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crime fiction

A Small Sacrifice by Dana King

Dana King’s A Small Sacrifice is an entertaining and smart private dick novel. Nick Forte gets into a case all about clearing a woman’s son from the murder of his child, which quickly escalates into attempts on his life as he realises this thing reaches deeper into Chicago’s underbelly than at first glance.

The plot is intricate, smart, and well played. The violence is short and sharp, and spare. King doesn’t dwell on the kid’s murder, but at the book’s end, there’s some graphic bloodletting. The book’s core is the mystery, the process, his internal monologue and the wrestle of his conscience about what he must do to stay alive in the mess he’s trod in. And that is where it sings. The action is fun when it happens but it’s definitely the second act to the chit-chat and finding his moral compass.

Good fun.

You can buy A Small Sacrifice at Amazons US and UK.

“I fucking love this book” – David Nemeth, Unlawful Acts, on Never Go Back.

Stuff Added to the TBR List This Week

No words. Just images.

Buy Never Go Back

All Due Respect Magazine, Issue 2

This thing has been on the Kindle for a few years, which shows the mad build-up of stuff I’ve stored on there, but this was worth the wait.

It kicks off with Owen Laukkanen’s N.F.G., an excellent slice of fishing boat noir, where the story revolves around the careless owner’s son and an old hand, Earl, whose full of stories nobody but the narrator listens to. Crammed around a tiny table in the ship’s galley in their quieter moments, tension arises from the son’s attitude and builds to a Biblical climax. Excellent rise in tension amidst the pressure of hauls, the wild sea, and dive-bombing seagulls. A great way to start the anthology.

They’re all very good noir tales, and one of the standouts is CS DeWildt’s Decomposition is the Universe Forgetting Itself. This bit of madness starts with Tommy Skaggs stealing money from a neighbouring trailer, and you’re already against him with the way he talks to the young girl he finds alone in there. He walks out with the money and an uneasy feeling in the reader’s stomach, and it gets worse when he robs the store and kills the cashier. You think the rest would be about his escape, but when he jumps over the wall into the trees which neighbour the backyard of a demented old woman, the story slides into a weirdness that’ll make you gag all the way to the end. It’s brilliant.

Eric Beetner’s Ice Cold Alibi is Hitchcock stirred into Sweeney Todd, with a protagonist you’ll love to hate, a tale of strong women and useless men. Top stuff.

Liam Sweeny’s God’s Country is a sweaty drug-runner tale that’ll hurt your stomach as you read it, and Scott Adlerberg’s The Gulf is a Belize set beauty stitching racial snipes and gender fears together in a complex tale. A white woman from Vermont travels with her black Brooklyn boyfriend to a so-called independent Belize where British troops still patrol – Adlerberg weaves in colonialism, white-woman-with-black-man anxieties, black-man-with-white-woman anxieties, male-female power imbalances, male pride, and female anger at having to deal with men’s obsession with her body so she can’t just be. Throw in an unwanted pregnancy and you have enough here for a novel, but Adlerberg, without an ounce of preachiness, makes an impactful noir tale out of it all in a short space. This one had me waking up thinking about it the next morning more than the others, but it’s a cherry on top of an excellent cake all round.

You can buy All Due Respect, Issue 2, from Amazons US and UK.

You Must Have a Death Wish by Matt Phillips

Matt Phillips’ You Must Have a Death Wish is a fun blast of noir which follows three men through their disastrous decision-making – Moonie Sykes who is branching out to become a hit-man and who finds it difficult to harden his heart for it; Gato, a man so pissed at an associate he wants Moonie to kill him and then maybe set him up for the murder, and Larry Aces, the dodgy property businessman who screwed Gato over.

If you’ve read any Matt Phillips you’ll expect violence, some offbeat conversations, and an explosive finale. I powered through this one, and though there’s some gruesome acts to make you wince, this felt more of a lighthearted romp from Phillips than the other two I’ve read – Know Me from Smoke and Countdown where the consequences really hurt.

The main man, Moonie, is a fantastic character, full of heart, always looking for a way up, but somehow lacking the immorality you need to get ahead in the crime world. Gato is a lizard – cold, calculating, and holds a grudge only the splash of blood can cool. Larry Aces is funny, wildly immoral, performs one act you can’t ever forgive him for, and spews rubbish out of his mouth every sentence. A proper scumbag.

The one character I didn’t buy is Zelda who hooks up with Larry Aces after he goes on the lam, drawn way too thin compared to the richness Phillips always gives his characters. I didn’t get what she wanted, she seemed to hate Aces and yet stayed with him it seems just for the size of his dick.

Other than that, a rip-roaring bit of pulpy noir.

You can buy You Must Have a Death Wish direct from Fahrenheit Press or Amazons US and UK.

Beau Johnson’s All of Them to Burn.

Beau Johnson has dropped in for a cup of tea laced with beer and hardcore violence to talk about his new book, All of Them to Burn, out on 24 February from Down & Out Books. I just need to know who the author is he speaks of.

Hi, Beau, what’s this new book you’ve written?

Right out of the gate then, is it? Okay. I see how this works. But first, Jason, I want to thank you for having me. You have always been so gracious with me, my answers notwithstanding. Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, the new book is the same as the previous books I suppose. New stories, of course. New adventures. But set up the same way the others have played out. Some one-offs. Some time-travel. But at its heart sits what always has: Bishop Rider and his continued struggle. More to the point: the end of it.

Bishop Rider rolls on, righting the world’s wrongs – but the world has a whole lot of wrong. How does Bishop cope with this knowledge, that his revenge can never be finished in his lifetime?

He knows. Has accepted the fact many times over. But it doesn’t deter the man. “It’s not the way killin’ is done.” He’d say, or something to that effect, and steamrolls on in an attempt to get as many as he can before he can no longer “go to work.”

And how about redemption. Bishop seeks it, but the things he does – even if it is to the scum of the Earth – must pile on the weight of his sins. Do you see him ever reaching a point of redemption?

Never. The man has too much hate. I even broach this very subject in ALL OF THEM TO BURN. In one story, a character tells Bishop he thought he’d feel different after Bishop lets this man kill the man who’d killed his child. “That’s the secret, Hoss,” Bishop says to this man. “You never do.”

How has Bishop developed since The Big Machine Eats, his second outing.

Well, funny you should ask. Seeing as I’ve always told Bishop’s story out of sequence for some reason, many things have occurred since the Big guy last ate. One, he continues to deal with the fallout of being down a limb. Not a whole limb, mind you, just the bottom part of what I call his kicking leg. Then there’s the whole Kincaid thing, which involves what Rider sees as his greatest mistake, and how it comes back to haunt him. There’s also the bit about his death, too, but maybe we save that for another day.

You’ve noted that people around you give you sideways glances after reading your work. Now I know it’s fiction, but what we write comes out of us. What percentage of you is Bishop Rider, and what do you tell friends who question your state of mind?

Ha! 90/10 split all the way! Rider being the furthest thing from his creator as you can possibly get. Which makes it all the more enjoyable when I do get those sideway glances (insert maniacal laughter here).

What’s your view on the state of the world?

I can’t, m’man. It kills me. Apologies.

You’re a massive advocate for other writers, which is top stuff. Who are you mad for right now?

I’m currently reading ORPHAN X by Gregg Hurwitz. Great stuff so far. And my last read was MY DARKEST PRAYER by Shawn Cosby. Top notch. Great voice. Great story. Great book. As I’ve been known to say: go on, get some. On the horizon I have GRETCHEN by Shannon Kirk and MAXINE UNLEASHES DOOMSDAY by Nick Kolakowski.

You’re itching to write. Life gets in the way and you end the day with your plans still in your head. Out of ten, how mad are you and how do you deal with it?

Since my wife and kids got me this handy dandy cell phone four years ago not so mad. I mean, I’ve now written one and half books on a phone for crying out loud! Weird times, my friend. Weird times.

You’ve said you’re an acquired taste. What kind of reader loves you all over their taste buds?

More than I ever thought would, to tell you the truth. I feel I’ve gotten better at writing, or maybe stronger is a fairer word, but I’ll acknowledge I took a hit early in my career, just before A BETTER KIND OF HATE came out. A bigger name than I will ever be, a writer I loved, let’s just say I wasn’t their acquired taste. And I know I’ll never be to everyone’s liking, I do, and you’d have to be some kind of moron to think along such lines, but it doesn’t mean it hurts any less to understand that someone you admired sees you as such.

What’s your next book? Is it written, planned, or still brewing and stewing in your mind?

Too soon to tell, but I will say this: a funny thing happened on the way to editing ALL OF THEM TO BURN…

Any last words, Beau?

Not only is Jason Beech a gentlemen and fellow wordsmith of the dark, you should check out his books too! I hear the latest one is a corker. All told, during my next purchase round, I might just have to get it myself.

You can buy All of Them to Burn direct from publisher, Down & Out Books, or from Amazons US, UK, And more.

Since Beau and I talked he’s announced that he will release another book featuring Bishop Rider, Brand New Dark. When the time comes I’ll take the pool ball out of his mouth and allow him to talk about it.

In the meantime, get involved in some Bishop Rider stories

Known Associates published by Story and Grit.

Knit One, Purl Two published by Shotgun Honey

Displeased published by Spelk Fiction

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