Saturday, 9 November 2019

It's Going To Be One Hell Of A Christmas



It's been a long time coming, but it's finally arrived. Let It Snow will be released on Monday 11th November (and with a date like that, how could you forget?) and it's available now from all the usual places. 

Linking to the page here will give the links you need for the e-book versions.

For those who prefer a paperback, it can be ordered here in the UK or here in the US

If you're after a little more information before committing your hard-earned cash, then why not pop over to The Big Thrill where I was interviewed by author and founder member of the New York Writers' Workshop Charles Salzberg. 

His thoughts on the novel:

'Bird manages to create more than enough suspense to keep the reader turning pages.'

If you're struggling to justify the expense of buying the book, it would be great if you could ask your local library to order you a copy. 

I do appreciate that I've probably been going on about the new release more than anyone would like. In trying to get word out about publication, the line between reasonable publicity and irritating-scratched-record territory is a very thin one. I'll make sure I calm things down as soon as I can, but I hope you can appreciate the situation. Kicking a book off with a heavy boot can make all the difference to a small publisher and an author and building momentum is really difficult thing to achieve. 

If you've already ordered yourself a copy, many thanks for your support. I hope you enjoy the read and feel positive enough about the novel to share a good word for it with friends and in the usual places on the internet. Every contribution helps, no matter what size. A Facebook or a Twitter like is a wonderful thing, a retweet or share means a lot and a review at a retail site or a blog is invaluable 

Thanks, as always, for popping over and if you have any questions about the book just drop me a line in the comments.

Enjoy the weekend all, and if you live in one of the areas flooded by the torrential rain of late, may I wish you a long dry and sunny spell. 




Wednesday, 6 November 2019

One Man's Opinion: SEE THEM DIE by ED McBAIN



The sailor swung around on his stool. He leaned his elbows on the counter top and drunkenly looked out over the sun-washed street. 
"It looks nice and peaceful to me," he murmured. 
"Can you see through the walls, sailor?" Louis asked. "Do you know what goes on under the skin of the buildings?"

Before thinking about See Them Die, I'm going to point you in the direction of a long interview I did with Damien Seaman that was put out last week in two instalments. The first is here, the second here. It's a thorough interrogation into writing, editing, publishing, publicising, living and breathing. Among many other things, I get to chat about my forthcoming Down&Out books release Let It Snow which is inspired, in the main, by the 87th Precinct novels of Ed McBain, not that I'm claiming that it's a patch on the master's work. How on earth could I begin to hope to get close to books like the one I've just finished?

After recently reading and thoroughly enjoying The Heckler, I was prepared for See Them Die to be less satisfying, after all when the bar is raised so high not every book can make it over. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'd go as far as to say that this could by my favourite 87th novel so far. 

This was a really special read. The opening chapter sets the scene, beginning the dissection of the Puerto Rican community on the station's doorstep. It has the feel of Steinbeck, carrying weight and simplicity in equal measure. The broad strokes soon become more detailed as the focus shifts from the street to the luncheonette run by Luis Amandez. The only customer is Zip, a teenager too proud and arrogant to join the biggest gang in town who has formed his own. He's the leader of the Latin Purples, a gang with only four members that needs to do something major if it's going to gain any reputation.

The pair are soon joined by a drunken sailor who's looking for the local whorehouse and is struggling to come to terms with the fact that it's closed on a Sunday morning. The interplay between the trio is beautiful, the dialogue and action slick and easy and we know everything we need to about them within a few paragraphs. 

By page three, we know that there are going to be two people lying dead on the street before today, but have no idea who they might be. 

The Latin Purples intend to murder a local boy because he made advances towards Zip's girl, China. As it turns out, the advances were merely a hello and China wants nothing to do with Zip, but the boy has to go anyway. The Purples need to splash their colour around and murder will certainly add to their notoriety. 

Enter the police. There's friction at headquarters between three of the officers. Puerto Rican local boy made good, Frankie Hernandez, hard nut and cold-hearted Peter Byrnes and main man Steve Carella. There's needle between Byrnes and Hernandez born from the former's racism and general unpleasantness and there's friction between Carella and Byrnes because of a previous encounter where Byrnes over-stepped the mark on the wrong day. Byrnes is on pins because he's keen to nail local anti-hero Pepe Miranda, public enemy number one. Byrne's desperate to finish Miranda off personally and is prepared to take his frustration out on anyone who even looks at him sideways.  

Byrnes ends up drinking coffee with the sailor, Zip and Louis. It's all friendly on the surface, but charged by the heat and the growing tension of the city as it springs to life. 

As the local people wake, the area blossoms like a desert after a rainstorm, stirring the pot and bringing all the main players onto the stage. 

The sailor meets China and the pair fall hard for each other as if fate has brought them together so that they can escape their own private hells. Pepe Miranda is discovered in one of the street's buildings and the entire area is swamped by police and spectators while the church bells ring. Hernandez goes to speak to the boy Zip intends to wash. Two members of the Royal Guardians stray into the territory. The loyalties of the Purples become strained as they hide their guns and prepare for action. Tension within the detective builds. A couple of hookers see their opportunity to make some extra cash. A picnic basket is prepared. And people die. 

I adored it. The layers of the characters are exposed carefully as contrasts are explored. We see the differences between the law-abiding and the crooks, the gap between generations, the tensions between an immigrant community and the police, the rivalry of gangs, the precarious interplay of lust and love, bravery and cowardice, hope and hopelessness, life and death. 

As the god overseeing the action McBain plays with us a little. He even tells us that he's doing it. If he were so inclined, he could make all the endings rosy. But he didn't feel like it.  

There may be melodramatic elements to the story, but I'm a sucker for a good set-up that keeps me on the edge of my seat ready to reach for the hankies. 

I reckon See Them Die is like a collision between Angels With Dirty Faces and West Side Story. It's tough stuff with a big heart. And if you listen really carefully, you may even feel the beat of the musical score. 

Wonderful stuff.   

ps For loads of other information on the book and a hatful of opinions, check out the Hark podcast here. 







Friday, 1 November 2019

One Man's Opinion: TOMMY SHAKES by ROB PIERCE



Here's another belter from All Due Respect, this time courtesy of Rob Pierce. 

The Tommy of the title hangs on to life by a thread. He's overdone it in every way and now barely functions if there isn't a drink within close reach. His life's on the skids and his derelict body is fighting back in the form of the worst case of bowel disorder that fiction has ever seen. 

Whether it's because it offers a tiny glimmer of hope or just because he's a habitual criminal, he takes on a big heist that requires him to put together a gang he's not sure he can trust to carry it out. 

Following Tommy is fascinating. He's hard, raw and astute when it comes to his job, but when he's home, he's all too human - just a broken-down loser who craves only the love of his wife and his son. 

The dialogue works really well, the planning of the heist builds the tension and the execution delivers the action at the perfect pitch. 

Lowlife literature of a high order. 

And he's the official blurb:    

Tommy Shakes (US) is a career criminal, and not a very good one. He earned his name as a heroin addict. Now he’s just a drunk, drinking so much that he spends much of his time in bathrooms, exploding from one end or the other.

He’s in a marriage he wants to salvage. He convinces himself that his wife, Carla, will allow him to stay with her and their teenage son, Malik, if he can bring home enough money. She tells him that won’t do it, he needs to quit crime altogether, but Tommy gets a crack at a big heist and decides to pull the job.

The job is ripping off a popular restaurant that runs an illegal sports book in back. A lot of money gets paid out on football Sundays; the plan is to pull the robbery on Saturday night. The back room has armed guards but, according to Smallwood, Tommy’s contact on the job, there’s no gang protection.

Tommy recons the job and finds two problems: Smallwood’s plan will get them all killed or up on murder one, and one security guy works for a local gangster, Joey Lee. Tommy’s desperate for money and figures he can make his own plan. As to the gangster, there’s enough money that it’s worth the risk.

They pull the robbery but one gang member gets gun happy and it turns into a bloodbath, which includes killing Lee’s man. Now they’re wanted for murder, and the law is the least of their problems.


Friday, 25 October 2019

One Man's Opinion: PRICE HIKE by PRESTON LANG


Price Hike has just been released by All Due Respect. Contrary to the title, it's available at the early-bird offer of $2.99 and £2.33, both of those a bargain if you like fast-paced crime fiction with strong characters and a complex enough setup to allow for emotional engagement. 

It's a complicated affair and too-detailed a description might spoil the fun, so here's a basic intro. 

A conceited businessman (Kanganis) has made his millions in the pharmaceutical industry. After some issues with one of his products, he's left with a whole lot of pills on his hands. The thing is, the pills (formula P8) actually work and can cure children facing early death from their medical conditions. Jane, a con-artist of some experience, needs to get her hands on the meds to save her own son who is now living with a wet-blanket of her ex-partner. Problem for Jane is that someone has beaten her to the stash and has stolen enough of the pills to save many a child. Jane's not happy and neither is Kandanis, who is too proud to let anyone pull a fast one on him. They both go chasing the prize and both underestimate the prowess of their target as well as the complex web of deception they will have to navigate to get what they want. 

Or as the blurb says:

Jane is a struggling con artist, estranged from her ex and her sick son, just trying to raise a little cash to buy some black-market meds from a mysterious seller called P8, a dangerous, raspy-voiced woman.

Kanganis is a widely-hated pharma executive, furious that the raspy-voiced girl he picked up at a chic downtown bar just ripped him off for millions in prescription drugs.

When Jane figures out a way to con P8 out of her entire stash of stolen meds, it’s great news for her kid’s lungs, but it also puts Jane and family in grave danger. Soon they’re on the run from a criminal network bigger and darker than they understand. And when Kanganis begins to use all of his resources and guile to catch up with his lost drugs, the game becomes even more deadly.

Price Hike is a fast-paced tale of con games, corporate greed, and one of the douchiest bros of modern times.


It's a really fun read with twists and energy that does the excellent premise of the tale justice. I highly recommend you pick up a copy and give it a whirl.

And isn't that cover something? It's by Eric Beetner and it's not the only thing Price Hike has in common with the designer. I'd say that Price Hike is Beetneresque and you know that means I rate it. 

Enjoy. 


Wednesday, 23 October 2019

One Man's Opinion: THE HECKLER by ED McBAIN




I’ve read a few stories involving the Deaf Man, so it was nice to finally get to meet him at the point when he was actually introduced. He’s a terrific villain who has the capacity to keep the whole of the 87th on their toes. He’s strong, cunning, logical, clinical and lethal and that makes him the perfect adversary for Steve Carella.


It’s April. Myer Myer is visited by an old friend of his father’s. The guy is receiving threatening calls insisting that he leaves one of his business properties by the end of the month, or else. As it happens, a number of other businesses in the city are being heckled and messed about in one way or another. Random packages arrive that were never ordered. Chauffeurs turn up to collect passengers who aren’t traveling. An entire catering and entertainment menagerie appear for a wedding where there is neither bride nor groom. The Heckler is creating low-level chaos around the city and for the police and it’s entirely part of his big plan. 


Meanwhile, the body of an older man is found wearing nothing but a pair of navy-issue shoes, a pair of socks and a peppering of shotgun pellets. The identity of the guy is a complete mystery, but when an old night-watchman’s uniform is pulled out of an incinerator, the pieces begin to fit together. 


They’re all the Deaf Man’s dirty deeds, of course. He’s all set to pull off a major heist and will go to any length to make sure everything goes to plan. 


The unfolding of the novel is utterly compelling. Whether we’re with the detectives investigating the murder, the businessmen who are victims of threats and practical jokes or following the gang as they prepare to carry out their robbery, the levels of intrigue remain high. 


I found it interesting that I was rooting for both the police and the thieves at the same time. By the end of it all, I was hoping the Deaf Man would manage to pull it all off in spite of all the horrific chaos left in his wake. Maybe you’ll feel the same. I won’t tell you how it plays out just in case. 


The Heckler (US) is a spectacular book. It offers the space and time to get close to the characters while moving ever forward in the cases and schemes. Definitely one not to miss whether you feel like reading anything else in the series or not. 


nb
The Deaf Man appears in the following 87th Precinct novels:

  • The Heckler (1960)
  • Fuzz (1968)
  • Let's Hear it for the Deaf Man! (1973)
  • Eight Black Horses (1985)
  • Mischief (1993)
  • Hark! (2004) 

Read and weep.

Friday, 20 September 2019

One Man's Opinion: BROKEN SOULS by STEPHEN BLACKMOORE




I didn’t know a lot of magic back then. Enough to get into trouble, not enough to get back out again.


Necromancer Eric Carter has lost everything and gained a wife in the form of Santa Muerte, the patron saint of death.


He returns to LA to meet up with Harvey Kettleman, a fellow mage and a powerful one at that, there’s every chance that Carter will be able to gather enough information to set his life on the right path once again. Unfortunately, Kettleman turns out to be someone else entirely – an entity wearing the skin of the mage and seems to want Carter dead. The only thing that saves our protagonist is the appearance of his dead best friend, Alex. The warning comes just in time and a tremendous battle ensues.


All this leaves Carter in a difficult position. Someone wants to kill him, but that someone can take on the form of anyone he happens to cut the skin from. There’s no one he can really trust. And then there’s Alex, not quite ghost and possibly a figment of Carter’s imagination. What the hell is he doing turning up to help the man that put a bullet in his head?


Things get messier when a woman with a Russian accent attacks Carter on the train and worse when he enlists the help of the Bruja, a vampire-saving mage who lives on Skid row. Not to mention the strange sense that Carter’s powers are evolving and strengthening in a way that he doesn’t understand.

His only form of defence is to go on the attack, and when Carter is involved anything could happen.


Broken Souls (US) is a lot of fun. There’s plenty of explosive action as Carter paints himself into a not-to-pleasant corner and the balance between the fantasy world and the real one is handled extremely well. There’s a hard-boiled flavour to the whole thing which has just the right infusion of humour to entertain and enough investigation to engage fans of the Private Investigator. It pumps up the volume full blast until the eardrums eventually have to burst. Great stuff.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

One Man's Opinion: KING'S RANSOM by ED McBAIN


King's Ransom is an 87th Precinct novel where the focus is much more upon the criminals and victims than on the role of the police, which makes it slightly unusual in the series. 

A wealthy businessman is planning to rally against a hostile takeover through his own underhand scheming. While the machines of money and greed grind away, there's a kidnapping on his estate. 

Unfortunately for the kidnappers, the boy taken is not the heir to the shoe factory, but is his friend and son of the household chauffeur. 

The police take over the mansion and do what they can and there's a nail-chewing wait for contact to be made. 

Meanwhile, all is not well at the criminals' safe house. The two men involved were not expecting to have such a feisty child in their care, nor for the wife of one of them to be so against the plan. 

About half way through the read, there's a twist that changed my feelings towards the main characters entirely. It's a simple shift, yet when it came it threw me completely. The same can be said of the police involved. 

King's Ransom took me a while to settle into. It works through different gears than many a procedural, yet when it finds its cruising speed it's as exciting and tense as the best of them.