Thursday, 19 October 2017

SEPTEMBER 2017 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH


A pretty good month's reading with 12 titles of varying lengths devoured in the month.

One stand-out 5 STAR read and my Pick of the Month was ZERO AVENUE from Dietrich Kalteis.

All 12 were enjoyed, and the full list is.....

Graham Smith - Watching the Bodies (2017) (4)

Graham Smith - The Kindred Killers (2017) (4.5)

Mark Dawson - 1000 Yards (2013) (4)

J. R. Lindermuth - Shares the Darkness (2016) (4)

Michael Pool (ed.) - Fast Women and Neon Lights (2016) (4.5)

Emma Viskic - Resurrection Bay (2015) (4.5)

Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice (2017) (4)

Eddy Cook - Faces, Places and Pain (2016) (4.5)

Martin Holmen - Down for the Count (2017) (4.5)

Paul D. Brazill - Big City Blues (2017) (3)

Paul D. Brazill - A Case of Noir (2014) (4.5)

Dietrich Kalteis - Zero Avenue (2017) (5)

With the one 5 STAR read from Kalteis, there were half a dozen that were enjoyed fractionally less - with 4.5 STARS awarded....

Graham Smith's second Jake Boulder novel, The Kindred Killers, Paul D. Brazill's classy collection A Case of Noir, Emma Viskic's multi-award winning Resurrection Bay, the Michael Pool edited 80s themed short story collection - Fast Women and Neon Lights, Martin Holmen's second Harry Kvist novel - Down For the Count and Eddy Cook's Faces, Places and Pain - a short collection of autobiographical essays.

There were 4 x 4 STAR reads - Phil Stanford's tales of a corrupt Portland in the 60s and 70s - Rose City Vice, Graham Smith again with the first Boulder book - Watching the Bodies, one from J. R. Lindermuth's Sticks Hetrick series - Shares the Darkness, and a Mark Dawson John Milton novella - 1000 Yards


And 1 - 3 STAR read, a slight disappointment, but still plenty to like - Big City Blues from Hartlepool's premier wordsmith Paul D. Brazill

More awaits me on the TBR pile from Eddy Cook, Paul D. Brazill, Emma Viskic, Dietrich Kalteis, Michael Pool, Graham Smith and Mark Dawson.

More useless trivia......

12 reads - 9 different authors, plus an anthology of short stories

6 of the 9 were new-to-me authors....... Graham Smith, Emma Viskic, J. R. Lindermuth, Eddy Cook, Mark Dawson and Phil Stanford

Dietrich Kalteis, Paul D. Brazill and Martin Holmen have been read and enjoyed before.

From the short story collection there were contributions from some familiar faces for me....Kalteis, Eryk Pruitt, Preston Lang, Sarah M. Chen and others, as well as an introduction to some newbies including the editor Michael Pool himself

Gender analysis - 8 male authors, 1 female....... a continuing pattern of unhealthy gender bias in my reading. The anthology of shorts was probably a 12 vs 6 split between genders, male dominated.

I believe of the 9 authors I read, 1 is Canadian, 1 is Australian, 1 is Swedish, 1 hails from Scotland, 2 are English, and 3 hail from the US.

10 of the 12 were fiction reads - 7 novels and 1 novellas, 1 collection of linked short stories and an anthology of the same.

2 were non-fiction - Phil Stanford's Rose City Vice and Eddy Cook's Faces, Places and Pain.

No old stuff enjoyed - all 12 were published this decade -  6 from this year, 3 from 2016 and 1 from each of 2013, 2014 and 2015.

3 of the 12 books were pre-owned/purchased, though in a couple of cases I think I received another copy of one from the publisher and one from the author.
4 of the 12 came via the publisher, 1 of which I had also accessed via Net Galley.
I received 3 of them courtesy of the author, 1 of which was a giveaway when signing up to his website newsletter.
1 book came via Edelweiss - Above the Treeline early reviewers site and the short story copy anthology was kindly provided by the editor.


Favourite cover? Martin Holmen's Down For the Count





Second favourite - Phil Stanford's Rose City Vice







My reads were this long - 322 - 318 - 118 - 226 - 222 - 272 - 104 - 30 - 304 - 97 - 134 - 232

Total page count =  2379 (1249 in August).......over 1100 pages up on the previous month.

8 were Kindle reads, 3 were paperbacks, 1 was a PDF

1 < 50,
1 between 51 < 100,
3 between 101 < 200,
4 between 201 < 300,
3 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages

Graham Smith's Watching the Bodies was the longest read at 322 pages.

Eddy Cook's Faces, Places and Pain - the shortest at just 30 pages.





Wednesday, 18 October 2017

PAUL D. BRAZILL - A CASE OF NOIR (2014)


Synopsis/blurb….

In snow smothered Warsaw, Luke Case, a boozy English hack with a dark secret, starts a dangerous affair with a gangster’s wife.

Case escapes to the sweltering Spanish heat where he meets a colourful cast of characters, including a mysterious torch singer and a former East End villain with a criminal business proposition.

In stormy Toulouse, he encounters a blast from the past that is positively seismic which forces him to return to England and confront his past.

A Case of Noir is a strong shot of international noir from Paul D. Brazill.

My second encounter with author Paul D. Brazill in the month of September and a slightly more agreeable reading experience for me this time around.

A Case of Noir collects five previously published Luke Case stories; Red Esperanto, Death on a Hot Afternoon, The Kelly Affair, The Big Rain and One of Those Days in England.

In Red Esperanto, our man is in Warsaw – drinking – a lot of drinking and spending a bit of time with some ladies – the wrong ladies and there’s a consequence. Our player gets played and gets to sample Polish hospital food.

Death on a Hot Afternoon – Wintery Warsaw was too hot for Luke, so he’s now decamped to 42 degree Madrid and earning a few quid as a journalist. Flat sharing with Nathan Jones, another man with secrets, trying to escape from his past. The problem is you can never run far enough or fast enough.

The Kelly Affair – From Madrid to Granada. We discover a bit more about Luke’s past and why he’s on the lam, and we run into an old friend from Madrid, before receiving a warning.

The Big Rain – Toulouse and still working as a journalist, encountering a friend (?) from the Warsaw days while Lena, our patricide-killer from Madrid is still on the scene. Chickens come home to roost, as events from the past eventually catch up with us and Father Joseph Black, the man we double-crossed and left face down in the dirt, enters stage left. A friend to the rescue - Pedro, but at a price.  

One of Those Days in England – Cambridge – to settle a debt, there’s a writer needs killing. Mission accomplished and the new passport and ID as promised.

‘The names a bit weird, isn’t it? I’m not too happy about being named after a South American country. There are sure to be jokes about coffee and nuts.’ 
Pedro shrugged. ‘Take it or leave it.’ 
‘Oh, I’ll take it. What’s my occupation supposed to be.’
‘An English teacher. EFL. Like your old friend Sean Bradley.’ 
‘Ha! EFL teaching. The underachiever’s paradise. Suits me. Where is my first job?’ ……..
‘Poland? Well, at least it’s not Warsaw,’ I said. 'The city’s name sounds like a winning round at Scrabble.’ …….

‘What the hell’ I thought. I had a new name, a new life and a brown envelope full of money. What could possibly go wrong? I sipped my drink and at last let a warm sea of expectation enfold me entirely.



A fantastic set, enjoyable enough on their own but collectively the sum is much greater than the individual parts. A road trip around Europe, a beating, a death, drinks and drugs, hitting on more bars and broads than is sensible, and a hit, culminating in a slightly improbable outcome.

I mean a deviant,booze-soaked, sex-mad, criminal type working as an  English Foreign Language teacher in Poland? I just don't buy it!

4.5 from 5

I bought an earlier incarnation of the collection previously as well as having ponied up for the individual installments when they were released as stand-alones, maybe 5 years ago. I received an ARC of the current fancy new edition from Near to the Knuckle courtesy of the author.

Mr Brazill has featured on the blog before, more than once.…. Kill Me Quick, The Last Laugh13 Shots of NoirGuns of Brixton and Big City Blues

His website is here.
He has a Facebook presence here and here and is on Twitter@PaulDBrazill

Read in September, 2017
Published - 2014 (new edition 2017)
Page count - 134
Source - pre-owned (plus review copy from author)
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

2 BY MIKE MINER



A couple more from the digital stacks on the Kindle this week with 2 from Mike Miner.

I bought one in 2014 and the other one of these in 2015 and kind of forgot about them afterwards. (Note to self, trying reading some of the previously stock-piled books instead of focussing on new stuff all the time!) 

I can’t find an author website but he does have a Twitter profile, which is used infrequently - @skyeminer

Both Prodigal Sons and The Immortal Game came out in 2014 in addition to Everything She Knows. His latest, Hurt Hawks dropped in 2015.

In addition, some of his short stories have appeared in a few anthologies – ThugLit, Protectors and Pulp Ink.

Anyone compared to Elmore Leonard or Charles Willeford need checking out in my opinion!

Prodigal Sons (2014)

Matthew Flanagan is living the American dream. A plum job at an ad agency. A hot wife. A beautiful home in Southern California. But something is eating him up inside and a nasty drinking habit is about to cost him everything. After his life finally collapses around him, Matthew disappears to Vegas with a girl he barely knows. When word reaches the Flanagan clan back in Connecticut, Matthew's brothers Mark and Luke are sent on a mission to find their brother and bring him home. It's a longer and darker journey than either of them planned on. At turns funny and moving, Prodigal Sons is a hard-boiled American odyssey. A family saga with the heart of a crime novel.

"The work of an extravagantly talented writer, Prodigal Sons is one of the best debut novels I have ever read.” --Sterling Watson, author of Suitcase City, Fighting in the Shade, and Sweet Dream Baby.

"Miner’s wicked electric chair humor calls to mind the best of Elmore Leonard and Charles Willeford." -- Patrick Michael Finn, author of From the Darkness Right Under Our Feet and A Martyr for Suzy Kosasovich.

The Immortal Game (2014)


When mobster Richard "Red" Scarlotti's son goes missing, Dylan Thomas Lonagan, a private detective with truckloads of baggage, is hired to find him, and lands himself in the middle of a mob war. As two crime families try to settle old scores, Lonagan is forced to ally himself with Red's hitman brother, Whitey, a hard nut with a soft side and a secret of his own. Together, Lonagan and Whitey make a dangerous, desperate team. Searching to find the missing boy, they dodge bullets from cold-blooded assassins and daggers from the women they love, only to discover that, sometimes, the two are one in the same.

In the end, these dirty saints will learn that the road to Heaven is paved with bloody hands and bad intentions.


DAVID DELEE - WHOSE GREATER GOOD (2012)


Synopsis/blurb....

Dawson has seen miscarriages of justice before—firsthand, and it cost him his family—so when Kristine Seleski tells him about the man who brutally beat and raped her daughter, Amy, and how the district attorney’s office suddenly refused to prosecute the case, Dawson doesn’t hesitate to help. 

But, while trying to track down Amy’s assailant, what Dawson discovers makes his blood run cold. Refusing to accept the compromises the legal system is willing to settle for, Dawson sets in motion his own plan for justice, one that will be bloody and violent…and absolute.

Another short read from David DeLee after enjoying his Cop Shot a few years ago.

40 pages long and also including the opening chapter to his full length novel Fatal Destiny, which features his bounty hunter Grace deHaviland.

Whose Greater Good is a tale of a vigilantism. A girl was attacked and viciously raped. The cops secured the evidence and the case was a slam-dunk shoe-in, at which point the powers that be had it dropped. The girl’s mother is livid and wants justice, in whatever form she can get it.

Cue hiring Dawson. We don’t get to know too much about him, other than the word “enigma.” He gets the case file from the Assistant DA and the cop whose case it was.  Our rapist is wanted as a witness to drop the dime on a bigger fish that the Feds want to fry and is in witness protection.

Dawson goes on the hunt.

Best story enjoy? No.

Amazing dialogue and jaw-dropping prose? No, but enough to entertain and satisfy for an hour’s reading. I was keen to see how it all worked out and I wasn’t at any point wanting to be reading anything else.

Short and sharp – job done. And enough to have me contemplating reading something longer by the author at some point. The intro to Fatal Destiny wasn't bad, so I'll maybe make the leap with that one.

3.5 from 5

Thought on Cop Shot, read back in 2014 are here.

David DeLee has his website here.
He's on Twitter@Daviddelee

Read in October, 2017
Published – 2012
Page count – 40
Source – FREE via InstaFreebie
Format - Kindle


Sunday, 15 October 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH MARTIN HOLMEN (2017)

Martin Holmen, Swedish author of the Harry Kvist trilogy - Clinch, Down For the Count and the yet-to-be published Slugger answers a few questions for me.


Down For the Count featured on the blog yesterday - link here.

Clinch was enjoyed a year ago - thoughts here.


This is the second time Martin has graced the blog with his presence having previously submitted to a bit of gentle questioning, last September.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH MARTIN HOLMEN (September, 2016)

Martin's books are published by Pushkin Vertigo, thanks are in order to Tabitha Pelly for setting this up for me.





I've just read the second Harry Kvist book and I'm assuming the third
in the trilogy, SLUGGER is done and dusted. Without any spoilers, is
Harry's tale at an end or can we but hope for a fourth?

This is the wild finish and me and Harry are going out guns blazing.

I was quite saddened by the ending of DOWN FOR THE COUNT, were you
ever tempted to offer a different outcome? (I'm trying to skirt around
giving too much away.)

There are basically two true noir endings and I think this is the happy one.


Did you have to do a lot more research for the second and third books,
or had your efforts with CLINCH, given you sufficient background and
detail to provide a realistic portrait of Sweden in the early 30s?

Not as much no, but you still have to put in a lot of hours.

Do you have a favourite out of the Kvist books? Which and why? Is
there one you would try and press upon a new reader more than the
others?

I really do like the first one, since it was my debut but people seems to like the second one better, and from what I can tell, the third one even more. But that's me, always doing it the other way around.

What's the next writing project on the horizon? How is it going?

Doing something contemporary now. Sort of an Thelma & Louise road trip novel. It is going to something completely different, for me, and the readers.

The last five books you've read?

My new year’s promise was to read nothing but female writers so that is what I'm doing. Mostly Swedish ones.

Last film you watched that rocked you?

Manchester by the Sea. Great script, excellent acting.

Any must watch TV in the Holmen household?

Don't have a TV but I tend to watch stuff with some sort of a historical angle, anything from Taboo to Peaky Blinders. Gonna watch The Deuce tonight.

If I check back in a couple of year's time what are your hopes for the writing?

I want to write a bestseller so I can pursue some of my other childhood dreams, like being a truck driver, run away with a circus or becoming a stuntman. I'm far from done.

------------
My thanks to Martin Holmen for his time.

MARTIN HOLMEN - DOWN FOR THE COUNT (2017)


Synopsis/blurb......

The second hard-hitting Harry Kvist thriller - fresh out of prison, Harry is determined to avenge a friend's murder, and expose a police cover-up protecting people in high places...

Harry Kvist walks out the gates of Langholmen jail into the biting Stockholm winter of 1935. He has nothing to his name but a fiercely burning hope: that he can leave behind his old existance of gutter brawls, bruised fists and broke bones.

But the city has other ideas. Nazis are spreading their poison on the freezing streets, and one of Kvist's oldest friends has been murdered. Before he can leave Stockholm's underworld for good, he must track down the killer. As Kvist uncovers a trail of blood leading to the highest echelons of Swedish society, the former boxer finds himself in a fight to the death with his most dangerous opponent yet.

Born in 1974, Martin Holmén studied history, and now teaches at a Stockholm secondary school. Down for the Count is the second thriller in The Stockholm Trilogy, following on from Clinch. The trilogy will be completed with Slugger published by Pushkin Vertigo in 2018.

Martin Holmen's debut Clinch was an enjoyable read a year or so ago and while I wouldn't necessarily claim early 30s Sweden as a preferred setting for my reading, there is something about Holmen's writing that draws you in – his depiction of the streets, the cold, the people - make you feel like you’re present. I’m sure I had to put an extra layer of clothes on, when I read this one.

Harry Kvist, our main man gets released from prison and has grand plans for the future. His lover's release date is a week after his and he has things to arrange, a suit and a job for the lad and he needs to make his flat a bit more presentable. Lundin, his landlord and friend will help as usual, financing Harry, while meticulously jotting down the figures and the scale of Harry's debt in his notebook. Harry can help out with his undertaking business and work the debt off. A business opportunity has arisen and it merits some consideration. A cigar shop is up for sale and Harry has first refusal. Kvist the businessman?

In the meantime, a promise needs to be kept. His oldest friend Beda was dying of cancer and wrote to Harry asking him to look out for her deaf mute son, Petrus. Beda looked out for Harry and never judged him for his sexuality or his mistakes.

In a senseless crime, Petrus has murdered his mother and has been carted off to prison. Case closed, no-one really cares. Except Harry. Why would he do that?

I really like Harry as a character. His heart and the sense of regret and loss he still feels over his family. His wife and daughter, a long-time gone to the States and Harry, still feeling some guilt over his failure to join them. His refusal to deny his sexuality at a time when homosexuality is a crime. I admire his loyalty, his doggedness and street-smarts as opposed to intelligence, his physicality and usefulness with his fists, which present him as an intimidating figure at times. He follows where his
nose goes and warnings and threats, while acknowledged don't deter him from his task.

Down for the Count is a slow-burner of a book. Progress in the investigation is ponderous at times and other events in Harry’s life figure prominently. Harry enlists, Beda’s estranged daughter in the investigation. Presenting as a married couple they track down Petrus’s current whereabouts. In the background, he’s still making plans for his future, while attempting to make some level of amends for the abandonment of his family.

With Harry and Elin asking questions, alarm bells start ringing and a continuing conspiracy to protect a secret in the highest ranks of Swedish society needs some affirmative action. The hunters have become the hunted. Holmen builds the tension slowly, so that when events do escalate, it’s a race to the finish.

A helluva lot to like - setting, mystery, main character, resolution and Harry’s aftermath. I look forward to Harry’s return in the climax to the trilogy – Slugger.


Thoughts on the first in the series, Clinch are here.

4.5 from 5

Read in September, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 304
Source – review copy from publisher – Pushkin Vertigo (thanks Tabitha)
Format - paperback





Friday, 13 October 2017

SEPTEMBER 2017 - FILMS AND TV

A cracking month's viewing, with some decent TV films and not one, not two, but three trips to the cinema in the month....

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams (2017)
More my son's thing than mine, so I only stuck with this for one episode and stuck my head in my book when the rest of the family watched a few of these. I never was a massive fan of Sci-Fi either in book or film to be honest.

From Wikipedia....

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, or simply Electric Dreams, is a British-American science fiction television anthology series based on the works of Philip K. Dick. The series premiered on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom on 17 September 2017. It consists of ten standalone episodes based on Dick's work, written by British and American writers. In the United States, the series will be broadcast on Amazon Video. In Canada, it will be broadcast on Bravo.


Criminal Activities (2015)
Enjoyable small screen viewing of a recent crime film. John Travolta is a Mafia don and four hapless school friends have made the mistake of borrowing some money from him. Or have they? When they can't pay him back, they are forced into a kidnapping plot to clear the debt. A few twists and turns, tense, violent, a few scenes of torture and my kind of film.

From IMDB....

Four young men make a risky investment together that puts them in trouble with the mob.


Good People (2014)
Kate Hudson and James Franco cone into some ill-gotten gains when their lodger dies and they discover a stash of cash amongst his possessions. Deciding to keep it may cost them dear in the end. Another enjoyable film, pacey and with a fair bit of action-cum-violence. I quite like Franco as an actor. This was the grittiest role I've seen Hudson in and she was pretty good as well. Tom Wilkinson is always good to watch. I may have the Marcus Sakey book from which this was drawn somewhere in the book stash.

From Wikipedia....

Good People (released in some countries as Getaway 2) is a 2013 American thriller action film directed by Henrik Ruben Genz and written by Kelly Masterson, based on Marcus Sakey's 2008 novel of same name. The film stars James Franco, Kate Hudson, Omar Sy, Tom Wilkinson, and Sam Spruell and tells the story of an American couple, Tom and Anna Wright, living in London who fall into severe debt while renovating their family’s home. The film was released in select theaters and on demand on 26 September 2014.


The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965)
Based on one of John LeCarre's early Smiley novels and starring Richard Burton, this showed up on my TCM channel a month or two ago. My wife found it very slow, but I quite liked it. I'm minded to dig out some of my LeCarre books for a read. Richard Burton was a good looking bugger.

From IMDB....

British agent Alec Leamas refuses to come in from the Cold War during the 1960s, choosing to face another mission, which may prove to be his final one.


Pride (2014)
Recommended to me by a couple of people - Alis Hawkins and Paul D. Brazill - thank you both. It aired on TV recently. I watched with my better half and we both found it amazing...funny, sad, memorable, touching and ultimately uplifting. Based on fact and actual events surrounding the 80s Miner's Strike and a group of unlikely supporters from the LGBT community in London. Quality cast and some tremendous acting.

From Wikipedia....

Pride is a 2014 British LGBT-related historical comedy-drama film written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus. It was screened as part of the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Queer Palm award. Writer Stephen Beresford said a stage musical adaptation involving director Matthew Warchus is being planned.

The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and for the BAFTA for Best British Film, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Imelda Staunton and for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.


It (2017)
Cinema trip number one with the wife and two daughter's and one of the boyfriends. I really liked it. More about growing up and loyalty and friendship than a scary movie in my opinion. Reminded me a bit of Stand By Me - another film with Stephen King's prose as the source material. Not tempted to re-read the book, though I did think it was well worth the admission fee. The clown was pretty disgusting, but no nightmares ensued!

From Google....

Seven young outcasts in Derry, Maine, are about to face their worst nightmare -- an ancient, shape-shifting evil that emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the town's children. Banding together over the course of one horrifying summer, the friends must overcome their own personal fears to battle the murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
Cinema trip number two, just me and the wife and some popcorn on a Saturday morning. I missed the first Kingsman film and while I enjoyed this, it didn't have me rushing to correct that state of affairs. There's a lot of comedy on display amidst the spy games and antics. Some bits funny, some a bit cringey, but it beat doing anything else on a Saturday am (shopping, chores, cutting the grass). Channing Tatum, Colin Firth and one of the Bridges brothers feature, but I thought Julianne Moore was the pick of the bunch.

From Wikipedia....

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a 2017 action spy comedy film produced and directed by Matthew Vaughn and written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman. It is a sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), which is based on the comic book series Kingsman, created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar. The film features Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Edward Holcroft, Sophie Cookson, and Hanna Alström reprising their roles from the first film, with Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Elton John, Channing Tatum, and Jeff Bridges joining the cast. The plot follows the members of Kingsman needing to team up with their American counterpart, Statesman, after the world is held hostage by a new threat.

The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017)

Now I've heard of Ryan Reynolds but couldn't put a face to the name until this one opened. Samuel L. Jackson is instantly recognisable. Another comedy-action thriller about a hitman......wait for it..........who needs a bodyguard. I did like this one and wasn't asking for my money back, though Jackson's OTT laugh can grate after a while. 

From Google...........

The world's top protection agent is called upon to guard the life of his mortal enemy, one of the world's most notorious hit men. The relentless bodyguard and manipulative assassin have been on the opposite end of the bullet for years and are thrown together for a wildly outrageous 24 hours. During their journey from England to the Hague, they encounter high-speed car chases, outlandish boat escapades and a merciless Eastern European dictator who is out for blood.