Saturday, 24 June 2017



A visual story of sex drugs and social deprivation, based in Dublin, Ireland. Drug dealers Tommo and his father-in-law Jimmy receive a new batch of pills from a very different source to their usual guy, they test them out and things get very strange indeed. Tommo is on a mission to confront this new dealer, Will he survive this Dangerous overlord? Not for the easily offended.

Hmm......well not sure I will be seeking out further adventures from our drug dealing pair.

I liked the artwork, but I’m not a massive fan of comic books/graphic novels. I do appreciate the skill and talent that goes into the creation of characters and being able to consistently reproduce recognisable people. I can’t do anything better than stick figures myself.

The story was mildly amusing but the whole shebang was let down by the formatting for Kindle readers. I don’t want to get too picky, (it was a freebie book after all) but the pictures to the RHS of the screen were cropped which also affected the dialogue which showed up incomplete. I know I’m an old bugger but there was also a lack of sharpness to the screen images and in places the speech was also indecipherable. That said I got the gist of events. You would be better off seeking out a printed version if you want to give this one a go.

A short tale of drugs, drug-dealing, and an uncomfortable outcome for our two main participants when the pills they imbibe take them on a trip they probably wouldn’t want to take otherwise.

Social commentary? Not sure, maybe a bit laddish and immature with the crude depictions of two men getting it on together and the shame they feel about it afterwards. Like I said earlier, maybe I’m just getting old.

2 from 5

Olly Cunningham can be found at his Black Lines Comics website here.

Read in June, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 28
Source - Instafreebie
Format - Kindle

Friday, 23 June 2017


Alis Hawkins, author of None So Blind, takes a turn in the stocks, answering a few questions.

None So Blind was featured on the blog yesterday - here.

Is the writing full time? If not what is/was the day job?

I can’t afford to write full time but I actually quite like the balance of going out to work and staying in to write. I work two days a week for the National Autistic Society running a family support project.

From a bit of “googling” I see you had a historical novel - Testament previously published. Similarly, None So Blind is a historical novel, do you find yourself drawn to write more about the past than contemporary times?

Yes. I’ve always been fascinated by social history, and I get to do a lot of really absorbing research for my books – the kind of stuff no course in history would ever teach you. On any given day I can be looking in to when the first public toilets were introduced (1851 during the Great Exhibition), the most likely route a man riding a horse (as opposed to travelling in a carriage) would have taken between two towns in West Wales ( I have a lot of facsimile 1831 OS maps defaced by highlighter pen and sprouting post-its like scabby eczema) and what implement kids used when they were practising writing on their slates (clue: not chalk).

Its not that I shy away completely from setting stories in the present day –Testament is a split time narrative in which half the action takes place in the modern world and the other half in the fourteenth century – I just don’t get such a buzz out of it. To me, twenty-first century people aren’t as fascinating as people from the past. I know what we’re like, I have to find out what they were like.

Would you have liked to have been born in a previous era?

Absolutely not. No period before the later twentieth century was remotely acceptable in its treatment of women. And that’s without mentioning life without sanitation, central heating, electricity, anaesthesia or antibiotics!

Was Testament a mystery/crime novel or something else entirely?

There’s no real crime element but there is a historical mystery that has to be solved in the present day. It’s set in a fictitious medieval university city called Salster. (I was going to set it in Oxford but the level of research required would have added another 2 years to the writing time, so I decided to invent my own city which turned out to be much more fun.) The fourteenth century element concerns Simon of Kineton, a master mason who’s been commissioned to built a revolutionary college and his struggles to do so (basically, the all-powerful church isn’t keen), while the contemporary story follows its head of marketing, Damia Miller, as she tries to save the college from financial ruin by following a trail from a newly-uncovered medieval wall painting in the Great Hall through the archives to the story of the master mason’s ‘cursed’ son.

Have you always written?

Pretty much, one way or another. But I think that to be a successful historical writer takes time – you really need to understand people in your own time before you can begin to imagine what they were like in somebody else’s.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

I do my best work in the morning and evening, so, if I’m writing new stuff, I tend to work pretty consistently from 9 till 1, then do other stuff in the afternoon – social media, this kind of writing, housework, etc – then get back to the book at about 5 and work till 7, usually working through what I did in the morning. If I’m editing, I like to get immersed in the book and I’ll work 12 hours a day if I can. The more your editing is broken up, the more you miss and the less well you can see the whole structure and flow of the book.

Of course, some days less writing gets done and more research, or planning. But I’m not too hung up on word counts. As long as what I’m doing is moving the book forward in some way, I’m happy.

Have you inserted family, friends or colleagues into any of the characters in your books?

No. A friend did ask if she could be in the next book and I had to explain that I don’t base my characters on real people because I don’t feel as if I’m making them up. They just appear, fully formed. Even walk-on parts spring to life in my mind like real people who’ve always been there and whom I just hadn’t met before. I have no sense of making them up at all.

Are you a plotter or a make it up as you go along sort? I think I can answer my own question, I’m guessing with historical fiction, research is key?

Research is key, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m a plotter. I do a lot of research about a general area before I start, and some ideas for plot will come from that research. But then, once I’ve got going on the book, I’ll research as I go and as needed. The main thing about research is not to get things wrong rather than making sure you include it all – that’d make books both long and tedious.

In terms of plotting, I’ll have a starting point, a few waystops and, usually, an idea of an ending but any of those things are up for grabs as I write. In the book I’m writing at the moment (book 3 in the Teifi Valley Coroner series) the person I thought was the murderer has just turned out not to be and I’m not sure, yet, who will turn out to have done it. Stephen King once said that if you, as the writer, aren’t surprised by your book, neither will the reader be. I want my readers to be surprised, and I want to feel surprised and excited myself – otherwise writing would be dull. Plotting in detail, for me, ruins any element of surprise.

How much research did you undertake before setting down to write None So Blind?

Probably about 9 months. I had to learn not only about the Rebecca Riots but about the whole social context of rural West Wales in the 1850s.

How long did None So Blind take from conception to completion?

I’ve been wanting to write a book set during the Rebecca Riots for a long time so, in that sense, I suppose it’s been gestating away for many years. But once I’d settled down to tackle it, 9 months or so for research and another 18 to get it written. However, we did move house during the 18 months and I was on painting, decorating and project management duty for 10 weeks so probably could have done it in nearer 15 months.

Did the end result differ greatly from how you envisaged it?

In terms of being able to tell a story which allowed me to look at the effects of a months of civil disobedience on people, no. One of the reasons I wrote None So Blind was to find out what it felt like to get wrapped up in events that were moving beyond your control and I think that comes over in the book. But in terms of the plot – the actual events I use to tell the story of the Riots – the book took on a life of its own, as my books always do. Characters became more important than I’d thought, they did things I hadn’t foreseen and the central relationship between Harry and John became much more nuanced than the simple sleuth-and-sidekick that I’d envisaged when the idea for the book first came to me.

Do you have further books planned involving the main players in None So Blind? Will we be seeing more of Harry Probert-Lloyd and John Davies in the future?

Absolutely! My publishers have already bought book two – provisionally titled In Two Minds – and I’m writing book three at the moment.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

It’s not for me to say whether it’s a gem or not but I do have a psychological thriller set during the time of the Black Death on my hard drive. It’s called The Black and the White and I’m really rather fond of it. My current publisher may not be the right home for it, but we’ll have to see. Watch this space.

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

Harry and John, book three. The apparently accidental death of a much-loved school teacher turns out to be something much more sinister. It’s going OK but, because of the timescale to which books are produced, I have been interrupted quite a lot in the writing of it by getting In Two Minds ready for my publishers. It’s not always easy working on the editing of one book while you’re trying to write another with the same characters, sometimes you’re apt to forget what belongs where!

What’s the best thing about writing?

Dorothy Parker famously said that she didn’t like writing, she liked having written and I know what she meant. Producing new work – literally making something out of nothing – can be a real slog. You begin to see how 20% of the calories you consume every day are used by your brain. For me, the most enjoyable thing about writing is re-writing, working on draft two of the book. You’ve knocked your ideas into a roughly novel-shaped thing and now you need to work to refine and streamline those ideas into the most fluid form you can – the right words, the right scenes, the right pace. I love that process.

The worst?

Those days when your brain-space seems to be taken up by all the other stuff in your life and you’re trying to work out what happens next in draft one. It’s like trying to hear the radio through bad static. You know it’s all there, but you really can’t hear it and the more you try, the more wound up and frustrated you get. That’s when I just go for a walk and see if that clears the signal.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Between the Crosses by Matthew Frank
The Fireman by Peter May
Daughters of Gentlemen by Linda Strattmann
Remember No More by Jan Newton 
Dark Asylum by ES Thomson

Who do you read and enjoy?

Unsurprisingly, I read a lot of crime and I enjoy lots of the different sub-genres but not all my top authors write crime fiction. Here are my top 10 in alphabetical order:
Peter Aaronovitch
Harry Bingham
Geraldine Brooks
Tracy Chevalier
Matthew Frank
Patrick Gale
Matthew Hall
Val McDermid
Phil Rickman
Joanna Trollope

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

No. Just a load of books I really admire and learn from.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Reading (alone), walking (with my partner) playing silly games (with my family)

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Pride – the true story of the London-based group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and their relationship with a mining community in South Wales during the 1984 Miners’ strike. It’s fantastic – touching, funny, thought-provoking, and the end always makes me cry (in a good way.)

TV viewer or not? Is there anything that is must-watch TV in the Hawkins’ household?

I love Nordic Noir – I was glued to The Killing, The Bridge and Trapped. Same goes for Broadchurch and Hinterland. But our recent favourite was No Offence, the black comedy crime drama starring Joanna Scanlan and Elaine Cassidy. That and Mock the Week are definitely un-missable. Oh, and we do love a bit of property-porn especially Grand Designs. Mourning the passing of Bake Off.

Any writing aspirations for a couple of years’ time...

I’d really like to see The Black and The White published. And Harry and John’s Teifi Valley Coroner series thriving, obviously!

Many thanks to Alis for her time.

You can catch up with her at the following locations .....
Her website is here.
Facebook page here.
Twitter -  @Alis_Hawkins

Wednesday, 21 June 2017



A brilliant new historical mystery series set in the 1850s.

West Wales, 1850. When an old tree root is dug up, the remains of a young woman are found. Harry Probert-Lloyd, a barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has been dreading this discovery. He knows exactly whose bones they are.

Working with his clerk, John Davies, Harry is determined to expose the guilty. But the investigation turns up more questions than answers. Questions that centre around three names. Rebecca, the faceless leader of an angry mob who terrorise those they hate. Nathaniel Howell, a rabble-rousing chapel minister preaching a revolutionary gospel. And David Thomas, an ominous name with echoes from Harry’s past.

Is it Rebecca who is intent on ending Harry and John’s enquiry? Why did Nathaniel Howell disappear when Rebecca’s insurrection was at its height? And can Harry keep the secrets of his own past safely buried?

The search for the truth will prove costly. But will Harry and John be the ones to pay the highest price?

Meticulously researched, None So Blind is a wholly authentic evocation of a fascinating but
neglected historical period as well as a complex and deeply satisfying crime thriller where
nothing is as it seems.

Another departure from my usual fare with a historical mystery set in west Wales in 1850.

A set of bones have been discovered beneath a fallen tree and Harry Probert Lloyd believes he knows who they belong to. When the death is declared accidental at an inquest he defies his father and sets out to investigate who is responsible.

I really enjoyed this book and my initial doubts about its suitability for me were soon quelled. Interesting, informative and entertaining. I was fascinated by the backdrop to our mystery, the Rebecca Riots which occurred between 1839 and 1843. These were a series of protests in rural Wales by the poor against unfair taxation and usually involved the destruction of toll gates and the terrorising of local landowners by the visitation of a masked mob mostly dressed up as women.

Our investigation starts a few years on from the riots, but the shadow of previous events hangs over the community as Harry begins his unofficial enquiries. Further complications to his progress is the fact that his sight is failing and he is slowly going blind. To overcome this obstacle he enlists the services of a law clerk, John Davies.

There’s some interesting dynamics at play within the book. Class is important. Harry belongs to the landed classes and his father, a magistrate is an important pillar of the community. The skeleton discovered was Harry’s secret sweetheart, Margaret Jones who was a worker on one of the local farms. The illicit romance was thwarted by Harry’s father sending him away. Tension still exists between the pair, with neither of them able to communicate openly and honestly with each other.

Intriguing characters, especially Harry and John, both of them carrying their own secrets from the past. Its enjoyable watching their relationship evolve into one of friendship and trust from a standing start of employer and employee - upper and lower class.

Great setting, interesting period and a slow burner of a mystery which gets resolved satisfactorily. There’s plenty of historical fact and social history as a backdrop, but it adds flesh to the book without bogging down the narrative. Definitely one of the more unusual and quirky books I’ve read of late.

4 from 5

Alis Hawkins has an earlier book to her name – Testament.

Her website is here.
Facebook page here.
Twitter -  @Alis_Hawkins

Read in May, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 360
Source - review copy from publisher Freight Books
Format - paperback


Oliver Tidy, author of He Made Me and lots more beside was kind enough to humour me with some answers to my questions about his reading and writing habits.

He Made Me was featured on the blog yesterday - here.

Is the writing full time? If not, what is/was the day job?

It’s been full-time for the last two years. Before that I was teacher, writing in my spare time. Please, God, don’t ever make me go back in the classroom. I’d rather mow lawns.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

After the usual morning procrastination on the Internet, I usually get cracking about 8am. Work through ‘til about 1pm. Gym and stuff. (Going to the gym at lunch time makes me miss lunch – sitting on my bum all day I’d just get large.) Collect my son from school. The evening is centred around him. Back at the desk for about 9pm and stay there until about midnight.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

Not as often as I might. I do have two ex-wives working for me in the book-themed coffee shop in the Booker & Cash series. (Not a joke.) Not sure how they feel about that, if they know. But it makes me laugh (so I suppose it is a joke) and it’s about the only time I’ve ever been able to boss them about.

Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I find it impossible to actually plan a story start to finish. I’ve tried. The best I can do is a few notes. I once told someone that I think through my fingertips as I type. He said, ‘So you make it up as you go along.’ He was right. I don’t often know how a story is going to end when I start it and if I do it’s even less common for me to know how I’m going to get there. Keeps things interesting.

Are there any subjects off limits?

No. Not for ‘off limits’ sake. There are things I’m just not interested in writing about. But if I ever think I can make some money out of them I’ll probably have a go.

Can you tell us a bit about your published books so far? Is there one you are more proud of than any of the others? Which and why? Which would you press into a reader’s hand ahead of the others?

Tough question. It’s like being asked to choose my favourite child. (I bet everyone says that.) I have seventeen books available and two in the editing process. The Booker & Cash series are very close to my heart because they are set where I was born and interbred - Romney Marsh - and the duo operate out of a building I lived in for years. Plus I love the idea of running a book-themed coffee shop. For these reasons the B&C stories just edge my affections.

Your latest book He Made Me is in your Booker and Cash series, how long did it take from conception to completion?

I tend to write my first drafts quite quickly. As I said, there’s no real planning involved. I get an idea and start running with it. I think this one took about a month.

Was the finished book pretty much how you envisaged it when you set out, or was it markedly different?

Because of the way I write I can’t really answer that, except to say that sometimes I’m more surprised by the way some books turn out than others.

You have three different series in progress – Booker & Cash, Romney Marsh Files (something I need to check out, I can remember going to a cub’s camp around that area – St Mary’s Bay more than once as a child) and Acer Sansom. Are all three series live and ongoing or have any now drawn to a natural conclusion?

Never say never, but for the time being I have finished with the Romney and Marsh Files and the Acer Sansom books. I think Acer is certainly done. He deserves a rest. R&M, I might come back to one day. Booker & Cash is the series I intend to continue with. I’ve got other writing projects that I also want to have a go at. Too many ideas, not enough time.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

Making the first million pounds. I wish. Giving up the day job. That was worth a million quid.

How difficult is it to attract a readership?

It’s getting harder and harder. I don’t think that’s because my books are getting worse and worse. I think it’s got to do with the industry. The ebook market is saturated with titles and every week there are hundreds more being traditionally published, self-published and converted to ebook format from older hard copy versions. And if that isn’t bad enough there is such a lot of great writing out there to be enjoyed and it’s mostly dirt cheap. I’m finding that my financial returns have been diminishing for some time. It might even get to the stage where my wife has to get a third job. Seriously. It’s a bit depressing.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Two books: one a crime thriller that I’ve just finished and one in what Margaret Atwood would call the ‘speculative fiction’ genre. (Actually, Margaret Atwood would probably put my effort in the ‘crap fiction’ genre. But I could live with that. At least she’d have to say my name.

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

Booker & Cash #4 is next for me. I’ve made a start. I’m about 20,000 words to the good. It’s shaping up and I’m enjoying writing it. I always enjoy writing about these two and Romney Marsh.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Being my own boss.

The worst?

Being my own boss.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Slade House by David Mitchell
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (I’m interested in Stoicism. I think as a philosophy it can help me to understand why I’m such an idiot sometimes.),
The Enemy by Lee Child,
The One From the Other by Philip Kerr
and Dead Lions by Mick Herron. All brilliant reads.

Who do you read and enjoy?

Too many to mention. But... Elmore Leonard, CJ Sansom, Gerald Seymour, John Le Carre, Conan Doyle, Michael Dibdin. I like the tried and trusted.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Fifty Shades of Grey. Just think of the money.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Spending time with my children.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Kung Fu Panda #1. I’m not kidding. Those Dreamworks films are absolutely brilliant and hilarious.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Tidy household?

TV, aka the idiot’s lantern, is the biggest drain of time I’ve ever encountered. But I do love movies and a good series on DVD. I’ve recently finished working my way through every boxed set of Spooks. I could watch those again and again. Superb British drama.  

In a couple of years’ time…

We could all be dead. But with how life has gone I won’t have any regrets. Well, maybe one or two... or three... but I don’t blame them.

Many thanks to Oliver for his time. You can catch up with him....

His website is here.
Facebook here and he's on Twitter – @olivertidy

Tuesday, 20 June 2017



He Made Me: a gripping new mystery
David Booker and Jo Cash are experiencing similar stuttering starts to their new lives on Romney Marsh when Rebecca Swaine turns up seeking help. Someone is demanding a lot of money from her husband and she wants to know why.

What do the dying words of one man - he made me - actually mean?

As the mystery unfolds people will come undone and reputations will be ruined before the answer becomes clear.

At the end of the day Mrs Swaine might end up wishing she’d let sleeping dogs lie…

Also available in the Booker & Cash series:
Bad Sons

He Made Me is the second entry on Oliver Tidy’s Booker and Cash series, Bad Sons being the first.

Booker is a coffee shop owner with grand plans to expand his business in the small Kent seaside village of Dymchurch. Cash is his tenant and friend. She’s ex-police and is running a fledgling PI business.

Cash is engaged by a prominent local lady – Rebecca Swaine ”Old Money and most of it gone. Or so rumour had it.” – to uncover who is blackmailing her husband. Mrs Swaine is unable or unwilling to discuss the matter with him directly.

We have among other things…… a country house, old books, diminishing funds, a strange sibling, painting, suicides, investigation on-off, off-on again, London, police contacts, a missing person, disgrace, financial impropriety, a gallery, secrets, an affair, another death and blackmail.

He Made Me is a busy book for its 280-odd pages. The relationship between Booker and Cash is intriguing. Non-romantic, non-sexual there is an interesting chemistry at play. There are references to how they got to the place they are now, which kind of had me wishing I had read the previous series entry Bad Sons to be fully up to speed on things. The failure to do so didn’t mar my enjoyment of this one, though it may have enhanced it slightly. Cash definitely seems to be the dominant force in the friendship. Booker being his own boss, has plenty of time to assist Cash in her enquiries and relishes the opportunity to do so. A lot of the time his role does seem little more than gopher, chauffeur and tea-boy, with Cash seemingly reliant on his generosity and deep pockets. I don’t think Booker wins too many arguments between the two. Plenty of banter and humour with Cash usually having the final word.

I liked the setting of Dymchurch and the Romney Marsh area, especially as I could recall holidaying nearby as a young cub scout at St. Mary’s Bay, 40-plus years ago. Nostalgia rules!

There is limited action and minimal violence in the book, which is a bit of a change from my usual type of read, but I really enjoyed the outing. Our enquiries progress logically, with Cash a capable investigator. She's unfailingly honest and straightforward, but not above being economical with the truth to uncover information. Police contacts assist her and an intelligent mind and forensic questioning of our various witnesses along the way, get us to where we need to be.

4 from 5

This was my first read from Oliver Tidy, but not my last. I’ll be getting to Bad Sons at some point, plus he has a third entry in this series – Poor Hands coming out next month.

Mr Tidy is fairly prolific with a couple of other series to his name. There’s seven books in his Romney and Marsh Files series and four in his Acer Sansom set.

His website is here.
Facebook here and he's on Twitter@olivertidy

Read in June, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 279
Source – copy from publisher Bloodhound Books (cheers Sarah – website here.)
Format - Kindle

Monday, 19 June 2017


I don't think I'm well-suited to committing to reading challenges as it has taken me three plus years to complete this one. It would have been sooner but the goalposts did get re-calibrated and shifted upwards at some point. I got there eventually.
Peggy Ann organised the challenge - Read Scotland in 2014
20 books read by Scottish authors in the past three years, mostly crime. 
I managed to ignore Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, James Oswald, Denise Mina, William McIlvanney, Douglas Lindsay and a fair few others that have a presence in my book collection.
Favourites of the bunch I did read - Malcolm Mackay and Douglas Skelton!

Sunday, 18 June 2017



A hard-boiled crime thriller from the best-selling author of Brick
Suicide. Drugs. Murder.

DI Braddick is put on the case when a hijacked drug deal has resulted in murder and an eye witness goes missing. When victims are discovered strung up from the rafters of an abandoned fish factory, on the Anglesey coastline, the police are baffled as to what went on. A deserted trawler found at the scene helps Braddick put the pieces together.

Could this be the work of a notorious Russian crime family?

When an undercover officer goes missing everything points to an informer for the family and it is clear they will stop at nothing to the silence the leak and have their revenge.

As the body count rises Braddick will come to realise that no one is safe…

I do generally enjoy books which have a fast-placed plot and plenty of action. When they are written from a multiple narrator viewpoint they can seem slightly confusing. Not so here.

My first outing with Conrad Jones and we have a tale of a drugs deal gone wrong, or right depending on your perspective. (Are you Russian?) The deal is hijacked and a scene of multiple death and torture is left in its wake.

We then follow the police, a Liverpudlian crime gang and a couple of Irish gangsters, as they all seek to discover who did what to whom. The police - especially keen as a couple of their own have lost their lives in different incidents which have to be more than pure coincidence.

I really enjoyed this one. Plenty of characters to root for, lots of banter, a police investigation to follow, with possible corruption in the ranks, some seemingly untouchable Russian mobsters, and a bit of a falling out between our criminal gangs, which soon escalates to a violent free for all.

Plenty of testosterone on display, but equally some fantastic humour. The pow-pow between our Irish double act and our Scouse criminals had me roaring.

No shame in admitting I was rooting for my fellow compatriots from the Emerald Isle to come out on top in our high stakes game!

Enjoyed the ending, a decent outcome with a twist in the tail. I'm definitely going to be reading more from Conrad Jones in the future.

4 from 5

There is an earlier book from the author Brick which features the same investigative team which I'm hoping to read. Conrad Jones is the author of at least a dozen novels in total. His Facebook page is here.

Read in June, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 252
Source - publisher Bloodhound Books (cheers Sarah) - their website is here.
Format - Kindle