Monday 31 January 2011

Sunday Summary and Monday Winner

First of all, thank you for the good wishes! Back from a weekend in Bristol where we finalised the programme for Crimefest without too much stress (mine) and pain (Adrian's). Lots of great authors going and I'm really looking forward to it.

An excellent article in the music magazine Hot Press in which Doug Johnstone talks whisky and crime fiction. And here is his list of forthcoming events. I can't wait to get my hands on SMOKEHEADS.

Read 'Em, Don't Weep reviews Alexander McCall Smith's THE CHARMING QUIRKS OF OTHERS, PhiloBiblos with a few words for Charles Cummings' THE TRINITY SIX - which gets a few more words in The Scotsman, and Paul Brazill with a small but perfectly formed review of the small but perfectly formed KILLING MUM by Allan Guthrie.

Alexander McCall Smith talks to the Mail Online.

Over at Travelling Booky, a run down of M C Beaton's Hamish MacBeth mysteries.

The Museum of The Macabre talks about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the History of Spiritualism.

Philip Kerr will be appearing in Toronto on April 20th.

And, finally, after putting all the names in my favourite pair of Docs, the winner of Tony Black's TRUTH LIES BLEEDING is Janet. Janet - if you send me your address I'll forward it to the lovely people at Random House.

Thursday 27 January 2011

All Change On The Western Front

Well, it's all change around these parts. I was made redundant on Tuesday. Scary, but good. I'm going to use it as a way to have a complete change of career (at nearly 50? What am I thinking?!) I'm hoping to go back to university and study for a Masters degree in Community Education and Development (if they'll have me). Anyone have any experience in that field? All hints and tips gratefully welcomed. This is going to seriously curtail my gadding off to conventions and trips to Alaska, but apart from that, I'm looking forward to it!

Do you remember the Ramones Challenge? Well, the mad genius that is Jimmy Callaway - who wrote a great story based on The KKK Took My Baby Away - has only gone and made it into a film, hasn't he? How utterly brilliant is this?

My Dad's recent find, Danielle Ramsay, will be appearing at Dundee Waterstones on Saturday 29th June at 1.30pm.

Ian Rankin: A Scots Hard Man.

Apparently, winter keeps Irvine Welsh writing.

Katie Anderson reviews Kate Atkinson's BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM, Steven Clark enjoys Stuart MacBride's HALFHEAD and Margaret at BooksPlease discovers Joyce Holms' Fizz and Buchanan series.

And now, I am off to Bristol for a weekend of eating, drinking and finalising the programme for Crimefest (which will no doubt involve me beating Adrian about the head as he tries to disrupt my carefully constructed house of cards, and him then plying me with several of his extremely strong cocktails to calm me down). Have a lovely weekend, Dear Reader.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Thanks And Things

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who has e-mailed me or DM'd me about my Lefty Award nomination for OLD DOGS. I am really, really honoured and chuffed to be nominated and haven't stopped smiling and hugging myself since. I wish I could hug the people involved in the nomination, but, since I don't know who it is/they are, I shall just thank three very special people - my lovely agent Allan Guthrie, Maxim Jakubowski of Maxcrime and the late - and much missed - David Thompson of Busted Flush. He would have been very happy.

Ian Rankin has been named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. That's brilliant Ian - well done. Errrrr...any chance you could come round and give me a quote for a loft conversion? Might be a few wee hitches - I actually live in a flat, so my upstairs neighbour might not be too chuffed.

One Regard enjoyed Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, which View From Carmine Superiore calls "a damn fine read", while Shelf Love reviews BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM.

A BBC radio crime drama by David Ashton for your delectation.

BooksPlease picks Christopher Brookmyre for letter C of the crime fiction alphabet.

The lovely Ayo over at Shots blog continues her 'looking forward to' series of posts.

Advance warning of a literary lunch with Alexander McCall Smith on June 2nd. And Books To The Ceiling reviews CORDUROY MANSIONS.

I wish I lived in Wisconsin. They get to study Scottish crime fiction. Lucky sods. I wonder whether Professor Bob Nowlan does a distance learning version.

I Meant To Read That blog with a great review of Allan Guthrie's HARD MAN.

And, finally, talking of Super Agent Al, the wonderful Anthony Neil Smith (if you haven't read his stuff and like dark, perverse and twisted, then do yourself a favour) has an 'imaginary' conversation with his agent - the aforementioned Allan Guthrie (who looks scarily like a bald Nick Cave (although not in real life)) . Well, Neil says it's imaginary, but I can hear Al saying everything - including the "I want to make dirty, sassy love to it." In fact, especially that line.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Aye, Right, it's Aye Write

First of all, this weekend's film viewing. First was a French film called Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien. The English title - although sticking reasonably close to the French - was the rather rubbish - Harry, He's Here To Help. Don't let the title put you off. It's a lovely little witty psychological thriller. A French family, on the way to the holiday home which they are doing up, meet up with an old school-friend of the husband, Michel. Michel has only the vaguest memories of Harry, but Harry seems to be rather more...obsessed... with Michel. Hitchcockian suspense, black comedy, and nicely low-key. Our next film was The Disappearance of Alice Creed - a claustrophobic British thriller with a cast of three and which mostly takes place in one room - a room where two men take a young woman and hold her hostage, in order to extract a large ransom from her rich father. A good (but not great) thriller - gritty and twisty but lacking in something. I didn't care enough about any of the characters. Well worth a watch, though.

The Aye Write programme is up. From a quick look through, the crime related events are (I've put a * by the ones I'm planning on attending, if anyone fancies meeting up):

Friday March 4th
Jasper Fforde - 18.00 - 19.00

Saturday March 5th
Alexander McCall Smith - 10.30-11.30
Denise Mina, Karen Campbell, Caro Ramsay - 14.00-15.00 *
Alex Gray, Louise Welsh, Alice Thompson - 15.30-16.30 *
Mark Billingham and Jo Nesbo - 19.00-20.00

Sunday March 6th
Val McDermid - 17.00-18.00 *

Monday March 7th
Allan Guthrie, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh - 19.30-20.30 *

Tuesday March 8th
Kevin MacNeil - 18.00-19.00 (not sure if it's crime fiction but one description calls it a 'dark, maniacal thriller'. It looks excellent. *
Doug Johnstone - 19.30-20.30 *

Friday March 11th
Christopher Brookmyre - 21.00-23.00

Saturday March 12th
Iain M Banks and Ken MacLeod 14.00-15.00 (although this one is more SF)
Neil Forsyth - 15.30-16.30 (more his comedy than crime fiction)

I think that's it, but if I've missed anything, please let me know.

And another event, on 4th February Louise Welsh at the GFT talking about Robert Louis Stevenson and the Theatre of The Brain.

And now, a few reviews. First of all, a very thoughtful and interesting review of Stuart MacBride's SHATTER THE BONES, The Star Online reviews Ian Rankin's THE COMPLAINTS, and the lovely Dorte enjoys John Buchan's THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS.

Ian Rankin, amongst others, talks about turning fifty.

And, finally, David Thomas in The Mail on The Pitbull of The Baskervilles.

Friday 21 January 2011

Looking Forward to...ooooooh...Lots

The weekend again - lovely. And I'm in a good mood because today I booked tickets to go and see The Kills. In Berlin. And you know how much I love Berlin. Yessssssssssssssssssssssss.

News about Aye Write, and the programme will be announced this weekend. Looking good already from this little snippet of information.

GeekNative reviews Denise Mina's A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY.

At last - Caro Ramsay is back in the world of the blogging.

The Inverness Courier on Tony Black. And remember, just by blabbing something you may well rather forget, you can win a copy of his new book.

John Hannah says that he was "wrong for Rebus." Uh-huh.

Apparently, Stuart MacBride is magic.

Sisters In Crime converse with Val McDermid. And here's a review of TRICK OF THE DARK.

The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has authorised Anthony Horowitz to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel.

Ray Banks deservedly makes the top 10 of 2010 over at Literary Kicks. While over at Shots, the lovely Ayo is looking forward to 2011.

An interview with William Meikle.

And, finally, congratulations to Nigel Bird who's won a crime fiction fairy tale short story competition over at Things I'd Rather Be Doing. Well done, mate.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Ladies and Gents...Mr Tony Black

The lovely people at Random House have offered a copy of Tony Black's soon-to-be-released book TRUTH LIES BLEEDING as a give-away on the blog.

While a big part of me is just tempted to just keep it to myself, I shall be a good blogger and do a give-away.

If you haven't read any of Tony's books before, then you're in for a treat. This one is the first of a new series, featuring Inspector Rob Brennan. If you have read him before, then you already know what a great writer he is.

Here's the blurb:
Four teenagers find the mutilated corpse of a young girl stuffed into a dumpster in an Edinburgh alleyway. Who is she? Where did she come from? Who killed her and why? Above all, where is the baby to which she has obviously recently given birth? Inspector Rob Brennan, recently back from psychiatric leave, is assigned the case.

And Tony's having a book launch in Edinburgh on February 9th. I'm hoping to make it there myself as Tony has promised me chocolate if I go. A new book by one of my favourite authors and chocolate? What more can a girl ask for?

But before that, if you live in Brunswick, Australia, then you can hear Tony talk about Celtic Noir tomorrow night. Although, if you do live in Brunswick, it's probably already tomorrow.

So, all you have to do to win the book is tell me something about yourself that I don't already know. Just leave it in the comments. Or, if it's really embarrassing, send me an e-mail and I promise not to tell more than 20 people. I'll then pull one lucky winner out of one of my favourite boots.

And, just to start you off, here's mine. I once played a butch, weightlifting nurse in a German play (I know, I know - typecast). A very nerve-wracking experience, especially since ad-libbing in German was not an option if I forgot my lines. Luckily, I was murdered at the end of Act I.

Sunday 16 January 2011

From Zombies to Superheroes

Fancy some graphic novels? reviews Denise Mina's A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY, as well as some Sherlock Holmes adventures, including VICTORIAN UNDEAD: SHERLOCK HOLMES VS ZOMBIES. And Broken Frontier also reviews SICKNESS.

If you live in Tyneside, how about an evening with Stuart MacBride on February 3rd? No zombies...probably.

A review of Graham Moore's THE SHERLOCKIAN, and THE HOLMES AFFAIR and the blog In Which I Read Vintage Novels reviews John Buchan's THE THREE HOSTAGES. Keith Walters really enjoyed Craig Robertson's RANDOM, and reviews over at Eurocrime for M C Beaton's AGATHA RAISIN AND THE BUSY BODY and Grant McKenzie's SWITCH.

Talking of John Buchan, here's his grandson on the 39 steps to writing the perfect thriller.

Louise Welsh will be giving a reading at the University of Glasgow on Tuesday 18th January.

Allan Guthrie has a new blog E-Books That Sell.

It looks as though Alexander McCall Smith is going to be busy again next year. As well as the Aye Write gig, there's a musical night with him in Edinburgh on March 4th, and he's appearing at the William and Mary College in Colonial Williamsburg on April 7th.

Better hurry up if you want tickets for a special screening of TRAINSPOTTING on 2nd February.

And, finally, I do wish Glasgow could have its own Superhero like Seattle does. Given the latest bizarre twist to the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial, I think Glasgow's should be a wee yellow and black striped hero called Spelling Bee.

Thursday 13 January 2011

A Teeny Tiny Thursday Post

Crime Time Preview has all the news on police dramas and thrillers on UK TV

A lovely article on Chris Ewan. Two of my favourite comedy crime characters - John Dortmunder and Charlie Howard.

Stuart MacBride has his first ever Bookseller Number 1. Congratulations Stuart!

Taggart goes international. Subtitles may be required.

Three new books about Sherlock Holmes.

More from Aly Monroe about the inspiration for Peter Cotton.

A couple of reviews for M C Beaton. First of all, The Book Nut enjoyed A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS, and Books are Like Candy Corn on BUSY BODY.

Stella Rimington celebrates John Buchan's Richard Hannay.

Apologies for the uncustomary brevity - it's been a bit of a hectic week. More on Sunday(ish).

Monday 10 January 2011

It's Sunday - Honest

Goodness me - how late am I with my Sunday round-up? Things have been a tad hectic in Badsville. It was a busy weekend plus I'm half way through writing a screenplay and I've started on the programming for Crimefest - which is always a bit like herding cats, but is great fun. Does anyone have any panels they really enjoyed at conventions, or panel topics they would love to see? Let me know.

Ian Rankin panicking? Surely not.

Several reviews - first of all Val McDermid's TRICK OF THE DARK and THE MERMAIDS SINGING. The Book Jotter likes Nicola Upson's TWO FOR SORROW, which features Josephine Tey as protagonist. Bookgeeks on Denise Mina's A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY, Thomas at Crime and Publishing enjoys Stuart MacBride's SHATTER THE BONES, and Small Town Girl over at I Meant To Read That... calls Allan Guthrie a bastard - but in a good way - after reading TWO-WAY SPLIT.

PW interviews Kate Atkinson, and Allan Guthrie talks cats and mats at Kindle Author.

Details for this year's Aye Write aren't yet available, but it looks as though Alexander McCall Smith will definitely be there.

Fancy a writing workshop with Val McDermid and R J Ellory?

Have a look at Helen Fitzgerald's trailer for Ex (which is Dutch for "Helen Fitzgerald is the rock chick of crime fiction".

And, finally, the lovely, lovely Tania of I Love A Good Mystery picks her favourite books for 2010. Not only does she have a fair old Scottish contingent in there but she also has some of my other favourites such as Steve Mosby and Duane Swierczynski.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

A Gallimaufry of Links

First of all, my copy of the wonderful RUT by Scott Phillips goes to Bernadette in Oz, whose name I pulled from one of my favourite pairs of boots. Bernadette - e-mail me with your address and RUT will be winging its way to Australia.

Lots of reviews. First of all, Milo's Rambles on Ken McClure's WHITE DEATH. Next, three for Stuart MacBride, as I Meant To Read That blog reviews BROKEN SKIN, Lovereading loves DARK BLOOD, and Eurocrime reviews SHATTER THE BONES. Gormless Idiot reviews Philip Kerr's THE ONE FROM THE OTHER, and Blethers with a mini review of Kate Atkinson's STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG. An in-depth review of Graham Moore's THE SHERLOCKIAN, and the lovely Jen Forbus reviews Val McDermid's REPORT FOR MURDER.

An interview with Neil Forsyth in The Miami Herald reminds me that I have LET THEM COME THROUGH on Mt TBR and need to read it soon. I think I might designate February as Scottish month.

It's a wrap on the film version of Irvine Welsh's ECSTACY, a much lighter proposition than TRAINSPOTTING, apparently.

The top selling 100 books of all time (well, since 1998, anyway) has a couple of Scots on it.

And The Scotsman looks forward to the arts in 2011.

A review of the New Year's Day conversation with Ian Rankin and Lin Anderson in Edinburgh.In other Ian Rankin news he reveals his addiction to The Archers, and the last part of a Rebus story in the Daily Mail.

An interesting review of a book called THE INVENTION OF MURDER about the origins of our fascination with tales of murder and mayhem.

And, finally, Mulholland Books have some great guest blog posts. This one, from Michael Robotham on the question authors fear the most, is no exception. I have to say, however, that there are many more questions I fear more... you know, such questions as..."Why have you just eaten my dinner?", "What the hell's wrong with you, you weirdo?" and "Why are you in my bedroom?"

Monday 3 January 2011

Yet Another Top 10...errrr 12... of 2010

Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2011 is wonderful to all of you, bringing you everything you wish for yourselves, and much more besides.

Well, everyone else is doing it, so here is a round-up of my favourite books of 2010. No particular order but I've put the Scottish crime fiction first.

LOST IN JUAREZ - Douglas Lindsay
Published: 2008
Publisher: Long Midnight Publishing
Setting: Scotland and London
Protagonist: Lake Weston
Series?: Standalone
First Line: 'The house stood on the side of a hill looking down over the glen, across the Ullapool Road, out over Ben Wyvis.'
Best known for his wonderful darkly comic Barney Thomson, barbershop death junkie series, LOST IN JUAREZ is a much more sinister proposition. Lake Weston writes children's books about a 7-year old boy called Fenton Bargus. Very successful books that have made him an award-winning millionaire and much in demand to give talks at schools. He does, however, have to be reminded not to swear in front of the children. He also has an addiction to Bob Dylan, two ex-wives, drinks far too much, and can't remember the names of the many women he sleeps with. He's cynical, jaded, and can't seem to get out of the cosy little rut he's in. However, when his latest manuscript - Fenton Bargus Take on The Prime Minister - gets into the hands of someone in the Government, his publishers are told to withdraw it, or else.

It's hardly a major political tract, but with terrorist threats on a daily basis and the Government using these threats as a means of trampling all over personal freedoms, they're coming down heavy handed and jack-booted - even on a children's book author. So that makes Lake a little bit peeved and he decides to write a book about heavy-handed Government trampling all over personal freedoms.And if you think that's going to get him in even more trouble than writing a book about a seven year old boy who takes on the Prime Minister then you would be absolutely correct.

It was a very timely read for me - what with the whole WikiLeaks thing. It's thrilling, sinister, and a fast and fascinating read. Great fun and a little bit scary.

THE OSSIANS - Doug Johnstone
Published: 2008
Setting: Scotland
Protagonist: Connor Alexander
Series?: I presume it's a standalone
First Lines: '"Connor, I don't know why I let you drag me to the stupidest places."'
Indie guitar band The Ossians are on the verge of signing a major record deal and their lead singer Connor decides that now would be a good time to tour Scotland, going to some of the dreariest, bleakest places - in winter. Connor - self-destructive and full of himself - spends most of the tour drunk or high on a cocktail of drugs. But this is definitely not what you would typically consider a rock and roll lifestyle with its series of tedious gigs in seedy venues. And, unlike most tours (I would hope!) the tension mounts with drug dealers, stalkers and gun-toting Russian sub-mariners. I didn't like Connor at all - he's got a chip on his shoulder the size of a bag of King Edwards - but I really loved reading about him and wanted to know what would happen to him. Connor has led a pampered, rather empty, middle-class life and the tour seems to be a search for the holy grail of his own identity, as well as that of Scotland. A thought-provoking and fascinating read. And really good fun. I will definitely be looking out for more from this author.

Published: October 2009
Setting: Dundee
Protagonist: McNee
Series?: 2nd
First Lines: 'He doesn't waste a moment. Lets go of the axe, brings both hands round on either side of my head and slams them together.'
Hard-boiled Dundee PI McNee is called upon to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. He's reluctant, since the girl is the god-daughter of David Burns - someone that McNee is not particularly fond of, and that's putting it lightly. McNee lets himself be beguiled by his dislike of Burns - as well as his desire to right some wrongs - as he investigates the secrets and lies that lead him to become more and more emotionally involved in the case. Brutal, chilling, pacy and dramatic, THE LOST SISTER is superb - but very sad. I felt melancholic from about half way through and burst into tears at the end (it seems a pattern is developing!) McNee is an excellent character - tough as nails on the outside, but much softer on the inside - something he does his best to hide. He is uncompromising about right and wrong, his moral compass is firmly set, and his prickly exterior hides a troubled and isolated person who just can't get close to people. You don't know whether to hug him or punch him. Russel McLean spins a fine and expertly told tale.

SHADOWPLAY - Karen Campbell
Published: 2010
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Setting: Glasgow
Protagonist: Chief Inspector Anna Campbell
Series?: 3rd
First Line: 'On a hill swept by oak, a single soft glow shines from a darker bulk.'
Anna Cameron has been promoted to Chief Inspector and moved to a new Division. A fresh start and a clean sheet should be just the ticket. Unfortunately, Anna discovers that she now has the worst boss in the world. On top of that her Mum - who she doesn't have a great relationship with - is seriously ill. Anna has plenty of work to keep her busy - the racially motivated attack of a young man, the disappearance of an elderly lady from a nursing home, added to the fact that someone is threatening one of her officers. Underlying everything in this book is the theme of motherhood. This is one of the best books I've read this year. The first two in the series were excellent but this is something else - gorgeous and atmospheric writing, a wonderful sense of place with a mix of darkness and humour that is the very heart and soul of Glasgow, an authentic depiction of police work that makes you wonder why anyone wants to join up, characters that you really get to know and an absorbing plot. Gritty, witty, and pretty bloody amazing. I was totally captivated from start to finish.

Published: 2010
Publisher: Preface Publishing
Setting: Edinburgh
Protagonist: Gus Dury
Series?: 4th
First Line: 'The doctor was a no-nonsense west-coaster, type that called a spade a shovel and if you didn't like it would add, You got a problem with that?'
Gus Dury is back on the bevvy - and no bloody wonder after what happened in book 3. Not only is he back on the drink but he's in hospital and in a bad way after being run down by an old lady on a mobility scooter. When his best friend Hod visits and asks him to help him investigate the death of a student - son of a high-profile actress, Gus is reluctant - let's face it, his career as a PI hasn't turned out very well for him so far, has it? However, since he feels partly responsible for the cash-strapped state in which Hod currently finds himself, he agrees. One more bad decision in a whole string of bad decisions. Sometimes it feels as though nothing Gus does is ever going to be right. For me he's a thoroughly noir protagonist. He's constantly trying to dig himself out of a hole that's too big for him to scrabble out of. What's more, fate is standing giggling at the top, shovelling in more earth on top of him. And, when someone does finally throw down a shovel, it hits Gus on the head. This is a very dark book, but relieved by Gus' cynical, self-deprecating humour. After this entry in the series, I want a little gladness for Gus. Wonderful stuff.

THE DEVIL'S STAIRCASE - Helen Fitzgerald
Published: 2010
Publisher: Polygon
Setting: London
Protagonist: Bronny
Series?: Standalone
First Line: 'It was fifty-fifty. Mum had it, and had died in a pool of her own mad froth.'
When Bronny escapes Australia three weeks after her eighteenth birthday, it's because she doesn't want to find out whether she has the disease which killed her mother. So she decides to go to London and do some living. Living consists of cleaning the hair out of the drains in a female sauna and steam rooms, living in a squat, taking loads of drugs, trying to lose her virginity, and worrying about the noises coming from the basement. Less overtly humourous and with a darker feel than most of her other books, this one is a fast and furious read with plenty of heart-stopping moments and twists and turns. Helen - having met you at Crimefest last year, my Dad wants to know how much of this is autobiographical. I told him that I didn't think the bit about the basement was true, but that I couldn't vouch for the sex and drugs.

Published: 2010
Publisher: Pocket Books
Setting: Las Vegas
Protagonist: Charlie Howard
Series?: 3rd
First Lines: 'Stealing a man's wallet is easier than you might think.'
Crime-writing thief Charlie Howard is having a not entirely enjoyable holiday in Las Vegas. He's lost at poker, and Victoria - his literary agent - is under the spell of the Fifty-Fifty Casino's superstar magician and illusionist, Josh Masters. Charlie's a bit miffed, not to mention a tad jealous. So he decides to pick Josh Masters' pocket and steal his wallet. And then use his keycard to break into his room. Which turns out to be an unwise move - mostly due to the nasty surprise he finds in the bathroom. This series just gets better and better with each book. It's funny, entertaining, exceedingly well-plotted and full of fascinating atmosphere. Charlie is a great character - Raffles meets Cary Grant meets The Saint meets Raymond Chandler. He's disarming, has his own - slightly offbeat - moral code, and is definitely someone you would want on your side. Of course, he's just as liable to get you into trouble as out of it - but he's so charming you wouldn't care. In fact, you'd relish the fact.

BAKED - Mark Haskell Smith
Published: 2010
Publisher: Black Cat
Setting: Amsterdam and Los Angeles
Protagonist: Miro Basinas
Series?: Standalone
First Line:'One bullet can really fuck up your day.'
Miro - a mild mannered botanist type - has invented a new strain of cannabis which he has named Elephant Crush. When it wins the prestigious Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, suddenly, all sorts of people are interested - not all of them nice - especially drug dealer Shamus Noriega (yes, really) and medical marijuana guru Vincent - the totally compassion-less owner of the 'Compassion Centers". I've waited far too long for another Mark Haskell Smith. As with his other books BAKED is full of mindless violence, black humour, and wonderfully absurd characters - in this one a paramedic with a strap on, a young Mormon both fascinated and scared by sex and assorted bad guys including one called Shamus Noriega - half Salvadoran and whose "father was an Irish merchant seaman turned construction worker turned bartender turned Latina impregnator turned deportation victim who was sent back to Cork when Shamus was only five". Wickedly funny and warped. Loved it - I felt as though I was inhaling when I got a fit of the giggles.

RUT - Scott Phillips
Published: 2010
Publisher: Concord Free Press
Setting: Gower, smalltown USA
Protagonist: Bridget (but with fine support from a mad ensemble cast)
Series?: Standalone
First Line: 'Her week's supplies purchased, Bridget walks the bicycle in lurching bumps over the shattered asphalt away from the center of the town of Gower until she reaches the ruin of an old commercial district glimpsed the week before, when she was too busy to take pictures.'
It's almost impossible to describe RUT and still sound sane. So here goes. Take some crystal meth. Now drink a bottle of tequila. And now imagine a post-apocalyptic novel but without the apocalypse. See what I mean? It's set in a dystopian near-future where wine is traded on the black market, religious fundamentalism is a must, toxic waste hasn't had a positive effect on the wildlife and Big Brother is most definitely watching. RUT is quirky, witty and funny but also thought-provoking and slightly unsettling.

RADGEPACKET 4: Tales From The Inner Cities - Various - short story collection
Published: March 2010
Publisher: Byker Books
Setting: Various
Protagonist: Various rapscallions, madmen and cutpurses
Series?: Luckily, yes, there are more
A collection of 22 short stories - gritty, funny, weird, warped and wonderful. Some of my favourites were Ray Banks' THE DEACON SHUFFLE about a robbery in a chemist's shop, Keith Gingell's REPO - a chilling tale of a man who values houses that have been repossessed, Danny King's IT STARTED WITH A DISS - a great story of a schoolboy crush, Steve Porter's creepy BLURRED GIRL DIARIES, Paul Brazill's THE NIGHT WATCHMAN and Blaine Ward's AN EYE FOR AN EYE. They're not all crime stories but many of them have a crime in, and all of them are deliciously nasty. An anthology for those who like their fiction twisted, profane and depraved. Me, I loved it.

Published: 2008
Publisher: Transworld Ireland
Setting: Galway
Protagonist: Jack Taylor
Series?: 7th
First Lines: 'Dear Mr Taylor, please forgive the formality.'
Jack Taylor is sober. That's worth mentioning because it doesn't happen very often, nor last very long. He was on his way to the airport, getting ready to leave Ireland, but his friend Ridge was diagnosed with breast cancer, so he stayed. He might live to regret that when he gets a letter from someone. It's a list: 'Two guards, one nun, one judge. And, alas, one child.' And it seems they're all going to die. Spare prose, dark humour. My addiction to Bruen is like Jack's addiction to the bottle. Only I'm never giving up.

SILENCE OF THE GRAVE - Arnaldur Indridason
Published: 2006 (first published 2002)
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Setting: Iceland
Protagonist: Detective Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson
Series?: 2nd
First Lines: 'He knew at once it was a human bone, when he took it from the baby who was sitting on the floor chewing it.'
As a decades old skeleton is slowly and carefully unearthed, so detective Erlendur Sveinsson slowly and meticulously uncovers the solution, fleshing out the bare bones of the story by painstaking detective work.Erlendur is lonely, miserable, and he doesn’t seem to have that much going for him. His ex wife hates him, his children avoid him, and his daughter is a pregnant drug addict. Indridason is one of those authors who do social realism really well. The main theme of SILENCE OF THE GRAVE is domestic violence – past and present. And a very compelling and sad tale it is too. It made me feel quite melancholy as I was reading it and heartsick for several of the characters.

And my favourite non crime fiction book of the year:

Published: 1975
Publisher: Vintage
Setting: USA
Protagonist: John Wilder
Series?: Standalone
First Line: 'Everything began to go wrong for Janice Wilder in the late summer of 1960.'
John Wilder sells advertising space and has a comfortable but boring life in Manhattan. He's disappointed - with his family, his job, his life, himself. To mask the disappointment and alleviate the boredom, he drinks and has affairs. Away from home at a convention he has a breakdown and, on his return to New York, he calls his wife from a bar and tells her that if he comes home he'll kill her and their child. As a result of his threats he's commited to Bellevue. This is a great tale of delusion and paranoia, which feels a lot like a cross between One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Mad Men. The beginning, in particular, is depressingly wonderful and the book is heartbreaking, simple and raw. For god's sake don't read it if you're feeling miserable.