction from a number of publishers, and some very complementary assessments. But getting it across the line is a different story. This is a major commercial decision for them - is there a market for this novel? My novel is not a psychological thriller, it's not a domestic noir and might not readible fit in with the dominant sub-genres at the moment. So it was a bit of a punt for a publisher, one who, not just saw something in the novel, but was willing to take the risk.

What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?

At the moment, I would say getting my personal delivery of ten copies of the finished book, which happened the other day. It was very moving and almost overwhelming. But I suppose the biggest moment is getting an email from my agent Ger Nichol that Black and White had made an offer. That was special.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

There are all in my head, swimming around!

What’s the current project in progress?

Ah, that am slow to go into. But really things are just mad busy at the moment.

What’s the best thing about writing?

I suppose seeing the finished book in my hands is really extraordinary. It still hasn't sunk in. During the process of writing/rewriting, that realisation that you are creating something of real quality (not that it's brilliant, just that you have unearthed something pure) is special.

The worst?

Self-doubt has to be up there. For me, and really for most writers I'd say, it's a constant, either just simmering away in the background and hollaring in your head.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

I'm just finishing Donal Ryan's A Slanting of the Sun, his collection of short stories. His work is just sublime. I also do some reviews for the Irish Examiner, mainly non-fiction. So last one was Good Cop, Bad War by former British undercover cop Neil Woods. It was an excellent insight into the 'war on drugs'. Before than was The Cartel by Stephen Breen and Owen Conlon on the Kinahan crime cartel. Before that was Trouble Is Our Business edited by crime author Declan Burke. It's a collection of short stories by Irish crime writers. Top drawer stuff. The fifth most recent was Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, an utterly beautiful, moving and stunning novel.

Who do you read and enjoy?

Donal Ryan is probably top of my list. He is a truly gifted writer, but one with plenty of bite. He writes about the ordinary man and woman, and those on the margins of society, and perfectly captures the rural underbelly of Ireland.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Hmm, that's a tricky one. Before I ever read crime or literary fiction I was a big fantasy reader in my youth. So maybe Lord of the Rings. The imagination, the characters, the setting and the mind-numbing detail in that is simply extraordinary. 



Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Football. I still play every week, five-a-side that is. And in recent years, I co-manage a boys' team.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Wow, probably many I could say this about. I'm a big sci-fi/fantasy fan, so the likes of BladeRunner 2049 would be there. But one that 'rocked' me? One that has stuck in my mind in recent years is The Prisoners (director Denis Villeneuve), which I came to late. I've seen it a couple of times and it is just such a powerful film, with great performances, good characters and a thrilling climax.



TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the O’Keeffe household?

Yes, time permitting. We have loads of series on the go - from Stranger Things to Homeland, and with the tenth anniversary of the end of The Wire I'm tempted to go back. But in terms of the family as a whole, it would be the likes of Masterchef or Grand Designs...or Horrible Histories!



In a couple of years’ time…

Who knows. Living by the sea, writing novels, having a newspaper column, eating fish and hanging out with my family!
--------------------------------

Many thanks to Cormac O'Keeffe for his time.

Website https://cormacokeeffecrime.wordpress.com/
Twitter https://twitter.com/CormacJOKeeffe

Black Water is published by Black and White Publishing and is available here - AM UK - AM US

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

J.A. MARLEY - GODSEND - BLOGTOUR





Author J.A. Marley's Godsend is released today by Bloodhound Books. Godsend is the sequel to Marley's Standstill, but can be enjoyed as a standalone. 



A recent house move has temporarily (I hope) derailed my reading so John has come to the rescue with a piece for the blog.....

I’m A Sick Individual

I’m sick in the head.

In my defence, it is for very good reasons, but I am pretty sure that my brain does not work in the same way as most people. When you spend your days staring at a blinking cursor on a word document, your mind starts to twist. You’re trying, on a daily basis, to surprise and delight your audience.  This leads to having devious thoughts.  Your priority is to obfuscate, to divert, to create literary sleights of hand. A famous author (I can’t recall which at the moment, my brain is too twisted) told me that writing a thriller is the art of the reader second guessing you as you second guess them second guessing you.  Got that?  Makes your eyes water thinking it through but he is right.

So, my thoughts are constantly trying to wriggle their way through a twisty plot, or the creation of a character whose motivation might suddenly shift direction, but can only do so in a credible, believable way.  See? Discombobulating!

It makes for a curious mindset most of the time.  When writing Godsend, I wanted the characters to spend a lot of the time trying to second guess each other so that the reader had to do the same.  Hopefully all that sick mindedness pays off…let the reader be the judge!

The sickness also reveals itself in other, more subtle ways.  I’ll explain. It’s a sunny day, you decide to go for walk with the dogs and a loved one.  People are strolling through the leafy glades admiring the blue sky or enjoying the smell of the woodland plants.  But me? Noooo. I’m not doing any of those things. I’m imagining whether or not the car park is a good spot for a secluded drug deal or if that thicket might be the perfect place to conceal a cadaver. 

This sort of thing happens to me everywhere. Stuck in traffic?  I’m not humming along to the radio, I’m looking around to see which direction my lead character, Danny Felix, might flick the steering wheel in, while mashing his foot on the accelerator and pulling a manoeuvre to escape a pursuing foe or worse still, the Old Bill. I know I’m not alone in these fanciful, visceral pursuits. Other crime writers do it too.  Crime readers might find themselves thinking about where a body might be concealed too from time to time, but not the constant flow of twistedness that us lot get up to in service of them and the entertainment levels in our books. We think about this stuff constantly

I remember once scaring the bejaysus out of my chiropractor.  She had just finished flinging me around the room like a ragdoll and as I paid her for the privilege I asked her the following question. “You know when in action movies the hero grabs a guard or a villain by the head and does that twisty, neck-wrench thing and breaks their neck.  Is that possible? Will that actually kill someone?” To say that there was a pause of at least five seconds in which you could hear the birds singing outside and traffic going by is not an exaggeration. She stared at me like I’m a sick individual (which we’ve already established I am).  Finally, I reminded her that I write thrillers and she exhaled with some relief. The answer is yes, by the way, but it is not as instantaneous as the movies make it out, and the victim will die a slow and very tortuous death.

And so, to absolutely leave you in no doubt as to me being sick in the head, my last piece of evidence is this.  I love it when people ask me what I do. Because I can simply never resist the temptation to look them straight in the eye and say, with a casual air, “I plan robberies and murders and how to get away with them.” The look on their faces is just too delicious to pass up.  I’m sure this little hobby will get me ejected or arrested at some point in my life, but the risk is worth it, and I don’t care I’m having fun.

And that is the absolute truth of what we crime writers are doing.  We are having fun. Fun in the darkest sense, yes, but it is endlessly fun to weave stories of mayhem, murder and malice. And in being allowed to do so, I, and most of my fellow writers, feel completely blessed. 

Hope you enjoy Godsend as much I enjoyed writing it.

J.A. Marley April 2018
---------------

J.A. Marley has his website here.
He's on Twitter - @jamarleybooks


Godsend can be purchased here - AMAZON UK - AMAZON US

CORMAC O'KEEFFE - BLACK WATER (2018)


Synopsis/blurb…

I killed the boy . . .

Jig loves football and his dog, hates school, misses his dead granda and knows to lie low when his ma's blitzed on the vodka.

He's just an ordinary boy on the brutal streets alongside Dublin's Grand Canal. Streets that are ruled by Ghost and his crew. And now Ghost inked, vicious, unprincipled has a job for Jig.

A job that no one can afford to go wrong not the gangs, the police, the locals, and least of all not Jig.

Fast-paced, compelling and expertly plotted, BLACK WATER introduces a powerful new voice in contemporary crime fiction.

PRAISE FOR BLACK WATER:

‘Shocking and compulsive, Black Water offers a grittily realistic insight into the causes and consequences of inner-city drug crime – think The Wire set in Dublin.’ – BRIAN MCGILLOWAY, NYT bestselling author of Little Girl Lost


‘O’Keeffe pulls you into the dark underbelly of Dublin city with well-drawn characters, chilling dexterity and unflinching truth – harsh, tender, steely and authentic.’ – LOUISE PHILLIPS, author of The Game Changer

One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year and even at this early stage a definite contender for one of my top reads of 2018. Admittedly, I do have a bias towards Dublin set novels - my family all hail from there and I was born there, albeit more than half a century ago.


In Black Water, author Cormac O’Keeffe serves up a tale of inner-city strife in Dublin’s not so fair city. Jig is a ten year boy, teetering on the precipice of involvement with the local drugs gang. A little errand run on behalf of Ghost, one of the king-pins in the Canal Street gang has dramatic repercussions when the target of his message – an elderly woman dies on receipt. Jig, manipulated and coerced by Ghost now has to work off his debt. Debt? WTF!

In the following pages, we see the effects of this event on the community through the eyes of Jig, his football coach, different elements within the Gardai Siochana (Irish police), a community worker, a priest and others including the gang’s top dog. A further dramatic event occurs which heightens tension on the streets.

Brian McGilloway makes a comparison regarding this book – think The Wire set in Dublin – which sums this up perfectly….. drug gangs, junkies, feckless parenting, feral teenagers, police mistrust, Republican activism (ok you might not find that in Baltimore), a broken community, a decline in the influence and authority of the church, police factions competing with each other and jockeying for power and influence, informers and bugs, a code of silence and a look the other way mentality.

The good guys – the authorities don’t all wear white hats with elements within the police service not above manipulating and bending people in much the same way as the targets (the Canal Street gang and a local Republican group) they are trying to take down use people.

Personal elements within the book, made events seem very real and plausible. Jig has a crap home life. His mother and father ignore him. If he does attract their attention it’s to inflict a verbal or physical assault. His brother, Maggot a few years older is already involved in the local gang and has had his run-ins with the police. His sister cares for him but is a recovering addict herself. His main preoccupation are his dog (passed onto him by his much loved and missed granda) and his football. Jig’s a gifted player and one possible escape from a life and a community bereft of hope or opportunity is through his sport. But not if the gang get their clutches into him.

Brutal, hard-hitting, impressive, realistic, and a tad depressing. If this is a reflection of life in Dublin in the 21st Century, I’m glad my dad didn’t live to see it.

5 from 5

Black Water is Cormac O’Keeffe’s debut novel (hard to believe really). It is released tomorrow.

He has his website here

Read in April, 2018
Published – 2018
Page count – 320
Source – review copy from Black and White Publishing (thanks Lina)
Format – trade paperback

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

KEITH NIXON - DIG TWO GRAVES (2017)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Was it suicide ... or murder?

When teenager Nick Buckingham tumbles from the fifth floor of an apartment block, Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray answers the call with a sick feeling in his stomach. The victim was just a kid, sixteen years old. And the exact age the detective's son, Tom, would've been, had he not gone missing at a funfair ten years ago. Each case involving children haunts Gray with the reminder that his son may still be out there - or worse, dead. The seemingly open and shut case of suicide twists into a darker discovery. Buckingham and Gray have never met, so why is Gray's number on the dead teenager's mobile phone?

With his boss, Detective Inspector Yvonne Hamson, Gray begins to unravel a murky world of abuse, lies, and corruption. An investigator from the Met is called in to assist, setting the local police on edge. And when the body of Reverend David Hill is found shot to death in the vestry of Gray's old church, Gray wonders how far the depravity stretches and who might be next. Nothing seems connected, and yet there is one common thread: Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray, himself. As the bodies pile up, Gray must face his own demons. Crippled by loss but determined to find the truth, Gray takes the first step on the long road of redemption.

Set in the once grand town of Margate in the south of England, the now broken and depressed seaside resort becomes its own character in this dark detective thriller. Dig Two Graves is the first book in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray. The crime series is perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

"Keith Nixon does for Margate what Peter James did for Brighton … As dark and brooding as the wind-lashed shores of the North Sea, and with its disturbing echoes of the Elm Guest House scandal and suggestions of deep-seated institutional corruption, Dig Two Graves is a superb addition to the rich Brit Crime scene."
- Tim Baker, CWA shortlisted author of Fever City

An interesting series opener with Nixon's Solomon Gray. Gray has issues. The disappearance of his son, Tom ten years ago still haunts him. He holds himself accountable for Tom's disappearance. The aftermath - the decline of his marriage, the suicide of his wife and his ongoing separation from his surviving daughter - are all matters of ongoing regret. He still harbours hopes of finding his son alive and every spare minute is spent on reviewing the case file or exploring new possibilities however unlikely or tenuous. It's fair to say a huge shadow blights Gray's life and his sorrow resonates throughout the book.

The case in hand  - a sixteen year old boy going over a fifth floor balcony, suicide or something else?
This is a police procedural - so something else is the order of the day.

I liked this one, I enjoyed the dynamics of the police force involved in and around Gray. His direct boss is Yvonne Hamson. Her boss Carslake is an old friend of Gray's and the personal connection sometimes irritates her as Gray can on occasion try and circumvent the chain of command. The other member of the team is Michael Fowler. We also have interaction and a sympathetic relationship with the pathologist, Ben Clough .

Other deaths follow and there is also the involvement of a Met Officer in the original case. The dead sixteen year old having had some London links.

The setting is Margate, a Kent seaside resort that has definitely seen better days. That I visited the town itself a year or two ago, lent a certain familiarity to the backdrop. Definitely somewhere I want to return to, though probably only on the written page.

Dig Two Graves is short for a police procedural - approximately 230 pages long - though the novel never feels rushed. Nixon's just gets to where he wants to take the reader without any undue fuss. That said the relationships and characters of the main players are developed and interesting. There is a resolution to the initial tragedy and the subsequent deaths, but there is definitely some unfinished business for Solomon Gray.

4 from 5

Keith Nixon has his website here.

Burn the Evidence is the second in the Solomon Gray series and was read not long after this one.
Nixon also has a couple of other series under his belt - the Konstantin Files and a series with Caradoc, set in Ancient Britain. Some of each have been previously enjoyed.

Read in March, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 226
Source - Net Galley after approval from publisher Bastei Entertainment
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

2 BY E.A. AYMAR























E.A. Aymar is a recent discovery and these two are a couple of recent purchases.

Aymar came to my attention with his co-editing alongside Sarah M. Chen of Down and Out Books recently published anthology - The Night of the Flood


Aymar has two of the three published in his planned trilogy and as yet there's no word on the finale.

There was a shortish e-book prequel published - When the Deep Purple Falls in 2013 also.

His website is here.


He has a regular column in the Washington Independent Review of Books.


Catch him on Facebook here and Twitter - @EvenEd74



I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2013)

Tom Starks has spent the three years since his wife’s murder struggling to single-handedly raise their daughter, Julie, while haunted by memories of his dead spouse. When he learns that the man accused of her murder, Chris Taylor, has been released from prison, Tom hires a pair of hit men to get his revenge. But when the hit men botch the assassination, Tom is inadvertently pulled into their violent world.

And now those hit men are after him and his daughter.



You're As Good As Dead (2015)

Three years have passed since Tom Starks, a Baltimore community college professor and single father, tried to avenge his wife's death by hiring a hit man. Tom is now hopeful that he has left the world of violence and murder behind. But he is drawn back into Baltimore's criminal underground after he witnesses the assassination of an influential crime boss. To make matters worse, it appears the FBI has discovered Tom's involvement, and they force him to work with them as an informer. Now Tom must navigate a deadly path between warring crime families and ruthless federal agents, even as he desperately tries to keep his involvement a secret from those closest to him.

Monday, 9 April 2018

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH ROBERT PARKER
























Robert Parker, author of A Wanted Man and Crook's Hollow answers a few questions for me....

Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

Yes the writing is indeed full time.  I got to a point where I felt that if I wanted to give this the best chance of working that I could, I would have to drop everything else I was doing and really take the opportunity with both hands. It was a heck of a decision at the time to be honest, and one that I think most people assumed I was insane to do, but it's one I'm so glad I've taken.

Biography wise I have a very varied background in terms of employment and education. I was a solicitor's agent, a warehouse order picker, a van driver, barman, a commercial videographer and all sorts of things after a degree in law and then a degree in film production.  I feel all this is giving me a very varied background in terms of life experience and it's something I really enjoy putting in my writing. I'm also married with three young children

What’s your typical writing schedule?

Typically in a day I will start by getting up early with the kids and (hold on to your hats) do the school run.  Then I assemble my daily to do list which has anywhere between 15 and 30 items on it, and then try to crack on as much as I can. This is like the admin side of being an author - which these days I'm learning is a lot of e-mailing and social media.  I actually like to have a packed schedule and and be as proactive as I can with what I  want to achieve. When I eventually settle down to write I try to do 2000 words a day - if I'm 'writing' writing. In there I'll fit in training, as I box recreationally, and the daily rough and tumble of being a dad with three young kids who don't understand the concept of deadlines.

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

Never. I kind of think that life can be complicated enough without putting your dirty laundry in a book. That's just me though! I'll often go with life experiences in terms of the sentiment occasions gave me but I will never put direct references in my work. The very idea makes me cringe to bits.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

 I'm afraid I don't really plot at all. I have a collection of scenes, and moments that inspire the story and characters, and place I want to get to. So I think when I start a book I have a bunch of things I want to achieve by the time I get to the end and a flavour of the kind of story I want to tell. When I start with the characters I don't really know how they're going to end up, where they're going, or where their stories will end so I usually just get writing and see where we go from there. I hugely believe that draft one is the most important - because you can't polish or edit anything that plain isn't there.

Are there any subjects off limits?

Not really, no, but considering I'm still largely at the outset of what I hope will be my career, I haven't encountered anything so far! Subject-wise, I don't think there's anything I wouldn't touch - but I would view them as off limits if I felt I couldn't do a good enough job of portraying them. For example, I'm not altogether comfortable with romance yet - perhaps that's why Ben Bracken has not been romantically involved for over a decade, a subconscious decision to make life easier for myself! But we touch some pretty grim topics in Crook's Hollow, which was written a few years later than A Wanted Man - so I suppose I'm growing in confidence.

I’m intending to read both A Wanted Man and Crook’s Hollow this month (March). From the back pages of both I see Manchester features in both, maybe only partly for AWM and kind of exclusively around the Manchester and Liverpool area for CH, is this part of the North West your home turf and stomping ground?

Oh yes, exactly so. I live in Warrington, which is pretty much equidistant between Manchester and Liverpool, and we are a bizarre breed of a bit of both. Growing up, there wasn't much to do round my way, in the rural corner of Warrington, and you were neither a true Manc nor a true Scouser, so you ended up adopting one or the other as your home city - and I started drinking out in Manchester, and fell in love with it in a big way. In terms of football allegiance, I went the other way...

How important is setting to your work?

I think at this stage of my career setting it's very important. In fact, it's probably important at whatever stage of career I'm at, but more so as I'm feeling my way into this as I believe that if I can get a sense of place right in my work , I will probably get away with more of the fantastical elements and moments were I use a bit of creative licence.  But generally I think a sense of place is one of the most important things in writing a book as that is the absolute basis and bedrock for your story. If you don't buy the setting how are you expected to believe what happens in it?

How long from conception to completion did Crook’s Hollow take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

 I loved writing Crooks Hollow. I wrote it in the summer of 2016 and it took about 6 weeks, having been percolating for about 3 months prior. I have to be completely honest I found this one of the easiest things I've written in terms of getting it on the page because everything in it, especially the characters, took on a life of their own as I was writing - I didn't know who the villain was until pretty much the end and it suddenly made sense. I started with a scene in my head, which was the opening scene involving attempted murder by combine harvester (I do like a challenge) and I just let my mind wander from there. the motivations of the characters changed as we progressed and as the world around us changed with it, with Trump and Brexit etc. And as it was set in an area similar to one that I grew up in, I was very comfortable in letting it all hang out in terms of establishing setting and I actually had a lot of fun working out how I felt about certain things in that environment I knew so well . The hardest part was finding the right publisher,  but luckily we found that in Black Rose Writing, who have been great to work with and seemed to 'get' what I was trying to do from the beginning - prior to that, publishers liked it but just didn't know how to categorise it. I mean there aren't that many 'country noir' books out there, as this book is being described as.

You seem to have garnered some praise from an impressive list of authors in respect of Crook’s Hollow – Adrian McKinty, Steph Post, David Joy and others – how did you manage that? McKinty lives on the other side of the world!

Firstly, my encounters in the world of crime fiction and publishing have been unanimously positive. Everyone has been so friendly and so generous with their time. I am a fan of the authors you mentioned - McKinty is, I think, my favourite author. There's stuff he does with words and their rhythms that just blows me to bits every time. And Post and Joy, I'm big fans of their work in the American Grit-Lit genre, which I was reading a lot of at the time of writing Crook's Hollow and would class as a pretty obvious influence of what I was trying to do with the book. These authors, and the others like Torquil MacLeod and Danielle Ramsay, really inspire me daily in my own work, and I reached out to them and told them so - and asked very politely if they'd take a look. The fact that they enjoyed it still thrills me like you wouldn't believe.

Is there one of your two offspring you are more proud of? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader?

Very tough this one, but I firmly believe that I'm learning as I go here, and getting better with every book. Crook's Hollow is one that I had so much fun with, and it's more recent, so I'll say that one - but the story of A Wanted Man will continue soon...

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

When A Wanted Man came out, it was initially ebook only. I desperately wanted that print deal, but just couldn't get it. But within 2 weeks of the book being available for download, it was quickly established that the demand was there, and that a print run was in the offing. I won't forget the phone call, ever. I was on holiday with the kids and they all thought there was something wrong with me when I slipped into stunned silence.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

I don't know about gems - there is definitely some unpublished garbage down there. I think every writer has that dearth of horrible material they come across from time to time when cleaning out something at home. What I do have are 15 of the worst screenplays you'd ever wish to read, and a host of abandoned novels.

What’s the current project in progress?

Ben Bracken 4 (which is the fourth book in the series started by A Wanted Man), and something else which I don't know what genre it is in yet - which is weird because I'm halfway through it. If I stick to where I'm growing my name, I'll dumb down my original idea - but if I stick to my guns (and knowing my stubborn streak, I will do, I can feel it) it'll end up a horror. Or maybe a crime-horror. Not sure. I'm just going to finish it and see what's what.

What’s the best thing about writing?

The time it gives me to spend time with my children. I'm so SO lucky in that respect.

The worst?

I genuinely can't think of anything. Obviously there's stuff about needing to stay original, needing a certain number of book sales to keep doing what I'm doing, but I'm certainly someone who'll try to see the positives where I can.

What are the last five books you’ve read?



The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox (my God, is that guy going places...), Lightwood by Steph Post (everything I love about books and small-town crime stories was in this one), Unsub by Meg Gardiner (which was nothing short of sensational), The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson (a brilliant mystery which took me places I was not expecting) and Force of Nature by Jane Harper (which I somehow preferred to The Dry, which I loved!).

Who do you read and enjoy?

Well, I've mentioned McKinty, but I love anything by Don Winslow, Dennis Lehane, Ace Atkins and CJ Box. There are so many authors I enjoy though, that it would take me forever.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Jaws by Peter Benchley. It changed everything for me. I read it when I was 12 with a bag of pick'n'mix under my duvet with a torch and it changed everything. I had no idea fiction could be so powerful, so visceral.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Boxing. I started a couple of years ago, and it has uncorked something in me I definitely didn't know was there - and apparently having black eyes and busted nose help the overall image of the crime writer.

In a couple of years’ time…

I'll still be here. I'm digging my heals in.
--------------------------
Many thanks to Robert for his time.

You can catch him at the following haunts...