Recommended Read: The Pact by Turlough Delaney

the pactSanty is fresh out of the slammer but is more than ready to wreak violent havoc, along with his drinking cronies Leo and Dean.

Delaney tells this smart tale of revenge by moving backwards and forwards in time and from different characters points of view.

More than the sum of each brilliant part,The Pact is a brutal, funny and cleverly weaved together slice of hard-boiled crime. A time bomb of tension.

Recommended Read: Skewered: And Other London Cruelties by Benedict J. Jones

skeweredIn Skewered, the first story in this cracking collection, we are introduced to Charlie Bars who is fresh out of prison and unhappily working in his uncle’s kebab shop.

When Charlie is given the chance to make some fast money he jumps at it but things quickly become, well,  skewered.

Charlie Bars also appears in the following story, Real Estate, which is also a belter.

Another favorite story is the marvelous supernaturally tinged Hungry Is The Dark. But everyone is a gem.

Skewered: And Other London Cruelties is tightly written with strong, realistic characters and a great sense of place.

Classic Brit Grit crime fiction.

Recommended Read: The White Flamingo by James A. Newman

the white flaminfo

In James A. Newman’s The White Flamingo, Detective Joe Dylan investigates the gruesome murder of one of Fun City’s many call girls and quickly realizes that there is a serial killer on the loose in Fun City.

The White Flamingo – the third ‘Joe Dylan crime noir book ‘ – is hard-boiled pulp fiction pumped up to the max. It’s a lethal cocktail of graphic violence, booze, drugs and sex. It’s bright lights and dark shadows and it’s certainly not for the fainthearted.

Recommended Read: This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith

This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith is the story of David Kelsey, a scientist whose obsession with Annabel – an ex-lover – spirals wildly and violently out of control. In the late ‘70s it was made into a French film starring Gerard Depardieu and Miou Miou but it is perhaps more fitting that it was adapted as an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, renamed ‘Annabel’ and starring a well-cast Dean Stockwell. 
sweet sicknessIndeed, Hitch and Highsmith are inextricably linked in my mind since, like most people, I first became familiar with her work through Hitchcock’s adaptation of ‘Strangers On A Train.’And there is even a very, very ‘Vertigo-esque’ look to this striking-looking Pan books edition, eh? One which I used to own once upon a time, before my own life spiraled off in a different direction. A cover that reflects the contents of the book very well, too, as well as looking more than somewhat cool. You can check out John Grant’s review of ‘Annabel’ here.

Recommended Read: The Father by Tom O. Keenan

The Father, Tom O. Keenan‘s debut novel, is an odd hybrid of the police procedural, noir, Brit Grit, black comedy and political thriller.the father 2

Set in an almost futuristic, dystopian Glasgow, The Father‘s protagonist Sean Rooney is a messed up alcoholic shrink who is dragged into a murder investigation by his ex-wife, DCI Kaminski. Broody and contrarian, Rooney is the sort of person who would cut off his face to spite his nose and makes Tony Black‘s Gus Dury look like Dr Phil.

The twist to this particular noir tale, though, is that Rooney has a voice in his head, who acts as a sort of stroppy Greek chorus and even narrates the tale. Indeed, the running dialogues between Rooney and, well, Rooney give a lot of the humour to a twisty crime story which very quickly spirals into am high-octane and over-the-top thriller.

The mixture of  introspective noir and action movie is a tricky balancing act but one that Tom O. Keenan pulls-off and makes The Father a very interesting read indeed.

Recommended Read: The Last Tiger by Tony Black

thelasttiger1Maybe it’s not the sort of book you would expect from someone best known for crime fiction but Tony Black‘s The Last Tiger is certainly just as tightly put together as his crime novels. A really lovely and rich story of childhood and being a stranger in a strange land.

Here’s the skinny:

‘Subject to a bidding war among several publishers in 2013, The Last Tiger is a remarkable book. Black has incorporated his page-turning crime style into a literary story that has much to tell us about alienation, persecution, loss, and the bonds of family. Set in the stark, sweeping landscape of Tasmania, this is a literary thriller from one of the UK’s finest authors.’

“An authentic yet unique voice, Tony Black shows why he is leading the pack…Atmospherically driven, the taut and sparse prose. Powerful.” – NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS

“A beautiful powerful tale to move the hardest heart.’ – THE SUN

Recommended Read: In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

in a lonely place (2)Dixon Steele wanders through misty post-war Los Angeles as a serial killer stalks the city. Steele himself sees the world through a dense fog that hides dark secrets, repressed memories and more. Dorothy B. Hughes’ In A Lonely Place (1950) has atmosphere in spades and is well deserved of its classic status.

Here’s the blurb:

‘ Dix Steele is back in town, and ‘town’ is post-war LA. His best friend Brub is on the force of the LAPD, and as the two meet in country clubs and beach bars, they discuss the latest case: a strangler is preying on young women in the dark. Dix listens with interest as Brub describes their top suspect, as yet unnamed. Dix loves the dark and women in equal measure, so he knows enough to watch his step, though when he meets the luscious Laurel Gray, something begins to crack. The American Dream is showing its seamy underside.’

Recommended Read: Nobody Wins by Michael Haskins

Michael Haskins’ ‘Nobody Wins’ is a breathless, high-octane international crime thriller with the fast-pace of an ’80s action nobodywins-1movie.

The blurb: A simple request of Mick Murphy to find his cousin Cecil Fahey turns into a struggle of avoiding irate SAS soldiers determined to kill Cecil for his IRA activities in the ’80s. Murphy’s quest takes him into the shadowy world of the IRA in Los Angeles, New Jersey and eventually Dublin, Ireland, all the while avoiding efforts to kidnap him and trying to survive attempts on his life. In his quest to locate Cecil and find out who and why someone wants him dead, family and friends lie to Murphy. With a new identity provided by the IRA, Murphy can’t escape his long-time black bag friend Norm’s scrutiny or the MI6 agents following him, while being used to set up an ambush of SAS soldiers. When truths are lies and lies are necessary, Mick Murphy realizes nobody wins.

Recommended Read: Meaningful Conversations by Richard Godwin

Meaningful Conversations by Richard Godwin : Dark, rich language that paints a deliciously delirious Ballardian Giallo.meaninful1

Here’s the blurb:

Meaningful Conversations is a hybrid Noir novel that tackles the modern world and its most tabooed addictions and mythologies. Its protagonist, cellist Bertrand Mavers, is the best adjusted serial killer you will ever meet. His therapist, Otto Wall, calls him the sanest man he knows. What he actually is will surprise and astonish you.


The narrator of Meaningful Conversations is a brilliant mix of Artaud, de Sade, and the narrators of Ellis’ American Psycho and Kosinski’s Steps. He’s in analysis, but he has taken his own temperature. He may be febrile, but he’s a scream. Richard Godwin continues to mix contemporary genres with elegance and power. —Professor Jay Gertzman.

Dark, rich language that paints a deliciously delirious Ballardian Giallo.—Paul D. Brazill author of A Case of Noir and Guns of Brixton.

If JG Ballard and Angela Carter played a game of Chinese Whispers with Anaïs Nin and William Burroughs, it might end up something like Godwin’s latest—a wild and surreal ride that veers from cold horror to steamy kink and offers a unique satire of modern life in bizarre form. Whatever you want to call it, you won’t put it down until you finish it. K. A. Laity, author of White Rabbit and the Chastity Flame series.

No one since H.P Lovecraft explored the depths of human darkness more earnestly than Richard Godwin. Meaningful Conversations is a work of righteous anger and burning honesty that’s supercharged with Jodorowskian eroticism. Godwin marches to the sound of his own drum, but he can do no wrong.—Benoît Lelièvre, Dead End Follies

Recommended Read: The Fall by Albert Camus

I have no friends, I only have accomplices now. On the other hand, my accomplices are more numerous than my friends: they are the human race.’

Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a former big shot Parisian lawyer, and self-proclaimed ‘judge-penitent’, sits in Mexico City, a smoky, pokey bar in the murky depths of Amsterdam’s red-light district. And he tells a fellow Frenchman about the time when, given the chance to save a young woman’s life, he did nothing. And his subsequent fall from grace.

Camus’ The Fall is a stylishly written series of monologues about the desensitising nature of modern life, guilt, ‘the fundamental duplicity of the human being’, responsibility and more. And it’s a right riveting read, it really is. The intimacy of Clamence’s barfly confession drags you along as we hear how, like a true noir protagonist, his life spirals further down from Parisian high life to Amsterdam’s fog and neon soaked underbelly.

The Fall was Camus last work of fiction, published in 1956, four years before he died. At 146 pages is a short, bitter and hard-hitting espresso that will give more than a few jolts during a sleepless night.

Bang, fucking bang The mighty Fall!

(This post first appeared at Loitering With Intent as part of the Criminal Classics season)

Recommended Read: Hell On Church Street by Jake Hinkson

hell-on-church-street-newPaul is a troublemaker. A rough and ready kind of guy, he loses his job in a Mississippi plastics factory after getting into a fight with the Foreman.

So, he hits the road and ends up in Texaco. Running low on cash, he decides to rob a fat man and steal his car. But things don’t go to plan.
The fat man introduces himself as Geoffrey Webb and he tells the harrowing story of his time as a youth minister at a small Baptist church in Arkansas and his seemingly inevitable descent into something painfully close to a literal hell as his life spirals out of control and ever downward.
Hell On Church Street  is Jake Hinkson’s impressively confident debut novel and it is simply magnificent.
An incredibly dark but richly hued blend of Jim Thompson‘s brand of noir and Camus’ The Fall, Hell On Church Street is both gripping and chilling. Beautifully written, perfectly paced and full of harsh insights into the innate duplicity (and self-duplicity) of human beings. Absolutely brilliant.

Recommended Read: Frank’s Wild Years by Nick Triplow

At the start of Frank’s Wild Years, Frank Neaves’ wild years are actually buried  deeply in the dim and distant past, and he’s more than content to spend his days propping up the bar of his South London local and viewing life through an alcoholic haze.

But then Carl, the landlord of the pub, goes missing and Frank is cajoled by the pub’s barmaid, Adeline, into tracking him down and, eventually, he is forced to  become a man of action again. 

Frank and Adeline’s search for Carl takes them off to the frozen wastelands of the north, in that wan hinterland between Christmas and New Years Eve where Britain actually is pretty much broken. During this journey we find out more about Frank, Adeline, Carl, Carl’s parents and Frank’s wild years.

Frank’s Wild Years is Nick Triplow‘s début novel but he masterfully changes POV – though always returning  to Frank- and moves back and forth in time working on a broad and richly layered canvas, with  the skill worthy of a much more experienced writer.

Frank’s Wild Years is simply stunning. A brilliant character study, a gripping gangster story and an incredibly moving examination of friendship, family, loyalty and loss. Highly recommended. 

Recommedned Read: Mr Glamour by Richard Godwin

‘Paul De Longe put the phone down and opened a bottle of Morey-Blanc. It was cold and smooth and biscuity.Below him the skyline of London stretched out like an inviting mistress.’

London kills you. Kills the best of us. And the worst.

And in Richard Godwin‘s second novel, the brilliantly vivid  giallo, Mr Glamour, the streets of London aren’t so much paved with gold, as splattered with blood that leaves a trail from the pavement to the penthouse. And back again.

Mr Glamour‘s London is the London of Hitchcock’s Frenzy, Roeg’s Performance and The Picture Of Dorian Grey. It is a living, pulsating thing that is being sliced to pieces, from swanky Mayfair and Holland Park to suburban Acton, from Wandsworth prison to Earls Court bedsits and East End boozers. 

And in Mr Glamour, everyone is scarred, including the books’ protagonists, Chief Inspector Jackson Flare and his partner Inspector Mandy Steele. Though Flares scars are mostly physical, Steel hides her psychological damage.

When Flare and Steel are called to investigate the murder of a rich big shot, whose body has been ripped apart and left next to his gleaming Maserati, they soon realize that they are a hunting a serial killer who is preying on the rich, the powerful, the glamorous.

Richard Godwin’s Mr Glamour is a graphic,intense, at times delirious journey  into the dark sides of London’s glitz and of the human psyche and is highly recommended for those of a STRONG disposition.

Recommended Read: Them by Jon Ronson

them‘I Wish My Life Could Be/ As Strange As A Conspiricy’ Primative Painters by Felt

And don’t we all. Conspricy is at the heart of some very popular  works of fiction: John Huston’s film Winter Kills, The X- Files, The Matrix

But is it so much fun in real life?

I remember reading and enjoying Welsh journalist  Jon Ronson‘s columns for the London listing magazine Time Out – this was in the early ’90s, I think – and catching some of his documentary series The Secret Rulers Of The World early in 2001.

Ronson is a funny writer but also very thoughtful and self-depreciating.

In the 2001 book Them (no connection with the ’50s sci-fi film -or is there, mmm), Ronson spends over five years with ‘extremists’ such as the Ku Klux Klan, Omar Bakri Muhammad, David Icke and Dr Ian Paisley. He visits a Jihad training camp,  an Aryan Nations camp and attends a weird pagan ceremony in California. He’s threatened, chased by Men In Black types and told to ‘F*** off’ by Lord Denis Healy!

On the way he finds out that all these extremists share a belief  in the  New World Order. A sinister cabal controlling the world. (Mostly Jews, apparently, although in Paisley’s case, unsurprisingly, the NWO are run by the Catholic Church.)

And so he digs further and tries to find out if there really is a NWO.

This is a fascinating and funny read which is also  infuriating, frighting and at times touching.

In the hands of,say, Louis Theroux it could have been a little smug or sneery but the warmth of Ronson’s personality shines through.