Monday, 31 October 2011

Keeping Quiet by Victoria Watson

This is a doleful and melancholy tale. Victoria Watson charts the life of a woman born before the war. She manages to convey the details of a sad, lonely and sheltered life excellently. The main character is always caring and constantly keeping the peace between warring family members. Her domineering mother takes away her finest years day by painful day.

As downbeat as the story is, you are left feeling uplifted and grateful for what you have got in your own life. An extremely strong and reflective story from the author. If you read it in an environment that allows you to concentrate on the minutiae of the story it is a powerful and emotive exploration of the characters life. Victoria Watson continues to delight and surprise with the depth and variety of her writing. She is most definitely an author to watch out for.

Download Keeping Quiet HERE
You can find Victoria's blog HERE

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Smoke by Nigel Bird

Ever since I first read Dirty Old Town by Nigel I have been a fan of his short stories. The collection which followed it Beat On The Brat only reinforced this feeling. When I heard that Nigel had a novella out I was excited at the prospect of reading it.  I wanted to see how Nigel would handle longer fiction and he didn’t disappoint me.

Bird brings us a unique flavour in the setting of the town of Tranent. Like most writers of his considerable talent you can’t quite put your finger on the singular thing that makes his writing unique. Smoke is Brit Grit at its very finest. Think in terms of Layer Cake or Snatch.

The story starts with Jimmy being humiliated at school and vowing revenge against his nemesis Sean Mulligan. Things go downhill for Jimmy very quickly from there. This is also the story of Carlo who we first saw in Nigel’s story An Arm And A Leg which appeared in The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime 8.

The story is set in the middle of a huge dog fighting tournament and one or two scenes excellently convey the brutality of this horrendous pastime. I won’t grace it with the word sport.  Nigel’s writing often deals dark settings and damaged characters and this is particularly true for Smoke.  The two main characters in Smoke are physically damaged in different ways.  However, don’t let this put you off, always with Nigel’s fantastic writing there is humour and a nugget of hope. There is always a shot at redemption for these characters. The story is left open and we could possibly see the return of one of the characters in the future. I do hope so it would be great to see the setting of Tranent again.

I started off as a fan of Nigel Bird’s and my admiration for his work has only increased with the addition of Smoke to his portfolio.

Download Smoke HERE

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Longcroft Estate needs YOUR Talent!

Writers do you dare step into the shadowy alleyways of the Longcroft Estate? Will you go for a drink in the dingy Red Lion or the Rampant Horse? Maybe you could have a drunken snack in Kebab King. If you have been inspired by my tales from the Longcroft Estate you now have the opportunity to write your own story in this challenging setting. Trestle Press will publish your story as the fourth in the series. The third story Rowan’s Folly will be out in the very near future.

Stories ideally must be 2,000 words or preferably longer. However, shorter stories will be considered if they are excellent. A well as myself there are two independent judges who will read the submissions and judge the best. Those judges are talented writers Nick Quantrill and Nick Boldock so you know these guys have an eye for a great story. 

If there is more than one story that really shines for us then we will consider also integrating it into the series at a later date with the author's permission.

I’d encourage writers to reuse places and/or characters that have already appeared or at least been mentioned in the series but it is by no means mandatory.  Let your imagination roam the litter strewn streets of the Longcroft and hit us with your best shot.

Please send all submissions to:

Please put LONGCROFT STORY in the subject line. Closing date for submissions is 19th December 2011. If you have any questions then please address them to me via email.

If you are new to the Longcroft series you might like to download them to familiarise yourself with the setting. Please see the links below for information. Both stories are only 86p / $1.34 downloads.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Blood Guilt by Ben Cheetham

This is the first novel I have read by Ben Cheetham and it won't be the last. Blood Guilt is a cracking page turner of a thriller. I found it well written, suspenseful and above all believable. Cheetham whilst cranking up the tension never once over does it. The dialogue is snappy, clever and again totally believable.

Blood Guilt is, I feel, as well as being an excellent story an exploration into the what if. By this I mean what if your own life turned to crap due to one event? What if you had nothing to lose and let the darker side of your character roam around and seek vengeance where in order to atone for guilt? Cheetham managed to engage me totally with the story

Harlan is desperate to make amends for killing a man and he puts aside everything else in his life in his quest to help the widow. He crosses the line again and again. I found my frustrations mounting with Harlan, the central character, as he felt the need to punish himself time and again. I felt sympathy for his partner, Eve, as she was knocked back again and again by Harlan's self-destructive actions and yet despite this remains devoted to him. Ben Cheetham proved himself a fine story teller and I became a fan after reading this novel.

The author doesn’t bog down the text with too much descriptive dialogue. He chooses instead to add it when it is needed most and this makes Blood Guilt a gratifying read. 
On the whole a fine tale well told and one I would recommend to lovers of good thrillers. Cheetham is an author to watch and I hope he gets the success he deserves with this excellent thriller.

Find out more about Ben on Good Reads HERE
Find Ben on Twitter as @Ben_CheethamUK

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Writing On The Wall By Julie Morrigan

Julie Morrigan once again proves that not only is she talented but she is also versatile. I've read three titles by Morrigan this year and quite frankly any of them is worthy to have pride of place on the shelves of a major book retailer as opposed to the tiny digital coffin that is the modern e-reading device.

Morrigan deserves all the success that a major publishing contract might bring. However, as with Andy DuFrane from the Shawshank Redemption some birds should not be caged as their feathers are just too bright. The diversity Morrigan has brought us with her titles this year would not be allowed by a dollar obsessed traditional publisher that is of course totally their loss and our gain.  This reader for one is overjoyed that she self-publishes her work. Released in time for Halloween the Writing On The Wall brings us several chilling tales.

Shadow Man - A straightforward chiller that does a great job of suggesting more than it shows in classic horror tale style.

The Black Dog - A contender for my favourite of the collection. Artefacts such as books contain power as we learn from this brilliantly told tale.

Chocolate Button Eyes - One to make you shudder and proof if ever it were needed that danger does not always emanate from a masculine source.

So Many Summers - A story that left me melancholy as it did a great job of reinforcing the brutality of life. As always with the best stories a clever twist ensures you remain captivated throughout.

The Project - A short intelligently told tale in which we learn that torment can come from unlikely and distant sources.

Seasons Of The Witch - A tale that is written in the style of a modern fairy tale and proves very effective indeed. Fabulously compelling.

The Writing On The Wall - The set piece of and title story for the entire collection. I read this and found that it was so well written it was almost 3D HD. A very "cinematically" written story which frankly could be made into an excellent movie. I am in awe of Morrigan's talents.

Frigid Air - A guest appearance by Steven Miscandlon who edited, proof read and carried out graphic design work on the cover. He proves to be a fine writer too in this great tale. I most liked the wit and humour that he carefully wove into the narrative like little chuckle mines in a minefield awaiting a hapless foot to step on them. A fine story well told.

Download The Writing On The Wall HERE

If you haven't already check out the following titles by Julie Morrigan:
Gone Bad - A collection of short stories featuring dark deeds.
Convictions - Julie's Debut Thriller Novel
Heartbreaker - Julie's latest novel released in October 2011.

Monday, 17 October 2011

I Should Have Seen It Coming by Victoria Watson

Victoria Watson is one of Trestle Press’s newest signings. She impressed me greatly with this excellent story.  Written in the first person Watson unveils the story of a woman who has fallen upon hard times.

The woman finds a deck of tarot cards and the next thing you know she is called Jacqueline Stargazer and is making plenty of money fraudulently.  If you mess with karma you soon find things don’t go your way.  So it is for our central character.

Watson has most definitely found a strong voice for this story and we find that we are sympathetic with the main character throughout. She managed to pack plenty into this short story and it is clear that she is an accomplished and very competent writer.  This tale although told in the first person never for one moment became dull or uninteresting she keeps it real and believable.

You would be hard pressed to find fault with the internal dialogue described by Watson it struck a chord as being a genuine thought process and as any writer knows that is a hard thing to achieve. I’ll be looking out for more from the talented Victoria Watson.

Catch Victoria's blog HERE
Download her story (Only 86p!) HERE

Liverpool 5 by Luca Veste

Luca Veste sprang onto the writing scene earlier this year like a scouse gazelle on steroids.  He very quickly established a good name for himself with his excellent blog Guilty Conscience

Liverpool 5 is a collection of five flash fiction stories. The stories are set in and around the great city of Liverpool. The stories are about life, death and the wafer thin relationship between the two to quote Luca.
I’ll discuss each story in the order it appears in the collection. As this is flash fiction I’ll try to generalise so that I don’t give anything away.

Dreams – This story is perhaps my favourite of the collection. Luca makes a great point about life, friendship and relationships in this story. A heart warming and beautifully melancholy tale.

Model Behaviour – Social networks come under a lot of scrutiny.  On the news you hear mainly negative things.  But what if someone used it to reach out to you in a time of crisis? A fantastic observational story that makes you think.

Heavy Sleeper – Now a couple of years ago I slept through an earthquake.  This story sent a chill down my spine because I am a heavy sleeper.  An excellent and darkly chilling tale.

Peeling Spuds – A tyrant of a husband.  A selfish pig who cares about nothing and no one but himself. Everyone has their breaking point right? Eloquently related from the start and with a very clever twist.

He Ain’t Heavy – A tale of two brothers whose lives take them in two different directions which could turn out to have potentially dire consequences.

What Luca Veste does best is give you everyday situations and make them interesting. He has the gift of the storyteller and you find yourself racing to get to the end of each story to see how it turns out. He has an uncomplicated style of writing and that is not a criticism.  He uses this style to great effect to engage and hook the reader expertly.

Trestle Press have once again signed up a cracking writer who I have no doubt will turn out to be the Steven Gerrard of their squad. Strong, solid always reliable and a great finisher.

Download Liverpool 5 for only 86p HERE

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Drunk On The Moon (Vol. 5) - Getting High On Daisy by Richard Godwin

Roman Dalton wakes in a flat with no memory of how he got there. Ton Ton Macoute's men are after him and millionaire Harry Nero is engaged in kidnapping and zombification. All Roman knows is he has to find Daisy before it's too late. The only problem is, he can't remember who Daisy is.

In this the fifth instalment of Paul D. Brazill's Drunk On The Moon series Richard Godwin explores the wild, feral, sexual side of Roman. We percieve, at times, Roman for the first time more as wolf than human. With strong sexual language throughout it's not one for a pensioners book club. However, as ever Godwin's writing is a powerful and descriptive metaphorical cudgel to the head. It’s hard to pick stand out language in this fabulously descriptive short story but here are a few lines that stood out for me:

He looked at the early diners, their grey faces a pattern of weakness.

He envies him for a moment wonders what such continuity must feel like, and remembers he is what this savagery has made him.

The silver light streams across the waxed immaculate bodies of Fords.

He uses deliciously erotic language at times and whilst some (not me) might find it a tad strong it does add a kind of realism. I’d imagine that anyone who has enjoyed the tone of the rest of this series will get where Richard is coming from and enjoy it as much as I did. Wolves are after all wild and primal animals. We have discovered that werewolves too feel not only the call of hot tasty flesh but also the call of their loins.

Richard also deftly fills in some of Roman’s back story adding more flesh to the bones of this already fascinating world.

This is the second darkly erotic short story of Richard's that I have read. His blend of intelligent meaty descriptive writing is a joy to read and a great addition to Paul D. Brazil's Drunk On The Moon Series.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Pulp Ink Anthology edited by Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan

PULP INK is the bizarre, chaotic side of crime fiction. From an ass-kicking surfer on acid to an idiot savant hitboy, these tales are dark, funny, action-packed and told with all the gleeful insanity of a Tarantino flick. 

It was obvious to me by the time I had read the first three or four stories of this anthology that I had a problem.  Writing an effective review of Pulp Ink would be like trying to clean the Humber Bridge with a toothbrush. Why?  Quite simply because each story is like a sparking gem in the mud that is the e-book market. This anthology shone so brightly to me that I felt I had to wear shades when reading it. The editors deserve great credit for putting together such a fine collection. This is up there with the best of them and possibly my most enjoyable read this year.

Anyone who regularly reads my reviews knows that I am not a critic. I write positive reviews. I know what I like and I read what I enjoy.  However, I am having to rein myself in from gushing like a school girl in the presence of a boy band. This anthology is THAT good.  I very early on decided that I would say a little something about each of the stories. I felt that I owed it to the authors of this collection to say at least at little something about each of these excellent stories. So here it is:

Requiem for Spider by Reed Farrel Coleman 
A hugely enjoyable hard boiled tale with humour entwined within its very soul. Poetic.

Jack Rabbit Slim's Cellar The $5 Mil Hak by Jodi MacArthur
McArthur's character Shasta Star is both fascinating and playful. Witty from the start, wise cracking and multi-layered. A great setting and a fantastic ending. Sublime.

Padre by AJ Hayes
You could lose yourself in the midnight black worlds AJ creates. This tale screamed across my synapses in cinematic high definition. A story of justice done told only the way AJ can.

The Creation of Ice by Sandra Seamans
You are plunging straight into the desperate end game as a cold hearted killer tries to charm her way out of the clutches of the law.

Zed's Dead, Baby by Eric Beetner
A debt collector cuts a bloody swathe in his attempt to find Zed. Beetner pulls no punches in this bloody tale with a surprising ending.

Your Mother Should Know by Allan Guthrie
A tale of god fearing folk & childhood innocence with that dark cloud of menace hanging over it that only Guthrie can conjure.

You Never Can Tell by Matthew C. Funk
Brilliantly descriptive. Laced with delicious atmosphere, the air hangs heavy with menace and the threat of violence.

A Whole Lot of Rosie by Nigel Bird
Nigel takes a classic song by AC/DC and turns it into a fantastic atmospheric story with heart and soul.

The Lady & The Gimp: A Peter Ord Investigation by Paul D.Brazill
Another great story in another fantastic seedy setting. Stuffed to bursting with vintage Paul D. Brazill wit and humour. His PI Peter Ord never disappoints.

A Night at the Royale by Chris F. Holm
A story that is pregnant with an air of menace. However, you find yourself with no sympathy at all for Mr. Black's hapless victims. An outstanding and clever ending.

Clouds in a Bunker by David Cranmer

 A sad little tale that injects humour into a difficult subject.

The Wife of Gregory Bell by Patricia Abbot
An excellent tale confirming that one shouldn't mess with karma.

If Love is a Red Dress - Hang Me in Rags by Michael J. Solender
Eloquently descriptive. The author does so much with so few words.

A corpse by Any Other Name by Naomi Johnson
A brilliant and hilarious short crime caper. Great characters. Steinbeck is smiling from the great beyond at the tribute.

Surf Rider by Ian Ayris
Solid gold from Ian. He takes us through the doors of perception and shows us the darkness within.

The Slicers' Serenade of Steel by Gary Philips
A story that started one way then went off at a fantastic action packed tangent. Great pace and wit throughout.

The October 17 Economic Development Committee Meeting by Chris Rhatigan
You can’t help but empathise with some of the views created by Chris’s character here! A brilliantly woven tale told at a fast tense pace.

Threshold Woman by Richard Godwin
A beautifully descriptive and erotic tale of our desire to quench forbidden thirsts.

Redlining by Jim Harrington
A little impatience leads to a dark deed and a gritty ending.

Jungle Boogie by Kate Horsley
A tale filled laden and heavy with the threat of impending doom.

This Little Piggy by Hilary Davidson
A cleverly told tale with a great twist.

Comanche by Jason Duke
Revenge served in a suitable fashion. Some great descriptive lines in this one.

Misirilou by Jimmy Callaway
A fun caper with great humour throughout & snappy dialogue

The Only One Who Could Ever Reach Me by Matt Lavin
A dark and UTTERLY compelling read.

UK Download Pulp Ink HERE
US Download Pulp Ink HERE

You can find out more about the editors here:
Nigel Bird
Chris Rhatigan

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Black Betty by William Tooker

Wade and Eliza were through. The love was gone and the fighting was non-stop. Desperate as they were to get away from each other neither of them was ready for how they would finally part. The death with a thousand faces had reached up from the Downs to harvest yet another victim. Heart broken and driven by revenge one of them would come face to face with the otherworldly terrors lurking in the Downs and eye to eye with the remorseless Black Betty.

A dark horror tale by William Tooker.  The sinister town of Veil mentioned in his previous story Bad Angels features in this dark tale. It’s difficult to discuss the start without giving anything away. However, I’ll say that a young couple has an argument and a car journey from which one of them will not return.

Tooker’s dialogue between Wade and Eliza is very believable and the interplay between these two characters impressed me a lot. I found the way he described Wade’s thought processes smacked of realism.  The author has a true story tellers flair and I very quickly raced through this one as he built up the tension I found the descriptive writing to be of a high standard throughout. Here are a couple of examples of great stand out lines:

Gnats swarmed in clouds everywhere humming a chorus that sounded like distant whispers.

A fallen crystal chandelier looked like the mummified remains of an ancient crystal snowflake beneath the dust on the floor.

All in all a great story well told. The tension is excellently build up and just when you think it can’t get any darker you are plunged head first into the abyss. Great stuff from Mr. Tooker.

Download Black Betty HERE.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Willow Spring Killer by Molly Edwards

Molly Edwards is a writer and an accomplished book reviewer.  You can find her book reviews here:
Reviews by Molly

What do you do when your find your best friend of 15 years hanging, lifeless, from a rope in an abandoned school house? 
That's what Willow Spring Police Officer Josie Summerville was about to find out. When she finds blood in the abandoned school house, she has no idea what she's about to find. Or, that she's being watched. Then, a mysterious note on her front door, sets her mind into overdrive. Will she figure out the puzzle before it's to late? Or will she be the cause of another killing by the Willow Spring killer?

The Willow Spring Killer jumps straight into the action and we are faced with a dark scene almost as soon as we have cleared the first page. This is a short story that really hits the ground running.  The author cranks up the tension and within a few short pages we have more dastardly crimes being committed.

Edwards writes in a tense, descriptive and thoughtful way. She sets the scene in such a way that my appetite was whetted for the small town setting where the story takes place. Happily I will get my wish as this is the first story in a series.

A thoroughly enjoyable short story that will lead into an enjoyable, interesting and well written series. As with any short story it is difficult to say too much about the plot without giving away vital story details. I will say that if you like tense and atmospheric thrillers you could do a lot worse than download the Willow Spring Killer.

Download the Willow Spring Killer HERE

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Call Me Smitty - The Beginning by B.R. Stateham

About the author B.R. Stateham

From the mind of B.R. Stateham, author of Death of Young Lieutenant, comes Call Me Smitty. This is a digital short story series that is dark, violent, emotional and heart wrenching. As our story starts Smitty gets a severe dose of reality, decides to take matters into his own hands and becomes a different person. He says goodbye to one life, and begins another.

B.R. Stateham  considers himself a writer. A writer of speculative fiction.  His reading tastes run toward Fantasies, Histories, Mysteries, and Science-Fiction. But really, it doesn't matter. He’ll read just about anything. Writing, however, revolves around the four genres mentioned. 
 "My goal is to blend the modern with the old; bring more 'color' back into the art of writing--to stimulate the imagination, yet leave free enough room for each reader to paint that verbal portrait all their own.

Join me in this endeavor. Let us be stalwart heroes and walk the dark alleys and back streets of murder and mayhem together. Or soar into galaxies unknown in search of adventures unparalleled."

B.R Stateham is the author of several ebook releases. His publishing credits include Insatiable which is the fourth instalment in the highly successful Drunk on the Moon series which is the brain child of Paul D. Brazill.

Stateham has a gritty feel to his fiction.  I liked the style of this ebook right from the beginning. This first instalment starts with the birth of the character that becomes Smitty and the death of the person who was Johnny.  Betrayed by two people he held dear this drives our character to become the cold blooded killer that is Smitty.

We are given tantalising glimpses of what this series will hold by the author.  This first tale is essential a number of mini-stories that give us a good glimpse into the mind of the man with the dark eyes.  I really am a sucker for this kind of fiction and Stateham has me hooked with his dark and descriptive writing. There are several episodes of Call Me Smitty to download and enjoy and I’m going to follow Smitty’s adventures with relish as he deals death to those that deserve it.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Bad Angels (Slouching Towards Bethlehem) – Volume 1 by William Tooker

About the author William Tooker:
Will is Writer and co-creator with Kevin Gentilcore for Creephouse Comics and also the writer for Matt Campbell’s Mythica Comics series. He is living in Columbus, Ohio and diligently working on horror with every keystroke.

I’d strongly urge you to read the full product description for this download before buying. It outlines background information to the story and is relevant to what happens in this first instalment.

A young girl is preyed upon by those she trusted.  Yet into the night comes an unlikely saviour. A dark start for a premise that could have led the reader down a sci-fi avenue but which goes very much into the horror genre and plunges you quickly into some very shadowy places indeed. You need a torch for this one to illuminate the dark corners but do you really want to see what manner of creature lurks there?

The author wastes no time at all in getting to the action. Despite it being a serialisation Tooker gives us a lot to go on in this first part.  Two plot lines are well developed and we see them diverge into a dramatic end scene. He also starts to weave in some ideas about the past that have brought us to this point.  I enjoyed reading this first tale and am looking forward to reading the next part.

Diary of A Menopausal Woman by Cheryl Reid

Why I hear you cry is a 41 year old bloke reading this? Well, firstly Cheryl, the author, is a friend. Secondly almost everything I have thus far read from her, mainly poetry, is filled to bursting with wit and heart and humour. It is "real" and not contrived. However, don't let her fool you for a second! This woman is very clever with words. She plays with words for comic effect. A device she uses again and again. A device that never fails to make me laugh. She has also mastered the art of running gag that the likes of Harry Hill use so effectively. Her discussion about the distilled water that goes in irons will have you hooting with laughter.

Cheryl uses a straight matter of fact delivery to convey a lot of her humour and ideas. This is done in such a way that it injects a lot of humour and she uses language in such a way that you cannot help but chuckle. Remember this is a diary and not a work of fiction but despite this Cheryl adds heart and soul to it at every possible opportunity. This is not some bland account of endless details.

Underneath the humour is a real woman struggling through the daily grind and all that life can throw at her. If you have a heart and a funny bone you could do a lot worse than read Diary of A Menopausal Woman. A real diary from a larger than life character and a five star read. Move over Bridget Jones no one cares about your big pants Cheryl Chezza Reid is in town.