Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: THIEVES LIKE US by Edward Anderson

Thieves Like Us (Film Ink Series)Published in 1937, THIEVES LIKE US is half noir, half romance entwined with a violent group of jail break bank robbers on a deadly mission for that elusive big score.

Post roaring twenties, that era is very much an influence on the novel with references to prohibition, the allure of bank robbing, and small time gangsters casing small town banks paramount throughout.

THIEVES LIKE US follows a band of prison escapees on the run from the law and on the look-out for quick scores. They take down a couple of banks, spill some blood, and love a little on their way to oblivion.

The first half stacked up really well before turning into more of a love/romance story between one of the gangsters in Bowie and one of his fellow robber's cousins, Keechie - a gangster moll figure if ever there was one (albeit of the watered down variety). At times the narrative meandered and the dialogue was inconsequential to the broader story. I did wonder where Anderson was taking these characters, then out of nowhere the drama resumed and the novel ended all too soon in a hail of bullets.

This novel is part of the excellent 1930's American Noir collection by The Library of America and while not the best of the collected novels it's still a must read for noir fans. Read more on Goodreads.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? by Andrez Bergen

Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?Andrez Bergen's WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is an ode to the golden age of comics, and then some. It's a novel of great ambition brimming with escapism and heroism, portrayed in a dystopian setting encompassing an ideal that's refreshing, honest, and true to pulp culture.

The superheroes (capes) of Heropa are being picked off one by one. Southern Cross (Melbourne teen, Jacob) is the newest member of a small group of heroes banded together under the good-guy banner The Equalizers - their primary goal, to keep the inhabitants of Heropa safe from rogue Capes and other criminal threats. A task made harder by the mystifying murder rate of Capes that came before him.

Core to proceedings is Southern Cross and his ability to adapt then evolve to his persona and surroundings. From apprehensive baby steps to duking it out with menacing foes direct from the pages of superhero comics, Jacob's journey compliments the artificial reality of Heropa.

True to form for a superhero caper, there's a love interest with a little likeness to Lois Lane (in terms of civilian-come-hero-love-interest), a broad spanning mystery across the city itself and a another within dystopian Melbourne, and cool character designs (some of which are provided in the book). Louise, a seemingly innocent and bland character at first captures Southern Cross' heart and kick starts another dimension to the already stellar story giving it a more human side.

There's a lot to like about WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA?. Fans of DC comics will marvel (pun intended) at the cityscape, and capes alike (some baring a likeness in premise to The Thing and Wonder Woman). The action is top notch with further exploration of the city and it's heroes not outside the realms of possibility. This is a book that demands future installments.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Michael Crichton gets the pulp treatment

Hardcase Crime recently announced the publication of eight books by Michael Crichton (writing as John Lange) slated for an October 2013 release.

Six of the books are new to the pulp treatment with GRAVE DESCEND and ZERO COOL having previously been published under John Lange. Of the two, GRAVE DESCEND is the better, yet both are enjoyable pulpy reads.

*I reviewed GRAVE DESCEND earlier this year on Goodreads.com

As for the other books, I've only read BINARY which didn't do all that much for me when I initially read it a few years ago. However, being the bibliophile I am, I'll pick up this latest edition and hope that time as made the story better, perhaps my tastes have changed from when I first read it? Either way, I'm looking forward to giving it another go.

The remaining books in EASY GO, SCRATCH ONE, ODDS ON, THE VENOM BUSINESS, and DRUG OF CHOICE are all new to me and will look great alongside the other books in my Hardcase Crime collection.

The covers are irresistible and are a must have for pulp and Michael Crichton fans.

 

 

Interestingly, the cover art for EASY GO is the same as the final book in the Gabriel Hunt adventure series HUNT THROUGH NAPOLEON'S WEB (2011) by Raymond Benson, hmmm...

The books themselves are completely different. Will this impact on me purchasing EASY GO? Not a chance.

  Hunt Through Napoleon's Web (Gabriel Hunt, #6)

Links:

- Hardcase Crime website
BINARY sample chapter 
- EASY GO sample chapter
- SCRATCH ONE sample chapter
- ODDS ON sample chapter
- THE VENOM BUSINESS sample chapter
- DRUG OF CHOICE sample chapter

Follow Hardcase Crime on twitter: @HardCaseCrime
Follow Titan Books on twitter: @TitanBooks 

Catching up on crime: TRUTH LIES BLEEDING by Tony Black

Truth Lies BleedingMy profound admiration for Tony Black's books is well known. LOSS, the third book in the Gus Dury series is one of my all-time favourite books. In this latest look at my attempts on catching up on crime fiction, I've set my sights on TRUTH LIES BLEEDING, a book about a case involving the gruesome discovery of a mutilated body in a dumpster belonging to what looks to be a local missing teenager, by four teenage girls in an Edinburgh alleyway.

Inspector Rob Brennan is a damaged yet endearing protagonist. Despite being surrounded by cops he's very much the lone wolf, segregated by the ghosts of his past and haunted by the death of his brother.

Called upon to identify the murder victim and bring those responsible to justice, Brennan not only faces adversary from public speculation but also within the police ranks as pressure builds from his boss and enemies on the force. When the media gets hold of leaked information, fingers point in Brennan's direction, the storm brews and threatens to wash away the remaining threads of humanity he so delicately holds.

Brennan's personal life paints him as both a good and bad family man with the jury swaying consistently one way or the other. He has a wife and child and a mistress who wants more.

While a police procedural, TRUTH LIES BLEEDING reads as a noir. It's dark, moody, evocative, and almost without hope. It's emotionally deep and character driven. The plot pacing is perfect with each twist and turn engaging and vivid.

From the opening line I was hooked:

"The girl's screams were enough to give away their hiding place."

I love books that instantly engage the reader and TRUTH LIES BLEEDING does just that.

Tony Black was born in Australia and grew up in Scotland and Ireland  (partial bio taken from the author's website http://www.tonyblack.net/#/about/4526102319) - being an avid Aussie reader, I think us Aussies will claim Tony Black as our own. If you're not reading Tony Black, you best rectify that asap.

Review: ZERO AT THE BONE by David Whish-Wilson

Zero at the BoneDavid Whish-Wilson's ZERO AT THE BONE captures the Windy City gangster era feel and brings it to boom town Perth at the height of mining's golden age. Police are mob, yet few dare tread where the hardest criminals fail - for PI Frank Swann, his footprint leaves traces of the dead and imprints of a failed justice as he chases down a sinister scheme which all started when geologist, Max Henderson, allegedly committed suicide prompting his wife, Jennifer Henderson, to enlist his services.

The former detective still feels the pain and loss stemming from the events in LINE OF SIGHT, the predecessor to this novel. The strong sense of continuity is apparent with the protagonist referring back to the past events, with the present day plot (circa 1979) very much attributed to the earlier novel. For Swann, this case unearths a deeper plot and exposes the criminal element attached to the Rosa Gold stake.

Drug dealers, bad cops, bent bookies, jewel thief's, and a widow's questionable motive ensure ZERO AT THE BONE keeps reader's guessing while providing plenty of criminal and good old fashion detective action.

Blue blood still runs rife within the veins of Swann with him coming across more cop than PI during the course of his investigation. I liked the balance in maintaining this persona from LINE OF SIGHT as it further built upon the Swann's already well articulated passion for truth and justice. Yet what most impressed me about ZERO AT THE BONE was the long game of revenge which played out in surprising and shocking fashion.

ZERO AT THE BONE is a distinctly Australian yet all consuming crime fiction novel that grips the reader from page one and demands attention through to its violent conclusion.

When the smoke clears and the smell of cordite resonates in the air, the sticky blood red writing on the wall reads that David Whish-Wilson is a force to be reckoned with in crime fiction.

Links:

- My review of LINE OF SIGHT (Frank Swann #1)

- Author website

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: I CAN TRANSFORM YOU by Maurice Broaddus

I Can Transform YouMac Peterson is a private detective in a futuristic world where alien towers dot the scarred landscape and corruption is rife throughout the major city servants. Addicted to Stim, a stimulant drug of choice, introduced to the populace as a way of stemming the growing tide of panic following the tower's appearance from beneath the surface, he polices where police fail to go, a victim of power and slave to his addition.

Mac's wife Kiersten, a member of the Security Forces, goes undercover to investigate the Easton MS crew as well as another organisation called the Carmillion. Throughout the investigation she bonds with Harley Wilson, who shares the same fate as Kiersten, dead from an apparent suicide from atop one of the towers. However, Mac uncovers Kiersten's involvement in something which threatens the power brokers which could be the catalyst behind her death. corruption, cover-ups and old fashion brawling ensue bringing this future tale into the present.

Maurice Broaddus waxes lyrical throughout I CAN TRANSFORM YOU, not only in his depiction of the city dwellers predicament, and secret society lifestyle but also in enveloping the reader in the world he's so deftly crafted, as evident below:

"Rows of phosphorous blue lanterns blotted out the night sky, creating an alien vista, completely different from the memory of only a few years ago, the only remnant of the caustic dust kicked up those nights twenty years ago. The glowing canvas rendered the downtown skyline in a perpetual twilight, like a forest under a thick canopy of tree branches. Giant stone buildings rose in the dimness, obsidian behemoths, like death's bone fingers protruding from where they had inexplicably ruptured from the ground. Since the eruption event, the city-dweller liked to whisper stories of men and women, those mixed-up souls ready to end it all, blissfully swimming upward through the opaque, dense air until they reached the top of the alien structures, where they found paradise and disappeared into the forever of the cosmos."

I CAN TRANSFORM YOU follows the tried and true formula typical within the hardboiled genre yet brings the added element of sci-fi noir. No one eludes the grime which seeps into their character by virtue of their predicament. There is an underlying hopelessness to Mac and Ade's investigative cause which not only exemplifies the noir feel but brings forth a sense of realism to the fantastical theme.

While a novella, I CAN TRANSFORM YOU packs as much in as a full length novel. Mac and Ade are well rounded and believable characters with backstory and personality. The plot itself spans in multiple directions and comes full circle beautifully. It's well written and wholly entertaining.

I CAN TRANSFORM YOU also includes the short story PIMP MY AIRSHIP which once again has a futuristic theme with a dose of racial tension and look at inner city gangs. It's a nice bonus that adds values to the second instalment in the Apex Voice's line.

Review: LEOPARD DREAMING by A.A. Bell

Leopard Dreaming (Mira Chambers #3)The third installment in the Mira Chambers story sees Mira and her friends on the trail of Kitching, a man responsible for kidnapping Freddy Leopard - a resident of Serenity and Maddy Sanchez - the matron. Both have formed a strong bond with Mira over the preceding two novels (DIAMOND EYES and HINDSIGHT), as such Mira, loyal and dedicated to her friends no end, commits to doing whatever it takes to return them to safety. Even if that means putting herself in harms way.

With Lockman aiding her hunt for Maddy and Freddy, the former military trained and self confessed guardian of Mira not only adds another dimension to the story but exemplifies Mira's continued growth and path towards normalcy since leaving Serenity. My only gripe with these two is the continued romantic tension which had a tendency to detract from the story.

The arms race for Mira as a powerful military weapon is still evident throughout this latest instalment, yet author A.A. Bell manages to keep both Garland (military general) and Kitching (rogue bad guy) on equal footing for her services. Having the ability to see the past by virtue of the fragile X syndrome allows Mira to ability to view past crimes which prove to be invaluable to military intel.

Kitching hatches his plot early and uses some crafty devises to throw off the scent of his true intention - namely a murder and elaborate scheme to weaponise and reproduce Mira's ability.

There are some great twists and turns in LEOPARD DREAMING. As the title suggests Freddy Leopard plays a large part. Having the ability to hear the future, makes him a prime target for Kitching - that combined with Mira's ability to see the past makes them pivotal to Kitching's plans.

A.A. Bell also introduces an interesting family dynamic that will throw readers off balance and breathe a breath of fresh air into some of the characters. I won't detail it any further as to avoid spoilers.

Whilst I enjoyed LEOPARD DREAMING, the romantic overtones (and multiple instances thereof) did play a little on the natural progression of the story. Despite this, the pacing was fine and plotting well suited to Mira's plight. I look forward to reading what A.A. Bell comes up with next.

Interview: Steve Worland (author of COMBUSTION)

Steve has worked extensively in film and television in Australia and the U.S.A. He has written scripts for Working Title and Icon Productions, worked in script development for James Cameron's Lightstorm and wrote Fox Searchlight's Bootmen, which won five Australian Film Institute Awards.

Steve also wrote the New Line action-comedy telemovie Hard Knox, the bible and episodes of the television series Big Sky and the Saturn award-winning Farscape. Paper Planes, a children's adventure movie Steve co-wrote, starts production in late 2013 for a Christmas 2014 release.

He is the author of the action-adventure novels VELOCITY and COMBUSTION. He is currently writing his third book. (author bio and picture taken from Steve's website http://www.steveworland.com/#!about/c21kz)

Steve was kind enough to answer some questions following my reviews of VELOCITY and COMBUSTION.

(Josh) Both VELOCITY and COMBUSTION are big on action. A space shuttle is high-jacked in VELOCITY, while LA is set on fire in COMBUSTION. What was your inspiration behind the plots for these books?

(Steve) 'Velocity' was inspired by an article I read in the Sydney Morning Herald about the Royal Flying Doctor Service being partially funded by NASA. The Americans wanted to be sure the RFDS was on call during space flights if they needed to use Central Australia in case of an emergency. The article sparked my interest and became the jumping off point for the book. 

'Combustion' came about when I was posed a question during a pitch meeting in LA about an interesting way to destroy the world. I immediately thought about a virus, then pushed it from my mind as being cliched. Cut to the following weekend and I'm reading a Time Magazine article about the Firestone tyre delimitation issues that were causing Ford Explorer SUVs to roll over at speed. I wondered how a virus could cause a car accident and came up with 'The Swarm', a nanotech virus that infects combustion engines and causes them to explode. Also, after living in Los Angeles for a long while I wanted to write about an Aussie coming to grips with the City of Angles.

VELOCITY introduced Judd Bell, an astronaut plagued by his insecurities who seemed to evolve and grow as a person as the novel progressed. Was it always your intention to create a damaged protagonist who wasn't picture perfect from the get-go? How does this separate him from other traditional action heroes (in general terms)?

Yes, that was definitely the idea. The characters in my books tend to be making it up as they go along, trying their best but not always succeeding to reach their goals because of their character flaws. They must utilise whatever skill set they might possess to give it a go -- without knowing if they will be successful or not. To me it is much more satisfying to write an 'everyman' who is unsure of what course of action to take but will give it a whirl rather than a 'superhero' who has all the answers and knows exactly what to do. I write it so my characters grow and change over the course of the story, eventually come to grips with their character flaws, then use what they've learned about themselves to reach their ultimate goal.

Despite the serious nature of both books, there's a nice balance of humour and liberal dose of light-hearted banter between Judd and Corey. How important was it to get this balance right?

I think comedy is the key ingredient for the kind of action adventure stories I write (and love). It's simple really, I believe you have to 'pay for the heart with the funny'. It's an old Hollywood saying but I believe it's necessary in all forms of drama. Essentially it means that if you want the readers to care about the characters at the end, when the stakes are at their highest, then the readers must love (or at least like) the characters, and the best way for that to happen is for them to make the readers laugh at the beginning. It doesn’t have to be laugh out loud funny, but the characters must endear themselves to the readers early on.

In COMBUSTION we see Corey play a bigger role in the hero stakes. What was the rationale behind bringing Corey into the spotlight (not to say Judd is an armchair hero, he's very much part of the action)?

I'm happy that came through clearly because it was definitely something I was aiming for with 'Combustion'. I really the wanted the Aussie to be front and centre this time around. I was lucky to get some generous feedback after 'Velocity' was published and pretty much every comment was about how much people enjoyed Corey and his blue heeler Spike. So to make Corey the equal of Judd in 'Combustion' I fleshed out his backstory, gave him a couple of major personal dilemmas to wrestle with and introduced him to the smart and resourceful Lola Jacklin, who just might be the woman of his dreams.

The Atlantis 4 are all unique characters who compliment one another across both VELOCITY and COMBUSTION, can readers expect to see more of this group in future books?

Yes, I will definitely revisit Judd Bell & Corey Purchase and the whole Atlantis 4 gang in the future, but my next book will introduce a fresh set of characters (the main character is an Aussie) and will be set in the world of Formula One. It will be published this time next year.

Links:

- Read my review of COMBUSTION

- Read my review of VELOCITY

- Visit Steve's website

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Look at what's next: Upcoming Reads

Here's a quick glimpse at some of the books I'm planning to read and review over the next couple of weeks. True to my eclectic reading nature these books are quite diverse and represent a broad range of genres (though all do contain a little slice of noir :-)).

Zero at the Bone  I Can Transform You  Purgatory 

Of the three, ZERO AT THE BONE by West Australian author David Whish-Wilson has me the most excited. It's the sequel to LINE OF SIGHT - an except of my review is as follows:

LINE OF SIGHT is as noir as Australian fiction gets. While the bleak plot leaves little room for the Hollywood sunshine and rainbows ending, it does promote a realism that's hard to swallow - such is life.

Prostitution, murder, corruption (political and police), drugs, scams, and organised crime formulate the backbone of the story, yet the characters carry the load and are bound to remain imbedded in my mind for a time to come.

Full review HERE.

I CAN TRANSFORM YOU by Maurice Broaddus contains a novella and short story - the second in the Apex Voices Line (the first being PLOW THE BONES by Douglas F Warrick reviewed HERE). Published by Apex Publishers, it's a sci-fi noir and if it's anything like KNIGHTS OF BRETON COURT then readers will be in for a treat. Blurb is as follows:

From the dust of The Trying Times TM, corp-nations have risen up in place of failed governments, and twilight haze dropped down in place of the sky. The economy fell, and the Earth itself shot heavenward, transforming the very face of the planet into an alien landscape with towers punching past the new sky into one of many unknowns. Soon after, the jumpers started raining from among the blue lanterns that took the place of sun and stars.

Mac Peterson left the employ of LG Security Forces and now cobbles together a life in the shadows of the great towers, filling policing needs for people too unimportant for the professional corp-national security to care about. His ex wife, Kiersten, stayed behind on the Security Forces, working undercover. When she turns up dead alongside one of the tower jumpers, Mac pairs up with Ade Walters, a cyborg officer, to uncover who would try to hide Kiersten's death among the suicides.

PURGATORY by Ken Bruen - the latest book in the Jack Taylor series. I'm yet to read HEADSTONE (but will prior to reviewing PURGATORY). I've got to admit, I'm a little hesitant to read HEADSTONE and PURGATORY, given I was so underwhelmed with THE DEVIL (review on Goodreads.com). That said, Ken Bruen is one of my favourite authors and to be honest I'd likely read his shopping list should he publish one.

Review: APPALACHIAN UNDEAD edited by Eugene Johnson & Jason Sizemore

Appalachian UndeadAn anthology of the undead which is as diverse as it is scary. APPALACHIAN UNDEAD tests the bloody red waters of zombie fiction and comes out dripping with new ideals, portrayals and messages.

Spanning 21 stories linked by the Appalachian mountains place-setting, the horror aspect is thick and heavy - inducing fear and terror in every corner of the landscape be it dilapidated dwellings, abandoned mines or the forest-like terrain. Influences of Romeo's famous zombie creations, The Walking Dead, and another pop culture theme tie ins are rife throughout the anthology. However, the diversification of the undead themselves separates the anthology from the stereotype while still maintaining the familiar.

Moonshine reanimates the dead, starting slowly with animals before creating the undead in 'When Granny Comes Marchin' Home' by Elizabeth Massie. In ''Company's Coming' by Ronald Kelly, the good and bad are hard to distinguish as the living are portrayed in an unfavourable light while a band of undead keep keep an elderly woman company - feeling more human than their living counterparts.

'Sitting Up With The Dead' by Bev Vincent is classic horror. A deadly plague ravishes a community reanimating the dead from their graves. This one is for the b-grade horror enthusiasts. While 'Calling Death' by Jonathan Maberry echoes horror from the black depths of a mine. A survivor slowly trudges towards the entrance in hopes in claiming a safe haven only to find decay and death waiting. Both of these stories had a distinct sense of place-setting and atmospheric horror.

Moonshine and porch rocking chairs are common throughout the stories, 'We Take Care Of Our Own' by John Everson is one of my favourite stories in this anthology. Moonshine, once again is the cause of the undead yearning for live meat. In this take, Everson creates a macabre small town factory where the production workers are chained and the dead feed off out of towners.

Hell rains down from the sky in 'Long Days To Come' by K. Allen Wood. 'Almost Heaven' by Michael Paul Gonzalez gives the zombies a voice. 'Hell's Hollow' by Michael West has the reanimated reenact a fatal shoot-out year after year before returning to their graves. While 'The Girl and the Guardian' by Simon McCaffery sees a mysterious creature watch over a young girl as the zombie plague hits her home. These stories exemplify the diversity in this collection.  

There are loads of enjoyable stories in APPALACHIAN UNDEAD, however the standouts for me are 'Spoiled' by Paul Moore - an atmospheric character driven horror where pregnancy and survival horror combine for a macabre tour de force. 'Sleeper' by Tim Lebbon is in line with the Walking Dead-like take on the genre. 'Being In The Shadow' by Maurice Broaddus sees a cop seek vengance for the dead of his partner at the hands of a shuffler. While 'Hide and Seek' by Tim Waggoner also provides the requisite thrills and chills.

There is a little something for all fans of horror within the blood smeared and gore encrusted pages of APPALACHIAN UNDEAD.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review: BARNEY THOMSON, ZOMBIE KILLER by Douglas Lindsay

Barney Thomson Zombie KillerSatire, zombies, political send-up, the world's most renowned mass murdering barber and haircuts aplenty - Douglas Lindsay's standalone Barney Thomson novella takes readers on a hilarious roller-coaster ride on the other side of life - the undead.

The British Prime Minister wants to take over the world - and do it on the cheap. Enter the zombie army. British scientists have developed a world class fighting unit, with no health care, pay, or expensive training, this undead army is both efficient and cost effective. As they ravage country to country without much international intervention, the PM starts to see his vision come to fruition.

That is, until the zombies break their containment at the hands of the army and raid the PM's quarters. The living dead, on a mission for human flesh look to eradicate the living to satisfy their craving.

Where does Barney Thomson fit in all this chaos? He's been assigned the personal barber to the PM, having undertaken such duties for previous members of office, he comes highly recommended, with a minor caveat...people seem to die when he's around.

As the laugh out loud story progresses Barney assumes the role of action hero, fending off the undead along side Humphrey Bogart and a small contingent of PM staff.

Douglas Lindsay's Barney Thomson books are far fetched but this takes the cake, it's a story without any sense of believability yet it demands the reader's attention by virtue of it's clever plotting, pitch black humour, and interesting characters.

Fans of Barney Thomson, new and old, can read BARNEY THOMSON, ZOMBIE KILLER without having read all the previous books in the series, though having some understanding of his previous exploits will enhance the jocularity.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: LEXICON by Max Barry

LexiconConceptually brilliant, Max Barry's LEXICON is a slice of the surreal that blends magical, criminal, sci-fi, and romance elements into a delicious concoction for the mind.

"Words aren't just sounds or shapes. They're meaning. That's what language is: a protocol for transferring meaning. When you learn English, you train your brain to react in a particular way to particular sounds. As it turns out, the protocol can be hacked."

The power of words is exemplified by Barry's ability to craft a language into a form of magic. An organisation devoted to harnessing the power of Poets, recruits a seemingly down and out young women living day to day, surviving on the fruits from her con on the streets. 16yr old Emily, while poor, is rich in will and determination. It's these traits that serve her well as a student and survivalist.
 
"Everyone's broken," Eliot said, "one way or another."

Wil Parker is at the other end of the equation, an outlier connected to an extinction level event that occurred at Broken Hill. As the sole survivor, he's suddenly thrust into a violent world he never knew existed - all while slowly unravelling the mystery to his own identity. His first appearance in LEXICON has him chased by mystery men, shot at, witness to murder, and the target of an abduction attempt. This breakneck pace doesn't let up throughout the novel.


As a fully trained Poet, Emily is exceptionally dangerous, having accumulated the knowledge of barewords, she wields great power - power that causes catastrophe be it willingly or unintentional. Her path linking to Wil is a testament to complex yet logical and seamless plotting. The events of LEXICON play out in equal parts action/thriller, sci-fi/romance.

"...we believe a bareword belongs to a fundamental language of the human mind - the tongue in which the human animal speaks to itself at the basest level. The machine language, in essence."

There is a deep seeded longing in Emily that's endearing and unsettling, while Wil is a protagonist in the accidental hero mould. Barry does a great job at establishing these core characters in such a complimentary fashion to one another.

LEXICON is a rare book - one that combines multiple plot threads into a seamless portrayal of believable events. The past and present nature of the plot lines ensures the protagonists aren't without meaning, their plights accountable, and the ramifications of their actions damming.

I thoroughly enjoyed LEXICON from start to finish and will now look to track down Max Barry's previous books.

Penguin Crime Classics - Yes there's noir!

Embedded image permalinkI recently paid a vist to Dymocks Adelaide after succumbing to temptation following their tweet of their penguin crime classics window display.

This latest collection of penguin classics includes 50 crime novels by some of the most gifted and influential authors of all time including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Barbara Vine, and G.K. Chesterson all in a stylish green cover and standard layout (much the same as the other 'classics' range).

However, its the inclusion of authors renowned for their noir and hardboiled exploits that really gets me excited. Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner, Charles Willeford, and Dashiell Hammett have books which feature in this line:

Raymond Chandler:
- The Long Goodbye
- Playback

Erle Stanley Gardner:
- The Case of the Postponed Murder
- The Case of the Phantom Fortune

Dashiell Hammett:
- The Thin Man

Charles Willeford:
- Miami Blues

While the at times lurid yet attractive and highly collectible dimestore covers are gone, the modern and more refined green look works well for the series as a whole (and makes me want to collect as many as my budget allows).

 

My initial swag included the following with an attractive tote bag thrown in for free:















Dymocks Adelaide has loads of these in store, with today being National Bookshop Day, why not head in store and pick up a penguin crime classic?

Links:

- View the list of Popular Penguin Crime Classics HERE

- Visit Dymocks online

Follow Dymocks Adelaide on twitter: @DymocksAdelaide

Follow me on twitter: @OzNoir

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Oz Fiction Spotlight: Action, Thriller, Adventure!

Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves (Shane Schofield, #5)For many readers, the name Matthew Reilly is synonymous with Aussie author produced action thrillers, and it should be. Reilly is one of the best authors of the genre worldwide, let alone in the Australian fiction landscape.

*Read my review of the latest entry into the Scarecrow series, SCARECROW AND THE ARMY OF THIEVES (2012) on Goodreads.com here.

What readers may not know is the buck doesn't stop with Reilly. There are many talented Oz authors who produce books with just as much action, thrills, spills, and adventure.


Chris Allen, author of the Intrepid series (DEFENDER, HUNTER) has created a unique and daring protagonist who has all the hallmarks of Reilly's Scarecrow but is more blue blooded.

Defender: INTREPID 1 (INTREPID, #1)The action sequences in the Intrepid series are intense; described in a manner which completely eradicates the world around you and places you inside the fictional landscape scared by the atrocities of ware and moulded by intelligence agency corruption. In each of DEFENDER and HUNTER, protagonist Alex Morgan is accompanied by a Bond-like female lead and an earth shattering plot which give the series a big budget blockbuster feel and sense of the familiar while still maintaining a unique identity.

*You can read my interview with Chris (Dec 2012) here.

CombustionSteve Worland, author of the Judd Bell/Corey Purchase action thrillers has produced two great reads thus far with hopefully more on the way. Fans of Matthew Reilly will enjoy Steve Worland's first book, 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.

COMBUSTION looks at environmentalist extremists, a rogue terror-like group who want to teach the world a lesson by burning LA - their aim, to eradicate harmful emissions by infecting combustion engines with a nanotech virus dubbed The Swarm. This book is great - not only is it high on action but also builds upon the famed Atlantis 4, a group of unique individuals who have helped save many lives twice over. 

The Chimera Vector by Nathan M. FarrugiaRounding out this blog post is Nathan Farrugia, author of The Fifth Column, a tech thriller series which includes THE CHIMERA VECTOR and THE SERAPHIM SEQUENCE.

If you were to fuse the literally talents of Matthew Reilly (SCARECROW, Jack West) and Michael Crichton (PREY, NEXT) you'd end up with THE CHIMERA VECTOR. Despite the complimentary styling, this book is all Nathan Farrugia.

THE CHIMERA VECTOR explores the notion of different types of humans coexisting with some having the potential to rule mankind by virtue of their chemical /refined make-up, and another - a select secretive group of programmed agents trying to stop them. Sophia, Damien, and Jay, a crack special ops team exemplify all that this genre encompasses and then some. This series has some serious legs. I'm yet to read THE SERAPHIM SEQUENCE but by all accounts it looks as action packed as THE CHIMERA VECTOR.

Review Links:

- Chris Allen, INTREPID #1: DEFENDER
- Chris Allen, INTREPID #2: HUNTER
- Steve Worland, VELOCITY
- Steve Worland, COMBUSTION
- Nathan M. Farrugia, THE CHIMERA VECTOR (Fifth Column #1)

Interview: J.B. Turner (author of HARD ROAD)

The Author, J. B. TurnerJ.B Turner has been a journalist whose articles have appeared in UK newspapers including The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, The Daily Express and The Herald.

He worked as a freelance journalist for several years before he began work on his first novel.

J.B. Turner is married and has two young children. (author bio taken from Exhibit A)

HARD ROAD (reviewed on this blog, link below) introduces Jon Reznick, a man who has survived and taken lives in the shadowy corners of Government sanctioned assassination. Now his personal and professional life collide in a breath-taking fast action thriller that's sure to entice readers from all genres.

J.B. was kind enough to answer some questions following my review of HARD ROAD.

(Josh) Biochemical warfare, the notion of 'dirty bombs' etc. is a scary prospect given the day and age we live in, what sort of research did you undertake on this topic?

During my research for Hard Road, I came across details about American medical experiment conducted on civilians who hadn’t consented to participate. One of these was an experiment carried out in New York City’s subway system. Scientists tested biological pathogens, including Bacillus globigii, thought to be harmless. A light bulb containing this pathogen was dropped on the subway. And the result was significant enough to affect people prone to illness. Accordingly, based on the circulation measurements, thousands would have been killed if a dangerous microbe was released in the same way. I was horrified by this and incorporated this into my plot, with the bad guys attempting to do the same thing.

Reznick is introduced as this skilled and highly efficient killer for hire who evolves as the story progresses into a loving father and advocate for justice. During the writing process, did Reznick grow with the story or had you mapped out his character prior to writing HARD ROAD?

No doubt about it, Reznick evolved as the story progressed, according to what he faced. I had mapped out the story to a degree, but the character of Reznick grew more complex as Hard Road developed.

I thought the assassin-for-hire aspect to HARD ROAD was beautifully written and one of the real highlights of the story. Do you see yourself exploring the topic in future books (irrespective of Reznick)?

The follow-up, Hard Kill, which is out in July 2014, will feature both Reznick and FBI Assistant Director Meyerstein combining again. So he won’t be an assassin for hire, but more like a special forces operative acting on a consultancy basis – if you like – for the FBI as they investigate the disappearance of an American diplomat. But his assassin skills will be put to the test – count on that.

Were you tempted to explore the relationship between Reznick and Meyerstein further? There were a number of scenes where the tension was palpable (albeit from whichever POV was in focus at the time); the sense that something was about to happen was undeniable yet without fruition.

I think the reason the relationship and frisson of tension between them works, is that they do not touch. The reader perhaps wants them to become more intimate. But in my opinion, that would have taken away the electricity that exists between them in the story. In Hard Kill? Who knows?

HARD ROAD is very much an edge of your seat thriller. Who are some of your favorite authors in this genre? And which (if any) have influenced you?

My favorite authors are more in the general crime genre, rather than specifically thriller. Richard Stark who wrote The Hunter, which was made into a great film with Lee Marvin, and eventually Payback with Mel Gibson, is an author who I very much admire. James Ellroy’s The Cold Six Thousand is one of the best crime blockbusters ever. A work of genius in its scope, magnitude and ambition. James Lee Burke too. Purple Cane Road is dripping with atmosphere, something I try to pay attention to in Hard Road. John Grisham too, especially The Runaway Jury and The Firm.

What's next for Jon Reznick?

He is called into action in Hard Kill which is out on 24 June 2014 in America and in eBook format. It’s released 3 July 2014 in UK. Here’s a heads-up what it involves:

An American diplomat goes missing and ex-Special Forces operative Jon Reznick joins a top secret team, led by FBI Assistant Director Martha Meyerstein, to help track him down.
 
The team believes that there may be a terrorist group – perhaps Islamists – who have kidnapped him, as the diplomat’s area of expertise is the Persian Gulf. But Reznick is training his sights on an unlikely candidate – a leading Washington DC surgeon.
 
But as the team itself comes under attack, and the 9/11 commemoration approaches, it becomes clear that the kidnapping is part of a much bigger plot, one that threatens not only New York, but the whole country too.

 Links:

- Author Website - J.B. Turner

- Publisher Website - Exhibit A

- My Review of HARD ROAD

- HARD KILL (Jon Reznick #2) book info

Follow J.B. Turner on Twitter: @JBTurnerAuthor

Follow me on Twitter: @OzNoir

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: COMBUSTION by Steve Worland

Combustion"The plan was, simply, to make people switch off their combustion engines. That's why the Swarm was designed to turn a vehicle's exhaust purple as soon as the engine was infected, then black before it exploded. It was a warning, so people understood that if they didn't turn off their engines they would die. Of course, for the warning to be effective, some people needed to die early in the process."

A nanotech virus, dubbed the Swarm, is released over the densely populated LA. It infects gasoline causing vehicle to explode and can survive in smog for years. The worldwide ramifications of this virus are extreme. Recent heroes (of previous installment VELOCITY) Judd Bell and Corey Purchase just happen to be in the city of angels when hell hits earth, and leap into action in an effort contain the spread and get the counteragent to the authorities before it's too late.

The protagonists in Corey and Judd are not cast from the traditional mould. Judd's an astronaut, Corey, a light helicopter pilot - yet I couldn't imagine a different combination of heroes for these books.

Hindering their progress is a deadly duo with delusions of changing the world by force; Kilroy - a hired muscle of sorts, and Bunsen, the brains of the operation.

Bunsen's warped rational leads to inducing mass hysteria and death; effectively creating a hell on earth as LA and its inhabitants burn for the sake of kick starting the widespread and prolonged use of clean renewable energy to down scale greenhouse gas omissions is as scary as it is believable.

Worlands fiction is a fast addiction. His thrillers read like big budget Hollywood blockbusters. In VELOCITY we saw the theft of a space shuttle, in COMBUSTION it's a major US city set alight. The ambitious and all consuming scale of these stories can't be underestimated. Despite the seemingly far reaching plots, Worland manages to create a distinct sense of plausibility further embedding the readers imagery into this dangerous landscape where the innocuous could be the catalyst for large scale devastation.

Like VELOCITY, COMBUSTION is a fast paced thriller which pulls no punches. It has a couple of great lead characters, intriguing antagonists with reasons to support their actions, and a nice ensemble cast to complement Judd and Corey. I cant wait to see what's next from Steve Worland.