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Killer Tease is a Killer Read by Jason Duke

February 3, 2012 by  •
In somewhat of a departure, today I am welcoming a guest reviewer. Jason Duke is not just any old reviewer, however, he is himself a crime fiction author. Even more noteworthy and deserving of respect, he is also a U.S. Army and Iraqi war veteran. Please welcome Jason for the first of what will be semi-regular guest reviews.

Killer Tease by Danny HoganPulp Press boasts a line of pocket-sized crime novellas, whose gritty fast-paced revenge plots, pulp cover art, and fabricated torn edges, are designed with a worthwhile goal in mind towards recapturing the nostalgia for the dime novel and pulp’s golden-era. Their motto: “Turn off your T.V. and discover fiction like it used to be…”

One such novella, Danny Hogan’s “Killer Tease”, sets the standard for the kind of reputation Pulp Press seeks. A bare bones revenge story about an aging burlesque dancer named Eloise Murphy, the title lives up to what the Pulp Press line is about. Initially the target of a diabolical revenge scheme, she manages to turn the tables instead. In her long career as a dancer (which, apparently, is not the same as stripping!), Murphy has earned a tough-as-nails reputation and as many enemies.

The story is fast in the very beginning when Murphy loses yet another dancing gig, then kind of plods along as she tries to figure out her next move, then quickly picks back up again when she is offered to work for a shady, unscrupulous character named Napoleon Hammerstein. In fact, outside of her mate Hunter and her cat Sinatra, there is (literally) no-one that can be trusted in this story. The best part of the book is when it is revealed to Murphy on entering the dance stage that she has been tricked by Hammerstein to in fact perform for all the men she has ever beaten over the years. That aha moment when the men begin clamoring on stage to exact their revenge is truly exceptional.

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Faint of Heart by Jeff Strand

January 31, 2012 by  •
Faint of Heart by Jeff Strand“I’d like to let you two die together, but I’m not a fan of romantic endings. This isn’t tragedy. This is horror.” – Stephen

Author Jeff Strand is best known for his comedy infused horror, such as the Andrew Mayhem series, The Severed Nose, and Benjamin’s Parasite just to name a few. And though I do love me some seriously irreverent Strand, I also admit that my two favorite Strand books to date, Pressure and Dweller, are the ones in which he included the least amount of humor, instead focusing on character development and building tension.

Strand’s newest release, the novella Faint of Heart, is nothing but wall-to-wall tension. Rebecca Harpster isn’t wild about the idea of spending a weekend alone at a cabin in Alaska, but she also isn’t selfish enough to stop her husband, Gary, from going on a camping trip with his two best friends. And though she’s still adjusting to their new life in Alaska, Rebecca knows the house is safe and that Gary’s the one more likely to have an unpleasant weekend camping outside in temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.

As the weekend passes with no word from Gary, however, Rebecca becomes increasingly concerned something awful has happened. Her worst nightmare seems to have come true when a State Trooper shows up on the doorstep late Sunday evening with news there’s been a dire accident. Despite her panic, Rebecca is aware enough to realize there is something off about the Trooper. Instead of letting him in, she demands his name and badge number, intending to call and confirm his identity. And that’s when her nightmare really begins.

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Why would you want to make an author cry? by Jeff Strand

January 30, 2012 by  •
Frequent visitor – hell, he has his own archive section! – Jeff Strand is back. This time he wants to talk a little about his new novella, Faint of Heart, which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow, as well as share his thoughts on the different types of reviews authors get. Please, don’t make him cry.

Jeff StrandThe digital edition of my new novella, Faint of Heart, is now available. Some early readers, including Ms. Elizabeth A. White, think it’s one of my best books. I’m hoping the rest of the world will like it, too, but whenever you publish a book, some people are going to think it suuuuuucks!

I’m okay with bad reviews. I mean, I feel kinda sick to my stomach when I read them, but it’s part of the business. A book that gets nothing but glowing reviews is a book that has only found a very small audience. If you check Rotten Tomatoes, some people didn’t even like The Muppets. How can anybody be so dead inside that they didn’t like The Muppets?

As a rule, one of the dumbest things you can do as an author is respond defensively to negative reviews. You look like a whiny jerk. Especially the “Let’s see YOU write a book!” response. You don’t need to be a published novelist to have an informed opinion about books any more than I need to know how to properly slaughter a cow to say that the beef shish kabobs I had this weekend were total garbage.

That said, here are some reviews that annoy me…

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Boca Daze by Steven M. Forman

January 27, 2012 by  •

Boca Mournings by Steven M. FormanI always was a sucker for a good cause. – Eddie Perlmutter

Eddie Perlmutter is not your typical Boca Raton retiree. While most of Boca’s citizens find themselves preoccupied with things like golf, bridge tournaments, doctors appointments, and early-bird specials, former Boston detective turned private investigator Eddie tends to find himself caught up in slightly more serious matters.

During his brief time in Boca, Eddie has taken on the Russian mafia and run a group of neo-Nazis out of town on a rail (the cases that earned him the nickname “The Boca Knight”), solved the mystery of a haunted elevator, shut down a cyber-criminal (who’s since become Eddie’s partner), busted up a kidnapping/identity theft ring, and parlayed the financial results of one investigation into a health care clinic for a low income community (Boca Mournings).

Not bad for a sexagenarian with arthritic knuckles, two bum knees, and a pesky prostate.

Boca Daze finds Eddie dealing with a blast from his Boston past when old school criminal Doc Hurwitz, also now retired to Boca, reaches out to Eddie for help. Doc’s granddaughter, Shoshanna, recently overdosed on OxyContin pills she obtained from one of Florida’s infamous “pill mills,” places that churn out thousands of prescriptions for painkillers under questionable – but legal – circumstances. Doc wants Eddie to get the evidence needed to prove the clinic where Shoshanna got her pills is dirty and shut the place down.

» Read the rest of this entry

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Exit 9 by Brett Battles

January 25, 2012 by  •
Exit 9 by Brett BattlesJust let me wake up. Let this be a nightmare. – Josie Ash

At the end of Project Eden series opener Sick, Daniel Ash knew the nightmare that had been dodged by the resistance’s victory in preventing a global pandemic was only temporary. After all, the virulent Sage Flu was not a natural phenomenon, but rather a genetically engineered virus produced by a group known as Project Eden, whose mission is to bring about a “reboot” of the human race by killing 99% of the population and starting over with a select group of the best and brightest the world has to offer.

As Exit 9 opens, Ash and his two kids have assumed new identities and are doing their best to have as normal a life as possible given their knowledge that Project Eden still exists. It’s a difficult situation, one which is not made easier when members of the resistance show up on Ash’s doorstep, once again calling upon him for help. The countdown to the day they’ve all been fearing, Implementation Day, has begun.

Now Ash and his team must race against the clock to discover Project Eden’s secret base of operations Bluebird, believed to be located in the extreme northern reaches of Canada inside the Arctic Circle, before the group can unleash its “final solution” on the world.

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The Killing League by Dani Amore

January 23, 2012 by  •
Dead Wood by Dani Amore…the killing is easy. It’s the getting away with it that’s a bit more problematic. – The Commissioner

The job of a sports league’s commissioner, while not easy, is relatively straightforward. Generally speaking, they oversee the teams and competition, deal with administrative details and rules governing league play, and generally seek to ensure the health and success of their league. The commissioner in author Dani Amore’s newest book is no different. Well, except that he’s not in charge of the NBA, NFL or some other league you’re familiar with; no, he’s commissioner of The Killing League.

Like any other professional sports league, The Commissioner has recruited only the best of the best to participate. It just so happens that all the players in The Killing League are active serial killers, and The Commissioner has devised a single elimination style tournament for them to test their skills. Each person will be assigned a specific target to kill per round of play, with the targets’ level of difficulty increasing the deeper into the tournament the players get. If you don’t get your target – or they get you – you’re eliminated.

And so, players with monikers like Blue Blood, The Messiah, Florence Nightmare, and The Butcher, among others, are turned loose across the country, each determined to win the grand prize: a shot at renowned FBI profiler Wallace Mack, and a woman named Nicole, who escaped from and killed the serial killer who abducted her three years ago. Of course, Mack didn’t get to be renowned based on his good looks, and Nicole has dedicated her life to two things since her ordeal: becoming a chef and martial arts. Mack quickly realizes what’s going on, and the only place Nicole’s better with a knife than in the kitchen is in the dojo. Game on.

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City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore

January 20, 2012 by  •
Stephen BlackmooreIt’s almost midnight. I’ve been dead almost twenty-four hours. I’m not sure how I feel about that. – Joe Sunday

Joe Sunday always figured his life would end violently. After all, when your occupation is thug for hire to a mid-level mafioso things tend to get pretty nasty at times, even if you are working the glamour filled streets of L.A., not the mean streets of New York or Chicago.

What he couldn’t possibly have realized, however, was that when he finally was killed, well, that he wouldn’t stay dead.

Sunday does realize something is very wrong with his latest assignment, especially when the guys his boss previously sent out on the job either turned up dead or not at all. So when he and his partner, Julio, fail in their attempt to obtain the specific item they were sent to retrieve – a gemstone of indeterminate origin – he figures at least they’re ahead of the game by still being alive. That is until Julio unexpectedly, and quite violently, kills himself in front of Sunday.

When Sunday seeks answers from his boss, he’s informed that the man they tried to steal the stone from has been alive for far longer than should be possible, especially since Sunday’s boss claims to have personally killed him decades ago. The stone isn’t a jewel, he tells Sunday, but an ancient object that has the power to grant immortality. Riiight. Just as Sunday’s about to write off his boss as a couple of fries short of a Happy Meal, he gets a frantic call from Julio’s widow asking for Joe’s help. Seems Julio is home and acting odd. Considering Sunday just watched Julio kill himself only hours ago, he finds that quite odd indeed.

Welcome to author Stephen Blackmoore’s L.A., the City of the Lost, a place where the magic that occurs isn’t accomplished by computer geeks in the offices of Industrial Light & Magic or Pixar.

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This Is Life / Czechmate by Seth Harwood

January 19, 2012 by  •
This Is Life by Seth Harwood“It doesn’t matter how you got here, because you in it.” – Freeman

Ex-action movie star Jack Palms seems to find himself “in it” quite a bit. When we last saw Jack in series opener Jack Wakes Up, he had barely managed to extricate himself from between a rock and a hard place in the middle of a Bay Area drug war.

As we catch up with Jack in This Is Life, he has just returned home after a long cross country motorcycle trip he used to clear his head and get back on track. Unfortunately for Jack, his attempt to pursue a low key life is about to be derailed once again. While standing in his living room on the night of his homecoming contemplating the charred remains of his bed that awaited him upon his return, someone takes a shot at Jack through his patio door. He gives chase, but is only able to catch a glimpse of the shooter’s car as it speeds away.

Jack heads to SFPD headquarters the following morning to report the incident to his frenemy Sergeant Mills Hopkins, but instead of taking his report Hopkins recruits Jack to look into the killing of an SFPD officer. Turns out the officer was involved in questionable activity, and someone high up in SFPD bureaucracy doesn’t seem to want the crime solved and is hampering the investigation. How other than a cover-up to explain an official report of “suicide” for a corpse whose head was nearly obliterated by what was obviously a .50 caliber anti-tank gun based on the other holes that riddle the vehicle? This doesn’t sit well with Hopkins, who wants Jack to use his hard earned recent experience of how to work the angles between warring factions to get to the bottom of things.

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The City of Strange Angels by Stephen Blackmoore

January 19, 2012 by  •
Today reformed pyromaniac Stephen Blackmoore stops by to share a little about how the dark side of the City of Angels shaped his novel City of the Lost, which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow. And if you’re in the LA area, be sure to check out Stephen and a horde of other authors reading their work at Noir at the Bar on Jan 22nd.

Stephen BlackmooreIn January of 1934 G. Warren Shufelt, a mining engineer, believed that a race of lizard people were living in tunnels underneath Downtown L.A. Not only did he think these lizard people were there, but he also believed that they had gold and other treasures in their underground city. He even said he had photographed some of these treasures with “radio X-rays”. Four foot long gold tablets upon which 5000 years of ancient lizard man lore was written.

He dug a shaft on North Hill Street in an effort to find the entrance. He even made a map of it showing the tunnel locations, various rooms and their dimensions and where all the gold was supposed to be.

Could it be true? Could there be a race of Lovecraftian lizardmen living under the streets of L.A.?

Well, no, of course not, but for a while somebody believed it. The L.A. Times even printed a front page story about it. Showed the map and everything.

L.A. can be a weird, funny and truly creepy place. Lizard people, the curse of Griffith Park, haunts a-plenty. Horrors and weirdness of the more mundane variety, too. There’s The Black Dahlia, Charles Manson, The Night Stalker, The Grim Sleeper.

Hell, just the other day a couple hikers found some Armenian guy’s head in a bag in Bronson Canyon. No word yet on where the rest of him is. I don’t think they’ll find him.

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Chain Gang Elementary by Jonathan Grant

January 18, 2012 by  •
Chain Gang Elementary by Jonathan GrantCome on, it’s just a grade school. This stuff isn’t supposed to destroy people’s lives.

Richard Gray thought he knew what he was getting into when he accepted the position of PTO President at “four-star school of excellence” Malliford Elementary. He would have done well to adopt General Sherman’s attitude about the presidency: “If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.”

Instead, Richard quickly finds himself at war with Malliford’s ancient and entrenched principal, Estelle Rutherford, and her hardcore supporters among the faculty. For that matter, a vocal group of his fellow parents are also less than pleased with his reformist ways, especially when he challenges them on the basis for their opposition to a redistricting plan which would bring an influx of students from a low-income apartment complex into Malliford.

It’s Rutherford’s implementation of “forced labor” during detention that really escalates things to the next level, however, earning Malliford the scandalous nickname “Chain Gang Elementary,” as well as an exposé in the local paper and Richard’s outspoken criticism. Rutherford is less than amused, and brings in outside reinforcements in the form of two (because one apparently wasn’t enough) school psychologists and the founder of a prominent right-wing “family first” type group to bolster her position, and to help oust Richard…at any cost.

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Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke

January 17, 2012 by  •
Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke“I’m not the problem, man. The story’s the problem.”
– Billy Karlsson

I seem to have a penchant lately for choosing books that make my head explode. First it was Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat by Andrez Bergen, then came The Office of Lost & Found by Vincent Holland-Keen.

I now add Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke to the list, and apart from the rather messy cleanup required of repeated head explosions, I must say I am quite enjoying the stepped up game these authors have been bringing into my reading world.

While at an artists’ retreat, our unnamed narrator, an author (is he or isn’t he Declan himself?), is visited by a man calling himself Billy Karlsson, which just happens to be the name of a character in one of the manuscripts the author has long since set aside. And while it’s all well and good that the author has moved on to a successful career writing comedic crime novels, Billy complains that he’s been stuck in limbo the past five years and would like very much to move the show along toward being published.

Not only that, Billy is no longer satisfied with his original incarnation and has some suggestions on which way his story should go. Bemused by this person who has taken on the persona of one of his characters, the author patiently explains that as a new father and somewhat successful author he’s in a much happier state of mind than he was when he initially drafted Billy’s dark tale of a hospital porter performing euthanasia on elderly patients, and as such isn’t really sure he can recapture that vibe… or that he wants to.