Saturday, 16 December 2017


Joy Fielding is an author I have heard of but have never read.

She has written over a dozen novels, though in truth I would struggle to name one. I tend to beat myself up at least once a month over my lack of reading enough female authors, so an opportunity from publisher Bonnier Zaffre to read this one ought not to be declined, even if psychological suspense isn't my main thing either..

The blurb for She's Not There advises…..

A gripping novel from a queen of psychological suspense and New York Times bestselling author, Joy Fielding. Perfect for readers of Liz Nugget's Lying in Wait, BA Paris and Jenny Blackhurst.

'I think my real name is Samantha. I think I'm your daughter.'

When Caroline Shipley's two-year-old daughter disappeared, her whole world came crashing down.
Now, fifteen years later, Caroline receives a phone-call that could change everything.

But could this stranger really be her daughter? And what happened all those years ago to make her vanish without a trace? As Caroline pieces together the events of that ill-fated holiday, she begins to question whether the answers could lie dangerously close to home . . .

Praise for Joy Fielding

'Fielding at her finest. Readers will not be able to put it down' Booklist

A brief extract....

“Did I tell you that Jerrod got us tickets for Dance with the Devil?”
“What’s that?” Caroline snuck a glance in the direction of her suite and then at her watch. She pushed away what was left of her lobster dinner, which was most of it. She was too nervous to eat. It was almost time to check on the kids.
“They were fine when I checked on them thirty minutes ago,” Hunter whispered. “They’re fine now. Finish your meal.”
“Dance with the Devil? It’s only the hottest show on Broadway. It’s impossible to get tickets, especially on Thanksgiving weekend. But Superman here managed to do it.” Rain threw a proprietary arm across her husband’s shoulders, sneaking a smile in Hunter’s direction.
“So you’ll be spending Thanksgiving in New York,” Becky said. “Lucky you.”
Rain smiled. “What are you guys up to?”
“My mother always has Thanksgiving dinner at her place,” Steve said, providing Becky with the perfect opening, and wondering if she’d take it. She’d been vacillating all day, threatening not to go through with their plan.
“You can just imagine how much I’m looking forward to that,” Becky said, following Steve’s lead. She knew what was at stake, that the men her husband was dealing with weren’t the type to look kindly on a sudden change of heart. One man was already here in Rosarito, having flown in by private plane earlier in the day, and was at this very minute waiting patiently in the lobby with the special carrying case.
You don’t piss these people off, Steve had warned her.
Still, she wasn’t sure she could go through with it. No matter how hard she tried to rationalize what they were about to do, no matter how many times she told herself she had no choice, she didn’t know whether she was capable of inflicting such pain on a woman with whom she’d once been close.
Still, what choice did she have?
Steve glared at his wife, silently urging her to keep it simple. It was important that they start slow and build. Their spat had to sound like just another one of their endless arguments. Which should be easy. It seemed that all they did anymore was fight. “Let’s not start.”

Thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for steering me towards this one.

Thursday, 14 December 2017


Five from Australia that sit on the TBR pile......

Debut novel from 2010
'Two things you want to remember about the good old days, Ned. They weren't that good and they're not that old.' Detective Nhu 'Ned' Kelly is in way over her head. Not every member of the New South Wales police force has welcomed the young, half-Vietnamese woman into a job where the old school still makes the rules. When two bodies are discovered in the footings of an old Bankstown building, Ned catches the case. As she works to uncover the truth, she is drawn into Sydney's dirty past and the murky history of her own family. Bit by bit she gains ground on the murderer, just as he's gaining ground on her. Familiar faces begin to look suspicious. How close to home will she have to look? It's time for Ned to decide who is on her side and who wants her dead. Gritty and sharp, The Old School is a gripping new take on crime fiction by former NSW police detective P.M. Newton.

'P.M. Newton's bitter-sweet thriller is an arresting debut:astonishingly accomplished and as authentic as a .38 bullet wound. File between D for Disher and T for Temple and sweat on the sequel.' Andrew Rule

'The writing is razor-sharp and the dialogue sizzles with tough-as-nails authenticity. Newton is a writer to watch.' Matthew Reilly 'Relentless What a multi-layered, powerful piece of writing. This novel puts P.M. Newton in the company of Marele Day, Gabrielle Lord and Peter Temple.' Graeme Blundell

 'All the elevated anxiety, pace and snippy dialogue of classic crime fiction, yet it somehow comes across as a true story... The Old School is a cracker. There's a new voice on the beat.' Weekend Australian

'A gripping crime novel that sweeps up the reader in its enthralling multi-layered plot, powerful characters and spot-on descriptions of Sydney... A tough and authentic novel. The Old School is already shaping up as the year's best debut crime novel.' Canberra Times

Another debut novel, from 2012

The Armed Robbery Squad has long been considered the state’s most formidable group of detectives. But there’s a change coming. Force command and a new police watchdog want the squad gone. And there’s a new threat on the streets a bandit with a passion for demeaning victims ... and shooting detectives. Crime journalist Ian Malone has assigned himself the task of finding out whether the men from Armed Robbery have been demonised or are deserving of their fearsome reputation. As Malone builds a unique bond with streetwise detective Shane Kelso and the rest of The Robbers, he enters a dark and seedy world where right can be wrong but wrong might also be right. A world where cops and bandits fight a ruthless war, everyone has their own agenda, and the most dangerous enemies could just be the bureaucrats.

Aussie classic from 1961
The controller stood back. 
'Right,' he said. 'Spin 'em!' 

The man flipped the piece of wood and the coins spun up into the air above his head and dropped down on to the carpet. 
There was silence. 

Wake in Fright tells the tale of John Grant's journey into an alcoholic, sexual and spiritual nightmare. It is the original and the greatest outback horror story. Bundanyabba and its citizens will forever haunt its readers.

'A classic novel which became a classic film. The Outback without the sentimental bull dust. Australia without the sugar coating.' Robert Drewe

'A true dark classic of Australian literature.' J.M. Coetzee

'Wake in Fright is a classic of the ugly side of Menzies' Australia, its brutality, its drunkenness, its anxiety to crush all sensibility. All of this is harrowingly reacorded - the destruction of a young soul fresh to Australia - in Kenneth Cook's remarkable novel.' Thomas Keneally

First three in the Hardy series!
Meet Cliff Hardy. Smoker, drinker, ex-boxer. And private investigator. When the wealthy Bryn Gutteridge hires Hardy to help his sister, it looks as if blackmail is the problem. 

Until the case becomes more brutal, twisted and shocking than even Hardy could have guessed.

'A quintessentially Australian literary icon.' Age

Introduction by Charles Waterstreet.

Peter Corris's first Cliff Hardy novel, The Dying Trade, was published in 1980. It not only introduced a sleuth who was to become an enduring legend, but was also a long love letter to the seamy side of Sydney itself. Over more than three decades Corris has now written thirty-eight Cliff Hardy books, and the city of Sydney is as significant a presence in the books as the figure of Hardy. The third in the series, The Empty Beach, was made into a film starring Bryan Brown. In 1999 Corris was presented with a Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Fifth book from Iain Ryan
Do bad people look like good people, like friends and brothers and boyfriends and students, until they have their hands around your throat? All of these men standing around me, drinks in hand, backs to this screen… smiling, laughing, flirting, and they look harmless. But any one of them could be something else now: rapist, murderer, spree shooter, torturer, paedophile. I try to picture them sprayed with blood and gore and it’s easy. I can do it, mentally. All of these guys could be him because all of these guys were just like him, right up until he…

Gatton, Queensland. 1994. Nate is a student, dealing weed on the side. A girl called Maya Kibby is dead. No one knows who killed her. Nate needs to refresh his supply, but Jesse, his friend and dealer, is missing. Nate is high. He is alone. Being hunted for the suitcase he’s found and haunted by its contents. And as things turn from bad to worse, Nate uncovers far more than he bargained for.

The Student is high-paced, hardboiled regional noir: fresh, gritty, unnerving, with a stark and lonely beauty.

Apologies to David Whish-Wilson, Garry Disher, Zane Lovitt, Dave Warner, Peter Temple and others....

Wednesday, 13 December 2017



Investigating crime; it’s amazing what you dig up…

David Fyfe is a dog lover with a wife and mistress to support and an ambition to retire early. His present lifestyle is complicated enough before past indiscretions come back to haunt him.

Once a gung-ho investigator of murderous criminals and violent crime, Fyfe has been taken off the frontlines and reassigned to the low-profile Fraud Squad — mistakes from years earlier conspired to condemn him to dull work that he doesn’t much enjoy.

His enforced distance from solving murders bothers him particularly at the moment, as a series of seemingly drug dealing–related murders in the city is all anyone can talk about.

When Chief Constable Sir Duncan Morrison asks him to look into the several hundred thousand dollars missing from the Catholic Church’s accounts, Fyfe expects the job to be little more than soothing the Archbishop’s worries — only to discover that things are considerably more complicated than they first appear. 

As he begins his investigation into the licentious Father Byrne and the accused embezzler Father Quinn (Byrne’s superior), Fyfe begins to find evidence that link the corrupt priests to racketeering kingpin Gus Barrie…and an armed robbery that occurred nearly a decade previously. 

For Fyfe himself, the spectre of the past rises with not only the reappearance of his ex-lover Sylvia, whose impending marriage throws him for a loop, but the return to British soil of the beautiful Angela — a sexy widow whose acquaintance he first made in the aftermath of the robbery ten years earlier. 

But this time Angela has blood on her hands and a million pounds in unmarked notes stuffed into her luggage. 

Any ordinary policeman would make the arrest and wrap up the inquiry. But David Fyfe is no ordinary policeman…

Sleeping Dogs is a fast-moving, wryly humorous, expertly plotted crime novel with an outrageous finale.

Blimey, if I'd read the blurb in the first place I probably wouldn't have had to bother reading the novel. Only joking, I did enjoy this one, though it seemed to read a bit longer than its 190-odd pages.

A robbery gone wrong, a dead gangster, a nine year jail sentence for his partner, missing money, an imminent release, a fornicating priest, a remote monastery, a sentimental crime lord, a gay judge, an ex-lover, a not so merry widow and a disinterested detective - what's not to like?

I was entertained throughout. I enjoyed how most of our current day events could be traced back to one decision which hinged on the mood of a relatively minor character.....wheels within wheels.

Plenty of humour, plenty of human interest as I was asking myself what would I do in the situation our Detective David Fyfe finds himself in. Fyfe as a jaded policeman is good company throughout.

Sleeping Dogs was originally published in 1994, so no mobile phones, no amazing gizmos or technological aids to rely on with the investigation and advance the story. We just have a good but not too old-fashioned tale.

William Paul is a Scottish author and has written two other tales with David Fyfe - Sleeping Partner and Sleeping Pretty, as well as a few other novels. I'm hoping to read more in the series.

4.5 from 5

Read in December, 2017
Published - 1994 (reissued 2017 by Endeavour Press)
Page count - 192
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


A couple from the army of tubs currently in storage, tub 28 and tub 67. Admittedly John Milne isn't an author I have yet tried but I took a shine to this series of four Jimmy Jenner books published in the 80s and 90s. I bought all four and never read any of them - go figure!

Jimmy Jenner is an ex-Metropolitan police officer, now a London private investigator.

From his page on Fantastic Fiction John Milne was born in the 50s is British and is still with us. He has had seven, possibly eight books published with the last about 10 years ago, though I don't know if that is accurate as I can't find a copy of Dead Right available anywhere.

Amazon offers a bit more detail on him....John Milne was born in Bermondsey, 1952 and trained as a painter but only after false starts as a policeman and a factory worker. He lives in Bradwell on Sea, Essex. He is the author of Dead Birds, The Moody Man and Daddy's Girl. His TV scriptwriting credits include: Bergerac, Eastenders, Lovejoy, The Bill, Boon, Taggart, Wycliffe and Silent Witness. He won the 1998 Edgar Award for an episode of Silent Witness.

His books are...

Jimmy Jenner
1. Daddy's Girl (1982)
2. Dead Birds (1986)
3. Shadow Play (1987)
     aka The Moody Man
4. Alive and Kicking (1998)

Tyro (1982)
London Fields (1983)
Out of the Blue (1985)
Dead Right (2007)

The Moody Man (1987)

When Jimmy Jenner goes to the home of a former fellow policeman who he hasn't seen for eight years, he finds an open door, a blaring stereo, and a trail of blood leading to a dead young woman.

Alive and Kicking (1998)

Gangster Tommy Slaughter was ambushed in 1968, reputedly on the orders of a pimp. Thirty years later, private eye Jimmy Jenner is working on a divorce case. When someone tries to murder a man who looks like Jenner, the pimp gets his eyes shot out and the subject of Jenner's "divorce enquiries" is killed. Suddenly Jenner realizes he is a catalyst in these events. And so he begins to question his own past, particularly the accidental death of his brother Joe, 30 years earlier. Joe was a minor criminal, a peripheral member of the circle of South London gangster, Tommy Slaughter. Was Joe’s death what it seemed at the time? The answer may explain the violence now closing in on Jimmy Jenner.

If I ever move house and get my books back, I may actually read these.

Sunday, 10 December 2017



A collection of original British short stories in the crime genre.

I'm currently on a freebie trial of Kindle Unlimited and the author has been shouting about his books over on Facebook, so I thought I'd have a look see at some of his short stories.

The collection would have benefited from having a table of contents listing the stories in the set, but that's a minor niggle. In the collection we have the following...


Invasion of Privacy

Jarrold Give a Hand (1894)

The Wife Killer

Now You See Her....

How Daphne Bagged a Villain

That One Special Image

Jarrold and the Case of High Spirits (1896)

I enjoyed the two Jarrold stories a bit more than I was expecting to as I'm not really a massive fan of fiction set in the Victorian period. Jarrold is a recurring character for the author and I believe he has written at least one novel which features the Victorian copper from Great Yarmouth. Here our intrepid policeman snares a couple of insurance fraudsters and an illusionist-cum-spiritualist-cum-charlatan gets warned off, in-between enjoying cups of tea at the station and pints in the local hostelries. I might actually be tempted to rethink my reservations about the period.

Pick of the bunch was Invasion of Privacy, a small village setting and an unlikely harbinger of death. Someone likes her village exactly the way it is and tolerance of strangers is in short supply.

Snitch was enjoyable, if a little predictable. Nicholson writes contemporary times well and not just Ye Olde stuff.

Now You See Her.... I was enjoying, until the end when the denouement really left me scratching my head. The whole thing made no real sense unless the perpetrator had some kind of figurative death-wish which if it was the case it hadn't been alluded to during the earlier story set-up.

The rest of the collection I enjoyed, particularly The Wife Killer.

Overall - quite enjoyable, even if Now You See Her.... troubled me.
There's worse ways of spending a couple of hours reading time.

3.5 from 5

Ron Nicholson -  I can't find a website for him, but there's a link to his Amazon page with a bit of a biography and details of all his books - here.

Read in December, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 89
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

Saturday, 9 December 2017



You wanna know who's deplorable? These writers. These writers, they wrote these stories about me, and they're not nice. Not even a little bit. Look, I know I'm a famous guy. Probably the most famous guy on the planet. I mean let's face it. I am the single most talked about human being in the history of forever. History of writing. And of course they'd wanna write about me. Why wouldn't they? So they did, but none of it’s nice.

My lawyers tell me I should sue. And I should. They wrote the most horrible, horrible fabrications about me. And they can't write. None of them can. They can't write. It's a disaster the way they write. You’ve read my tweets. I know how to write. They just try to put a lot more words together to make it sound good, but it’s not. It's so bad. It's a total disaster.

I spotted this collection when browsing on Amazon and thought what the heck. Who doesn't want to read about the Donald? I was reminded me of another collection I read a few years ago devoted to one of George W.'s henchmen, Dick Cheney - D*cked

What I got was....

Edited by Chuck Regan,
3 of the Best Best Ever haikus by Ryan Sayles and 8 stories.

The stories were......

Lindsay Wells - Walled In
Nick Kolakowski - Taco Truck
CS Dewildt - You're Not Dead You're Eating Our Food
C.A. Viruet - Cheeto Jesus
Andrew Hilbert - Huge Giant
Gareth Spark - "Muroca
Michael T Wells - Irreconcilable Diverence
Chuck Regan - The Wart of the Deal

A varied collection in both themes and enjoyment. I was left cold by a few of them if I'm honest.
I'm not the biggest fan of dystopian fiction and several imagined a society far into the future where the Donald still reigns supreme, massive walls and repression over what remains of the US. Truly A Total Disaster!

Favourite of the bunch Kowalski's Taco Truck. A trio of Hispanics tour the States with a Taco Truck, sharing food to those that welcome them. Dispensing violence to those of the Donald's supporters who are driven by racism and try to harm them. Keeping score is a tricky business, with plenty of mean-spirited customers.

Hilbert's Huge Giant made me laugh. A massive Trump robot constructed with the aid of Putin's scientists.

Walled In by Lindsey Wells has the elite and privileged, shut off from the rest of society. When a saboteur breaches the inner sanctuary we discover why.

DeWildt's tale had it's moments. Fast food chain rules the world. The Mexicans are penned in a zoo and fed swill. The feeders are in a state of servitude.

Gareth Spark - film-making with threats and censorship and buy offs. Not my favourite of the bunch.

Cheeto Jesus by C. A. Viruet - Chiefs of Staff in the White House, one of them strangles Trump, there's an aftermath. A semi-happy outcome!

Irreconcilable Divergence by Michael T. Wells - a bit like groundhog day - a massive computer running analysis and projecting different outcomes based on behaviours, plugging in variables and resetting and beginning again every time the end result it produces is the same - total annihilation. Our savvy analyst tries tweaking the variables to produce a different outcome.

Chuck Regan's The Wart of the Deal - 2076 Trump's still in power and a couple of renegades are still trying to remove him, at any cost.

Enjoyable collection, even if I didn't buy into all the stories. I've read a few of the contributors before.
Not quite on a par with D*cked.

3.5 from 5

Read in December, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 116
Source - Kindle Unlimited (currently on a freebie trial, like I need more books!)
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 7 December 2017


Five books on my TBR pile, buried but in need of exhumation from the stacks...

Already been followed by the second one from Ide - Righteous

'Joe Ide is the best new discovery I've come across in a long time' Michael Connelly

'One of the most remarkable debuts I've read...Deliciously quirky, written with exceptional panache and a fine ear for dialogue, it introduces the world to an LA private detective who might just become the Holmes of the 21st century' DAILY MAIL

'In a way, the hate felt good. You were righteous, godlike, the dispenser of justice . . .'
Super-smart sleuth Isaiah Quintabe - IQ to his friends - has built a mostly respectable life for himself, helping out friends and neighbours when he can and taking the occasional case to make ends meet. But there is one mystery that still haunts him almost ten years later - did his brother really die in a hit-and-run or was there more to the story behind his death?

IQ has been approached by his brother's former girlfriend Sarita, whose younger sister, an erratic DJ and gambling addict, has gone missing in Las Vegas - with a frightening loan shark, Chinese Triad gangsters, and her own deadbeat boyfriend hot on her tail. Accompanied once more by his fast-talking, don't-call-me-a-sidekick partner Dodson, IQ heads off for the casinos and massage parlours of Las Vegas. His quest takes an unexpected turn when he meets a criminal mastermind who knows something about the murky circumstances that surrounded his brother's death. But when Isaiah learns the truth, what will he do with it?

First in the Jay Porter series, of which there are four so far. I've only read Clifford's short stories to date.

In a frigid New Hampshire winter, Jay Porter is trying to eke out a living and maintain some semblance of a relationship with his former girlfriend and their two-year-old son. When he receives an urgent call that Chris, his drug-addicted brother, is being questioned by the sheriff about his missing junkie business partner, Jay feels obliged to come to his rescue. After Jay negotiates his brother's release from the county jail, Chris disappears into the night. As Jay begins to search for him, he is plunged into a cauldron of ugly lies and long-kept secrets that could tear apart his small hometown and threaten the lives of Jay and all those he holds dear. Powerful forces come into play that will stop at nothing until Chris is dead and the information he harbors is destroyed.

The first in the Dan Kearney Associates series from 1972. Gores hasn't sat on the TBR pile for 40 years, it just seems like it.
Dan Kearny Associates is a San Francisco private investigation firm employing some of the most memorable characters in mystery fiction. P.I. Bart Heslip, a former boxer, is in a coma after being brutally beaten. Now it's up to his coworkers at DKA to sift through his current cases to discover the culprit--before it's too late.

First in a series from Wambaugh. Out in 2006 after a ten-year fiction gap.

They call their sergeant the Oracle. Hes a seasoned LAPD veteran who keeps a close watch over his squad from his understaffed office at Hollywood Station. They are: Budgie Polk, a 27-year-old firecracker who's begrudgingly teamed with Fausto Gamboa, the oldest, tetchiest patrol officer. Andi McCrea, a single mom who spends her days studying at the local community college. Wesley Drubb, a USC drop-out who joined the force to see some action. Flotsam and Jetsam, two aptly named surfer boys who pine after the petite but intrepidMeg Takara. And Hank Driscoll, the one who never shuts up. Together they spend their days and nights in the citys underbelly, where a string of seemingly unrelated events lures the cops of Hollywood Station to their most startling case yet: Russians, diamonds, counterfeiting, grenades a reminder that nothings too horrific or twisted for Los Angeles. Here, its business as usual. For the first time in 20 years, Wambaugh revisits the kind of story he tells best - life in the LAPD. Not only have his fans been waiting for this comeback, but readers of the new generation of police writing will have great interest in this book.

Second in Hansen's 12 book series featuring Dave Brandstetter's insurance investigator. I enjoyed the first Fadeout, but bizarrely never read any further. Another series from the 70s and 80s.
John Oats is dead: drowned in the treacherous waves of the Pacific. He was in great pain, and reliant on morphine; it could easily have been accident or suicide.

But with thousands of dollars in insurance at stake, on a policy which the dead man had meant to change the day he died, Dave Brandstetter thinks it was murder. And between the mysteriously absent son, the bitter ex-wife and the current lover, there are plenty of people with reason to lie to Dave about what really happened that night. And why...

Death Claims is the second Dave Brandstetter novel - one of the best fictional PIs in the business, and one of the first ever gay ones. Joseph Hansen's groundbreaking novels follow Brandstetter as he investigates cases in which motives are murky, passions run high, and nothing is ever as simple as it looks. Set in 1970s and 80s California, the series is a fascinating portrait of a time and a place, with mysteries to match Chandler and Macdonald.

With apologies to Joe R. Lansdale, Joseph Koenig, Joe Nelms, Jo Nesbo and others.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017


Rusty Barnes, author of the recently released Knuckledragger and a lot more besides, kindly answers a few questions for me........

Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? (Maybe a brief bio?)

I suppose you could call me a full-time parent, part-time writer, part-time editor. In strict point of fact, I'm a kept man, as my much more talented wife works a day job, and I take care of and homeschool two of my three kids, as one is quite old enough to take care of herself, though she still lives with us! Up until we had children, I worked as a university adjunct instructor of writing, and as a bookseller in both chain and independent booksellers. Now, I teach only occasionally. I was born and raised in rural northern Appalachia, which informs a great deal of my writing.

To my knowledge, and please correct me if I’m wrong, you have published three novels, two short story collections and a couple of collections of poetry. Do you have a favourite of the bunch? Is there one in particular you would press into the hands of a new reader? Does your work in different genres attract different audiences?
I don't have a strict favorite, no. I'm always most interested in the one I'm currently writing, which at the moment is a crime novel set on and around Revere Beach, America's first public beach, steps from my home in Revere MA.

I am sentimentally attached to my first novel, Reckoning, as it took the longest to write, almost a year and change, and until I had actually finished it, I wasn't sure I had the stamina to complete a novel. It took me till I was nearly forty to settle down and really get to serious writing, though I've been submitting work for publication since 1989: I'm a slow learner, but persistent.

Reckoning is a good place to start with my work, as it's a coming of age novel with elements of crime in it, as opposed to the crime novels I've written since then. It has, I think, more general appeal, though my story collection Mostly Redneck has much more variety of approach and subject matter to it.

I think my stories and novels lend themselves to the same audience, but I think the poetry reaches a different audience entirely, and I'm not sure why. The poetry is  more personal generally, though I approach writing a poem the same way I do a story or a novel--I get a character in mind, or a line, or something from my past sparks me, and I try to make a moment of it, a poem, or if the image or character persists in my imagination, a story or novel.

From personal experience, undoubtedly limited and corrupted by unpleasant school day memories, I’m not a massive fan of poetry. It was always a chore, deciphering meaning, a bit like translating a paragraph of French into English and the effort involved seemed better spent doing other things. Is there a collection of poems or the odd poem you could point me in the direction of that could prove me wrong, or am I doomed to die an ignoramus?

I think you were probably taught poorly. For me, poetry is heightened language with a narrative in the secondary position, but it shouldn't require a degree or a lot of education in poetry to understand. There are poems whose particular approach rewards analysis, but it shouldn't be necessary. I always point people who dislike poetry to Galway Kinnell's work, in particular The Book of Nightmares.  His work is plain and honest at first blush, but complex too in its peculiarities.

From reading some responses to your work, a lot of it seems steeped in Appalachia, how important a place is Appalachia to you?

I didn't discover until I was out of college people and places in fiction that made sense to me, and I found those in Appalachia. I was born in the very northernmost tip of what the Appalachian Regional Commission designates Appalachia, but I discovered myself as a writer there and found kindred spirits in writers like Pinckney Benedict, Silas House, Chris Offutt, and others who've become friends and allies, Sheldon Compton and Charles Dodd White. Appalachia remains very important and formative to my idea of myself as a writer. I'll always return to Appalachian Pennsylvania in my work.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

When I'm writing, I write about an hour a day, during which I try to get out a thousand words, but will very often stop at five hundred. Rarely fewer, though. Done consistently, this gives me two-three short novels a year, which I've come to regard as my specialty. I feel most comfortable between 40 and 60 thousand words. The last novel I completed was a little longer than that, and I imagine in the rewriting, which I've yet to do, that will swell into a longer novel still. Mostly though, I stay in my my 48K sweet spot, or just under 200 pages.

Does your approach to writing change dependent on what piece of work you are crafting? Do you need a different Barnes head on to write a poem as opposed to a chapter of Knuckledragger for argument’s sake? Are the poems a lot more personal than the prose?
I'm writing either fiction or poetry, never both at the same time. I suppose I could switch off if I needed to, as I've done it occasionally, but I like to stay in a single mindset for a concentrated length of time. It's just better for me to get work done.

Everything I write is personal to one extent or another, though people take the poetry much more literally than I'm sometimes comfortable with. They're all emotionally autobiographical, the poems, if not strictly true.

How long did Knuckledragger take from an initial idea and conception to the completion of the book?

Knuckledragger is a book I had in mind for a long time before I sat down to write it. I've spent my entire career writing about Appalachian Pennsylvania, and for my own sanity and to prove I could do something set elsewhere I wanted to write this book, set in my adopted hometown. It took me about three months to get it down and maybe another month of tinkering to get it tight and right.

What would be the creative process be for one of your poems?

I hinted at this above, but basically, I get a spark, from somewhere, an image or a character or a specific line, and I try to write forward and backward from that line or image, which almost always comes from what ends up to be the middle of the poem. I don't recommend the method, it's just what works for me.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Nothing at the moment. I have the one I just finished a few months ago, about a Croatian hitman, which I need to revise, and I have the current one. I've had the great good fortune of publishing most of what I've written since 2015 or so, and I do have a collection of Appalachian stories I haven't been concentrating on in some time, plus a collection of flash fiction, but I'm more interested in novels at the moment, so they're in need of revision and expansion, too. I'll get to them, just not soon.

Is there a current work in progress? How’s it going? Any hints as to what it’s all about?

It's very early on, but I'm writing a crime novel set on the beach in Revere MA, in which the action follows from the discovery of a woman's head in a lobster trap and goes on from there.

What’s the best thing about writing?

The best bit about writing is having written, knowing that what you've got is finished and in good shape. This is in addition to the mere pleasure of getting words down, without which I suspect none of us would spend much time writing. I'm proud to have another four books coming out in the next couple years from Shotgun Honey and ABC Group Doc and Electric Pentacle Press, so that's some of the best part of writing, too, seeing the body of work pile up.

The worst?

The worst part of it, by far, is trying to promote the writing having finished it. Most of us are not natural hucksters, and it's counterintuitive, even. Most of us are inner-centered people, and promotion forces us into the limelight, and needless to say, some of us are more comfortable than others at this.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

I recently finished Port Tropique and Wild at Heart, both by Barry Gifford, and both are great books. I'm in the middle of Easter Weekend, by David Bottoms, and am about to begin the Big Book of the Continental Op, by Dashiell Hammett, in my attempts to read all the noir of the last forty or fifty years, and to educate myself in the history of the crime genre. You have to remember, I'm relatively new to crime fiction, and need to read a ton of past stuff to catch up. I'm looking forward to new books from Marietta Miles and Nick Kolakowski and Matt Phillips. Oh, I've also begun reading the Longmire novels, after seeing the TV show.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Right now, it's Port Tropique. I really admire Gifford's lean style and noir sensibilities. Plus, it's like an education in the pop culture of the 40s through the 70s. I really admire that book.

You also have recently started up a paying blogazine – Tough, which publishes short stories and reviews. What are the aims with that venture?

Tough is my attempt to give back to the crime community. There aren't many journals that pay even our token amount, so it's been instructive and affirming to fill the place in the community above the freebie market but below the journals that pay pro rates. I hope to bring attention to small press books in this respect too, to do on a small scale what David Nemeth does on his website Unlawful Acts, for example.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

I spend a lot of time in family activities, but when I'm by myself I'm reading or playing guitar, ukulele, and cigar-box guitar, badly.

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

The wife and I loved the violent ballet of the two John Wick movies. I'm not a high-art film person or a movie buff at all, really, but I love a good shoot-em-up.

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

I don't watch a lot of TV. We watch CNN, sadly, or the basketball game. Baseball when it's in season.

In a couple of years’ time…

I hope to have completed another three to four novels and shepherd them into the dull light of publication. I'd like to write a multi-generational crime saga, too, sort of a Sopranos in Appalachia kind of thing, but there's a lot of that going around lately, so I'll probably change my mind. I also hope to have written at least another book of poems and another collection of short stories.

Many thanks to Rusty Barnes for his time

You can catch up with him at the following locations
His website here
Facebook page here
Twitter - @rwilliambarnes

His blogazine site Tough can be found here.

Rusty's books are as follows.
Novels - Knuckledragger, Ridgerunner, Reckoning
Short story collections - Mostly Redneck, Breaking it Down
Poetry - I Am Not Ariel, On Broad Sound, Jesus in the Ghost Room, Redneck Poems, Broke

Knuckledragger and Ridgerunner have featured on the blog before.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


2 this week from John Sandford with his main man, Lucas Davenport.

I'm a big fan of Sandford's books, though it might be more accurate to say I'm more a fan of collecting them than reading them. I can't actually remember the last Lucas Davenport - Prey book I read, something to address next year.

So far there are 27 in the series with the next one due out in 2018. I've more recently read books in his Virgil Flowers series, though my approach to reading this series has been a bit scatter gun.

Maybe 2018, I'll set aside a month to read his books only, I've got about 20 to choose from!

Sandford is actually, John Camp - a Pulitzer prize winning journalist.
He has also published some enjoyable fiction under his real name.

Buried Prey (2011)

Some secrets just can't stay buried, in the brilliant new Lucas Davenport thriller from the number-one New York Times- bestselling author.

"One of the best," said Kirkus Reviews of Storm Prey. "Razor-sharp dialogue, a tautly controlled pace and enough homicides for a miniseries. What more could fans want?"

A house demolition provides an unpleasant surprise for Minneapolis-the bodies of two girls, wrapped in plastic. It looks like they've been there a long time. Lucas Davenport knows exactly how long.

In 1985, Davenport was a young cop with a reputation for recklessness, and the girls' disappearance was a big deal. His bosses ultimately declared the case closed, but he never agreed with that. Now that he has a chance to investigate it all over again, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: It wasn't just the bodies that were buried. It was the truth.

Silken Prey (2013)

Murder, scandal, political espionage, and an extremely dangerous woman . . . The extraordinary new Lucas Davenport thriller from the #1 New York Times - bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner.

At 1:15 a.m., a Minnesota political fixer answers his doorbell. The next thing he knows, he's waking up on the floor of a moving car, lying on a plastic sheet, his body wet with blood. When the car stops, a voice says, "Hey, I think he's breathing," and another voice says, "Yeah? Give me the bat." And that's the last thing he ever knows.

Lucas Davenport is investigating another case when the trail leads to the man's disappearance, then - very troublingly - to the Minneapolis police department itself, and then - most troublingly of all - to a woman who could give Machiavelli lessons. She has very definite ideas about the way the world should work, and the money, ruthlessness, and sheer will to make it happen.

No matter who gets in the way.

Monday, 4 December 2017


Another decent month's reading with 12 books of varying quality and lengths enjoyed in the month - two FIVE STAR reads vying for the accolade of my Pick of the Month.

November's top read!

Chris Whitaker - All the Wicked Girls and Matt Coyle with Blood Truth.

By the narrowest of whiskers I'd plump for Whitaker's Wicked Girls only because of the haunting nature of some of the characters. They still haven't left me.

A close run second!

The full catalogue of reads enjoyed is below....

John Florio - Blind Moon Alley (2014) (3)

James Harper - No Rest For the Wicked (2017) (4)

Anthony Neil Smith + Victor Gischler - To the Devil, My Regards (2011) (3.5)

Chris Whitaker - All the Wicked Girls (2017) (5)

Christopher Farnsworth - Hunt You Down (2017) (4.5)

Chris Sarantopoulos - The Man Behind the Bar (2017) (3)

Vicente Morales - Rest in Peace, Baby (2017) (2.5)

Matt Coyle - Dark Fissures (2016) (4)

Richard Wormser - Drive East on 66 (1961) (4)

Rusty Barnes - Knuckledragger (2017) (4.5)

Leonard Love Matlick - Cops Lie! (2017) (3.5)

Matt Coyle - Blood Truth (2017) (5)

2 very good books at  4.5 STARS - Rusty Barnes and Knuckledragger and Farnsworth's Hunt You Down, something I enjoyed rather more than I expected to.

4 STAR READS - Richard Wormser's Drive East on 66, James Harper and his No Rest For the Wicked and Dark Fissures from Matt Coyle.

3.5 STARS - Smith and Gischler's collaboration To the Devil My Regards and the far from prefect but nonetheless enjoyable Cops Lie! by Leonard Love Matlick 

3 STARS - John Florio and a short one from Chris Sarantopoulos

2.5 STARS - the only book I didn't really like - Rest in Peace, Baby - Vicente Morales. Please do.

More useless trivia......

12 reads from 12 different authors, I read two in the month from Matt Coyle, but I had a co-authored book by Victor Gischler and Anthony Neil Smith.

7 of the 12 were new-to-me authors....... Chris Whitaker, James Harper, Christopher Farnsworth, Chris Sarantopoulos, Vicente Morales, Richard Wormser and Leonard Love Matlick

5 authors have been read and enjoyed before - John Florio, Rusty Barnes, Victor Gischler, Anthony Neil Smith and Matt Coyle.

I have more to read on the pile from Gischler, Smith, Wormser, Barnes and Harper.

Gender analysis -  all 12 were male authors, ZERO female....... a tad unbalanced, even by my standards.

I believe of the 12 authors I read, 1 is Greek, 1 is English, and 10 hail from the US.

All 12 of the reads were fiction - 8 novels and 4 reads less than 100 pages long.

1 old book was enjoyed - Richard Wormser's 1961 novel - Drive East on 66. This has just been republished this year by Endeavour Press.

The other 11 were published this decade -  8 from this year, 1 from 2016 and 1 from 2014 and 1 from 2011.

1 of the 12 books were pre-owned/purchased

4 of the 12 came via the publisher, 2 from Bonnier Zaffre, 1 from Seventh Street Books, 1 from Endeavour Press.

3 of them came from the authors, all courtesy of signing up to author’s newsletters on their websites, via Insta-Freebie in a couple of cases.

4 came direct from the authors, 1 courtesy of Kelsey @ Book Publicity Services

Favourite cover? Richard Wormser's Drive East on 66

Second favourite – Knuckledragger from Rusty Barnes

My reads were this long 226 – 81 – 66  – 448 – 368 – 22 - 91 - 358 - 176 - 200 - 304 - 390

Total page count = 2728  (2372 in October) 350 on last month

5 were Kindle reads, 6 were paperbacks, 1 was a PDF

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

All the Wicked Girls from Chris Whitaker was the longest read at 448 pages.

Chris Sarantopoulos with The Man Behind the Bar - the shortest at just 22 pages.