Friday, 21 February 2020

One Man's Opinion: STAY UGLY by DANIEL VLASATY



I was fortunate to get to work on Stay Ugly (US) as an editor and must say I really enjoyed the experience. Of course, what I should have done at the time was write a review as soon as I was done, but that boat sailed a while away now. 

What I can tell you is that there's a huge amount to love about this one. 

The story itself sees Ugly struggling to come to terms with his past, his present and his future. He's in between a rock and a hard place and the only thing he can be sure of is that his journey isn't likely to take him anywhere nice. The local crime boss has given him an ultimatum to find his brother and, if he does, his brother's in a whole heap of mess. The way Ugly copes with the tensions and contradictions mean the reader is always on edge and the constant drive to work things out ensures that there's never a dull moment.

Ugly as a character is perfectly formed. He's trying to make a go of things, but the world won't let him. The furnace in which he was formed gives him a great back-story and the author uses this cleverly to help us understand his motivations.

And the violence, and there's quite a bit of it, is beautifully written. Check out the opening chapter for free over at Amazon and you'll see just what I mean. 

This is tough fiction rooted in a hard place that should sate the appetite of any adrenaline junky or any reader who loves to be totally absorbed in their protagonist.

And you should remember that I loved it before the that final layers of spit and polish, so now it'll be even better than I remember. 

Here's what you can expect:  
 

Eric is an ex-con, bareknuckle boxer better known around his Chicago neighborhood as “Ugly.” He wants to shed his past, build a life with his family, but his past won’t be so easily left behind. His junkie brother Joe has stolen $100K from a powerful drug dealer—and Ugly’s on the hook unless he hands Joe over.

Which is gonna be hard considering he has no idea where Joe is.

Ugly and his “business partner” Nicky hit the streets to find him, each step taking Eric back into the violent life he’s desperate to leave behind. Ugly’s done with it all. He’s pissed, sad, and exhausted, but he’s gotta keep moving if he wants any chance of Joe—and himself—getting out alive.

Praise for STAY UGLY:

“Daniel Vlasaty’s Stay Ugly is a vivid, visceral and bone-crunching tale of loyalty, loss and redemption.” —Paul D. Brazill, author of Last Year’s Man and Man of the World

Stay Ugly is raw and nasty in all the right places. Punch-drunk bareknuckle hardman Ugly is our tour guide across nocturnal Chicago, and his quest to find his junkie brother is a bone-shattering, bullet-strewn treat. This book fights hard and it fights dirty, and Daniel Vlasaty has crafted a brutally entertaining dog-eat-dog thriller. Savage, visceral stuff.” —Tom Leins, author of Repetition Kills You and The Good Book

“Daniel Vlasaty has a unique and recognisable voice in crime fiction. His dialogue crackles, and his violence hurts. He creates a vivid world that you’ll find yourself fully immersed in as Ugly—sorry, Eric—chases his junkie brother through a busy night in Rogers Park, accompanied by his friend Nicky. It’s a tale of loyalty, familial binds, and asks whether one man can outrun his checkered past, especially when everyone around him is desperate to drag him back into it.” —Paul Heatley, author of Guillotine and Fatboy

“In Stay Ugly, Daniel Vlasaty continually pushes the story forward, compelling the reader to turn the page. This book is so good, so beautifully written, and so horrible in its consequences, that Vlasaty succeeds in ways few writers would even attempt. I would say this novel is darkly evocative, but what in Hell does it evoke? The earlier works of Vlasaty is my only answer. And that is a darkness I would encourage any reader of dark fiction to step into.” —Rob Pierce, author of Tommy ShakesUncle Dust, and With the Right Enemies

“Vlasaty’s latest gutter pulp gem has the propulsion of a meth head driving a race car that’s on fire. Simultaneously over-the-top and romantically mundane, equal parts Frank Bill and Sam Pink.” —Kelby Losack, author of Heathenish and The Way We Came In

“I’m a sucker for a good man-just-out-of-prison meets junkie-on-the-run yarn like the rest of ya. But what makes Daniel Vlasaty’s Stay Ugly pack such a potent punch is its heart. And this isn’t ‘heart of champion’ or ‘tenderhearted,’ or even ‘at his heart he’s a good guy’ sentiment. Eric (AKA Ugly) isn’t a good guy. He doesn’t have some sacred street code he’s ready to die for. Frankly he isn’t going anywhere but six feet under. Just a question of when. That he knows someday he’ll go down and not get up again doesn’t faze him. All that matters is that until that day, he’ll take his punches and get back up and keep doing the best he can in a fight we all lose in the end. And that, my friends, is the stuff of poetry and legends.” —Joe Clifford, author of Junkie Love and the Jay Porter Thriller Series

“A brutal, unfiltered telegram direct from the underground, burning with a voice and vitality that is wholly Vlasaty.” —Tom Pitts, author of Hustle and Coldwater

Saturday, 8 February 2020

One Man's Opinion: HIS BLOODY PROJECT by GRAEME MACRAE BURNET




‘I told him that my mother had lately died during the birth of my younger brother and this had caused our family a good deal of hardship. Archibald Ross replied that for folk like us there was no other ship than the hard ship.’


His Bloody Project (US) is a novel of considerable power. 



In the main part of the novel, Roderick Macrae offers his own account of the events surrounding the murders he has committed in his community. He gives insights into the build up to the slaughter and the events in the jail afterwards. His reflections are wonderfully told in a voice that is reminiscent of fiction from other times. There are echoes of many a classic, shades of existential French work from the middle of the Twentieth Century and whispers of philosophical treatise, which may suggest that it’s dry and boring in the context of contemporary stories. On the contrary, this is a gripping and tenacious read that is sure to engage any lover of books.  


The story of life on a croft is told vividly. As Roddy and his family barely eke out a living on the strip of land behind their home, their toils are made impossible to bear by the local constable, Lachlan Broad. He’s a brute and a bully of a man who manages to interpret laws and bylaws in ways that make the Macrae’s lives hell. The pressure is put on slowly like a slow-turning tourniquet that is gradually cutting off the flow of life blood to the limbs. It’s painful to observe and  the atmosphere becomes more claustrophobic as it develops. Though there is a emotional undercurrent to the telling of this excruciating existence, it is told in a similar matter-of-fact way as the young man accepts what he has done with no regret or need to try and avoid punishment. Things are what they are. He has made his choices and acted, so will suffer the consequences. As such, The Account Of Roderick Macrea is as gripping and satisfying a read as I’ve had in a long time. 


There are other elements of the book, slighter and less harrowing to my mind. There are the relevant medical reports, Travels In The Border-Lands Of Lunacy and an account of the trial itself.  These are additions to the main story and offer alternative perspectives on the family, the situation and the murderer. While they are interesting and provide food for thought, I’d have been happy if they hadn’t been there. They don’t diminish the main story in any way, it’s simply that I didn’t need them.


His Bloody Project is heartily recommended. It’s knockout fiction and deliciously dark. Go and get yourself a copy, you certainly won’t regret it.  

Friday, 24 January 2020

One Man's Opinion: SLOW BEAR by ANTHONY NEIL SMITH



Slow Bear (US) is many things: a bull in a china shop; a raging lion; a stubborn mule; a fire-breathing dragon; a wise old bird; a drunken skunk; and a murderous hyena. What's more, he's the kind of noir anti-hero who'll have you rooting for him all the way, which is good because, the way things are going, he certainly needs someone on his side. Another stunning creation by Anthony Neil Smith. 


Tuesday, 24 December 2019

One Man's Opinion: BLOODY JANUARY by ALAN PARKS



Christmas Eve. You might be stuck for that last-minute gift. Something for the lover of crime fiction. A fan of the police procedural. If you are, you’ll be glad you checked in here, because Bloody January offers you the perfect solution.


I was lucky enough to meet Alan Parks at Newcastle Noir earlier this year, where we appeared together with Paul Heatley and Tony Hutchinson. Not only is Alan a lovely unassuming guy, his answers were a treat to listen to. 


Anyway, when I began Bloody January (US), the pressure was on. I wanted to like it because of that Newcastle connection, not to mention the soya latte he bought me.


I needn’t have worried. Bloody January is a terrific read. A real belter that never stops giving.  


We’re in Glasgow during the early seventies. It’s a city packed with history and nostalgia. It’s tough and gritty with cold hands and a warm heart. It’s influenced by the rivalries of gangs, religions and class, is coming to terms with the rights of women and turbulence in the political climate, is embracing change without any real plan and is about to be hit by the scourge of heroin. Parks does a great job of recreating the period and part of the fun for me was being reminded of the way things were before the arrival of the internet and the mobile phone among other things.


Our protagonist McCoy is a real star creation. He’s a total mess. The kind of copper who could only exist in a time that hadn’t heard of political correctness. He straddles the worlds of crime and law-enforcement as if there’s nothing to distinguish between them and is as home in the drinking whisky in a brothel as he is sipping tea down at the station. He was born into a difficult situation, was taken into care to protect him from his alcoholic father and only managed to survive his childhood thanks to his mate Cooper. Cooper has grown into the nastiest of villains. He’s a hard headed gangster with no obvious moral compass and no boundaries to speak of. There’s nothing he won’t do to hold onto power as he jets off on drug-fuelled binges of violence.


The book opens with a visit from McCoy to the prison. He learns from an inmate that a young woman is going to be killed the next day, All McCoy has to go on is a name and an occupation, so he has his work cut out to prevent the murder from taking place. 


When the police fail in their efforts to save the girl, it’s not so much a can of worms that is opened as a jar of vipers. The police uncover a world of sexual violence and exploitation with undertones of witchcraft and links to one of the wealthiest families in the land. The predators are out of control and it’s only McCoy’s determination to bring down the whole stinking pile and that keeps the case alive.


It’s a brilliant read. There’s moral ambiguity everywhere. The bit parts are as well-crafted as the main players. The city is populated by underdogs. The writing style is tight and uncluttered. Conversation is bang to the point. Every action follows strong motivation. The case is far from straightforward and barriers are thrown down at many a turn. It's brutal, dark and uncompromising and the pages practically turn themselves. 


This is seriously good fiction, perfect for any dark December evening. February’s Son and Bobby March Will Live Forever are definitely on my list for 2020. And if you ever feel like a coffee over on the east coast, Mr Parks, it’s definitely my round.   

Monday, 16 December 2019

The Road To Publication by Ray Clark




Seeing your work published is pretty much living the dream if you’re a writer. I’ve often heard it said that everyone has one book in them, and I believe that to be true. Publishers however, want more than one. They don’t want to invest in a book so much as an author. That’s probably when you realize how competitive the market place is: how difficult achieving your dream can be. Rejection slips are not easy to face and believe me they come in thick and fast at the start. That’s not to say that your book is bad, it often means you simply haven’t found the right publisher.

The best advice I would give anyone is, never give up. I didn’t. No matter how many times people told me something wasn’t right about the book (too long, too short, too violent, unnecessary sex scenes – in the first draft), I continued with such a determination and drive that you’d have thought I was mad, or ignorant – or both, to continue. For me, staring at a blank piece of paper with a wisp of an idea is therapy: turning it into a novel is a gift.

One book is a remarkable achievement for anyone. That was all I had in mind when my initial idea was nothing more than a brainwave. The starting point was some years back, when I was visiting a friend. I was searching around for something new to write: something different. I’d had a notion for a long time to write a story about an alternative Santa Clause, perhaps the total opposite of the nice fat jolly chap that we see him portrayed as.

Following a meal and a few drinks my friend mentioned that maybe I should think outside the box. Instead of writing another horror story, why not switch genres – write a piece of crime fiction? He felt that horror was a dying market (pardon the pun): that all the best horror writers were diversifying, into crime; his next question became the icing on the cake – what’s more horrific than killing someone? If you’re clever enough, you can write all the horror you want and slip it into the middle of a police procedural.

His suggestion still involved a Father Christmas: the idea being, have someone bumping off department store Santa’s. He couldn’t remember ever reading anything along those lines.

I believed he had something. The concept soon became the central theme for book 1 of the IMP series, Impurity. As with any book, there were plenty of other things I had to consider: why anyone would want to bump of department store Santa’s for a start. Once I’d thrown myself into the research I discovered I could have quite a lot of fun with the ‘how’. I didn’t want a simple stabbing, or anything involving a gun, or a hanging. I needed something that no one else had done. As my friend had said in the beginning, think outside the box.

I spent a lot of time mulling it over with a number of people, two of which were very close friends of mine: a detective in the murder squad, and a chemist. And trust me when I say that a chemist is a really valuable asset if you want to bring a whole new concept to the word, murder.


“The corpse of a seasonal worker living in very tatty conditions is bad enough, but someone has gone to great length to eradicate them by administering a flesh-consuming drug, resulting in the victim’s rapid and violent disintegration. Furthermore, pathology is unable to ascertain the cause.”


You can see from the paragraph above, we ended up with something quite unique.
As the novel progresses, I increase the horror: I keep the victim alive whilst it’s happening, and fully aware of the effect it’s having on his body, because it’s already been explained to him.

In truth, when I attempted the first book, I didn’t know it had a series in it. But the whole thing soon took on a life of it’s own. Before I was even halfway finished, I knew there was more than one book coming up. I was working with a pair of detectives whom I felt had a real future. One story wouldn’t do them justice. They had such a wealth of background material supporting their characters.

As with any crime novel, I still needed something else to make it stand out from the competition. I required empathy for my main character from the first page. It was quite some time before I decided on a surprising plot twist that sealed his fate as early as chapter one. I’d love to tell you what it is but I can’t. My apologies if I’ve just forced you into buying it.

Thinking along those lines is a daring leap into the unknown. As I mentioned earlier, writing one book is a remarkable achievement but you have to have some belief in yourself if you going to attempt a series. For one thing, you need the stamina and the ability to see it through. You need a fresh idea for each publication. You have to enhance the characters if you want your audience to stay with you. Furthermore, you have to convince a publisher to think the same way you do. Good luck with that one. The market is equally as hard for him as it is for you. He definitely wants to invest in a writer, not a book, but are you the one he really wants? You have to remember, yours isn’t the only book – or series – he has to choose from.

            I had that belief. I knew that if other people could do it, so could I.

The whole series to date has taken a long time to get right, and in most – if not all – cases (or books), it’s been an absolute joy to do. That’s because I love working with Gardener and Reilly. They’re a great pair of detectives who have an excellent working relationship, and it’s been fun anticipating how they are going to react to any given situation.

I mentioned above that I thought being able to write is a gift. Sometimes it can take a while to recognize what you have. But when you meet people who have read your books and enjoyed them, and ask you when the next one is coming out, you realize what your gift is not only doing for you, but for other people.

To see the whole series signed up with a London based publisher is pretty much a dream come true.
When I think back, the really frightening thing for me was, after having spent considerable time with a chemist, I came to the conclusion that it might just be possible to achieve what the book is offering: that maybe, you can actually dispose of your victims in such a gruesome fashion.

My publisher emailed me about ten days after the release of Impurity to let me know that he was going to negotiate the rights for the audio book, and that he was so pleased with the reception and the success, the plan was to release book 2, Imperfection before Christmas.

So perhaps my gift is finally allowing me to live the dream. For anyone reading who wants to have a go, I wish you the very best of luck.



Imperfection Synopsis.



When theatregoers are treated to the gruesome spectacle of an actor’s lifeless body hanging on the stage, DI Stewart Gardener is immediately called in to investigate.

Is the killer still in the audience?

A lockdown is set in motion but it is soon apparent that the murderer is able to come and go unnoticed. How do they do it?

Is the killer a theatre worker or an actor? And what kind of grudge do they have to bear?

Frustratingly, the killer leaves a trail of clues for the detectives. Taunted by these and flummoxed as to their meaning, he realizes that his own family may be in danger.

Identifying and capturing the culprit will mean establishing the motive for their macabre crimes, but perhaps not before more victims meet their fate.

Can DI Gardener succeed where he has failed in the past, and protect his own?



Author bio


Ray Clark is an award winning Yorkshire born author whose first big break came in 1998 with the publication of Manitou Man: The World of Graham Masterton (a biographical account of the author’s work), which was nominated for both the World and British Fantasy Awards.

Since then, Ray’s writing career has been quite varied with publications covering short story collections (A Devil’s Dozen & A Detective’s Dozen), horror novels (Calix & Resurrection), stand-alone cross genre novels (Seven Secrets), and the highly acclaimed IMP series, featuring detectives Gardener and Reilly in the Yorkshire city of Leeds.

Over the last forty years, Ray has also spent considerable time in the music industry working both in the UK and Europe as a guitar vocalist, and with a number of bands. These days, Ray divides his time between writing books and working live on the music scene, and helping to raise money for the OPA, a charity he feels quite close to.

Ray’s London publisher, The Book Folks are planning to release Book 2 in the IMP series, Imperfection, in time for Christmas.


Website: www.thelordofmisrule.net or www.theimpseries.net


Press Release & Official Trailer:


 Impurity is available from the links below:
Amazon UK link 
Amazon (US) link 
The Book Folks (publisher link):


Tuesday, 3 December 2019

All Due Respect Magazine Returns.


This has to be the best news for a good while for writers and fans of noir and crime short stories.  

All Due Respect have become one of the finest independent publishers around and the fact that they've decided to breathe life back into their magazine should be celebrated.

I'm anticipating stories from established authors as well as an influx of new talent to bring a new and exciting edge. 

Read all about it here


Friday, 29 November 2019

FAHRENHEIT PRESS TITLES 50p FOR E-READERS



I wasn't going to do any Black Friday buying today. Then I saw this. 

All e-books are 50p from this link today. Don't let the web price displayed put you off - as soon as it goes into your basket the price comes down. In fact, after the first book  the others all come up at 49p. 

Now that's difficult to pass up. 

Check out Paul Heatley, Paul D Brazill, Nick Quantrill, Matt Phillips, Seth Lynch, Jonathan Woods and Aidan Thorn among many others. 

Total bargain.