Wednesday, 17 November 2021
Saturday, 13 November 2021
At last it's here, the explosive follow up to Let It Snow and My Funny Valentine, available at half price until the end of November.
“Nigel Bird knows his characters inside and out—what they want, how they think, how they grow and how they fail. Ain’t that a Kick in the Head might be his best work yet. A convincing, engrossing portrayal of what life is like for cops and criminals alike.” —Chris Rhatigan, All Due Respect Books publisher
“One of my favourite contemporary crime fiction series.” —Colman Keane, Col’s Criminal Library
This year, the fireworks will be red hot…
Skates Farrington is a changed man. Gone are the smart suits, the dull meetings and the extra pounds. Nowadays, he gets his thrills at the skate park and from whatever substances his dealers send his way. The only thing missing from his life is his ex-wife. She’s shacked up with a respectable partner in an isolated farm and striving to create the perfect life. Skates is convinced that she will come back to him when she sees his new self, but when attempts to win her heart all over again are thrown back in his face, he decides a little gentle persuasion is in order. Now he can include murder and abduction among his new-found skills.
DI Oliver Wilson, leading the investigation, has more than a few things on his mind. The case and imminent arrival of his third child should be at the forefront of his thoughts, but the arrival of a sequence of unusual gifts is making him nervous. The packages are sending him a message, he just can’t work out what they’re trying to say.
Hope you love it.
Wednesday, 10 November 2021
"Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he'd like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young - but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They worry about sex and friendship and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?"
Saturday, 6 November 2021
Here's a blast from the not-too-distant past. It's just been re-released by Shotgun Honey and has a wonderful cover that I hope will draw readers in. I reviewed this one way back when, and here's what I said:
The Bastard Hand. It's one hell of a title and one hell of a book.
It’s not that long ago that here in the UK there were lots of fires, burning up moorland and woods, challenging the fire-services to
their limits. The countryside had been turned
fields, so nobody knew where the next flames were going to sprout
That’s how I see this book. It’s a smoulderer which catches flame
regularly as the author expertly blows upon the embers.
Take the opening. It’s beautifully described. We meet Charlie,
escapee of an institution, free of his therapies and his medication,
wandering as his spirit takes him. Being in a town he doesn’t know,
he finds himself in a dodgy area and is soon battered to bits by a
small-time gang headed by a beautiful woman. He’s stabbed and
left for dead. And he was being nice, too. There’s certainly no
justice in his world.
He’s not one to go to hospital – it doesn’t seem to occur to him that
it might be a good idea. Instead, he does it his own way and lets his
body recover in its own good time.
Soon enough, he ambles over to the laundrette. Puts in his clothes
and discovers a bible with a hole through the ‘O’ of holy. He reads
Genesis until he’s interrupted by a preacher man, the Reverend
Childe, who could talk the Ten Commandments from Moses. Even
though Charlie knows the man’s no good, partly because he was in
a laundrette without any laundry, he sticks with him.
They visit a brothel, for the Reverend likes his drink and his
women and, from that point on, Charlie’s life is intertwined with
Childe’s like a swimmer might get tangled in pond weed.
From then on the book smoulders away, bursting into flame without
The series of events that follows unfolds beautifully. Not once
during the read did I feel any of the situations were forced, it was
simply the way it needed to be.
Missing preachers, small Southern town life, a crazy (though not
stupid) mayor, a number of women who all have their own allure,
gang battles, illicit stills and a series of plots and counter-plots like
you wouldn’t believe, fan those flames all the way through as does
Yes, Charlie is crazy, or at least he would seem so if the folk around
him weren’t so unusual. Lowrance is clever with his characters. I
felt blindfolded from the beginning so that I couldn’t tell the good
from the bad or the wicked from the saint. It’s one hell of a thing to
pull off, yet he did it with the subtlety of a close magician.
So Charlie’s crazy and he’s also our story-teller. It gives the whole
piece a curious foundation that’s part cement, part quicksand.
I loved this book. Really loved it.
It’s place in a contemporary setting, yet for me there are echoes of
older works and older times. The images I conjured for myself
were all in black and white and there’s something of the classic-noir
movie in this work.
Though full of dark events and madness, it’s written with a light
touch I hadn’t expected. Smooth as a ride on new tyres in a
freshly serviced car along a flat tarmac road when the living is easy.
His characterisations are so three-dimensional they’ll poke a reader
in the eye if they’re not careful. The people who inhabit the
book I liked, mistrusted, hated and loved in turn, every last one of
The weaving through of the preacher and the bible offers a powerful
medicine of its own. Not an expert on the bible, I have to play it
through the filters of Nick Cave and Night Of The Hunter, but I felt
the weight of the Old Testament burdening the skies in the novel
and my own.
Lowrance plays with Charlie like God played
with Job. He takes advantage of Charlie’s misplaced senses of
loyalty and obligation, lets things go well then turns them all to
shit when he’s least expecting it.
I’ve mentioned a few of the echoes I felt as I read. Here are a few
other ghosts I felt were hanging around – Harper Lee, John
Steinbeck, Guthrie’s Slammer and the movie Inherit The Wind;
maybe it’s way off beam to cite those, but you’ll have to read it for
yourself make up your own mind.
A brilliant book by a writer of real talent.
Sunday, 31 October 2021
'Forget it. There's no protection against a sniper. I used to be one.'
We have a sniper on our hands. Whoever it is, they appear to be striking at random and with unnerving accuracy.
The book opens wonderfully with the death of the first victim. It's something McBain uses quite often, a description of what a human being is doing just before they die. The sense of the everyday and the knowledge that they have friends, family, hopes and dreams, brings an extra power to their loss and makes the need to find the killer all the more pressing.
This one's down to Carella and Myer. As further killings take place, the pair disagree about whether the killer is the same person, given that there are no obvious links between those on the slab. They go through the usual legwork and procedures to glean what they can from witnesses and those close to the dead.
Taking a break from the action, McBain throws in something of a cameo for ex-con Frankie Pierce. Two bulls, unrelated to the 87th Precinct, stick their noses and their fists into the case. They pick Frankie up and, ignoring protestations that he's going straight and has a date lined up with a lovely woman who is prepared to overlook his past, proceed in trying to get to the truth in the only way they know. It's a brutal chapter and memorable enough in itself to warrant mention and it could stand up as a short story in any top crime anthology.
There is a link between the victims and when it's discovered the case maintains it's quality and pace until close to the end.
I really enjoyed this one, all the more so because of the feel of the 1967 Penguin edition in my hands. The sniper theme is effective and exciting and the interviews and case work is as entertaining as ever. My only grip comes with the ending and I'm not sure why. It makes sense of everything that has come before and brings its own tension, yet I felt that it all happened a little too easily. Perhaps it's because the outcome means it would have been impossible for the reader to deduce from what has come before. It doesn't fall flat, but it doesn't quite add the quality of icing that such a delicious story of a cake deserves. It's high quality, nonetheless, and it's definitely one for the to be read pile if you haven't had a visit already.
For another take, check out the Hark podcast.
Friday, 17 September 2021
I'm a big fan of this man's work and know that you're really going to love this one:
"Collecting stories originally published in Shotgun Honey, Needle Magazine, Crime Factory, and other magazines and anthologies, I WAS BORN A LOST CAUSE brings together the best of Heath Lowrance’s previously uncollected work— disturbing tales of crime, psychological horror, satire, and dark comedy— as well as two brand new forays into darkness."
I Was Born A Lost Cause came out this week, featuring Heath's short stories.
Wednesday, 8 September 2021
With her new book (released yesterday) on the way, I decided I'd revisit Sally Rooney's first two novels to get me in the mood. Without doubt, they have left me wanting more and I'm sure that Beautiful World Where Are You will be another terrific read to delight in.
Conversations With Friends essentially follows the affair of a young writer and a handsome actor in Dublin. It's a perfectly simple idea, yet the twists and turns of their interactions bring levels of tension and engagement that make the story feel very real.
Frances is our lens and through her we explore the difficulties and wonders of being in love. I found the level of exploration of her emotions and thoughts to be so involving that Rooney's writing became more than words, as if Frances's consciousness had somehow become intertwined with my own. I have no real understanding of how that was achieved and can only hope that however Rooney created the depth and strength of the characters, some of those skills will filter by osmosis into my own work. At times, it's as if we can see through an skin and into her inner workings and at others like we're wearing that skin on top of (or perhaps instead of) our own.
Perhaps what allowed the bond between Frances and my reader self to grow was the sense of common experience. It's so easy to identify with elements of the frailty and lack of confidence that we surely must all feel or have felt when growing up. It's magnified because the imagery and choice of phrase is so skillfully handled. There are poetic lines as well as cold and abrupt jolts that maximise the resonance and turbulence of the tale; she'd be a wonderful writer of noir should she ever want to reach a little further in that direction, which may not take such as big a step as you might think.
The ending was wonderful and I was totally conflicted by what happened. It's a cracker that had me shouting at the pages and pulling faces at walls while I came to terms with it.
It's a great read and I was really pleased to have Normal People as my next in line so that I could step back into a similar world as quickly as possible.