Tuesday, 15 August 2017

2 BY STANLEY ELLIN

A blog feature which I haven't run for about a year or more returns with the highlighting of a couple of Stanley Ellin books in my collection.





















Ellin was an American mystery writer from New York.
Born in 1916, he died at the age of 69 in 1986. He's probably better known for his short stories than his novels. A few of his short stories were filmed for an Alfred Hitchcock mystery series.



Stronghold (1974)

James Flood, just released from a Florida prison, has a desperate scheme. He and his recruits, all hardened criminals, will move in upon a prominent upstate New York family, holding the Hayworth women as hostages while awaiting delivery of a four-million-dollar ransom. Flood expects no resistance. Marcus Hayworth, small-town banker and leading member of the Quaker community, is convinced he can subvert Flood's plan. Instead of going to the police, he will bring his family's crisis before his meeting, asking the Quaker community to back him in nonviolent opposition. Subsequent events isolate both hostages and captors within the Hayworth house, waging a war of nerves that involves more than a clash between good and evil. For Flood cannot be taken for granted. Much deeper than the profit motive is his need for revenge, a most urgent and specific need. And Hayworth's principles have never been put to the ultimate test.


The Blessington Method (1964)

"What is The Blessington Method? There is, you see, a society called The Society for Gerontology, and its primary concern is with the tragic situation of aging. BUT... the problems that the society attempts to solve are not the ones that bother old people. Take Mr. Treadwell. Although he's only forty-seven and in the pink of health, he has an old-age problem. His seventy-two-year-old father-in-law lives with him... and looks as if he will live on forever. Now, for seemingly impossible problems, problems like Mr. Treadwell's, The Blessington Method offers a most perfect solution. If you think there's no crime worse than cold-blooded murder, prepare yourself for the shock of your life."

Includes 9 more short stories of the macabre.






Not sure when I will get around to reading these two, but I'd better not read them after dark. The old Penguin text doesn't agree with my aging eyesight!

Not sure which I prefer the sound of most - on balance probably the novel as opposed to the short story collection.

I did read Mirror Mirror on the Wall from him back in 2013 - thoughts here.

Monday, 14 August 2017

S. W. LAUDEN - CROSSWISE (2016)



Synopsis/blurb......

Tommy Ruzzo is a disgraced NYPD cop who follows his coke fiend girlfriend back to her hometown in Florida. She leaves Ruzzo high and dry just before he's named Head of Security at Precious Acres, a beachfront retirement community populated by wisecracking New Yorkers. Ruzzo is stranded among the local losers until the day he discovers a murdered senior citizen on the Precious Acres bocce ball court.

The bodies pile up as Ruzzo uncovers a dangerous trail of clues that brings everybody in his new world under suspicion.

"The suspense starts on the first page and doesn't let up. A unique setting with unforgettable characters." 
- Terrence McCauley, author of SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

The first in a two book series (so far at least) from S. W. Lauden and featuring an ex-cop Tommy Ruzzo. Ruzzo left New York in disgrace and is working as security at a retirement community in Florida. Some of his retirees start getting killed and Ruzzo works with the local law to try and catch the killer.

In a nutshell, enjoyable but not especially memorable if I’m honest. It’s quite a busy book. Ruzzo’s ex-girlfriend, Shayna Billups and the cause of his disgrace flits in and out, still managing to lead Ruzzo around by his pecker. Her ex-husband is also on the scene, someone with contacts to the top cop involved in the case - Sgt. Badeaux. Ruzzo’s mystery employers also have an agenda of their own. There’s a crossword clue theme which runs through the book which keeps pointing to the next victim, I think. This facet didn’t particularly work for me.

I think I was thrown a bit when reading. The publisher Down and Out Books have a habit of back-loading their editions with extended samples of other books in their canon. I forgot this, so when the tale ended around the 80% mark it caught me unawares.  

Interesting main character and an enjoyable setting. A fair bit of humour on display and some great scenes involving Ruzzo and Shayna, Ruzzo and Badeaux and Ruzzo and his employers – maybe a case of some of the parts being more enjoyable than the whole.

3.5 from 5
I have the second in the series – Crossed Bones to get to at some point. 

The author also has another series to his name featuring Greg Salem - Bad Citizen Corporation and Grizzly Season are out so far, with Hang Time coming early next year.

S. W. Lauden has his website here. He's on Twitter - @swlauden

Read in July 2017
Published –
Page count – 158
Source – purchased copy

Format - Kindle  

JOHN PRESTON - A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.......

The shocking true story of the first British politician to stand trial for murder

Behind oak-panelled doors in the House of Commons, men with cut-glass accents and gold signet rings are conspiring to murder. It's the late 1960s and homosexuality has only just been legalised, and Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal party, has a secret he's desperate to hide. As long as Norman Scott, his beautiful, unstable lover is around, Thorpe's brilliant career is at risk. With the help of his fellow politicians, Thorpe schemes, deceives, embezzles - until he can see only one way to silence Scott for good.

The trial of Jeremy Thorpe changed our society forever: it was the moment the British public discovered the truth about its political class. Illuminating the darkest secrets of the Establishment, the Thorpe affair revealed such breath-taking deceit and corruption in an entire section of British society that, at the time, hardly anyone dared believe it could be true.

A Very English Scandal is an eye-opening tale of how the powerful protect their own, and an extraordinary insight into the forces that shaped modern Britain.

The first bit of non-fiction I’ve read for a while and an eye-opening account of one of the most famous trials in Britain in the 70s. As a teenager of 15 or 16, I can vaguely recall the headlines of the time as Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe was acquitted of murder at the Old Bailey. I was kind of hoping he got off because my mum and dad always voted Liberal. I was too young to really comprehend what it was all about.

John Preston is not a Jeremy Thorpe fan and his account portrays Thorpe as unlikable, conniving, and someone shorn of any scruples or decency. We see the background to Thorpe’s political career and his rise to prominence in the Liberal party. There are allegations of male rape made against Thorpe. Thorpe was homosexual at a time when it was illegal to indulge in sexual relations with other men and would also have been political suicide if the public became aware of his sexual leanings. Many homosexuals were at great risk of blackmail. Blackmail is at the heart of Thorpe’s downfall.

I read this late last year and what sticks with me if I’m honest is the sense that the author has it in for Thorpe. Perhaps rightly so. It’s a masterclass in character assassination. The book was probably unpublishable before Thorpe died in 2014. You can’t libel a dead man.

Other characters in the book merit great sympathy, especially Peter Bessell. Bessell was a fellow Liberal MP and slightly in awe of Thorpe. Thorpe repeatedly takes advantage of Bessell’s naivety and amenable nature throughout the book. The trial sees Bessell’s reputation trashed and his reputation eviscerated. Unfairly so.
John Preston

Was Thorpe guilty? Did the establishment put the fix in so one of their own got off? I wasn’t necessarily convinced, but I wouldn’t be unduly surprised if they had. They were some notable miscarriages of justice in the 70s – The Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven.

An interesting read. Inevitably there’s a fair bit of he said, she said. On the whole a bit of a hatchet job, but an entertaining one.

4 from 5

Read in November, 2016
Published – 2016
Page count – 340
Source – review copy from publisher Penguin Viking
Format - paperback

Saturday, 12 August 2017

ERIC BEETNER - THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES BOOK 2 (2014)


Synopsis/blurb........

Ridley has already died once trying to find his missing girlfriend, Miho. When a mysterious phone call rouses him from his recovery he is off on the trail of clues again. Reenergized for the hunt, Ridley will follow clues all the way across the country and enter a world darker than he imagined and face off against men--and women--more vicious than he expected. 

This time Ridley has traveled a long way--and death is there to meet him. But it will take more than dying to keep him from finding the truth. 

Book #2 of this thrilling adventure is more non-stop action. Watch for book #3 in April. 
Also available in a collector’s edition print edition.   

The second installment of Eric Beetner's The Year I Died Seven Times was read in November 2016.
In the first we meet Ridley and join him on his quest to track down his missing Japanese girlfriend Miho. Obviously he's been unsuccessful thus far and episode one ends with his death.

Or does it? Well no. Clinically dead for six minutes and successfully revived and recovered, Ridley has sunk into a state of torpor and depression. His friend advises him to forget Miho and move on, but our love sick puppy isn't prepared to do that.

A pleading phone call out of the blue, from Miho demanding his help re-energizes our man. He's going to rescue his girl, but is bereft of clues as to where to start.

Back into the lion's den and the Ginza House where his girlfriend worked is a good a place as any.

A narrowly avoided ass-kicking, a clue on a napkin and a plane ride from LA to New York to another Ginza Lounge; a stake-out, a proper ass-kicking this time from a bunch of girls and Ridley's getting closer to the truth but closer to danger.

Our tale doesn't end well with our man getting beaten, hand-cuffed and some bladder loosening electric-shock treatment as the Ginza masters want answers. A cracked pipe, with a bang on the head and the introduction of some liquid to our electrically charged basement brings our second installment to a close.

Great character, interesting scenario, a bit of humour, 40 pages long, what more do you need to entertain you.

4.5 from 5

This one's no longer available as an individual episode or installment, but has been re-released as a single book in it's entirety.

Episode one was looked at here - The Year I Died Seven Times: Book 1 (2014)
About time I dusted off number 3

Eric Beetner has his website here.
A ton of his books too numerous to mention sit on the kindle awaiting a read.

Read in November, 2016
Published - 2014
Page count - 40
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Friday, 11 August 2017

TURLOUGH DELANEY - THE PACT (2015)



Synopsis/blurb…..

"Delaney ratchets up the suspense till the book seems poised to explode from the tension."
What's the difference between violent justice and brutal revenge?

A Dublin funeral, and three friends come together on a solemn mission to strike back against the city’s drug dealers. For Santy it’s a sacred duty to the community. For Leo, it’s an opportunity to indulge violent tendencies and pay off some debts at the same time. For Dean? Unemployed and still living at home, it isn’t as if he has anything better to do than go along with his friend’s plan.

But not everyone is playing straight, and there is more to uncover than just the name of the next target on the list. Between vengeance, idealism and greed, each begins to question the motives of the others. And when the Garda start nosing around it’s clear that somebody’s been talking, but who?

They’re about to find out that some secrets are buried for a reason.

"More than the sum of each brilliant part, The Pact is a brutal, funny and cleverly weaved together slice of hard-boiled crime. A time bomb of tension." -Paul Brazill (author of The Guns of Brixton and Cold London Blues)

Number Thirteen Press are building a list of 13 quality crime novellas by 13 different authors, published consecutively on the 13th of each month. For more information go to 

I’m a big fan of this particular publisher and intend over the next year (yes it will take me that long) to read all thirteen of their offerings. Turlough Delaney's The Pact was my sixth outing in this venture.

Having hailed from Dublin over 50 years ago myself, I’m always happy to read a crime tale set in my old home town. Married with a tale of drug dealers and low-life characters and a gang of vigilantes, I was sure I was onto a winner.

I liked elements of the tale…….the plot itself and the differing motivations of the characters involved. I enjoyed the increasing levels of tension in the relationship between them as Santy seemed intent on controlling the other two involved in the cause – Leo and Dean. I enjoyed the involvement of the Gardai into our vigilante tale and the intimation that the authorities were keen to curb our seekers of justice, less in the pursuit of law and order, more in the protection of a politician with some dubious sexual habits.

I liked the pubs and nightclubs, the funerals and the involvement however peripheral of family. I liked the bookies and the incidental violence, and the strange goings on at the knocking shop out of town.

Where it fell down for me was the unevenness of the time line. Usually I don’t mind dipping backwards and forwards in time during a narrative, and when it’s done well it adds to my enjoyment of the book. Here, I found it confusing. Perhaps some tiredness when I was reading didn’t help and maybe my mental faculties weren’t razor sharp, but there was no signposting indicating the chopping and jumping about of the story and for me it would have been helpful if there was. 

I was left with the impression that the pages in the manuscript got knocked on the floor by accident and were picked back up in a somewhat haphazard fashion.  Maybe the story would have read better chronologically, maybe it wouldn’t.

3 from 5

Turlough Delaney is an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. No author website or photo I can find.

Read in July, 2017
Published - 2015
Page count - 151
Source - review copy from Chris at the publisher - Number 13 Press
Format - Kindle 



Thursday, 10 August 2017

JACK CLARK - NOBODY'S ANGEL (2010)


Synopsis/blurb…..

While Chicago cabbie Eddie Miles drives the city streets at midnight, two killers--one targeting prostitutes, the other cab drivers--are out plying their trade.

"From the driver's seat of his cab, Eddie negotiates a city splintered by race and class and rapidly losing its economic underpinnings. Nobody's Angel has the wry humor and engaging characters typical of the best of the hard-boiled genre, but Clark's portrait of Chicago in the 1990s, with its vanishing factories and jobs, its lethal public housing projects, its teenage hookers climbing into vans on North Avenue, is what gives it legs. Sure there are a couple murderers on the loose, but the larger violence is coming from systemic forces wreaking havoc in a place that, maybe, used to be better." -- Chicago Reader

"'Nobody's Angel' is a gem...which doesn't contain a wasted word or a false note... Its real beauty lies in Eddie's bittersweet existence and the special romance and danger of the cabdriver's life--lives we often glimpse but rarely give a second thought." -- Washington Post

"[A] fine atmospheric thriller. The cynical, melancholy cabbie point of view is perfect for this kind of neon-lit, noir-tinged, saxophone-scored prose poem, and Clark hits all the right notes." --Booklist

"[A] slim, sparse, and heartbreaking novel." --Publishers Weekly

"Heartbreaking... Captivating... Clark's true subject [is] his city. Each page turn feels like real, authentic Chicago." --Chicago Sun-Times:

Shamus Award finalist, Nobody’s Angel was the last book I read in 2016 and a great book to sign off on the year with.

Penning a few thoughts on this over seven months after reading the thing is inevitably a bit tricky. My memory isn’t what it used to be. What still rings loud and clear is the setting of Chicago in the 90s and its portrayal through the eyes of our main protagonist, cab driver Eddie Miles.

The fact that we have a murderer targeting cab drivers and another one taking out prostitutes is kind of incidental. I’d have been entertained if it had been a normal few weeks in the life of Miles, giving me a sight-seeing tour around Chicago. We see the competition and camaraderie between the drivers and the way they view their customers. The rides they pick up, the lightning quick profiling of the clients they avoid, the areas they steer around rather than drive through. The myriad of rules and regulations the city imposes on them. Each of these used as chapter intros -   

All taxicabs shall have affixed to the exterior of the cowl or hood of the taxicab the metal plate issued by the Department of Consumer Services. No chauffeur shall operate any Public Passenger Vehicle without a medallion properly affixed. City of Chicago, Department of Consumer Services, Public Vehicle Operations Division.

Another….

The dome light when lit, must be visible at 300 feet in normal sunlight. The dome light shall be installed and maintained in such manner that the dome light will automatically be lit when the taximeter is not activated and that the dome light will automatically be unlit when the taximeter is activated.

In addition to Eddie’s company and our traversing of Chicago’s streets, we have a pretty good murder mystery. Stopping for a back alley comfort break, Eddie discovers the near dead body of a young prostitute. We have some interaction with the police as they open an investigation. Eddie’s contact with the detectives on the case continues through the book, as does a follow-up with the victim, whose life he helped save.

Additionally one of his cab drivers friends gets murdered and Eddie is puzzled as to the circumstances of his demise. His friend was too sharp and street-wise to have been in the particular area of the city he was found, at the time he met his end. I wouldn’t class Eddie’s involvement thereafter as a bit of amateur sleuthing, more musing out loud as to the whys and the wherefores and the keen eye subsequently applied to his interactions with customers, fellow drivers, the police and pretty much everyone who crosses his path.

Really enjoyable – setting, character, pace, plot, resolution, length. A book that I would have been happy restarting just as soon as I’d finished it.

4.5 from 5

I’ve enjoyed Jack Clark’s work before – Hack Writing &Other Stories

There’s a few more from him on the Kindle – Dancing on Graves, Highway Side and Westerfield’s Chain.  There was a second Eddie Miles book released last year – Back Door to LA.

Jack Clark's website Hack Writing is here.

Read in December, 2016
Published - 2010
Page count - 224
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

NICK TRIPLOW - FRANK'S WILD YEARS (2012)


Synopsis/blurb......

Frank’s Wild Years is a story of betrayal and last chances at the frayed and fading edges of the south London underworld. 

IN THE TWILIGHT days between Christmas and New Year, ageing Frank Neaves is about to drink away his last tenner in a Deptford boozer. A former friend and associate of long-dead local villain Dave Price, Frank’s scotch-soaked meditation is interrupted when it’s discovered that Carl, Price’s son and the pub’s landlord, has disappeared leaving an oblique one line note for barmaid, Adeline. 

After a visit to Carl’s mother, Rose, they discover he has gone to Hull to bring his young daughter, Grace, back to south London to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Adeline knows this means coming up against the malevolent James O’Keefe, Carl’s ex-wife’s new bloke and small time crook. Certain of a violent confrontation that the Carl can’t win, Adeline persuades Frank to join her and together they take a slow train for Humberside.

Over the course of the next few days, Frank, Carl and Adeline each have a chance to redeem past mistakes, none more so than Frank, whose past comes back to haunt him in ways he could never have imagined. 

***********************************************************

'An urban masterpiece; riveting from first to last. Nick Triplow is the true successor to Ted Lewis.' Mike Hodges, Film Director - Get Carter

The best book I read last October and confirmation of the foolishness of my decision to disregard British crime fiction for about 20 of the past 25 years reading.

Snazzy re-issue!
We have an interesting story of Frank, a man with a chequered past, still mourning the loss of his true love through his deceit and weakness in refusing to disassociate himself from criminal sorts.

Frank is coerced away from his bar stool to try and help Carl. Carl has embarked on a suicide mission to Hull to try and get his daughter back from some pond life up North. Does Frank still have it in him to sort things out, with one last hurrah or is he an old soak better suited to frittering his days away in the corner of a grimy pub?

We're about to find out.

Fantastic characters, particularly Frank, with some able support in the guise of Adeline and a great South London setting, both in the present and the past of Frank's heydays.

I enjoyed reading and the discovery of Frank's past - his actions, the consequences and his regrets.

Tremendous writing, I was hooked from the opening paragraph........

You know Frank, he’s the bloke who used to line up dry roasted nuts on a bar towel and flick them at Adeline every time he needed a refill. And Adeline, she’d take the hit, usually on the bare roll of flesh between her too-short, too-tight sweater and too-low, too-tight jeans, then top up his pint glass without a word. It was like that for as long as anyone could remember, and that’s longer than most of the regulars who think of the John Evelyn as home.

Ticks in every box. If I had a complaint it would be that at a shade of over 200 pages this was too short.
 
My kind of book.

5 from 5

I've previously enjoyed Nick Triplow's The Debt.
He has a couple of non-fiction books to his name and a soon to be published biography of Ted Lewis - Getting Carter.

He has his website here.

Read in October 2016
Published - 2012
Page count - 216
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

ARIANA D. DEN BLEYKER - DARK WATER (2015)


Synopsis/blurb........

"A great example of dark, twisted noir."

Love is complicated. Murder even more so...
When Henry’s wife is murdered he’s forced to disappear. Nobody would believe he didn’t kill her. His sister, the only witness, won’t testify. His brother-in-law, the detective, doesn’t trust him. His mistress, the investigating pathologist, won’t help him. They all have their own secrets to protect.

And after all, Henry killed so many others before.

Dark Water is a pitch black tale of suicide, torture, murder and revenge as an artist returns to produce his greatest work out of those closest to him.

“Ironically, Dark Water, though about grim and depraved crime, made me euphoric while reading it, sentence by strikingly beautiful sentence. This book shows Ariana D. Den Bleyker to be one of the major talents of our age, with a mastery that allows her to change our psyches forever with the profound dynamics between her characters.” -Tantra Bensko (Unside: A Book of Closed Time-like Curves)

"Beautiful in its prose and sadistic main characters... Will make a terrifying movie." -NotesontheShore

13 crime novellas and short novels over 13 months, on the 13th of each month. Find out more at www.numberthirteenpress.com

I'm endeavouring to read my way through the 13 books put out by Number 13 Press and this one my 7th was my first difficult and disappointing read if I'm truthful.

I just didn't care about any of the characters on display, I just felt a sense of total indifference and as a consequence the plot and any events that unfolded, events which I also found utterly confusing, were rendered toothless.

Sad to say, I struggled through this one.

We have a wife, a husband, a sister, a brother-in-law. They are also a murderer, a witness, a cop and a mistress. We have a murder, a fire - maybe a couple, a funeral - perhaps two, a man on the run and a bit more besides.  Should have been my sort of read in reality, but either it was poorly executed, or I'm totally off my reading game at the minute. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  

There were a couple of quotes which I found memorable and which gave me pause for thought....

How can I forget what pain tastes like? He said to nobody. It tastes like sadness.


Most of the time, he thought, you can tell the living from the dead looking at their eyes, but not so much anymore.

I wish I had enjoyed it a bit more.

2 from 5

Ariana D. Den Bleyker has her website here. She is the author of about a dozen books.

Read in August, 2017
Published - 2015
Page count - 110
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Monday, 7 August 2017

JULY 2017 - FILMS + TV

Another decent month's viewing with a trip to the cinema, the completion of a 6 part TV drama and the odd TV film or two.

The Do-Over (2016)
I don't think Adam Sandler is everyone's cup of tea, but ever since The Wedding Singer and Fifty First Dates I've always been partial to watching his films, though that doesn't extend to buying them or rushing straight out to the cinema either. (Do his films even go on general release now?)

Typical Sandler fare here - some hit and miss jokes, a bit of juvenile schoolboy humour-cum-crudity and a bit of heart! He's done worse but he's done better - maybe a 6 or 7 from 10.

Two down-on-their-luck guys decide to fake their own deaths and start over with new identities, only to find the people they're pretending to be are in even deeper trouble.

Broken (2017)
The trials and tribulations of a parish priest with some awkward customers, sorry...... parishioners requiring spiritual succour and some practical support. Compulsive gambling, suicide, mental illness, death by police, institutional cover-ups, poverty - life on the breadline as a single mother with 3 kids and a family bereavement, homosexuality and intolerant attitudes. My first real time in the company of Sean Bean as an actor and he's pretty amazing in his portrayal. Unlike some of Jimmy McGovern's programmes, I left this series feeling quite uplighted.

Amen - You Wonderful Priest!

Broken is a six-part British television drama series, created by screenwriter Jimmy McGovern, that first broadcast on BBC One on 30 May 2017. The series focuses on Michael Kerrigan (Sean Bean), the priest of a Roman Catholic parish in a northern English city, who despite suffering from his own troubles stemming from a traumatic childhood, tries to guide several of his most vulnerable parishioners through the trials and tribulations of everyday life. The series, produced by LA Productions, was commissioned in 2015; with filming taking place throughout 2016

The Age of Adaline (2015)
My daughter insisted we watch this one and for once I was quite happy to accept her recommendation. Usually I have to sit through some trashy horror flick, watching through my fingers as my legs shoot out into the air, everytime something goes bump.

Apparently, I'm supposed to know who Blake Lively is. I didn't but I do now. A decent love story with an intriguing premise - a woman who has stopped aging. Harrison Ford has a decent contribution to make, as one of Adaline's former lovers and the father or her current one.

A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
A weekend trip to Lowestoft and a visit to their small but fantastic East Coast Cinema - no multiplex prices here.



I'm not a massive fan of the "Apes" genre/saga but I enjoyed this one well enough. I do like a bit of Woody Harrelson and there's plenty of action and a reasonable plot here. It does feel slightly disloyal to be rooting for the apes over the humans, so I tried to sit on the fence!

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Another winner from my daughter - she's on a roll now 2 from 2! We have seen this one before but well worth a second look. Funny, sad, thought provoking and humorous. Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez and Craig Roberts are all excellent.

A writer (Paul Rudd) retires after a personal tragedy and becomes a disabled teen's caregiver. When the two embark on an impromptu road trip, their ability to cope is tested as they start to understand the importance of hope and friendship.

We Own the Night (2007)
Tense drama - late 80s New York, a nightclub owner Joaquin Phoenix taking a different path to his cop family - brother Mark Wahlberg and father Robert Duvall. Eva Mendes is pretty good as Phoenix's girlfriend. Powerful stuff. I usually like all four of these actor's films and this was no exception.

In 1988, New York's police wage an all-out war on drugs, and guilty and innocent alike become casualties. Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix), manager of a nightclub that is often frequented by gangsters, tries to remain neutral but hides a potentially fatal secret: His brother (Mark Wahlberg) and father (Robert Duvall) are both cops. After his brother is wounded in an assassination attempt, Bobby can no longer remain neutral. He joins forces with his brother for an all-out assault on the mob.


Bull (2016)
My other daughter spotted this one on one of our TV channels so we dipped in and had a look. Two episodes so far and we're enjoying it. Probably complete tosh and nonsense or maybe not - the science of predicting jury behaviour. I like Michael Weatherly though his character doesn't seem that far removed from the one he played in NCIS - Anthony DiNozzo - another series we used to enjoy.


Bull is an American drama television series starring Michael WeatherlyCBS ordered the program to series on May 13, 2016, and it premiered on September 20, 2016. The show is based on the early days of talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw's career, when he was a trial consultant. (from Wikepdia)


Hector (2015)

I do like Peter Mullan as an actor - Sunshine on Leith, Neds, Ordinary Decent Criminal and probably lots more beside. I really enjoyed this film also.

Mullan plays Hector, one of the many invisible homeless on our streets that we choose not to see every day. Sad and serious, with a bit of humour and camaraderie on display. Both facets which elevate this one above being a potentially grim and harrowing view, into something much more watchable without ever losing sight of the seriousness of the subject. 

Hector has been living on the motorways for years. His once comfortable family life has been replaced by a never-ending tour of service stations that offer him shelter, anonymity, washing facilities and food. The story follows his journey south from Scotland on his annual pilgrimage to a temporary Christmas shelter in London where he finds comfort, friendship and warmth. Over the course of his Homeric journey, Hector decides to reconnect with his long estranged past. As his previous life catches up with him, the story of how he came to be leading a marginal life begins to emerge.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

BEAIRD GLOVER - UNCONSCIOUS KNOWLEDGE (2016)


Synopsis/blurb….

Growing up poor and within a troubled family, Marcy Harris takes a job at a hospital cafeteria, and the monotony is killing her.

Then, on Christmas Day, she meets Syd McComb, a jet-cool punk rocker recently returned from a ten-year stay in Mexico, and Syd looks like all the trouble she’s been dying to get into.

Together they are as explosive as dynamite, and once the fuse is lit, they vent their frustrations with style, taking vengeance where it’s due and staying one step ahead of the disgraced cop who’s seething to catch them.

And they don’t feel guilty, doing what they do, because bad people should die—that’s just unconscious knowledge.

Another read from way back when – ok July, 2016 and a mostly entertaining and enjoyable book though not a perfect read.

We have a few differing timelines. We start in the 60s with an inter-racial friendship between a couple of basketball stars in a small Mississippi town. We pick up in the early 90s with our odd couple, Syd and Marcy and there’s a bit of to-ing and fro-ing throughout the narrative. We also spend time with bad boy Syd in the early 80s as well as a younger Marcy.

Syd and Marcy, present day (1992) are bored and turn to a life of crime, kind of a Bonny and Clyde/Sid and Nancy combo. In truth the crimes they committed I can’t particularly recall. Before long, the law are in pursuit, as is someone else. Which brings us back to Blaine Gunnison and Litton Shaw our now grown-up kids from the early part of our narrative.

I enjoyed Glover’s writing and his characters and his settings, but the plot not so much. It kind of felt a little bit forced.

The first chapter which charts the troubled waters of race and social attitudes in Mississippi in 1960 is superb and I would happily have read on, discovering what pitfalls lay ahead for Blaine and Litton as they grew up.  We see a bit of them afterwards. Blaine goes to Vietnam in the mid-60s and Litton joins the National Guard to avoid the draft. Later in the book, one is pursuing the couple for nefarious ends and the other is the law.

I enjoyed reading about Syd’s childhood. There’s a confused family dynamic and a strange friendship with Douglas Cheatham. As the narrative progresses these friendships are not necessarily renewed but our characters reconnect with each other.

Overall I liked the characters and they had interesting histories and ongoing stories which I was keen to see how they all played out. I just left the book with the feeling that Blaine and Litton and Marcy and Syd might have been better served being in two separate books. The meshing of their narratives just didn’t quite work for me.

Still a very enjoyable read. A year on the characters have stayed with me and I can’t say that about every book I read last year.

4 from 5


Beaird Glover has a Facebook page here

Read in July, 2016
Published - 2016
Page count - 266
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback
  


K. A. LAITY - HARD-BOILED WITCH: CHARMS O'ERTHROWN (BOOK 3) (2014)


Synopsis/blurb......

Hecate Sidlaw finds herself in a wild storm of shady folks all looking for a priceless artifact that's gone missing. With all the double dealing and surprising murders, it's a wonder she and Henry can find out what's really going on -- and what this precious treasure could be. An ancient alchemical text may hold the answers if only Hecate and Henry can live long enough to get to the library!

This 23-page ebook single is the third in a new series from the author of WHITE RABBIT, OWL STRETCHING, and the CHASTITY FLAME thriller series.

“Laity has been proving for quite some time now that her noir prose ranks right up there with the likes of Meg Abbott, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Sara Paretsky.”
~ Vincent Zandri

“Laity knocks your socks off with the language and also with the dialog.”
~ Les Edgerton

A bit of fun and frolics were had with Laity's third Hecate Sidlaw witch tale.

A private investigator who's a witch, a massive ginger talking cat, and a situation that diverts them away from bottling butterfly screams. Leave your disbelief at the door.

I really enjoy these short adventures. Kick back read and chuckle. Great dialogue, strange characters, a fertile imagination and a wrong that usually needs to be righted and some semblance of justice and balance returned to an off-kilter world. Laity entertains every time.

4 from 5

Hocus Pocus, You're Dead and Toil and Trouble were previously enjoyed. Abra Cadavra sits on the device for whenever my reading stalls and needs a bump start.

K. A Laity has her website here. Catch her on Twitter - @katelaity



Read in October 2016
Published - 2014
Page count - 27
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Friday, 4 August 2017

JIM FUSILLI - ROAD TO NOWHERE (THE SAMARITAN BOOK 1) (2012)


Synopsis/blurb….

For years the drifter haunted the background of American life, roaming the side streets and highways that crisscross this vast country. Cool and handsome, with a single teardrop scar and a knack for silence that keeps the world at bay, he is a man alone.

That all changes on a rainy night in Chicago, when he witnesses a brutal assault on a young woman. By the time he reaches her, the assailant is gone, leaving a trail that is all too easy to follow. But playing the good Samaritan may be more trouble than it’s worth, when his moment of conscience hurls him into a shadowy world of violence, intrigue and deception.

Caught between duty to his fellow man and the anonymity of life on the road, the Samaritan could walk away. But when his estranged teenage daughter is threatened, he will make his choice—and never look back. By turns violent and insightful, this suspenseful novel from acclaimed journalist and author Jim Fusilli introduces an unforgettable hero to the ranks of contemporary American fiction.

This opener in a two book series from author Jim Fusilli was my favourite book read last November.

A lone man drifter type allows his conscience to get the better of him when he witnesses an attack on a woman. Kind of similar to Reacher in some ways, though here our protagonist has a past and family which gets gradually revealed to us. He has a daughter, though he is estranged from her and not necessarily through choice. Past events robbed our main man of his wife and his daughter of her mother, events which the father is blamed for. Efforts to reach out to her are continually rebuffed though I don’t think he’s about to give up trying.

I can’t recall if our hero is identified and has a name or not, either way it doesn’t matter too much. Once he inserts himself into the attacked woman’s life and problem he’s involved to the bitter end. Our woman has been a bit reckless and naive, as well as dishonest. She’s stolen from her boss and he’s a spiteful, vengeful bastard.

Our man attempts to resolve her difficulty and get her back her life.  

Enjoyable plot, interesting main character and family dynamic, plenty of tough guy action, a bit cerebral as well. Violence isn’t going to offer a final solution to our situation here, a bit of diplomacy and negotiation is also called for.
Right book, right time.

5 from 5

I’m looking forward to the second in the series – The Billboard Man.

Jim Fusilli has written about half a dozen novels in total. 
His website is here. He's on Twitter@jimfusillibooks


Read in November, 2016
Published - 2012
Page count - 217
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 3 August 2017

MARTIN STANLEY - THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE MISSING MOOLAH (2014)


Synopsis/blurb.......

Eric Stanton has a big problem. Three armed robbers have stolen ten grand of his boss’ money from him. So far, so bad.

However, his boss isn’t the kind of man who will take that loss lying down. If Eric can't get the money back, then it becomes his debt. And his boss isn't a man he wants to owe money to, especially when he can’t afford to pay. So he's left with one option: get the money back before anybody notices it’s gone!

But when he realises that this is a setup and that it's part of a bigger picture, he does the one thing he can think of to even up the score – he brings in his brother, Derek. Now, Derek might not be the smartest man on the planet, or the most reliable, but he’s six-feet-four, strong as an ox and handy with his fists.

So the brothers decide to play detective and take a trip around the seamier parts of Teesside in search of the money – upsetting the locals, breaking bones and trading quips, right up until the brutal finale.

Foul-mouthed, fast-moving and bone-crunchingly violent – this is one Case that’s bound to make you Curious!

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

Missing Moolah
is the first in six books of varying length featuring Martin Stanley's Stanton Brothers. 

Probably not everyone's cup of tea, but it was one of the funniest and most entertaining reads I had in October 2016. First page and I know I'm in for a treat.........

Alan Piper feet up on desk, leaning back smoking a cigar.... He liked to brag that each of these cigars set him back £25 a pop, which was a lot to pay for something that smelled like dog shit in a burning plastic bag.

Piper is Eric Stanton's boss. Piper is a money lender and Eric is his main collector, though he's considering a career change. He needs a bit of money behind him for that to happen. Out on his rounds, Eric and his partner Mark get distracted by one of Piper's girlfriends when dropping off an envelope. When they leave the flat, an ambush occurs with masked men relieving Eric of Piper's stash. 

We spend the rest of the novel, galloping around Teesside trying to correct the situation in the company of Eric, Mark and Eric's less than rational brother Derek.

Armed robbery, a threesome with a gangster's moll, drug taking, death, burglary, bar fights, snitches, ambition, a rival gang, intimidation, family and more.  

I used to avoid reading British crime fiction because I never wanted to read about where I lived, much rather visiting foreign climates on the page. What an idiot I was.

The good news is I have another 5 of these Stanton Brother outings on the Kindle!

4.5 from 5

Martin Stanley has his website here.
Catch him on Twitter@MStanleyAuthor

Read in October, 2016
Published - 2014
Page count - 104
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle



(For some reason Blogger is being a dick with the formatting and the text colour - can't change it - ho hum!)

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

PATRICK HOFFMAN - EVERY MAN A MENACE (2016)


Synopsis/blurb......

Patrick Hoffman burst onto the crime fiction scene with The White Van, a bank heist thriller set in the back streets of San Francisco and a finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. Now he returns with his second novel, Every Man a Menace, the inside story of a ruthless ecstasy-smuggling ring.

San Francisco is about to receive the biggest delivery of MDMA to hit the West Coast in years. Raymond Gaspar, just out of prison, is sent to the city to check in on the increasingly erratic dealer expected to take care of distribution. In Miami, the man responsible for getting the drugs across the Pacific has just met the girl of his dreams—a woman who can't seem to keep her story straight. And thousands of miles away in Bangkok, someone farther up the supply chain is about to make a phone call that will put all their lives at risk. Stretching from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia to the Golden Gate of San Francisco, Every Man a Menace offers an unflinching account of the making, moving, and selling of the drug known as Molly—pure happiness sold by the brick, brought to market by bloodshed and betrayal.

From the blurb this book sounds right up my street and I'm fairly sure I enjoyed it up to a point. (Read last year in June, 2016 and scored at a 4 from 5 on the arbitrary scoreboard.)

My major memory is of a big WTF moment maybe a third of the way in which totally threw me. I kind of felt a sense of disconnection from the book immediately afterwards, which if that was the author's intention........10/10 top marks! Never saw that one coming.

Thereafter things are kind of fuzzy - maybe someone slipped me some Molly while I read on in an amnesic stupor.

A friend has told me that the measure of a good book isn't whether you have recall of all the details, just your reaction to it when reading it and just after you've finished. That said I'm disappointed in myself.

The first section sees Raymond Gaspar, released from prison and sent to supervise and intercede if necessary in a regular drug deal which one of his protectors in prison set-up and receives a cut from. Arthur, Gaspar's benefactor appears concerned that one of the parties in the deal is acting strangely and may want them replaced by Raymond. Raymond does as instructed, but the two parties may not be quite so amenable or pliable as Arthur has led him to believe.

Tense and claustrophic is how I would describe the atmosphere around Raymond as he tries to manipulate events to his end. This doesn't go well.

After that......who knows. I could try and skim the book and blag it, but CBA. I do intend to re-read, maybe I'll go at a pace of a chapter a day, so can re-read without seriously affecting the other books on the go.

Overall enjoyable, but I could be an unreliable narrator!

4 from 5

I have Patrick Hoffman's acclaimed novel The White Van on the shelf somewhere.

The author has his website here. He's on Twitter@pdchoffman

Read in June, 2016
Published - 2016
Page count - 288
Source - Edelweiss Above the Treeline early reviewer site
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

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

I bought a few books this month as a present to myself when out and about with my wife on our wedding anniversary, and why not, because you can never have too many books, now can you?


Second hand book store -  new-to-me author

Orphaned by an act of senseless violence that took their mother from them, half-brothers Clarence Luckman and Elliott Danziger have been raised in state institutions, unaware of any world outside. But their lives take a sudden turn when they are seized as hostages by a convicted killer en route to death row. Earl Sheridan is a psychopath of the worst kind, but he has the potential to change the boys' lives for ever. As the trio set off on a frenetic escape from the law through California and Texas, the two brothers must come to terms with the ever-growing tide of violence that follows in their wake - something that forces them to make a choice about their lives, and their relationship to one another.

Set in the 1960s, BAD SIGNS is a tale of the darkness within all of us, the inherent hope for salvation, and the ultimate consequences of evil. It returns to the haunting ground covered in the award-winning, international bestseller, A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS.

Ditto above!

Turkish detective Kemal Kayankaya might not know when it's recycling day, but now he has to help four eco-terrorists beat a murder rap...

Wisecracking PI Kemal Kayankaya cares more about sausage and beer than politics, but when he's hired to defend four eco-terrorists charged with murdering a chemical plant owner he finds himself stuck in the middle of Germany's culture wars. It doesn't take long for Kayankaya to realize that the whole situation stinks and that both the Left and the Right have blood on their hands. And is the fiery journalist Carla Reedermann dogging his steps because she smells a story, or is she after something more?

A hardboiled noir in the Chandler tradition that also provides a wry critique of contemporary racial and environmental politics, More Beer shows why Jakob Arjouni's series of Kayankaya novels has become a bestselling international sensation.


Same again - I'm reminded a bit of Jack Ketchum's Red with this plot.

Living alone with his dog in the remote cabin in the woods, Julius Winsome is not unlike the barren winter lands that he inhabits: remote, vacant, inscrutable. But when his dog Hobbes is killed by hunters, their carelessness--or is it cruelty?--sets Julius's precarious mindset on end.

He is at once more alone than he has ever been; he was at first with his father, until he died; then with Claire, until she disappeared with another man into a more normal life in town; and then with Hobbes, who eased the sorrow of Claire's departure. Now Hobbes is gone.

Julius is left with what his father left behind: the cabin that he was raised in; a lifetime of books, lining every wall of his home, which have been Julius's lifelong friends and confidantes; and his great-grandfather's rifle from World War I, which Julius had been trained to shoot with uncanny skill and with the utmost reluctance. But with the death of his dog, Julius's reluctance has reached its end. More and more, simply and furtively, it is revenge that is creeping into his mind.

Fresh snow is on the ground as the hunters lumber into his sights. They're well within the old gun's range. They pause, and they're locked into the crosshairs. Julius's finger traces the trigger. Will he pull it? And what will that accomplish? What if he simply has nothing left to lose?

Net Galley book
'An extremely impressive debut' Peter Swanson, author of Sunday Times bestseller The Kind Worth Killing

A gritty, propulsive debut about a father, a daughter, and the hardest lessons in life...

‘If nowhere was safe for her, then the only place he could let her be was with him’

Meet Polly: eleven years old and smart beyond her years. But she’s a loner, always on the outside, until she is unexpectedly reunited with her father.

Meet Nate: fresh out of jail and driving a stolen car, Nate takes Polly from the safety of her quiet existence into a world of robbery, violence and the constant threat of death.

And he does it to save her life.

A Lesson in Violence is a gripping and emotionally wrenching novel that upends even our most long-held expectations about heroes, villains and victims. Nate takes Polly to save her life, but in the end it may very well be Polly who saves him.


Net Galley again
The first time the bank gets robbed, it's by two separate, unrelated parties—at the same freaking time. But when a robber has a stroke on the job, everyone comes together to help. Bank teller/Vietnam veteran major Chin volunteers to take the poor fellow to the ER, and while he’s at it, assist the other criminals in their escape. On the way to the hospital, while Chin and the criminals share a moment of bonding, the stroke patient recovers and hijacks the take.

The second time the bank gets robbed, one of the robbers is major Chin, for he has planned a perfect heist.

Net Galley book
"Clea Simon writes with authority and affection about a lost world. Highly recommended"
Cationa McPherson

This intriguing, hardhitting, intricately-plotted mystery set in Boston's clubland marks an exciting new departure for cozy author Clea Simon.

The Boston club scene may be home to a cast of outsiders and misfits, but it's where Tara Winton belongs; the world she's been part of for the past twenty years. Now, one of the old gang is dead, having fallen down the basement stairs at his home.

With her journalist's instincts, Tara senses there's something not quite right about Frank's supposedly accidental death. When she asks questions, she begins to uncover some disturbing truths about the club scene in its heyday. Beneath the heady, sexually charged atmosphere lurked something darker. Twenty years ago, there was another death. Could there be a connection? Is there a killer still at large ... and could Tara herself be at risk?


Never read any of these six before, though I have a book already on the shelves by each of Donovan, Ellory and Arjouni!