Tuesday, 26 January 2021

One Man's Opinion: HERMIT by SR WHITE

 


Dana Russo, an Australian detective working out in the wilds, is having a bad day. In fact, it's the same bad day she has every year as the events of a personal anniversary surface to challenge her will to live. When a local shopkeeper is murdered early that morning, it proves to be a distraction from her inner struggles, though she'll remain haunted by them whatever happens.

The chief suspect is a man who won't talk. He's in a state of shock and is in no fit state to open up. It's only when Russo interviews him and a bond is formed that they can begin to communicate. Even when they do, it turns out that the man has been living off grid for most of his adult life and is entirely invisible to the state. 

It takes an immense amount of skill for the detective to get her man to talk, but even her talent wouldn't be enough if they didn't recognise something of their mutual suffering in each other. Neither can quite work out what the link is, but their bond grows as they spend time together. 

The rest of the team are busy trying to work out where he's come from, as well as supporting their colleague and untangling each of the loose strands to the case. 

All options are plausible and the aspect of the case are intriguing enough to keep any fan of the police procedural hooked. What takes this to another level are the surges of emotional engagement for the reader in terms of both detective and prime suspect. It's hypnotising and tense and as much as I wanted to get to the core of the case, the direction of the story makes it clear that this isn't going to be an easy thing to deal with.   

I believe Hermit (US) is a first novel and there are elements where this is apparent, especially regarding the levels of Russo's introspection and the maintenance of that particular thread (for me, it eventually moves past it's sell-by date), That said, this is a powerful read and a recommended one. What's exciting is that there might be more books to come- this would be a great platform in the series- and if it is, I think I'll enjoy watching it evolve. 

Check it out. 


Tuesday, 5 January 2021

One Man's Opinion: ROGUE MALE by GEOFFREY HOUSEHOLD



My copy of Rogue Male is published as one of Orion's Crime Masterworks. I guess that should make the author a household name, though I very much doubt that is the case. 

Rogue Male wasn't the story I expected. It tells the story of a hunter on the run after attempting to assassinate a European leader who is clearly a malignant influence on the world. The opening is a thrilling tale of an early capture and escape. Following on, we accompany the protagonist back to the UK where he uses his connections to help him disappear.

In truth, the hunter-turned-hunted is highly skilled in keeping a low profile. His chosen method of disappearance is to live from the land. In many ways, his animal instincts to survive are all he needs. There are occasional treats, such as taking a hot bath, which are described in wonderful detail and should make one grateful for the luxury items in life that we take for granted. There's also an acknowledgement that some of his desires can't be satisfied within a solitary world, though he is logical and philosophical about how to cope with such problems. 

As it turns out, the foreign agents who are hunting him down are skilled and plentiful. Even when going totally off-grid, they are able to follow the scent and pin our man into a corner. 

It's a gripping read while also being one that requires the taking of time to savour the language and the ideas being explored. I imagine a runner may appreciate some of the contradiction here: the desire to produce a quick time conflicting with the benefits of slowing down in order to appreciate the features and natural beauty of the route. Household succeeds by sucking the reader into the internal workings of the protagonist's mind as well as into the dark pits he inhabits along the way. Ideas of purpose and lack of it are reminiscent of existential fiction and, though the language is sublime and beautifully English (I had to make frequent use of a dictionary to help me along the way), there's also a sense that the style is of European stock.   

Totally engaging, yes. Powerfully intelligent? I think so. Surprises at every turn? Definitely. A dull and anticipated ending? Definitely not. 

In short, worthy of the classic status and I wish I'd read it a long time ago. Well worth your time and, given the theme, more than appropriate for our latest lockdown. 

And here's a link to info of the Fritz Lang adaptation in case you're interested. 

Friday, 25 December 2020

One Woman's Opinion: MY FUNNY VALENTINE by NIGEL BIRD

 


TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 December 2020
This is an excellent and gripping story that revolves around a 
serial killer who strikes just before, and on, St Valentine’s Day. 
This central core is interwoven with some of the police officers’ 
back-stories, including one whose cousin is in thrall to a group 
of drug dealers. It’s a kind of matriarchy whose tentacles it’s 
almost impossible to escape. There’s more than just this, though.
 It’s a densely-woven fabric of a story and I whizzed through it. I enjoyed it hugely.

I don't usually post individual reviews of my work, 
but when you get your first for a new novel it means a lot. 
Not only was this the first review, it's the first time anyone 
has given me any feedback on the novel. Of course,
I'm delighted that she liked it and I'd like to express a
heart-felt thanks for the thought and the effort taken to
 read and evaluate. 
It may seem strange that this is my first feedback and 
that probably says more about me than anything else. 
After working closely will the lovely Allan Guthrie 
right through the first book in the series, I was lucky 
enough to have his input into thinking about aspects of
 the story arc for Valentine. After that, it's pretty much 
been a solitary venture. Because the book was already 
signed as part of a series, there was no direct feedback 
from the publisher either- I think that possibly gets lost
 in the journey when one book follows another. 
So, a huge thank you and a happy Christmas to 
Kath Middleton.
Can I also pass on my Christmas wishes to everyone
 who has popped in over the last year or who has taken
 the time to read any of my work. It's been tough and
 we've all had to dig deep. I know my personal reserves 
all but ran out months ago, but there's hope and I'm clinging 
to that with the strength I have left. Be happy and healthy 
and try and appreciate the good things about what you have. 

My Funny Valentine is available from the links below:

• Amazon — Trade Paperback | eBook
• Amazon UK — Trade Paperback | eBook
• Barnes & Noble — Trade Paperback | eBook
• iTunes — eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

One Man's Opinion: LIKE LOVE by ED McBAIN

It's 173 pages long and it catches the interest from the off, so it's a mystery to me that it took me almost four months to read this, my latest in the line of 87th Precinct novels. Truth is, it's not likely to be the book's fault at all- I put it down to losing my way and unraveling since March. It's been the kind of fragmentation that builds up without being noticed, but I guess the pieces must be coming back together just now otherwise I wouldn't have finished it at all. 


Like Love opens with a suicide and moves onto a huge explosion and the discovery of two semi-naked bodies sharing a bed. The woman is married to someone else, a bottle of whisky has been consumed and there's a suicide note to explain their final moments of life. Thing is, none of those involved in the case believe the note and there are enough clues to investigate further. 

I was getting on really well with it until I reached a section where it's revealed that Bert Kling has turned sour following on from recent events, which was a pretty hard pill to swallow. After that, I lost momentum and stopped reading altogether. 

When I picked it up again, the threads were still tight and the case was still fascinating. The clues were finally put together in about the most unusual circumstances I can remember and all's well that ends well.

Truth be told, it took so long I can't give it any sense of detail. I enjoyed it and there are terrific scenes which means I'll recommend it to the house. Whether my slow reading was down to the book, you might get a better idea from the guys at Hark, the 87th Precinct podcast

And speaking of podcasts, my brother Geoff''s been at it again. His latest series involves the discussion of music by Elizabeth Alker and Stuart Maconie and it's called Notable if you fancy checking it out. 

Nothing to do with podcasts, my latest, My Funny Valentine, has it's first review. It's courtesy of Ignite (a top #1000 reviewer here in the UK) and it's a real Christmas cracker: "It’s a densely-woven fabric of a story and I whizzed through it. I enjoyed it hugely." Other than a vaccine, what better shot in the arm could there possibly be than that? 
 

Sunday, 29 November 2020

My Funny Valentine



Double Dutch loves playing Cupid and for one lucky lady his arrow will be painfully sharp. Only the police can prevent him from hitting his target before Valentine’s Day comes to a close.


It’s almost twenty years since the last Double Dutch killing and he’s back with a vengeance. The discovery of his latest victim resurrects ghosts the police hoped they’d laid to rest forever.

With Valentine’s Day almost upon them, detectives know they have limited time to avoid another slaying.

Follow DI Wilson and his team as they try to locate the killer before he strikes again.

My Funny Valentine is the second novel in the highly-praised Rat Pack series.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

ELVIS LIVES, BUT WE'RE ALL DEAD by CHRIS CRAVEN

 


A Salford lad sets out to hitchhike his way to Munich. A helter-skelter road trip ensues. Destinies collide, lives are changed forever. This darkly comic tale asks the less than comical question - Who are the real psychopaths amongst us?
"A gripping rollercoaster ride" John Robb. Louder than War

Here's something new, in more ways than one: Chris Craven's ELVIS LIVES, BUT WE'RE ALL DEAD

It includes three short pieces linked by events and characters in ways that seep into the reader's consciousness as the book unfolds. There's a terrific sense of nostalgia for those who remember the eighties and anyone who likes a dash of music with their prose. Each story balances dark undertones with comedy moments and, given that the author is an outstanding drummer of some pedigree, the timing is sharp and clean. Well worth a delve into if your the kind of person who enjoys a smile with their murder tales.  

On a slight tangent, the editor is also a musician/poet of some standing and his Long Hat Pins have a new release that's hot off the production line You can find The Insistence over at Bandcamp here.  

 



Friday, 20 November 2020

Lockdown Literature

September 29th. That was the last blog post here. It's been an age and reflects the impact of Coronavirus and the lockdown on my state of being. That last post, Clearing Out The Family Home, was about a great piece of radio and if you didn't give it a listen, I think it's well worth half an hour of your time. In terms of the house, it remains all quiet on the Preston front, which means there's still some emotional pressure as well as more time to appreciate what the place has meant to me and savour those lingering memories. 

Lockdown Literature is practically an oxymoron here. I've been reading the same book since then, or rather, I haven't. It's a slim paperback, I've enjoyed each visit and have always left it wanting to return soon, only it's not happened. Fiction seems so very far away just now, like some shadow from the distant past. The world, in fact, seems to appear as it might when looking through a set of binoculars the wrong way round. The very earth beneath my feet is more crumble topping than firm ground. I've traced back the journey of the year and the new dissonance makes sense. Being ill back in March and for an extended period knocked me for six. My dad suffering from the virus, his hospital visit and his isolation was all tough, while his very welcome survival has left him scrabbling around in the dust of dementia, lost in a fog most of the time and being looked after by some lovely folk who probably have much more complex and difficult stories to tell than I. Adjusting to the pressures of teaching from home was difficult and returning to the workplace was equally taxing. There have been many times when I've screamed STOP, but sadly the universe was unable to hear. Which eventually took me to the edge of a cliff of sorts. Thankfully, I've stood at that clifftop many times and have learned to recognise not only it's contours but the fact that when I'm there I need support. Thanks then to family and friends who've been there, for a the patience and kindness of my GP, for the counselling service I was put in touch with and for the medical intervention offered. Each of these is greatly appreciated and has been an essential part of what is now taking shape as the early strides towards recovery. 

It's been hard. And it's been hard for everyone. I'm not here looking for sympathy and if I'm able I'd rather send out warmth and care to anyone who might need it. I still do have some fuel in the tank, even if I've had to take a break from my crisis counselling shifts that were causing me more harm than I could endure. It's possible I'll go back to taking those shifts and it's also possible that I might not. In case anyone out there feels a need to do something positive, getting trained up and taking a turn might be an outlet for you (check out this site for more info).  

There were a couple of books read before things ground to a halt, both worthy of a mention. 

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley was rather intriguing. It's a story told in flashback to a series of childhood pilgrimages made to find the miracle that will cure the protagonist's brother and help him to speak. It's set in the north west coast of England in an area I adore, full of stillness and peace and yet carrying sinister tones due to it's sands, tides and remoteness. The bare bones of the novel are excellent and some of the description of person and place is exquisite. That said, if it were a three-layer cake (and, yes, I've been clinging to The Great British Bake Off as one of my many rafts of comfort) the top and the bottom might be perfectly made with the middle feeling a little overcooked and dry. It's definitely worth attention and the dark events that unfold skirt the edges crime and horror, occasionally falling deeply into both.

A Study In Scarlet is the last book I managed to finish. I can't add anything to the many things that have been said or written about it, so I'll not say much. Sherlock Holmes is such an icon who has appeared on screen in so many forms and interpretations that it's easy to forget the fine writing that set it all off. I began at the beginning because it felt right and found the tale to be fresh and intriguing from the off. Watson's return to England and his meeting with Holmes is deliciously told and the murder at the centre of the case is fascinating. I'd have been happy enough with the case alone, but the inserting of the back story of those involved as a separate entity works brilliantly and really had my adrenaline gland working overtime. Excellent stuff. 

So, if the reading's on hold, what of the writing?

I can't say I've managed to create anything fresh for a few months, but I've been able to satisfy myself working through novels I've already completed. I had to re-read my next release from Down And Out Books (My Funny Valentine) as a final check and ended up making far more improvements than I would have hoped were necessary. The good news is that I really enjoyed the story, so I'm hoping you will too when the time comes. I shouldn't be too long and I'm grateful that it exists because it really does bring light to the tunnel to have it to look forward to. 

I'm also giving the third in the series its final edit. So far it seems to hang together and manages to satisfy my need to work on my stories even when there's no fresh material inside me. I'm very grateful for that and hope that the tap to my creative juices is turned on soon so that I have somewhere to go when I'm finished. 

From the pits of lockdown literature, then, here's looking forward to some rapid climbing in 2021. Thanks for sticking with me. x