a book a week 1.6

Post-Bouchercon review time. A lot of new friends and a few recommendations later, I'm swamped with more books on my plate than ever before. But how can I complain? It only gets better and better. On to the reviews!

Bar Scars

Bar Scars by Nik Korpon

Nik Korpon was one of the usual suspects in the small group I toured with most of the time around the Bouchercon campus. A very cool guy and a fantastic writer. I had a great time talking everything from Baltimore to Pigeon books with him (parents with small children...it happens). So it was cool to see that his short story collection, BAR SCARS, was set in Baltimore.

This collection is DARK. One of my favorite kind of books - that I enjoy even more by putting down after a couple of stories and letting them soak in, rather than reading straight through. My favorite story was "A Sparrow with White Scars," followed by "His Footsteps are Made of Soot," and "Haymaker." Heartbreaking stuff and awesome prose.

Happy to be sharing a ToC with Nik in the newly release NOIR NATION #3.

DixieMoon

Under the Dixie Moon by Ro Cuzon

Ro Cuzon was another cool cat in the small crew I rolled around with at Bouchercon. I was sold the moment another writer deemed UNDER THE DIXIE MOON to be like the television show, THE WIRE, only set in New Orleans. Like some of my favorite books, the setting, New Orleans, plays a huge role in UNDER THE DIXIE MOON - almost a character itself. It took me a few pages to get into the novel, but once I was in tune with Cuzon's style, I was hooked to the finish. Cuzon weaves a gritty, complex tale with compelling characters that I found myself liking more and more as I got to know them (even those 'unlikeable' ones). Solid Noir.

BladeofDishonor

Blade of Dishonor by Thomas Pluck

Action-packed, pulpy goodness! I met Tom only a couple of times in passing and he's one of several writers I wish I had more time with. I'd been meaning to buy BLADE OF DISHONOR all weekend and as luck would have it, I won it by answering one of Todd Robinson's THUGLIT questions correctly at the "Noir at the Bar" panel. BLADE OF DISHONOR was a lot of fun and you can tell the amount of passion and research that Pluck put into it, especially for the WWII storyline. In a way, this book is like getting two stories for the price of one; the story of Butch, the main character's father, could stand on it's own as an excellent book, and while I enjoyed Rage Cage Reeve's storyline, I found myself looking forward to the next installment of WWII action with each passing chapter. Looking forward to more pulp from Pluck.

Drift

Drift by Jon McGoran

DRIFT had been on my 'to read' list since it was released and received praise from several of my friends. In another case of "wish I had read it before I met the author" (of which I appear to have a chronic condition), I had the great pleasure of hearing McGoran read at the "Noir at the Bar" panel (a great back and forth between the main character, Doyle Carrick, and his partner) and chatting with him again, later that night.

I found DRIFT (an excellent and very appropriate title, by the way...) to be compelling and entertaining on a number of fronts, not the least of which was centering the mystery around GMOs. McGoran successfully instructed me on a foreign subject matter without slowing the pace of the story and/or dumping paragraphs of information. I loved the small town setting and the suspended/powerless cop vs. Sheriff struggle early on, and the transformation of their relationship. Tightly paced, great characters and a fascinating mystery. I'm looking forward to McGoran's next book, the sequel to DRIFT, entitled, DEADOUT, coming summer 2014.

NEXT FROM BOUCHERCON: Looking forward to Johnny Shaw's BIG MARIA, Joe R. Lansdale's THE THICKET, and Ed Kurtz's BLEED.

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Shotgun Honey!

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It goes without saying that one of the best moments of Bouchercon 2013 was getting the Shotgun Honey crew together in person for the first time. Jen, Erik and Ron are wonderful people, and I'm more proud than ever to be in their company.

Not only are they wonderful people, but they produce some excellent fiction as well. Check out their latest works (several of which are available online for free) at the links below:

Ron Earl Phillips - "The Last Shot" (5 Broken Winchesters)

Jen Conley - "Mary Mulligan" (Grand Central Noir), "Kick" (Literary Orphans), "Howling" (Beat to a Pulp), AND her story, "Finn's Missing Sister" (NEEDLE) was shortlisted for BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2013!

Erik Arneson - "Noose of Trust" (GRIFT), "Oh Well" (Flash Fiction Offensive), "All Alone" (RELOADED)

RELOADED!

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RELOADED BOTH BARRELS Vol 2 is out and boy is she a beaut! Available in both paperback and e-book, but with gorgeous front/back cover art from the talented Joe DellaGatta, this is a book you'll want to have on your shelf. RELOADED was a blast to work on, and I hope you all enjoy it. Hats off to fellow editors Ron Earl Phillips and Jen Conley, and a HUGE thank you to all the contributors.

SHOTGUN HONEY, the premier crime and noir flash fiction website, is locked and RELOADED with 25 new stories by some of the best authors in the world. Featuring work from Patti Abbott, Hector Acosta, Erik Arneson, Cheri Ause, Trey R. Barker, Eric Beetner, Terence Butler, Joe Clifford, Garnett Elliott, Rob W. Hart, Andy Henion, John Kenyon, Nick Kolakowski, Ed Kurtz, Frank Larnerd, Chris Leek, Mike Loniewski, Bracken MacLeod, Julia Madeleine, Brian Panowich, Terry Rietta, Rie Sheridan Rose, Ryan Sayles, Richard Thomas and John Weagly.

Available through Amazon.

a book a week 1.3

Officially making this a monthly post. On to Round Three of mini-reviews: Fags and Lager Booze and Burn

Fags and Lager (retitled Booze and Burn) by Charlie Williams

"Royston Blake don't wipe arses for no fucker. I'm just being meta...you know, meta...I'm just saying like." BOOZE AND BURN has solidified the Mangel Series as some of my favorite books. I spent far too much time away after reading DEADFOLK (read my review here.) But I'm happy to say that BOOZE AND BURN held it's own and I'll be reading the next three books before the year is out. In BOOZE AND BURN, another outsider has arrived in the city of Mangel and kids are causing all kinds of disorderly mess. As Blake says so eloquently, "I'm Royston fucking Blake, and every cunt knows where I stands on outsiders. They don't scare us and I ain't fooled by their ways." The book takes place a couple of years after DEADFOLK, and Williams does a brilliant job making it stand on its own without dumping information about the events in DEADFOLK on the reader. Readers interested in a truly unique voice and a heavy dose of black humor should look no further.

Choke Hold

Choke Hold by Christa Faust

The sequel to Faust's Money Shot, CHOKE HOLD catches up with Angel Dare after the previous book's events wrap up - or so you think. CHOKE HOLD succeeds because of its believable characters and story. This isn't just an episodic series where characters heal and get a fresh restart. There are real consequences for Angel's actions and it's been great to watch her grow (and survive) over two novels. Hoping for a third!

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Junkie Love by Joe Clifford

JUNKIE LOVE is a compelling wild ride in which Clifford lays his soul bare and pulls no punches. I think another reviewer may have described it best as "making you feel like you're rubbernecking a multi-car accident on the highway." To me, it felt like watching a swimmer come up for a little less air each time before dunking their face back in to take another stroke. A fascinating story and one hell of a gutsy book.

A Wind of Knives

A Wind of Knives by Ed Kurtz

Having enjoyed Kurtz's action-packed entry in the Sam Truman series, I was eager to pick up his latest novella. I'm a big fan of Westerns, though more through film and television than in print. I've read a lot of Western short stories but nothing novella/novel length. I went into A WIND OF KNIVES without reading the back cover blurb or any reviews, and I was pleasantly surprised with the direction Kurtz took with his tale of revenge. A WIND OF KNIVES is a story about love and revenge, but also about change. The novella takes place during the Civil War. A time of great upheaval when men were being conscripted into the Confederate Army and law enforcement spread thin between common crimes, deserters and the 'Indian threat.' It's during this time that the protagonist, Daniel Hays, finds his ranch hand (and lover) tortured and hanged by a gang of hateful men. What follows is a fast-paced tale full of memorable characters and events that will stand up well next to any Western piece of fiction.

Babyjuice

Baby Juice by Brian Panowich

Being a fan of Zelmer Pulp, how could I not snap up a kindle single with a title like BABY JUICE? Panowich's sample of the upcoming Zelmer Pulp weird west collection introduces Harmon Brown, more beast than man and haunted by his past. BABY JUICE contains a lot of background on Brown that I hope Panowich delves into in future tales. BABY JUICE is an action-packed romp through 1880's Dodge City, teeming with weird western flair that made me wish I still had my old Deadlands books. Looking forward to more Weird Westerns.

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Asylum - 13 Tales of Terror by Matt Drabble

I'm a sucker for asylum horror. From Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island to House on Haunted Hill (yes, I'll admit even the remake possessed a few parts I enjoyed). So Matt Drabble's ASYLUM - 13 TALES OF TERROR was right up my alley. The book follows Martin Parcell, former writer turned janitor at the Blackwater Heights hospital. I enjoyed the stories from Martin's perspective and learning about the patients and staff at the hospital, how they came to be there and why they remain. A few of the stories contained truly chilling moments and were just the right length to keep me coming back for more.

a book a week

For 2013 I made a resolution to read a book a week and review at least two a month. While I'm lagging a bit on reviews, I've done fairly well at keeping pace with my weekly reading. Here are a few of my recent favorites I think you'll enjoy... Crimes in Southern Indiana     Donnybrook

Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook by Frank Bill

Frank Bill has quickly become one of my favorite writers. CRIMES is a dark and twisted ride, dripping with authentic voice. It's a book that you should let sink in and take your time with over multiple sessions. It's easily one of my favorite short story collections, one that I'll continue to return to reread over the years. And given my praise for CRIMES, how could I not enjoy DONNYBROOK? Like a story from CRIMES, stretched to novel form, once DONNYBROOK gets hold of you, there is no putting it down. I read the book on a flight from Boston to Las Vegas in one sitting. Put these two in your library.

The Year of the Storm

The Year of the Storm by John Mantooth

A terrific debut novel from John Mantooth. Read my review here and pick up a copy when it's released on June 3!

The Hard Bounce

The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson

Well written and fast paced, Robinson's tale of two bouncers on the trail of a missing teenager in Boston is hard to put down (especially since I live in Boston). The book feels historical in a sense that it captures a gritty part of the city that is all but gone (strange coincidence just before I read THE HARD BOUNCE, The Boston Phoenix shut down). Another great debut novel that I highly recommend.

Needle

Needle Fall/Winter 2012 edited by Steve Weddle

Worth it for Dan O'Shea's story, "The Shroud of Turin," alone. I rarely (and I mean rarely) have to put down a book, but this one got to me. If you are a father (especially a relatively new one such as myself), O'Shea's tale of a father struggling to take care of his son will break you heart.

I'm Not Sam     The Passenger

I'm Not Sam and The Passenger by Jack Ketchum

I've recently been on a bit of a novella kick. I won't venture into the plot of either - as with much of Jack Ketchum's work, the less you know the better, and doubly so with I'M NOT SAM. THE PASSENGER was included in one of the paperback editions of Ketchum's novel RED (one of my favorite books). I'M NOT SAM is new and available solo. Both of these stories will horrify and continue to lurk in your brain.

Fierce Bitches

Fierce Bitches by Jedidiah Ayres

I'm a fan of the guys at Crime Factory and as soon as I saw the blurbs for FIERCE BITCHES, I knew I had to pick it up. Ayres brutal novella is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino - a kind of Pulp Fiction meets Django Unchained. Lightning fast pace combined with an interesting structure that will keep you glued to the page. The book felt partly experimental, and if so, it was a resounding success.

Catch My Killer

Catch My Killer by Ed Kurtz

Kurtz knocks it out of the park with the first of the Sam Truman series. Enjoyable characters (especially Sam) and a great sense of humor. Reminded be a bit of Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series. Ron Earl Phillips has an in depth look at the Sam Truman series here. Looking forward to reading book two - The Last Invasion by Brandon Zuern.

Thuglit Issue 4

Thuglit Issue #4 edited by Todd Robinson

Because it's a crackin' good issue and I've got a story in there to boot!

What about you, readers? What's on your nightstand?

Next on deck:

Penance  Broken Branch  The Street  Choke Hold  Fags and Lager  Capture  Lush Situation  Abyss

Penance: A Chicago Thriller by Dan O'Shea

Broken Branch by John Mantooth

The Street by Ann Petry

Choke Hold by Christa Faust

Fags & Lager by Charlie Williams

Capture by Roger Smith

Lush Situation by K.A. Laity

Staring into the Abyss by Richard Thomas