Monthly Archives: January 2013

Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins

Published by Hard Case Crime / Titan Books  – out next month.

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Blazing into bookstores next month, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is a hardboiled detective novel inspired by the 1950s witch-hunt against crime and horror comic books. Written by best-selling novelist Max Allan Collins (author of Road to Perdition and long-time scripter of the Dick Tracy newspaper comic strip) and featuring 16 pages of interior illustrations by comic-book artist Terry Beatty (Batman, The Phantom), SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT tells the story of comic book industry troubleshooter Jack Starr and his investigation into the death of a moral crusader out to get violent comics banned.

The book was inspired in part by the real-life crusade of Dr. Fredric Wertham, who in 1954 published a non-fiction book also titled Seduction of the Innocent in which he accused comic books – especially violent ones such as those put out by Tales from the Crypt publisher EC Comics – of corrupting America’s innocent youth.

Hard Case Crime will bring the book out in February 2013, in paperback and e-book editions, with a new cover painting in the classic pulp style by Glen Orbik.

Well, this one pretty much has everything I like in one handsome little package:

Great pulp Hard Case Crime cover?- CHECK.

Great narrative by one of my favourite US authors, Max Allan Collins? – CHECK.

A crime fiction meets the world of comic books theme (including some rather nice internal illustrations between chapters)? – CHECK, CHECK, CHECK.

With a crafty tale wrought with revenge and the fear of the corruption of America’s youth through comic books, Seduction of the Innocent, tells of the worry that a book ‘Ravage of the Lambs’ could stir by declaring the comic book world as one responsible for all of societies ills.  Although set and based on the 1950’s witch hunt against ‘Tales from the Crypt’ publisher EC Comics, it’s a tale that’s ripe for a modern read – whether it’s comic books, movies or video games, there has and always will be areas of culture which some will choose to target as accountable for everything that goes wrong with young people in society.

If you like your crime with a classic tint, Max Allan Collins is just the man to take you back in time.

Keith

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The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

Published by Sphere

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One summer morning, three little girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, two will be charged with murder.

Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside town when her investigation leads her to interview funfair cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since that dark day when they were just children. But with new lives – and families – to protect, will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?

I’d been reading the buzz about this debut novel on twitter for a while now and, with the outside world becoming increasingly chilly and deciding to spend some time wrapped up indoors with hot coffee and a chilling read, this seemed to be a suitable choice to tick all the boxes.

It’ll be hard for anyone based in the UK to read this cracker of a novel from Alex Marwood (a pseudonym for a UK press journalist) without reflecting on the tragic case of Jamie Bulger from a few years back – a case which cannot go unmentioned within the  book itself as it treads similar distressing territory.

With the new identities that both girls have been given  and have lived with for twenty five years suddenly threatened and bringing them crashing together again seemingly by chance, this is a book that will surprise the most jaded of crime fiction readers with its superb and skilful plotting.

It’s been a long time since I can remember a crime novel bringing all of the threads together in such a successful and thrilling way in its closing chapters.

You will be led by the hand by Alex Marwood’s characters through this heartbreaking, thought-provoking and chilling thrill-ride through the darkness, but I cannot reveal here just where they are taking you.

Highly recommended.

Keith

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Aric Davis…on writing.

If you haven’t yet caught Aric Davis, then you have missed a treat.

You can check out a couple of my reviews of his books here:

A Good and Useful Hurt  &   Rough Men

And, I’m really pleased and honoured that Aric has taken the time to write this exclusive piece about his writing for Books and Writers – many thanks, Aric, you’re a gent.

imagesThe biggest influence on my writing, without question, has been Stephen King. First and foremost for his work as a storyteller, but also because of his wonderful book, “On Writing.”

I have no way of knowing exactly how many authors found their inner-muse because of Mr. King’s brilliant little guide, but I can say for certain that this one would never have been published had that book not seen the light of day.

It may seem odd to attach such a tremendous debt to a man I’ve never met, but I’m serious in saying that if it weren’t for my editor, Terry, and the work of Mr. King, I would never have become a published author. Because of this influence, I find two common themes in my writing. There is the more obvious one which is influenced by Mr. King: storylines and characters that jump from novel to novel, but there is another more secretive one as well. That narrative finds its soul in the work of another phenomenal author, Andrew Vachss. Just like the aforementioned Mr. King, Andrew Vachss and his incredible Burke series need no further introduction. That said, if you like noir and have missed out on Burke, get your butt to Amazon and order “Flood.” Don’t worry, the rest of us can wait.

Back?

Great.

In any case, one of the most important themes in the Burke books is that family has nothing to do with blood. Even though I grew up comfortably in a family with two well-adjusted parents who have yet to divorce, that idea caught me in the guts like a hook to the liver. It was such a pure message, and such a well-meaning one.

images-1At the risk of alienating some potential readers-and to be perfectly honest, in this case I don’t give a shit if I do-there is nothing that bothers me more than someone trying to decide for someone else what the word, “family” means. Family can be the bond between an adopted African child and her European parents, it can be the relationship between two homosexual men in an American red state, and it could be a football team that still meets every year to celebrate a championship victory from fifty years prior. The bond is what matters, not the way it is defined by a stranger. It’s a theme and a torch that I’m proud to help carry, though there are people with far more on the line than myself carrying this idea in a much more dangerous manner. After all, I’m a white male who was born in one of the world’s most privileged countries, so it’s easy for me to champion the rights of those who must fight a judgmental public every day of their lives. But it’s still something I believe in strongly.

images-3This perspective was what formed the nucleus of my new novel, “Rough Men.” I don’t want to give too much away, but some of the familial bonds revealed in “Rough Men” aren’t as they appear at face value. In the end it doesn’t matter. Family is family, whether from blood, marriage, or acquired by other means. I have no right to tell a stranger what defines a consensual relationship or not. This, more than anything else, is the root of my intention when writing about this stuff, from the love between my doomed characters in “A Good and Useful Hurt,” to the strange bond between Nickel of “Nickel Plated” and his father, the mystery man who trains his illegally adopted son how to be a monster with a conscience.

images-2Even in my first novel, the self-published and poorly edited “From Ashes Rise,” the meat of the story is about violence, but the undercurrent is about the bonds forged between men, and with their estranged families, during a time of war.

I don’t know if my writing will ever change any minds, and I’m ok with that. A success to me would be if in some small way my work was a reminder for us to remain vigilant towards those who stand against the basic rights of humanity. It is very easy right now to affiliate oneself with one political party or another, or to judge someone else based solely on what you don’t understand about them.

I try to let my writing draw on familiar themes, be they crime, horror, or love, but let non-traditional elements play within, and I love that I have a platform to share them with my readers.

You guys are the best!

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Ryan David Jahn at Harrogate

images-4A VERY long overdue with Ryan David Jahn at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate 2012.

I’m very grateful for Ryan taking the time to do this interview as his arrival at Harrogate was a bit of a whirlwind and, at the time I was about to start interviewing him he was mid-way through trying to find out if his lost luggage had reached the UK (and indeed Harrogate) and was only just getting to know a group of his biggest fans on the lawn outside the hotel.

I can only apologise to @RebeccaJBradley for being the arse who nabbed the author away just as she was getting her chance to tell him just how much she loved ‘The Dispatcher’ – I hope she got the chance to do so later in the weekend – but here’s her review just in case, by way of an apology.

The interview,although during one of the 30 minute breaks between panels took place in two locations: The front of the hotel, after we failed to get seats outside and stood for a while so that Mr Jahn could have a cigarette, then into one of the meeting rooms in the main hotel corridor where he was then accosted by David Headley from the beautiful London shop Goldsboro Books (until he spotted the recorder on the table and graciously stepped outside) and then we faced ousting by the Transworld publishers team who were setting up their excellent photo booth in the room. Nevertheless, I did get some great answers from this great crime fiction author.

KBW: When you kick off a new book is there a set pattern for you? Do you start with a character, or something you’ve read in the press? Is there a formula for what sparks a new book?

RDJ: It can really come from anywhere, but it almost always starts whenever I think of a concept for might be the next book a character almost always comes with it and they come together as a package because I guess, to my mind, only one character will work to make this story happen the way it should. As far as the ideas go, like with Acts of Violence I’d heard the story like fifteen years earlier and it was just dancing around in my head.

images-2KBW: It was mentioned during panels last night here at Harrogate, with events in Denver (the shootings at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises), if you took something like that and put it in a work of fiction, people would just go ‘it’s just too unbelievable’.

RDJ: Yes, and I can get ideas from anywhere. Like with The Dispatcher I was working in TV and I hated my job so I decided to do my job terribly so that I would get fired. I just wanted an out, and I just wanted to look for a different type of job and something that would give me material, perhaps, and so I saw an opening for a Police Dispatcher position in Los Angeles and I went and took the test and there’s like five hundred people and they’re all the way around the block and it’s a four hour test, and so I had a lot of time to just stand there and think. And my first thought was what if there’s this Police Dispatcher and his wife calls 911 and he works the nightshift and his house is being burgled and he picks up the phone and is aware of all of what’s happening – that’s a short story – and then it just sort of evolved from there.

images-1KBW: Turning now to ‘The Last Tomorrow’, obviously there’s the comic book references in there, are you a comic book fan yourself?

RDJ: I used to be a big comic book fan when I was a teenager, just with piles and piles of them and traded them with friends.  Then I stopped reading them after a while, but then I was reading a history of comic books called “Men of Tomorrow’ I think and so that and a documentary I watched about Grove Press and the controversy surrounding publication of Naked Lunch and all those other books – the combination of those things brought the story together.

images-3KBW: Do you censor yourself at any point?

RDJ: No. I think I used to, but now I’d stop myself from doing that – I think if you’re going to write something then you need to take it all the way, no matter what.

KBW: And I guess seeing the repercussions and effects that crimes and violence have are important to see and to read  – we need to know that these things hurt.

RDJ: Yes. I really don’t think that books or movies can influence people – I mean they can influence people who are already teetering, but something else would have likely effected them anyway. So, like with Stephen King’s book ‘Rage’ which is no longer in print because there were violent situations where copies of that book were found in people’s lockers. When he was asked about that he said essentially the same thing – that they are going to do something anyway – it’s just maybe the button to make them do it.

KBW: Have you been under any pressure from your publishers to write a series?

RDJ: Not here, and Macmillan UK is really my primary publisher – they’ve been great. Every time I have an idea I just sort of blather some nonsense and they say ‘yes that’s fine’. Penguin in the US have said it’s difficult to sell me there because the books are different enough, with me starting over with new characters each time, but that doesn’t make much sense to me because with all my books the plots are different, but they tend to deal with the same things and the same themes. So, there is some pressure there, not maybe to do a series but to do The Despatcher again but not quite…

KBW: With your TV and scriptwriting background are there any plans to bring any of the novels into development?

RDJ: Anonymous Content has the rights to The Dispatcher, so that might happen, it seems to be moving but I’m not sure how quickly – maybe three years down the line…

imagesKBW: Great. And with that background do you think cinematically when you’re writing? Do you have actors in your head when you’re writing?

RDJ: I don’t have visions of actors but I do watch the scenes play out like the pictures in my head so that’s probably why I write in the present tense, because that’s the way I see it.

KBW: From what you were saying on your panel about the speed that you write when a project deadline is looming, you created a lot of gasps in that room – was it really 12,000 words a day ?!

RDJ: Yes, something around that.

KBW: Well, you certainly put a lot of people to shame right there!  I know a lot of people here and some on the New Blood panel yesterday have come through after doing NaNoWriMo – 50,000 words in a month for  first draft – and that’s a struggle for most of us, but to produce 12,000 words in a day – well, that IS impressive.

RDJ: I used to tell people when I was asked how quickly I wrote a book, my answer was six weeks, but that’s total bullshit, it’s a lie, I wrote a first draft in six days, but if I say that people will think it’s just a piece of crap!  They’d say ‘it took me that long to read it!’

KBW: Can you tell me a bit about how you work?

RDJ: I don’t outline at all, I just let it percolate. I usually have about five or six key scenes that I know are going to happen and I have a character and I just get going.  Sometimes I have to go back because I realise something’s going to happen later that I need to foreshadow in some way, so I’ll back and fix that because, if I don’t, then I won’t believe it and it won’t be set up and it’ll be like oh this world is just crumbling. So, yes, I do go back and fix things to make sure they line up properly.

KBW: Between the four books we have here in the UK from you now, were there any others where you got to a stage where you had to discard them and start something new or are those the four you’ve written to date?

RDJ: No, those are the four books I’ve written.

KBW: And how about short stories, do you write those?

RDJ: I used to write a lot of short stories, that’s how I started writing, when I was a teenager.  I think I’ve got two filing cabinet drawers full of short stories.

A huge thank you to Ryan David Jahn for what must have been one of the most surreal and disjointed interviews he’s ever had to endure – he was a real pro and a gent throughout and, I’m glad to say, he even found his lost luggage.

Keith

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Get dosed up, people ! ………………………..This is on its way !

……………….COMING SOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU……………………

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Treasure Hunt Large

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The first review….

I had a perfect start to the week – see here.

Keith

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Marked by David Jackson

Published by Macmillan

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In New York’s East Village a young girl is brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Detective Callum Doyle has seen the victim’s remains. He has visited the distraught family. Now he wants justice.

Doyle is convinced he knows who the killer is. The problem is he can’t prove it. And the more he pushes his prime suspect, the more he learns that the man is capable of pushing back in ways more devious and twisted than Doyle could ever have imagined.

Add to that the appearance of an old adversary who has a mission for Doyle and won’t take no for an answer, and soon Doyle finds himself at risk of losing everything he holds dear.

Including his life.

I have to admit to being a little apprehensive about approaching ‘Marked‘, the third in David Jackson’s New York set series featuring Detective Callum Doyle.  The only reason for my concern was that I loved the first two books ‘Pariah‘ and ‘The Helper‘ so much I was dreading a fall or, at the least, a stumble on the sidewalk this time round.

When the jacket image was released, expectations were very high indeed – the previous two novels read like great movies and this one looked like one straight away too, with its very cinematic and striking image.

I closed the book just over an hour ago having started it this weekend for an 80 page session, followed by a tea and biscuits fuelled 290 pages marathon today (coffee and donuts were sadly unavailable) and I’m happy to report that Marked has definitely done its job: A top read, a great addition to the series and one that has left me desperate to read the next in the series to see just what Mr Jackson has in store for Doyle next.

The character of Cal Doyle was pretty well drawn in the first novel and the follow up but, in Marked, the combination of his skills of sometimes unorthodox investigation and negotiation work, a killer sense of humour and his unshifting humanity towards victims and their kin, are all taken to the max – this is a crime fiction character who, as long as his creator allows, has a long future ahead of him.

Background for the earlier novels is well woven into the book – new readers will have no real issue jumping in at this point but, if you do, you’ll be certain to then rush out and buy the first two anyway – so, go on, treat yourself to all three.

I found the plotting within Marked incredibly well handled and played out, with a reveal sequence that was something Keyser Soze would be proud of. If I felt anything was missing in Marked it would have been that I got so caught up with the story and the characters that one of the other main characters, that of New York itself, seemed to step back from the spotlight a little – but I’m sure that it’ll all come to forefront again when we get to see Callum Doyle on the silver screen (come on – make it happen!).

I took the day off from DIY at home today to read Marked but, after closing the book, it may be a while before I can look at my electric drill in the same way again.

It’s with no irony that David Jackson has clearly ‘Marked’ his place firmly on the ‘crime writers to watch’ list with this one. Go get yourself in that New York State of Mind and soon.

And for a great interview with David Jackson by Mel Sherratt – click here.

Keith

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Rough Men by Aric Davis

Published by Thomas & Mercer

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Will Daniels has fought hard to keep his demons at bay; he’s exchanged a shady past for the love of a woman he doesn’t deserve and the dream of becoming an author, all while trying to save his wayward son, Alex, from the same destructive impulses that nearly doomed him.

But the demons come cackling back in the form of a detective on Will’s doorstep, bearing the news that Alex has been killed in a botched bank robbery. Worse, Alex wasn’t an innocent bystander but part of the gang that raided the vault and left behind numerous bodies.

Simmering with rage over his loss, Will tries to let the police handle the matter. But as Alex’s killers remain at large, Will decides that it’s up to him—and a few old friends—to enact revenge in a most brutal manner.

Now he’s calling on dangerous connections that have been buried for years—and should’ve stayed that way. But Will vows to do whatever it takes to see Alex’s killers repay their sins in blood, even if it means his own damnation.

A while back I was introduced to Aric Davis via his superb novel ‘ A Good and Useful Hurt‘ and now he’s back and he blew me away with more of his great hardboiled Americana style in ‘Rough Men’.

His books are true journeys – doing just what books should do, transporting the reader and the characters through a transition – changing them both through the course of the storytelling – and it’s his skills as a modern storyteller that earn Aric Davis a proud spot on my shelves alongside the two authors I feel he bears the most comparison to; John Rector and Ryan David Jahn.

Read in just two furious reading sessions, Rough Men was a wild, tough and rewarding ride – much like life itself can be.

Seek him out – this author deserves greater recognition and soon.

Keith 

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Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

Published by Myriad Editions (out on Feb 14th)

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Highly intelligent but socially inept, Colin spends his free time collecting academic qualifications and searching for ways to meet women, until he stumbles upon a new technique that proves both potent and deadly. Police analyst Annabel is shocked when she discovers a decomposing body in the house next door and realises that no one, including herself, noticed her neighbour’s absence. At work she finds data showing that such cases are frighteningly common in her own town and sets out to investigate, convinced she is on trail of a killer.

On the second day into 2013 it may seem a little premature to announce that I have already found one of my top ten (and very likely top five) reads of the year already, but I genuinely feel that I have.

Just when you think you’ve read everything that crime fiction has to say, all the crimes it can detail and all the ways it can say it, along comes Elizabeth Haynes with this, her third and, in my opinion, greatest book to date.  I’d looked forward to reading ‘Human Remains’ for quite some time, since chatting to Elizabeth at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival last summer when she mentioned that this novel had links to her own job as a police intelligence analyst and, all of a sudden, spreadsheets became very interesting indeed.

The story is handled expertly as a multi-character narrative from the point of view of Annabel (the police analyst at the centre of what appears to be a dramatic rise in people found dead and alone in their homes), Colin who may just be a criminal who isn’t committing any crime, and the reflective viewpoints of those who have been left behind – the lonely, the dead, and the decomposing, in their own homes.

It’s a very thought-provoking book, which will guarantee that you will take note of your neighbours almost as soon as you commence reading it. It’s a story that could just happen to any one of us on any day – events that happen every day on any street. When you next hear on the news or read in your local paper that a body has been found in your neighbourhood and that person passed from this world without anyone noticing, you’ll think of this book, and then you’ll have pause to wonder ‘what if’.

The best stories, the best thrills, are when writers or directors put us in places that we’ll never feel safe again. William Goldman and John Schlesinger did it with dentists in Marathon Man, Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg caused us distress of beaches and water in Jaws, Robert Bloch and Alfred Hitchcock left us never comfortable in our showers with Psycho and now, with ‘Human Remains’, Elizabeth Haynes has put us in our own homes, alone, and she’s shut the door !

There are few writers who could write such disturbing prose so beautifully.

Get a copy ordered now and, when you’ve read it, why not pop next door to see if they’d like to read it – and, whilst you’re there, you can check that they’re all okay.

Keith

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AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR’S HORRIFYING BIRTHDAY TREAT !

imagesOn Sunday 6th January 2013, award-winning author Barry Hutchison turns 35. To celebrate this milestone, and because he has never quite gotten the hang of how the whole birthday gift-giving thing is supposed to work, Barry will be giving away his short horror story, THE BONE HOUSE, free on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader.

 

THE BONE HOUSE is a chilling tale about a girl, a boy and an abandoned house in the woods. Horror writer, David Gatward, described the story as “a teenage serial killer played out with echoes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, while author Tommy Donbavand warned readers to “get ready to sleep with the light on.”

 

The free book giveaway will last for 48 hours from the 6th of January, and Barry will continue to dish out gifts all throughout his birthday – including extracts from his soon to be published new novel, THE BOOK OF DOOM – on his blog at BarryHutchison.com.

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Barry Hutchison is the author of the award-winning INVISIBLE FIENDS children’s horror series, and THE 13TH HORSEMAN, a comedy fantasy for Young Adults which was recently featured in the Daily Mail’s YA books of the year round-up. He is also one of the founders of Start the Story, an online magazine designed to boost literacy levels in children.

 

Keith

 

 

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