Sunday, 21 June 2020

One Man's Opinion: SEVERANCE PACKAGE by DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI



Severance Package (US) is bonkers. Seriously. I can’t recall
reading anything that’s taken its premise to such extremes.

So bonkers is good, right?

Absolutely. Somehow, by the skin of his teeth, Duane Swierczynski
pulls this one off to leave an exciting read that entertains and satisfies.

How to describe it? Imagine a Formula One driver who only
needs one more victory to snatch the title from an old rival. There’s one more bend to get round and the driver’s lagging in second. All they can do is floor it, take the curve, hope nature is on their side and pray. The force is immense, the driver nearly flies off the track, but manages with a final turn of the wheel to keep control and take the chequered flag to become the new champion of the world.

Told you it was bonkers.

I could put it another way.

Molly Lewis is called in to work for a meeting on a Saturday
morning. She gets up and dressed, then kills her husband with a bowl of potato salad.

The meeting, called by boss David, is on the thirty-sixth
floor of a Philadelphia office block.

When everyone who’s going to make it is in the room, David
explains that everyone is going to die. It’s in the national interest and is just one of those things that happens when you’re working for the secret service. The best way to do it is to take the easy way out- mix a glass of Champagne and orange juice, each containing a poison that would work in combination to offer a pain-free death.

For those not willing to choose their options, there’s no
way of escape. All doors have been booby-trapped with Sarin and there are explosive devices everywhere.

The six employees all react to the situation in different
ways. They’re all highly-skilled operatives in one form or another and giving in isn’t an option. If they could work as a team, things might be easy, only one of them is not who they seem and the personalities clash like titans.

Basically, this if office politics at its highest pitch.

While the employees battle it out for survival, two agents
watch from afar. An American and a Scot watch the Philadelphia antics unfold, backing their favourites and watching them crossed off the list through the grizzly action before them.

I guess the reason it almost spins too far is that it’s difficult to see the people you’re rooting for being bumped off one by one. As
each is sent to their wonderfully creative ending, the emotional investment lessens by a degree. Not that it should really matter. This is high rise, high octane, high adrenaline drama for the action junkie.

Apart from being a terrific read, it’s also a beautiful object. There are some books that feel great in your hands and this is one of
them. Silky smooth, malleable and illustrated at regular intervals with art work I’d happily hang on my wall. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

NOIR FROM THE BAR (a charity antholgy)


UK      US
This anthology, consisting of 30 stories by crime and mystery writers from all over the world has been conceived, created, and published in a month.
All stories have been donated free-of-charge by the authors, with the vast majority of them written specifically for this very special book. Originating from Virtual Noir at the Bar, a weekly online gathering where authors — best sellers, award winners and up-and-coming — join together to read sections live from their works to the public, the organisers of that event put the word out to writers who had appeared to submit a story to help raise funds for NHS charities. The result is this book. Inside you’ll find short pieces that have nothing in common other than their quality and a general tale-from-the-bar theme.
So whatever sort of crime and mystery fiction you enjoy, you’ll find something to appeal:
  • Locked room mysteries
  • Gritty noir
  • Cozy capers
  • Psychological thrillers
  • Twist-in-the-tales
  • Revenge dramas
  • Shocking shorts
  • Longer dramas to savour

With combined sales of more than three million books and awards galore, you’ll find familiar names and new finds within.

Support NHS charities and treat yourself by reading this exceptional collection. 

Full list of authors included in this anthology:
Suzy Aspley, Alison Belsham (The Tattoo Thief (Sullivan and Mullins)), Simon Bewick (You Could Make a Killing), Sharon Bolton (the Lacey Flint series), Neil Broadfoot (the Connor Fraser series), Philippa East (Little White Lies), Ashley Erwin (A Ballad Concerning Black Betty or the Retelling of a Man Killer and her Machete), Derek Farrell (The Danny Bird Mysteries), Margaret Kirk (the DI Lukas Mahler series), Neil Lancaster (The Tom Novak series), Louise Mangos (Strangers on a Bridge), Danny Marshall, Chris McDonald (A Wash of Black), Kirsten McKenzie (The Old Curiosity Shop series), Effie Merryl, Phoebe Morgan (The Doll House), KC Murdarasi (Office Life (and Death)), Rob Parker (The Ben Bracken series), Robert Scragg (The Porter & Styles series), Zoe Sharp (the Charlie Fox series), Sara Sheridan (the Mirabelle Bevan series), Dave Sivers (the DI Nathan Quarrel and Archer & Baines series), Graham Smith (the Jake Boulder series), DC Smith, Eve Smith (The Waiting Rooms), Martyn Taylor (The Price of Everything), David Turton (The Malaise), Fiona Veitch Smith (The Poppy Denby Investigates series), Roz Watkins (The DI Meg Dalton series) and Olga Wojtas (The Miss Blaine’s Prefect series).

More details of how you can join, free of charge, future Virtual Noir at the Bar events are included in the book.

Paperback available here.

Monday, 20 April 2020

One Man's Opinion: ED'S DEAD by RUSSEL D McLEAN



The last thing I expected to happen when I had lots of time on my hands is that my concentration would fragment so much that focussing on stories would be difficult to manage. And it hasn’t just been the concentration either - the will to pick up a book also faded during the early days of lockdown. I’ve had a similar experience with writing, but at least over the Easter holiday I managed to find the self-discipline to sit and type and my next novel is beginning to take shape.

My problem with reading made choice of book quite tricky. Anything too dark was out of the question – there’s enough bleakness out there (and in here) already – and I wasn’t in the mood for anything too light and entertaining. 


In the end, I think I made a wise choice when I plumped for Russel D McLean’s Ed’s Dead (US).


I first came across this one at a Noir At The Bar in Edinburgh (more on this later) when he read an early chapter that had me looking forward to buying a copy on publication. I did just that, but because it was on my kindle, it became camouflaged in that virtual bookshelf as so many titles do. When struggling something to find a lockdown-friendly read, this seemed ideal. 


Jen Carter, our protagonist, hasn’t lived up to any of her ideas about herself. She’s prone to settling for the easy option. Instead of writing her novel, she’s selling the books of others; instead of having a loving and responsible boyfriend, she’s got Ed; and instead of dumping him for good, she kills him.

True, the murder isn’t premeditated, but that’s beside the point. She has a body on her hands and has no idea what to do with it. 


Enter Ed’s flatmate. He knows exactly how to handle the situation. Not just with the corpse, but the bag of cash and the huge stash of drugs. He enters like an overweight, less attractive Harvey Keitel, ready to clean up the mess and improve his own life in the process. 


Neither Jen nor Ed’s flatmate have heard of the adage if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The drugs and money haven’t dropped from heaven. Ed had siphoned them off from the last of the city’s old-school gangsters. Needless to say, he wants to get his hands on what’s his and will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal.


The only positive that’s going to come from what unfolds before us is that Jen finally finds something she’s really good at: murder. 


From the outset, this one’s lots of fun. Ed’s death sets of a chain reaction that blows Jen’s ordinary life to smithereens. She’s being chased by the police and some seriously twisted lowlifes and finds herself stuck between a rock, a hard place and psychopath. She finds inner strength she never knew she had and has to be quick witted and ready for anything just to survive. 


The escapade is tense, exciting and underpinned with a dark humour that adds texture and shade to the developments. The characters feel very real as does the build-up of the nightmare. McLean does a great job of creating cliff-hanger endings for each chapter which accelerates the pace at every step, and the gripping action and ever-rising stakes keep this enjoyable throughout. 

Perfect for the current situation and likely perfect for a future date when things settle down for us all. 
It's not a book that will have you asking lots of questions about your life or the meaning of it all, which is absolutely fine by me. Sometimes you've just got to sit back and enjoy the ride and you know you can relax when RDM's in the driving seat. 
  

And I mentioned Noir At The Bar earlier on. They’re planning some quality events to help you keep your spirits up and you can sign in for updates here.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

New From Paul D Brazill (you know you want to)


Ageing hit-man Tommy Bennett left London and returned to his hometown of Seatown, hoping for respite from the ghosts of the violent past that haunted him. However, things don’t go to plan and trouble and violence soon follow Tommy to Seatown. Tommy is soon embroiled in Seatown’s underworld and his hopes of a peaceful retirement are dashed. Tommy deliberates whether or not to leave Seatown and return to London. Or even leave Great Britain altogether. So, he heads back to London where violence and mayhem await him.

Man of the World is a violent and darkly comic slice of Brit Grit noir.

Praise for the Books by Paul D. Brazill:

“If you took Ken Bruen’s candor, the best of Elmore Leonard’s dialogues, sprinkled in some Irvine Welsh, and dragged it all through the dirtiest ditch in South London, the result will be something akin to Brazill’s writing.” —Gabino Iglesias, author of Zero Saints and Gutmouth, for The Last Laugh

“A broad range of cultural strands come together in the melting pot and form a delicious stew of criminal adventure… The observations are sharp and the characters create small nuclear explosions as they collide with each other.” —Nigel Bird, author of Southsiders, for The Last Laugh

“Brazill offers a series of amusing episodes filled with breezy banter in this offbeat slice of British noir.” —Publishers Weekly, for Last Year’s Man

“It’s all here, everything you’ve come to expect from a Paul D. Brazill caper—the fast pace, the witty banter, the grim humour and the classic tunes—except this time he’s REALLY outdone himself. Unlike the lament in the song the title takes its name from, Paul’s best years are surely still ahead of him.” —Paul Heatley, author of Fatboy, for Last Year’s Man

“Paul D. Brazill is the Crown Prince of Noir. That’s my opinion, granted, but I stand by it. For those who require proof, just pick up his latest novel, Last Year’s Man, and it will be clear why I make that statement. All hail the crown prince!” —Les Edgerton, author of The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping, Just Like That and others

“Brazill is brilliant, a unique voice which stands out from the crowd.” —Keith Nixon, author of the Solomon Gray books, for Last Year’s Man
MAN OF THE WORLD by Paul D. Brazill — Published by All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books (April 2020)
• Amazon — Trade Paperback | eBook
• Amazon UK — Trade Paperback | eBook
• Barnes & Noble — Trade Paperback | eBook
• IndieBound — Trade Paperback
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook

Saturday, 4 April 2020

One Man's Opinion: HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN by DEREK RAYMOND



“Good evening to you,” he boomed heartily. “My wife tells me you’ve come about my brother Charles. Well? What’s be been up to this time?”
“Well he’s gone and died,” I said.


A body is found on a West London roadside. It’s been battered and smashed in such a way that suggests he’s the victim of a twisted, embittered and unstable killer. The case is handed to The Factory and its Department of Unexplained Deaths. It’s taken on by our protagonist, one of the few at the Factory who finds the work suits him. There are no boundaries to his investigation and, because it gets under his skin, he takes on the case in a way that begins to overtake his own life as he becomes bound up with the thoughts of his victim.


The body at the side of the road belonged to Charles Staniland. It turns out he was a man of wealthy descent who squandered everything along the way as his compulsions, obsessions and open generosity pulled him down. His last residence is a place of utter squalor. In it, our DS finds a collection of tape recordings. As he listens to them and learns about the man, his urge to find the killer grows as he becomes increasingly sympathetic to Staniland’s poetic philosophising, and more deeply embedded in the murky world of his psyche. 


The journey towards solving the case is fascinating. The police work bears little relation to any typical investigation. Our sergeant decides that the best course of action is to follow the victim’s course and, though aware of the dangers and pitfalls this might bring, he goes ahead with it anyway. His approach is amazing, his journey fascinating, the conclusion as unpredictable as it is inevitable.

Raymond’s talent as a writer is clearly apparent. Not only is he able to bring in a hard-boiled style where characters are brilliantly framed, particularly in the dialogue, but he is also able to inhabit Staniland’s fragmented mind and capture the wonder of his voice in a way that makes the victim’s foray as a literary author utterly plausible.   


I want to mention one thing while I’m here. The references to London’s ethnic diversity, a key aspect of the city’s life and character can be a little jarring. As I came across them, I needed to take pauses to try and work out how I felt about it. In the end, I concluded that the book reflects attitudes of the time in which it is set and the comments were always funnelled through characters, adding to the authenticity and grit of the book. If you have other opinions, I’d be more than happy to hear them. 

I moved to London at around the time the book was published. It certainly didn’t have the polished feel about it that it carries at its centre today. I guess it’s good to reflect on progress as, because it happens in steps, can easily be missed while we’re busy living our lives. It’s also good to note, as Raymond’s protagonist suggests, that not all changes to the essence of a city are for the better.


Perhaps to finish, I’ll leave with a comment about the sergeant’s complexity:


“A true communist is no scrounger,” he [sculptor friend, Ransome] said. I had just decided to go to police school then, and I remember that when I told him so he looked at me for a time and remarked: “Yes, but perhaps you could have been an artist too.”

I dared not tell him, though I told him most things, that I didn’t have the courage for that.”

A wonderful read that will have you wondering about the human condition as much trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Superb. 

Thursday, 26 March 2020

The Down & Out Books COVID-19 Social Distancing Digital Book Sale!


Down & Out Books strongly supports federal guidelines to practice social distancing during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. And to provide some variety to the ways in which you do so, we have discounted 39 of our most recently published digital titles, across all of our imprints, to between 99¢ and $2.99!
Below you'll find a list of those titles together with links to purchase from the Down & Out Bookstore and all major digital book vendors.
Stay safe and read a book … or two or three!


Let It Snow by Nigel Bird

Let It Snow by Nigel Bird
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook

All of Them to Burn by Beau Johnson
All of Them to Burn by Beau Johnson
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
At Their Own Game by Frank Zafiro
At Their Own Game by Frank Zafiro
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
Beacon Hill by Colin Campbell
Beacon Hill by Colin Campbell
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
A Beast Without a Name: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan edited by Brian Thornton
A Beast Without a Name: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan edited by Brian Thornton
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
The Big Crescendo by Jonathan Brown
The Big Crescendo by Jonathan Brown
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
Chasing China White by Allan Leverone
Chasing China White by Allan Leverone
Published by Shotgun Honey
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
Coal Black: Stories by Chris McGinley
Coal Black: Stories by Chris McGinley
Published by Shotgun Honey
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
Crossing Borders edited by Lisa Brackmann and Matt Coyle
Crossing Borders edited by Lisa Brackmann and Matt Coyle
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
A Dark Homage by Wendy Tyson
A Dark Homage by Wendy Tyson
Published by Down & Out Books
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• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
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The Dead Don't Sleep by Steven Max Russo
The Dead Don't Sleep by Steven Max Russo
Published by Down & Out Books
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• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
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Deep Green Cover by Joel W. Barrows
Deep Green Cover by Joel W. Barrows
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
Denim, Diamonds and Death edited by Rick Ollerman
Denim, Diamonds and Death edited by Rick Ollerman
Published by Down & Out Books
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• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
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Encrypting Maya by Lawrence Kelter
Encrypting Maya by Lawrence Kelter
Published by Down & Out Books
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• Amazon UK — eBook
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• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods edited by Michael Bracken
The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods edited by Michael Bracken
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
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Forgiveness Dies by J.J. Hensley
Forgiveness Dies by J.J. Hensley
Published by Down & Out Books
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• Amazon UK — eBook
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The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men by Tom Leins
The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men by Tom Leins
Published by All Due Respect
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
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Guns + Tacos Season 1 Volume 1 edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker
Guns + Tacos Season 1 Volume 1 edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
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Guns + Tacos Season 1 Volume 2 edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker
Guns + Tacos Season 1 Volume 2 edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
Home Invasion by Patricia Abbott
Home Invasion by Patricia Abbott
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
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I Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff
I Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
I'm Dying As Fast As I Can by Jerry Kennealy
I'm Dying As Fast As I Can by Jerry Kennealy
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
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In the Cut by Frank Zafiro
In the Cut by Frank Zafiro
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
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Kraj the Enforcer: Stories by Rusty Barnes
Kraj the Enforcer: Stories by Rusty Barnes
Published by Shotgun Honey
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
The Lantern Man by Jon Bassoff
The Lantern Man by Jon Bassoff
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
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Maxine Unleashes Doomsday by Nick Kolakowski
Maxine Unleashes Doomsday by Nick Kolakowski
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
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• iTunes — eBook
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¡Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! edited by Angel Luis Colón
¡Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! edited by Angel Luis Colón
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
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Price Hike by Preston Lang
Price Hike by Preston Lang
Published by All Due Respect
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
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Shelter Cove by Colin Campbell
Shelter Cove by Colin Campbell
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook
Skunk Train by Joe Clifford
Skunk Train by Joe Clifford
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
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Stay Ugly by Daniel Vlasaty
Stay Ugly by Daniel Vlasaty
Published by All Due Respect
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
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The Stone Carrier by Robert Ward
The Stone Carrier by Robert Ward
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
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• iTunes — eBook
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The Swamp Killers edited by Sarah M. Chen and E.A. Aymar
The Swamp Killers edited by Sarah M. Chen and E.A. Aymar
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
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this letter to Norman Court by Pablo D'Stair
this letter to Norman Court by Pablo D'Stair
Published by All Due Respect
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
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Tommy Shakes by Rob Pierce
Tommy Shakes by Rob Pierce
Published by All Due Respect
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
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Trouble & Strife: Crime Stories Inspired by Cockney Rhyming Slang edited by Simon Wood
Trouble & Strife: Crime Stories Inspired by Cockney Rhyming Slang edited by Simon Wood
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
• Barnes & Noble — eBook
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True Dark by Mike Miner
True Dark by Mike Miner
Published by All Due Respect
• Amazon — eBook
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The Unknowing by Trey R. Barker
The Unknowing by Trey R. Barker
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
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Widow's Run by TG Wolff
Widow's Run by TG Wolff
Published by Down & Out Books
• Amazon — eBook
• Amazon UK — eBook
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• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
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