Friday, 24 March 2017

OUT NOW: Bay of Martyrs

Sooo, the day has finally arrived. BAY OF MARTYRS is out!

If you like the sound of 'True Detective Down Under' then this is the boyo for you. Co-written by the excellent Aussie scribe, Matt Neal, you can walk into any good book store - and a few shit ones - in Scotland right now, hand over legal tender (or shoplift it) and walk out with the bad boy.

You can also pay a visit to the website place that sells books. Where we have a cracking first 5-star review in place, which states: ''I thoroughly enjoyed Bay of Martyrs. It is a thumping good read which held my attention throughout.''

There's a few more reviews out there, including Shots, who say: ''Aussie noir has a certain ring to it, almost like the sound of half-empty lager cans being banged together at the end of a test match. If this is the start of a new wave in crime writing, you can expect Tony Black and Matt Neal to surf it all the way to Bondi beach.''

Matt does a fine job of pimping our wares down at the Highland Times, that northern paper of note, too. And there's an interview with the very man on Paul D. Brazill's brilliant blog, where he reveals a certain fondness for The Muppets, among other things.

:: BAY OF MARTYRS is out now on Amazon UK   Amazon USA   Amazon AU

Thursday, 16 March 2017

True Detective on the Australian Coast

FOR those of you paying attention it can't have escaped your notice that there is a new book with my name on it fast approaching. But, not only my name! Let me explain ...

''True Detective on the Australian coast''
A few years back I worked beside a precocious journalist by the name of Matt Neal. Soon after meeting Mr Neal I hatched the dastardly plan of harnessing his talents in service of my own, er, dastardly plan. It took more than a decade, and pulling in copious favours from all my Illuminati contacts, but hey presto!

Yes, Mr Neal was duly signed into servitude on BAY OF MARTYRS and what a beezer of a job he's done on all the heavy lifting. The book, which is being described as ''True Detective on the Australian coast'' is out this month, March 23 to be precise but for those of you interested in reviewing on blogs etc there are some review copies kicking about at my publishers, Freight.

The excellent Freight have a detailed run-down on the book's plot on their website for those of you keen on that kind of thing, but I'll shove in a few quotes from big name authors here just for the sake of bumming us up:

''This is one hell of read, two authors is a tricky gig and most times results in desultory effect. But here are two writers so in sync that it is seamless. A get in yer face, down and dynamic read that grips and enthrals. Tony Black at the very height of his terrific talent and now with a double act to enrich his solid rep.''
-Ken Bruen, author of The Guards and Priest 

''This was a great read. Really cool, interesting and unusual locales, with a fast-paced thriller narrative and some very sexy lead characters. Highly recommended.''

-Tony Cavanaugh, author of Promise and Dead Girl Sing

Drop Freight or me a line if you fancy reviewing BAY OF MARTYRS or, indeed, interviewing myself or Mr Neal about his ordeal.

:: Bay of Martyrs is available in bookstores and on Amazon.  

Wednesday, 21 December 2016


For a limited period you can grab a copy of the latest DI Bob Valentine novel for under a pound.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Push-Ups: Grant McKenzie

So, what you pushing right now?
My 10th thriller, The Butcher’s Son, brings back Child Protection Officer Ian Quinn in a stand-alone sequel to last year’s The Fear In Her Eyes. Attentive readers will also note Portland Homicide Detective Jersey Castle from my thriller Speak The Dead also pops by.

What’s the hook?
Ian Quinn has spent his life protecting children from the monsters that live among us. As a child protection officer, Ian places their lives above his own, and has no qualms about getting his hands dirty when it comes to protecting those who can't protect themselves. Years ago, Ian was unable to protect his own daughter when she was killed, and has channeled the anger and sadness into his vocation. Ian has tried to bury his past. But the past is far from done with him.
Ian's own father left years ago, leaving Ian and his mother alone. But out of the blue Ian is called by an attorney, claiming his father has recently died and named Ian in his will. Ian had assumed his father was long dead. When Ian goes to the lawyer's office, he is given three items:
The first is a key.
The second is a deed to his grandfather's old butcher shop.
The third is a letter from his father that reads simply and cryptically: "Sorry for everything, son, but it's your burden now."

And why’s that floating your boat?
The Butcher’s Son is a story about family secrets, both the spoken and unspoken, and how they can affect one’s life. Ian is a man who has been tempered in fire, but there has always been something missing. Despite his inherent toughness, which is wrapped like armour around a broken core, Ian has always wondered why everyone he loves ends up leaving. His sister vanished without a trace when he was a child. Two years later, his grandfather died and his father vanished after the funeral. And in The Fear In Her Eyes, he had to deal with the mysterious death of his daughter, and the collapse of his marriage. But now, in The Butcher’s Son, he gets to find some answers. And those answers lead him down a jagged path full of bloody secrets and violent threats that he had no idea about.

When did you turn to crime?
I have always read crime novels from the young-adult mysteries of Enid Blyton to the teen novels of S.E. Hinton. I started my first novel in junior high as an exercise for myself to see if I could do it. And then in high school, I devoured the hardboiled mysteries of Mickey Spillane and John D. MacDonald, the noir of Chandler and Hammett, and the wonderfully gifted Gregory Mcdonald whose Fletch novels inspired me to keep writing. As a young journalist working the Dead Body Beat at 19, I was exposed to the underbelly of reality and saw that crime was messy, violence was sloppy and some very bad people got away with a lot of bad shit. Naturally, this also influenced how and what I wrote.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
I like and read all of it, really. But I do find myself relishing the hardboiled stuff, which is mostly out of the UK. Hardboiled writers have a tendency to break more boundaries and don’t fear where they tread.

And, what’s blown you away lately?
I’ve been reading a lot of cool stuff lately from some favourite authors such as Robert McCammon, Gregg Hurwitz, Dennis LeHane, James Rollins, Ken Bruen, and, of course, M.C. Grant’s Dixie Flynn trilogy.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
All of the Grant McKenzie novels would make brilliant movies. The screenplay for K.A.R.M.A. won a Praxis Fellowship, but why No Cry For Help hasn’t been snapped up by the film folk already is a head scratcher.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
I read in both paper and digital.
I still prefer the feel of a printed book, and tend to buy my favourite authors in paper, but I enjoy the convenience of my ereader, especially when reading at night or when I’m camping in my old VW Westie. I’ve been published by both mainstream and Indie, and can say good and bad things about both.

Shout us a website worth visiting … - A wonderful organization that helps the homeless and people living in poverty.

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Born in Scotland, living in Canada, and writing American fiction, I wear a toque with my kilt and six-guns. I was born in East Kilbride, Scotland, and moved to Canada with my family when I was 13. Most of my novels are set on the west coast of America from Port Angeles to San Francisco, but with occasional forages across the border into Canada. It’s fun being able to visit the places I write about, digging up odd bits of history and local colour to add to the narrative. As a long, long time comic book fan, one of my secret goals, apart from actually making a living at this writing gig, is to write some comic books.

:: Check out Grant's website:

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

I did some stuff, and some other stuff

It's Tuesday, or something, which means it must be time for the Friday update once again. Yes it's that more of me, me, me bollocks that seems to be the go these days.

So, here we are:

First off, if you didn't already know, Book Week Scotland will soon be upon us and I'm out and about pimping my wares at a number of venues this year. You can catch me at the following spots that were kind enough to invite my raggedy-ass along:

MONTROSE............Monday 21st Nov

DUMFRIES..............Wed 23rd Nov

MORNINGSIDE.........Thurs 24th Nov

DANDERHALL..........Fri 25th Nov

I'll be reading from SUMMONING THE DEAD, my new DI Bob Valentine book, which brings me nicely onto the latest promo activities which have been cropping up.

The Arran Banner - because it's a paper run by very nice people - had me back for a post-launch lead where reporter Hugh Boag recalled the night in Brodick Library where Bob 3 met the world. A great wee piece and, again, The Banner being very good to me, as usual. 

The Edinburgh Evening News (more nice, kind folks) put together a few pars on the new book too, with nice mentions for the two gigs I'm doing in the city - Morningside and Danmderhall - for BWS.

A host of new reviews have appeared for SUMMONING THE DEAD. 

Shots Mag called it, 'a gripping, horrifying and well-paced tale of crime fiction'.

Little Bookness Lane said its 'sensitively grounded and assured plot has you rooting for DI Valentine'.

The Welsh Librarian really got the story, saying,  'Summoning the dead seems somehow harder and more realistic than some of the fiction in its genre and for that it’s author can only be applauded. To keep a prolific reader hooked from start to finish is no mean feat. An excellent crime novel, and I shall be seeking more from this author'.

I've also written a little piece about my reading habits over at Crime Worm.

And finally, in other news, I can confirm the publication date of my next novel - BAY OF MARTYRS - which I've written with Matt Neal will be March 20, 2017.

And finally, finally, big thanks to Blackwells Book Store in Edinburgh for the very nice promotion on SUMMONING THE DEAD, pity I have to share a shelf with Tony Blair, though.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Catch the Australian Crimewave

Jock Serong.
By Jock Serong

Why read Australian crime fiction? Because it’s going through a really interesting time. 
Crime fiction everywhere has a problem with derivation. Jaded cops, a city on the edge. Gimme your badge and your gun – you’re off the case. Don’t get me wrong: these tropes are highly functional: they’re overused because they’re known to pull readers through the pages. The problem is, they might summon the Chicago back alleys but they don’t speak for Ipswich, Geelong or Darwin.
You sent convicts over here so it’s natural we’d be sending crime writers back. And there’s a generation coming through who have abandoned the conventions in favour of something much more interesting: crime as an expression of the national mood. What the hell do I mean by that? It’s hard to describe but you know it when you see it. Peter Temple talking about corruption. Adrian Hyland dissecting our mining boom through the eyes of a female indigenous protagonist. Angela Savage, who specialises in south-east Asia, and has expertly tackled difficult aspects of our proximity to the region including sex tourism and adoption fraud.
I could go on and on: Barry Maitland on bikies, psychiatrist Anne Buist on bi-polar, and two excellent books that explore our epidemic levels of domestic violence: Anna George’s What Came Before, and Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident. Then there’s P.M. Newton’s book Beams Falling, which studies crime amongst the Vietnamese community in Sydney’s Cabramatta. Her first novel, The Old School, used a crime scene as a stunning metaphor for our history: the remains of Aboriginal activists, found in the footings of a building during demolition.
Everything in literature starts with the familiar and works its way out into unknown lands, and Australian crime fiction is no exception. The foundation stone in this country, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886) was written by an Englishman and – I’ll be burned for heresy – it could’ve been set in London. Fast-forward a hundred years and Paul McLauren put the weapons and methods of modern white policing in the hands of an Aboriginal detective, subverting the lazy assumptions that had built up over a century. Indigenous writer Nicole Watson did likewise in The Boundary, as did Peter Docker with his devastating depiction of real events in Sweet One.
Available now.
We’re a society crammed into a narrow coastal fringe between enormous ocean and equally forbidding desert. And into that slender ribbon of greenery we’ve packed all our ambitions and insecurities and pretensions. People order New York-style loft apartments off the plan. Our gangsters pay cash for Lamborghinis and Harley Davidsons so they can cut frustrated laps of the cafĂ© district. Look at me, you pricks. And deep in our bones the whole bloody lot of us know we’re wobbling atop a pile of unanswered questions. Silences that have closed over our brutalising of the first Australians, our pretending there aren’t desperate refugees knocking on our door. Garry Disher says crime fiction is a barometer of social tensions, and nowhere is that statement truer than here.
I called it a national mood a moment ago and there’s a specific reason for that. I’m not saying everyone’s in a state of denial. If we were, we wouldn’t be seeing these books. In order to set ourselves up as an affluent modern society, Australians have been overlooking some grievous deeds and we know it. Our crime fiction is now looking over the overlooking.

:: Buy THE RULES OF BACK YARD CRICKET by Jock Serong on Amazon.

Friday, 14 October 2016


THE third Bob Valentine novel is here. SUMMONING THE DEAD is available to buy now, though the official launch will take place next Thurs, Oct 20, in the scenic surrounds of Brodick on the isle of Arran. 

The local paper, The Banner, has very kindly put out a lovely piece on the new book, with a run down on the plot and some dodgy ramblings from the author.

Likewise, The Highland Times, that newspaper of note, has done a piece where I yabber uncontrollably about the contents of said tome. (More news about the Highland Times soon, and a new books column that will involve the newest releases).

Sticking with the new book theme, and why wouldn't we, there's a kind and erudite review over at Undiscovered Scotland that declares SUMMONING THE DEAD "a highly engaging and entertainingly gritty read ... Highly recommended".

The kindness continues over at Amazon where Bob's third outing is clocking up some very catchy reviews:

"This is one of the best books I've read this year. An intriguing plot, well developed characters and something to really make it stand out with Valentine's supernatural abilities ... I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime suspense/thrillers.'' 

(5 Stars)

''This was a really well written book, on a highly sensitive, and emotive subject – the abuse and murder of two young boys. ... I loved his character, and would love to read more about him, so will be checking out more from this author!'' (5 Stars)

''Brilliant story and the first I've read of this author. I'm going to treat myself to the series so far and hope there is more to come. The story had me hooked straight away and kept me rooting for the good guys till the end. A tough subject to cover but sensitively handled. Loved it and would definitely recommend.'' (5 Stars)

If you're a book blogger my publishers still have some review copies of SUMMONING THE DEAD to dish out. Drop them a line at: 

or find them on Twitter or Facebook.

:: The launch party in Brodick Library is free and open to everyone. There will be free booze, some crackers (present company included) and signed books available.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

PUSH-UPS: Michael J. Malone

Michael J. Malone.
So what you pushing right now?
My new book is called A Suitable Lie and it comes atcha from that publishing powerhouse, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books.

What’s the hook?
The blurb reads thusly: Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she's his perfect match... And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. 

And why’s that floating your boat?
I started writing and researching this book in 1998, so it’s brilliant to see it reach the light of the bookshops. I’m torturing a metaphor there, but you know what I mean, right?

When did you turn to crime?
When I stepped back from the writing of BLOOD TEARS, the third book I wrote, but the first to be published, I realised I’d written a crime novel. So it was a happy accident really, and if I’d been consciously trying to write one I’m not sure I could have. I was convinced I didn’t have the plotting chops to please the reader. But as the man said, you don’t know if you can do it, until you do it.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
I lean more to the contemporary, but I’m partial to shades of hardboiled and noir.

And, what’s blown you away lately?
I mentioned Orenda Books earlier? The publisher there, Karen Sullivan has an amazing eye, I’ve loved pretty much everything she’s put out so far. It’s difficult to play favourites but Amanda Jenning, In Her Wake had me in tears, as did Louise Beech’s The Mountain in my Shoe (I know, I’m a big soft lump) Also loved Michael Grothaus’ Epiphany Jones – probably the most exciting new voice in fiction I’ve read in recent years.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
Yup. All of the above. And ALL of mine.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Not fussed if it’s mainstream or indie, all I want is a good book. Both are capable of producing crackers – both are capable of producing stuff that doesn’t do it for me.
And it’s got to be paper. I really struggle with reading from a screen. It has the feel of a manuscript and I can’t relax into the reading, and just want to edit.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
You should all have a look at my new publisher’s website - and check out what Karen is up to. Very few publishers ever manage to achieve the level of brand awareness she has, in only 22 or so months. Do you ever hear of people saying they must look to see what Headline are producing next? Orenda get that all the time. Can you tell I’m a fan of her work?

:: Buy A SUITABLE LIE on Amazon.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Friday Update

Well, it's been a couple of months since the last one, which tells me it must be time for another regular Friday update of all the bollocks I've been getting up to. 

Top of the rack has to be my seventh CWA Dagger nomination. This year I'm on the shortlist for the esteemed Dagger in the Library, which is a huge honour especially when you take a look at the competition. The winner is announced at an awards ceremony in London on October 11, so I have fingers and toes crossed that it's seventh time lucky this year. The Banner and the Highland Times did very nice pieces on the shortlisting. 

Had a lovely time in Stirling talking to a group of book lovers at the Off The Page Festival, where I had the chance to pose for a cheesy pic of myself with my latest tomes. In the next few weeks I'll be doing readings at Coatbridge Library, Dumfries and Dundee - more details later.

Latest books arriving are the audio version of A TASTE OF ASHES by ISIS, who have done a very tasty job on the cover. The words, as ever, are read by the brilliant Perrier Award-winner Garth Cruickshank - if I could only get him to do my live readings too! 

And en route for an October 6 landing in book stores is SUMMONING THE DEAD (currently available for advance order on Amazon). Published by excellent Edinburgh publisher Black & White it's DI Bob Valentine book 3 and I'm quietly very chuffed with this one. Bob's delving into the case of the discovery of a boy's mummified body in a barrel in the heart of the Ayrshire countryside. Warning: my wife cried at this one, I think it's the split-narrative with the little boy, a technique I first used in HIS FATHER'S SON.

And, finally, I can break the news about my new Aussie-set crime series with the phenomenal talent that is Australian writer Matt Neal. BAY OF MARTYRS is the first in a series to feature Clay Moloney a SW-Victorian reporter with a serious nose for trouble. The first two books in the series will be published by Scottish Publisher of the Year, Freight, and if our editor's reaction to this one is anything to go by then you'll love it, too! BAY OF MARTYRS is released early next year, here's the run-down:

Washed-up hack Clayton ‘Clay’ Moloney has found a place to hide from his past on south-west Victoria’s shipwreck coast. He might call himself a journalist but his editor knows the hottest story he’ll be filing is an update on the bushfire season, that is until the body of a teenage girl washes up in the Bay of Martyrs. It’s clear she’s a victim of murder but everything else about the case is shrouded in mystery. From the politician and the industrialist with secrets to hide to the drug dealer and local prostitute who know more than they’re letting on, Clay’s lot has never been more troubled, and his desire for justice never keener.  

And, finally finally, you can now catch the film director Pete Martin made of The Ringer stage play at Ayr Gaiety. It's your chance to see Bryan Larkin in the role of Tambo before he went on to star alongside Gerard Butler in London Has Fallen.

:: SUMMONING THE DEAD is released on October 6 and is currently available for advance order on Amazon. Launch date details coming soon. If you're a reviewer and would like an advance copy, drop me an email and will get that sent along.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

PUSH-UPS: Graham Smith

Graham Smith.
So, what you pushing right now? 
My novella Matching the Evidence which is actually released today. (8th September) 
What’s the hook? 
It’s the second novella / short story collection in my DI Harry Evans series and sees him “relegated” to crowd control between Carlisle United supporters and Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers. As ever, he finds himself dealing with far more than originally designated.
And why’s that floating your boat? 

I love the idea of catching readers unaware with hidden elements which only come to light as the story progresses.
When did you turn to crime? 
I’ve been a criminal since first being given a Famous five book since the age of eight.  It was only five years ago that I moved into organised crime though.
Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
I’m more than happy with either hard-boiled or noir but almost all of my reading is contemporary although I do plan to one day read some of the classics.
And, what’s blown you away lately? 
Streets of Darkness by A.A. Dhand was an outstanding debut filled with pace, presence and character and I’m currently reading The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid by Craig Russell which is simply fantastic.
See any books as movies waiting to happen? 
Streets of Darkness has been bought by the BBC but I’d love to see any of Craig Russell’s Lennox series made into a film.
Mainstream or indie - paper or digital? 
I will read anything so long as it’s a good story. My own reading preference is paper but I do see the advantages of ereaders. I say each to their own so long as avid readers are being connected with some of the great authors that are out there.  
Shout us a website worth visiting … which I’m proud to be a reviewer for.  It’s a fantastic resource for connecting readers with great books.

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself … 
There’s not a lot to tell really. I’m now at that stage in my life where I have more waist and less hair than I’d like. I also used to be so good at football I won trophies. For playing darts.

:: Buy Matching the Evidence on Amazon

Friday, 26 August 2016

COMING SOON: October 6

It's not here yet, but I can reveal a little of what SUMMONING THE DEAD is about ....

'We have a dead child, and a crime scene that has been remarkably well kept for us.'

A young child lies mummified in a barrel. His hands, cable-tied, appear to be locked in prayer. As forensic officers remove the boy they are in for an even bigger shock - he is not alone.

With his near-fatal stabbing almost a memory, DI Bob Valentine is settling back into life on the force but he knows nothing will ever be the same. Haunted by unearthly visions that appear like waking dreams, he soon understands he is being inducted into one of Scotland's darkest secrets.

The boy in the barrel is identified as a missing child from the 1980s, re-opening a cold case that was previously thought unsolvable. When further remains are unearthed, the facts point to a paedophile ring and political conspiracy that leads all the way to the most hallowed corridors of power. 

Summoning the Dead is a fast-moving mystery that eerily mirrors current events and reimagines a supernatural source rooting out the evil among us.   

:: You can order SUMMONING THE DEAD on Amazon now.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

PUSHER VERDICT: Cold London Blues by Paul D Brazill

Firstly, apologies for the delay in this review to the author Paul D Brazill. He was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, COLD LONDON BLUES, weeks, if not months ago, and it's been sitting around taunting me since.

There's a priest on the cover. Very Bruen. And always a good start.

The priest has bloody hands and the kind of look Vinnie Jones reserved for Gazza when he was grabbing his nut-sack. So, yeah, right up my street.

Brazill is a writer I've followed for a few years now. He writes about the kind of edgy, street scrapper that I go for. His stories move like a crack whore on roller skates too - that's fast and in directions you don't tend to see coming. 

COLD LONDON BLUES is no exception. It opens with perhaps the best first-par I've read all year. The first par is a novel's storefront, if it doesn't draw you in, the writer's failed. I'm not going to recount it here, buy the book ffs! But let's just say it gets out the blocks like Usain Bolt.

The pace never falters from there. A stream of London lowlives come and go, each illuminating their own share of the darkness. There's wisecracks, soundtracks and spades of humour. 

If you like your crime fiction gritty, but with a polished edge, then CLB is for you. Brazill has delivered another hurtling, scare-em-up, seat-of-the-pants ride that leads all the way to the blackest heart of darkness. A beaut of a book. 

:: Buy COLD LONDON BLUES by Paul D Brazill at Amazon

Monday, 15 August 2016

PUSH-UPS: John Shepphird.

John Shepphird.
So, what you pushing right now?
August 15th marks the release of Beware the Shill, the third novella in my trilogy beginning with The Shill and continuing with Kill the Shill.   
What’s the hook?
On the mean streets of Los Angeles we find Jane Innes a broke, down-on-her-luck actress. She falls for a con man and agrees to help him in his scheme--impersonating a rich and carefree heiress. But Jane grew up poor so pulling off the role is a challenge. Cooper must school her. This echoes themes from Pygmalion or My Fair Lady--it’s all about deception. 
Things go from bad to worse and she finds herself fighting for her life. The books are part capers, part mysteries, and all thrillers weaving through Los Angeles, New York, Florida, the Caribbean, and finally California’s Central Coast.  
This is the book trailer for the series:
And why’s that floating your boat?
I’m drawn to embracing flawed protagonists.  I have directed a handful of TV movies over the years and Jane Innes is a hybrid of actresses I’ve known and worked with driven by blind ambition.  She’s not really an anti-hero but rather a character on the wrong path. Ultimately she must pull off the performance of her life in order to survive.
When did you turn to crime?
As a kid I was drawn by reruns of 70s crime television such as Dragnet, Hawaii Five-O, and The Streets of San Francisco. As a filmmaker my first film was Teenage Bonnie and Klepto Clyde.  
I started writing short fiction as a creative outlet and was honored to be published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I hit the jackpot when my debut story was first nominated and then won the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. The second short story in that series was nominated for the Anthony. They also feature deception, which is a theme in most of my fiction. 
Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary
Contemporary noir.  I like to brush in a bit of historical that tends to mirror what’s going on in the present. Kill the Shill ties in the treacherous female pirate Anne Bonny. Beware the Shill features nefarious characters from the California Gold Rush. 
And, what’s blown you away lately?
Beachhead by Jeffery Hess, a fantastic debut, and The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton. As an audiobook I recommend the gritty NYC cop novel Precinct; Siberia by Tom Philbin-- a revival of sorts. This is true 80s pulp, a Gold Medal/Fawcett paperback published at the end of the dime-store paperback era. It captures New York City in the 1980s. The audiobook was just released by Blackstone Audio.
See any books as movies waiting to happen?
I have plans to develop The Shill trilogy into a television series.  
Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Indie publisher Down & Out Books is my publisher and the books available in both digital and in paperback. I’m honored to be included among Down & Out’s stable of authors.       
Shout us a website worth visiting … because book #1 in the series, The Shill, is available for FREE.  Dip your toe in the water. Check it out.
Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself … 
When not writing crime fiction I produce television promos for TVG, America’s horseracing network. Someday soon I want to make it to the Theakson Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. It’s on my bucket list and I just need a reason.   

Thanks to CWA Dagger and Not the Booker shortlisted author and huge crime writing talent Tony Black for generously allowing the shelf space.  

:: Visit John's website at:

Saturday, 13 August 2016

That Rings a Bell

Video footage of double Bafta-wining actor Brian Larkin - recently seen in London Has Fallen with Gerard Butler - and my far less impressive self has emerged. We're on STV Glasgow talking about the stage play of The Ringer, starring Brian, Ayr's own Chris Taylor and the excellent Evelyn Adams.

The play was adapted by Edinburgh-based Pete Martin, who improved massively on the novella I must say. The production was filmed and has recently been added to Pete's Vimeo page which you can reach by following this link. It runs to over an hour but is well worth the effort.

:: The Ringer is available in paperback and eBook on Amazon UK.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

PUSHER VERDICT: Black Cradle by u.v. ray

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."

U.v ray must have missed the memo from Oscar Wilde because there is nothing even remotely samey about his writing. 

In fact, Black Cradle, his latest tome is testament to his ability to go his own way. Plough his own furrow. Hoe his own row.

Ray, I can call him that because Facebook says we're friends, is a one-off. Take this quote of his that I've swiped from said social media behemoth:

"I never refer to my books as having a plot. I don't write plots. I always refer to it as the book's meaning. Still plugging away at my current work, The Savage City. Its meaning hasn't revealed itself to me yet. But it will as I go on..."

Black Cradle may not have a typical plot, but it has plenty of story. And a finely told tale it is too. The characterisation is laid heavy on every page, and these are characters you want to know more about. Not because they're sympathetic in the traditional sense, but because they earn your empathy. 

Black Cradle is peopled with the worn-down, the fag-ends of a society in ruin. You could be forgiven for thinking this was a dystopian novel, such is Ray's skill in showing us just how close we were to 1984 in the novel's setting of Birmingham in 1986.

The central character is Billy Zero, a 23-year-old who has just been released from hospital after an attempted suicide. With blurred images of the men in white coats and a bottle of valium in his pocket he sets about trying to piece together his past by assaulting the future.

Billy's first encounter is a rent boy in a public toilet who offers to nosh him off before they get talking about drugs. From there the kaleidoscope turns frequently, if never once actually bringing reality into focus.

Black Cradle is a raucous, rowdy read. There's very little to compare it to -- Ray doesn't even stick to standard punctuation -- so don't expect to have seen any of this before. Do expect to be shocked, confused, thrilled and more than a little invigorated. 

:: Black Cradle by u.v. ray is published by Murder Slim press. Buy on Amazon.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

PUSH-UPS: Lesley Kelly

Sandstone's Lesley Kelly.
So, what you pushing right now?
I’ve got some Tartan Noir for your delight and delectation!  A Fine House in Trinity is a contemporary crime novel, set in the Leith and Trinity areas of Edinburgh.

What’s the hook?
Joseph Staines left town with a stolen tallybook, but two suspicious deaths and a surprise inheritance have lured him back home to Edinburgh.  No-one is pleased to see him.  The debtors want him gone.  The Police have some questions for him.  And a mysterious stranger has been asking about him down the pub. To survive Staines has to sober up, solve the murders, and stay one step ahead of the man who wants him dead.

And why’s that floating your boat?
Trinity, where I live, is full of big, old houses rumoured to have secret rooms, which were used either to avoid the press gang or to hide goods from the Revenues men in days of yore.   There are also whispers about hidden tunnels that led down to the shore to aid and abet local smugglers.  Frankly, the area was just crying out to be the setting for a crime novel.

When did you turn to crime?
It’s been a year or two now.  A Fine House started out as an entry for the Scotsman’s short story competition, celebrating 25 years of Rebus.  I won the comp, and have stuck with a life of crime (writing).

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
Like a bit of them all, so long as there is a big dose of wit between the covers. I do like a protagonist with a snappy line in banter.

And, what’s blown you away lately?
I recently discovered the works of Yrsa Sigursdottir.  She’s quite annoyingly good.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
Just finished Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin.  Somebody must be planning to film it, possibly with a world-weary Winona Ryder as the main character.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
I always said that I would never get a Kindle, but after a ten-day walking holiday I’m beginning to think there might be a place for one in my rucksack.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
If you are looking for a good way to kill someone, check out Thrillwriting: Helping Writers Write it Right 

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
I had a brief stint as a stand up comedian in the mid-Noughties.  There’s less heckling in literature.

PUSHER VERDICT: A Fine House in Trinity

Plush Trinity isn't the usual haunt of a sometime resident of the east end of Edinburgh so the thought of picking up a book titled A Fine House in Trinity is a a bit of an odd choice. But after browsing a couple of pages in Waterstone's I was intrigued enough to want to read on.

At a guess, it was something about the style which attracted me. This isn't your normal crime novel; it's an edgy, witty read. Try this on for size, I think it proves my point, and the previous one:

Trinity's that kind of place; if you farted round there they'd be on the phone to the Council worrying about the impact on the ozone layer.

The author, a former stand-up comic who also dabbled in poetry, has created a style of writing that's a million miles away from the norm and the book stands out because of it.

The story moves along at a fair clip, too, delivering just the necessary substance the committed crime reader demands. A very fine addition to the Tartan Noir pack.

:: Buy A Fine House in Trinity on Amazon UK.