Review: The Killing of the Tinkers

The Killing of the Tinkers
Ken Bruen

Blurb:

When Jack Taylor blew town at the end of The Guards his alcoholism was a distant memory and sober dreams of a new life in London were shining in his eyes. In the opening pages of The Killing of the Tinkers, Jack’s back in Galway a year later with a new leather jacket on his back, a pack of smokes in his pocket, a few grams of coke in his waistband, and a pint of Guinness on his mind. So much for new beginnings. Before long he’s sunk into his old patterns, lifting his head from the bar only every few days, appraising his surroundings for mere minutes and then descending deep into the alcoholic, drug-induced fugue he prefers to the real world. But a big gypsy walks into the bar one day during a moment of Jack’s clarity and changes all that with a simple request. Jack knows the look in this man’s eyes, a look of hopelessness mixed with resolve topped off with a quietly simmering rage; he’s seen it in the mirror. Recognizing a kindred soul, Jack agrees to help him, knowing but not admitting that getting involved is going to lead to more bad than good. But in Jack Taylor’s world bad and good are part and parcel of the same lost cause, and besides, no one ever accused Jack of having good sense.

Review:

The latest Bruen I’ve read is actually the second Jack Taylor book, after The Guards. For those keeping score at home, this is when Taylor loses his teeth (mark that on your Jack Taylor Injury Scorecard, a big 50 points). I can’t really explain why I haven’t tried to read them in order; I suppose it’s because if I made a deliberate effort to put them all in order I would read them through in one great orgy of words until they were all done and then where would I be? Probably standing on the streets of the Claddagh listening to Bruen type.

And the Gardaí would come drag me away.

So, it’s better that I just read them in the order in which they cross my path, which happened with this tale of the tinkers and Taylor. He’s still raggedly recovering from his flight after the end of The Guards and the deaths left in his wake. It’s Jack, so he’s managed to screw up his life even more in London and as he returns to Galway, things look bleak. Then he’s asked to help deal with the killings of young tinkers because his former colleagues in the force have no interest in their world. The tinkers give him a home, his friends give him hope and he’s got a good idea who might be behind all the killings.

But you know it’s going to turn out badly because Jack Taylor is a magnet for nightmares. Bruen gives you a Galway that rustles with skittering shadows and malevolence. The circle of recurring characters have been sketched in by this second volume, but they grow more intricately here. Terrible things lie ahead for some and it makes the happy moments even more bittersweet. There’s philosophy, poetry and too much backsliding from Jack. Bruen tells his tales with a ragged beauty, his eloquence matched only by the bleak horror.

Sure it’s grand.

~ K. A. Laity

2013 Derringer Awards

2013 DERRINGER AWARDS TIMELINE

- Submissions will be accepted from Noon ET, January 1, 2013, to 11:59 PM ET January 31, 2013

- Judges will score Derringer submissions February 1–28, 2013, determining the finalists

- Finalists will be announced March 1, 2013

- SMFS members as of December 31, 2012 will vote to determine Derringer winners from March 1-30, 2013

- Derringer winners will be announced March 31, 2013

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 Words)

Best Short Story (1,001 to 4,000 Words)

Best Long Story (4,001 to 8,000 Words)

Best Novelette (8,001 to 20,000 Words)

Review: The Crime Interviews, Vol. 3

The Crime Interviews, Volume 3
Len Wanner

Blurb: If you’re interested in learning about how to write, how to be a writer, or about the writing life in general, what greater resource and pleasure than frank, revealing interviews with some of today’s best-selling authors?

Len Wanner’s acclaimed interview series continues with VOLUME THREE, featuring in-depth interviews with twelve of the leading lights of Scottish crime fiction and with a foreword by William McIlvanney, creator of Jack Laidlaw and the Godfather of tartan noir.

The interviews –

– Peter May talks about writing for television, repairing bad dialogue, researching his China thrillers with the help of the Ministry of Propaganda, and receiving international exposure with a book no British publisher wanted to publish, THE BLACKHOUSE.

– Charles Cumming talks about the rewards of a degree in literature, refining expositional storytelling, researching state secrets at home and abroad, writing the great international spy novel, and being recruited by the SIS.

– Campbell Armstrong talks about going abroad to write about home, giving up on teaching creative writing, getting over the paralysis of a bad sentence, going on stake-outs, giving us his memoirs, and getting commissioned to novelise Indiana Jones.

– Caro Ramsay talks about teaching herself how to write with her back against the wall, learning how to write crime fiction from agents and editors, teaching herself how to compartmentalise, and learning how to finish a book.

– Aline Templeton talks about diving in and out of writing, writing a series of cosy police procedurals based on a subterranean cave system, living in the city yet writing about the countryside, and discovering that a fictional protagonist is a living person.

– Lin Anderson talks about the transferrable skills of teaching mathematics and calculating a career in creative writing, the constants of writing about a female serial protagonist, the variables of forensic science, and the lessons of fictional and factual near-death situations.

– Alex Gray talks about the rewards of writing about a policeman twenty years younger than her, returning to education, researching as she writes, writing about what she doesn’t know, and writing rather than retiring.

– Gillian Galbraith talks about learning to nurture her talent for the uncollaborative nature of writing, letting go of her legal career to write about the limits of institutional justice, and leaving her comfort zone as a way of finding her voice and writing about her home.

– GJ Moffat talks about what remains of his initial impulses and his international influences, the rules broken in most legal thrillers, and the rewards of letting his lawyer-cum-judge-cum-executioner break the rules of his day job.

– Craig Robertson talks about the joys of fiction in and after journalism, the pleasure of writing for himself, the pressure of writing for others, the need for brutality in editing, and the greed for brutality in writing.

– Ken McClure talks about the science of storytelling, the survival rate of a series of medical thrillers, the appeal of being his own agent, his second coming as an e-book bestseller, and his involvement in the identification of Gulf War Syndrome.

– And Frederic Lindsay talks about the best ways to propel and pause plots, invent manner along with matter, make the familiar strange with the weight of experience, and exhaust potential to energise narrative.

Review: I may be accused of bias toward all things Scottish, but I certainly enjoyed this third outing of Wanner’s interviews as much or more than the other two. Interviews depend largely on the subjects, of course, and there’s a great bunch here. But the real important part comes from asking the right questions and not always settling for the answers you get without probing a little more and that’s where Wanner truly shines. Well worth the price — a master class in different approaches to writing well.

~ K. A. Laity

Review: Death on A Hot Afternoon

Death on a Hot Afternoon
Paul D. Brazill

After the violent events in the novelette Red Esperanto, freelance journalist Luke Case, escapes snow smothered Warsaw and heads off  to the heat of Madrid. The English hack encounters an old man with a violent past and a mysterious torch singer, during a scorching and deadly Spanish summer.

Review: I’m a sucker for Brazill’s singularly laconic style and his hapless heroes — or is it too grand to call them heroes? Main characters? Saps? No, they’re seldom suckers — just not particularly well prepared, thoughtful or lucky. You can move Luke Case around to a new city, but the seedy world seems to follow him there, whether it’s a Peruvian pan pipe band playing ‘Ring of Fire’ or any of a variety of other off-hand pop culture references (Arthur, Mr B? Priceless). If Luke Case manages to survive, it’s not down to his own skills or perspicacity — but surely there are enough gods to watch over drunks and fools. The fun is watching it all unfold.

Bundle this together with other Lite Editions and make your own noir collection.

~ K. A. Laity

Review: Apostle Rising

Apostle Rising
Richard Godwin

Detective Chief Inspector Frank Castle never caught the Woodlands Killer and it almost destroyed him. Now years later, mauled by the press and traumatised by nightmares, he is faced with a copycat killer with detailed inside knowledge of the original case.

He and his partner DI Jacki Stone enter a deadly labyrinth, and at its centre is the man Castle believes was responsible for the first killings. He’s running a sinister cult and playing dark mind games with the police. The investigation has a shattering effect on the lives of Castle and Stone. The killer is crucifying politicians, and he keeps raising the stakes and slipping through their hands. Dark coded ritualistic killings are being carried out on high profile figures and the body count is rising. Castle employs a brilliant psychologist to help him solve the case, and he begins to dig into the killer’s psyche. But some psychopaths are cleverer than others.

Review: Godwin offers a brutal tale of murder, trauma and heartbreaking suffering. Castle and Stone face a villain whose chutzpah is matched only by his malevolence — and his seeming inability to get caught. Castle, haunted by the elusive killer years before, has been consumed by the case, drinking his way out of his marriage and nearly his job. Stone finds herself slipping toward the same fate, and begins fighting her way back from it. The addition of a second set of serial murders seems impossibly vicious — the only thing worse is that the two killers seem to be working in concert.

Not for the faint of heart, Apostle Rising offers a bloody bouquet of excruciating murders and bizarre religious mania. Right down to the final, cruel twist of discovery, each page offers more horror. But you read on in hopes that Castle and Stone will survive ad that they will finally stop the unrepentant mastermind behind the crimes. Prepare your heart for darkness — and like most of the characters in this book, you’ll probably want a strong glass of something to help you bear it.

~ K. A. Laity

Review: Vin of Venus


 
VIN OF VENUS
Beat to a Pulp * 99¢
Written by David Cranmer & Paul D. Brazill & Garnett Elliott

 

Synopsis:
Vin, bereft of half his limbs and his memory, struggles between two worlds–the mist-shrouded, verdant hell of ancient Venus and the mean streets of modern Europe–battling both alien monstrosities and underworld villains on his quest to recover his identity. Along the way he is aided by an unlikely cast of allies, as well as the mysterious, ruby-encrusted bracelet that serves as the only link between his heroic past and grim present. Written in classic pulp-style, VIN OF VENUS mixes Hardboiled and Sword and Planet elements in a genre-bending series of action tales.

 

Review:
Chances are you’re not going to read anything quite like this novella: imagine if John Carter split his time between Mars and life as a thug in the modern world. Vin doesn’t quite know if the dreams he has are a life remembered or just a delusion. The harsh reality of his life — missing limbs and constantly the target of an endless line of mysterious people he sometimes half remembers — lends credence to the likelihood of the life on Venus being just an escape, but there’s the mysterious ruby bracelet that seems to be evidence of technology beyond this world. I think this starts out stronger than it finishes (such as it finishes — there is no resolution, it is a continuing yarn), but there’s a lot of fun along the way. I think I liked the Venus moments best when they were only snapshots, as in the start, but there’s some great adventure in the longer passages set there. I did like the giant insect riders! It would make a good action television series. A unique read and a good value for the price.

From Idea to Page: Weird Noir

Out soon from Fox Spirit Books!

How do you get from the idea to the story? Here’s a few more of the Weird Noir crew to tell you how they made their uncanny dreams come true:

Creating “Sins of the Brother” by Karina Fabian
 
“It’s been done, Kitten.”
 
I sighed. Talking to my well-read husband could be like sleeping on a bed of tacks—everywhere you turn, there’s a sharp point. For half an hour, I’d brought up story ideas only to have them shot down.
 
“Fine, but I need a unique angle for a dragon story. I want to be in this anthology.”
 
He shrugged, his deep brown eyes echoing my frustration. That’s when the kids called us down to watch Whose Line Is It, Anyway. It’s a comedy improve show, where the actors perform sketches. Much of the humor flew over the kids’ heads like a Concord, but we loved it anyway, especially when they did the noir skits.
 
That’s when it hit me: I could do noir…with a dragon.
 
Meet Vern: an undersized dragon working off a geas from St. George to regain his dragon greatness. Vern lives on the wrong side of the Interdimensional Gap and works as a professional problem solver for people on the right side of Good but the shady side of Law. Vern first appeared in “DragonEye, PI” in Firestorm of Dragons, and has been in two published novels and numerous stories since. He’s uptight, cynical, and sometimes, very funny.
 
But not in the case of “Sins of the Brother.” Patterned after the 1954 movie, World For Ransom, Vern has to solve a kidnapping while protecting the kidnapper. Rather than a femme fatal, Vern’s doing it for a friend who sacrificed his life to protect Vern in the past. The romantic tension is replaced by the tension between Corsican twins, and the political backdrop of two worlds—one of magic, one of technology–forced to get along.

I hope you enjoy the story, and if you like it, you’ll check out Vern’s website at http://dragoneyepi.net. There, you’ll find a list of his books and stories, plus his newsletter and blog.
 

Andrez Bergen

I started writing ‘East of Écarté’ as a background piece for Floyd Maquina, my narrator from Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, intended to address a comment he made in the pages of TSMG: “Turns out they were Seeker Branch reps and were recruiting me because of my experience as a private investigator (I don’t know why — I was a hack — but that’s a long story for another day and another book).”

But when I decided to steer the unfinished yarn into ‘weird noir’ territory to suit K.A. Laity’s upcoming anthology, it stood to reason I needed to ditch Floyd — who’s rooted in a real if surreal, dystopic/dystrophic world — and induct my other detective character Roy Scherer, of Scherer and Miller, Investigators of the Paranormal and Supermundane.

Aside from the fact he dabbles with the supernatural, Roy is most things Floyd is not. Floyd is more I: self-doubting, addicted to movies, a lush. Roy is the rumble-and-tumble type, cocky and cynical.

Here Roy is younger and fresher than in the other stories I’ve written about him and his partner Suzie. He hasn’t reached the pinnacle of sarcasm and cynicism but he’s started the trek.

Mocha Stockholm is a wink at my daughter Cocoa, six years old when I put together this story (she just turned seven). While I write, she’s often entertaining herself dancing ballet beside me in our tiny Tokyo apartment that’s 33 square metres. She accompanies DVDs of performances by Aurélie Dupont, Gillian Murphy and Dorothée Gilbert. Like Mocha, Cocoa adores ballet and creates her own choreography on the fly, with touches of comedy, so of course I glance her way and it’s had its influence.

The character of the male dancer here, Bruno Lermentov, is heavily based on Bruno the “Slobokian Acrobatic Bear” from Robert McKimson’s Bugs Bunny cartoon Big Top Bunny (1951) — a favourite for me and Cocoa — while the artistic director of the ballet company, Murray Helpman, is a loose nod to the great Sir Robert Helpmann, the Australian ballet dancer who choreographed The Red Shoes (1948) and played the evil Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

Finally, there are some subverted quotes and character names buried in here from a wealth of ballet-oriented movies, everything from Dario Argento’s Suspiria to Center Stage. Why not?

 

How I Wrote Gus Weatherbourne

By Michael S. Chong

After I saw the submission request for Weird Noir, I was hanging out with my friend Mike the Bike, who owns a bicycle shop, and he mentioned a friend named “Gus Weatherbourne” but I probably didn’t hear him correctly.  Right away that name struck me as a great one and I started to think of the person with that moniker.

Next time, I had some free time at my old job, I started writing about the man with this name.  I wrote a short draft of a few paragraphs and liked the character.  About a week or so later, I lost that job and spent a subsequent stormy day finishing the story.  While the thunder crashed outside, Gus with his left clawed hand and his right hand of lightning helped me let the small stuff just roll off…

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