My favourite crime novels – No. 21

Drive by James Sallis – Until recently, Sallis seemed to be one of those writers who was destined to be known within dedicated crime reader and writer circles and nowhere else. Incredibly well read and knowledgeable about crime fiction, highly intelligent and a fine writer. But that situation changed when Nicholas Winding Refn directed his highly stylised and ultra-cool film adaptation of Sallis’ Drive starring man-of-the-moment Ryan Gosling. It helped that it was an excellent film, but the job was made easy by the fact that they had a balls-to-the-wall classic to adapt in the first place.

The premise is simple: Driver (we never know his name) is a getaway driver who works freelance for the highest bidder (in addition to a sideline as a Hollywood stunt driver). He is very much a loner, but is forced out of his shell when his female next door neighbour makes friends with him. She is married with a child but the husband is in prison and she appears to like Driver. Their relationship is complicated when the husband is released from prison and forced by people to whom he owes money to perform a robbery. Driver helps out the husband because of his relationship with the wife and son, but when the job goes wrong he is suddenly forced to go on the run from low-level mobsters with an axe to grind. And slowly but surely he turns from the hunted into the hunter.

Describing the plot of Drive doesn’t really do justice to Sallis’ novel, because it’s simply a framework for a fantastic set of characters and a pared down style which simply demands that you read faster and faster. Also, crucially, it weaves Driver’s back-story into the proceedings, which the film doesn’t do. Despite being a short novel/novella, it packs a lot into its pages. It is a beautifully paced and written novel, and in Driver it has one of the most compelling anti-heroes to emerge in modern crime fiction.

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Review: Dig Ten Graves – Heath Lowrance

One of the beauties of being on Twitter is finding a thriving hardboiled crime fiction and noir community. Meeting people (in a virtual sense) with similar interests to you; Meeting people whose knowledge of my chosen field of interest far exceeds my own, people like Heath Lowrance.

Heath recently did a potted history of hardboiled/noir fiction on his brilliant Psychonoir blog. It was good enough to make me buy the Kindle version of The Bastard Hand, which in typical hoarder style I have yet to read (though it’s now next on the list).

But I also recently downloaded Dig Ten Graves, his collection of short stories, which in also typical style I got around to reading first.

What can I say? Well, it’s flat-out superb stuff, for a start. And second, just bloody well buy it. You’ll be guaranteeing yourself some top-notch reading, and finding yourself a new favourite writer!

The entire collection is of a very high quality, but the stand-outs for me are Incident on a Rain-Soaked Corner, which is not only superb but, damn it, similar to a story of mine that was going in a collection of shorts I’m releasing late in February (although I’m now wary of including it because, trust me, Heath’s story is far far better); The Most Natural Thing in The World, which beautifully takes a man’s relationship with his dog and turns it on its head – a gruelling bit of psychological survival horror; and finally, From Here to Oblivion, which chronicles one man’s attempt to kill himself with brilliantly comic results (I have two words for you, Sayonara, bitches) – I guffawed regularly during the story, which got me a fair few looks whilst travelling on the underground.

If you’re looking for a quality collection of shorts, with not a duffer amongst them, then look no further. Dig Ten Graves is superb short story writing from a superb writer. Buy it today.

Official announcement for my next novel, The Hunters

The Hunters, the first Stanton brothers novel/novella (at nigh on 41,000 words, it’s either a large novella or a short novel), will finally be released on Kindle on the 23rd January (and as a paperback in February). It will be the beginning of a series of novellas, novels and short stories featuring these characters. They will also cross over into several other writing projects that I’m currently undertaking (one of which features Mark Kandinsky, who makes a brief but memorable cameo in The Gamblers, wherein you will find out exactly where he got his bruises from {this will mean nothing to those who haven’t read my first book}). During its first month on release, The Hunters will be on special offer at $0.99 and 99p

A short story collection entitled The Greatest Show in Town and other stories, featuring five shorts about the brothers (along with two or three other stories that don’t feature them), will appear as a Kindle exclusive in February.

A shorter novella, tentatively titled The Glasgow Grin, is well underway and should make it into release later in 2012.

On top of working as a freelance crayon monkey, so that I can earn enough to pay for my food and rent, it’s going to be a very busy year for me.

I’ve been rubbish Sorry

Work commitments and a high degree of faffery have meant that I haven’t updated much recently and I’ve also been silent on The Hunters front… In other words, I’ve been a bit shit.

Sincere apologies.

The Hunters is almost done as an ebook – a few minor tweaks and it should be ready (barring a final check for errors, both typographical and grammatical).

It will get its Kindle debut on the 23rd of January. A paperback will make an appearance in February.

Many thanks,

Martin