Messy Business – Books, Writing, Stuff

Books and books and books …



Remember by Shervin Jamali

Shervin Jamali’s Remember continues the author’s exploration of heaven and hell, wrapped up this time in a quite beautiful love story.

The story starts, Up-like, with a couple parted by cancer and the husband left devastated and useless without his better half, confused about her last words that though they had met late in life they had known each other before.

One visit to an enigmatic hypnotherapist sends Daniel onto a wild journey which shows how he died, goes to heaven, and looks to reincarnation for reunion with his wife.

The stakes are high – what if he never meets her and they forget each other forever? The romance is buffeted by darkness, some intense brutality, some bitter humour – but highlights Jamali’s light at the end of his cynicism.

The book is not my usual cup of tea. It has its flaws. I would have liked a longer story which explored events a little more deeply. It sometimes skirts over complex events that could have done with more drama. And I wish he didn’t use “baby” when talking to his love. It makes it sound a little cheesy and dated.

But those are small gripes in what is a soaring love letter to the romance life holds if you fight for the love of your life.

You can buy Remember from Amazon HERE.


You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Tess Makovesky

I grabbed the man by the collar and shook him until he blubbered. I handed him a tissue to wipe the fear snot from his flared nostrils.

“I didn’t do it. I swear I didn’t do it.”

I looked to the side at the leg which hung out of a bed of bricks from the wall which had crumbled on top of him.

“Then who did it? Say it.”

I held no intimidation in his ping pong eyes. He’d seen what this other could do. “No. Nooo. She’s an urban legend. She doesn’t exist.

The man turned out to be some guitarist in a tribute band.

Another brick in the wall thudded to the ground, somewhere.

A day later a farmer had called in about a body in the sheep pen, convinced the grass munchers had not killed him. The corpse had a bass guitar lying by his side. The wind-blasted lines on the man’s face grew deeper when I figured he knew the real cause of death.

“Speak up,” I said. “I can’t hear you.”


“T? T what? Is that a Yorkshirism?”

“No. B-b-b-but, no, she’s an urban legend. She’s not real.”

The next death was a man, like the others I’d learned, of dubious morality. The dentist said he’d found him in the dental chair that morning, numb and in seeming comfort, drumsticks in his hand.

“You see anyone around?”

The dentist shuffled his feet, shook his head, appraised my teeth.

“I know you know. Say her name.”

“Tess …”

“Tess what? Say her name.”

His hands shook and he dropped his clipboard. He scrambled to pick it up and ushered me out. Turned the sign to ‘Closed.’

The next man to meet his maker hung high from a tree by the cord of his mic – his last great gig, but in the sky. He had long hair and a 60s/70s vibe, and wore his Pink Floyd outfit from the tribute gig he’d done the night of his death. The same Pink Floyd tribute band as the others.

“You can come out, Tess Makovesky.”

Tess stepped out of the shadows but remained a silhouette against the setting sun. “You followed the clues, Mr Beech.”

“You killed Pink Floyd.”

“No – I killed their tribute act. They slaughtered every song I love until I couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Seems a little extreme.”

“You don’t mess with the Floyd, Beech. Now, what do you want now you’ve found me.”

“I want my answers.”

She tilted her head and her smile broke out of the shadows. “Well … you better follow me.”

Tess Makovesky wrote a bonkers short story featured at Spelk Fiction a few months ago which sums her up. She’s dark, unorthodox, and a lot of fun. She has short stories across a ton of online magazines and print anthologies, and her novella, Raise the Blade has been praised as blackly comic. You should read her stuff.

A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that. What words do you have for such a philistine?

Tess Makovesky (TM): I’d suggest they try short stories first – some of them are excellent, they’re a great introduction to the world of fiction (and different genres), and if they’re still not keen, at least they won’t have wasted too much time reading them!

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

TM: Complexity – I hate characters who are all good or all bad. Every human being has a complex mixture of traits and personality; an interesting character mirrors that. Their motives must also be believable and internally consistent. I don’t like characters who do things because the plot needs them to, rather than because it’s something they would genuinely do.

Raise the Blade cover

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

TM: No, I’m quite happy for a main character to be pretty unpleasant, as long as they have at least one redeeming feature and/or good reason to be so unpleasant. I need something I can connect with or some understanding of what makes them the way they are.

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

TM: At the moment I’m enjoying the TV series Brotherhood, with a great performance by Jason Isaacs as gangster Michael Caffee (apparently loosely based on Whitey Bulger). The writing is excellent because in amongst the shocking, casual violence and murders, he has a strong code of ethics and will risk his own life to protect those around him. That level of complexity and intelligence in a drama is quite unusual.

Crime Syndicate Magazine Issue One: A Magazine of Crime Fiction (Volume 1)

What makes you throw a book out the window?

TM: Lack of research and/or the sense that the author expects the reader to swallow any old rubbish. I once read a book where the author wrote the main characters into such a hopeless dead end that she had to have the Archangel Michael come down to rescue them. And that was on top of a long list of historical inaccuracies and general silliness. It’s the only time I’ve ever literally thrown a book across the room…

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

TM: I used to be much better at persevering but these days I feel life’s too short and will tend to give up after a few chapters if the writing and/or story are just not for me.

What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

TM: If I knew the answer to that one I’d bottle it, sell it and make myself rich! Seriously, I think it’s a mixture of all kinds of things. Movies and TV definitely, plus other books, plus stuff I’ve read about on the news, plus dreams, music, things I overhear… All it takes is that one little spark, that voice saying ‘yes, but what if…’ and I’m off. Of course, actually finishing the damn book is another matter…

Last Word

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

TM: To have confidence that I can actually sustain my ideas over the course of a full-length novel. I’ve always tended to write shorter stuff up to now – short stories and a couple of novellas. But some of my friends pinned me to the wall and insisted I try to work my latest book up into a novel, so I gave it a go and succeeded. I’m very grateful to them.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

TM:Gravy Train, in which a gang of losers chase a bag of money around Birmingham but have problems hanging on to it… Due out in November from All Due Respect.

Where can readers connect with you?

TM: I lurk all over the internet so they shouldn’t have too much difficulty tripping over me. Try my website ( or my blog (, or for more day-to-day stuff there’s Facebook ( or Twitter ( Hope to see everyone there!

And a big fat thank you to Jason for letting me ramble on about myself all over his blog!

Here’s a few of Tess’ short stories to chomp on:

The Red Umbrella at Spelk Fiction

Scorpio at Thrills, Kills, and Chaos

Badge of Honour at Pulp Metal Magazine

Enjoy the Trip at Shotgun Honey

You can buy Tess Makovesky’s books at Amazon US and UK.

You can buy City of Forts for a special pre-order price HERE. It is also available in paperback.

City of Forts promo - Aidan Thorn

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 $0.99 and 99p (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)

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