Friday 28 February 2020


Children have been going missing in Stormer Hill, a small Yorkshire town where the community lives in a permanent state of mourning and concern. Close by is Hanging Lee, a rock formation at the centre of a recent vanishing. The locals gather there to pray for those who are no longer with them and do their best to project hope into the world.  

Author Alex Palmer is visiting from London to gather as much information as he can in the hope that he can use the material to create another best seller. He’s handsome, an ex-copper himself and, just like Stormer Hill, he’s haunted by the ghosts of his past. Showing Palmer round is DC Tom Nolan, a rough-and-ready grafter who’s seen plenty and knows his way round a murder investigation.  

As we watch the author at work, the eerie mood of the case ever-darkens. The locals snub a book event in the library and it’s clear to see he’s not wanted there. He’s all ready to leave town when the plot takes a surprising turn and sharply alters the anticipated direction of the novel.

All the while, we get front seats at the theatre of hell run by the Ragman and his cult. These guys are seriously twisted. Their actions and beliefs are so outrageous that they’re almost impossible to be with, yet in Wallwork’s hands they’re also compelling killers who it’s impossible to look away from.

The key suspect for the most recent incident comes from a family who have rejected the system and live under the radar when they can. The matriarch, a fierce protector of her son, is something of a witch. She believes the best medicine comes in the form of home-made potions and old-fashioned remedies.  

Throw all the parts together and you have an intriguing and ultra-dark read. In structure, it’s a police-procedural in the main, yet with its unflinching gaze into madness and depravity there’s also a strand of horror that comes very much to the fore. The title Bad People (US) doesn’t begin to cover it.

As well as being an engrossing story, there’s also a lot to enjoy in the telling of the tale. The handling of the description touches on the poetic at times, bringing setting and emotion to the fore in a wonderfully distilled and succinct way. Definitely one to get hold f.

To be read with the lights on in every room in the house.  

Friday 21 February 2020


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


‘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.