Thursday, 29 September 2022

ACCELERATE by Brendan C. Byrne and Tomislav Tikulin


Joam was a hot courier in a Los Angeles falling apart, where you lived or died by your reaction time behind the wheel. He was the best, but the best wasn't good enough. Eventually, he knew, he'd just be a splat on the pavement, frying in the 120 degree sun. Electing for experimental vehicle-integration surgery, Joam is merged with his ride. Now Joam's not only the fastest, most feared courier in LA: he's an absolute legend. But the experimental surgery was experimental. Joam's body is falling apart. Pretty soon he'll just be consciousness trapped within a machine.

"Accelerate is a killer read, a hypnotic stumble off the roof of our future. Think Mad Max by James Joyce."—Rudy Rucker, author of the Ware Tetralogy.

Read for free here:

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

THE COMPELLED (illustrated novella) by Adam Roberts and Fran├žois Schuiten


A mysterious change has occurred in humanity. Nobody knows how, why or exactly when this change came about, but disparate, seemingly unconnected people have become afflicted with the uncontrollable desire to take objects and move them to other places, where the objects gather and begin to form increasingly alien, monolithic structures that appear to have vast technological implications. Some of the objects are innocuous everyday things—like a butter knife taken still greasy from a breakfast table or a dented cap popped off a bottle of beer. Others are far more complex—like the turbine of an experimental jet engine or the core of a mysterious weapon left over from the darkest days of WWII.

Where is the Compulsion coming from? And—possibly more importantly—when the machines they’re building finally turn on, what are they going to do?

"Visually gorgeous and highly recommended" —WASHINGTON POST

Sunday, 11 September 2022


An odd one this. Not so much a whodunnit as a doesn'treallymatterwhodunnit. What's impressive about that is the lack of a need to know bears little impact upon the amount of pleasure I derived from the book. 

In an impressive, though deteriorating, house in the middle of town, lawyer Hector Loursat has withdrawn from the outer world and also the world within his walls. He drinks and reads and drinks some more until he's unable to soak up any more alcohol and has to try to get himself to bed. He's dirty, unkempt, unfriendly and unpleasant. If it weren't for his wealth and his servants, he'd be drowning in his own filth. 

His daughter, Nicole, is almost unknown to him. They eat together, but that's as far as it goes- there isn't even any conversation as they dine. It's partly because she's a mystery/non-entity to him that he hasn't noticed the life she's been living on the floors above. She's joined a gang of rebellious and anarchistic youths, discovered the thrills of breaking the law, enjoyed the delights of a sexual relationship and managed to hide away a seriously injured man in one of the spare rooms. Said injured man is one night found shot dead causing some alarm for the maid and arousing the curiosity of Loursat. 

When it becomes clear that Nicole's boyfriend is a key suspect in the murder, Loursat slowly opens up, life a flower offering one final bloom. He leaves the house, finds that the world outside is at least as interesting as those existing between the covers of books and eventually takes on the case. 

Each of the gang members has their character dissected. We get to see the misfortune, the opportunities or lack of, the social injustices of the French class system, family problems and the inner workings of humanity as the case is investigated and father and daughter begin to engage with each other in a way that hasn't happened since Nicole's mother upped and left. 

No longer is Loursat intoxicated by booze alone. Instead he gets high on the sights, smells and intrigues of the cafes and bars in the locality. 

Eventually, we're taken to the courthouse where the remainder of the novel is almost entirely set. 

The dissection continues and the interest is maintained, but if the characters on the stand were actors, it would have to be pointed out that they're a little hammy and wooden. 

In the end, without any clear reason, the case is solved when one of the gang melts while giving testimony. It's not expected and doesn't feel entirely plausible. That said, it really doesn't matter. As I mentioned at the start, the book gives a great deal of pleasure and that's almost entirely because of the study of the lawyer. It's fantastic seeing him in decline and thrilling to see him re-engage with life. 

Moody and sensorial, this one will get under your skin, for sure. 

Thursday, 1 September 2022


It's funny, given that one of the best stories I think I've written is Drawn In (a short novel about soul collection), that I often struggle with books and films where things slip into the supernatural. Or at least I think I do. I suppose it's down to the way it's handled by the author or director as to whether I buy into it or not. Perhaps the key is that it's just understood from the off that this is the way it is and that attempts to explain the rules of the realm are kept to a minimum. 

On reflection, I can think immediately of work I've really enjoyed: The Sixth Sense, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Stephen Blackmore's Eric Carter books, A Christmas Carol. 

Another key factor in enjoying such titles is the journey of the central character. If it's exciting enough, packs an emotional punch, holds their feet to the flames and forces them to come to terms with something they struggle to accept, then I'm probably in. 

Light At The End ticks all of the important boxes. 

Gordon's doing his son's dirty work. It's not something he enjoys, but he believes that in following Wyatt's instructions that he might somehow fix things and settle his own conscience. Wyatt, directing his father to avenge terrible acts against children, is driven to make the world a better place and is also dead, something I accepted from the off because it was introduced so quickly and clearly that it just became the way it was. Besides, there was much more going on in the story to keep me from giving the supernatural element a second thought. 

While Gordon is clearing the world of scumbags, the police are chasing down a killer who seems to have an uncanny way of uncovering horrible events that were previously hidden. How is the killer getting their information and how come the police are always a step or two behind?

The relationship between father and son is terrific. The police work is handled with energy and tension. There are action scenes and those that will have you thinking. On top of an excellent plot, already layered with conflict, you have to factor in writing that's tight and effective throughout- words aren't wasted, there's no fluff or fill, and each step accelerates forward to a conclusion that really could go in a number of directions. 

In short, a fantastic story that's brilliantly told. 

Loved it. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2022


The first of my summer holiday reads this year was The April Dead by Alan Parks. It's the fourth in the Harry McCoy series and it's another stunner in my humble opinion. 

Things kick off with an explosion in a flat where the dead body of a bomb maker is found and there's evidence of a wounded victim who is nowhere to be seen. Later explosions will put Glasgow on full alert and everything seems to point to a full-scale outbreak of carnage when April finally arrives. Matters become more pressing when links to the Irish paramilitary are suspected and the British secret services decide they're not happy about McCoy sniffing around too closely. 

Steve Cooper, childhood friend of McCoy, is about to come out of prison and something seems off. There's internal wrangling in the underworld and the only certainty is that things are not going to be sorted with handshakes and pats on the back. 

And there's a missing American submariner from the US naval base whose father manages to grab McCoy's attention and has him investigating the case when he senses there may be overlaps between this and his other work. 

The April Dead is thoroughly entertaining. Time and place are created very strongly and it can seem as if Parks has picked you up and placed you directly in the scene so you can see, hear, smell and feel what's going on around you (think virtual reality without any technology). McCoy and Cooper are terrific characters and the way that loyalties and morals are played with when they get together adds a great extra dimension. Plot is also terrific and the pacing is bang on. 

There are places where apparent coincidences are stretched to the point of causing raised eyebrows, but those moments can be easily forgiven on account of the strength of the story and because of the complexity that these elements bring to the plot. 

Seriously good and very entertaining. Cracking Scottish crime. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Dig This Hole: The Complete Flipbook from NeoText

Moundsville State Prison was rotten to the core. The guards were almost as crooked as the cons. Gangs ruled the jail, and Davie Ingram ruled the gangs.

But this time Davie's crew picked the wrong man to shake down. He's a man who won't take kindly to seeing a video of his brother being stomped by half a dozen vicious goons. A man who's a professional in the art of making people pay. Not with money, but with blood.

A man named...HOLE.

Normally, an appetizer like this one would have you clicking links and finding out where you can get hold of this gem.

Not this time. 

The NeoText Flipbook below allows you to read the whole thing. Not only that, you get to delight in the illustrations as put together by Eduardo Risso.  All you need to do is grab yourself a coffee, fasten your seatbelt and click on the image below. The book will expand to fill your screen before your very eyes. 


 If you're interested, there's also a kindle version available via Amazon in the UK and in the US
Let me know what you think in the comments. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Sunday, 8 May 2022


 'Sometimes, her head reeling, she would feel in the depth of her stomach an anger as intense as the pain of a burst abscess in the jaw- a toothache so potent that nothing but drink could alleviate it. Sometimes the drink had to be forced against a rejection of it by her body, but she did it. She would get it down and wait and the feelings would subside a bit. It was like turning down the volume.'

Like many, I watched The Queen's Gambit on Netflix and delighted in the production. Captivated by the opening, it also was something of a slow-burner for me as I was unsure the substance would prevail over the style. I should have had no doubts and in the end I was totally satisfied. 

Which led me to the book. 

I had a similar experience of watching a Walter Tevis story before seeing it on the page almost forty years ago. I went to see The Hustler at the Gate Cinema in Notting Hill. Part of the attraction was the promise of a free book, something I couldn't wait to read after watching the film again and the experience was totally rewarding. It was the same all over again with this one. 

The first thing I realised was that the adaptation of The Queen's Gambit is loyal to the original story. Not only does the sequence work, the characters may well have emerged straight from the pages.  

We open at the orphanage where Beth Harmon is to live out her early years. It's a cold place in the main and she has to squirrel away the grains of comfort where she can. These grains come in the form of an older girl, Jolene, the little green pills given out every day and the visits to the basement to learn about chess from the janitor there. 

Chess is the perfect world for Beth to occupy. Everything is in black and white, which is pretty much the way she understands most of the people she encounters. It soon becomes her preoccupation and, along with the medication, keeps her going. She visualises boards and games with a stunning understanding of the rules and memory for what she has learned from books and it's not long before she comes to the attention of a local chess club organiser. Being allowed to leave the orphanage for a tournament is no small thing and the experience is totally alien to her, as is a chess world that isn't ready to accept a newcomer of any kind, let alone one coming in the form of a young girl. 

Suffice to say, she's an amazing player and is required to overcome a series of issues in order to maximise her potential. 

Given that my chess knowledge is limited, the descriptions of the games make them hugely exciting; they're so good that I had to stifle cheers and tears when reading on the train. The characters are all sharply defined and even those who occupy little space are distinctive and interesting, particularly when seeing them through Beth's filter. Best of all, the notions of compulsion and addiction are plainly explored in a matter-of-fact way that really rang true to this particular reformed reader. 

The Queen's Gambit is truly a wonderful thing. Perhaps the images and the Technicolor merged into the words from the TV series, but I was too engrossed to give that much thought. Highly recommended whether you've watched or you haven't. 

Now back to searching out that old copy of The Hustler.