Wednesday, 15 August 2018

One Man's Opinion: THE GENTLEMEN'S HOUR by DON WINSLOW


Boone Daniels surfs with two groups of buddies. The first is the Dawn Patrol, a tight bunch of friends who spend time on the sea before work starts. The second is a bunch of old-timers who don't need to hurry off and can afford to chew the fat while lying on their boards during the Gentlemen's Hour. 

The reason Boone can hang with both is that he has little else to do. He's a creature of habit, picks up the same free breakfast every day, misses his old flame, Sonny, is kind of dating a lady called Peter and he spends evenings wherever his hat is hanging. On top of living his life, he does a little work as a Private Investigator. 

The PI business soon draws him in a direction that is going to ruin his Nirvana. He takes on work for a defence team representing a young surfer who murdered an international surfing hero. In doing so, he risks alienating every friend with a board that he's ever had. The problem is that he knows it's the right thing to do and, if there's one thing that Boone's going to do it's that. 

At the same time, he takes on a gig from a wealthy member of The Gentlemen's Hour (US) who believes his wife might be cheating on him. 
On the fringes of these plotlines are local gangsters, members of cartels and a terrifying torturer. 

The loops of the story overlap and tighten like nooses around Boone's neck. The only saving graces are that he's good at his job and knows a thing or two about investigation and looking after himself. 

This is a brilliant read. The hooks go in right at the beginning. The main thrusts of the novel are gripping and the tangents are fun and informative. Boone's a terrific character and his crew are outstanding people. No one with a heart will be able to stand firm when faced with the impending bust up of the community. 

Much as everything fits neatly into place and every ounce of juice is sucked from the bones of the story, it's the voice that's the ace in the pack. It's another of Winslow's triumphs, allowing the reader to get to know the ins and outs as if they're standing right in the middle of it all rather than watching from the outside. 

10/10, A+, 5 Star, take your pick. It's definitely one of those. 

Sunday, 5 August 2018

One Man's Opinion: KILLER'S WEDGE by ED McBAIN



A lady walked into a bar. 

Ouch. 

It was an iron bar. 

A lady walks into the 87th Precinct squad room. 

Ouch. 

She was carrying a revolver and a jar of nitroglycerine and she wanted Steve Carella dead.

Carella doesn't know this, of course. He's over at the doctor's finding out that his wife is pregnant and that his life (whatever's left of it) will never be the same. 

The woman with the jar of sauce is called Virginia and she doesn't give a monkey's about Carella's news. As long as she gets to blow his head off, she doesn't care about many things. And she has lots of time. All the time in the world. 

The reason she wants Carella dead is that she holds him responsible for killing her husband. He didn't. The only part he had to play was arresting him and sending him to the prison in which he died. 

It's the job of Kling, Meyer, Byrnes and Cotton Hawes to persuade her on the error of her ways. The problem they have is that she's holding them hostage and seems unstable enough to blow the department up and them with it if they try anything. There's an interesting examination of the loyalties of the men here. Byrne, who possibly feels the most love for Carella, is in the position of having to weigh up the lives of everyone in the room against that of one individual. The others, all brothers in the 87th, are prepared to put their lives on the line if need be and don't necessarily agree with their boss's approach. 

As time goes on, the detectives all take turns in trying to calm the situation and get themselves out of a mighty hole. Not that Virginia's listening. She's sharp and alert and has a mean streak that's wider than the band of grey in Hawes's hair. 

In a parallel universe of sorts, Carella is trying to get to the bottom of a suicide that doesn't smell right. There are similarities between the situations at the station and on the case. Both are set in confined spaces. Each is limited by the ticking of the clock. None of the people involved are in the mood to cooperate and Carella is the main player.

Star of the show is a violent hooker who brings a pleasing freshness to proceedings and keeps life in the squad room interesting when it might otherwise have lost some lustre.  

The pressure builds at the station and in the family home of the suicide/murder victim. Tension mounts at a steady and pleasing pace and there are enough spanners in the works and plot twists to keep the eyes glued to the page. 

Lots to love about this one. It stretches plausibility on occasion, but McBain handles it all with enough skill to force any questions to the back of the mind. 

Killer's Wedge (US) is another gem in the series. It may be less polished than some, but its value is high all the same. Go on. Give it a rub and watch it sparkle.  

Friday, 3 August 2018

In Loco Parentis



In Loco Parentis is a story I'm very proud of. It's published today by All Due Respect books.

I know that some of you have read this already and I'm very grateful for that. If you're in that camp and you enjoyed it, I'd appreciate it if you could help spread the word in some way - a tweet, a mention during one of your book conversations with friends, a Facebook post. You know the kind of thing. 

If you've not been there before and need a read that might challenge, shock and entertain, then this could well be it. Here's the nutshell it's wrapped up in:  

Joe Campion is the kind of teacher any child would want for their class. He’s also the kind of teacher who never turns down a drink, a smoke or a lay. 

When Joe finds out some of his students are suffering abuse, he doesn’t trust the system to take care of it. His impulsive nature, dedication to his pupils and love of women lead him on a long, strange and bloody trip. 

Praise for IN LOCO PARENTIS: 

In Loco Parentis is terrific, start to finish.” —Charlie Stella, author of Tommy Red 

“Beautiful, painful and excruciatingly brilliant writing.” —McDroll, crime fiction author 

“A unique voice that sets the writing head and shoulders above and apart.” —Anonymous-9, author of Hard Bite and Bite Harder 

“The writing is beautiful and spare and by the end I felt a cathartic relief. This story is a roller coaster ride of emotion, but a ride well worth taking.” —Mike Miner, author of Hurt Hawks  


I'm delighted that All Due Respect have put this out and hope that I'll be able to return their faith by helping to get word out and generate a few sales. It's a small publisher, but isn't it the small publishers that really help keep the world of books interesting? I've seen enough of them fold in recent years to know that it's a perilous business. It's a vital one, nonetheless. One we all need to keep in mind every so often. So, if In Loco Parentis isn't to your taste, I'd be just as pleased if you went along to their site and chose another of their titles (there's enough variety in there for any crime fiction and noir fan) to take home or download to your device. Go check them out. 

And if you'd like a copy of In Loco Parentis, you can buy one at:

The Down and Out Bookstore
 Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
Waterstones 

If you don't want to pay, but fancy a read, why not order a copy for your local library? That works, too.

Big thanks are due to Chris Rhatigan for putting the whole thing together and JT Lindroos for a beautiful cover. Cheers guys. 





Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Dancing With Myself: RAY CLARK


Implant Official Trailer

I love stories. There are those who would claim I have to say that, otherwise I’m in the wrong game. But I genuinely do: either, writing, reading, telling or listening to them.

There’s nothing better than putting your feet up in front of the fire on a winter’s night, a bottle of wine by your side and a book at your disposal. Outside, the blistering rain hits the windows, draughts creep around the building, with unexpected sounds giving the house a life of its own. Inside, the television is off, the stereo is low, the room is warm, and you’re alone with your book – a mood of tranquility pervades.

         I have a number of like-minded friends and I was recently given the chance to join three of them for a weekend break, deep in the heart of The Yorkshire Dales. The log cabin nestled in the woods with a large lake at the end of the garden. Given that it was summer, the weather was agreeable, so we took advantage of the patio complete with barbeque, chimnea and halogen lights. All we needed to provide was alcohol and food.

         My three friends consisted of my webmaster, Iain, and his wife, Julie, and a friend of mine called Emma. What usually happens with people in such situations is they eventually start relating campfire stories, which are almost always ghost stories. Before long no one wants to leave the table or part company from the rest in case something is lurking in the darkened recesses. But it didn’t take that turn. It almost became an impromptu interview, when each of them tried to think of a question I have never been asked.

         I was curious because I thought they had set themselves a real task. Not so, Julie opened the questions with an absolute beauty:

         “If you could be one of your characters for a day, who would it be, and why?”

         “That’s a right question,” I replied, taking a sip of wine, confirming without doubt that I had never been asked that one before.

“But are you going to answer it?” she added, cheekily, thinking she had me.

I had to think about it. I was pleased it wasn’t a live radio interview. After I’d replenished everyone’s glasses, here’s what I said:

“I think it would have to be Luther Grant.”

“Great name,” replied Emma, “so tell us who he is.”

“It was a character I featured in a short story called, Lost and Found, eventually published as part of a collection entitled A Devil’s Dozen by Double Dragon.

“You guys all know me well enough by now to know I’ve always been a big fan of the mysterious: stories with twist endings that surprise you because you never saw it coming. Back in the 60’s, there was no shortage of that kind of stuff on the TV. I remember The Outer Limits. It used to open with the line ‘Do not adjust your TV set…’ That gripped me. Alfred Hitchcock had his own series. Boris Karloff presented something called The Veil, and Out Of This World, the latter being a series I have never laid my hands on.

“Don’t think I remember that one,” said Iain, “the others I do, and what about The Twilight Zone.”

“I was just coming to that – my all-time favourite. I think Rod Serling wrote some of the stories and hand-picked others. I have so much respect for that level of imagination. My story all started from a conversation I once had with a colleague. I told him I was collecting all the episodes on DVD. He said to me, ‘Do you know, I’ve seen loads of them, and never seen the same one twice.’ Neither have I, I thought…



I even gave my story a Twilight Zone opening:



“Witness Luther Grant, a loner, 61 years of age. He has a moderate inheritance and a care free life, most of which he’s spent collecting things he holds dear, much as we all do. At present, he’s testing his knowledge to its limit on America’s most popular game show. Luther has no family and no one he would define as close. But he does have a strong will and a very sharp mind. He’s also very determined. A trait that’s going to lead him into unfamiliar territory…”

Lost & Found paid homage to Rod Serling, and his series. So, to answer your question, I would love to be Luther Grant, because in that story he was given something that every film buff, or author, or even admirer of that kind of fiction or TV – the trip of a lifetime. I might even be prepared to settle for what happened to him…”

“Which was?” asked Emma.

“I could tell you but I’d have to kill you.”

“In other words, buy the book.”

We all laughed at that reply.

Little time passed before Iain decided to ask his, and what he basically did was flip the previous question on its head.

Which character would you not want to be?”

Another good question.

“Most of them,” I laughed. When you think that I write either crime fiction or horror you wouldn’t want to be in many of their shoes.

“The quick answer would be, D.I. Gardener: using my real life friend who is a D.I. in the murder squad in North Yorkshire as an example. He sees and deals with things I can only experience in my worst nightmares – and then write about. Strangely enough, that’s what he calls me, his worst nightmare. Every time he sees an email from me in his inbox he runs a mile and hides for an hour or two.

“The correct answer would be a lady called Sonia Knight from the upcoming IMP series book, Implant. There are definitely two very intense horrific scenes that fall into the scary category. They instill a sense of fear in the creeping-dread-of-what-is-about-to-happen sense. Both victims are isolated but they are treated in very different ways. With one, it’s a long drawn out affair in which the victim is held captive, and being forced – in a unique way – to part with information.

The other is from a scene set in the waiting room of a small country railway station. I take quite a bit of time throughout the novel to explain the gentle, rural setting where life is lived at a slower pace, with a serene, small-town, yesteryear feeling. And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, I describe what I believe to be an extremely spine tingling situation that the police are faced with. All along, you instinctively know that no matter what they do – or attempt to do – things are going to end very badly for the victim. Hopefully, the rising panic the scene invokes causes a sense of fright in the dreaded anticipation of what is coming.”

            “There’s something wrong with you,” said Emma.

            “Tell me something I don’t know, but you all knew that before you came here,” I replied. “Even while I was writing it I could see and sense it all perfectly, and despite what I was doing, and the fact that I was also starting to inwardly feel uncomfortable, I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to make sure that everyone who reads that scene feels as I did – or maybe even as stressed out as the victim.”

            “See what I mean,” said Emma, to the rest of them.

            She opened a new bottle of wine while I threw a few more logs on the chimnea. Once she’d filled everyone’s glass she asked her question.

“With that in mind, where on Earth do you come up with your ideas for disposing of people?”

What could I say? Yet another cracking question, and one I genuinely cannot answer in all honesty.

One of the biggest influences on my writing is a man called Graham Masterton, the author of some really excellent horror novels like Mirror, Night Warriors, Black Angel, The Burning and a whole host of others. For me, it all started with The Manitou: a story about the re-birth of a Native American Medicine Man. It was the location for the re-birth that blew my mind – in someone else’s body! It was full of myths and legends, and Masterton was weaving fact and fiction together quite seamlessly.

One of Masterton’s un-nerving talents is the ability to dispose of his victims in the most horrendous ways. The darkest, visually inventive scene I ever read, happened to a victim in a book called The Doorkeepers, who was connected to something called The Holy Harp. Believe me you do not want to be in that contraption. I found myself influenced by that scene when I wrote Sonia Knight’s demise. I think I was trying to outdo him.

So there we have it, the weekend finally ended with someone asking a question that I had real difficulty in answering.

Implant is available here in the UK (only 99p) and here in the US (only 99c).