Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: EMPIRE STATE by Adam Christopher


Empire State (Empire State, #1)EMPIRE STATE is a blend of prohibition era shysters and superheroes ripped from the comic strip with a nod towards noir and the dime detective novels of the pulp era. There is also a liberal dose of sci-fi too with a multi dimensional New York/Empire State with access to and from via a fissure. This pocket and origin concept is a times confusing yet plausible within the limitations of Adam Christopher’s world he so craftily manufactures. Once I was able to get my head around it, the idea worked really well and added another ‘dimension’ to the characters.

Empire State is a city confined by a mysterious and everlasting fog, it’s in a perpetual state of wartime with fleet after fleet disembarking to join the war effort. The calendar spans back a mere 19 years with its inhabitants having no memory of their history. It’s a strange place which gets a whole lot stranger following the fusion of the cities when the Science Pirate is murdered and Rex, a gangster is plucked from New York straight into the heart of Empire State.

Rex’s Empire State counterpart (for each person in Empire State is a mirror of those in New York), Rad, is a private investigator tasked with discovering who is responsible for the murder of a young women with a distinct likeness to the Science Pirate. It’s this investigative angle that allows Christopher to fuse sci-fi with the common noir elements.

Personally I would’ve liked to have seen more of the prohibition era gangsters and speak easy establishments, however, the battles involving the superheroes and ever changing landscape between good and evil make up for this.

EMPIRE STATE is not an easily definable novel in terms of confining it within a single genre as there are simply too many facets and faces to the story Christopher tells. I found EMPIRE STATE to be mostly enjoyable if not a little confusing at times with some interesting characters and a unique place-setting. This is a must read for fans of superhero and sci-fi fiction.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: HORIZON (Aftertime #3) by Sophie Littlefield

Horizon (Aftertime, #3)Cass Dollar and the inhabitants of New Eden, a place secluded from the Beater threat by a lake, soon discover their haven a hell as the Beaters evolve and become organised. Unable to swim, the Beaters should’ve posed no threat to New Eden, however their slow evolution means water is no barrier and Cass is once again thrust into the violent post apocalyptic world where fighting is the only means for survival.

The conclusion to the Aftertime series is less violent and suspenseful than the previous books with Littlefield focusing more on Cass and her relationship with Dor and Smoke and their combined struggle to find a new settlement following New Eden being compromised.

There are a few moments of standard zombie horror, the most notable being an altercation with the recently turned inside a fortified mall, that aside, there’s little of Romero in Aftertime. For the most part, HORIZON is about the survivors and the monsters man turns into – greed and violence become all consuming as a course towards a new home is plotted safe from the hungry mouths of the Beaters.

HORIZON is a different book to AFTERTIME and REBIRTH as Cass and her family try to establish a ‘normal’ list amid the ruins of the world before. It’s my least favourite of the series but still a must for those who have read both AFTERTIME and REBITH.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Advance Review: SCARE ME by Richard Parker


Scare MeFear is motivation in Richard Parker’s SCARE ME, a thriller where the blue collar meets coppery red violence. This gripping and intense story of one man’s plight to save his daughter from her twisted captures pulls no punches.

Will Frost, a wealthy businessman is awoken in the early hours of the morning by a mysterious caller asking if he’s googled himself. From that moment on, life as he knows it ceases to exist with dreams making way for a living nightmare as he travels half way around the world to bring his pregnant daughter and her boyfriend home to safety.

The killer in this story is sadistic, inventive, and overtly cruel using not only visual aides to demonstrate their habit but also employing tactics to further deep emotional trauma on their victims.

Will is an endearing protagonist anchored by his wife and business associates. He maintains humility despite an abundance of wealth with family and friends the most important aspect of his life. The killer knows and exploits this in an all too realistic and devilish manner.

SCARE ME is an engrossing, addictive, and all consuming thriller by an author who looks to have mastered the craft of suspense and heart pounding action. I highly recommend SCARE ME.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: ZOMBIE BITS... and pieces

Zombie Bits (Murdermouth)This collection of short stories delves into the zombie sub genre from multiple points of view ranging from the zombies themselves, to those who hunt them. While varied, the stories from the zombie POV are very similar insofar as the personality and thought processes mirror one another to the extent I though they were linked stories (they may well be though it didn’t come across that way). There are some standouts, with ‘Survivors’ by Joe McKinney reading more like an action romp than survival horror yet it manages to ooze heart amidst the gore infused backdrop. ‘The Meek’ by Scott Nicholson is probably the best of the collection where cannibalism runs rife in outback Australia and the order of the food chain is severely altered. ‘The Zombie Survival Scorecard’ by Jonathan Maberry goes to great length to diversify the dead by breaking down the types of zombies and their potential impact on the rate of human survival should such events occur – interesting and well written. ‘Murdermouth’ by Scott Nicholson is the best of the zombie POV’s and shows a more human aspect to the walking dead where the living could almost be considered the monsters. Overall this is a solid collection of zombie bits to wet the appetite for a full length.


Horizon (Aftertime, #3)Now onto some of the zombie novels taking my immediate interest (a different slant on my Delayed Gratification posts). Currently I’m reading Sophie Littlefield’s HORIZON (Aftertime #3). It’s been while since I finished REBIRTH (Aftertime #2) (actually it was July 2011!) and I was initially going to go back and re-read it before delving into HORIZON but I just couldn’t wait. So far so good. I love survival horror and Littlefield’s series is a sure winner. A passage from REBIRTH still gives me the chills when I read it:

“…the truck offered them exactly what they wanted: a shelter with only one way in, a dark box that would serve as their butcher’s table and which would run red with the blood of the fallen.”


Read my review of REBIRTH (Aftertime #2) here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/187335310
Read my review of AFTERTIME (Aftertime #1) here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/139865666


Quiver (Volume 1, The Tamsyn Webb Chronicles)QUIVER by Aussie author Jason Fischer brings back the pulp era zombie horror by virtue of some great artwork and even better storytelling. Initially designed to be a series of novellas, this survival horror is far more than gore and mindless meat eaters with protagonist Tamsyn Webb instantly likeable and well defined. I read GRAVESEND, the first instalment (book 1 of the novel) some time ago and am looking forward to seeing where Fischer takes his bow and arrow wielding heroine. I plan on reading QUIVER shortly after finishing HORIZON.

Read more about QUIVER on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16430960-quiver



To finish off this zombie themed post, below is a review I wrote a while ago (March 2011) for one of my all time favourite zombie novels, THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS by Alden Bell.

The Reapers Are the Angels (Reapers, #1)Set 25 years after a zombie outbreak, 'The Reapers Are the Angels' portrays the struggle of mankind as it attempts to build a new society decimated by death and consumed by hatred. Funnily enough, it’s not the zombies that pose the dominant threat to the new world, rather the survivors themselves (amongst who live inbreeds, hunters, and criminals) who haven't learnt to live harmoniously without laws and governance. The protagonist, Temple, oozes classic southern gothic appeal and is instantly likable - the perfect heroine for the imperfect post apocalyptic time she lives in. Driven to the fight, Temple roams the USA encountering one band of survivor society to another and picking up some interesting wards along the way. The zombies are portrayed as little more than cattle (by some as a means food, others as a source of narcotic) adding a semi-original touch to a well used theme. Consistently fast paced, this is as good as a page turner I've ever read.


THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS has high reread appeal and I suspect I’ll be going back for another dose of the good stuff in the not too distant future.

I’m yet to read EXIT KINGDOM (Reapers #2) but if its half as good as THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS then its sure to be a winner too.


Read more about THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8051458-the-reapers-are-the-angels
 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: MURDERERS ANONYMOUS by Douglas Lindsay


Murderers Anonymous (Barney Thomson) Barney Thomson just attracts serial killers. After surviving mass murder at a monastery in THE BARBER SURGEONS HAIRSHIRT, the barber with bad luck stumbles upon a group of murderous maniacs trying to rein in their addiction by joining murderers anonymous. Thing is - not all of these violently inclined individuals have been caught and soon enough a secluded retreat that was meant to hint at romance in the air and redemption turns to spoilt meat and relapse.
 
I don't know how Douglas Lindsay does it, but every time I read a Barney Thomson book the dialogue and healthy dose of satire just gets better and better. Even with the expanded cast in Mulholland and Proudfoot (and her fictitious addiction, Jade Weapon), both police officers who have aligned their lives to the Barney Thomson phenomenon, Lindsay manages to keep the dialogue fresh and unique to the characters without sounding like carbon copies of one another.
 
Witt and humour are key to these books, however in MURDERERS ANONYMOUS, it's a shocking turn of events and a sequence so bloody and cannibalistic that horror fans may cringe that seals the deal. The third instalment shows no signs of the series slowing down, if anything, Lindsay appears to be gearing up for more high octane laughs and comedic accident murder.
 
My review of THE BARBER SURGEONS HAIRSHIRT (book #2), can be found HERE

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: A Ben, Chon, and O threesome by Don Winslow



I recently read THE KINGS OF COOL, re-read SAVAGES, and watched the movie adaptation. Below are my thoughts on the Ben, Chon, and O threesome, starting with the prequel, THE KINGS OF COOL.
 
The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to SavagesWinslow’s Bruen-like delivery of Ben, Chon, and O’s story prior to SAVAGES is sparse, lean, and subtle yet not without substance. It’s a style that leads the reader deep into their own imagination while still populating the written landscape with enough direction and keynotes to maintain a consistent yet vividly well rendered train of thought. Spanning past and present crimes, THE KINGS OF COOL encompasses the lives of Ben, Chon and O in a beautiful interlocking plot that not only binds their friendship but unearths their family lineage and path towards their present day involvement in the drug business.
 
This one has a bit of everything in it. From O’s love and hero-worship of Chon, drug wars, shady cops, to family drama and close encounters with death. The exploration of the Southern California drug trade through the 60’s to early 2000’s paints a culture of violence handed down by generation starting from some unlikely sources. Ben emerges as a serious player despite an adversity to violence, while on the other hand, Chon rules the streets with an iron first – but what happens when that fists lands square in the face of someone he least expected?
 
The dialogue is witty and humorous, reminiscent of Elmore Leonard at his best. It’s instantly readable and at once addictive. Fans of Winslow will appreciate the flashback sequences where characters Frankie Machine and Bobby Z make cameo appearances. THE KINGS OF COOL goes a long way to establishing interconnectivity with other Winslow titles – now to go back and re-read them all, first up SAVAGES (earlier review below).
 
 
SavagesThe Baja Cartel want Ben and Chon to grow weed exclusively for them, so much so that they send a rather confronting video to Chon for his viewing pleasure. One could say Ben, Chon, and O have got themselves in over their heads...
 
And so starts a non stop thrill ride of drugs, sex, violence, and big business cartel warfare.
 
When I first read SAVAGES, I was blown away by how engaging the characters were and the second time round is no different. O is unique, funny, and deeply in love with her boys, both of whom freely share her heart and bed. She's the innocent victim of the Baja Cartels greed and thirst for expansion.
 
Ben and Chon, now having read THE KINGS OF COOL are that much cooler - if possible. Winslow is really onto a winner with this semi odd couple - one a violent and take charge through violence, the other, a negotiator with a Zen-like outlook on life.
 
As for the story, Winslow doesn't miss a beat. There's enough back-story to make the characters feel real while the action clocks breakneck speed. I love the approach Ben and Chon take to raise enough money to meet the cartels requirements. It's a blood romp through California sun, shine and drug warfare.
 
My original take was much less comprehensive but remains true: Great characters, fast moving story and non stop action. The Bruen-like prose was well executed - Winslow has adopted this style and made it his own. (Jan 2011)
 
 
Now on to the adaptation and like most, the cinematic rendition of Winslow's near perfect novel SAVAGES didn't translate entirely true to the source material though the effort was commendable. Initially I was a little sceptical over the casting of Blake Lively as O - however I think she played the character well enough despite having to work with less background and humour as O's character in the novel. I was particularly disappointed to see PAQU, O's mother mention only in passing, whereas the interactions between her and her daughter were enjoyable and added substance to O. That aside, Blake Lively put in a decent performance.
 
Ben and Chon though were cast well and executed nearly 100%. I didn't find them deviating from novel al that much - these two were the most pleasing aspect of the move.
 
Lado is a bad man in the book and is equally if not more so in movie - there are some added touches that really highlight how dangerous and unpredictable this character is, notably his treatment of the kidnapped O. That said, a key element was missing from book with Lado's wife written as a little more than a bit player - there is one scene in the book which seals Lado's fate - this was missing in the movie as the screenplay took a slightly different path.
 
Don Winslow's SAVAGES is a quick, precise and constantly moving and evolving story. The movie, while keeping true to these theme was a lot longer in duration than I had anticipated. Fast readers could realistically read the book completely in less time than it would take to watch the movie from beginning to end.
Overall I was satisfied with the adaptation but had hoped for a little more. I think if O was given a deeper backstory and had her trademark humour and care free attitude brought to the forefront then SAVAGES would've been something special. I will re-watch this (as I bought the BluRay) but wont be going back to it as often as the book. For me, the movie gets a 6.5 out of 10.
 
 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT by Barry Graham

Of Darkness and LightGary Scott’s past and present collide by virtue of a run down house where the Bogey Man feels all too real.

“I’m the Bogey, Bogey, I’m the Bogey Man. I’m there when it gets dark to kill you if I can.”

Gary Scott, editor of the City Review lives a life akin to his blue collar existence. It’s one of meetings, deadlines, women, office confrontation, mediation, journalisms, and something dark and disturbing lurking in the shadows. The early stages of the novel see Gary’s stumble upon the gruesome corpse of a murdered dog near his girlfriends flat, seeing an angle for a story he quickly snaps some photos and proceeds to the office to write about the discovery and the ensuring police investigation. Little did he know that the dog was the start of a much larger and macabre series of events which would leads to suicide, murder, and a near death experience for Gary himself.

Despite the obvious graphic and violent end to the harmless animal at the beginning of the book, author Barry Graham allows protagonist Gary Scott to grow into his role at the magazine prior to thrusting more violence upon him. I liked the subtle approach to the supernatural by which Gary’s day job morphs into a medium for the spooky tales to emerge from the depths of an unknown evil. There are some great b-grade horror movie-like scenes, notably where a female character comes at Gary with a sharp object after taking that same object to herself.

There is something darker in the background that wasn’t explored to the extent I had imagined but it works well as Graham lulls the reader into a false sense of normalcy before brining the creatures that go bump in the night right to the forefront. A nice subtle form of horror not to be missed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: BLOOD AND TACOS #2

Blood & Tacos #2Like a cheap shot to the nether regions, these stories pack a sucker punch that’ll turn your mo’ upside down and smear that seersucker suit with gooey pulp goodness. The second adventure men’s magazine aptly titled BLOOD AND TACOS is loaded with some of my favourite authors in Ray Banks (INSIDE STRAIGHT), Andrew Nette (GHOST MONEY), and Josh Stallings (OUT THERE BAD) amongst others equally good at spreading the love and war across the cheesy and remarkably dodgy characters that populate these cult-like stories.

In a first for me in reviewing short stories I’m not going to name favourites as all the stories within this collection are top notch pulp. Rather I’ll give a brief blow by blow account of the contents as they appear. Kicking things off with ‘End of the Renaissance’, Ray Banks introduces a blind hero like no other who uses his charm and fists to create an uprising against bad guys who had been using males as worker slaves and women as play things. It’s a hard hitting, violent and disturbingly good way to hop aboard the gravy laden pulp train. Sabrina Ogden then chimes in with a review of THE XANDER PURSUIT which is both entertaining and insightful. Despite the overall corny nature of the title, Ogden’s review wet my appetite for more. After that brief interlude, the stories return with ‘Never Say Good Night in Saigon’ by Jimmy Callaway which is what GI JOE would be if dropped in the middle of a E-grade action flick and asked to save the world with a tooth pick – oh yes, the All American type hero on foreign soil is all good. Tasked with recovering stolen infants who were housed inside Mama Tu’s nightclub, Mathes teams up with a local sergeant to retrieve the infants before any harm is done, along the way having to fight for his life using all manner of deadly weapons. ‘Never Say Good Night in Saigon’ is an excellent example at the hero-pulp persona done right.

‘Burn In’ by Frank Lanerd captures that 80’s urban crime feel perfectly yet adds a little spice by virtue of a surprisingly deep and well thought-out back story to both sides of the good and bad. Cruel is a mean mother whose street cred is enough to scare the toughest gangster – just not Mr. Bread, a thug who uses minions to do his dirty work. ‘Burn In’ explores pain like no short story I’ve read, the actions have deadly consequences and Cruel’s split second decision has long lasting ramifications. ‘Burn In’ is a certain highlight. Next up Matthew C Funk’s excerpt of an ‘interview’ with Agent Sniper provides a nice sidebar from the short stories and a glimpse of the maddened mind of a vet lost in his own action movie.

‘Operation Scorpion Sting’ by Andrew Nette is about a deadly assassin who isn’t afraid to take down any target if the price is right, It’s a delectable nod towards traditional Aussie themes with a protagonist as deadly with boomerangs as he is with women. When enticed by the danger of bringing down a drug syndicate operating in Bangkok, following fruitless attempt by local law enforcement, Thong sets his sights on the deadly Scorpion, head of the trafficking business and renowned bad guy. Reading this is akin to watching those old action flicks dominated by a one man army. I think this quote sums up Thong perfectly: “I’ve been killing so long, it’s like a second skin.”

Chingon has a cameo appearance by virtue of a list of series titles created by a pulp genius and commented by Johnny Shaw – the theme will make you laugh and cringe at the same time. With so many bad (good) idea’s I sure hope some see the light of day, especially more of Chingon.

Josh Stallings rounds out BLOOD AND TACOS #2 with ‘The G-String Gundown’ – what a title, need I say more? Despite the cheesy nature of the title, this short story is well characterised and a master of deception. The protagonist, a sexy young woman seeks revenge for wrongs done to her mother by three male youths many years back. In proving sex is a weapon, Stallings pits his heavenly woman against some tough characters, killing them softly without remorse. It’s violent, in-your-face, literary abuse that’s too good not to warrant further exploration. 

Like the first instalment, BLOOD AND TACOS delivers what it sets out to achieve, pure pulp goodness – all hail the return of the pulp for in BLOOD AND TACOS mullets and moustaches are alive and well.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: LOCKE AND KEY Vol.1 by Joe Hill


Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to LovecraftJoe Hill’s LOCKE AND KEY is surrealist fiction at its finest. It has enough plausibility to maintain the illusion of reality whilst slowly and subtly introducing supernatural elements. In vol.1, Keyhouse, a mansion with doors which transport, temporarily kill (allowing a character to experience life/death as a ghost temporarily), or transform the person who walks through them is explored and established as a key character in its own right. Activated by a special key hidden in plain sight, these doors provide for an interesting take on the supernatural as the characters themselves come to terms with being dead if only for short time.

There’s a lot going on in vol.1. The early chapters (individual issues) introduce the core group of characters, a family who are the victims of a vicious and extremely violent assault which cost them their father/husbands life. With survival instincts on high, Tyler and Nina fight back and manage to escape without further casualty while Kinsey and Bode hide from the terror, reuniting with Tyler and Nina once the police arrive. It’s that incident which leads the family to Keyhouse and things really get going.

Before long we’re introduced to a ghostly being living down a well who manipulates Bode into doing her bidding, a past event resurfaces in a brutally confronting way and more than one family member experiences that ghostly feeling.

I can’t begin to praise LOCKE AND KEY enough. The story is gripping, the characters believable and each a unique and interesting individual, while the supernatural elements are, almost natural and slot in seamlessly with the story.

*A note on the medium: I read LOCKE AND KEY: WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT on my Kindle Paperwhite and was initially sceptical as to how a graphic novel would hold-up from a visual and readability perspective. I was completely blown away but how much I enjoyed the medium. So much so, that I feel, the presentation in black and white and the panel by panel view added a movie-like quality to the experience. For those unsure as to whether to take the plunge into graphic novels on the Paperwhite, if they’re anything like LOCKE AND KEY, it’ll be a very rewarding experience.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: WYATT by Garry Disher


Wyatt (Wyatt, #7)Garry Disher’s Wyatt character is the Australian equivalent to Richard Stark’s (Donald Westlake) Parker – a resourceful and methodical professional thief who will stop at nothing to obtain the object of his desire. In this latest series instalment, WYATT, Disher not only re-establishes his most renowned character but also introduces new readers to the violent world of Aussie noir. Despite being the seventh book in the series (and the first I’ve read), WYATT reads extremely well as a standalone. Disher provides enough back-story to make the characters actually mean something while throwing references to past jobs undertaken by the professional thief. Conceptually, this hit all the targets solidifying Disher as a rare and top talent in Australian crime/noir fiction.

Wyatt’s latest job presents him with a unique opportunity to target a French jewel smuggler (Le Page) who just happens to be carrying a small fortune by way of bank bonds. An acquaintance in Eddie Oberin and his former wife Lydia convince Wyatt that the score is worth the risk despite overseas heat by way of a murdered courier Le Page may have been responsible for. What follows is a pure adrenalin soaked noir brimming with tension, violence, and a smattering of dark humour.

As my first exposure to Wyatt (apart from a short story in the Crime Factory anthology HARD LABOUR), this was a winner on all fronts. Disher mixes dark humour, violence, and engaging characters to create a truly entertaining and realistic Aussie noir that not only draws comparisons to the greats (ala Richard Stake) but supersedes them (a big call, I know, but justified in my eyes).

As a somewhat obsessive fan of noir and in more recent time an Aussie crime fiction convert (thank you Luke Preston, Andrew Nette, David Whish-Wilson, and Paul Anderson amongst others), I’m surprised it took me so long to delve into the world of Wyatt. Now that I’ve dipped my toes it’s time to get completely submerged in Disher’s work.

Delayed Gratification [2] - Books doing 'time' on the shelf

 
This series of blog posts examines books I’ve acquired which have spent considerable time on the shelf for one reason or another (in some cases many years). In an order to rediscover what attracted me to these books in the first place, each week/fortnight I plan on revisiting a handful with the aim of pushing them up the TBR pile and rekindling my interest.

The second post delves deep into my PI/detective mystery collection showcasing a pulpier and lesser known side to my books. These books are a mix of kindle and print which I had fully intended to read asap, yet they have been overlooked time and time again.


Satan's LambsSATAN’S LAMBS by Lynn S. Hightower (shelved 2011) is an interesting book. Namely because I knew very little about it when I purchased it except for two things: one – Ken Bruen mentioned on a long lost online post somewhere on an obscure website that it was one of his favourite novels at time of publishing the post. Second – I loved the cover. While it’s true, what’s inside the book counts, that initial reaction to the cover is a key thing in winning me over and gladly parting with my hard earned cash.
 
As it turns out that online post wasn’t lost nor from an obscure website. Read Ken Bruen’s Ten Favourite Crime Novels (as of Sept. 30 2010) here: http://www.bookaware.com/2010/09/ken-bruen-my-ten-favourite-crime-novels/
 
View more about SATAN'S LAMBS on GR
 
 
Dance of DeathTHE DANCE OF DEATH by Carter Brown (shelved 2009). THE DANCE OF DEATH will be the next Carter Brown book I read. Towards the end of last year (2012) I read a number of books featuring the hardboiled detective Al Wheeler – a lone wolf sort of character who has to contend with bullets just as much as wanton females throwing themselves at him. This edition was published in 1964 and is a good reflection of the pulp era both in cover design and writing style. With an opening blub containing She wouldn't take no from any man, so how could Wheeler refuse? Cissie St. Jerome turned a spotlight on her black-sheeted bed and gave Lt. Al Wheeler the performance of his life... you know you’re in for a treat of pulpy goodness.
 
I've reveiwed two other Carter Brown novels on  this site - select the tags (to the left) to check them out.
 
View more about THE DANCE OF DEATH on GR
 
 
The Colour of BloodRounding out this edition of Delayed Gratification is THE COLOUR OF BLOOD by Declan Hughes. What hooked me was the opening line: “The last case I worked, I found a sixteen-year-old girl for her father; when she told me what he had done to her, I let her stay lost.” – I instantly had to have the book. The protagonist, a true to genre PI in Ed Loy ticks all the right boxes in presenting a damaged man putting the pieces of other peoples lives back together while neglecting his own. Despite my renewed enthusiasm to read THE COLOUR OF BLOOD as a result of this post, it’s likely to continue to do ‘time’ on the shelf as I need to track down a copy of the first book in the Ed Loy series THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD.
 
View more about THE COLOUR OF BLOOD on GR
 
View more about THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD on GR
 
 
If anyone’s interested, feel free to share your delayed gratification and post a link in the comments to this post. Hopefully a gem or two will be unearthed. 
 
You can view the first edition of Delayed Gratification HERE which features Mickey Spillane, Declan Hughes, and Jonathan Nasaw titles.
 
Happy reading!
 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER by Matthew McBride

Frank Sinatra in a BlenderNick Valentine is an unusual PI, rather than taking cases by hapless and shady individuals, he works with the police by acting as a link between the blue and the street. That said, Valentine sure isn’t a squeaky clean and lawful member of the community – he’s a perpetual drunk with his own agenda and in FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER, that agenda comprises of one simple factoid – getting rich quick off the idiocy of criminals.

I was really impressed by FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER. Everything about it oozes noir and exemplifies all that is great about the damaged protagonist. Valentine is tainted, corrupt (in a redeemable way), yet somehow honest and reliable, a self proclaimed functioning alcoholic. This mass-up of traits and descriptions actually works in his favour which enables him to command respect from both the law and lawless alike.

FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER is engaging, violent, laden with dark humour; multi faceted, and had multiple viewpoints all equally enjoyable. This is really a stunning debut and a must for fans of fiction – yep, it’s simply too good to be confined to a specific genre enthusiast.    

Review: FIFTEEN DIGITS by Nick Santora

Fifteen DigitsA group of young men working blue collar low paying jobs in the basement of prominent law firm Olmstead & Taft conspire to get rich quick by partaking in insider trading. As the Blazers, working in the printing department of the law firm, the group are entrusted with big corporation secrets which have the power to make or break share prices. When approached by a disgruntled lawyer to actually read the documents they handle on a daily basis and use that knowledge the swindle the share market, the colourful group of characters finally sees a way out of bordering poverty and a means to secure financial security for themselves and family. Little did they know that a seemingly innocent crime would lead to a very violent and bloody end.

I liked how Nick Santora consistently ingrained a sense of dread throughout the course of the novel. When something goes right for one of the main characters, Santora is quick to point out that the cards weren’t to always fall in their favour. The approach kept me reading and wanting to get to those sections where the character’s lives fall apart – and when they did it was nothing short of top tier reading. Santora’s vivid imagery and graphic depiction of violence is a thing to behold. I’ve never cringed at touter scenes to the extent of those on display in FIFTEEN DIGITS. What also appeals to the darker reader in me, is the threat of violence more so than the act itself. It was interesting to see how these five distinct characters with completely different background coped when faced with life and death situations.

At the core of FIFTEEN DIGITS lies a story of struggle, triumph, relationships, and failed opportunities. I hyped the violence and darker angles of the fiction but it’s these other aspects that really take FIFTEEN DIGITS to that extra level. I wont spoil the key plot outcomes or conflict/friendships other than to say many readers will enjoy the tightly plotted and surprisingly twisted story.

Much like SLIP AND FALL, Nick Santora has written an engaging and entertaining novel. I cant wait to see what he writes next.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: EIGHTBALL BOOGIE by Declan Burke

Eightball BoogieHarry Rigby is a research consultant; a PI who also sells scandal to the tabloids as well as the usual workings typical of the profession. In EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, Rigby is hired by a shady but prominent community figure to find proof of his wife’s infidelity. Seems simple enough, however, when the path of the investigation crosses another one involving murder, family drama, and his own safety, Rigby soon learns what its like to stand a little too close to the fire.

Set in Ireland, author Declan Burke really instils a sense of time and place which separates EIGHTBALL BOOGIE from the Americanised hardboiled tales. However – fans of Spillane will pick up similar speech patterns in Harry Rigby comparable to Mike Hammer (only slight but it’s there). Yet it’s the omnipresent gray that shrouds Rigby’s every move that proves to be most memorable. For what appears to be a light-hearted protagonist, he’s no stranger to dishing out punishment – though not quite as frequently as he absorbs it. Every lie uncovered places Rigby in more danger than the last. The constant threat to his and his family’s life hangs over the story like a storm cloud waiting to rain down.

The plot stated off relatively simple and seemed like a true to formula PI story before evolving into a much more complex mystery with three distinct plot threads interlocking in a smart and convenient way that’s quite plausible. While some readers may disagree with the ease by which the threads come together, I for one, thought Burke did a great job at planting the seeds to wrap them in a single bundle.

This was my first read of a Declan Burke book and it certainly won’t be my last. Harry Rigby is as an original PI type as there is and I look forward to reading more stories about this interesting character, particularly after the events of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

ARC Review: WHAT MAKES YOU DIE by Tom Piccirilli


What Makes You DieThe Hollywood screenwriter glamour and glitz is overshadowed by a reality that’s more crumbs and handouts, nightmares rein supreme, dreams a fallacy. Haunted by the ghosts of a missing love and fractured childhood event, Tommy Pic, a b-grade has-been lives in his mothers basement waiting for the next bout of inspiration to drag him from the doldrums of excessive alcohol and depression, but when it comes, the conduit is elusive and forged by a mysterious force.

Piccirilli’s poetic depiction of depravity of one’s loss of self and constant battle to maintain a cohesive and consistent train of thought is exemplary in WHAT MAKES YOU DIE. The lead character’s hallucinations add fluidity to Tommy Pic’s reality by distorting imagines of the true and false alike as he attempts to rekindle his b-grade glory amidst blackouts and unwanted bodily inhabitants.

There is an element of the surreal to WHAT MAKES YOU DIE, notably with a komodo dragon seemingly living inside Tommy’s intestines which may or may not be the screenwriters ‘dark half’. The creative side of Tommy will draw parallels to THE DARK HALF by Stephen King but with an added hint of funhouse horror.

The ending, while not conventional is intentional. It bodes well for the overall theme of the novel and further exemplifies what Tom Piccirilli was trying to do with WHAT MAKES YOU DIE. While there is a distinct emphasis on the Hollywood lifestyle (albeit on the frayed edges), it’s the undercurrents of maddening suspense and looming hopelessness that absorbs the limelight.

WHAT MAKES YOU DIE will leave you wanting more, Piccirilli’s namesake character and interesting screenplay demand further attention, and I, for one, certainly hope Piccirilli revisits this setting.
 
Links:
 
Click HERE to pre-oreder WHAT MAKES YOU DIE
 
Click HERE to visit the Apex Book Company website

Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: THE CHIEU HOI SALOON by Michael Harris

The Chieu Hoi Saloon“For if the Chieu Hoi Saloon was a church, Harry Hudson thought, it was a congregation of fools, of incomplete people gathering around Mama Thuy in hope that some of her wholeness would rub off. A scruffy crew of worshippers who had long since lost the ability – if they ever had it in the first place – to control their behaviour, moment by moment, well enough to pass as normal citizens. While Mama Thuy, in contrast, never stopped being in charge.”

THE CHIEU HOI SALOON is a noir in the Goodis mould without the detailed introspective narrative common throughout his novels. Where Goodis relies on the strength and well defined mannerisms of his characters accompanied by a linear plot to keep the characters heading in a common direction (usually straight to the gutter), Harris places an emphasis on the character’s misgivings, personable interactions and situational ramifications without the fanfare of crafty plot devices. While initially discerning, this detailed study actually added to the free flowing uncertainty attached to the lead character in Harry Hudson by which his meandering and over compensation towards a fleeting glimpse of gratitude is paramount to the picture Harris painstakingly paints.

There are a couple of key components to THE CHIEU HOI SALOON; Harry Hudson – a stuttering and at time blundering mess seeking solace in the arms of paid companionship or the unattainable, Kelly – a prostitute who leaches off Harry’s goodwill and misplaced gratitude in order to finance her living. Harris switches the POV to ensure the reader gets a well rounded account of the story and a look at the differing perspectives. The insight into Kelly’s world and the way she portrays Henry is just as good as Henry’s on her.

The story evolves around the characters that frequent the Chieu Hoi Saloon, ran by Mama Thuy, a Vietnamese woman who’s as tough and provocative as they come, and the various barflies that float in and out of the watering hole. Certain events that take place there involve violence, family drama, and friendship but all have one thing in common – a glimmering hope for a better place albeit viewed through beer goggles.

I liked THE CHIEU HOI SALOON but think it would’ve been slightly better executed had the story been condensed, however, it didn’t deter me from wanting to keep reading. Overall, this is a multilayered noir that’s all about character and longing. Fans of Goodis are bound to enjoy.