Tuesday 24 December 2019


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


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. 

The Occult Persuasion by Lisa De Nikolits

Back of Book Blurb:
The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is about a couple experiencing a crisis. The husband, Lyndon, loses his job as editor of a financial magazine. Neither are happy with aging. Lyndon has gotten by with charm and frozen emotions. 

The wife, Margaux, has no idea how angry she is with him for his detachment. It is her idea to sell the house and just travel. But he is not coping well with retirement, so he simply walks off a ferry in Australia and leaves her. He steals a cat (well, he steals an expensive SUV that happens to have a cat onboard) and he flees Sydney, ending up in Apollo Bay, a few hours south-west of Melbourne, where he falls in with a group of anarchists and punk rockers in a tattoo parlour, planning revolution. 

Meanwhile, Margaux sits tight in Sydney with no idea of where her husband might be or what happened. She moves into the red-light Kings Cross area, befriending the owner of the hostel, a seventy-year-old ex-cop drag queen from Saint John, New Brunswick, and waits to hear from her husband. 

When she learns that her husband is fine, she is consumed by wrath and she invokes the angry spirit of an evil nurse, a key player in the terrible Chelmsworth sleep therapy in which many patients died (historical fact). While Lyndon gets in touch with his original career ambition to become an artist and wrestles with anarchism versus capitalism, Margaux learns to deal with her rage.

A serio-comedic thriller about a couple who embark on an unintentionally life-changing around-the-world adventure, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is about the meaning of life, healing from old wounds, romantic love at all ages, and how love and passion can make a difference, at any age.

About the author:
Lisa de Nikolits is the international award-winning author of nine novels (all Inanna Publications). No Fury Like Thatwas published in Italian in 2019 by Edizione Le Assassine as Una furia dell’altro mondo.Her short fiction and poetry have also been published in various anthologies and journals internationally. She is a member of the Mesdames of Mayhem, the Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, The Australian Crime Writers, The Short Fiction Mystery Association and the International Thriller Writers. Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits came to Canada in 2000. She lives and writes in Toronto.

Praise for The Occult Persuasion and The Anarchist’s Solution:
After being abruptly fired from his job, sixty-one year old Lyndon fakes his own death and he and Margaux, his wife of 35 years, finally begin to really live. 

Before they can come together though, they must fall apart first. Readers will thrill to Margaux and Lyndon’s respective adventures which include run-ins with Viagra pushing, cupcake chewing anarchists; a haunted tea party hosted by the demonic ghost of a sadistic nurse; wild nights at the glamorous drag bar Dames and through it all, the love of one very special kitty. 

The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solutionis a very adult Alice in Wonderland with a dash of The Conjuring: readers will be smiling one moment and breaking out in goose bumps the next. As one character succinctly points out, “Things come to light in the darkness.” 
Warm, witty, wildly imaginative and inspiring, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solutionputs the “joy” in joyride! 
Lisa de Nikolits is one of the most exciting authors in CanLit today and this funny, fearless new novel will not disappoint her fans. –Heather Babcock, author of Filthy Sugar (Inanna 2020)


Her creative powers at a peak, in The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution, Lisa de Nikolits, a sage wrapped in a cloak of language, offers us a crystal ball to gaze upon ourselves. With Lisa’s brand of camp and mysticism, the story zig zags, spirals with vortices, depths and explosive happenings as she weaves a story of magnitude - a disappearance and a demonic spirit to a punk rock tattoo parlour and a protest of such vision it plays on the world’s stage. You come to love the characters, you want to remain in the book, which seems to read the reader on the inside. We become part of its structure. The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solutionwill haunt and guide you long after you finish it. Lisa has written a masterpiece that firmly places her as one of the best Canadian writers of our time. –Brenda Clews, author of A Fugue in Green


This cathartic and ultimately healing book conjures paranormal horror from historic events our collective consciousness would seek to gloss over, punk rock and rolling readers into a tumble of lapsed and bizarre behaviour that breaks a conventional marriage in two. As both players swirl into deep self-discovery, a supporting cast of eccentrics, gurus, bikers and a spirit medium guide the unceremoniously separated pair toward an intense crescendo where the forces of witchery are called into battle and freedom-loving values are jerryrigged to outlive life. –SK Dyment, author of Steel Animals


Lisa de Nikolits’ imagination has a seemingly unlimited cast of colourful characters and she uses several of them to full effect in this, her latest look into her wonderous mind.
Like rows of dolls on a shelf, Ms. de Nikolits picks a few at random, dresses them up and builds a fantastic story around them. Less rotten than Rotten Peaches, less furious than No Fury Like That,The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solutionhas more fun than No Fury Like That, but has it's serious, introspective moments as well.

An Oakville couple having a mid-life crisis in Australia is the stepping off point of another off Ms. de Nikolits’ imaginative adventures, full of colourful characters and witty, but realistic dialogues about life, anarchy, capitalism and tattoos.
–James Fisher, The Miramichi Reader


Lisa de Nikolits has written another page turner—this time a novel of transformation—with especially captivating secondary characters, including a large affectionate Maine Coon cat. Addictive—and a joy to read.  –Elizabeth Greene, author of A Season Among Psychics


“Lisa de Nikolits has penned a taut, tight thriller involving domestic disputes, death and a wonderfully jarring book title. Along the way there’s a stolen cat, a suspicious boating accident in Sydney Harbour, Australia, assorted crimes and a slew of quirky, compelling characters that will keep you reading. If you’re a fan of off-beat mysteries with a dash of dark humour, this novel is for you.”
-Nate Hendley, True-Crime Writer, Author ofThe Boy on the Bicycle: A Forgotten Case of Wrongful Conviction in Toronto


Lisa de Nikolits sets readers on a rollercoaster ride of clever twists and unexpected turns. The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is a lot of fun and filled with some believable, yet zany characters. It bounces between the viewpoints of Lyndon and Margaux, a retired couple whose marriage speeds steadily downhill after Lyndon decides to call it quits and runs off. It’s the ultimate story of marriage meltdown told in a style all Lisa’s own, and this one should be on everybody’s must-read list. –Dietrich Kalteis, author of Zero Avenue


Be Your Own Revolution and steal back your world! Live your life to the fullest and be the person you want to be, not what others want! The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution offers characters that are realistic, flawed and yet have redeeming qualities as, once again, author Lisa de Nikolits, gives us a novel that is unique, has many powerful messages and makes everyone wonder which way would they align? Some endings are beginnings and others are transformations as the journey for this husband and wife may just be beginning, if they see the sunshine and the light and let it shine in their direction together.

Freedom comes in many forms. Author Lisa de Nikolits takes us inside the mind of Lyndon whose ideals and viewpoints transform from capitalistic to anarchistic as he travels down many paths to find where he wants to be. The novel is presented from two viewpoints on opposite sides of this politically challenging spectrum. While searching his soul and living a carefree life, his wife, Margaux enters new realms hoping to reignite her own spark of life through spiritual enlightenment and tarot. A story defining family relationships, struggles, sexual orientation and acceptance. Would you trade rules and regulations for freedoms that have no constraints? Would you compromise your ethics and values to fit into a world that is foreign yet limitless?

With the final scenes, as you witness the protest and see and feel the silence that surrounds those involved as they created something peaceful, innovative and definitely making a statement, whether positive or negative depending on your viewpoint, Lisa de Nikolits makes readers think
about the many options we have to focus on, in our lives, how one man's actions changed the lives of so many others. 

The final pages will either enlighten Lyndon and make him whole and part of his family or forever take him on further journeys to find the real him. Margaux too has to decide where she wants to be and if they can both forgive each other and themselves for their past transgressions and renew their hopes for their children and themselves. 

Anger and resentment overtook both Margaux and Lyndon causing them to take divergent paths. The spiritual world in the form of evil nurse Nancy reminds Margaux that anger, when overwhelming, can block the true forces of salvation. When the same overtakes Lyndon, a protest rewires him as resentment fades and reality sets in. Anarchy/occult beliefs: changes with both, leaving them to decide on their final paths or journeys.

Take all these pieces and place them in a blender to create a smoothie filled with suspense, action, intrigue, deceptions, betrayals, unknown answers, family love, discord and change, plus an anarchist’s occult beliefs, and what you have is the perfect blend and recipe for a noir novel, a serio-comic thriller with five-star flavor.

Thought-provoking, this novel has a story that will interest discussion groups and create quite interesting and unique questions and answers. – Fran Lewis, Just Reviews


Lisa de Nikolits takes you on a wild ride through the disintegrating lives of a husband and wife who are lost, figuratively and literally, in Sydney, Australia. Told from the alternating points of view of Margaux and Lyndon, the narrative rolls out in a kind of stream-of-consciousness that grabs at your heart. On their volatile journeys, they each encounter people who change their lives. Lyndon meets an aging anarchist who tries to save the world; a woman’s tortured soul reaches out to Margaux in repeated visions. In this unique novel, de Nikolits explores the lives of desperate people struggling to find meaning in the modern world. –Sylvia Maultash Warsh writes the award-winning Dr. Rebecca Temple mystery series and author of The Queen of Unforgetting. 


What a fabulous, gripping story The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist's Solution is. A hugely consequential and restorative story, written with an unerring ability to draw the reader so completely into the riveting landscape teeming with unanticipated and suspense-filled consequences.  –Shirley McDaniel, www.artexplorations.com


Lisa De Nikolits’ The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solutiongallops off to a frantic start with a drowning off Sydney Harbour and a jeep and cat theft in Kirribilli. Margaux and Lyndon, a previously happy bourgeois couple from Oakville, Toronto, have embarked on an “Around-the-World-For-However-Long-We-Want” trip but Lyndon’s mid-life crisis derails their plans. A collision of accidental meetings brings more excitement into these two retirees’ lives than either could have reasonably imagined. They encounter anarchists, white witches, demon ghosts, tarot readers, tattoo artists, and more. De Nikolits grabs the reader by the scruff of their neck and pulls them along, willingly, for a wild, unexpected, and zany ride. –Myna Wallin, Anatomy of an Injury


Prepare for a wild and wondrous ride! The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is a page-turner like only Lisa de Nikolits can deliver. Featuring a cast of memorable characters—including a functionally dysfunctional family of four; a Maine Coon cat named Queenie; a former punk-hacker-turned-anarchist barber; an olive-eyed albino cross-dresser; and the malevolent ghost of a former psychiatric nurse—and set in the picturesque (and sometimes seedy) Australian cityscape, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution gives fans something to truly sink their teeth into, from start to surprising ending. Mark my words: After reading de Nikolits’ latest tour de force, you’ll never look at familial relationships the same way again.  –Ruth Zuchter, author of The Mother Suite

The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist's Solution 

The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist's Solution is available now!

Thursday 14 November 2019

Wednesday 13 November 2019


The thing Royal couldn't understand: How was it that when a good thing happened it came along with a bad thing?

Royal Atkins is a dangerous man. He's killed innocent victims in society and unpleasant guards inside the walls of his prison. Being dangerous doesn't make him cold or evil, however. When he gets a lucky break and is allowed to go free on a technicality, he decides to put his past behind him and to walk a straight and narrow path, even if this does mean having to stoop to manual labour to survive. 

Of course, going straight isn't as easy as all that. He steps into trouble as soon as he meets the two hardened criminals Phoenix and Markie who live in his new halfway house. These two jibe and mess with Royal's head, though he manages to keep things even for a good while.

Which is when Royal meets Stella.

As soon as their eyes meet, there's a connection. Sparks of lust and love fill the space between them and there's a sense that fate has brought them together. There are other connections, too. Royal immediately recognises her as the wife of a man he killed twenty years earlier. He even gets to see the scar on her hip where one of the bullets from his gun entered her body. 

Stella hasn't been with a man since her lover was murdered, but there's something about Royal she finds inristable and it's not long before temptation wins out and changes their lives forever. 

If the story ended there, there may have been happiness and joy all round, but it's Matt Phillips who's pulling the strings and he's never going to let his characters get off that lightly. 

Their world becomes complicated. Phoenix pressures Royal into finding easy ways to get cash. Two local detectives decide to get on Royal's back. Royal's past crimes haunt him in a very real way and he's torn between doing the right thing and the only thing he can. 

Know Me From Smoke (US) is put together as nicely as Stella herself. There's plenty of depth to all the characters and storylines. The pressure exerted on Royal is applied relentlessly in such a way that it's difficult not to feel sorry for the guy. The musical background of the seedy bars and restaurants works a treat. The cops tread the line between cool and corrupt with sure and easy steps. The final chapters, even with the sense of knowing what has to come, have the power to quicken the pulse and still the lungs. 

I'm going to put this down as a bitter-sweet-bitter-sweet-bitter noir. Imagine a cocktail that tickles all of the taste buds at once and then go over to the bar to place your order

Saturday 9 November 2019

It's Going To Be One Hell Of A Christmas

It's been a long time coming, but it's finally arrived. Let It Snow will be released on Monday 11th November (and with a date like that, how could you forget?) and it's available now from all the usual places. 

Linking to the page here will give the links you need for the e-book versions.

For those who prefer a paperback, it can be ordered here in the UK or here in the US

If you're after a little more information before committing your hard-earned cash, then why not pop over to The Big Thrill where I was interviewed by author and founder member of the New York Writers' Workshop Charles Salzberg. 

His thoughts on the novel:

'Bird manages to create more than enough suspense to keep the reader turning pages.'

If you're struggling to justify the expense of buying the book, it would be great if you could ask your local library to order you a copy. 

I do appreciate that I've probably been going on about the new release more than anyone would like. In trying to get word out about publication, the line between reasonable publicity and irritating-scratched-record territory is a very thin one. I'll make sure I calm things down as soon as I can, but I hope you can appreciate the situation. Kicking a book off with a heavy boot can make all the difference to a small publisher and an author and building momentum is really difficult thing to achieve. 

If you've already ordered yourself a copy, many thanks for your support. I hope you enjoy the read and feel positive enough about the novel to share a good word for it with friends and in the usual places on the internet. Every contribution helps, no matter what size. A Facebook or a Twitter like is a wonderful thing, a retweet or share means a lot and a review at a retail site or a blog is invaluable 

Thanks, as always, for popping over and if you have any questions about the book just drop me a line in the comments.

Enjoy the weekend all, and if you live in one of the areas flooded by the torrential rain of late, may I wish you a long dry and sunny spell. 

Wednesday 6 November 2019

One Man's Opinion: SEE THEM DIE by ED McBAIN

The sailor swung around on his stool. He leaned his elbows on the counter top and drunkenly looked out over the sun-washed street. 
"It looks nice and peaceful to me," he murmured. 
"Can you see through the walls, sailor?" Louis asked. "Do you know what goes on under the skin of the buildings?"

Before thinking about See Them Die, I'm going to point you in the direction of a long interview I did with Damien Seaman that was put out last week in two instalments. The first is here, the second here. It's a thorough interrogation into writing, editing, publishing, publicising, living and breathing. Among many other things, I get to chat about my forthcoming Down&Out books release Let It Snow which is inspired, in the main, by the 87th Precinct novels of Ed McBain, not that I'm claiming that it's a patch on the master's work. How on earth could I begin to hope to get close to books like the one I've just finished?

After recently reading and thoroughly enjoying The Heckler, I was prepared for See Them Die to be less satisfying, after all when the bar is raised so high not every book can make it over. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'd go as far as to say that this could by my favourite 87th novel so far. 

This was a really special read. The opening chapter sets the scene, beginning the dissection of the Puerto Rican community on the station's doorstep. It has the feel of Steinbeck, carrying weight and simplicity in equal measure. The broad strokes soon become more detailed as the focus shifts from the street to the luncheonette run by Luis Amandez. The only customer is Zip, a teenager too proud and arrogant to join the biggest gang in town who has formed his own. He's the leader of the Latin Purples, a gang with only four members that needs to do something major if it's going to gain any reputation.

The pair are soon joined by a drunken sailor who's looking for the local whorehouse and is struggling to come to terms with the fact that it's closed on a Sunday morning. The interplay between the trio is beautiful, the dialogue and action slick and easy and we know everything we need to about them within a few paragraphs. 

By page three, we know that there are going to be two people lying dead on the street before today, but have no idea who they might be. 

The Latin Purples intend to murder a local boy because he made advances towards Zip's girl, China. As it turns out, the advances were merely a hello and China wants nothing to do with Zip, but the boy has to go anyway. The Purples need to splash their colour around and murder will certainly add to their notoriety. 

Enter the police. There's friction at headquarters between three of the officers. Puerto Rican local boy made good, Frankie Hernandez, hard nut and cold-hearted Peter Byrnes and main man Steve Carella. There's needle between Byrnes and Hernandez born from the former's racism and general unpleasantness and there's friction between Carella and Byrnes because of a previous encounter where Byrnes over-stepped the mark on the wrong day. Byrnes is on pins because he's keen to nail local anti-hero Pepe Miranda, public enemy number one. Byrne's desperate to finish Miranda off personally and is prepared to take his frustration out on anyone who even looks at him sideways.  

Byrnes ends up drinking coffee with the sailor, Zip and Louis. It's all friendly on the surface, but charged by the heat and the growing tension of the city as it springs to life. 

As the local people wake, the area blossoms like a desert after a rainstorm, stirring the pot and bringing all the main players onto the stage. 

The sailor meets China and the pair fall hard for each other as if fate has brought them together so that they can escape their own private hells. Pepe Miranda is discovered in one of the street's buildings and the entire area is swamped by police and spectators while the church bells ring. Hernandez goes to speak to the boy Zip intends to wash. Two members of the Royal Guardians stray into the territory. The loyalties of the Purples become strained as they hide their guns and prepare for action. Tension within the detective builds. A couple of hookers see their opportunity to make some extra cash. A picnic basket is prepared. And people die. 

I adored it. The layers of the characters are exposed carefully as contrasts are explored. We see the differences between the law-abiding and the crooks, the gap between generations, the tensions between an immigrant community and the police, the rivalry of gangs, the precarious interplay of lust and love, bravery and cowardice, hope and hopelessness, life and death. 

As the god overseeing the action McBain plays with us a little. He even tells us that he's doing it. If he were so inclined, he could make all the endings rosy. But he didn't feel like it.  

There may be melodramatic elements to the story, but I'm a sucker for a good set-up that keeps me on the edge of my seat ready to reach for the hankies. 

I reckon See Them Die is like a collision between Angels With Dirty Faces and West Side Story. It's tough stuff with a big heart. And if you listen really carefully, you may even feel the beat of the musical score. 

Wonderful stuff.   

ps For loads of other information on the book and a hatful of opinions, check out the Hark podcast here. 

Friday 1 November 2019


Here's another belter from All Due Respect, this time courtesy of Rob Pierce. 

The Tommy of the title hangs on to life by a thread. He's overdone it in every way and now barely functions if there isn't a drink within close reach. His life's on the skids and his derelict body is fighting back in the form of the worst case of bowel disorder that fiction has ever seen. 

Whether it's because it offers a tiny glimmer of hope or just because he's a habitual criminal, he takes on a big heist that requires him to put together a gang he's not sure he can trust to carry it out. 

Following Tommy is fascinating. He's hard, raw and astute when it comes to his job, but when he's home, he's all too human - just a broken-down loser who craves only the love of his wife and his son. 

The dialogue works really well, the planning of the heist builds the tension and the execution delivers the action at the perfect pitch. 

Lowlife literature of a high order. 

And he's the official blurb:    

Tommy Shakes (US) is a career criminal, and not a very good one. He earned his name as a heroin addict. Now he’s just a drunk, drinking so much that he spends much of his time in bathrooms, exploding from one end or the other.

He’s in a marriage he wants to salvage. He convinces himself that his wife, Carla, will allow him to stay with her and their teenage son, Malik, if he can bring home enough money. She tells him that won’t do it, he needs to quit crime altogether, but Tommy gets a crack at a big heist and decides to pull the job.

The job is ripping off a popular restaurant that runs an illegal sports book in back. A lot of money gets paid out on football Sundays; the plan is to pull the robbery on Saturday night. The back room has armed guards but, according to Smallwood, Tommy’s contact on the job, there’s no gang protection.

Tommy recons the job and finds two problems: Smallwood’s plan will get them all killed or up on murder one, and one security guy works for a local gangster, Joey Lee. Tommy’s desperate for money and figures he can make his own plan. As to the gangster, there’s enough money that it’s worth the risk.

They pull the robbery but one gang member gets gun happy and it turns into a bloodbath, which includes killing Lee’s man. Now they’re wanted for murder, and the law is the least of their problems.