A Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for Nov. 6 – Nov. 12, 2017
Submissions for All Due Respect Books are about to close. Best get on it quickly. Both Joffe Books and Bloodhound Books are still accepting book-length submissions.
Les Edgerton’s Just Like That (Down & Out Books) is out. Below is an excerpt from Edgerton’s forward to the book. It’s a bit too long for herre, but read it anway.
Parts of this novel have already seen publication as short stories in various publications, including Murdaland, Flatmancrooked, Kansas Quarterly/Arkansas Review, High Plains Literary Review, Houghton-Mifflin’s Best American Mystery Stories 2001, and Noir Nation. A couple of the stories taken from this novel were nominated for the Pushcart Prize
It’s largely autobiographical—perhaps eighty-five percent taken from my own life. It’s centered around a road trip that I actually took with a friend from the joint—actually a couple of trips we made.
Awhile after I was released on parole from Pendleton, after serving a couple of years on a two-to-five-year sentence for second-degree burglary (plea-bargained down from eighty-two counts of second-degree burglary, one count of armed robbery, two counts of strong-arm robbery, and one count of possession with intent to deal), I was working in a barbershop in Lakeville, Indiana, for a guy named Dean. His shop was cleverly named “Dean’s Barbershop.” Dean was a truly cool guy and I loved working for him. At the time, I was charging a dollar a haircut; at the end of my journey as a stylist, I was charging one hundred dollars per cut.
Every single morning when I arrived at work, before we opened the doors, Dean always said the same thing over our morning coffee: “Les,” he’d say, a faraway look in his eyes, “do you ever think when driving to work that someday you’d just like to keep going until you run out of gas, and then, wherever that is, you get a job there and live there?” I admitted that I had had the same thought many times myself. After all, until I was about forty, I’d never lived in one place more than two years. Some places I’d lived in more than once, but never for more than a two-year stretch. I loved moving to new places, and even today, after two years in one place, I find myself incredibly bored. Although…I’ve been stuck here in Fort Hooterville for many years.
Anyway, Dean never followed his own dream, but one day, I did just that. Was on my way to work and hadn’t even thought about it when I woke up that morning, but halfway to Dean’s it struck me that, yeah, I’d like to keep driving until I ran out of gas.
So I did just that. I pulled over, got on the phone and called Bud, a friend of mine from the joint who also was out. Like many ex-cons, Bud was of the same mind as I—that “rolling stone” mentality, and in a nanosecond, he said, “You bet. Give me half an hour and I’m with you.”
I think it is the characterisations, the drawing out of the funnier side of human nature which Alison Brodie excels in. It’s the elements of her previous book that I really enjoyed the most, the taking a normal person and dropping them in an abnormal situation and letting it all play out, the way in which they are forced to change, which really makes the books stand out for me.
My Chestnut Reading Tree writes of Zenka:
I find it hard to put this book into any genre category as it has a little bit of everything -a gritty crime thriller but with a touch of romance, a lot of black humour and with lots of unexpected twists and turns so you are never quite sure where it’s heading.
Book Lover Worm writes of Zenka:
Alison Brodie is fast becoming a favourite author of mine. Simply because her books are always so well-written that you are guaranteed a good read. If you want a book that is a joyride of a read with characters that are a bit larger than life personality wise then this, and Brake Failure, are definitely books you should check out.
Rae Reads writes of Zenka, “To be honest the whole story is a like an out of control rollercoaster ride that well and truly grabbed me carrying me all the way to the end.” And Hair Past a Freckle says of Zenka, “With it’s fast paced plot and witty dialogue, Zenka is a genuinely compelling thriller, with some surprising twists and for all the laughs, there is a real sense of violence and danger throughout.”
Emma Clapperton’s The Dead Whisperer (Bloodhound Books) is out. Sweet Little Books writes, “For a book which gradually builds, moulding itself around the hypothesis of a general psychological thriller it begins to give the illusion of fun house mirrors, where it will bend and warp your thinking, its unconceivable how easy it is to be led up the garden path.” Ali – The Dragon Slayer writes, “This kept me entertained, it’s one of those books where you think you have it sussed out but the author craftily twists it all upside down again and hooks you in for a few more chapters.” (e)Book Nerd “liked the ambiguity of the characters”.
Mike McCrary’s self-published Remo Went Off, fourth in the Remo series is out.
Remo Cobb never met a problem he couldn’t make worse.
Never has this been truer than when a string of misdeeds land not only him in a heap of trouble, but drops his ex-wife and son in a desperate situation that could end in their demise if Remo doesn’t meet the kidnappers’ demands.
The clock is ticking. There’s no margin for error, no favors to pull in and it’s do or die
Jennifer Jaynes’ Disturbed (Thomas & Mercer) is out. Books n All says, “This is a very gripping book that readers of psychological thrillers will love. The ending didn’t quite work for me but overall this is a brilliant book.” A Haven for Books writes that “the movie-feel for me meant that there wasn’t much done in character development.” By the Letter Book Reviews writes that it is “the perfect read for this time of year with the dark nights and not long since Halloween. For lovers of crime with a mix of the super natural, this is an absolute must read.”
The book is a brilliant read which, although slow going in places, was a brilliant read, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is a different from the other books I have read recently as it is a much slower build up to them investigating and there doesn’t appear to be the mad rush normally associated with these types of books.
Tony J. Forder’s Scream Blue Murder (Bloodhound Books) is out. By the Letter Book Reviews says that it “is an adrenaline fuelled read”. Donna’s Book Blog writes that the book has “superb writing and one of my top reads of the year”. Rae Reads says it is “a brilliant rollercoaster ride”.
Linda S. Prather’s self-published The 13th Victim is out. M.A. Comley writes, “A fast-paced mystery about vengeance and righting wrongs of the other twelve victims. Loved the characters and the pace of this page-turning mystery. A cracking addition to Linda’s other stunning novels.”
Shalini Boland’s The Secret Mother (Bookouture) is out. Ginger Book Geek writes that “it has to be in my top 10 reads of 2017”. Stardust Book Reviews says that “it’s a book with of heartbreak and sadness mixed with mystery, deceit and intrigue.
Richard Rippon’s Lord of the Dead (Oblierati Press) is out. BliblioManiac says that it “is a great police procedural that feels refreshing and new. Rippon has a distinctive voice and his prose is polished, pacy and engaging.”
Judith O’Reilly’s Killing State (Loughman Press) is out. Damnpebbles wrote, “If you’re a conspiracy fan then you will love Killing State. Intricate, explosive and action-packed.”
Mark Rapacz ’s A Burdizzo for a Prince (Fahrenheit Press) is out.
So what happens when a hitman becomes a hunted man? Ask J.J. – he’s on the run after handing out some bloody, but poetic justice to the son of his former boss Pa Kapala, the head of an infamous Jersey crime family. Now J.J. is being pursued by his former colleagues who’ve been told to use extreme prejudice to settle the score. There’s one slight wrinkle in Pa Kapala’s plan though – J.J. has absolutely no intention of going down without a fight.
- This Week
- CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards (Orenda Books)
- The Deaths of December by Susi Holliday (Mulholland Books)
- Dying Day by Stephen Edger (Bookouture)
- The First One to Die by Victoria Jenkins (Bookouture)
- The Foster Child by Jenny Blackhurst (Headline)
- Gone Missing by T.J. Brearton (Bookouture)
- Hell to Pay by Rachel Amphlett (Saxon Publishing)
- The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne (Bloodhound Books)
- Savage by Frank Bill (FSG)
- Shakedown by Martin Bodenham (Down & Out Books)
- Snow Light by Danielle Zinn (Bloodhound Books)
- The Silver Wolf by Rob Sinclair (Bloodhound Books)
- Week of November 20
- Week of November 27
- Briefly Maiden by Jacqueline Chadwick (Fahrenheit Press)
- Deadly Dance by Hillary Bonner (Severn House Digital)
- The Good Samaritan by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer)
- Her Best Friend by Sarah Wray (Bookouture)
- The Mansions of Murder by Paul Doherty (Severn House Digital)
- Murder in July by Barbara Hambly (Severn House Digital)
- Now You See Me by Kierney Scott (Bookouture)
- The Silent Children by Carol Wyer (Bookouture)
- Week of December 4
- Week of December 11
- The Blade This Time by John Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- Corrosion by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- The Disassembled Man by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- Factory Town by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- The Incurables by Jon Bassoff (Down & Out Books)
- The Stolen Children by Kerry Wilkinson (Bookouture)
- January 2018
- Bad Samaritan by Dana King (Down & Out Books)
- Blackchurch Furnace by Nathan Singer (Down & Out Books)
- Come Out and Play by Dylan Young (Bookouture)
- The Daughter by Lucy Dawson (Bookoutre)
- Deep Blue Trouble by Steph Broadribb (Orenda Books)
- Hang Time by S.W. Lauden (Rare Bird Books)
- Hydra by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda Books)
- Life During Wartime and Other Stories by Thomas Pluck (Down & Out Books)
- May by Marietta Miles (Down & Out Books)
- A Scholar of Pain by Grant Jerkins (ABC Group Documentation)
- Touchfeather by Jimmy Sangster (Brash Books)
- Truth or Dare by Richard Parker (Bookouture)
- Vanishing Girls by Lisa Regan (Bookouture)
- February 2018
Last week we reviewed two books at Unlawful Acts. The first was Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s Snare (Orenda Books) and we were “blown away”. The second book was Matt Phillips’ Bad Luck City (Near to the Knuckle). We wrote that it “is a book that any crime writer would have wanted to write and any crime fiction fan needs to read.”
What We Reckon is a terrific crime novel and a breath of fresh air in a genre often bogged down by its own self-seriousness. It took me for one hell of a ride: whenever I though Eryk Pruitt was stretching it thin, he turned his storyline on a dime and went in a whole other direction. This is what great storytellers do.
Crime Book Junkie reviews the non-fiction Chris Clement-Green’s Into the Valley (Mirror Books) saying it is “an often humorous, always candid and no-holds-barred reflection of the life of a policewoman in the 80s, this book offers a personal account of a life in uniform”.
I really do love this series – the sense of place, of atmosphere, of tradition – which emanates from each and every page. It is full of situations you can recognise and characters you can both empathise with and also detest. But more than that it is simply that there is a beautiful, sometimes almost lyrical and even mystical quality to the prose, so much so that it draws you in and holds you captive until you turn the very last page.
Books From Dusk Till Dawn says that “this is a super Nordic Noir book with a definite chill factor that gave me goosebumps and put a lump in my throat.” At Never Imitate Jackie Law writes “The writing is effortlessly captivating with a brooding quality that ensures plot direction remains actively unsettling. The reader’s eagerness to understand how and why is gradually rewarded. The denouement is accomplished yet retains a degree of ambiguity.”.
Have Books, Will Read says, “Jónasson has a wonderful writing style that slowly draws you in bit by bit until you are completely immersed into the investigation – then, only when he is ready, do the strands start to unravel and the pace ramp up creating bags of tension to find out the reality of the circumstances, a classic whodunnit Icelandic style – just fantastic!!”
Bibliophile Book Club says of Whiteout that it “is all kinds of brilliant.”
Somehow I missed Stephanie Marland’s Little Eye (Trapeze) being released last week. You might know Marland better as Steph Broadribb, author of Deep Down Dead* and the forthcoming Deep Blue Trouble both on Orenda Books, or as the blogger @crimethrillgirl. My Chestnut Reading Tree writes of My Little Eye, “Stephanie Marland has totally, 100%, smashed it here! So if you love a breathtaking serial killer chiller with expertly drawn characters and cleverly crafted twists then you need this book in your life!”
Hooked From Page One writes, “What I really liked about this book is the unique premise. In police procedural novels we are used to the police investigating and solving the crime, what I really found interesting in My Little Eye was Stephanie’s use of true crime addicts who are desperate to beat them.”
My Chestnut Reading Tree reviews Lloyd Otis’ Dead Lands (Urbane Publications) saying that “Lloyd Otis is a fresh new talent, exploding onto the crime scene with a significant force and whom I’m happy to have discovered!” Have Books Will Read writes, “Lloyd Otis is definitely one to watch as this is a fantastic debut, Otis is carving his own niche into the crime fiction world with his wonderful writing style and realistic, well formed characters. “
Believe it or not, the second volume of the Duluth Files novels The Mental States is already out and it is…it is…kind of fucked up. Now, I like fucked up but you need a stomach for novels like these.
Crime Book Junkie reviews Barbara Copperthwaite’s Her Last Secret (Bookouture) and says, “Would I recommend this book? Is the Pope Catholic? Of course I would- with bells on! This has one hell of a jaw dropping twist that I didn’t even see coming…it is dark, emotive and absolutely unputdownable – so readers…don’t wait, grab a copy of this book now…you can thank me later!”
At Criminal Element David Cranmer reviews Lee Childs’ latest The Midnight Line.
Poor bastard never had a chance. And neither do you if you are expecting anything more beyond risible battles and padded, straightforward storytelling. But, dammit, it does have that abovementioned flow, and I had to venture on to find out where the trail of the ring was going to lead our hero. Recommended, with some slight reservation, for die-hard fans.
Clues and Reviews reviews Louise Jensen’s The Surrogate (Bookouture) saying, “My only complaint about this novel (and it was small) was that I did find some parts in the plot to be a little bit redundant and dragged out. However, this was made up for at the end of the novel when everything came to light. I did love that.”
Occasionally one stumbles upon a book with a concept – a conceit – so creatively original that you know it is going to be a wild ride regardless of whether the author succeeds in pulling it off. The Blinds, the new novel from Adam Sternbergh, is just such a novel and fortunately for readers he not only successfully brings it to fruition, he excels in doing so.
It’s quite a busy book…… murder, boot-legging, criminal twins, absconding followed by regret, stick-ups, coping with disability, familial loss, a dog – which plays an important part in Sonny’s healing and crows – Sweazy uses a lot of imagery as we have our feathered friends observing events and anticipating carrion having become familiar with our killers MO.
- Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza (Bookouture) (e)book Nerd
- Dark Chapter by Winnie M. Li ( Legend Press/Polis Books) Reflections of a Reader
- Dig Two Graves by Keith Nixon (Bastei Entertainment) Crime Pieces
- Dodgers by Bill Beverley (Broadway Books) Tough
- His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Contraband) Never Imitate
- Last Call by Sean Costello (Red Tower Publications) Col’s Criminal Library
- Lies She Told by Cate Holahan (Crooked Lane Books) Keeper of Pages
- Long Shot by Jack Steele (Self-published) Donna’s Book Blog
- Midnight Lullaby by James D.F. Hannah (Self-pulished) Sons of Spade
- No Way Back by Kelly Florentia (Urbane Publications) Postcard Reviews
- Three Days and a Life by Peirre Lemaitre (Quercus Books) Crime Book Junkie
- When You Disappeared by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer) The Book Review Cafe
My Do Some Damage column is out and I kind-of go all medieval on the Hardy Boys.
When reading interviews with a crime fiction writers and the questions lead to childhood influences, we inevitably hear about the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. So I got this idea to begin reading the Hardy Boys series from book one, The Tower Treasure, to fifty-eighth entry, The Sting of the Scorpion, and review one per week over a year. I’d call it, “Fridays With the Hardy Boys” or something equally as trite.
But then I read The Tower Treasure and oh my god was it horrible.
Roger Johns, author of Dark River Rising, writes about lessons he learned from his book tour at The Thrill Begins.
The collective impact of those first few audiences taught me that the book will do a much better job of explaining itself to the reader than I can hope to in the short time these events last. The goal is to give folks a reason to risk their time and money on someone new. And, all things being equal, people would rather do business with someone they like than someone they don’t know. Hence, the best way to get readers to take a chance on an unknown author is to give them a reason to like you. If they do, they might buy your book.
New Talent November continues at Criminal Element with an interview with Fionna Cummins, author of Rattle and the forthcoming The Collector. Cummins says about a writing course she took,
The course director Richard Skinner gave us a piece of advice at the beginning: finish what you start. It sounds simple enough but this was a revelation to me. I had assumed there was little point in continuing if the first chapter was rubbish. Of course, I now realise that the end informs the beginning. Redrafting is when the work starts.
Another New Talent November article is an interview with Lilja Sigurdardóttir, author of Snare (Orenda Books). Asked about how she came up with the idea of Snare, Sigurdardóttir says, “Probably from one of those times standing at the luggage belt waiting for a suitcase. But seriously it is very hard to say. It always starts with a character for me and then the story somehow builds around the character.” Sigurdardóttir also stops by Elementary V Watson and talks about Snare and its recent success. Did I mentioned that reviewed Snare? If not, consider it mentioned.
At Sons of Spade, Jochem Vandersteen interviews Ed Robinson, author of the Trawler Trash series.
If you’re like me, often wondered what it would take to get twenty young women in yoga pants to do your bidding on a daily basis. What would it be like to control the impressionable minds and bodies of today’s youth? Is it possible to avoid the missteps made by Jim Jones and David Koresh and have a family full of obedient followers that live happily ever after?
Q: What do think is the biggest public misconception about most of the books you cover in these essays?
A: That the writing will be sub-par because it’s old, or that the books will only appeal to men, or that they’ll be full of over the top violence. Take your pick. The reality, I think, is that if you stuck your hand in a bucket of random Fawcett Gold Medal titles you’d be much more likely to pull up a truly good and entertaining book to read than you would if you did the same with a bucket full of titles from today’s Big Five publishers. Their “Hollywood blockbuster” mentality limits them in so many ways: season after season, Joe Bestseller is tasked not with a job of imagination and creativity, but with replication and duplication of what he or she has done in previous years. Readers read the new issue and far too often say, “Meh. The first one was better. I might stop reading.” Inertia keeps them reading, not excitement. There was too much competition in the PBO days for that to set in. Thus the writing was more exciting, more creative, and generally better. On the other hand, the demand for material was so great lesser talents provided took up a lot of rack space and unfortunately, it’s become those books that have given us that “biggest public misconception.”
At The Thrill Begins E.A. Aymar interviews crime fiction reviewer Erica Ruth Neubauer. When asked about aggravations in contemporary crime fiction, Neubauer said, “One of the things that aggravates me the most is when publishers start chasing a trend. You see one breakout novel, and then suddenly everything is in exactly the same vein for a year or so. That makes me crazy. I want to read good stories, unique ones, not the same story over and over.”
Live and Deadly stops by the Scottish bookshop The Bookmark to talk with its owner Marjory Marshall. The shop is in Grantown on Spey.
Marjory describes herself as a “short, chatty bookseller”. In fact she is of course, much more than that. A passionate enthusiast and champion of all things books, she is also a raconteur and storyteller. She has a real connection with people and she makes sure that when she is in her bookshop she isn’t standing behind the counter but is out front chatting to people, finding out about them and gauging what kind of books might spark their interest.
Paul D. Brazill is interviewed by Will Viharo at Digital Media Ghost. Brazill also interviews Jack Strange, author of Manchester Vice (Coffin Hop Press) at Out of the Gutter’s Brit Grit. Because Brazill never sleeps, he interviews Mike Craven, author of *Body Breaker (Caffeine Nights Publishing).
Is your TBR too short? Probably not. Does it need some true crime? Most likely. At SleuthSayers, Art Taylor writers about some books that might make his syllabus for a True Crime class at George Mason University.
Only submit your best work. I’ve known writers who, when submitting to agents or editors, cavalierly say, “Yeah, I threw a few things out there just to get some feedback.” All the people I’ve met in the publishing industry are very sincere and hard working. Most take work home with them and often do ten- to twelve-hour days.
I am the first to admit I find holding down a full time job and writing, a difficult juggling act. Time is always against me and I struggle to fit everything in – writing, making sure I don’t neglect my family and friends and, of course, housework. That said, I don’t think I could give up the day job. Writing is a solitary business and I enjoy the routine of getting up every day and going out there and meeting people. The contact I have with people helps feed my imagination, keeping my mind ticking over. Without it, I fear my writing would become dry and stilted resulting in 2D characters and poor dialogue.
If you think writing is just about writing, think again. It can be, I suppose, but my guess is it rarely is. Social media is a tool you may need in order to reach the masses. Building a presence is the easy part. Expanding it and keeping it current is another matter entirely. Blog tours are very much part of the publicity process these days, and not only do you have to keep up with them you also need to ensure you have thanked everyone involved – or at least, you should. Then there’s the possibility of attending a reading or signing event, maybe a literary festival or two. You cannot afford to underestimate how much time needs to be devoted to publicising and networking.
Critique groups can also help the new writer understand the most effective use of dialogue. An author once said, “Dialogue is that conversation that you hear as you pass a door that’s ajar.” The conversation must be interesting enough that you would sneak back to the door to hear more. Pure gold!