Thursday, 5 May 2011

What I Read in March and April

First of all, I've been given 2 weekend passes to Crimefest (worth £140 each) to give away on the blog. If you would like to win one or both (I can give them away singly or as a pair) then either leave a comment below, or send me an e-mail, telling me who your ideal panellist would be and what you would like to hear them talk about.

I didn't have as much time as I would have liked for reading in March and April, but what I did read was excellent. I also read a couple of excellent manuscripts which I haven't listed here.

Published: originally 1999
Publisher: Kindle
Setting: Scotland
Protagonist: Barney Thomson
Series?: Second
First Lines: 'Brother Festus. An honest man. Weird name; honest nonetheless.'
Barney Thomson - Scotland's unluckiest and most endearing serial killer - is on the run. Not only is he being hunted by the police for several murders he didn't commit (as well as a couple he did, but they were accidents, really they were), he's also being hounded by the Press and is the subject of dramatic headlines such as Thomson Slaughters Ninety-Eight Women in Terror Week (The Sun), Wave of Naked Bank Robberies Pinned on Thomson (The Herald) and How Barber Surgeon Made Goram Let in Five Against Portugal in '93 (the Daily Record). When it comes down to it, all Barney is really guilty of is being rubbish at small talk, fancying his sister-in-law and being a tad dull.

He decides to seek refuge somewhere where his heinous crimes won't have been heard of. Enter Brother Jacob of the Holy Order of the Monks of St John, who is soon treating the other monks to some excellent barbering (Brother Cadfael, Sean Connery in Name of The Rose, Christian Slater in Name of the Rose, F Murray Abraham in Name of the Rose - you get the idea). Unfortunately, he just happens to have chosen a monastery where everyone has their own secrets (is it only Brother Mince who remembers the harsh winter of 1938 and the rumours of cannibalism?). Not only that but Barney appears to be surplus to requirements - the monastery already has its own serial killer.

Fast, funny, twisted, over-the-top and bloody good fun.

Published: 2010
Publisher: Kindle
Setting: Various
Protagonist: n/a
Series?: Anthology
First Line: 'You wake up in a sweat.' from the story by Josh Converse
I already mentioned this anthology in a previous post - it's chock full of great stuff. My favourite part of it is Jimmy Callaway's brilliant essay on William Lindsay Gresham - author of NIGHTMARE ALLEY (one of my favourite noirs - which was turned into a film that was almost as good). I love Jimmy Callaway's writing - both fiction and non-fiction. And that's not the only great thing about this particular edition of Crime Factory. It also has an essay by one of my very favourite people - Reed Farrel Coleman - about his transformation from poet to mystery author, and his inspirations in the genre, a great part story by Kieran Shea that I want to read more of, and some excellent short fiction - my favourites being SOME DAY WE'LL ALL BE FREE by Ray Banks and HAMMER AND NAIL by Josh Converse. All that plus interviews and film reviews. What more could you want?

THE BASTARD HAND - Heath Lowrance
Published: 2011
Publisher: New Pulp Press
Setting: Mostly Mississippi and Tennessee
Protagonist: Charles Wesley
Series?: Standalone
First Line: 'My Apocalypse began without the fanfare you might expect.'
So says drunken, violent drifter Charles Wesley - a man who hears the voice of his dead brother and who should really be back in the Institution he ran away from. You have been warned. What you really don't need when you're already as crazy as they come is to meet the Reverend Phineas Childe - ostensibly a Man of God; in reality a man out for himself - a man who uses his 'calling' to enjoy wine, women and song - heavy on the wine and women, not so much on the song. Think Robert Mitchum's Harry Powell in Night of the Hunter - only even more warped, manipulative and scary (which I didn't think was possible). Wesley - against his better judgement - is persuaded by the charismatic preacher to accompany him to the small rural town of Cuba Landing, where Childe is the new pastor. God help Cuba Landing, because Childe certainly won't. Heath Lowrance serves up a brilliantly nasty slice of tough, gritty noir served with sides of retribution, weirdness and ugliness. Delightfully warped and dirty - yum yum. No characters to root for - just a cast of deliciously noxious characters. No happy endings, just truculent, indecorous pleasure in a tale told with great gusto.

THORN IN MY SIDE - Sheila Quigley
Published: 2011
Publisher: Burgess Books
Setting: Mostly Holy Island and Northumbria
Protagonist: DI Mike Yorke
Series?: First
First Line: '"Non." One word of defiance. Spoken quietly but with an unbreakable finality.'
After a few months down south, DI Mike Yorke is glad to be going back home to north-east England. There, he gets involved in a truly bizarre and horrific case. I don't want to say too much about the plot because one of the pleasures of this book is seeing how everything unfolds, but it's a gripping tale of missing children, horribly flogged corpses and much, much more. Really well drawn characters - especially the troubled street kid, Smiler, who Mike sort of adopts. I really look forward to reading more about him in future books. The Holy Island setting is intriguing and atmospheric. Great stuff.

Published: 2011
Publisher: Byker Books
Setting: Various
Protagonist: Various
Series?: Anthology
First Line: 'It began when Harold urinated on his cavalry twill slacks.'
What can I say, those radge lads at Byker Books have done it again. The stories, as ever, run the gamut of the mad, the bad and the sad in the 19 short stories and 1 novella. Reading this slim volume is like taking a pleasant night-time stroll, only to find yourself in a dark alley with 20 sweaty, grubby, sweary nutters all peeing on your shoes. It's difficult to pick favourites, but I think the ones that stayed with me longest were Paul Brazill's A Man On The Run, Darren Sant's Backstreet Redemption, Martyn Taylor's Bridge Builders, Ian Ayris' Contagious and Blaine Ward's The Islets Of Langerhans, but each story offers its own special delectation. Demented, unhinged, coarse and indecent - I'd definitely like to spend a night out with this lot.

Have a lovely weekend, Dear Reader.


  1. That's still quite a lot of reading!! I've got a Douglas Lindsay sitting on my kindle waiting..hope to reach it soon.

    So much to read - so little time!

    My ideal panelist would be Robert Louis Stephenson talking about Jekyll & Hyde - now wouldn't that draw a crowd!

  2. Thanks for the mention, Donna! Glad you liked Peter Ord's trip to Scotland! Some other cracking reads there, too. I think Sheila's onto a winner with the new series. Spot on about Jimmy C's Nightmare Alley piece and The Bastard Hand is just bastard good!

  3. what an absolutely brilliant prize. as i'm going to watch the rugby in Cardiff the following weekend, i'd probably be lynched for trying. so i'm out, but my heart is crying out Guthrrrrie from the UK (to amongst other things enlighten all about e-books)and from overseas i'd like to have Benjamin Whitmer and Mr Pollock handcuffed together and bundled onto a plane and i'd like to suggest myself purely out of vanity and for the thrill of it all.

  4. Any blogger who likes the Cramps and good crime fiction gets my follow. yo! Also Raveonettes rock.

  5. Dr John Watson talking about the eccentric mind of Sherlock Holmes.

  6. In the realms of achievable I'd love to hear Fred Vargas talk about how she conjures up such mad ideas for her Adamsberg series. Unachievable but desirable would be an interview with Harper Lee - talking about anything, but of course why she hasn't written anything else.

  7. Thanks for the mention and glad you liked the story. I always look forward to the next Radgepacket anthology, they seem to get better every time. - Darren Sant

  8. McDroll, Norm, Karen - you're all in the hat for the draw.

    Paul - correct on all counts!

    Nigel - shame you can't make it! I'd definitely go to that panel :o)

    Thomas - I saw The Cramps several times - soooo good. And nice to find someone else who's heard of the Raveonettes!

    Darren - you're welcome - thanks for the great story!

  9. Thanks for the mention, Donna. Always good to see the Radgepackets get a bit of press :) All the best, Ian

  10. The Raveonettes, I think, did an amazing Christmas song for a Dobbie's garden centre. how strange is that?

  11. Thanks for the kind words, Donna, I'm glad you liked The Bastard Hand.

  12. Ian - you're most welcome - great stuff!

    Nigel - that's one of my favourite Raveonettes' songs.

    Heath - I LOVED it!