Messy Business – Books, Writing, Stuff

Books and books and books …



I have a new book coming out in April – here’s the cover reveal.

I have a new book out on 15 April 2018 called City of Forts. Feast your eyes on the first draft cover below. The eagle-eyed will note there’s a typo of my name on the spine, but that will be fixed for release.

Christopher Lucania, as always, has done a beautiful bit of work. You should check his work out here.

Here’s the blurb:

All thirteen-year-old Ricky Nardilo wants is a fun summer before he and his friends part for school again. But, when he and Liz fall through the floor of an abandoned house and comes face to face with a dead man, the hot months become charged with danger.

The City of Forts is the name Ricky and his friends have given a crescent of abandoned homes at the edge of Town. Lying in the shadow of a disused factory it is their refuge from the Town’s rust, its drug dealers, and the Ghost Boys.

It’s not a refuge for long. The dead man has triggered a gangster’s warpath. Tarantula Man wants to know how his man has disappeared. And he wants to use the City of Forts for his own purposes.

Ricky, Liz, Bixby, and Tanais will not give it up without a fight – and maybe with the help of Floyd, Mr Vale and his son, Charlie, they’ll rid themselves of the invaders.

City of Forts is a dark coming of age crime drama where every street and alleyway is loaded with menace.

Here’s what those in the know have to say about it:

“A haunting tale of death, love, and the American Dream on a US town’s mean streets” –

Keith Nixon, author of the bestselling Konstantin series.

“A brilliant read that explores society and all its cracks. Jason Beech expertly balances the nostalgia of childhood adventures with the brutality of life in a very grown-up and dark town. City of Forts deserves to sit equal with the greats as a piece of entertainment and a study of modern life’s struggle” –

Aidan Thorn, author of When the Music’s Over from Number 13 Press.

To celebrate its release I’ve invited a bunch of really exciting authors to not talk about my book at all, but instead talk about their work. You should check them all out and give them your hard-earned money. I don’t mind if you buy mine either.

The first will run tomorrow, Monday – so tune in to check it out.

In the meantime, you can pre-order City of Forts (ebook version) by clicking here.

The pre-order is $1.99 and £1.49 (so save a couple of bucks/quid).


The German Messenger by David Malcolm

David Malcolm’s The German Messenger, a melancholy spy novel set in the UK during the First World War, is as foggy and moody as its cover suggests. Its protagonist, Harry Draffen happens upon an intrigue involving his opposites on the German side, who aim to land on the British coast and deliver a message. What that message is confuses Harry and his associates, unsure whether it will harm Britain or shorten the disastrous war which has embittered him.
This is a beautifully written novel with a mood which pulls you right in and demands you light a fire and pour some spirits down your neck. It’s an atmospheric tour of the UK from dowdy East End slums to isolated Scottish villages as Harry and his men, Andresj and McLeish hunt down the German Messenger, spilling blood and escaping dodgy predicaments by the skin of their teeth.
You might need a history refresher on what early twentieth century Europe looked like, and how ethnic tensions fizzed and exploded in the old empires, but it won’t distract from the story’s main thread.
The book is more in the Le Carre mould than crash, bang, wallop, and explores the tensions within Britain as much as those in Europe. Draffen and McLeish are Scotsmen, “bag-carriers for the English,” and that bitterness bursts out at times, often on Britain’s enemies. It gives the novel an extra level of welcome confused loyalties in a horribly complex Europe.
If you like a moody spy thriller which is more interested in procedural investigation, philosophy, and the complexities of the European and especially inter-British mindset, you can’t go wrong here.

Dig Two Graves by Keith Nixon

Keith Nixon’s Dig Two Graves is a dark and very enjoyable character study. Solomon Gray is a copper whose life has been put on hold since his son went missing ten years ago at a fairground. In the present is a sixteen year old whose been murdered, and he has Gray’s number on his phone.

From there, Gray is on the hunt for the murderer, complicated by bodies piling up around him. The blame seems to point at him.

The book is more about Gray than the actual murders, and I’m fine with that. I love a dark protagonist and Gray’s life is as storm-ridden as any. He doesn’t know if his son is dead or alive. He doesn’t know if the sixteen year old is his son, though his age pings all possibilities around his racked mind. His wife, Kate, committed suicide in the aftermath of her son’s disappearance, and Gray has a non-relationship with his other child, a daughter.

On top of all that he has to deal with religious busy-body, Alice, who encouraged Kate’s faith, aggressive colleagues, and the possibility of new, complicated love. When the screw is turned you want to swig some of that whisky he throws down his neck.

When the screw turns, I did question Gray’s character. After one particular murder I wanted to bash him over the head with that whisky bottle for not being clear with the police – it felt out of place.

But, if you like mood, setting, and a great character to set your teeth into, this is a classy read.

You can buy Dig Two Graves at:

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (US)


The Guns of Brixton by Paul D. Brazill

The Guns of Brixton is a mutt, bred from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Pulp Fiction, The Sweeney, and the Carry On films. All of this could have been a mushy stew, but Brazill has such a way with words and structure that this is all its own thing. It’s funny, as his books always are, extremely silly, but utterly engaging.

It starts with Big Jim and his accidental killing of Half-pint Harry. They head off to a robbery wearing women’s clothes. Lynne and George have some work boredom to alleviate, and the priest has issues to discuss over food.

After a near car crash, one character, Richard, is about to call the cops when the other car’s inhabitant puts a gun to his head and forces him to drive them away:

“Shit, thought Richard, as he heard the approaching sirens screaming in the distance, why the hell not? It couldn’t be any worse than Camilla’s party.”

Here’s a bunch of criminals and other dodgy characters who revel in their strange, comical lives, and they drag you through their grim lives with a smile smudged across your face.

There’s a whole bunch of viewpoints in the novella, all living disconnected lives from each other. How do they come together? Comically, that’s how.

Brazill’s novella isn’t a massive read, but it’s a good ‘un.

You can buy The Guns of Brixton from:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)



Phoebe Jeebies and the Man Who Annoyed Everybody by Ryan Bracha

It shouldn’t work. The title of the book ought to apply to the reader and annoy the hell out of you, but Ryan Bracha’s Phoebe Jeebies and the Man Who Annoyed Everybody is a cracking book with the sweetest heroine. The Man Who Annoyed Everybody is Tony, an Annoyance Officer who works for a rich brat who wants to cause annoyance to the general public for kicks and laughs. Tony’s good at it. He relishes the job, and recruits others to the cause. But when Phoebe comes into his life, it changes his whole outlook on life and forces him to confront his past.

Bracha is not afraid to make you hate a character (Tony), but, as he did in After Call Work: Verbal Warning, he challenges that hate, twists it, makes you like him/her, slaps you back into despising him, and challenges you all over again. Tony will ruin movies for others at the pictures, cause havoc in the self-publishing book industry, and take joy from his activities. But Phoebe is such a sweetheart, she thaws that cold heart of his.

The danger in such a premise is that Phoebe could be nothing more than a cypher. An object of his love, who he dotes on for no reason than she’s a woman providing a plot point to transform him. But Phoebe pops from the page with her smarts and sharp questioning of Tony’s life and purpose. She has flaws, motives, a past all her own, and you fall in love with her along with Tony.

It’s a book which will make your teeth grind at times (from Tony’s actions), and I think that is intentional. The ending is wild and a little sudden, but the joy is in the characters. Bracha is reminding me, at a weirder level, of Iain Banks – in that it’s not so much the plot which matters (fun as that is), but the company of great characters.

A top read.

You can buy Phoebe Jeebies and the Man Who Annoyed Everybody at:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)


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