Friday, 26 May 2017

Curing Reader's Block - WANT YOU GONE by CHRIS BROOKMYRE


It was an honour to be asked by the Coastword Festival to host an event with Chris Brookmyre. I was thrilled to be able to accept and a little nervous at the prospect.

Keen to make sure I was able to discuss his most current work, I set about getting hold of the three newest Jack Parlabane novels.

With only a short period time to get through them, I was a little nervous about the task ahead. Normally such an endeavour would be an enjoyable challenge, but I’d been struggling to read for a while and wasn’t sure I could make it.

As part of my introduction on the big day, I announced that I’d been suffering from reader’s block before coming to Chris’s books and also admitted that the novels I’d worked my way through had provided something of a literary enema of sorts. Jack Parlabane's adventures had totally removed whatever had been holding me back. The statement was packed with truth. What Mr Brookmyre had done from me was to allow me to rediscover the pleasure of reading and the delights of being able to escape into the world of fiction whenever I wanted to get away. The books are all page-turning treats and completely rekindled my interest in good stories. My stress levels settled back to normal for a while and I remembered why I should keep books at the forefront of my life. 

The three titles in question are Dead Girl Walking (US), The Black Widow (USand Want You Gone (US).  They work well as standalone books if you feel like dipping in, but complement each other nicely when read back-to-back.

Each has a similar structure. There’s a shocking and enticing opening followed by alternating points of view as the action builds. Jack Parlablane cuts through his investigations in the third person, while first person narratives from the strong female leads allow the newer characters to fully develop and have us hooked as the tension builds.


Brookmyre manages to walk the tightrope of series backstory with excellent balance. There’s enough in there to support a new audience but not so much to detract from the main focus for established fans. 

There are twists aplenty and few of them are at all predictable. The biggest turn of all comes at the end of Black Widow when the denouement impacts upon all that has been before. Chris mentioned at the event that he had always wanted to write a book where the conclusion altered everything, but that when it was reread with all the new facts at hand it would still be 100% consistent. I'm pretty sure that he pulled it off here. 

A quick summary:

Dead Girl Walking - Jack is on his knees. The police are involved and his career is in tatters. He is hired by an old friend to locate the missing singer of a rock band. The band, Savage Earth Heart, are the hottest ticket in Europe and are about to go on a much anticipated tour of the US. With the singer gone, the band's bright future is about to have the plug pulled. Nagging throughout is the bloody opening scene where we know things have gone badly wrong. Jack finds himself running up against some most unsavoury types and his life expectancy drops significantly as the chapters roll. 

Black Widow is an intriguing piece. Where Dead Girl Walking is often a real adventure, this one has more of a slow burn to it. The Black Widow in question has just lost her husband in a motoring accident. Her story is told as the police investigate her and begin to suspect that her part in the death is more than she's letting on. In a previous life, she was known as the acerbic feminist surgeon blogger Bladebitch, a noble soul with a sharp tongue that made her very unpopular. Did she or didn't she? I guess you'll have to read the book to find out.

And Want You Gone? This is the most recent and my favourite of the three. It involves the murky worlds of hacking and blackmail. Jack is forced into a corner as is his underground hacker friend Buzzkill struggles to keep her life together. My reasons for picking this as top of the pile? The Buzzkill character is hard and vulnerable and needs to survive in order to look after a sister with Down's Syndrome. The world of hacking is not only intriguing, but is totally scary. I haven't viewed my computer in the same way since. It's also a story in which we see Jack in his best light. The pacing is perfect and the tension palpable throughout. 

As for the even, Chris did a terrific job of both entertaining and informing the audience in equal measure. For the most part, I simply felt like I was one of the crowd. 

From a writer's point of view, it was helpful to find that the starting point for these stories is usually the twist. If the conclusion is going to have maximum weight, it almost has to be. Chris used the analogy of close magic to explain his next steps. A close magician would never go on stage without having all his tools in place and nor would Chris set about writing a novel of this kind without knowing where everything was or should be. It's a far cry from my seat of the pants stuff, but then maybe that's something I'll have to learn should I step closer to working on stories like these.

So, the event went well, the books are fab and my reading is back in hand. I've just finished The Whites by Richard Price (more soon) and I'm digging in to Dark Hazard by W R Burnett (two more authors who I hope will teach me a thing or two if osmosis has anything to do with it). 

Thanks Chris and thanks Coastword for having me.          

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Mystery and Thriller Sale (May 13th and 14th)


50 Mystery and Thriller titles on offer at only 99p/99c this weekend over here. Why not treat yourself?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Coming Soon: FATBOY by PAUL HEATLEY




After his girlfriend leaves and takes their young son with her, Joey Hidalgo is left alone in the trailer they formerly called home with nothing to do but get drunk and contemplate her reasons. Is he really as angry, as volatile, so close to constant violence, as she claims he is? With no one to confide in save for Lynne, his hooker friend who does the rounds in the bar where he works, and suffering a clientele that includes the eponymous racist bully, as well as a boss with whom he's on thin ice due to his recent alcoholic indiscretions, things are looking bleak for Joey. There's only one thing on his mind - he needs to get his family back. 

Then Lynne lets it drop - the fatboy is a regular customer. A very regular customer - she's been to his house, they've talked, she knows things about him and his family. She knows he sleeps on a mattress stuffed with cash. She knows his parents have a safe. Joey gets an idea. Joey formulates a plan. Together, they're going to rob the fatboy, kidnap him, and ransom him back to his parents. Joey will have the cash he needs to move his family into some nicer digs, the kind of place where they're not going to be treading on each other's toes and snapping at each other's throats. And for Lynne, she'll finally be off the streets. Simple! 

But the fatboy isn't going to make it easy for them. Neither is Joey's temper. Things are going to get messy, and it's gonna be one hell of a long night.


Paul Heatley's stories have appeared online and in print for a variety of publications including Thuglit, Crime Syndicate, Shotgun Honey, Spelk, Flash Fiction Offensive, and Crime Factory, among others. He is the author of six novellas published via Amazon, and An Eye For An Eye, available for Kindle, published by Near To The Knuckle. He is also a regular contributor to R2 magazine, and lives in the north east of England.


Pre-Order FATBOY (US) now. Released 1st May by ALL DUE RESPECT.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Return Of Jesse Garon

both books free today

After his recent disappearance, Jesse Garon has been found and he's alive and almost well. Books one and two of the Southsiders series are back.


Ray Spalding's had enough of his wife, Paula. He's left his home in Edinburgh's Southside and headed for Belfast. It's safer there.

Unknown to Ray, Paula's also had enough of him. She's not going back home. Not now, not ever.

Jesse Spalding wakes up one morning to find both his parents gone. And he can't tell anyone or he'll be taken into care.

As time passes and bills need paying, all Jesse can rely on are his wits, his friend Archie and his dad's 1950s record collection.

Southsiders is a powerful short novel that follows the spiralling fortunes of Ray and Jesse, pushing father and son to their limits while they struggle against the odds in the darker shadows of two of Britain's capital cities.



It doesn’t take long for Ray Spalding to realise that prison is nothing like an Elvis Presley movie. The warden has no intention of throwing a party and the only bands Ray encounters are gangs of hard men. When an old adversary seeks him out, Ray decides his only chance for survival is escape.

Ray’s son, Jesse, is discovering that being on the run in the middle of winter is no fun. With his stamina stretched to the limits, he’s ready to surrender himself to social services. At least that way he can see his girlfriend again.

Danny Boy is the man in the middle. He thinks he can break Ray from prison and reunite father and son. All he needs is an ambulance, a funeral, the help of some of his old friends and a big slice of good fortune.

Southsiders: Jailhouse Rock takes you for an eventful ride on a Mystery Train where the destination is as likely to be the Heartbreak Hotel as the Promised Land.


And book three? That's in the pipeline, but here's the cover in case you're curious:



Here's hoping you are...


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Dancing with Myself: KHALED TALIB interviews KHALED TALIB



According to a BBC report recently, everyone one of us could possibly have a cosmic twin. I’m not sure what the other identical copies of me are doing with their lives, but let’s pretend one of them is interviewing the original one on earth. They might argue they are all originals, and that I’m just mirroring what everyone else is doing right now.  Let’s not get into the philosophical aspect — it’s too deep for me. But if one of them was a reporter interviewing me as an author, this is what I’d tell him:

Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Singapore. My ancestors emigrated from southern Yemen more than a hundred years ago during a Diaspora. I began writing at a young age. My first legally published material was a letter to a shopping mall’s marketing department. I had participated in a contest based on the old movie, The Deep, with Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte and Louis Gossett Jr., but I forgot to enclose the shopping receipts in the envelop. I was disqualified, but I received a letter from the mall with a complimentary T-shirt. That made my day.
I started out as a staff writer for an oil industry newspaper. All I did for a year was cut newspaper clippings and rewrite the stories. It was boring. When the job offer came to work for a lifestyle magazine, I grabbed the opportunity. In fact, my first character was based on a reporter working for a glossy magazine.

Why do you write?
No idea, but I’ll tell you something. If I was born in the U.S. or the U.K, I think I would’ve written my first novel when I was much younger. Singapore isn’t really a literary scene.  People don’t talk books here, and you hardly hear people talking about writing. I only met one or two other persons who’s been trying to get a book published. That’s encouraging because I don’t have to consider myself an ugly duckling. But seriously, I don’t think in a parochial or xenophobic sense. The world is a very big place, and I’m an explorer. The more you see, the more you have materials to write. 
I was also inspired by other thriller book characters, and I always wanted my own. From Edmond Dantes, James Bond, Simon Templar to characters created for the screens and comics. It’s a bit like playing with Ken and Barbie in your head, except they don’t have a sparkling set of teeth. 


What do you write suspense and thrillers?

My whole body feels like there’s electric sparks coming out of it. I find it difficult to write something at a lower tempo. I relish writing scenes that are unpredictable and intense. Don’t get me wrong, I can be calm if I want to, but life is a roller coaster. But don’t let me fool you — if you go more than 120 miles an hour on the busy road, I’ll scream at you to stop.  I’m a thrill seeker, but I’m also sensible.

If you could go back in time to three different places, where would you go?

I’d like to go back to the Victorian age and find out who Jack the Ripper really was. With modern technology, I think I might be able to catch him. Besides, it would be nice to dress up in the attire of that time. Hell, Singapore is a hot and humid place. You put on a tie and a jacket and see what happens to you. Never change since time began.
The other place would be ancient Egypt. I really like to find out who built the pyramids and how.  Everyone’s got a theory, but wouldn’t it be nice if we knew how it was done from the horse’s mouth itself?
The last place would be the Brady Bunch set with the cast and crew. It may be make believe, but I’d like to see how the show was made. When I was a kid, I used to love the house, especially the staircase and the brick walls and stairs.

Tell us about your new novel, Incognito.

Incognito (USis a more than meets the eye story. It tells of a Pope who has gone missing, but the story behind the story is about political and religious tolerance. Not a day passes by these days that you don’t hear about Islam. This novel of mine touches on terrorism. The media, in my view, has been irresponsible in managing the news. They want to sell anything that excites their readers, so they don’t care about the moral justice of things. I’ve been in public relations for a long time so I know when the press uses key messages to embed into the minds of readers about things. I wrote this novel to show how things are and why it should not be.
I was also inspired by some of the statements made by Pope Francis concerning Islam. It led me to do some more research about Catholicism. I was wondering why this man was defending Islam when the Crusades is far from forgotten. My research led me to the Vatican II documents. It was an assembly that took place between the 50s and 60s to revise some of the religious doctrines. I learned, for example, Muslims and Jews were part of the “brotherly” faith. I hope, somehow, the novel would have effect on the reader; to see things from a different perspective. By the way, the novel is peppered with murders.

Did something happened that inspired you to write this novel?

Oh, yes. Two things, in fact. One winter night in a small Geneva hotel, I saw through the window of my room a tall woman in black standing under a street lamp. She just stood there staring into the blankness. Later, I left my room to go downstairs. I took the stairs since my room was just one floor down. I saw the same woman at the empty foyer. She gave me a cold, hard stare. I ran back up and locked myself in the room.  You had to be there to experience it.  Now imagine if she had a knife in her hand. The thing is, you need a password to open the hotel’s door entrance. So how did she get it? She reminded me so much of Mrs. Baylock, the character from The Omen. I took the idea to weave into my latest novel. I even gave her a nickname.
At another time, I was trekking a Swiss mountain. A woman started talking to me. She was friendly initially, but she got worked up suddenly and began talking about religion. She pointed to the direction of Italy and told me the Vatican is responsible for many of the problems in Europe. She had a pair of trekking poles with her, and I didn’t. I was praying hard that she wouldn’t ask me what’s my faith. Those poles can be deadly. If I had to defend myself, it would be my word against hers since there was nobody else on that side of the mountain. I survived and live to tell the tale!

Khaled Talib

Saturday, 15 April 2017

#free - but get them quick before Trump goes for the nuclear option.



A great bunch of thriller and mystery titles that you can have for free. Better get in quick, mind, we may not have as much reading time ahead of us as we think. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

One Man's Opinion: THE MUGGER by ED MCBAIN



'They write songs about Saturday night. 
The songs all promote the idea that Saturday is a particularly lonely night. The myth has become a part of American culture, and everybody is familiar with it. Stop anybody, six to sixty and ask, 'What's the loneliest night of the week?' and the answer you'll get is Saturday. 
Well, Tuesday's not such a prize either.'

The Mugger (US) is the second book in the 87th Precinct series. It takes a slight detour from the first in that Steve Carella is on his honeymoon and is out of the picture. 

Two big cases dominate, one a series of muggings against women by a deluded criminal who believes he is a gentleman of sorts and the other the killing of a young girl. There's also a third, the disappearance of huge numbers of cats in another precinct, but that's an aside that's there to add texture and a very good joke. 

There's the usual gripping tension and expertly handled solving of crimes here. You get the hard-boiled nudges in the ribs and thick slices of humour. The camaraderie is enough to make you get up and join some kind of club and the dose of romance tells of personal frailty and general fragility.    

Above all, the story told is about the elevation of Bert Kling from patrolman to detective third grade. He gets involved in a personal case after hours and functions as a private eye for a while. His job is to find out what's happening in the life of a school friend's sister-in-law, a beautiful young woman with a huge secret. As you might expect, he gets into things further than he could ever have imagined as an unexpected turn alters his life forever. 

It's great to spend so much time with Kling. He's one of the stars of the show and getting to know him from the roots up was a real treat. Definitely worth a read whether as a one off or as a delicious piece of an unbelievable whole.