Saturday, 22 October 2016
Eight books read in the month which I'm disappointed in - two less than par. That said they were all very good and not a stinker among them.
E. Michael Helms - Deadly Dunes (2015) (4)
Paul D. Brazill - The Last Laugh (2016) (5)
Daniel Vlasaty - Only Bones (2016) (4.5)
David Putnam - The Squandered (2015) (4)
Frederic Dard - Bird in a Cage (1961/2016) (5)
Frank Westworth - Fifth Columnist (2016) (4.5)
Martin Holmen - Clinch (2016) (4.5)
Mike McCrary - Genuinely Dangerous (2016) (4.5)
Book of the Month.... well two 5 star reads to choose from - Paul D. Brazill's - The Last Laugh and Frederic Dard's Bird in a Cage. Dard's dead and Brazill's breathing so step forward PDB!
Paul D. Brazill has the last laugh fittingly with The Last Laugh!
Of the rest - 4 reads at 4.5 and 2 rating 4 stars
A bit more trivia or data........
3 of the 8 were new-to-me authors........ Martin Holmen, Frederic Dard, Daniel Vlasaty - all of them I would want to read more from and hopefully will
5 authors have been read before - Mike McCrary and Frank Westworth (once each), a third go for both E. Michael Helms and David Putnam and Mr Brazill has been enjoyed multiple times.
Gender analysis - no surprises here - 8 dudes, no chicks - 1 less than last month.
Must do better Mr Keane. (I'm no Donald Trump I can assure you)
4 authors hail from the US, 2 from England, 1 from France, 1 from Sweden
All 8 reads were fiction.
3 were paperback reads, 4 were Kindle editions, 1 was a hardback.
7 from this decade - 5 from this year. 2 from last year, 1 from the 1960s originally, but only brought to an English readership this year.
None of the 8 books were pre-owned!
I'm going to have a fat chance of clearing the tubs if that trend continues!
3 were kindly sent by the authors, 5 were sent to me by publishers - Pushkin Vertigo (2), All Due Respect Books (2) and Coffeetown Press (1) - many thanks to all!
Favourite cover? Clinch by Martin Holmen.
Bird in a Cage a close second. Stylistically I really like the new covers from Pushkin. The old ones near on induced an epileptic fit trying to ascertain what the book was and who it was by.
Total page count = 1789 (about 30-odd down on August)
1 < 50,
0 between 51 < 100,
2 between 101 < 200,
2 between 201 < 300,
3 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages
David Putnam's The Squandered was the longest @ 352.
Friday, 21 October 2016
Over at his website - his bio gives up the following detail......
Mike is a screenwriter and the author of Remo Went Rogue, Getting Ugly and Genuinely Dangerous. His shorter work has appeared in ThugLit, All Due Respect, Dark Corners, Shotgun Honey and Out of the Gutter.
He's been a waiter, a securities trader, dishwasher, bartender, investment analyst and an unpaid Hollywood intern.
He has quit corporate America, come back, been fired, been promoted, been fired again. Currently, he writes stories about questionable people who make questionable decisions.
Genuinely Dangerous was on the blog yesterday - here.
A few thoughts on Getting Ugly appeared here.
What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?
Yeah, “satisfying” is not a word I’d use to describe the writing career. Painful, soul-crushing, long nights crying in the bathtub would probably be a closer description. In all seriousness, it’s when someone likes your stuff, right? When I see a good review with some kind words or I get an email from a stranger telling they dig what I wrote, that’s pretty damn cool.
What’s your typical (book) writing schedule?
When I’m really into something (like I am now) I write pretty early in the morning. Like really early in the morning. There’s no distractions and I can rip through a 1,000 plus words in a pretty short amount of time. I try to think of a book in blocks of a 1,000 words. That makes it easier to digest and less terrifying than thinking about hitting a 60-70k mark.
Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?
Try not to, but I think it’s unavoidable. At the very least I try to avoid inserting people that I see all the time or people that are currently in my life. I might drop in some asshole that I knew from high school or some shit-stain that I used to work with, but I try to keep clear of using anything that can be easily detected. Never want that uncomfortable conversation over the holidays or at a bar. Of course some people want you to put them in a book and I’m always thinking, “Have you read my stuff? Do you really want me to dump you into the middle of that?” People love punishment I guess.
How long did Genuinely Dangerous take from conception to completion?
That’s hard to say, because Genuinely Dangerous really took on pieces of ideas that I’ve been screwing around with for years. Some stray thoughts that didn’t have a home until I put them together for this one. I’d say once I put the idea together it probably took about 8-10 weeks to get a good first draft and then another 4-6 to get the final draft to the editors. Not too bad, I guess.
Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?
A little of both. I usually put together a short outline, more of a beat sheet of quick bullet points with the story broken down in 3 acts. That process is a holdover from screenwriting. Each of those beats will be a bullet point of a sentence or two max. Then as I get into the thing I might get halfway through the beat sheet and then decide that the rest of what I mapped out is complete bullshit and then just wing it as I go along. I think you have to at least have something planned before you start writing. If nothing else I think you’ve got to have a general plot idea and/or the main character. I don’t know how you sit down to write a full-blown novel without knowing those things.
Are there any subjects off limits?
That’s great question. I don’t think that there are, but I will say if you want to sell a lot of books then you have to think about that kind of stuff. Like it or not there some ideas that sell better than others. Of course as I’m saying that I realize that dino-erotica is selling like crazy — so forget what I just said. No, there are no subjects that are off limits.
Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
No. A few unsold scripts that I might rework at some point, but no books hanging around that I’m holding onto.
Genuinely Dangerous, Getting Ugly and Remo Went Rogue are your three published works to date. Is there one of your books you’re more proud of that any of the others? Which and why?
I’m proud of all of them. They are all different in their own way, even though Remo makes a brief appearance in Genuinely Dangerous. I’ll go with Genuinely Dangerous though. It’s always your last thing, right? It’s the book I set out to write and I was able to work through some demons as far as some of my past failures in Hollywood, plus it’s the first time I tried to write in first person and also the first time I feel I’ve written a full, big boy novel coming in at 70k + words. Not to mention it was so damn fun to write.
Who do you read and enjoy?
I read all kinds but the big ones that have influenced me the most are Chuck Palahniuk, Duane Swierczynski, Don Winslow, Charlie Huston, Victor Gischler and Johnny Shaw. There are others, of course, but I keep going back to those.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
I’ll give you two — Big Maria by Johnny Shaw and Severance Package by Swierczynski.
What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?
Got a new pulpy, action thriller thing I’m knee-deep in right now and I’m having a blast writing it. Its kind of a mix between Remo and Genuinely Dangerous as far as tone and style and I can’t wait to unleash it on the world. I hope to have a first draft done in a few weeks and have a final draft not long after that, but who knows. Things get fucked up all the time.
Many thanks to Mike for his time.
Catch him on Twitter - @mcmccrary and on Facebook - here.
Thursday, 20 October 2016
Art is about to imitate a life of crime.
Jasper knows you don’t quit the movie business. The movie business quits you.
He wants back in – Badly.
Needs a comeback – Badly.
And Jasper truly believes he can make a movie Hollywood will want – Badly.
Genuinely Dangerous follows the nightmarish yet hilarious journey of Jasper Tripp, a down-and-out filmmaker who embeds himself in a crew of wild and mysterious criminals so he can film a documentary that’ll land him back in the Hollywood fast lane.
From Mike McCrary, author of REMO WENT ROGUE, comes another unfiltered, unpredictable romp of a thriller where the insane becomes sane and life itself becomes Genuinely Dangerous.
Praise for Genuinely Dangerous and Mike McCrary
"McCrary's prose practically bounces off the page ... An energetic tale (Genuinely Dangerous) that will make readers root for its disreputable characters."
- Kirkus Reviews
"Either somebody set Chuck Palahniuk and Elmore Leonard up on a blind date or we have a new mad genius on our hands.”
- Peter Farris author of LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING
"A firebomb hurled at Hollywood leaving a trail of death a destruction in its wake. A slapstick crime caper that veers from documentary to action flick to snuff film. Genuinely Dangerous is exactly that - and so is author Mike McCrary."
- Eric Beetner author of RUMRUNNERS and THE DEVIL DOESN'T WANT ME
A week or two after reading this I'm still shaking my head and thinking - what the hell!
Jasper Tripp is a film-maker or at least he used to be. His first venture was a success, his second a bit of a vanity project bombed - his finances taking a dive along with his reputation. Now he's toxic. It's a difficult situation exacerbated by the soaring success of former childhood friend and film school graduate Wilson Gains.
Wilson was like a brother to me. And now?
Well, now, he's kind of a dick?
Catching a shot of himself on TV with the caption under his picture - The Rise and Fall of Jasper Tripp doesn't help. Tripp's in a bad place.
I need to sleep. Losing the respect of the people you know and the people you don't, it'll suck the life right out of you.
So tired of being tired.
But don't panic, he's plotting a comeback - a documentary featuring some real-life criminals engaging in heists, robberies and stick-ups. He's sold the concept to his brother Alex, not-withstanding some serious reservations and once he's got the finance in place. He's good to go.
We have some absolutely hilarious scenes with Jasper trying to engineer an in with a gang of heisters. ...he meets a crazy lawyer named Remo, who pulls a gun in a coffee shop and we have a bizarre greeting ritual at a Korean massage parlour with Tripp meeting his contact - sans trousers exposure full.
Eventually The Pope sets him up with the Shaw Gang. The Pope gets killed as their introduction. Then the Shaw Gang get taken apart in front of him.
I wasn't watching a great white eat seals.
I was watching a great white being eaten alive, pulled apart by something meaner.
Something that has yet to be defined.
Tripp gets kidnapped and then has to try and sell the deal to the new band of reprobates.
"Are you criminals? I know you're killers......I need filmable crime. Do you commit crimes I can film in order to create an entertaining narrative?"
It was as if I asked a twelve-year-old boy how to properly work a clitoris.
Tripp's now in the hands of a deranged family of crims - Choke, the patriarch and his three offspring - Harry, Boone and Ruby. And this family has some serious issues.
We may get a film, we may get killed, we may become a part of someone else's plans for an alternate future away from the controls of blood and kin. Read it and find out.
An absolute belter......pace, action, comedy, violence, sex, dialogue, bizarro gross-out moments, with a plot that continually twists and evades you, just when you think you have a handle on it.
McCrary's narrative voice in the form of our protagonist Jasper Tripp is pitch perfect. I lived his failures, his fears, his humiliations, his wild, crazy romp.
4.5 from 5
Mike McCrary has his website here. Facebook - here. Twitter - @mcmccrary
An earlier book by him - Getting Ugly was reviewed here.
Remo Went Rogue still shamefully sits unread on the pile.
Read in September, 2016
Review copy received from author.
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
The first book in the Harry Kvist Trilogy
You can put the gloves on the shelf but it takes a long time to wash their smell from your knuckles.
The writing's on the wall for Harry Kvist. Once a notorious boxer, he now spends his days drinking, and his nights chasing debts amongst the pimps, prostitutes and petty thieves of 1930s Stockholm. When women can't satisfy him, men can. But one biting winter's night he pays a threatening visit to a debtor named Zetterberg, and when the man is found dead shortly afterwards, all eyes are on Kvist.
Determined to avoid yet another stint in prison, Kvist sets out to track down the only person who can clear his name. His hunt will lead him from the city's slums, gangster hideouts and gambling dens to its most opulent hotels and elite nightclubs. It will bring him face to face with bootleggers and whores, aristocrats and murderers. It will be the biggest fight of his life.
Blending noir with gritty violence, Clinch is a visceral, compulsive thriller that packs a punch and leaves you reeling.
'Clinch is a dark, atmospheric, powerful thriller, the best debut novel I've read in years' - Lynda La Plante
Read and enjoyed last month, Martin Holmen's Clinch is the first in a planned trilogy featuring ex-boxer Harry Kvist in 30s Stockholm. Harry's retired from the ring, but still finds occasion to put his fists to good use, earning a living as a debt collector.
One job sees him visiting a man called Zetterberg. After a firm "chat", Kvist leaves promising to return the following day. Zetterberg is found murdered shortly after and Harry's looking good for the crime in the eyes of the police.
Kvist is an unusual character. He was destined for great things in the past. His boxing career was on the rise and fame and fortune beckoned in America. His wife and daughter were leaving ahead of Harry, they made the trip - he never followed. Throughout the book, Harry often thinks of his daughter, less so his wife. We have a kind of explanation for his remaining behind, but it's never totally revealed. Intriguing. We see a dark side to Kvist - he's bi-sexual favouring rough encounters with men in toilets and parks......perhaps there lies one reason for allowing his family to fracture.
When Harry is interviewed about the murder, we realise he is known to the police. His sexual appetites have resulted in his imprisonment in the past. Homosexuality is illegal in the 1930s in Sweden.
Fearing for his freedom, Kvist resolves to find a missing witness - a prostitute called Sonja. Harry spoke to her outside Zetterberg's apartment, but the police have been unable to locate her.
An interesting mystery unfolds as Harry endeavours to track her down, after a while becoming well aware that he is not the only one looking for her. Why is a mysterious German dogging his steps?
Further developments over time, advance our tale. The German makes an attempt on Harry's life and what's the story behind the estranged magnate's wife and why is she so interested in securing Harry's affections?
Great setting - Christmas and a bitter wintertime in 30s Stockholm. There's ripples and undercurrents prevalent with the rise of Nazism in Germany. Holmen shows us the life of the working classes in Stockholm at this time - their poverty, the unemployment, their daily struggles.
The undoubted star of the show is Harry himself though - not entirely likable, but never less than fascinating. Capable, intelligent, tenacious, thoughtful and kind, but also violent, sometimes taking a cruel pleasure in hurting others, more in pursuit of gratification than when his fists are the only recourse in securing information to advance his investigation. Definitely a man I'm keen to read more about in the future.
4.5 from 5
Martin Holmen was kind enough so suffer a few questions from me recently here.
Publisher Pushkin Vertigo tentatively advises......2nd in the trilogy is Down for the Count (2017) and 3rd in the trilogy is Slugger (probably 2018)
Thanks to the publisher for my copy.
Read in September, 2016
Tuesday, 18 October 2016
A cop accidentally taints evidence. A killer goes free. The cop is defrocked and now lives in his car. Years later, their lives collide again on Malibu Beach and to cop winds up killing the murderer, launching a thrill ride through a dark world of blackmail, pornography, torture, betrayal, vengeance, love, guilt, passion, murder, muscle cars and valet parking.
Another read from over six months ago that I never got around to posting any thoughts on.
Psycho Logic was a continuation of the short story Dead End which was something I really enjoyed back last year. We have a disgraced ex-cop, Johno Beltran crossing paths with the root cause of his downfall - plastic surgeon serial killer Luke Vico.
Beltran burglarises Vico's house looking for further evidence of the doctor indulging in his nefarious hobby of abducting, torturing and killing young women. Vico comes home unexpectedly, the pair fight and Vico goes over his balcony railing, his head opening up like a ripe watermelon.
Beltran flees but not before being spotted by Vico's neighbour - Alyssa Lido. The dreaded visit from the police the next day never materialises.
Lido has her own agenda. She thinks her psychiatrist husband Karl is cheating on her with a porn star patient. He's got previous in this regard - Alyssa herself being Karl's former client when she was treated by him for paranioa! And she wants Beltran's help. Prove Karl's a cheat and help her exit the marriage without being destitute.
Dr. Karl the husband is a slimy creep, preying on his patients....
In his dreams, Dr. Karl asked an emotionally fragile porn star to tell him about her mother as he duct-taped her naked to a ping-pong table.
A few more twists and turns ensue.The porn star ends up dead. Beltran and Lido think she's next in the firing line. The cops suspect Johno of involvement in Vico's death, especially when he's spotted visiting the woman who witnessed the crime.
A really enjoyable read here - great characters, dialogue and scenes laced with humour, a bit of sexual tension, intriguing dynamics throughout - Beltran and Lido, Karl and Lido, Beltran and the cops, Karl and Summer Daze, our porn star - and a fitting and satisfying outcome.
Educational as well - I never knew what a fluffer was before Mr Buck enlightened me.
Plenty of bang in this short and fast 130 page read.
4.5 from 5
Dead End was reviewed here. Go Down Hard (another Craig Faustus Buck book, heavily featuring a therapist becoming involved with his patients - a bit of a theme?) here.
Craig Faustus Buck has his website here.
Bought copy a year or so ago. Read in March, 2016.
Thursday, 13 October 2016
Old School is a collection of fourteen short stories.
Why Old School? Bette Davis famously noted that "Old age ain't no place for sissies." In these stories the protagonists may not all be old, but ain't none of them young anymore. They're past the solipsism of youth, that grandiose narcissism that lets the young imagine the world as a stage devoted to their glories. Every character in Old School knows that life isn't a stage, it's a ring. And you'd better learn to take a punch, because life is the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. You might land a shot here and there, but you are gonna get your ass beat and, in the end, you're going down for the count. Life is however-many-billions and 0, and each of us is just one more digit on the wrong end of that equation.
PRAISE FOR OLD SCHOOL:
"Whip smart and razor sharp - these stories are fast, mean, and true to the very bone. Dan O'Shea can write." - Lou Berney, author of GUTSHOT STRAIGHT
"O'Shea is my kind of writer; hard and honest, fast and funny. Old School is full of elders who demand your respect, at the point of a shotgun. The characters talk like real people, and make decisions like desperate people; meth heads, killers, drug dealers and gigolo's, this books got it all. After reading this, I'll always think twice before trying to knock over a Girl Scout." - Jay Stringer, author of OLD GOLD, coming in 2012 from Thomas & Mercer
14 shorts from Dan O'Brien read back in July.
Without referring back to the kindle I can't remember a single one of them, however flicking back through soon refreshed me.
There's a decent cadence to the stories and enough flesh on them to give you pause and acknowledge the consequences of the outcome. At least in 13 of them - one set in Ye Olde Shakespearian times kind of bypassed me - The Bard's Confession on the Matter of the Despoilment of the Fishmonger's Daughter
In Absalom we have some reflections on war and combat in Korea...
....complete disregard to his own life and safety, he wondered if they understood what that meant, what you'd turned a man into when he cared more about killing others than he did about saving himself, and if it was something you ought to give medals for.
Some of the others ......
a hitman, experience pays as he goes to work at an airport getting an unexpected bonus
an unhappy husband with a saggy-assed wife and a decent insurance policy,
a divorced father striving at work to provide for his daughter and getting canned, he's not taking that lightly
a widow disappointed by her grandson, abused by a couple of intruders but with enough mettle to have the final say
an ex-cop on his way out at a residential home and marking time, encountering a suspect from the 40 year old case that's always haunted him
two young brothers fishing and approached by a stranger, getting a soaking might be the least of their worries
13/14 belters.....top class prose - characters, pace, plot, dialogue, outcome - highly recommended.
4.5 from 5
I've enjoyed a couple of the author's Chicago based novels a year or two ago - Greed and Penance.
Dan O'Shea has a website/irregular blog here and he's on Twitter - @dboshea
Kindle copy - bought a year or two ago.
Read in July, 2016
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Stephen Schwartz's intensely nonstop thriller is about a LAPD homicide detective who must find a killer responsible for a series of murders that are directly related to him. Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective and former vice cop Hayden Glass is a sex addict. The addiction has ruined his marriage and irreparably damaged many of his relationships.
However, he has always been able to separate his behavior from his career. But, when a series of killings in the L. A. area seem to be meant as a sign just for him, his addiction threatens to ruin both his professional career and his life.
"Raw, twisted, and so hard-boiled it simmers from beginning to end." Robert Crais
Another read from a few months back and my first full length introduction to Stephen Jay Schwartz's cop character Hayden Glass. I've previously had a taste of both from reading the short story - Crossing the Line.
It's always interesting to me when an author portrays a main character that is not especially likable or sympathetic. It's quite a brave move, particularly in a debut novel. Hayden Glass is such a character. A competent, honest homicide cop with a dark side - an addiction to sex. Its ruined his marriage and here when he tackles a killer, the personal nature of the murders endangers his job.
"I am the evidence connecting these crimes."
He wondered if that was his ego talking. Everything revolved around him, of course. There were two things constant with every addict: they had low self-esteem and they were the center of the universe. Hayden remembered the saying that drew a familiar laugh from every addict who heard it - I am the piece of shit the world revolves around.
Dark, brutal, interesting, an often ugly story showing a dark side of LA that the city's tourist board wouldn't want to boast about. Murder, sex, addiction, friendship, broken relationships, attempts at recovery and relapse, and a murder investigation conducted by a damaged cop juggling a helluva lot of balls single-handedly.
I pretty much loved it, as did.......Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, T. Jefferson Parker, Brett Battles, Timothy Hallinan to mention a few.
4 from 5.
There's a second Hayden Glass novel - Beat which I'll be reading, as soon as I've scrubbed LA's grime from my skin!
Stephen Jay Schwartz has his website here.
Bought copy a couple of years ago.
Read June, 2016