Joe the leader of a gang of Belfast yobs called the Wee Rockets has decided it’s time to leave the gang. Not because he feels in any way bad about what he does, but because he’s growing faster than the other gang members, and he’s worried that this will make him easier to recognise. At the same time, concerned local citizen and vigilante wannabe, Stephen McVeigh is desperate to do something about the Wee Rockets gang and stop them from attacking innocent pensioners in the area. He starts investigating, which brings him into contact with Joe and Joe’s mother, with whom he starts a relationship. Joe eventually passes the Rockets leadership over to Liam, a fat loser who desperately wants to be respected. The moment Liam takes control of the gang he ups the ante and, instead of playing safe like Joe, he gets them to move into robbing stores and younger people, because the takings are bigger. And when Joe’s criminal father also appears on the scene after many years away, the scene is set for mayhem that ultimately leads to fatalities.
Wee Rockets is the first Brennan that I have read and I must say that I was impressed by the confidence and fluidity of his writing. He is very good at fast scene-setting and renders his characters nicely in only a few sentences. The dialogue is also spot-on, with a nice grasp of how people really speak. The plotting is well handled, though I did have a few minor issues with the ending, which leaves one particular character still walking the streets when he should really be behind bars after all the mayhem he has caused. But, like I said, it’s a minor issue rather than a big deal, and is more than offset by Brennan’s confident storytelling abilities and his excellent characters. I like the fact that Joe, despite his occasional sentimental moment, remains a scumbag throughout. I also like the way that Liam’s transition from fat loser to remorseless gang-leader is realistically handled in terms of motivation. Like so many of Blasted Heath’s other publications this is an excellent crime thriller and marks them out as one of the most exciting new publishers around. Highly recommended.
As much as I like it, I feel the old cover has worn out its welcome and it is time for a change. So here is the new cover design for The Gamblers. The overall design is one of my own, but it wouldn’t look the way it does without the rather lovely grunge backdrop from Buzillo Stock at Deviant Art, which I further grunged up with a couple of extra layers.
Anybody who has read the novel will know that the main character, Kandinsky, is a gambling addict with a penchant for the fruit machines, hence the skulls lined up in the way you might find them on a fruit machine – if the jackpot was blood and mayhem and general all-round nastiness.
As of today, The Gamblers has gone up in price to £2.99 ($3.99) from its original price of £1.99. I still think this represents very good value for money, considering that the novel is somewhat over 100,00 words in length. The Hunters, which is just over 41,000 words, stays at £1.99.
From now on, any work I do will be priced this way. Anything over 75,000 words will be priced at £2.99 ($3.99); anything between 75,000 and 20,000 words will be £1.99 ($2.99); anything under 20,000 will be priced at £1 ($2); and any single short stories I release will be sold at the cheapest price that Amazon and Kobo charge for such things.
Sales of both The Hunters and The Gamblers have stalled over the last couple of months. Part of me would like to try and kick start them again, but I’m afraid I’m either just preaching to the converted or those who have no interest in listening to me beg for sales, so I’m going to let them stand on their own two feet and continue writing instead (I have enough on my plate without adding more work to the mix).
My current list of ongoing writing projects stands at: The Glasgow Grin (sequel to The Hunters), a stand-alone Stanton Brothers novella called Bone Breakers; The Greatest Show In Town a collection of short stories (featuring three or four Stanton Brothers shorts). I’ve also started initial work on a couple of other novels, but it’s mostly just notes at this stage.
The short collection is scheduled for December 2012 – and I’m going to do my best to make sure that it makes it. Everything else will now fall into the murkiness of 2013. Apologies if you’re waiting for The Glasgow Grin. But be assured that I am working on it, and I am trying to make sure that when it does finally appear it’s worth the wait.