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Long Live the Digital Revolution! by Fiona McDroll Johnson

December 19, 2011 by  •
The interwebz is a strange and wonderful thing, where places like Twitter and Facebook make it easy to connect with people who share your interests and passions. One such person I was fortunate to meet this past year on Twitter is The Scottish Scribe, Fiona “McDroll” Johnson. At first I thought we merely shared a love of all things crime fiction, but came to realize McDroll was quite the budding author herself…if a bit reluctant initially to post her stories online. With much well deserved encouragement from her friends far and wide, however, before we knew it she’d gone from reluctant writer to author with three short story collections available! In addition to that, she helped organize, and contributed to, the wonderful anthology The Lost Children, all the proceeds of which benefit the children’s charities PROTECT (US) and Children 1st Scotland. It is truly my pleasure both to call McDroll (sorry, Fi, you’ll always be McDroll to me) a friend as well as to give her the keys to the joint for a guest post.

Fiona McDroll JohnsonAs we draw ever nearer to Christmas the battle of ‘Buy My Book’ on Twitter and ‘My Top 5 Reads of 2011’ on Facebook is hotting up nicely with constant reminders of all of the great, and occasionally not so brilliant, fiction that is out there in the digital marketplace.

If you are anything like me, you will have developed a worrying habit with ‘1-click’ buying over the past year and now dread to look at your monthly bank statement to actually discover how many 86p or 99 cent purchases you’ve actually made. Frightening!

I used to arrive home from my Saturday trawl through the second-hand bookstores and sneak 3 or 4 new titles onto my TBR pile beside my bed which, when it finally toppled over, would be redistributed around
the house so that my ever-growing compulsion for crime novels couldn’t be detected.

Now of course, life is very different as my purchases are made in secret as my darling little kindle, that I love so much, can hide a multitude of my sins which are even purchased when I’m in bed after midnight when they can silently, as if by magic, arrive to be added to the ever increasing list that never topples over.

I’m really hoping for an explosion in the Kindle market, this festive season, (other ereaders are available), not only because I would love more people to buy my darling books, but also I would love a much wider audience to be able to access a higher quality of new writing from brilliant contemporary writers than is currently generally available in paper format.

Walk into any of the chain store bookshops or look on supermarket shelves in the UK and you will see a wide collection of well known names. Great writers, yes, but do you really want to only read the blockbusters, the familiar?

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Black Flowers by Steve Mosby

December 16, 2011 by  •
Black Flowers by Steve MosbyThat was the problem, wasn’t it? In relying on other people and using them as a foundation for your life? When the floor breaks, you fall.

Aspiring author and father-to-be Neil Dawson finds himself a bit overwhelmed with the idea of being tied down with a wife and child. It’s not that he doesn’t want them, he’s just not entirely sure how he will manage both them and his job, and still find time to devote to his writing.

To let off a little steam, Neil writes a story about the Goblin King. In Neil’s story, the Goblin King grants a young man his wish… that his girlfriend’s pregnancy conveniently disappear. Neil feels slightly guilty about the topic, but still, better to write a story than say things out loud that can’t be taken back, no? Eager for some feedback, Neil sends the story off to his father, himself an author, for review.

It’s not until several days later when he receives a call from his father’s agent that Neil realizes he hasn’t heard back from him. The agent is concerned she hasn’t gotten a response from Dawson in awhile, so Neil pays a visit to his father to touch base. What he finds is an empty house, with a message on the answering machine from the police asking someone from Dawson’s family to call them. Neil’s father, it turns out, has been found dead in a neighboring town.

Enter Detective Sergeant Hannah Price. Price has built her career around trying to live up to the standard set by her father, who also rose to the rank of Detective Sergeant on the very force on which Price now serves. Having recently lost her father, when she’s assigned to investigate the apparent suicide of Christopher Dawson she’s particularly attuned to what Neil is going through struggling to cope with his father’s untimely death. What she doesn’t realize is that she too will soon be struggling once again with her own father’s death, but for reasons she couldn’t ever possibly have anticipated.

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Heartbreaker by Julie Morrigan

December 15, 2011 by  •
Heartbreaker by Julie Morrigan“While people still buy and listen to their music, no band is extinct.” – Alex Weston

When Alex Weston lands the job as ghost writer for the biography of Johnny Burns she realizes it’s the gig of a lifetime. A huge fan of rock, especially classic rock, one of Alex’s favorite bands is Heartbreaker, the legendary group Johnny co-founded back in the late sixties.

Being a bit of an odd duck, Johnny wants to do things a little differently than Alex is used to. Instead of sitting down for a couple of in-depth interviews, he would rather talk for an hour or two a day over a longer period of time. To avoid too much back and forth travel, Alex temporarily sets up shop in Johnny’s town, taking a little room in the back of the local pub.

And thus, over the course of what turns out to be several weeks, Alex learns all there is to know about Johnny and Heartbreaker. From the band’s earliest days in the sixties playing gigs wherever they could, to sold out stadium shows in the seventies, to the band’s inevitable downfall as the music climate turned away from straight-up rock in the 80s, Alex gets a first-hand account of what really happens behind the scenes of a legendary rock band.

It sounds simple enough, and in the hands of many authors such a premise would turn out very one-dimensional. Not so with Julie Morrigan. No, Morrigan takes Heartbreaker and turns them into a band as real as any you could walk into a bookstore and pick up an actual biography of. Indeed, Alex’s interview sessions with Johnny provide the perfect way for Morrigan to slowly reveal the band’s history through a series of flashbacks as Johnny recounts the rise and fall of Heartbreaker.

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Every Precious Thing by Brett Battles

December 15, 2011 by  •
Every Precious Thing by Brett BattlesI hope that one day you’ll be able to forgive me. – Sara Lindley

Alan Lindley’s world is tuned upside down when his wife, Sara, disappears while they are on a quick getaway to celebrate both their wedding anniversary and his formal adoption of Sara’s young daughter.

His panic turns to confusion when he finds a note left by Sara assuring him her disappearance is for the best and that he shouldn’t try to find her. Convinced Sara is in some kind of danger, and with the police unwilling to look for an adult who has seemingly left of their own accord, Alan goes to his attorney for help.

It’s Alan’s good fortune that his attorney, Callie Johnson, is friends with Logan Harper, a former military man and private security contractor. Though Logan is sure it’s merely a case of an unhappy wife who’s bailed out of the marriage, he agrees to look into the matter as a favor to Callie.

Almost immediately is becomes clear things are more complicated than that when Logan discovers that all documentation of Sara’s history comes to an abrupt end only a few years back.

Enlisting the help of a few friends who are also ex-military, Logan follows Sara’s trail back as far as he can. Using her phone records he’s able to determine Sara made trips to a small town on the other side of the state. When Logan and friends turn up and start asking questions they’re met with a violent response that removes any doubts Logan may have had about Sara’s disappearance: she’s running from something, it just isn’t her marriage. Now the question is whether Logan can find her before whatever – or whoever – she’s running from does.

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Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat by Andrez Bergen

December 14, 2011 by  •
Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat by Andrez Bergen“Reality and perception are entirely different things, and let me tell you, Floyd, reality is the lesser of the two.” – Deaps

Andrez Bergen’s Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (TSMG) is set in a post-apocalyptic Melbourne, Australia at an unspecified point in the future where the fortunate ones live an opulent life secure under the high-tech Dome that encases the city. The less fortunate live a harsh existence in rundown areas on the outskirts of the Dome in a world where the sun seldom shines and acid rain seems to fall endlessly.

Our narrator, Floyd Maquina, is a Seeker. Employed by the government to hunt down so-called Deviants for what is euphemistically called “hospitalization,” Floyd has the authority to terminate those who won’t come along peacefully. It’s something he’s only had to do once, but that encounter weighs heavily on his mind, driving him to seek comfort in drugs, alcohol, and classic Hollywood films.

Indeed, Floyd peppers his narrative with copious references to films like The Maltese Falcon, The Third Man, The Big Sleep, and Brazil amongst others, and throws enough hardboiled slang around that a Tobacco-Stained Glossary and Encyclopedia Tobacciana are included as appendices.

With one foot planted firmly in a futuristic world where Seekers routinely undergo Matrix-like virtual reality “tests” to ensure they are still in the fold and capable of carrying out company orders, TSMG manages to simultaneously have its other foot rooted in an authentic, throwback, hardboiled detective vibe. And it is in that fuzzy blending of post-apocalyptic and old-school noir that TSMG carves out what is one of the most wonderfully unique books I’ve had the pleasure to read.

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The Writer in the Mirror by Dianne Emley

December 14, 2011 by  •
Yesterday I reviewed Cold Call, the first book in Los Angeles Times bestselling author Dianne Emley’s Iris Thorne mystery series, which is being reissued after a bit of a hiatus. Today I am pleased to welcome Dianne to talk about her walk down memory lane revisiting books she hadn’t looked at in well over a decade.

Dianne EmleyThank you, Elizabeth, for allowing me to share your blog today. Thank you also for your terrific review on this space yesterday of Cold Call, my debut novel that was published in 1993. Cold Call was the first of five books in my mystery series featuring Iris Thorne–a savvy, sexy, and sassy investment counselor who prowled the streets of Los Angeles in her red Triumph sports car in the “greed is good” late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Iris Thorne mysteries, long out-of-print, are being reissued as e-books and trade paperbacks. Cold Call and the series second, Slow Squeeze, are out now. The remaining three—Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover—will be out in 2012.

Cold Call holds a place in my heart as not just my first published novel, but it was also the first novel I’d ever written. While toiling in business middle management, I harbored a faint yet persistent dream to be a novelist. I wrote Cold Call over three years, writing from 4:30 to 6:30 on weekday mornings before I went to my day job and on weekends. When the book was sold at auction to Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster, it was more than a dream come true. I was overwhelmed—so overwhelmed that I was sick for two days. My editor’s comment was, “I hate to see what’ll happen to you if you hit the New York Times bestseller list.”

Before republishing the Iris Thorne books, I decided to first reread them. After all, I hadn’t looked at them for fifteen to twenty years. People often ask me if I read my own books. Nope. I don’t. Honestly, once the book is published, I don’t know an author who does. Of course, rereading the Thorne books inevitably led to some “gentle” editing. The passage of time let me see the books with fresh eyes and I learned some interesting things.

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Dead Money by Ray Banks

December 13, 2011 by  •

Dead Money by Ray BanksNo matter how much you think you have it figured out, you don’t. There’s always something waiting in the shadows to bite you in the arse. – Alan Slater

No good deed ever goes unpunished, or so goes the sardonic saying. It’s one Manchester-based double glazing salesman Alan Slater would have done well to keep in mind before agreeing to help his so-called friend, Les Beale, out of a jam.

Of course, considering the jam in question involved helping Beale cover up a particularly nasty crime perhaps Slater should have seen the world of hurt he ends up in coming. Thankfully for readers of Ray Banks’ Dead Money, he did not.

Given that Slater is already having enough difficulty juggling his unsatisfied wife, impatient mistress, and declining career, the last thing he needs is to be burdened with someone else’s problems as well. Yet, somehow, he always seems to find himself out with co-worker Beale, a hard drinking, hard gambling bigot with a hair-trigger temper. Problems are Beale’s business, and business is good.

That is until he ends up on the wrong end of a rigged high stakes poker game. Unfortunately he doesn’t realize until he’s in too deep what’s going on, leaving him five figures in debt to the sort of people you don’t cross… or skip out on. Incensed, Beale confronts the person responsible for setting up the game, and that’s when things go from bad to worse.

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Cold Call by Dianne Emley

December 13, 2011 by  •
You are probably familiar with Los Angeles Times bestselling author Dianne Emley’s outstanding Detective Nan Vining thrillers, but did you know that before there was Nan there was Iris? Originally published in the mid to late 90s, Emley first entered the writing scene (under the name Dianne G. Pugh) with a mystery series featuring investment counselor Iris Thorne. That series is now being reissued, both in paperback and ebook formats.

Cold Call by Dianne Emley“You always think that once you get power, you’ll change the rules.” – Iris Thorne

Slugging it out with the big boys in the trenches of Los Angeles’ glittering financial district Iris Thorne has to fight for every scrap of power she can get, and all too often finds herself playing by a set of rules she feels both stacked against her and powerless to change.

Still, she has an apartment with a nice view of the ocean, a closet full of designer clothes (even if they aren’t quite paid off yet), and a snazzy Triumph sports car (even if it does leak a little oil). All told, she’s doing well for herself and has had no reason to question the path her life is taking. All that changes overnight when one of her coworkers is murdered.

Alley Munoz was not only the mailroom/all-around “go to” guy in the office, he was also Iris’ best friend at the company. Having previously taught the deaf for several years before embarking on her financial career, Iris got along well with Alley, who was himself both deaf and physically handicapped as well.

When the police seem inclined to write-off Alley’s death as being the result of a drug deal gone wrong given his ethnicity and the location of the murder Iris is incensed, and determined to prove them wrong. Easier said than done, especially considering the lead detective on the case, John Somers, also happens to be the man Iris was seriously involved with during her college years. Now Iris not only has to deal with essentially solving Alley’s murder on her own, but also with the feelings stirred up by the divorced detective’s reappearance in her life.

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Death Match by Jason S. Ridler

December 12, 2011 by  •
Death Match by Jason S. Ridler“There is an art to performance, Spar. There’s no art in hurting someone for real.” – Ray “Clown Royale” Kingston

Murder, professional wrestling, an underground punk rock scene, a nasty biker gang, a psychopathic mime, and a dominatrix with an affinity for 50’s style. If you read that and thought, “Hell, yeah!” just go ahead and buy Death Match. (And it’s clear why you’re my kind of people.)

If you read that and thought, “That’s… interesting.” please allow me to explain how those pieces fit together to form the entertaining puzzle that is author Jason S. Ridler’s debut novel.

Having barely survived his wild, drug and alcohol fueled youth as frontman for a punk band, Spar Battersea was finally able to get his life on track with the help of his friend, Ray. Now working at a book store and as a stringer for the local paper, the excitement in Spar’s life is confined to cheering for Ray’s alter-ego “Clown Royale” at his professional wrestling matches.

When Ray dies in the ring on the eve of the biggest match of his young career, Spar doesn’t buy the official conclusion: heart attack/natural causes. For one thing Ray was only 25 and healthy as a horse, and that also wouldn’t explain the disturbing and extensive scarring found on Ray’s back, some of it quite recent. Determined to do right by his friend, Spar wades into the underground world of shady wrestling promoters and discovers there was a lot about his friend he didn’t know. Now Spar has to decide just how far he’s willing to go to discover the truth, and if he really wants to know.

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The Death of Ronnie Sweets by Russel D McLean

December 9, 2011 by  •
The Death of Ronnie Sweets by Russel D McLeanYou’re probably familiar with Russel D McLean’s books featuring Dundee, Scotland based private investigator J. McNee (The Good Son and The Lost Sister ), but before he cut loose with those powerhouse full length crime fiction offerings McLean gave the world glimpses of what was to come via a series of short stories featuring the character Sam Bryson.

Also a Dundee, Scotland based private investigator, the tales of Sam Bryson have heretofore been scattered hither and yon throughout crime fiction publications such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Thrilling Detective Mystery Magazine, Spinetingler Magazine, and Needle.

As a result, most people have not been fortunate enough to read all of them, and many have never had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Bryson at all. Fear not, as The Death of Ronnie Sweets (and other stories) features the complete Sam Bryson collection.

The collection opens with the eponymous “The Death of Ronnie Sweets,” in which Bryson is hired by the parents of a young man who was brutally beaten and left for dead. In addition to being an interesting case, was Ronnie an innocent victim or mixed up in something unsavory, the story gives us a glimpse of Bryson’s past as a police officer and sets the tone for what’s to follow; namely, edgy, well-crafted stories that don’t flinch from tackling some of the more unpleasant aspects of life: crime and corruption, danger and doubt, regret and revenge amongst others.

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Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles by Edward A. Grainger

December 6, 2011 by  •

Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles by Edward A. GraingerI have a confession to make. As a general rule, I don’t read Westerns. I find that too often the stories get lost in the author’s desire to provide the reader with every little period-accurate detail they’ve researched, and bogged down with unwieldy “cowboy” lingo in the dialog. And while that may appeal to some, it’s just not my cup of tea.

I have another confession to make. Edward A. Grainger, aka David Cranmer, is turning me into a convert. You see, Cranmer doesn’t write Westerns per se, he writes well-crafted stories with engaging characters that just happen to take place in the Old West. And he does it very, very well. Don’t get me wrong, the adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles are unquestionably Westerns, but Cranmer never loses sight of the real prize: character and story. And that makes all the difference in the world to this reluctant reader of Westerns.

It helps that Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, both U.S. Marshals, are charismatic and unique individuals. Laramie is known to display an unorthodox streak as questionable as the outlaws he hunts, his behavior often fueled by the approach to life that was ingrained in him having been raised by Native Americans. For his part, Miles brings the challenge of being one of the first black Marshals into play, showing how his status as a black man in the 1880s Old West can make both all the difference in the world and none whatsoever to how he does the job… often at the same time.

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