Monday, 18 August 2014

The Girl in the Basement by Wayne Simmons

The Girl in the Basement is the latest offering from Northern Ireland's genre giant, Wayne Simmons. Published by Infected Books, this brutal little novella is a psychological thriller that wallows in noir conventions. Simmons is primarily known as a horror hack (in his own words), but he has done a terrific job of straddling a few crime fiction sub-genres in this one. But if you're a true-blue horror fan, don't worry, he does manage to squeeze in a cheeky zombie movie reference here and a slasher flick hat-tip there. Now, while there are undoubtedly points in this novella that Simmons hammered out with a wry smile on his face, you are more likely to grimace than grim; which is what his constant readers have come to expect and crave, no doubt.

As far as the plot goes, the title tells you just enough to give you an idea of what's going on. I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't go into any more detail. What I will say is that I took more from this than I did from, say, Stephen King's Gerald's Game, a novel with a similar premise that (in my opinion) should have been much shorter. And I'm a fan of those epic King novels, IT and The Stand, as well as the entire Dark Tower series, so you can't really blame my lack of enthusiasm for Gerald's Game on a shortening attention span. I think Simmons nailed the pace and balanced the back story elements in his offering perfectly. Best read in one sitting. The Girl in the Basement isn't just a gut punch, it's a heavyweight pummelling. Just remember to breathe as you take your lumps. It'll all be over soon enough.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Wee Rockets in Paperback

WEE ROCKETS is available in paperback, y'know.

I'd prefer it if you bought this book from No Alibis (Dave can get you signed copies, y'see), but for those who have a geographic challenge (i.e. if you don't live or spend any time in Belfast), you can get it here:


And many other territories, but you resourceful folk can use search engines if required, can't you?

Have at it.

Hard Rock on CrimeCityCentral

Hard Rock is the short story that keeps on giving.

A brief history:

It was published on ThugLit in 2009 (before the relaunch it was in issue 29).

I got paid with a badass T-shirt that I still wear.

It attracted the attentions of a New York agent (though at the time I was already in talks with another).

It was reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime vol. 8 (currently on sale).

It appears in my Blasted Shorts collection, Other Stories and Nothing But Time.

It's pretty sick and definitely not safe for work or suitable for the fainthearted.

And now, it's available for download over at the CrimeCityCentral podcast!

Why not have a listen and see what all the fuss is about?

Incidentally, I listened to this version myself about a week after I watched Filth, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh and starring John McAvoy, on Netflix. There are certain parallels that make (narrator) Kenny Park's Scottish accent all the more fun.

And again, this one is pretty hard core.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Jason Johnson Returns!

In 2008 I discovered Jason Johnson. CSNI was a thing back then, so of course I reviewed both of his novels and tracked the fella down to ask him to take part in a Q&A. You can see some Johnson related content here. In the following years I saw Jason Johnson's name appear as a byline in some newspaper articles (I vividly remember him writing about a man who climbed the departed Belfast Wheel at Belfast City Hall), but I wanted more of his fiction.

Well, guess what! He's back with a new novel according to this Culture Northern Ireland article. And I am very much looking forward to reading SINKER when I get my hands on a copy. And I must revisit ALINA in the near future, His use of POV in that novel was highly innovative when compared to the books I'd been reading previously (and especially in comparison to what a lot of creative writing websites and/or workshops considered to be bible in their articles about POV).

Good to see you back, Mr Johnson. And I'll join you in downplaying the Irvine Welsh references in the future (which I did mention in that Q&A in 2008 - soz).

Monday, 11 August 2014

UNDERCOVER: The Cover is Blown

I'm trying not to get too excited about the release of UNDERCOVER in September, but I'm curious about how it's going to be received. The folks at Blasted Heath believe it to be my most commercial novel to date. Part of me wonders if that's a good thing...

Did I mention that there's a pre-order page for it over on that wee Amazon site? Because there is. Click here. Or, if you use the US version of Amazon, click here. It's on all the other Amazons, I believe, but I've a blog post to get through here so I'll choose to believe that people can find the relevant pages pretty quickly with the help of a search engine. Ach, all right, here's a Canadian link, but no more!

Now, for those who can't be arsed clicking the links, here's the cover and the blurb:

When undercover detective Cormac Kelly infiltrates a ruthless gang bent on kidnapping and extortion, he is forced to break cover and shoot his way out of a hostage situation gone bad. Tearing through the dangerous streets of Belfast with a twelve-year-old boy and his seriously injured father in tow, Kelly desperately tries to evade the gang and reconnect the family with the boy’s mother, football agent Lydia Gallagher. But she is in London, unaware of their freedom and being forced by the gang to betray her top client. As Kelly breaks every rule in the book and crosses the line from legit police officer to rogue cop on the run, the role of dapper but deadly ex-spook Stephen Black means the difference between life and death…

Did you see that? Slipped right into salesman mode. This commercialism business is getting to me.

But still, I'm excited; no point trying to curtail that. And yes, I'm working on getting the paperback version out there. In doing so I've learned that typesetting sucks monkey butts, but lots of nice people out there are willing to help you out. In other words, don't blame me if it looks shite.

P.S. I'm going to Bouchercon this year! Check out the list of attendees. More on that in another post.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Twelve Mad Men

I've started thinking of myself as a "hybrid author" with reference to self-publishing/traditional-publishing. Some of my work has been put out there by various publishers and some is self-published (okay, one very slim short story collection and one paperback, but that doesn't mean I won't do it again if I need/want to). And some work falls between two stools, such as my contribution to Ryan Bracha's marvelous creation, Twelve Mad Men. More on the book itself in a moment, but first this little paragraph of unwanted opinion.

You might consider my stance on the whole self-pub/trad-pub as fence-sitting. That doesn't really bother me. Much the same way that my choice to sit on the fence with regards to political parties is something I'm not ashamed to admit. In truth, no political party has come along that chimes with all of my political beliefs (simple as they are). Religion (and atheism, I should add) is much the same to me. I subscribe to none. And I've never found an argument compelling enough from either those staunch trad-pub authors, nor the devout self-pub ones, that will inspire me to jump into a camp and start rattling my sabre. Feck ALL that noise.

Nobody is right 100% of the time, and if you think you are, you're not the kind of person, organisation or culture that I want to be associated with. I'm just fine doing whatever the feck I want to do. So sayeth this apathetic, agnostic heathen, should you give a rat's arse to hear it.

Before we get any deeper into rant territory -- if that's your thing just google ANYTHING and you'll find somebody to argue with -- I'm going to tell you about a fun experience I had being a part of Twelve Mad Men.

Ryan Bracha set twelve rules and asked twelve authors (including himself) if the rules were agreeable. Twelve authors said yes and did a little bit of work for Mr Bracha in the form of a short story. Bracha then set to work weaving these stories together to create a multi-author novel. Then he self-published it. I think he did a fine job indeed (yes, I read it from start to finish, which I can't say has been the case for every anthology my work has been included in), and I highly recommend you try it out.

Yeah, yeah, I have a story in it, so OF COURSE I want you to read that. But I also want you to read the other 91.67% (or so) of the book. Below you'll find the blurby info, the links to the Amazon pages (the only place you can get it at this point in time, I think) and a wee picture of the book cover. You know what to do.

Everybody's here for a reason...

At St. David's asylum for the criminally insane there
are twelve residents. They call us that. Not inmates.

We all have a favourite colour. A favourite
member of staff. A favourite method of receiving
torture for the purposes of science.

We all have our reasons for being here.
Our stories.
Our tales.

Why don't you come and hear them?

Twelve Mad Men is a groundbreaking literary collaboration. A novel which has a series of stories woven into the narrative, and featuring the finest independent authors from across the globe.

The number one best selling author of Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven't Killed Yet and Paul Carter is a Dead Man, Ryan Bracha, voices the narrator as he embarks upon his first shift as a night guard at St. David's, and as he meets the residents there, it soon becomes apparent that there's something very wrong in the water...

The phenomenally talented writers involved in this innovative and ambitious project are:
Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle's Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)

And narrated by Ryan Bracha (Paul Carter is a Dead Man, Strangers are Just Friends You Haven't Killed Yet)

Now buy it:

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Stumped by Rob Kitchin -- Cover and Blurb

Look at this cover:

Now read what I had to say about the book:

"As far as Irish crime fiction goes, Kitchin delivers all the major ingredients: mystery, psychos and a dash of drag queen farmers. This novel is frantic, fierce and fabulous. Skip the manicure before reading. Stumped is a head-scratching nail-biter that'll leave your fingers chewed down to the nub." 
---Gerard Brennan, author of WEE ROCKETS and THE POINT 

And now click on this link to read more nice words about the book and find out when you can get your hands on a copy.

Seriously, you'll want to read this one. I feel lucky to have read an advance version.

By the way, Rob's blog, The View From the Blue House turned five years old yesterday. You'll find a lot of excellent reviews there (since they've been distinctly lacking at CSNI lately). Check it out.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Flash Fiction from Dana King


Eldrick’s had a nice crowd for Tuesday night. About half full of the usual clientele, people with more money than was good for them, looking for peers to indulge what would be called perversion if practiced by a lower socioeconomic caste.
The sound system calibrated so you could hear everything your target said and still be able to plead ignorance if necessary. She came in halfway through The Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” A redhead now, wearing an electric blue sheath. I almost didn’t recognize her, just the sensation of seeing a person who reminded me of someone else until I glimpsed her aquamarine eyes. No one who saw those eyes ever forgot them.
She sat at a table big enough for two drinks and a small bowl of nuts, had Eldrick’s been that kind of place. I waited until her drink arrived and sat down without being invited.
Hello, Lily.”
She looked at me without recognition for a couple of beats, then blushed to the roots of what used to be blond hair. “Nick Forte? Oh my God! What are you doing here?”
Working,” I said. “I hope you aren’t.”
Her eyes flickered to the table, then back. “I don’t do that anymore. Not since…my mother…you know.”
I’m glad. Really. Look, I won’t stay. Don’t want to limit your availability. I’m sorry. That didn’t come out right. You know what I mean. Like I said, I’m working. A cheating husband job. Lots of pre-nup money at stake. It really is good to see you. You look great.”
Can you stay a minute?” It popped out like she’d been holding it back.
Sure, if you want. I can watch for this guy just as well from here. I’ll get my drink.”
I’m in trouble.”
I left the drink. I didn’t owe Lily O’Donoghue a thing; I’d always owe her mother. “What kind of trouble?”
That money you gave me—”
Your mother gave you. I just delivered it.”
Okay, my mother gave me. I didn’t waste it. I got a Masters at DePaul and used the rest to buy into a psychology practice. We’re doing very well.”
I knew you would.”
She went on like I hadn’t spoken. “Someone recognized me. From before. Said he’d ruin me if I didn’t pay him.”
Does that kind of leverage work on a shrink?”
Not usually. A lot of psychologists have pasts they’d rather not talk about. It’s why we get into the field. The videos he has are the kinds of things you can’t live down. I’d have to leave the practice, leave Chicago. I worked hard for this, Nick. I don’t want to give it up. But I know it won’t stop with just once. He’ll be back for more and more and more. The money I have is tied up in the practice. He can ruin me.”
What was the plan before I showed up?”
She blushed. “Work out a deal for less money…”
I raised a hand. “I’ll do what I can. Point him out to me when he comes. Give him what you have, tell him you need more time, and make sure he leaves without you. Wait ten minutes, then go straight home. Now act like you’re shooting me down, in case he’s watching.”
He must have been, moved in before my seat had a chance to cool. Almost handsome, early forties, in good shape, nice suit. They talked for five minutes. She laid an envelope on the table. He opened it and counted the money—amateur, counting it in public—then took her wrist in his hand so I knew it had to hurt even though I couldn’t hear. I stayed put. He wouldn’t do anything dangerous in public, and she’d only scare so much, knowing I was around.
He stood and I left before he had a chance to notice me, waited outside by the valet station. He led me to an unlighted house in Elmhurst, pulled into an attached garage while I killed the headlights and drifted to a stop in front. A light came on inside. I took what I needed from my car and rang the bell.
He answered the door with a look between confused and irritated. I opened the switchblade from my car’s console and sliced his tie off right below the knot. His mouth fell open and I stuffed the tie in it.
I want the money you picked up in Eldrick’s and all the videos.”
He made a sound. Could have been, “What videos?” Hard to tell with the tie in his mouth.
I stuck a leg behind his knee and took him down hard. Pried his jaws apart and started feeding the tie down his throat. “I want everything,” I said. “Slap the floor when you’re ready. Don’t wait too long. You pass out and I’ll leave you for the coroner.” He gave the sign before I could start again.
I pulled out the tie. “The money first.”
On the island. In the kitchen.” I nodded that way and he led me to it.
Now the movies,” I said.
We went into a den near the front door. He handed me a jewel box with a disc in it. “That’s the only copy.”
I nodded toward his computer. “There’s a file in there, though. Isn’t there?” He didn’t say, but he might as well have.
Neither of us spoke while the laptop booted. When it finished he moved for the chair.
I got it,” I said. Brought up a command prompt, typed “format c:” and hit Enter.
Jesus Christ, that’s my business computer. You’ll ruin me. Who are you?”
I’m the guy who’s coming back here if she ever even sees you crossing the street again. We good on that?”
I mailed the money to Lily. Broke the disc before curiosity got the better of me.

Enjoy it? Check out Dana's novels, then!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Soldier, Soldier - A Dana King Guest Post

Detective Nick Forte, the hero of ASmall Sacrifice, has military experience in his background. Not a lot is made of it, but there are elements that help to shape his character between the lines, especially in later books. It stems from my at least partial adherence to the hoary adage, to “write what you know.”

I don’t say much about my time in the United States Army, mainly because I was in a band stationed at Fort McPherson, Georgia. Basically, Atlanta. We performed post ceremonies, did gigs in and around Atlanta, and traveled a few times a year for up to three weeks. Our most hazardous “mission” was to fly in the cargo hold of a C-130 to the Virgin Islands for a Veterans Day concert.

I was a “soldier” in only the broadest definition of the term. Real soldiers have jobs that place them at risk as a matter of course. I did get to spend some time around real soldiers—my drill sergeants were all Vietnam veterans, most of them from the same Air Cavalry outfit depicted in Apocalypse Now, which came out right before I left for basic—and I had the presence of mind to appreciate a chance like this would not pass my way again. I paid attention, asked questions when opportunity presented.

When I first came up with the idea of Nick Forte, I wanted to leverage as much of my experience as I could. We’re both “recovering” musicians with minor military backgrounds. His takeaway from the service—as was mine—is not of the flag-waving, “making the world safe for the American Way of Life ™, American Exceptionalism means we can do what we want” attitude so often portrayed in books, movies, and politics today, but the attitudes of the common soldier. He fights for the men on either side of him, trusting them to fight for him. He keeps his weapon clean and his mind clear under incredible stress, for his mates as much as himself. He may not have a lot of friends, but those he has he trusts with his life, and will exchange his for theirs if called upon. He also will place the task at hand—his mission—above his personal safety. He doesn’t advertise this—beware the man who wears any conviction too much on his sleeve—shows it through his actions. It’s far more deeply embedded in Forte’s psyche than in mine, if only because I routinely place him into at least one life-or-death situation per book.

My small experience with actual boots-in-the-mud soldiers piqued my interest and led me to books and movies that looked at things more from that perspective. Band of Brothers, Generation Kill (both the books and the TV series), Saving Private Ryan, and many non-fiction choices. A downside is, I can’t watch The Longest Day anymore without cringing; soldiers don’t make speeches like that.

The upside is, I hope this has given me an appreciation, if not an understanding, for the mind-set of a combat soldier. (Though I hate the idea of “You have no idea what’s it like unless you’ve done it” in general, I feel safe in saying no one who has not been in combat can truly “understand” what it’s like.) I know it’s helped to make Nick Forte a richer character in my imagination; only readers can decide if I have been able to transfer that to the page.

Short additional note from Gerard - A Small Sacrifice and 3 other Dana King books can be nabbed for free for the next few days. Be quick. Get yours now!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Hail to the King, Baby

So, it looks as if THE POINT has come to the end of its run as a perma-free book on Kindle. Does that make it semi-perma-free? Who knows?

If you're into answering rhetorical questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Anyway, right now, THE POINT is selling for the princely sum of 29p on Kindle in the UK. In the US it's 49 cents. I know. Them Blasted Heath lads must be having a laugh. Who's going to throw that kind of cash away?

But the good news is (and it's especially good if you only read free books on your Kindle), Dana King's books are now free on Kindle, even the latest, Grind Joint, which I really enjoyed.

"GRIND JOINT by Dana King. The spirit of THE WIRE reincarnated with JUSTIFIED charm. Gangster-rich US crime fiction at its best." I said that on Twitter, like.

So, you know what to do. Save your 29p and get all those lovely free books. Just promise me one thing. Pass the word on, maybe review one of the books, and add Dana to your 'recommend to friends' list, if you enjoy his work. Okay, so that's three things, but it's hard out there for a pimp. I reckon it's even harder for a writer.