Friday, 16 March 2018



Keller, an introspective fellow, was always your basic Urban Lonely Guy. He collects stamps. He used to have a dog, until the dog walker walked off with him. Then he soldiered on alone.
It's his profession that sets him apart. He's a hit man. He kills strangers for a living.

And he's a Guilty Pleasure for an ever-increasing number of readers. "I don't think I ought to like Keller," readers tell me. "But I can't help myself..."

In the fourth Keller novel, HIT AND RUN, Keller's whole life in New York came to an abrupt end; by the time he'd sorted things out, he was married and living in New Orleans, with a kid on the way. And now, for the first time since the substance hit the fan, he's back in New York—once his home, and now the most dangerous place on the planet for him. And his job is impossible. He has to break into a monastery in the middle of Murray Hill and kill the abbott.

Lots of luck, Keller...

This edition of KELLER'S HOMECOMING (which was incorporated into the book Hit Me) includes as a bonus the opening sequence of another Keller adventure, KELLER'S DESIGNATED HITTER.

BOOM! Block nails it again.   

Keller’s back on New York soil and constantly looking over his shoulder. Events in a cliff-hanger episode previously enjoyed, but as yet unexplored in the full-length Keller novel – Hit and Run saw New York too hot to handle for our loveable assassin. His contract is to dispose of a man of the cloth, one who is tightly cocooned in a monastery.  

There’s a few thrills along the way as Keller chances revisiting an old haunt, where the staff remember him, seating him at the same table and serving up his usual meal – slightly worrying as he already feels as if he is walking around with a big target on his back. We walk by our old apartment and visit a stamp auction, getting a bit of an education on long-expired states and countries. Who would have thought philately could be so interesting?

We have a touch of the absurd where Keller wrangles a meeting in a sauna with our target. Instant strangulation and a hasty escape clad in just a towel isn’t feasible. Again our man, eventually solves a difficult conundrum.

I think Lawrence Block could entertain me with his shopping list.

4.5 from 5

Read in February, 2018
Published – 2011
Page count – 70
Source – Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 15 March 2018


Margot Kinberg, author of Past Tense (on the blog yesterday) has a new novel out today - Downfall.

Downfall is available from AMAZON  - UK  - US  -  CANADA 

Margot was kind enough to submit to a bit of gentle questioning from me.....

Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

The writing’s not full time (although I hope someday it will be). By day, I’m a hardworking nerd egghead Associate Professor at my university. I’ve been in higher education for most of my career and taught at large and small schools in three different parts of the US. Does that sound too much like a job application?  By night, though, I’m a writing ninja.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

Well, I fibbed a bit. I usually don’t write at night unless I get a real brainstorm. I’m more of a morning person, so I write early in the morning. I’m the one with the home office light on long before the first joggers and dog-walkers get going. I don’t always have a set number of minutes or hours that I write, because that depends on my ‘day job’ obligations for the day. But I generally try to get in an hour or two of writing during a working day. When I’m not teaching, it’s much more.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I’m more of a plotter. Since I write crime fiction, my stories generally have at least one victim. I start with that, and then work out who that person was and why anyone would want that person dead. The story then builds from there.

That’s not to say, though, that I don’t add things in as I go along. More than once, I’ve found myself adding in characters or events as the story evolved. I think that’s the way real life is: you start with a plan for your life, or the next few months or years of it, and things happen as you go along.

Are there any subjects off limits?

That’s an interesting question. My first thought is that it’s not so much a matter of subject as it is the way the topic is handled. For instance, an author can write about rape or domestic abuse without it becoming ‘torture porn.’

That said, though, I don’t write stories in which animals are killed or brutally treated. And I don’t write stories in which young children are treated brutally. I know that there are authors who can write effectively about those topics. I’m not one of them.
I’ve recently finished your third Joel Williams book – Past Tense (very enjoyable by the way) and I understand you have the fourth due shortly – Downfall – can you pimp Downfall to me in 50 words or less?

Thanks for the kind words – so glad you enjoyed Past Tense.  In Downfall, Joel Williams and two research colleagues do a study of Second Chance, a for-profit alternative school program in Philadelphia. In the process, they uncover some ugly things, including the death of one of Second Chance’s students. Just how far will someone go to cover up the truth?

How long did Downfall take from the seed of your imagination to this point in time?  Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way? Did it turn out how you imagined?

Downfall actually has a bit of a weird history. I wrote the first draft of it about five years ago.  But that draft was all wrong and had a lot of problems with it. So, it languished in the ‘I’ll get back to it’ file for quite some time. In the meantime, I wrote Past Tense. Last year, I got the draft of Downfall out again, shook the dust off, and re-wrote it. So, although it’s the fourth published Joel Williams novel, it’s actually the third one I wrote. It’s a bit like the Beatles’ Let it Be and Abbey Road. It didn’t turn out the way I first envisioned it, but that’s for the better.

Without any spoilers, is that Joel’s adventures done and dusted or is there more in store for him and your readers in the future? Any writing plans for a non-Williams book?

I’m not quite done with Joel Williams – or, should I say, he’s not quite done with me. I have ideas for a couple of Williams novels. They’re just in the ‘what if” stage, so nothing really planned out and written yet. But I’m thinking...

As for other writing, I’ve two novels in the works at the present. Both are (at least at the moment) standalones. One features a character from B-Very Flat and follows her story. The other is completely different, with no connection to the Joel Williams series.

You have four Joel Williams' books now to your name. Is there one of your books you are more proud of than the others? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader?

Hmm...that’s an interesting question. It’s a bit like being asked which of your children you love most. I’d say either Past Tense or Downfall (although I am proud of the other two). The reason is that I think I’ve learned a few things as I’ve worked on the series. I think the more recent novels are richer – at least I hope they are! It wouldn’t say much for me if I didn’t get any better at writing over time.

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

I’d have to say it was when I read a really positive, supportive review of B-Very Flat from someone who had no reason (not a family member, etc..) to be nice about the book. What was especially meaningful about that was that the review made it clear that I’d made a sort of connection with that reader. It sounds sappy, I know, but I really do like connecting with and communicating with readers. I love it when people who read my work ‘get’ the points I’m trying to make.

With regards to your earlier work – one title remains elusive – Publish or Perish, what’s the story with this one? I understand B-Very Flat is readily available.

It is, and so is Past Tense. The story is all about the world of publishing. To make a long, frustrating story short, I was somewhat naïve when I started trying to get my writing out there. So, I agreed to work with publishers who, as it turned out, did not have my interests as any kind of priority. After a long time, no promo or other help from those publishers, and constant reminders that I would only get support if I paid extra – a lot extra – for it, I decided to get my rights back. I was successful with B-Very Flat. It hasn’t happened yet with Publish or Perish. I’m hoping that will change.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

I’d hardly call them gems! I’m working slowly on a short story collection. Some are originals, and some are expansions of some of the flash fiction stuff I’ve put up on my blog. I don’t know when the project will see the light of day. I do know it’s very good for my writing skills to do the short story format. I like stretching those writing muscles.

What’s the current project in progress?

I’m working on two novels at the moment, both (for now) standalones. One continues the story of Patricia Stanley, one of the characters from B-Very Flat. I’m picking up with her life a few years after the events of B-Very Flat. The other is unrelated at all to the Joel Williams novels. It’s an expansion of a flash fiction story I wrote. The characters wouldn’t leave me alone, so I’m working on that one, too. We’ll see how each goes.

What’s the best thing about writing?

The best thing about writing is getting to tell the stories that I have inside. They don’t really give me peace unless I do. I love sharing those stories. That’s what makes writing a joy.  Besides, how many people do you know who get paid for making stuff up – and aren’t later indicted for it? Plus, there is no dress code for writing.

The worst? 

Writing takes a toll, both physical and mental. It takes a lot of physical discipline to keep writing, even when you simply don’t want to that day. But the fact is, you don’t get it done unless you sit your hind end in that chair and do it. It also takes a lot of mental discipline to focus on getting better and keeping your optimism. That’s especially true when there’s a negative review, or when you notice a stupid mistake you’ve made, or.... or... But you have to let it go and keep writing.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Not to play coy, but a few of the books I’ve been reading are candidates for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award For Best Crime Novel. So I’m waiting until the lists are announced to talk about them. But I’ve also been reading other things. For instance, there’s Erin Moore’s That’s Not English, a really interesting discussion of the way the same language is used so differently in the UK and the US. It’s all bound up in history and culture, and I find that fascinating. And there’s Paddy Richardson’s Through the Lonesome Dark. Admittedly, I read that one a few months ago, but can’t resist the chance to plug it. It’s a powerful historical novel that takes place just before and during World War I.  Oh, and folks, if you haven’t read Sarah Ward’s D.C. Connie Childs novels, please do so. You won’t regret it.

Who do you read and enjoy?

Honestly, I don’t have just one, or even a few, particular authors to list. My main reading focus is crime fiction, but that’s such a broad genre that it’s impossible to choose just a few authors. I will say, though, that I’m (not so patiently) waiting for Angela Savage to give us a new Jayne Keeney novel (a-hem, Dr. Savage!). I’m also trying to catch up with Mark Douglas-Home’s work, among a few other authors I’ve discovered in the past few years. The trouble is, there are so many talented authors out there, that it’s very hard to focus on just one or a few.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

I admire a lot of authors and their books, so this isn’t an easy question to answer. Let me approach it this way.  I wish I had half the talent of the authors I admire most. And there’s a list of them.  I’d love to be able to write even a quarter as well as they do. I know, not a real answer to your question, is it? But it’s my honest response.
Favourite activity when not working or writing?

 I love music. And I’m fairly eclectic in my tastes. So, a ‘music break’ is always welcome. I used to play, myself, but I haven’t done that in a while. Still, I love listening, singing, going to a once-in-a-while concert, and so on.

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

Hmm....most recently it was was Joe Wright’s The Darkest Hour. I thought Gary Oldman did a fine job as Churchill, and the rest of the cast were up to their roles, too. It’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

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

I’m not an addict, really. I do watch TV, and have been catching up (thank you, Netflix) on a few series like Peaky Blinders and Hinterland/Y Gwyll that I enjoy. But I wouldn’t honestly say there’s ‘must watch’ TV around here. Oh, wait, there was that Super Bowl mania last month. But the Philadelphia Eagles were in the game (and won). So there really was no choice...

In a couple of years’ time…

...I would love to have my Joel Williams series really established and be working on my next series. I don’t know how well that will go, but I would love to be able to write full time.

Thanks, Col, for hosting me!

Many thanks to Margot for her time.

You can catch up with Margot Kinberg at the following haunts.

Facebook page
Google plus

Wednesday, 14 March 2018



A long-buried set of remains…a decades-old mystery

Past and present meet on the quiet campus of Tilton University when construction workers unearth a set of unidentified bones.

For former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams, it’s a typical Final Exams week – until a set of bones is discovered on a construction site...

When the remains are linked to a missing person case from 1974, Williams and the Tilton, Pennsylvania police go back to the past. And they uncover some truths that have been kept hidden for a long time.

How much do people really need to know?

It’s 1974, and twenty-year-old Bryan Roades is swept up in the excitement of the decade. He’s a reporter for the Tilton University newspaper, The Real Story, and is determined to have a career as an investigative journalist, just like his idols, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. He plans to start with an exposé article about life on the campus of Tilton University. But does everything need to be exposed? And what are the consequences for people whose lives could be turned upside down if their stories are printed? As it turns out, Bryan’s ambition carries a very high price. And someone is determined not to let the truth out.

A bit of a change of pace for my first time around the block with Margot Kinberg and her part-time sleuth Joel Williams.

No violence, no real profanity, no punch-ups or fisticuffs - on the face of it not my typical kind of book. However, I really enjoyed it and it made an interesting and enjoyable change for me.

Human remains are discovered on Tilton University campus and after a bit of investigation into old missing person reports, a provisional ID is confirmed - Bryan Roades - a student and cub reporter for the University paper.
We travel back in time trying to unearth reasons why anyone could have wished Bryan harm, re-awakening buried memories in family, friends and an old lover. 

I did like how the past was slowly revealed through police interviews with witnesses and the unearthing of memories stored in an attic with Bryan's sister. With the story Bryan was working on and facets of his personal life revealed there are several suspects for his murder. A second murder of one of the witnesses interviewed, indicates that the guilty party is panicked and that his or her secret was in danger of discovery.  

I liked the pair of lead detectives investigating the case Donna Crandall and Ron Zuniga. They worked well together as a team, despite this being their first big case together - one of them is a newbie. I was kind of surprised at the limited involvement of Williams in the mystery. His presence is crucial, but the investigation doesn't revolve around him which was entirely plausible. His inquisitive nature and his ex-cop's nose does prove key.

Kinberg also effectively portrays life on campus, albeit one that is kind of on a wind down with it being Finals Week, followed by the summer break. There's resentment and jealousy apparent between some colleagues as well as an inflated ego or two - much like workplaces all over I imagine.

I did kind of get a feel for who the guilty party was quite early in the book and despite other rationales and scenarios and potential suspects paraded a little bit later on, I stuck with my initial hunch which was correct. Guessing the guilty didn't mar my enjoyment, it kind of offered me some affirmation of my detective skills.

Lots to like and enjoy. Best book ever - no, but I was fully immersed in the story and at over 400 pages long it was a fairly quick read.

4 from 5

Margot Kinberg is the author of two previous Joel Williams books - Publish or Perish and B-Very Flat. Her latest and the fourth in the series - Downfall - drops tomorrow. 
I have Downfall on pre-order and fully intend to read more from the series.    

Margot's website/blog is here 
Catch her on Twitter @mkinberg

Read in February, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count - 428
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018


A couple from Marshall Karp this week.

I have a habit of spotting books I like the sound of, buying them and then never actually getting around to reading them. Marshall Karp is another author whose books have fallen between the cracks in the collection.

Karp went on to write another three in this series as well as collaborating with James Patterson on the NYPD Red series of books.

I may have bought the third in this series - Flipping Out, but because I've not finished cataloging my collection yet (I'll get back to it one day), I'm not sure. Two should do me for now anyway!

The Rabbit Factory (2006)

The hilarious and suspenseful introduction of Detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs.

Welcome to Familyland, an offshoot of Lamaar Studios. Once a small, Southern California animation house, it has grown into an entertainment conglomerate encompassing movies, television, music, video games, and a sprawling theme park.

When an actor portraying Familyland's beloved mascot, Rambunctious Rabbit, is brutally murdered on park grounds, Lamaar executives are worried that the idyllic image of '50s America represented in Familyland will be shattered. They ask Mike Lomax and his partner Terry Biggs, the LAPD detectives assigned to solve the case, to keep the circumstances surrounding the death of their mascot quiet.

When a second Lamaar employee is killed, Lomax and Biggs uncover a conspiracy to destroy Familyland and settle an unknown vendetta. Still under pressure to keep the case away from the public eye, the detectives are met with a third murder - and an outrageous demand: Anyone who associates with Lamaar - employees, customers, anyone - will be killed.

Bringing a fresh duo of cops to the thriller set, The Rabbit Factory is both suspenseful and satiric, a taut mystery wrapped in sharp, comedic prose.

Blood Thirsty (2007)

It's a bloodthirsty town, Hollywood. No matter how popular you are, there's always someone who'd be happier if you were dead. And in some cases, you can be such a bastard, everyone would be happier if you were dead.

Barry Gerber, one of the most hated men in Hollywood, is a no-show for a red carpet event. The next morning he turns up dead, killed in such a bizarre way that neither Detectives Mike Lomax nor Terry Biggs nor anyone in Forensics has ever seen anything like it before. Two days later, the prime suspect - another despised show-business bad boy - is found murdered in the same sadistic manner.

The list of suspects then becomes as long as the credits in a summer blockbuster. Everyone hated the murdered men. Biggs jokes that this could be an elaborate public service effort to make Hollywood a better place to live and work. But he and Lomax soon find that all jokes are off as they wade through a daunting number of leads to uncover who will be the next victim. What they stumble upon is a motive far more primal than they had ever imagined.

Fast-paced, razor-sharp, and intensely funny, Bloodthirsty reunites Lomax and Biggs - the mystery genre's new dynamic duo.

Monday, 12 March 2018



In this brand-new novella, Keller, everyone’s favorite assassin for hire, is Chicago-bound on Amtrak's City of New Orleans, ready to do what he does best.

But it’s complicated. Usually there’s someone ready to point him toward the target. Or he’ll have a photo, say. Or, bare minimum, a name and address.

Not this time. When he gets to Baker’s Bluff, Illinois, he’ll have to play private detective before he can get down to business.

Well, okay. He knows how it works. So before he boards his train, before he even packs his suitcase, Keller buys a fedora.

Keller, a faithful husband, doting father, and dedicated philatelist, has become a guilty pleasure for an increasing number of readers. They don’t think they should like the guy—but they just can’t help themselves...

The Block and Keller double act again with plenty of the mundane included.  Mundane in Block’s hands is entertaining and amusing as opposed to dull and dreary. We have a bit of hat-buying, a discussion or two on stamp collecting – Keller’s hobby, a bit of home life background – when he’s not killing people Keller has a normal life as a husband and father and a house renovator-cum-painter and decorator and a few train journeys to Baker’s Bluff.

The train journey’s and possibly the hat-buying are job related, Keller’s assignment is to kill a cheating wife’s boyfriend. Only thing is the cuckolded husband doesn’t know who the other man in his wife’s life is. Keller’s playing PI, hence the fedora. A bit of a stakeout ensues and one thing Keller’s sure of is that it isn’t the grocery boy who got a $2 tip and a quick five-knuckle shuffle with a happy ending in the car park of the supermarket for his helpfulness in loading up the lady’s groceries.

Keller – without spoilers - gets his man, doesn’t he always. But our tale has a twist and a bloody sting in the tale. The lady who isn’t a lady at all is still hungry for men and still playing the field. Keller again identifies the culprit and having compromised himself by ending up drinking with the guy, employs a bit of lateral thinking and subterfuge to ensure the deed gets done. 

No happy endings for anyone really – apart from Dot and Keller – who won’t be refunding any money.

4.5 from 5

Read in February, 2018
Published – 2016
Page count – 96
Source – Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Sunday, 11 March 2018



 "You know I wouldn't be calling if it wasn't life and death ..."

Jimmy Cobb is a changed man, working the door at a Newcastle gay bar, minding both his alcohol intake and his temper. He has friends. He's putting down roots. But when a routine restraint turns bloody, he has no choice but to get out of town.

Sean Farrell hasn't changed a bit. He's been playing go-between for a Galway drug lord and a botched deal has left him cokeless, cashless, and staring at a thirteen-year prison stretch. Farrell's a goner unless he can blag the Kensington Mafia, his psychotic employer, and a couple of London Met detectives who think they're working Miami Vice.

Farrell has a plan; all he needs is the Man from Newcastle. But Cobb insists his braying days are behind him. With reinforcements on their way from Ireland and the police closing in, Farrell might have pulled on trouble's braids for the last time.

After avoiding Ray Banks for about 10 years, this was my second outing with him in about a week and a bit. Fair to say, I shan’t be leaving it as long again.

Trouble’s Braids picks up a few years after Farrell and Cobb went their separate ways at the conclusion of Wolf Tickets.

Farrell’s in London trying to repay an Irish debt by concluding a drug deal. He’s most likely been set up. The posh moneybags he’s dealing with doesn’t play square anyway, plus he’s fallen into the clutches of a pair of bent coppers known as Tubbs and Crockett. Only one thing for it – call Jimmy Cobb. Fortunately Cobb needs to leave Newcastle sharpish. The busies are looking for him after a bit of bar room security went awry and a man ended up with his lips flapping down by his chest.

Our double act reluctantly re-unites to take on all-comers in the Smoke.

Drug deals, car chases, double-crosses, bent coppers, Irish villains, a midget pick-pocket and some pithy social observations….

There was a telly over the bar showing Boris Johnson wittering away to some posh bird in power suit. Just the sight of that cunt was enough to put slugs under my skin. Anyone ever asks you whatever happened to white dog shit, you tell them they made it foreign secretary.

A couple of line of prose worth the price of admission on their own.

Earthy, violent, fast-paced, funny and entertaining, populated by a couple of dodgy characters who despite their flaws - and there’s more than a few – you root for to come out on top. I don’t really want too much more from my reading.

4.5 from 5

Ray Banks has his website here.

Wolf Tickets thoughts here.

Read in February, 2018
Published – 2017
Page count – 210
Source – Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Saturday, 10 March 2018



Right around the turn of the century, Otto Penzler invited me to write a story with a baseball theme for an anthology, MURDERER'S ROW. I agreed, wrote a story which I called ALMOST PERFECT, and did as I always did—sent it first to Alice K. Turner, fiction editor at Playboy. If she passed on it, I intended to send it to Otto...but Alice crossed me up by buying it, and so I had to pass the news (good for me, bad for him) to Otto.

"Oh," he said. "Well, can you write another baseball story for me?" I replied that I'd love to, but I really didn't have a viable idea for one. Long pause. "Well, that's never stopped you in the past."

And a day later I had an idea, and some days after that I sent in KELLER'S DESIGNATED HITTER, which appeared in due course in MURDERER'S ROW and was later subsumed into HIT PARADE, third of the Keller episodic novels.

This is its first publication as an eStory for Kindle. I've always liked it, and I'm grateful to the two people to whom it owes its existence: to the late and much-missed Alice Turner, who snatched ALMOST PERFECT off the table, and to Otto Penzler, who's always known better than to take no for an answer.

Keller’s Designated Hitter sees the return of my favourite hitman in the seventh of ten individually released episodes.

I do like a sporting theme as a backdrop to a bit of criminal enterprise, though I doubt baseball would be my first pick as a scenario. I understand the gist of the game and the object of the exercise, but the subtleties and nuances escape me………inside pitches, walk him intentionally, a .320 hitter to get at a .280 hitter……..all went straight over my head.

What I did get was a feel for the event and the worldwide camaraderie that seems to exist at sporting occasions where complete strangers strike up conversations during the event, only to part and very likely never see each other again.

Keller’s contract is on a baseball player and said baseball player is approaching several milestones in a hitter’s career – 400 home runs and 3000 hits. Does Keller get impatient to get the job done or does he kick back take in a few ball games and let the man reach his milestones before doing the deed.

Mr Block delivers again.

4 from 5

Read in February, 2018
Published - 2001
Page count - 33
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle