Monday, 22 December 2014

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Festive Fifty (books and songs) 20 - 11

A new list in the Festive Fifty, this time from 20 - 11

20 The Song Is You by Megan Abbott and Frank Sinatra

19 The Good Son by Russell D McLean and Nick Cave

18 Northline by Willy Vlautin and Willy Vlautin

17 Road Rage by Ruth Rendell and Catatonia

16 The Mercy Seat by Martyn Waites and Johnny Cash

15 The Donor by Helen Fitzgerald and Half Man Half Biscuit

14 The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley and The Monochrome Set

13 Downtown by Ed McBain and Petula Clark

12 The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and The Rosie Taylor Project

11 Live Wire by Harlan Coban and Wire (live)

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Festive Fifty In Books And Songs (30 - 21)

30 Hit Me by Lawrence Block and Ian Dury 

29 Trouble In The Heartland by a whole bunch of great writers and Bruce Sprinsteen

28 Dirty Old Town by Nigel Bird and The Pogues

27 London Calling by Tony Black and The Clash

26 Misery by Stephen King and The Beatles

25 007 by Ian Fleming and Desmond Dekker

24 The Blue Room by Georges Simenon and The Boo Radleys

23 Fire In The Blood by Ed James and Niney

22 Bad Penny Blues by Cathi Unsworth and Humphrey Littleton

21 Puppet On A Chain by Alistair MacLean and Echo And The Bunnymen

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Festive Fifty in Books and Tunes (40 - 31)

The next installment...

40 Cheapskates by Charlie Stella and The Clash 

39 The Guns Of Navarone by Alistair McLean and The Skatalites

38 Silence by Jan Costin Wagner and Simon and Garfunkel 

37 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe and The Velvet Underground and Nico

36 The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McInty and Tom Waits

35 Bloody Valentine by James Patterson and My Bloody Valentine 

34 Portobello by Ruth Rendell and Jen And The Gents 

33 Lazy Bones by Mark Billingham and Green Day

32 Time Bomb by Jonathan Kellerman and Rancid

31 Cherry Bomb by J. A. Konrath and The Runaways  

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Festive Fifty in Fifty Books and Tunes

The Festive Fifty is an institution, there's no doubt about it. A celebration of good things. I'm doing a little twist on it this year and listing 50 book titles that happen to share a song title. It's mainly for my own entertainment, but if it brings any cheer your way, I'd be delighted. 

Thanks for coming. 

Here, in absolutely no sensible order are the entries 50 - 41:

50 The Guns Of Brixton by Paul D Brazill and The Clash

49 California by Ray Banks and The Dead Kennedies

48 The Hanging Garden by Ian Rankin and The Cure 

47 Frank Sinatra In A Blender by Matthew McBride and Frank Sinatra

46 In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B Hughes and New Order 

45 Let It Ride by John McFetridge and Ryan Adams 

44 The Dead Beat by Doug Johnstone and Deadbeat 

43 Message In A Bottle by Kath Middleton and The Police 

42 Watching The Detectives by Deborah Locke and Elvis Costello

41 The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 

More tunes and books from this old-timer tomorrow.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


“It was never the politics with me. Never. It was the being part.” – Michael O’Connor

In Down Among The Dead (UK and US) Michael O’Connor is an old man living on the Kilburn High Road. There are too many steps to his flat and he drinks too many pints to keep himself healthy. His life is now as empty as his fridge and he fills his days with visits to the pub, the bookies and to Mrs Quinn who lives across the way.

The thing is Michael O’Connor has a past. He’s been a soldier for the IRA and has been involved in events that are bound to catch up with him. His problem is that the events that have destroyed his life also happen to be the only things that define his existence. It’s no wonder, then, that he goes shooting his mouth off after a few drinks every once in a while.

Steve Finbow has done a brilliant job with this story. He flicks back and forth between 2008 in Kilburn and 1988 in Gibraltar where he’s on one final job for his boss. The settings in each case are extremely vivid. There’s plenty of detail and each has a constant feeling of menace as the separate story-lines converge to sharply pointed endings.

O’Connor himself tells the story. While he’s clearly kissed the Blarney Stone, he also knows how to tell a tale without wasting a word. This is sharp and bold writing that is populated punchy dialogue and crisply drawn characters. It’s a wonderful voice that is at once sympathetic and pathetic and it’s one that’s very easy to spend time with.

For those of you who are around my age and above, the story of the murder of three unarmed IRA suspects will be brought to mind. The past has a way of haunting us in real life as if it was all just a fiction. This particular fiction is a treat to be part and entirely avoids any of the potential pitfalls of dealing with such material.

In the post script, it mentions that Finbow is currently writing something new. I’m delighted to hear it and I’ll definitely be there to check it out when it’s published. I'm reminded that I have an earlier book of his on my kindle called Nothing Matters (Snubnose Press) which has just joined my must-read pile. 

Very highly recommended.

Down Among The Dead is now available for pre-order.

Saturday, 29 November 2014


A quick mention from me that Southisders is still on offer until the end of the month. That's only a couple of days. It's still at 99p/99c if you're up for a little bit of Elvis, Home Alone and Blue Christmas.

And now to Tussinland. Either just buy it or read the review and then buy it. Here are my quickly scribbled thoughts.

‘I’m a crazy Bosnian rape orphan and I’m out of control.’ – Logan

Tussinland is Paul’s favourite place. It’s a world that’s created when he’s downed a bottle of his favourite expectorant, a rosy world of good feelings and happiness, or at least a break from the normal humdrum of his existence.

He’s not got a good deal going for him, but that doesn’t make him a bad man. This is extremely important to the book because, as the central character in a world where he’s surrounded by the devious and the broken, he’s someone it becomes impossible not to root for.
Paul’s problems are many. He has to live at home with his promiscuous mother for a start. He’s lost his family and his teaching job. He’s overweight, is addicted to sugary cereal (which he eats by the packet) and has more friends on the TV than anywhere else. These are only minor issues when compared to the main one, namely that he’s the chief suspect in the investigation into the murder of his ex-wife and her new partner.

The thing is, the reader knows that he’s innocent from the off. We see it happen at the beginning, Paul’s niece, Miranda, and her boyfriend, Logan, film the killing and then run away with an enormous stash of heroin.

Paul is then painted into a corner. As well as the police, the man who needs to get his hands on the drugs is after him as are his Christian fundamentalist relatives who need the cash.
This isn’t just any old story about troubled people who live difficult lives, it’s a very well-written and thrilling adventure where the twists and turns make for a very emotional and ejoyable ride.

What I liked most about this novel is the way the characters were developed along the way. They grow into fully drawn people and while it happened my sympathies had to adjust. It’s something that’s hard to pull off and also gives the novel a hugely satisfying depth.

There are a lot of great reviews out there for this book and it’s been extremely well-received. I was a little worried that it would let me down.

I needn’t have worried. It certainly lives up to its growing reputation and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to be entertained while they read their crime fiction.

A small word of warning, this one’s very specific and graphic at points. If you’re easily offended, this may not be for you.