Review: One Of Those Days In England (A Case of Noir) by Paul D Brazill

As regular readers know, I’m a fan of Paul Brazill’s work. His snappy dialogue helps bring his characters to life, whilst his rich metaphors and descriptive powers imbue his tales with a wonderful sense of place and atmosphere. I’m particularly fond of his Luke Case tales (now collected into one volume entitled A Case of Noir). However, instead of reviewing the work as a whole, because I had been reviewing the short stories (which are available individually), I’m going to review the final story and then just do a round up of the work as a whole.

In this tale, Case is sent to Cambridge by his very shady publisher Pedro to be part of an assassination attempt on a writer of crime thrillers. He doesn’t ask why, because ignorance is bliss after all, but knows that it is definitely in his best interests to do as he is told. So he interviews the man with the intention of leading him to a place where the humourless French hitman Cyprien can do his job. Of course, it doesn’t quite turn out as planned…

The final part of the Case’s story also happens to be the funniest. Lots of nice little one liners and droll asides are woven nicely into the tale. And the final hit is a moment of sublime black comedy that marks the hitman out as more Clouseau than Carlos the Jackal. It is a very solid ending to the story and comes highly recommended. However, for those readers who haven’t read any of these tales yet, I highly recommend that you get the full Case of Noir. It is an excellent read from an author whose talent grows with every new work he writes.

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Review: Killing Cupid by Mark Edwards & Louise Voss

Mark Edwards and Louise Voss are excellent examples of authors who have done very well out of the self-publishing boom. Their novel Catch Your Death was one of 2011’s best-selling Kindle novels and Killing Cupid also did very well in the charts.

In fact, they were offered a book deal due to their online success and this is how I came to be reading the print edition of Killing Cupid rather than the ebook. Apparently both this novel and Catch Your Death have been amended from the ebook editions, though I obviously couldn’t say how much this changes the finished article.

The novel begins with a woman’s death, by a fall from the stairwell of her building. Alex describes fleeing the scene of the crime whilst giving the reader an indication that he’s prepared to kill for the woman he loves. The object of his affection is the teacher of a creative writing class that he attends, Siobhan.

Alex falls in love with Siobhan at first sight and becomes obsessed with her. Stalking her first on Facebook and then in the real world. Hanging around where she lives and then finally getting into her home. He becomes jealous of his teacher’s friendship with one of the other students, a female and this is where death comes into the equation. Siobhan, who is dealing with a relationship break-up, doesn’t initially realise she’s being stalked, but once Alex steals her credit card details in order to send her gifts she finally cottons on.

She kicks him off her course and threatens him with the police if he doesn’t pay her back for every penny he stole. From here the story changes tack. Alex starts a relationship with a friend of his flatmate and Siobhan begins to become obsessed with Alex, initially through interest in writing a novel but eventually through rage, and starts to take revenge on Alex and his new girlfriend. Meanwhile Alex is having to deal with the fact that a friend of the girl who fell from her stairwell is probing into her death and doesn’t believe the police’s version of events that it was accidental. As things wind to a close, Alex gets a few surprises he didn’t expect…

Edwards and Voss do a good job of making Alex come across as sympathetic, even though you know he’s a seriously screwed-up individual. They also do a good job of making Siobhan seem sympathetic in the earlier part of the novel but make her transition to angry stalker later in the story unfold realistically. The technique of narration via the character’s journals gives the story some nice turns and delivers a satisfying twist or two at the end. Killing Cupid is a good solid novel with a few narrative surprises and will give readers a lot of enjoyment. Recommended.

Potted Reviews – The Hunted by Elmore Leonard and Blitz by Ken Bruen

The Hunted by Elmore Leonard – Al Rosen is on the run in Israel from some bad gangster colleagues back home in Detroit. So when he plays good Samaritan and rescues people from a hotel fire he draws a lot of attention upon himself – including several hitmen from the mob. And when his duplicitous lawyer turns up with a kiss-off payment from his former business colleagues, Rosen knows he’s going to need to do a lot just to avoid being killed so he can get his hands on the money. So when chance throws a bored and soon-to-be-retired marine his way, he eyes his opportunity to get his money back and deal with those who are after him.

This is the first Elmore Leonard that I’ve read in a couple of years, and it’s always easy to forget just how much of a pleasure he is to read. Cannily constructed plots, sharply drawn characters and dialogue most of us would probably sell our souls to be able to write half as well. The pacing is beautiful and there are surprises galore on the way to a very satisfying finale. Personally, I think the 70s Leonard’s are his finest works and this (written in ’77) is one of his best. Superb stuff from a master!

Blitz by Ken Bruen – A very deluded, but media-savvy serial killer calling himself Blitz is hunting the police and executing them. He has eyes for Sergeant Brant, Roberts and the rest of their pretty corrupt team.

This is my first Bruen, and I liked it a lot. The story is so compelling the pages practically turn themselves. The clipped, spare prose, which makes Elmore Leonard (hardly renowned for flowery sentences) look like Henry James in comparison, is a joy to read. And the characters might be a pretty shitty lot, but they look out for their own (even a scumbag like Brant). The South London setting is also very well realised and Bruen has a great feel for London geography. Highly recommended.

The problem of having just the one bookshelf

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The problem of having only one bookshelf is you have to select from three boxes of books, three BIG boxes of books, what goes on your shelf (in this case an ornamental fireplace mantelpiece).

This is a cause of massive displeasure for somebody like me, who likes to have all his books at his disposal. You know how it is, book folks; it’s the kind of decision that can cause sleepless nights, right?

Still, I’d like to think I chose pretty wisely. But still, I can’t help but fret about the ones I left in the boxes :-\

The Hunters now in paperback

That’s right, folks. For those of you who prefer your crime fiction in Tree-Book as opposed to E-book format (and statistics say there are still plenty of you out there), I’m proud to present The Hunters as a paperback for the really rather decent price of $7.99 (just over £5 in sterling).

I wanted to make sure it was available to as wide a selection of people as possible. So using my graphic design and layout powers, I’ve ensured that you folks who prefer reading off paper can also enjoy the first of the Stanton brothers series in a nice looking paperback.

It’s currently only available on Amazon US, but if it sells enough copies I will seriously consider forking out for an extended distribution package, which ensures availability to traditional bricks and mortar bookshops.

No resolutions

I’m not going to offer resolutions for 2012 on here. I try not to make proclamations like that any more; they’re rarely ever fulfilled and I usually feel bad about them afterwards.

What I will say is this. My 41,000 word novella/short novel The Hunters, the first release in my Stanton brothers series of books, will be released as an ebook in January and a paperback in either January or February (depending how quickly the layout and proofing process go). The second and third books are currently being written (one of which will be released in the final quarter of 2012). A short story collection (as yet untitled) will also be released.

Outside of that I have nothing more to add. I have other writing projects in the offing, but best not to say much more about them because I have no idea when they’ll be finalised.

Have a great New Year, readers.

Back cover blurb for The Hunters – due soon

Here’s the back cover blurb for The Hunters, which is due in January. Hopefully it’ll give you some indication of what’s going to go down between the covers, when it arrives on your Kindle and doorstep in 2012

The Stanton brothers have their lives well mapped out. They steal money from villains and give it to… Well, themselves. They have it easy. Or they would if it wasn’t for the various scumbags who come at them with fists, knives, guns…

So when a disgruntled woman tells them about a half-million of undeclared cash in her ex-husband’s safe they think they’ve got it made. And when she tells them he runs a regular high-stakes poker game with some of Teesside’s most colourful villains they think they’ve died and gone to Heaven.

But when the job goes wrong, it turns out it’s not Heaven they’re in, but Hell. They’re left hunting the underworld for the money armed only with some well-aimed quips… and knuckledusters… and nailed-spiked baseball bats… oh, and some guns.

It’s time to get back what doesn’t belong to them…

The Hunters mixes bone-crunching action with a motley crew of Teesside villains, adds in some healthy doses of bleak black humour and serves it up at a furious pace. It would be criminal to miss it…