End of year report & My Top Five Reads of 2017

Hello readers.

2017 has been both a year of change and a year of little change. After five years of struggling as a freelancer, I became a full-time graphic designer once again. It has been professionally fulfilling working with a team of highly creative people with lovely personalities. My design work feels like it has come along by leaps and bounds.

However, there’s little to report on the writing front for 2017. One long short story for Ryan Bracha’s The Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn anthology and one Stanton brothers’ novelette Get Santa just for email subscribers. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum didn’t sell quite as well as I had hoped (certainly nowhere near the sales of The Glasgow Grin) but it beat the bare minimum target I had set for it.  Reviews for it have been good though.

Going into the new year, The Amsterdamned remains unfinished with about 85,000 words written of a 120,000-word target. I expect I’ll finish, edit, and finally publish it in the latter half of 2018. There’s a Stanton novella set just after A Funny Thing Happened… that’s 21,000 words in, and which I’ll revisit when The Amsterdamned is with the editor. Hopefully, they’ll both hit the shelves in 2018. Plus, I aim to release some more subscribers’ short stories during the year, with the ultimate goal of collating them in an anthology tentatively called Just Doing It For The Money as a Kindle ebook towards the end of next year. So if you enjoy my work, there should be at least a couple of more significant releases for you to read next year.

I’ve also decided that if sales of The Amsterdamned and the next Stanton brothers’ novella don’t improve on sales of A Funny Thing Happened… then I will put the brothers to bed for a while and concentrate on writing something specifically aimed at getting released by an Indie publisher. I think it’s about time I wrote something for a wider market; as much as I love writing ’em, the brothers just don’t seem to generate the kind of reader interest that I’d hoped. They seem to be for cult tastes only.

As for reading, my top five reads this year are:

1) You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames: This novella is seriously good. Probably the best thing I’ve read this year. Short, punchy, powerful, with one of the best protagonists I’ve come across in quite some time. The violence when it arrives has weight and meaning, and the reasons for it are justified. Brilliant.

2) Troubles Braids by Ray Banks: Although not quite as good as Wolf Tickets, this barnstorming sequel finds Irish smart-mouth Farrell, and Geordie roughneck Cobb at the top of their games as the pair find themselves stealing from upper-class dealers and crooked cops. A frenetically paced blackly comic thriller by one of the best Brit Grit authors around. Ray Banks’ dialogue remains peerless, and his dual first-person narration is full of sarcastic wit and verbal inventiveness.

3) Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson: Johnson’s cracking novel is a highly enjoyable read with enough smarts and invention to make the story soar. Its inventiveness gives it a Phillip K Dick feel, but with a quality of prose that the often sloppy PKD rarely managed. I loved it.

4) The Jones Men by Vern E. Smith: Utterly brilliant. This cold as ice heist thriller set on the very mean streets of seventies’ Detroit might be one of the finest novels of its type that I’ve read. It has dialogue the equal of 70s’ Elmore Leonard and George Higgins, a drum-tight plot packed with double and triple crosses, an awesome cast of weasely, self-serving scumbags, and writing so sharp and clean it cuts like a blade. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

5) Kill Me Quick by Paul D. Brazill: You can always rely on Paul Brazill for a nifty turn of phrase, a superb one-liner, or a nice piece of description. He also delivers cool plots and memorable characters and Kill Me Quick is no exception. When an ageing two-hit wonder musician gets his hand busted in London, he returns home to a seedy town on the northeast coast (basically Hartlepool in everything but name) and gets caught up in all manner of nefarious hijinks. It’s short tale with plenty of meat on its bones and more entertainment per page than many writers in an entire book. If you haven’t read Brazill yet then what the hell are you waiting for. A cracking comic thriller from a master of the form.

A few other notable reads this year were Phoebe Jeebies and the Man Who Annoyed Everybody by the always excellent Ryan Bracha, Dig Two Graves by the fantastic Keith Nixon, Bluff City Brawler (Fightcard series) by Heath Lowrance writing as Jack Tunney, and The Search For Ethan by Robert Cowan.

Well, that’s it from me for now. I hope you all have a fantastic New Year and a wonderful 2018. And I’ll let you all know when I’ve got something new for you to read.

Bye for now.

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