Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Interview: Gerard Brennan (author of WEE ROCKETS)

brennanGerard is a husband, father, writer, ex-kung fu instructor and karaoke hog.

Premature greyness has seriously messed with his goatee in the last few years and most people think he's way older than he really is (he's in his early thirties if you must know). It's a hard-knock life, mate.

He used to be the last guy to leave the party/pub/park bench, now he's a respectable family man with just a wee bit of an alcohol dependency.

His ancestors were highwaymen and (more recently) bank robbers but he doesn't have the stomach to go with his criminal mind...

It's much safer writing crime fiction.

Gerard is the author of the novels WEE ROCKETS and FIREPROOF (reviewed on this blog) and the author of the novella's THE POINT and WEE DANNY (newly released from Blasted Heath). Gerard was kind enough to answer some questions following my review of WEE DANNY:

(Josh) What made you decide to revisit Danny once again?

(Gerard) While working on WEE ROCKETS I enjoyed writing the scenes that featured Wee Danny the most. And if I'm honest, I wasn't altogether happy with how things ended for him. His arc played out the way it had to (he was certainly no angel, after all), but I just felt that there was so much left unsaid about this kid. So I decided to spend more time with him.

The premise of this story is different to WEE ROCKETS where we saw a group mentality with a move towards separation. In comparison, WEE DANNY is heavily character and situational centric - were you tempted to write WEE DANNY in a similar setting/theme to WEE ROCKETS (given how exceptionally good it was) or was this how you envisioned returning to the character?

I'm not sure everybody would describe WEE ROCKETS as exceptionally good, so first of all, thank you for that! But I knew I had to let Danny stand on his own two feet in this one. As you said above, WEE ROCKETS did move from group mentality to separation, and I see Danny as a very strong individual (hardened by what happened to him in WEE ROCKETS) with a lot of unrecognised potential. If I wrote about him craving a place in a new gang, I feel he'd have seemed weaker, and I didn't want that for him.

Danny evolves in WEE DANNY. I don't know if its maturity, his bond with Conan, or simply his portrayal as offender-without-equal which leads to his more mellow side showing. Was this a natural character progression or something you had to work on for Danny?

I worked hard on getting that balance right. He had to be believed as somebody who might care about another offender, but also as somebody who wasn't afraid to stand up and be counted when the time came. And most importantly, I had to make sure Danny wouldn't question his own judgement too much. Most of what he does works because he doesn't like to spend too much time in his own head, but when a character like that is providing the narration... it can be a challenge.

I like the way Danny's adversary is described in a non-threatening manner, yet there's a little something to Adrian which makes him a worthy enemy. The interactions between the two are always heated - how important was it to provide an outlet for Danny to revert to his violent ways (almost an ode to his former life in a youth gang)?

I was conscious that some readers may not have had the benefit of reading WEE ROCKETS before picking up WEE DANNY. To that end, they might not have known just how tough the little guy could be. If Danny didn't have an adversary, a constant source of conflict, too much of his personality would be lost.

WEE ROCKETS is one of my favourite books, do you think you'll write more stories in this setting?

Knowing how much (and what great books) you read, I'm delighted to hear that. And yes, I'd like to release at least two more novellas that revisit characters from WEE ROCKETS. I've only got loose plans so far, but I think we'll hear from Liam Greene next and then Joe Phillips. That won't mean much to anybody who hasn't read WEE ROCKETS, but I hope those who have are happy with those decisions.

Of all the weird and wonderful authors who write crime/noir, who has been most influential on your work?

Roald Dahl and Stephen King made me want to write. Neither are particularly well known for their crime/noir work, but it's definitely part of their canon. But if I'm to pick a writer who is very much seen as a noir exponent, it has to be the mighty Ken Bruen. I don't try to imitate his voice (nobody should, only Bruen can make it work) but I do feel as if his work demonstrated that you can march to your own beat. And if you want to make an impression, you should.

And lastly, what can readers expect from you in the (near/far) future?

Radical crime fiction. And plenty of it.


Wee Rockets  Fireproof  Wee Danny

Links

Follow Gerard on Twitter: @gerardbrennan

Follow me on Twitter: @OzNoir

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: WEE DANNY by Gerard Brennan

Wee Danny"I wallow in the shame of my deeds only long enough to satisfy inherent guilt."

WEE DANNY explores redemption against temptation. The underlying urge to revert to violence is omnipresent yet contained - just. For youth offender, Danny Gibson, violence was a part of life, a means of survival and respect. Now the laws of the street no longer apply and toting the thin blue lines means reward and a better quality of life.

Well, Danny's a wee scrapper ain't he? Slight problem there...

WEE ROCKETS detailed youth gang life and first introduced Danny to world of crime fiction. In WEE DANNY, author Gerard Brennan shines the spotlight on Danny himself while incarcerated in a home for young offenders.

The theme and overall feel of WEE DANNY is different to WEE ROCKS. Gone are the gang members so prevalent throughout WEE ROCKETS, yet their influence still echoes in Danny's actions. He's just as hard as before but displays a level of maturity not full realised in the previous installment; by virtue of his predicament or the desire to take an autistic teen under his wings, either way, this character driven tale shows heart and builds upon the troublesome yet redeemable young man we first saw in WEE ROCKETS.

The real strength to WEE DANNY is the character development. Danny himself is well defined, coming across as both reformed (to a degree) and just as troublesome as his days running with the youth gang. I couldn't help but like Conan, the autistic teen - his vulnerability and Danny's urge to protect him is heartwarming, while Adrian, the resident advisory draws Danny back towards that dark light of violence.

I enjoyed reading more of this interesting and somewhat complex character. There are many sides to Danny and Brennan's done a great job at showing both the lighter and troublesome sides simultaneously. I hope this isn't the last we've seen of the WEE ROCKETS stories.

Links:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pick Up A Pulp [1]: THE BRAT by Gil Brewer

The BratI recently read THE BRAT by pulp master Gil Brewer, originally published in 1957 by Gold Medal during the golden age of the dime store paperback pulp. It holds true to the successful formula of pulps in this era; a linear plot focused around a particular event (in this case a robbery and murder), the classic attractive female lead, a desperate male lead, and a chase for the truth laden with cheesy dialogue and great ensemble cast of characters (in this one it's Rona, Sheriff Degreef, and Kaylor).

An attractive dame (Evis Helling) with a lot of sass and a little bit of mystery behind her wanton ways lands her man hook line and sinker after easily seducing him in a swapland hear her home. Lee Sulliven is a sucker for curves, and a falls too quickly for Evis. They return to Lee's hometown where Lee panders to Evis' every demand. Eventually the financial and relationship stability make way for greed as Evis' real intentions come to light.

What attracted me to THE BRAT (aside from Gil Brewer as the author) was the enticing blurb:

"She looked at the rotting, sun-blasted shack, the one room where they all lived, slept, made love, died. Looked at the dusty lawn where no grass grew. At the steaming swamp, at her tobacco-spitting mother. Saw the sly, lustful eyes of her father's friends. The she looked at her own lush beauty.
 
Get me out of here she prayed. Oh, please get me out of here! I'll pay any price."

Unfortunately for Lee, he's the one who paid the price for Evis' freedom. Framed for murder and robbery at Evis' place of employment, betrayed by his close friend (who seems to be having an affair with Evis), and forced to run from the law while trying to prove his innocence.

THE BRAT is a game of cat and mouse with so many variables impacting upon Lee's success in clearing his name. Evis' cousin Kaylor is an interesting character who shows up in the early stages of the novel and plays a big role in the later stages, Rona (Evis' sister) has motive and determination to land Lee for herself, while Sheriff Degreef is at once lawful and shady - I never did work out which one overshadows the other.

I've read a couple of other books by Gil Brewer but this one is a real gem. Apart from a lull when Brewer goes into the backstory earlier in the piece, THE BRAT held my attention. The chase through the swampland and ensuing confrontation is top notch, the characters surprisingly well rounded with their own unique voice, and the plot entertaining and believable. It's the sort of story that would stand firm amongst today's modern crime fiction.

Links:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: JOYLAND by Stephen King

JoylandHeartache, murder, new beginnings, friendships, and a haunting are the themes behind Stephen King's JOYLAND. Devin Jones embarks on a personal journey to mend his broken heart by absorbing the facts associated with a local crime mystery/ghost story that soon leads to an investigation of sorts which threatens deaden this new lease on life.

What starts as a summer job working as a Carney becomes much more for Devin. Being separated from his first love Wendy and knowing the distance is more than geographical, his heartache is core to his actions. Taking a fondness toward certain jobs at JOYLAND sees Devin become a local hero, ultimately putting his personal grief to the side and paving the way for a new person to enter the frame.

The criminal element is always there yet on the peripheral. This is a character driven story first, crime/ghost story second. Being a Stephen King novel there was always going to be an element of the supernatural/other worldly, yet in JOYLAND its delivered in a subtle manner that suits the tone of the book. The ghost story doesn't get in the way of what King's trying to achieve with Devin.

I loved the atmosphere and real sense of Joyland being a summer escape. The essence of the Carney life is capture beautifully with Devin a different sort of protagonist, made better by a solid supporting cast.

Despite not having as much of a focus on the ghost story/haunting as I'd expected, I still enjoyed JOYLAND.

On a side note, I've previously mentioned how attracted I am to good book covers, ones that especially portray a character in appropriate fashion and/or set the mood for the story contained within. JOYLAND does both. Erin, is a Hollywood girl who I imagine looks much like the cover model, her job is to take snap shots of the people who visit Joyland. She's also Devin's partner in compiling evidence surrounding the reason behind the haunting at Joyland, the cover art depicts this perfectly.

What the cover doesn't show is just how fractured and unassuming Devin is, how endearing and honest, how heroic and emotional this unlikely protagonist is. That is a treat for the reader to enjoy. The cover does the job, it draws the attention, has meaning and compliments the story.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: HARD ROAD by J.B. Turner

A conspiracy thriller enveloped in a complex web of terror, murder, and mayhem. The body count is as high as the stakes, one man is forced to defend his family and country from a threat which could destroy thousands of lives and send a ripple throughout the globe.
 
Reznick, an expert at wet work; his handler, the mysterious and never-seen Maddox, is the literal voice of death, his command invokes the reaper with Reznick the very manifestation of murder. A cold and calculated professional, Reznick quickly learns something isn't right when his target becomes the centerpiece of an elaborate plot involving bio-terrorism and a threat that's all too close to home.

HARD ROAD begins as a hitman novel before evolving into a fast paced terror thriller.  For me, the allure of HARD ROAD lies with the earlier portion of the novel. I liked the shroud of mystery that engulfs Reznick's handler and the need-to-know basis of which he operates. That said, once the thrill ride kicks into gear and the multiple plot threads emerge, HARD ROAD doesn't fail to entertain.

The biochemical threat is omnipresent yet it's the multidimensional characters that give the story it's depth and direct sense of reality. FBI Assistant Director Martha Meyerstein is a workaholic, her passion is her job, patriotism is everything. While Reznick, despite his flaws (a perceived kill-first mentality and seeming addition to Dexedrine) is a man on a mission - refreshingly not of the common action-hero stereotype. He not only needs to stop a terrorism plot but has to bring his eleven year old daughter to safety following her abduction at the hands of a group of men linked to the terror threat. 

HARD ROAD establishes, what looks to be, a serious series character who's fractured past and questionable allegiance will appeal to readers, not just those who dabble in the thriller genre. 

As a first up introduction to Reznick, HARD ROAD serves its purpose, the ensemble cast is written in a way as to allow further exploration and future subject matters appear bountiful. I look forward to seeing where J.B. Turner goes from here.

Links:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Interview: Tom Vater (author of THE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD)

(Josh) Your love of Cambodia and its history are evident throughout the novel. Was it a conscious decision to make Cambodia as much a central character as Maier?
 
CambodianBookOfTheDead-72dpi(Tom) The recent history of Cambodia is as turbulent and tragic as one can imagine. Colonialism, international geopolitics, US bombing, four decades of war, revolution, genocide, famine, liberation by the Vietnamese, a failed UN sponsored kleptocracy and a new descent into lawlessness and impunity make the country an extreme microcosm for our collective failures. It was absolutely a conscious decision to make the country a character, taking note of the way Raymond Chandler used LA in his stories. Of course most readers are more familiar with LA than with Cambodia, so I decided to go deeper and tried to illuminate the sorrow and loss that comes about in the wake of the destruction of an entire society. Hopefully readers will be able to draw parallels to their own worlds. We live in a hugely volatile age. Open the newspapers and you will read about endless war, legally enshrined injustice, wholesale theft by the rich of the poor, destruction of the environment and state oppression/terror almost anywhere in the world. Modern Cambodia is a great if extreme representative of much that is wrong with our political affairs. That’s why I used Jerry Redfern’s quote at the start of the text. Cambodia, where the appalling is common place.

The importance of violence amidst a soiled and confronting history can’t be overlooked. You went to great lengths to detail the histories of General Tep and The White Spider who in themselves are quite violent and provocative characters, how important is the past for the present day setting of the novel?

The past is always crucial to the present, not just in Cambodia but anywhere in the world. History does not occur in neat box-shaped segments, the way it is often taught in schools or presented in museums. History is messy and continuous. Nazi Germany didn’t simply disappear in 1945, aspects of it carried on within the new democratic Germany. European colonialism did not disappear with the independence of the colonies in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s called globalization these days. America’s foreign policy didn’t become more egalitarian in the wake of killing four million Vietnamese, it just took a breather and then resumed its violent export of democracy around the world. 

Carissa and Meier had a certain element of chemistry between them. Can we expect to read more into their past and potential future relationship in later installments?

Carissa is an independent woman. Clearly she loves Maier who in turn is fond of her. But Detective Maier is a rather dysfunctional character when it comes to relationships and Carissa quite obviously sensed this and did what was best for her. That’s not to say she might not reappear in another Maier novel. In the next Detective Maier Mystery, The Man with the Golden Mind, one of the characters from The Cambodian Book of the Dead does make another appearance. It’s not Carissa though.

There is a religious and almost unearthly quality to Kaley, what was your inspiration for her and the perception of her being a symbol for something almost supernatural?

Kaley represents Cambodia, its tragedy, beauty, resilience and finally, its collapse. She is as real as she is mythical. The story of the Kangaok Meas, which provides much of Kaley’s character is an old Cambodian folk tale.

There are multiple threads by which certain events pave the way for character demise that I didn’t see coming. How difficult was it to write off some of these characters?

I think the conclusion of the book vis a vis its players is pretty conventional. The bad guys die, the hopeless are put out of their misery and the cynics survive.

I would liken THE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD in substance and style to novels by David Corbett (Blood of Paradise) and Andrew Nette (Ghost Money), are you familiar with either authors work?

I have read Ghost Money, reviewed it here and enjoyed it hugely. Andrew Nette also delves into Cambodia’s history but his book is more focused on Phnom Penh in a slightly earlier period. I am not familiar with David Corbett’s title.

Lastly, what can readers expect from Maier and his future endeavors in the next book THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN MIND?

In The Man with the Golden Mind, Maier is back in Asia investigating the 25 year old murder of an East German diplomat. His journey leads him deep into the Laotian jungles and into the heart of America’s Secret War in Laos, the CIA’s largest covert operation to date.

Maier soon realizes that different parties, including his client, are searching for a man codenamed Weltmeister, a US and Vietnamese spy no one has seen for a quarter century. With the Vietnamese, Laotian and American secret services on his tail and a feisty Thai journalist in tow, Maier uncovers a sordid story of politics, secret assassinations, betrayal and revenge that stretches back into the 1970s.
 
Links: 
 
Follow Tom Vater on twitter: @tomvater
 
Follow me on twitter: @OzNoir

Review: PLOW THE BONES by Douglas F. Warrick

Plow the BonesPLOW THE BONES is a collection of surrealist fiction in short form by Douglas F. Warrick. The limits of his imagery are boundless with many of these stories crossing into the deep confines of dreamscapes and nightmares.

Herein lies poetically depicted madness; a controlled chaos that's both eloquent and alarming. The pages of PLOW THE BONES are breathtaking at times by virtue of a perfect blend of otherworldly fiction and a balanced view of the realistic and macabre nature of humanity.

While I didn't connect with every story there were a number that held my attention: Come to my Arms, my Beamish Boy contains the rambled and disjointed thoughts of an Alzheimer's suffer as his mind deteriorates. Drag is a form of urban legend horror story where a heinous and murderous creature known as Ember Eyes terrorises a group of teens. Her Fathers Collection is haunting, plausible, and entirely disturbing - one of the best.

In Stickhead a zombie-like creature is discovered by a couple of boys. Its as much about the surreal nature of the story as it is the relationship between the tow boys. I liked this one, but it does require the reader to completely suspend their belief. Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch's Damnation is a graphic depiction of eternal sufferance in the bowels of hell. This is not for the weak of stomach.

The highlight of the collection is Across the Dead Station Desert, Television Girl. An erotic tale of an AI sex worker which blurs the lines between reality and the digitised realm. The setting itself echoes post apocalyptic while the characters draw on desperation and need.

PLOW THE BONES is an acquired taste, yet there is something amongst the stories that will appeal to the majority of readers. The ghosts of this collection will haunt the reader long after the last page has been turned.

Vivid and beautifully written, PLOW THE BONES is a short story collection that captures the imagination and places it in a vice like grip, twisting, distorting, and moulding the reader to its every will.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: VELOCITY by Steve Worland

VelocityVELOCITY is big on action - a non stop joyride from NASA headquarters to the barren landscape of central Australia where theft knows no bounds and a burning desire for vengeance reins supreme.

Astronaut Judd Bell is plagued by his insecurities and haunted by the untimely loss of a close friend. His crippling dependency on workplace romance turned live-in partner, Rhonda is unhealthy - not only driving him to distraction but driving away the one thing that holds the fabric of his existence together. Somehow, author Steve Worland creates a hero from a mere shell, turning this wayward astronaut into an accidental hero.  

When a space shuttle is stolen by a group of highly organised and well funded individuals, Judd's world falls apart. Not only does he confront death up and personal, Rhonda is aboard the shuttle and headed for parts unknown. Still reeling from a violent encounter with some colourful bad guys, Judd finds himself deported to the Northern Territory and teamed with the humorous and distinctly outback bloke Corey - a tourist pilot with a penchant for high speed, high skill flying.

The duo take it upon themselves to retrieve the shuttle and return its cargo to safety - a feat neither had thought capable. Unfortunately for Judd and Corey, nothing is simple with each attempt and rescuing Rhonda thwarted time and time again - ever drawing closer that blood thirsty reaper.

What I really like about VELOCITY is that the reason behind theft of an aircraft and space shuttle isn't apparent up front. It takes time for the conspiracy theory and twisted rationale to filter through. Exemplifying Judd's plight is the danger not only Rhonda faces as a captive but mankind should the group succeed in achieving their goal. Worland does a great job at instilling a sense of urgency to this novel.

Fans of Matthew Reilly will enjoy VELOCITY, yet Judd is no Scarecrow. He's not some special ops, beefed up marine with a near perfect ability to kick ass and take names. He's a deeply flawed yet endearing character who grows throughout the novel. Not the sort of protagonist typical to this genre - refreshing to read.

I highly recommend VELOCITY and will be delving into Worlands' next book COMBUSTION very soon.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The best books of 2013 (so far)

Picking a handful of reads for this post was tough, 2013 has seen so many good reads by some of my favourite authors. Below is the absolute cream of the crop (in no particular order).

The Baddest Ass - (Billy Lafitte, #3)THE BADDEST ASS by Anthony Neil Smith

The third Lafitte book is just as good as the second, HOGDOGGIN'. I'd love to see a Josh Stallings/Anthony Neil Smith Lafitte/Moses McGuire showdown - two of the toughest/baddest characters going 'round in noir fiction.




The Cambodian Book of the DeadTHE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD by Tom Vater

Will end up as one of the best PI novels this year. There is a haunting quality to Detective Maier's first book which promises so much and more importantly delivers.





Point and ShootPOINT AND SHOOT by Duane Swierczynski

The Charlie Hardie trilogy comes to a close with POINT AND THE SHOOT being the culmination of all manner of hurt put on the human punching bag that is Hardie. Swierczynski has, with this trilogy, written a diverse yet intrinsically linked tale that is at times, literally out of this world.  



All The Wild Children: A noir memoirALL THE WILD CHILDREN by Josh Stallings

The must read non-fiction of 2013 without a doubt. Stallings is a great and imaginative writer. His Moses McGuire books are raw and uninhibited - in ALL THE WILD CHILDREN we get to see where some of that inspiration comes from.




The Blue Blazes (Mookie Pearl, #1)THE BLUE BLAZES by Chuck Wendig

I love the Joe Pitt casebooks by Charlie Huston and have been craving something along those lines since I finished rereading the series some time ago. Mookie Pearl is a great lead character in a great series. If THE BLUE BLAZES is any indication of what readers can expect for the rest of the series then we're all in for a hellish good time.


With many more on the way, 2013 promises to continue being a great year for readers, what ever your poison may be.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK by Tom Piccirilli

The Last Whisper in the DarkDrama enriched with a delicately balanced noir. The Rand family are career criminals trying to resume some form of normalcy following their sons' execution for having been convicted and sentenced to death for multiple murders. Terry, a world class 'creeper' returned home after a 5yr absence finds himself playing a key role within the family structure, one made more important following the events of the previous novel THE LAST KIND WORDS.

This feels more like an episodic installment into what looks like being a prolonged and hard knock family drama. Piccirilli focuses on broadening the Rand family by introducing a poorly grandfather and shady cousin. It isn't until Terry confronts his grandfather that we learn how deep the blood lines of crime run.
 
Like THE LAST KIND WORDS, Terry Rand, and to a lesser extent, sister Dale take centre stage. The brother/sister bond ever growing, making each interection between these two more meaninful and desperate (in terms of counciling against wrongs/truths). Seeing these two grow together is a highlight

Despite taking a little while for the plot to become apparent, THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK is entertaining and enjoyable. No particular chain of events pigeon holes the novels' intent, rather the characters themselves and their emotional reaction to circumstances they find themselves dictate proceedings.

THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK will appeal to fans of noir who like their crime more dramatised and less violent (that said Terry does cop his share of punishment, there's also an interesting hitman to sink your teeth into) than traditional novels sharing similar mob-like concepts (here the gangster element is on the peripheral).

My review of the first Terry Rand novel THE LAST KIND WORDS can be found here on Goodreads.com

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: THE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD by Tom Vater

Cambodian Book of the DeadExplosive and evocative, THE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF DEAD is a deceptive piece of fiction which at once envelopes the reader in a distinct time and place while enabling a birds eye view of the more macabre side of human nature. Herein lies a multi faceted plot which threads are as deadly as the characters they follow. From unassuming barmen, Cambodian goddesses, journalists, to the Khmer Rouge - author Tom Vater instills a sense of murder lurking at every turn for Detective Maier as he undertakes a case to track down an heir to a coffee empire.

There is an underlying sense of brutality and violence bubbling beneath the surface courtesy of General Tep and The White Spider - two bad men who shape the story's past and present. These characters play the perfect ying to Maier's yang. Seeing through the smoke and mirrors, these two make life difficult for the endearing protagonist as he attempts to bring home his target (German coffee heir Rolf).

Adding to Maier's troublesome plight is Kaley, a beautiful Cambodian woman who has a deadly grip on Rolf, one that may well cost him his life. There is an almost mythical quality to Kaley that is hard to ignore. Vater writes his characters with a lot of heart and emotion, each is rendered perfectly and memorable.

THE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD works so well on many levels for me. It's a PI story with a lot of situational depth and deep characterisation. Cambodia is as much a character as Maier; dangerous places for dangerous liaisons. While the core case takes a back step to character evolution, it doesn't hinder the intimacy of the story. I love it when books surprise me and this one certainly did; simplistic in premise, complex in delivery. I highly recommend.

Links:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: GUN MACHINE by Warren Ellis

Gun MachineA shotgun blast rains a hail of brain matter and blood down on a single cop who later makes it his mission to rid the world of a maniac collector of sorts, obsessed with weapons owning the bodies of murder victims.

John Tallow, a NYPD Detective isn't the typical protagonist in what, on face value, looks like a traditional police procedural. Warren Ellis gives his broken and semi-recluse lead character a voice unlike many detectives I've read in the genre. Perception is key in Tallow's competency, drive, and general policing. Ellis does a great job at making the reader believe one thing only then to take them on a journey as Tallow evolves along with the very personal case he's assigned.

In GUN MACHINE, Tallow looses his long time partner after responding to call of a naked man brandishing a shotgun. Little did he know this was to be the start of something much sinister; the origin of events which leads to triple digit homicides and a deeply disturbed killer.

Accompanying Tallow are two CSU members who add some much needed comic relief while still playing a key role in the serious nature of the novel. Bat is a nerd/genius, Scarly is a bullish yet endearing character who has steal balls and an iron will (except around her wife). Both add a little something extra to the case and end up forming a great team with Tallow, one I hope readers see much more of.

Without delving into the story too much, I can say that GUN MACHINE has all the makings of being the start of a very promising cop series. The characters are well developed with a sense of history and context within the law enforcement community, while the events of GUN MACHINE are sure to have a ripple effect.

Fans of the police procedural and noir will revel in GUN MACHINE's well plotted and enjoyable story. 

Judging a book by its cover (sci-fi/PI pulp)

The Flaxen Femme FataleWhile it's true, the content is what makes a good book. However, in order to get lost in whatever adventure a novel promises, the reader must be first attracted to that particular book in the first place.

For avid readers, following authors/publisher/sub genres etc. makes it easy to find new books to read. The elephant in the room, of course, is the book cover. For authors/titles unknown to me, picking up something off the shelf (yes I do still visit physical stores) is largely reliant upon the cover.

As a somewhat of a pulp enthusiast, I'll always paw over a book with a cover depicting a hard man with a gun casting a shadow over a fallen figure in some dark alley or a pin-up dame with hands raised showing a face of fear, all in dime store quality artwork.

So, this leads me to some recent (and not so recent) finds, one's I wouldn't have given a second thought had it not been for the cover.

First up is THE SAPPHIRE SIRENS by John Kakour. His 'world's last freelance PI' series borders on dark humour, satire, sci-fi, and the hardboiled. While I haven't read any books in the series, this latest acquisition sits temping me at the top of my TBR. Another PI focused book I picked up is THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE by A. Lee Martinez - a perfect blend of hardboiled and sci-fi.

The theme here is mixing up the genres to entice new readers, both of these books have succeeded (with me at least). Enjoy the covers of these books below and be sure to check them out for a different take on private detective fiction:

The Automatic Detective The Sapphire Sirens

The Automatic Detective: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1265289.The_Automatic_Detective

The Sapphire Sirens: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6436987-the-sapphire-sirens


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Catching up on crime: THE OVERLOOK by Michael Connelly


The Overlook (Harry Bosch, #13)I have loads of great books in my TBR waiting to be read. Recently I picked up a copy of THE OVERLOOK by Michael Connelly, the 13th book in the Harry Bosch series. It's been a long time since I read Michael Connelly (not since THE BLACK ECHO, THE BLACK ICE), as a result I wasn't sure what to expect reading this, especially since a lot of water has passed under the bridge between book #2 (THE BLACK ICE) and book #13 (THE OVERLOOK). Luckily, THE OVERLOOK is read extremely well as a standalone and is a great jumping on point for readers looking to give Harry Bosch a try.

So what did I think of the book? Initially I'd thought it best to describe THE OVERLOOK as a police procedural semi detached from noir. The whole Mulholland murder mystery and LA place setting lends itself to the sub genre. However, once the book got into its grove, the premise underwent a change of pace and turned into something different altogether. Below is my review:
 
While being the 13th book to feature Harry Bosch, THE OVERLOOK is a great way to introduce new readers to the series long running character. THE OVERLOOK resumes Harry’s career in law enforcement tracking down murderers whilst working homicide. He’s got a new partner and a new case which looks very LA Noire on the surface, yet looks can be deceiving.

An execution style murder on the Mulholland overlook becomes much more when a link with a radioactive chemical is established and a plot involving terrorists emerges. The LAPD and FBI play the mandatory game of chess with each withholding important information – this tedious and predicable element is offset by a reunion between Harry and a former love interest which ultimately culminates in a pursuit for justice not bedded down (entirely) by interagency competition.

At times THE OVERLOOK suffered an identity crisis. The core plot elements switching from murder mystery/police procedural to race-against-the-clock-terrorism-thriller only to go back to the original theme. In the end it’s a man’s thirst for things he can’t have which drives this quick and easily readable piece of crime fiction. I will source more books in the Harry Bosch series – if THE OVERLOOK is anything to go by, Bosch is one interesting character with many interesting cases under his belt.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: DEAD CAT BOUNCE by Peter Cotton


Dead Cat BounceMurder and mayhem during the Australian electoral campaign sees Detective Glass face adversity in ways he could only imagine. This blend of satire and murder mystery works well as Cotton thrusts the reader into the world of politics and crime. The balance of a light hearted, semi serious look at detective work and the media ensures DEAD CAT BOUNCE doesn’t take itself too seriously, rather focusing on a means to provide an entertaining form of escapism deep in the Australian capital.




A full review can be found on Fair Dinkum Crime - a site dedicated to Australian crime fiction.

 
 

Review: THE BADDEST ASS by Anthony Neil Smith


The Baddest Ass - (Billy Lafitte, #3)Prison horror in all its gore and glory is magnified by this deep seeded and often confronting survival noir where a cell block is more attune to a morgue and a shank little more than a bee sting. Inside Anthony Neil Smiths’ third Lafitte novel is a story of bad men (and women) doing bad things in very bad ways. Lafitte is in prison following the events from HOGDOGGIN; a prime target by the prison population by virtue of an alleged link to terrorism. Nothing new for Lafitte here, he’s used to people trying to kill him. What he isn’t prepared for is an all in riot orchestrated by prisoners and guards alike in an attempt to hide his death amongst the chaos. Making matters worse, his young son and mother in-law are visiting at the time when existence inside the prison turns pitch black and deep red.

Special Agent Colleen wants Lafitte dead and is willing to go the extreme to exact her deadly form of vengeance. Enlisting the services of gang leader Ri’Chess to handle the hit, Colleen soon finds herself going the extra mile to ensure Ri’Chess is amenable to her request. Once the deed is done, the terms set, the prison is shut off from the outside world. Isolated and in the midst of a blizzard, the prison quickly resembles a slaughterhouse as guards, prisoners, and a few visitors fight for their lives.

There is so much to like about THE BADDEST ASS, Anthony Neil Smith envelopes the reader in a blanket of claustrophobia and fear as Lafitte stumbles from one brutal encounter to the next in a bid to save his son and mother-in-law from the violent inmates.

Like SLAMMER by Allan Guthrie, THE BADDEST ASS shows how good prision noir can be. This one is more violent, yet equally good.