Les Edgerton’s Hard Times is a fantastic read. It takes place in Texas in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. It is primarily the story of Amelia Laxault, a bright farmgirl who, at the age of fourteen, is forced to marry Arnold Critchin, a violent drunk. Hard Times also tells the tale of Lucious Tremaine, an escaped convict just trying to survive. Both stories are gripping and involving tales of endurance with a strong sense of time, place, and authenticity. Hard Times is a powerful, moving and unflinching look at the lives of ordinary people pushed to the edge of a precipice, and is very highly recommended.
Emotionally battered and bruised by his most recent case, Detective Sergeant Pace leaves London behind, including his loving girlfriend and confidant Maeve, and returns to his rural hometown of Hinton Hollow – population 5,120 – in the hope of some sort of respite. But Evil follows him home…
Will Carver’ Hinton Hollow Death Trap has echoes of other dark small town tales such as Jim Thompson’s The Kill-Off, Stephen King’s Needful Things, Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, and, of course, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, in that the seemingly idyllic small town has a dark and seedy underbelly. Indeed, Hinton Hollow seems to be full of secrets and ‘the woods are not what they seem’. Disappointment, jealousy, bitterness, resentment and violence all bubble just below Hinton Hollow’s homely surface and, in the course of the novel, all of this and more is uncovered. DC Pace’s Home Counties haven soon turns into a Hell on Earth.
Pretty much as soon as he arrives back in Hinton Hollow, things go off kilter. There is a horrifying murder, a worried mother sends her youngest child on the train out of town, far away from the encroaching darkness that is soon to envelope the place, and as for Darren from the slaughterhouse, well let’s just say that his story in the early part of the book is not for those of a nervous disposition.
Hinton Hollow Death Trip is a tale full of twists and turns sharp enough to give you whiplash and it works well as a gripping police procedural, a whodunnit with a dash of the supernatural about it, but it is also a thoughtful exploration of human frailty and our capacity for self-deception.
There is a rich and varied cast of characters too. Some of them are horrible, some are annoying, some are ridiculous, some are downright scary, and others – such as the owners of the local diner – are really, really nice. But they are all very believable and realistic, even the pompous policeman with the preposterous moustache.
Hinton Hollow Death Trip is original, engrossing, touching, sad, violent, funny and, yes, occasionally annoying. Because the real twist in this collection of little tales of misanthropy is that the story is narrated by Evil itself, who has seemingly arrived in Hinton Hollow with the sole purpose of making Detective Sergeant Pace suffer for his past transgressions.
As the story is told, Evil playfully and capriciously interjects the narrative with comments, hints, secrets, reflections and even homilies that wouldn’t look at all out of place in a cheesy self-help book. In fact, in many ways Evil seems to be a tad naïve and a bit of a prig too!
But rather than disrupt the storyline, Evil’s black pearls of wisdom help paint a bigger picture of the denizens of Hinton Hollow and their interlocked lives. For sure, in just five days, in such a small town, a hell of a lot happens. Little things and big things. Ordinary things and bizarre things. Good things and bad things. And very, very bad things indeed.
Hinton Hollow Death Trip is a clever and inventive novel that tests the reader’s patience and endurance for sure. At times it comes across like a more grown-up, less of a smartass, version of a Chuck Palahniuk novel or a darker shade of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. And I’ll admit, about a third of the way through the book, I faltered a little, but thankfully I stuck with it and found reading the novel a rewarding and satisfying experience.
I should also mention that this is the first Will Carver novel that I’ve read and although it refers to events in the two previous books to feature Detective Sergeant Pace – Good Samaritans and Nothing Important Happened Here Today – it didn’t hinder my appreciation of Hinton Hollow Death Trip in any way.
A damn fine five-star read.
In Rival Sons, Kyle Gordon returns to his home town to take care of his dying mother only to find the place in an even worse state than when he’d left it.
And it’s all down to his younger brother Graham, a lone shark and drug dealer.
Short, sharp and highly recommended.
Graham Wynd kicks off #Noirvember with a look at Supernatural Noir and says:
‘I didn’t even know how much I missed Roman Dalton, his werewolf detective, until I started reading through the stories again. Netflix ought to swoop in and bag those stories for a new series.’
‘If you like reading Brazill–and who doesn’t–, you should give this short story collection a twirl because it’s Brazill and there are zombies. Oh yeah, get it because it’s going for a little over a buck.’
Dee Arr at Amazon.com says:
‘This is crime noir with a bite (my apologies to all vampire and werewolf fans), and the combination of Mr. Brazill’s talents hooked me. Riveted, I finished the rest of the book in one sitting, never noticing the day arrive while my coffee grew colder.’
And I’m over at Toe Six Press sharing the Supernatural Noir playlist:
‘Supernatural Noir is collection of my short stories that I consider to be both supernatural and, er, noir. And of course, there’s music all over the place!
Drunk On The Moon by Tom Waits
It started with a song. Tom Waits’ Drunk On The Moon, to be precise. A neon soaked torch song with more than a twist of noir. A song of the city at night, sung by a man who sounded like a wolf- and not just Howlin’ Wolf. And once upon a time, there was a magazine named Dark Valentine who were looking for cross genre short stories. So, I wrote a yarn about a werewolf private eye. And I called it Drunk On The Moon.’
Nothing surprises us anymore. Populism and fake news “prove” the world we knew will collapse any time. Migrants are not trying to escape heartless business models conceived by greedy arms dealers, they’re here to steal our jobs, rape our women and cut our heads off. Gay people lurk around every corner and threaten to infect our children who’ll also become homosexual. Right now, lizards are taking over the planet. And, yeah, the Earth is flat…
That’s what you can find out in the most reliable sources of social media. But here and there you can still find people who search for answers in literature. Answers about real life. Answers about people you’d never want to meet, but you empathize with anyway. About people who jeopardize everything to reach their goals, although you can tell from the start they’re not going to reach them. About people like … you and me.
So, another Alibi is over, another bunch of awesome people, not to talk about food and drink and what stories came out at the end.
This year we were kind of Balkan-themed: Johnny Shaw was in Croatia when we first talked about Alibi in January, Anamaria Ionescu is from Romania, and Marko Popovič & Robert Perišić, well we share the country that doesn’t exist anymore. And we represent Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia in the BalkaNoir anthology published by Greek publisher Kastaniotis Editions.
For me, Alibi means having an alibi for three days of shameless eating and drinking … And writing, of course, the third day means reading what you wrote in front of an audience. Check it out.
Again a group of fine people got together ― I’m not sure whether I have such luck in picking just the right people or is just every crime and noir writer a wonderful person?
Again some fine stories came out of the mix of hard work, earthly pleasures and mutual inspiration. Find them here.
In two years, a very special thing is going to happen: all the writers will get together again and celebrate the Alibi Anthology, where all the stories from 2015 to 2019 are published together.
PS: If you’re at Frankfurt Book Fair, visit the panel on Balkan Noir where I’m one of the speakers.
Noir Con‘s online journal –Retreats From Oblivion– have published a slice of my Brit Grit called No One Is Innocent.
‘Marjorie shuffled through the door to the snug and switched on the lights. She pressed a button and the dusty Wurlitzer jukebox burst to life. Jane Morgan belted out ‘The Day The Rains Came.’ In French.‘
Lawrence Odd is a psychopath with a long history of committing violent crimes and he is more than happy to be recruited as an assassin by the Cleansing Department – a particularly shady branch of the British Secret Service. All goes swimmingly until Lawrence discovers the Cleansing Department’s darkest secret.
Jack D. McLean‘s witty, quirky thriller Confessions Of An English Psychopath is fast moving, funny, violent and a hell of a lot of fun.
Imagine a lethal cocktail of The Ipcress File, The Prisoner, Monty Python, and A Confederacy Of Dunces, and you’re halfway there.
Buy the trade paperback from the Down & Out Bookstore and receive a FREE digital download of the book!
Synopsis … A troubled, ageing hit man leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him.
Last Year’s Man is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir.
Praise for LAST YEAR’S MAN:
“It’s all here, everything you’ve come to expect from a Paul D. Brazill caper—the fast pace, the witty banter, the grim humour and the classic tunes—except this time he’s REALLY outdone himself. Unlike the lament in the song the title takes its name from, Paul’s best years are surely still ahead of him.” —Paul Heatley, author of Fatboy
“Paul D. Brazill is the Crown Prince of Noir. That’s my opinion, granted, but I stand by it. For those who require proof, just pick up his latest novel, Last Year’s Man, and it will be clear why I make that statement. All hail the crown prince!” —Les Edgerton, author of The Rapist, The Bitch, Just Like That and others
“Brazill is brilliant, a unique voice which stands out from the crowd.” —Keith Nixon, author of the Solomon Gray books
‘From blood-soaked shenanigans to effortlessly clever banter, there’s everything you’d expect and more. The motif of the hitman haunted by his past gets a fresh angle as disgraced Tommy Bennett returns to Seatown, the northern coastal city where his past awaits him. A wild mix of musical and pop culture references come at you thick and fast. I was chortling by the end of the first page.’
Read the rest of the review here.
John, the protagonist of Untethered, is a man with a dark and secret past who is living a new life under witness protection. As he sits alone in his flat, drinking and writing in his journal, John becomes embroiled in the search for a missing neighbour.
Seth Lynch’s cracking debut novel has recently been republished by Farhenheit Press and has been given a new title, as well as a tasty new cover.
A CITIZEN OF NOWHERE is part historical detective story and part character study reminiscent of Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge,
It is richly cinematic and completely enthralling, with a great sense of time and place, as well as a great deal of wry humour.