Brilliant, brilliant. Read this first and then read the rest of Andrez Bergen's brilliant and original books. Breathtaking, creative and always a wondBrilliant, brilliant. Read this first and then read the rest of Andrez Bergen's brilliant and original books. Breathtaking, creative and always a wonderful story - he makes you work, but isn't that amazing?...more
Heath Lowrance is one of the very best new writers around. Fact. His ability to tell a story and describe a setting is razor sharp and if his storiesHeath Lowrance is one of the very best new writers around. Fact. His ability to tell a story and describe a setting is razor sharp and if his stories were a plate of chocolate brownies, you wouldn't stop eating until you were lying sick on the floor, clutching your stomach and pleading for mercy.
The Bastard Hand is first of all a brilliant tale, showing true creativity and imagination. Think of the big blockbuster films you've seen over the last ten years; great effects, make-up, score, acting (sometimes) but...shame about the story. If Hollywood had any sense (very doubtful) Lowrance would be grabbed with both hands, paid a fortune, given whatever creature comforts he desires and told to write. He's that good.
The Bastard Hand is an adventure, a thriller, a romance and has a bucketful of violence that will keep the toughest readers turning the pages. It also has lots of religion, the real fire and brimstone type, and two main characters, the right reverend Phineas Childe and Charlie, whose life changes when he mysteriously finds a bible with a hole shot through it in a laundromat.
The pair team up and head for a small town where the Reverend takes up his new charge, but it soon becomes clear that he's not exactly the type of preacher the congregation had expected and strangely, the bible found by Charlie belonged to the previous incumbent who disappeared under dubious circumstances.
You will be sorry to finish this novel, and you will probably read it in a couple of sittings, due to Lowrance's ability to depict believable characters set in a community of folks that, if you live in a small town, you will recognise.
One Hundred Years of Vicissitude by Andrez Bergen will be out later this year by Perfect Edge Press, put it in your diary, don't forget.
Vicissitude -One Hundred Years of Vicissitude by Andrez Bergen will be out later this year by Perfect Edge Press, put it in your diary, don't forget.
Vicissitude - it's all about change, how your life can change, how your fortune can change. Change is a sloppy beast to hold onto, it slips through your fingers sometimes before you've even realised, you wake up at 3am one morning and you suddenly wonder about your life, how you got to this point.
OK, so maybe this is something you do more as you get on in years, before that, you're just too busy living to even notice change as it segues so invisibly from one scene to another.
I finished One Hundred Years of Vicissitude after midnight, didn't sleep much after that, my past flicking behind my eyelids like some old cine film, my mind trying to make sense of the choices I've made over the years, the changes that have occurred.
Would you, if you got the chance, like to revisit your life? Would you want to stand beside your younger self, invisible, and watch your key moments, your mistakes, your lost loves, your bereavements?
In One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, the life of Kohana, a Geisha, now dead, leads Wolram E. Deaps (killed at the end of Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat), through her long life. The pair make an odd couple with no obvious connection (that is discovered later), other than they are both dead whilst Deaps' confusion and irritation with the enigmatic Kohana, trailing after her as they flash from location to location, decade to decade, mirrored my increasing impatience to discover where Kohana was leading him to and for what reason.
The exquisite writing and structure produced by Bergen is alone an excellent reason to read this book but the developing relationship between the two main characters is incredibly touching and devastating in its beauty by the end. And it is only then that Wolram discovers the truth as he reaches the very end of the path with Kohana. Everything makes sense, the beginning comes into focus and the pieces fit together.
So I lay in bed as the images from my life passed before me, somewhere in there, there must be sense too. Hopefully the pieces will eventually fit together.
I now need and want to read 100 Years again, my tears are still wet but my heart is singing. ...more
You know, there's a lot of Scottish detectives hanging around the fictional police stations up and down the land; hungover, bad diet, too many fags, rYou know, there's a lot of Scottish detectives hanging around the fictional police stations up and down the land; hungover, bad diet, too many fags, rubbish with women...do we really need another one? Is there anything new to be said?
Well, hot diggity-dawg, Douglas Lindsay has just gone and scored a bullseye with his first dart in The Unburied Dead, the first in a series (and he'd better have the next one nearly ready or I'm going to find him and hit him) about Detective Sergeant Hutton, a hungover, unhealthy Lothario who smokes too many fags. What? Didn't I just say that there's already too many of these dandruff shouldered guys stacked to the ceiling in every Oxfam shop in the country? I know...but please, The Unburied Dead is the business!
The plot goes a bit like this; there's a killer on the loose and the polis have to find him. Right, that's that out the way (it is a really good plot though). You know, it's a crime book so there has to be a crime, but honestly, the brilliant and totally entertaining aspect of this novel is the characters, their shenanigans and their humour. Lindsay is funny (it may only be me that thinks that but never mind) and he writes about real folk like you and me who are just as confused, jealous, broken, greedy and damaged as we are. We have met these people; they are the folk who have learnt to laugh at themself because the alternative in the grim light of a Monday morning isn't worth considering.
If you are confused about life, wonder how you've ended up where you are, if you are disappointed but can still laugh, then you'll love this book. There's also sex, blood and violence so maybe you'll just like that if you're a bit shallow.
Now here's a thing. Most Scottish detectives that I've previously read about hang around the big grim cities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow and it's what we expect. But, knock me down with a Loch Fyne kipper, Lindsay sends his Bob Dylan loving Detective Sergeant up the dark winding roads into Brigadoon...oops, sorry, Argyll; up to Arrochar and then the monster climb over the Rest and Be Thankful to the Riviera of Dunoon! My goodness, that takes a brave writer and Lindsay didn't flinch even though it was snowing hard and there wasn't a fish and chip shop open all the way to Dunoon where thankfully his detectives finally get their chips....more
I just love this beautiful wee morsel of divine writing! Sometimes when I go to bed I just fancy a wee bit of something, not a huge passionate wrestleI just love this beautiful wee morsel of divine writing! Sometimes when I go to bed I just fancy a wee bit of something, not a huge passionate wrestle but a tasty wee bite. You start it and half an hour or so, depending on how fast you are, it's finished and you feel totally satisfied and you can roll over and go fast to sleep with a grin on your face.
Rowan's Folly is a lesson to all of those tradesmen who end up in the bedrooms of a tempting tasty bit. Remember lads; fix that socket and get out - do not delay if a young strumpet with large bare breasts emerges from the shower and asks you if you fancy a bit just as she lets her towel slip. And guys - especially don't get tempted if she's actually the girlfriend of the local big noise and her father is the head of the most infamous family on the estate.
I'm now hooked on Darren's tales form the Longcroft Estate and I'll be looking out for further installments with glee!
Sant's style reminds me of one of those 'fly on the wall' documentaries that we get from time to time on the telly. You know, a BBC TV crew follow several families around their 'ordinary' lives for 6 months and then edit together all the juicy bits. Sant's voice remains detached from the action, he's the bystander who's reporting on the shenanigans but not getting involved and not moralising on what happens.
The characters are well-drawn and colourful, the plot focused and fast paced.
Oh my, what have we done to our children? WEE ROCKETS should be used as a manifesto to bring about change in our society. You might read this brillian Oh my, what have we done to our children? WEE ROCKETS should be used as a manifesto to bring about change in our society. You might read this brilliant new novel by Gerard Brennan and think that the teenage gang that he writes about is a bit extreme but then think about the riots on the streets of England this summer, think about the boy that was shot and killed on his bike a couple of years back or just listen to the news this Christmas and count the number of teenagers stabbed to death on our streets. Violence, aggression, a lack of moral code, all fuelled by cheap alcohol and an easy supply of drugs. Is this what life has become for so many of our young folk?
My kids have been lucky enough to grow up in an environment that protects them from the madness of urban life and they have parents who work hard to teach them right from wrong, who build their self-esteem and who foster their talents. What happens to the kids that don't have these benefits? Can it really be like the world that Brennan so ably describes in WEE ROCKETS? Children, and they are children, whose parents condone or even encourage underage drinking and smoking, who know that their kids are out roaming the streets up to no good? Of course it is, we see it in every town in the country.
All through the book I kept thinking about the teachers who try everyday to give these kids an education and how difficult that must be because of other influences from society that are so strong. You may think I'm sounding a bit 'old' here, but well, I am and I can't help wishing that some aspects of society today could be improved. Can the clock be turned back? Probably not. Can things improve for our kids? I don't know, but certainly reading such an indictment of modern society brings the current situation into sharp focus and stops you and I from sticking our heads under our duvets and ignoring the harm that is being done to a generation.
This is a tremendous book and I urge you to read it. ...more
So at around 2am this morning I got to the end of Barney Thomson number 3 and do you know what that stinky wee devil Lindsay made me do? Yep, there ISo at around 2am this morning I got to the end of Barney Thomson number 3 and do you know what that stinky wee devil Lindsay made me do? Yep, there I was desperately scrolling through my kindle to get to Barney Thomson number 4. You know, I've got a lot of other books that I've promised some very nice and well-deserving writers that I'll read and review, there's one about a goat and a couple of cowboys standing at the end of my bed sighing and tapping their toes at me. But no, there I was delving further into the mad world of Barney Thomson, unable to put number 4 down until I was satisfied that... Ah, well - I'm not telling you that, you'll just have to read it for yourself to find out what made me so desperate as I snuggled up in a sleeping bag at the back of my cave.
I was delighted to see the return of Proudfoot in this crazy tale. She's the kind of woman that I like, bored, screwed up and reading trashy novels. Poor wee soul got such a hard time of it up in that monastery with the mad monks, no wonder the polis have put her on lighter duties!
And what about our hero? Wee Barney, the man in the street, the wee chap you see down the co-op buying a single scotch pie? He's in the book too. Just as well I suppose but oh dear, nobody wants to know the wee soul. So many other loonies are turning up at police stations up and down the country claiming to be Barney Thomson that when he visits his local cop shop they send him away with a veritable flee in his ear. Sad wee chap.
There's nothing for it so he goes back to the only thing he knows, cutting hair.
After that there's quite a lot of stuff about murders and serial killers, Lindsay has to put that in because he has a certain quota of dead bodies stipulated in his contract. I think he must get paid pro rata.
There's also quite a few chapters that are pretty much digressions where Lindsay lets rip on all manner of stuff; Elvis features quite heavily in this book.
And if you want sex, yes, there's sex too but I'll warn you, it's Scottish sex so maybe not what you're used to if you're reading this in L.A.
Don't read number 3 if you haven't read 1 & 2 but read them all you must. Crazy, irreverent, nutty, violent, bloody and incredibly well written. How annoying is that? A writer who's so good he makes it look easy...sheesh! ...more
I always like crime stories with dogs. They add a certain smell to the crimes being committed, especially if the dog is dead, so I was delighted to diI always like crime stories with dogs. They add a certain smell to the crimes being committed, especially if the dog is dead, so I was delighted to discover that a dead dog plays quite a large part in DEAD MONEY by Ray Banks. In fact, the section with the dog is one of the best parts in the book and actually made me squeal out loud. Now that's something that doesn't happen very often these days!
The story involves two guys on a very rapid spiral downwards, one pulling the other on a journey into the mirk and slime that you find at the bottom of the barrel or canal. Don't feel too sorry for the guy being pulled, he was always going to make the journey anyway, it was just a matter of time. His friend just sped things up a bit.
I just love this type of noir where you can sit back and wallow in the fact that everything is just going to get worse in the story until you finally reach the bottom where you land with a bump and it takes you quite a while to get your breath back. Banks creates very believable characters. You feel that you know them, that you've met them. They are us. Ordinary folk just trying to make the best of life, keeping their heads above the water until one day a tsunami comes along and washes away every chance of happiness.
We recognise these charters because we've all lied, felt disappointed, been let down, given into temptation. Banks reflects society back at us and what we see isn't pretty but grim and smells like a dead dog. ...more
So I've read quite a few, four I think, of Anthony Neil Smith's previous books and, I'll tell you right now, I love them. He's the kind of writer thatSo I've read quite a few, four I think, of Anthony Neil Smith's previous books and, I'll tell you right now, I love them. He's the kind of writer that when you've finished one book you can't wait to get your teeth into the next. Other books in your massive TBR pile get pushed aside as you dive straight back into Smith's crazy and utterly outrageous world where characters who are larger than life rampage around the countryside blowing people's heads off just after having the dirtiest sex imaginable.
Then along comes ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, published as an ebook by those awfully nice chaps at BLASTED HEATH, and of course with great glee I jumped straight in.
OH HECK! What on earth?...So many thoughts struck me after only the first few pages. This was not the Smith that I knew and loved, this was somebody....mature....who had a strong, no, burning desire to tell a story from his heart, who had worked incredibly hard to craft the book, keeping his outrageous self in check, never putting a foot wrong in his quest to shine a light on a story of world significance that needed to be told.
Impressed? You bet! Anybody who has read Smith knows that the guy can write and tell a story that can hold you right to the end. In ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS he has not just moved onto the next level of being a writer he has rocketed straight up into writing literature because this book is a classic in the making.
When you read a wide variety of books, the perfect package of plot, characters, setting and the ability to wrap these three elements up in a delicate web of words doesn't come along too often. Recently I would rate John Rector's COLD KISS and Benjamin Whitmer's PIKE as examples of this elusive standard. Now I can add a third because ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS is one of the few books that I will read again as there is so much more to gain than one reading can deliver. It's like a juicy orange that needs squeezed more than once or a single malt that can be appreciated not just for its taste but for its aroma and the changing sensations on the palate.
The story moves between Minnesota and Somalia and surely that should be enough to prick your interest. The two places are polar opposites and Smith certainly makes the most of this fact as the changes in temperature and scenery can be physically felt as you read; the icy cold and biting wind in a white landscape followed by the blinding heat of the sun and the dust in your mouth.
Two young Somalis, who had never set foot in their homeland, have become indoctrinated and decide that they must leave Minnesota and head off to play their part in the Islamic rebel army. However, on their way to the airport, a series of events end in a cop's pregnant girlfriend being shot and killed and from there on the story of the young men's entry into hell and the cop's mission to bring the killer to justice unfolds.
Like me, you probably watched the news reports about Mogadishu and thought it was awful but if you read ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS you will gain a totally new perspective on the abominations of the world we live in and be horrified at how we in the West can be so blinded to a genocide while being more concerned about third rate celebs and worthless politicians.
So this is how it went for me last night. I went to bed thinking I'd make a start on Nigel Bird's brand new novella SMOKE and then hopefully manage toSo this is how it went for me last night. I went to bed thinking I'd make a start on Nigel Bird's brand new novella SMOKE and then hopefully manage to get some sleep in. Two hours later I was still reading. Feeling guilty that it was 3am I turned off the light, only to switch it back on at 4.30am to finish reading this superb tale about the high jinx that two young lads get up to in Tranent.
Today will probably call for a sneaky nap at some point but do you know, this story is well worth losing sleep over . What an excellent storyteller Bird is in this tale of love and revenge.
The story alternates between its two main characters, Jimmy and Carlos. Jimmy is still at school, theoretically, but is one of those lads who has fallen through the cracks in the system and is more likely to be seen pounding the streets of his local community begging smokes or getting blitzed out of his head with his mates.
Carlos has a swanky new motorised wheelchair, top notch, and was Jimmy's sister's boyfriend before somebody tied him to a railway line and he lost an arm and a leg. After a long period of therapy he's back on the local scene and hopes that Kylie will take him back and will allow him access to their young son. Problems start when Kylie declares that the child isn't his.........
If you want to know what else happens, go read it for yourself and plenty does happen involving fighting dogs, a Ford Capri and a steam iron.
If you want to understand what is happening in contemporary society in Scotland then Bird is handing it to you here on a plate; kids who have been failed by the education system, poor housing, poor employment and training opportunities, teenage pregnancies, alcohol and drug misuse and a criminal sub culture. Sounds bleak but for many youngsters growing up today, this is their reality and Bird moves into this world with such ease and makes these characters real instead of government statistics.
There's lots of humour too. I loved the idea of Jimmy's trousers being flown over the school instead of one of those awful eco flags.
Mostly Bird writes about how people care for each other; Jimmy's tenderness with his little nephew, his pride in his father, his love for his sister and even in the middle of a cesspool of aggression and violence Bird shows the love Mickey has for Leo, his dog.
If you haven't used that little clicky finger today yet then go use it now, this is a truly great piece of writing with characters that will live long in your mind. I really hope to find out what adventure Jimmy has next. How about it Nigel?...more