Recommended Reads. June 2013

1 lost summerRichard Godwin – One Lost Summer

Richard Godwin’s masterful One Lost Summer is a sweltering, intense noir set amongst London’s rich and powerful.  A claustrophobic, psychological study of obsession and loss, voyeurism and sex, with echoes of Simenon, Highsmith and Hitchcock.

Col Bury – The Cops Of Manchester

Another hard-hitting and realistic collection of flash fiction and short, sharp stories from Col Bury. The standouts are the grittiest – ‘A Public Service’ and the fantastic vigilante tale ‘Mopping Up.’ More from The Hoodie Hunter please?

Noir Nation: International Journal Of Crime Fiction 2

I was lucky to have a story – Who killed Skippy? – in the first issue of Eddie Vega’s Noir Nation. The second issue is another classy mix of great visuals, non-fiction and short stories. Cort McMeel‘s interview with Madison Smart Bell is fascinating and the short stories from Ray Banks, Court Merrigan and Andrew Nette are particularly splendid. All in all, a gem of a magazine.

Tony Black – Killing Time In Vegas

Tony Black’s Killing Time In Vegas is a typically tightly-written, hard-hitting, short story collection which sees the master of Tartan Noir turn a bleary eye on America’s underbelly. Every story is a great example of hardboiled crime fiction, though the title story was my favourite.

Darren Sant – The Bank Manager & The Bum

Darren Sant is best known for his fantastic and gritty Tales From The Longcroft books. But there was always a big heart inside all that grit and with The Bank Manager & The Bum he has given us a heart-warming slice of hard hitting urban fantasy. Great stuff it is, too. His best yet.

Edward A. Grainger – The Adventures Of Cash Laramie & Gideon Miles Volumes 1 & 2.

If you like westerns, you’ll love The Adventures Of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. If you like crime fiction, you’ll also be well served. And if you like both genres, then these are the books for you.  The stories in these collections are perfectly formed tales of the old west with a more modern slant. Cash and Gideon are Marshals, one white, one black. Men of honor dealing with the problems of violent and dangerous times. Every story is a gem but favourites are the hard-boiled noir of ‘The Outlaw Marshall’ and the intense tale of child abuse, ‘Melanie.’  In volume 2, Edward A. Grainger gives us another great collection of stories about good men in tough times. The first story – written with Chuck Tyrell – is probably the best of the bunch as it gives us Cash’s back story, telling us about how he was raised by Native Americans. The final story is a shot of the dark stuff.  Reflections In A Glass Of Maryland Rye, is pure western noir showing Cash Laramie’s darker side. The stories in between are gems also. Highly recommended.

laidlawTimothy Hallinan – Crashed.

Timothy Hallinan’s splendid Crashed introduces us to Junior Bender, a well-read burglar who is hired to steal a Paul Klee painting and ends up caught in a game of double-cross, triple- cross and more. Crashed is a very well written and immensely enjoyable crime caper full of rounded, realistic and interesting characters and peppered with sharp satirical swipes. A corker, for sure.

 John Llewellyn Probert – The Nine Deaths Of Dr Valentine

A serial killer is on the loose in Bristol. But not just any serial killer. No, this one is clearly obsessed with the films of the late great Vincent Price and is putting his obsession to good use by murdering doctors in various ingenious ways. The Nine Deaths Of Dr Valentine is smoothly written and  bloody marvellous fun, capturing the spirit of Dr Phibes and then giving it an extra twist. Highly recommended.

Nick Quantrill – I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

P I Joe Geraghty is hired to solve a disputed murder case in this short and sharp slice of crime fiction from Nick Quantrill which is a great introduction to his writing and his immensely likable PI.

William McIlvanney – Laidlaw.

A young girl’s body is found in a Glasgow park on a bright sunny day. The killer hides out in a derelict house; the only person that he can trust is Harry Rayburn, a former lover. Rayburn is a nightclub owner and low level criminal. Bud Lawson, the victim’s father, is full of violent rage and out for revenge, no matter the consequences. John Rhodes, Glasgow’s biggest gangster, has been asked to help him. D C Harkness is assigned to the case alongside Jack Laidlaw, a brooding hard-bitten cop with the soul of a poet.

Laidlaw is an artful, gritty, social-realist novel that was written in the mid `70s and has only recently been republished. It is a hard-hitting, multi-POV collection of rich character studies, the most potent character being the city of Glasgow, as conflicted and conflicting as Detective Laidlaw himself.

Laidlaw is the impressive start to a short series of novels featuring Detective Laidlaw, a series that I look forward to following. Marvelous stuff.

Recommended Read: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan

It all starts in a bar. Los Angeles based Private Eye Simeon Grist is getting nicely souses and trying to pick up the barmaid when in walks the aptly named Toby Vane. 

Vane is the star of a prime time television show who gets his kicks beating up women. When he starts to slap around his beautiful Korean companion, Simeon steps in. 

And ends up being offered a ton of dosh to be Toby Vane’s minder. And then things really go downhill.

Skin Deep really is a fantastic crime novel. It’s fast paced, funny, moving, tense and packed with some brilliant one-liners, wonderfully descriptive language and great characters. 

This is the first Simeon Grist novel that I’ve read and it won’t be the last. Apparently,it was the first one that Hallinan wrote, although it was published third in the series, back in the ’90s.

Timothy Hallinan‘s Skin Deep is an immensely enjoyably novel and I’m really looking forward to reading more Simeon Grist books.

And I’m pleased to say that Timothy Hallinan is a member of The Hardboiled Collective.

Short, Sharp Interview: Timothy Hallinan

PDB: Can you pitch The Bone Polisher  in 25 words or less? 
Someone is murdering gay men in West Hollywood, and the cops don’t care.  It’s up to a private eye who’s losing his nerve.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently? 
Ides of March, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (both versions), Out of the Past (oldie, but just saw for the first time), Gun Crazy (same), The Guard.  Don’t really watch TV.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader? 

About other writers, sure.  Unless they’re really good friends or people I strongly dislike, and even then, sooner or later the writing takes over and the person recedes. But I can’t read my own stuff objectively until eight or ten years have passed, and even then I tend to cringe at the bad bits. 

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television? 

I worked as a “dialogue doctor” for a brief period of time — a producer who’d read my Simeon Grist novels called me up out of the blue with a ridiculously lucrative offer.  I did it for as long as I could stand it.  
The great luxury of being a novelist is that nobody rewrites you and no idiot actor is counting his or her lines and demanding more — that actually happened to me, and that actor also insisted in having the final line — the last word, so to speak — in every scene.  That was when I quit working in the movies. 

PDB: How much research goes into each book? 

Not much.  For my upcoming Poke Rafferty Bangkok thriller, THE FEAR ARTIST, I spent a couple of months researching The Phoenix Program, a semi-secret American offensive in Vietnam that aimed to kill 1800 suspected Vietcong — civilians, okay? — every month.  
A desperate attempt to fight an “invisible” enemy.  Went wildly awry, but that didn’t keep the Pentagon from including chunks of it in the plan they offered Bush II in the weeks after 9/11.  So it’s part of the War on Terror, and this book (comes out in July) is about someone who is accidentally caught up in the margins of the War on Terror.
But most of the time, I’m more interested in character than facts.  I try to keep things accurate, but my lack of joy in research is one reason I don’t write historicals. 

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer? 
They’d be incredibly important if I learned how to use them.   But I’m pretty much a duffer.  I mean, I’ve got all the accounts — Facebook, Twitter, the various Kindle boards — but I feel like a twit when I go on to blow my own horn.  That’s why I ask other people to do it for me, and thanks, Paul.

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?

THE FEAR ARTIST comes out in hard cover on July 17.  I’ll probably go on tour for it, pretty much all over America.  
The third Junior Bender ebook, THE FAME THIEF, will come out in May, and I’ll probably try again to get comfortable with saying how great I am in social media.  
And there’s another book, a book on how to finish a novel, coming sometime later in the year.  It’s called WRITING TO FINISH and it’s based in part on the “Finish Your Novel” section of my website.
Thanks for the questions, Paul!