Friday 21 December 2018


The bullets were fired 50 years ago. They're about to hit home.

There are times in life when you just need a particular kind of book. Something that will take your mind off everything else and will smooth the edge of restlessness when what you need is to settle. Revolver did that for me this week, even if it did keep me up way past my bedtime last night to undo some of that good work. 

The novel opens in 1965. Stan Walczak and his partner George W Wildey are taking a break from their duties while they sip cool beer in a Philadelphia bar. Within a couple of pages we know enough about them to understand that we like them and that they live in interesting times. The mood is good and the music's fine. It's a shame that their time is interrupted by a customer pointing a gun. 

Chapter Two takes us on thirty years. Same family, same city, same profession, different case. Jim Walczak stands outside the bar where his father was killed thirty years earlier. 

Chapter Three and the next generation of Walczak's are gathering to commemorate the murder of their grandfather. 

The structure continues in a similar sequence from there. 

Working back from 1964 to the opening chapter, we get to find out how Walczak and Wildey came together. They make a hell of a team as they set out to clean up the streets of the city's toughest area. Slowly but surely, we come to understand that they're getting themselves into waters that are murky and shark-infested and in which they are way out of their depth. It becomes clear that their killing was more likely down to their own actions than the pure accident of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

In 1965, Jim Walczak is struggling to keep hold of his sanity and his family life. Haunted by the killing of his father and the release of the man suspected of the murder, he's also investigating another homicide involving a young journalist with a bright future.

In 2015, Jim's daughter Audrey has ideas of her own. She's a flunking student of forensic science who sees only one option to help her straighten out her life, and that's to solve the mystery of her grandfather's slaying once and for all. In order to do so, she needs to poke a stick into the hornets' nest of her family history and risk alienating herself from even more alienation. 

Each of the stories is wonderfully told. The excitement builds and the need to understand what's happened over the three generations grows exponentially as the plots unfold and twist together. The layers compliment and feed off each other in a wonderful and natural symbiosis. Pace gathers and tension mounts as the storylines ratchet up, but never at the expense of attention to detail. Elements of backstory for each character are handled with subtlety and the interesting facts about the city are dripped in in such a way that they are always welcome and never get in the way. 

The resolution to the novel is extremely satisfying. Not only does it bring the whole of the past together, it also sets out the present and the future. It would have been so easy for such a complex work to fall flat on its face at the last hurdle, but Revolver sails over it. 

I love this one. The characters and sense of culture and place are top class. It's right up there as one of the favourites of my year. Michael Connelly gets a quote on the cover, suggesting that Swierczynski is 'A great storyteller.' How absolutely Mr Connelly has hit the nail on the head. This one's glorious.   

Sunday 16 December 2018


Give the Boys a Great Big Hand

A black-cloaked killer leaves a bag behind when disappearing onto a bus. Patrolman Richard Genero sees what happens and goes and opens said bag. The only thing in it is the hand of the title. A murder investigation takes place, using the reports of missing persons as that's about the only line of enquiry available. 

I suppose that any series is going to have it's highs and lows. It also makes sense to say that the better a series is, the more enjoyable the lows will be, so it stands to reason that any of the 87th Precinct books are going to be worth reading even if they don't always hit the mark. 

This one didn't really get me totally absorbed. I'm unable to put my finger on why. As much as anything, I suspect that it's because there's no serious development of any of the central characters. 

The case itself goes like clockwork. Though the leads don't take them far in the early stages, they soon come together to help the detectives crack the case. 

Notable in this one are some of the set pieces. Genero trying to get a warming Passover wine from a local tailor, Carella spoiling for a fight (and finding one) and an amusing visit to a high-brow clothes shop stood out for me. The ending also provides a terrific and bizarre finale that is hugely twisted and has been oft borrowed since.    

More good stuff from McBain, but there are better vintages available. 

Friday 14 December 2018


The Ramsay brothers are keen to move up in the world and get the hell out of town. They gather all their hopes in one basket and set up the Scottish Open dog-fighting tournament. In Leo they have the animal to win it. All they need to complete the plan is a fair wind.
Carlo Salvino returns home missing an arm and a leg. He’s keen to win back the affections of his teenage girlfriend and mother of his child. If he can take his revenge on the Ramsays, so much the better.
The Hooks, well they’re just a maladjusted family caught up in the middle of it all.
A tale of justice, injustice and misunderstanding, Smoke draws its inspiration from characters introduced in a short story first published by Crimespree Magazine and later in The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Stories 8.
Praise for SMOKE:
“Grim, but really good.” —Ian Rankin, bestselling author of the Inspector Rebus novels
“Highly recommended.”—Thomas Pluck, author of Bad Boy Boogie
“It’s the real deal.” —Les Edgerton, author of Adrenaline Junkie
Smoke is reminiscent of Allan Guthrie’s Savage Night in the way it cleverly interweaves different strands of the story and its great mixture of colorful characters, absurdest humor and hard-boiled crime.” —Paul D Brazill, author of Last Year’s Man
“The pace of Smoke is first-class and a definition of noir itself. The characters are well-rounded, the dialogue top-drawer, the ending a satisfying conclusion to a cracking tale.” —Ian Ayris, author of the John Sissons thrillers
“This is a truly great piece of writing with characters that will live long in your mind.” —McDroll, author of Feeling It
“Grim, brutal, never pretty but laced with enough black humor and cautious optimism to elevate it above being a bleak and hopeless read.” —Col’s Criminal Library
“Gritty, working-class fiction from a hell of a writer.” —Matt Phillips, author of The Bad Kind of Lucky
“Horribly compulsive reading.” —Kath Middleton, author of The Sundowners
Smoke is Brit Grit at its very finest. Think in terms of Layer Cake or Snatch.” —Darren Sant, author of Dark Voices

• Amazon — Trade Paperback | eBook 
• Amazon UK — Trade Paperback | eBook 
• Barnes & Noble — Trade Paperback | eBook 
• iTunes — eBook 
• Kobo — eBook 
• Play — eBook
or directly from Down and Out Books

Saturday 8 December 2018

Dancing With Myself: TESS MAKOVESKY interviews TESS MAKOVESKY

It's a rare sunny day in Birmingham (the original one in the UK). I'm heading for Cannon Hill Park, a vast open green space (yes, the city does have green spaces, read on for more of that) on the borders between Moseley and Edgbaston. Tess is already there, perched on a bench near the boating lake, swinging her legs and looking worryingly as though she's plotting a murder. Mine, perhaps, if I don't get this interview right...

I recognise the bench from a picture on her Instagram account. It's the same one that a duck pecked Todd's backside through, mid-way through Gravy Train (US). That book is set in Birmingham, in a myriad locations including this park, Moseley itself, a back-street boozer near the Jewellery Quarter, and of course, Birmingham's sprawl of canals.

Which brings me rather neatly to my first question. Nervously, I clear my throat.

So, where did the idea for 'Gravy Train' first come from?

You can blame Birmingham's canals for that! The city has more miles of canal than Venice, and the police are always fishing odd things out of them. Not just litter and shopping trolleys but dead bodies, and in a case that made the local papers about four years ago, an entire bag of money.

This was unusual enough to make all my crime-writing instincts start squawking. Where had the money come from? How had it got there? By accident or design? And if the latter, what had the people who put it there hoped to achieve?

At the time I wrote a very tongue in cheek flash fiction story inspired by the idea, called rather inevitably, Money Laundering. It was published on the online website, and also appears in their anthology of collected stories from the site, which is available on Amazon if wet money floats your boat...

Usually when I write a story it satisfies the creative urge on that subject. But the idea stayed with me and I began to plot out just how that money might have made its way into the canal, and who it might have got involved with along the way. And suddenly, the outline of Gravy Train was born.

You set both this book, and its predecessor 'Raise the Blade', in Birmingham. You must know the city quite well?

I moved down to Brum in the mid-1980s to work, and ended up living there for over twenty years. As I don't drive I travelled everywhere either on foot or by bus, so I got to know places that most people never even notice as they drive past at thirty miles an hour.

Although the city has a reputation for being nothing but motorways, factories and dull 1960s concrete, there are actually all sorts of unusual nooks and crannies if you know where to look. These range from swathes of Victorian and Edwardian suburbs to stately homes; medieval manor houses and churches to gleaming modern office blocks; dodgy back alleys to tree-lined boulevards. And of course, those canals!

Although the city council works hard to preserve the city's heritage, things are always changing and every time I go back I discover something new, so it's a place that's full of surprises and well worth getting to know.

What's all this about a link to Pink Floyd?

Guilty as charged! I'm a huge fan of the band, their music in general and Roger Waters' brilliant lyrics in particular. When I was writing Raise the Blade I realised that the lyrics for their track Brain Damage (from the famous Dark Side of the Moon album) summed the book up perfectly. I nicked a tiny fraction of the lyrics for that book's title, as well as hiding other references to the track, and to Floyd in general, throughout the book.

When I came to write Gravy Train it seemed like a good idea to carry on the Pink Floyd connection, so that title is also from a Floyd track - this time Have a Cigar from Wish You Were Here. Again, the lyrics match the ethos of the book perfectly, and again I've scattered references to both that, and the equally appropriate Money (Dark Side of the Moon again), throughout the book. I hope readers have fun spotting them!

Although I've never managed to see the band live, I did stay up into the wee small hours to catch their amazing reunion at Live Eight, and have also seen their official tribute band Australian Pink Floyd, in Birmingham, several times. And last year I went to the fabulous Their Mortal Remains exhibition at the V&A museum in London, which was an adventure in itself - and which I've just realised would make a brilliant title for a book...

Are your characters based on real people?

Well, I don't know anyone called Ballsy McBollockface if that's what you mean!

But no, this time around the characters aren't really based on anyone I know. In Raise the Blade some of them (the over-bearing Gillian, for instance) were amalgamations of several people I'd met, but for Gravy Train I didn't seem to need that extra prompt. The characters were already there in my head, and spilled out onto the page ready-formed.

The only exceptions to that are Justine and Fred. They first turned up in my short story Wheel Man, published in the Drag Noir anthology by Fox Spirit Books. I loved writing that story, and when the plot in Gravy Train called for a car thief, it seemed silly not to turn back to Justine and finish off her story. I hope the readers agree.

Are there any more Pink Floyd-inspired, Birmingham-set books in the works?

Funny you should ask! I'm currently scrabbling around on the 50th rewrite of another crime caper set around those same canals, and featuring a bizarre getaway on a narrow boat. It's called Embers of Bridges, which is cheerfully nicked from the Floyd track High Hopes (The Division Bell) - one of my all-time favourites and a perfect fit for the melancholy and suppressed anger I'm writing about. I'm hoping to finish it in the new year, and submit it to All Due Respect after that. Whether they'll actually like it is another matter!

As well as that, I have a dark psychological novella called Consumed by Slow Decay which is set in Birmingham again but inspired by the rather odd case of a body discovered under the tarmac of a car park in Manchester. And as well as that, I've penned a few chapters of another book which doesn't even have a proper title yet, but which features Edgbaston Reservoir and a bloodthirsty murder in the first few chapters!

All three still need a ton of work. I just have to tie myself to my desk and find the time to actually finish some of them...

And that's that. I've asked my questions, and I'm still here to tell the tale. She hasn't killed me, or even threatened to write me in as a victim in her next three books. Then again, I did happen to mention that I quite like Pink Floyd too.

I fold away my notebook, tuck it into my handbag, and turn to shake her hand. Then I squawk. There's a sharp jab from something small but very hard, right through the slats of the seat. I look at Tess but her hands are folded on her lap. There's a mocking quack.

"Bloody ducks," I say.

Tess just laughs.

Sunday 2 December 2018


I’m not much for organized religion. I don’t believe in karma and all that. I believe there is a God, but not the God that is proclaimed from most pulpits. The God I believe in is a hands-off kind of being who only steps in when all is truly lost for mankind and not for individuals. He doesn’t help anyone win football games and He doesn’t save people from famines, pestilence and war. He gives people a guide and if they choose not to follow that guide, well, there are consequences clearly delineated. From what I know, God is interested in the individual’s soul and not their earthly bodies.

All that said, I just witnessed a Thanksgiving miracle.

I received an email from a woman who said she had discovered she was my daughter from a DNA test she’d submitted to

It was a communication I’d expected for fifty some years

I wrote about it in the memoir that was just published on the nineteenth of this month, Adrenaline Junkie (US).

A book it turns out she had read just after discovering I was her birth father.

Here’s the first message she sent me:

Hi, I recently did my ancestry DNA and apparently we are closely related. I was adopted at birth. I have no biological family information, including medical history. I don't know if you have or are willing to give me any information on who I am, but if you are I would appreciate it. Thank you.

Signed, Maria

To which I replied:

Nov 21, 2018

Hi Maria,

How old are you and when were you adopted? I have a daughter and was married to her mother and unfortunately was in a place where I couldn't stop it (prison), but she put our daughter up for adoption. That would have been in 1967 or 1968. I've often wondered what happened to that little girl. If it's possible it was you, I would absolutely love to meet you!

Blue skies,
Les Edgerton
Here's a place with my photo and some info about me. Nowadays, I live in Ft. Wayne, IN.

And she came back with:


Nov 21, 2018

Well, that would match. I was born in 1967. Wow, a lot to take in, going from no history to this in a matter of minutes. I would very much like to meet you. Let me know some times that would be convenient. I was adopted as an infant and given no information. I am so overjoyed right now.

I replied, sending her my contact info and the little information I had about her mother. She sent me the following email:

It should take us about 2 hours, to get there, I hope that is okay, which would be about 1730 hours. My husband, Joe, is a finish carpenter, though he can do most any type of general contractor work. My daughter, Nikole, is a supervisor with Forte Residential and Home Health Care Services, working with families with disabilities. She is a certified behavioral technician, having passed her boards for that this year. She graduated from college in Nebraska in 2013, completing her BA in 3 1/2 years, while working 3 jobs, (I am a little proud). She recently took the job with Forte after working for several years with Meridian as a behavioral clinician. She was very good at her job, however she was given several of the worst cases of child abuse/neglect in St Joseph County to handle during that time, and needed a change for her own mental health. I am a Public Service officer, certified in mental first aid, assisting individuals in crisis, group crisis intervention, and suicide prevention. Fortunately, I've only had two seriously suicidal people recently and one who was homicidal/suicidal, and all three ended well. I also train all new hires. In 2013, I had a several tumors removed, one of which was over 5 lbs, and apparently was not breathing for a little while during the surgery. During that same time, I had to be cut open in the doctor's office to relive some bleeding that was pooling and apparently could kill me. The doctor had to cut me open in her office, without benefit or anesthesia, or even Listerine, (I asked), I didn't yell at all, not wanting to scare the other patients, but my poor husband passed out. Apparently, I was squeezing his hands too hard. He is a very wonderful man. We spent a lot of 2011-2013 in and out of hospitals, (everything is good now), and it was very hard on him, so he goes a little overboard on the protective side sometimes, but I figure he earned it. He is very excited to meet you. The tumors and cancer were what started my quest in earnest, as I had no medical history. We had my daughter checked and she was at risk for some of the same things I had, which we dealt with immediately, so she won't have to go through the years of pain, but I wanted to try to find out everything I could to help ensure her health. I didn't dare hope I would actually find a close family member, let alone birth father. I had applied for my birth certificate, as soon as it became possible on July 15, but still have not received it. I had no information to go on, it was a closed adoption, didn't list even a city of birth, my birth certificate was actually issued April of 1968, my birthday being Oct 8, 1967. My dad offered to help, but I wouldn't have put him in that position, he always worked so hard to protect me, I wouldn't knowingly create another issue for him. Finally knowing that I have family and that family wanted me and wants to meet me, is wonderful to hear and over whelming. I am very excited to meet you and hope that I do not disappoint. I am overjoyed to hear I have more siblings, too!!

See you Monday!


Some more tidbits…

Maria, I was "downstate" when you were born, but I'm pretty sure it was in Memorial. When Sherry put you up for adoption (against my will), she'd given you a name but didn't tell me. But you had a legitimate birth and a legitimate mother and father. That was very important to me and why I insisted she marry me, so that you wouldn't be illegitimate. I don't understand why none of this info was made available to you. You weren't some illegitimate baby at all. I wish I could tell you more about Sherry but I was only with her for a few months. She was a very small blonde and worked in the office of an insurance company and I don't recall the name, alas.

Blue skies,

I was so overjoyed to read in your book that you wanted me and that you tried everything to keep me. That it was in there, without your ever knowing if I would read it, means that it was how you really felt and that means more than if I had been told that my birth parents named me this or did this or that.


Well, we met in person when Maria and her husband Joe came down and spent Monday evening with us. I can’t begin to describe the feelings I experienced during that time. Maria looks like me (poor girl!) and it turns out we share a lot of genetic traits. She’s already corresponding with her new sisters, Britney and Sienna, and they’ve all made plans to meet and are all excited to have a new sister(s). Mike is also anxious to meet his new sister.

She’s just an amazing person and I’m so blessed to have been able to meet her and begin a relationship with her. The timing of this is just incredible. Adrenaline Junkie had just come out a day before she found out I was her father and I’d written about her in it and it meant the world to her to find out she was truly wanted. She told me she’d always had a feeling of being unwanted all her life and it meant so much to her to find out her birth father had really wanted her.

So that’s it. I have a new daughter and my life has been immeasurably enlarged and blessed. As happens so often, true life is much more interesting than fiction! If I never make a dollar from my memoir, I’ve already earned a treasure from its existence.

Blue skies,


P.S. If you’re interested, a full account of Maria’s birth situation is in my memoir.