Monday 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!

I don't have time to write a long sentimental post about my year because I'm meant to be playing with my kids (they're just taking a quick TV break right now). So, here's a list of stuff that happened this year that tickled me pink. It's in no particular order. I'm just typing as I remember.

The play I wrote with my da got major funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Brassneck Theatre Company are producing it and it'll hit the stage (including a two-week stint at the Grand Opera House) in 2013.

I got a couple of new tattoos.

I earned an MA in creative writing at Queen's University Belfast.

I met a lot of new and groovy people, many of them fellow writers.

I started going to a local boxing club, got fit and lost a lot of weight (some of it came back over Xmas but I'll fix that soon).

Two of my novels were published through Blasted Heath, WEE ROCKETS and FIREPROOF, as well as a collection of shorts, OTHER STORIES AND NOTHING BUT TIME.

I spent lots of time with my family.

The day-job became less of a ball-ache because I took a demotion in 2011.

I FINALLY finished the book that I'd been working on for over two years and sent it to an agent who got interested in me after one of my favourite writers recommended me.

Lots of people on Amazon reviewed my work, most of them giving me 5-stars.

I got invited to contribute a novella to the Fight Card series (and I've written the first half of it).

I got my fourth SIAP award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

I had many a glass of very good whisky and whiskey.

There are other positive things that happened that haven't immediately sprung to mind and a lot of negative crap happened too but I've decided to ignore all that.

Thanks to everybody who sent positive energy my way. Y'all are a classy bunch of feckers.

Happy New Year.

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas from CSNI

(Click the image for a closer look.)

Tuesday 11 December 2012

A Wee Wayne Simmons Review -- THE SKIN GODS by Richard Montanari

The blurb:

The streets of Philadelphia are blistering in the summer heat, the homicide rate is soaring and the nights belong to the mad. Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are prowling the streets with a growing sense of unease. Where next will evil rear its ugly head?

When a series of seemingly unrelated crimes shatter the restless silence of the city, their worst fears are confirmed. A beautiful secretary is slashed to death in a grimy motel shower. A street hustler brutally murdered with a chainsaw. Piece by piece, a strange and sickening puzzle presents itself: someone is meticulously recreating Hollywood's most well-known and horrifying murder scenes, capturing them on film and inserting the clips into videos - for an unsuspecting public to find.

While Kevin Byrne begins furtive investigations of his own, Jessica Balzano goes undercover to work the steaming back alleys of Philadelphia, entering a violent world of underground film, pornography and seedy nightclubs, hidden to all but the initiated. Discovering that none of The Actor's victims are as innocent as they appear to be, the two detectives arrive at a terrifying reality: They are not just chasing a homicide suspect. They are stalking evil itself ...

The review:

He had me at Psycho. 

Any self-respecting horror fan would say the same. 

And that’s the thing about Richard Montanari’s writing: although aiming for the crime section of the book store, there have been times when he’s felt more like a horror writer, or frustrated horror writer, at the very least. His clipped and colloquial prose, the sharp yet subtle character development; it’s all reminiscent of early Stephen King. And that’s a good thing in my book. 

With THE SKIN GODS, Byrne and Balzano’s second outing, Montanari sticks pretty much to the formula established within THE ROSARY GIRLS: maverick cop Kevin Byrne is as dodgy as ever, much of the plot dealing with yet another fine mess he’s got himself into, and a subsequent vigilante outing. Meanwhile his partner Jessica Balzano, still fresh to the job and mostly toeing the line, is balancing her role as a mother and struggling to deal with a recent separation. The humanising of his protagonists makes Montanari’s storytelling all the more effective, this series as character driven as it is plot driven. 

But the plot doesn’t suffer, the mystery at its key every bit as engaging as that of THE ROSARY GIRLS. Montanari’s the master of the red herring, sending Philadelphia’s finest on many a wild goose chase, our killer as resourceful and cunning as they come. The payoff is brilliant, mind, weaving together various subplots into the main thrust of the story with ease. 

Richard Montanari is quickly becoming my favourite crime writer working today. With Byrne and Balzano, he’s got the perfect duo, their own personal stories being a major hook to this series. A frustrated horror hack he may be, but that in no way takes away from how awesome a crime writer he is. This is genre fiction at its very best.

Wayne Simmons
Genre Fiction Writer

Sunday 9 December 2012

Publicity Fail!

So, two weeks since I got my FIREPROOF themed tattoo and there's been absolutely no perceptible spike in sales for the ebook (I'm judging this by casual checks of the Amazon ranking -- haven't bothered checking with Blasted Heath). Two local papers reported on the publicity stunt and published pics of my tattoo. The bigger papers weren't interested in the end. I almost got a radio interview and some TV coverage but that didn't pan out. A few people saw pics of the tattoo on Facebook and Twitter but to the best of my knowledge, those are the folks that already have copies of the book.

PR guru I am not. I think I'll leave the marketing to the publisher from now on.

But am I pissed off by this epic fail?

Nah, I got a badass tattoo at the end of the day. See me smilin'?

Friday 23 November 2012

New Ink

My latest tattoo was inspired by my novel, FIREPROOF, with a hat-tip to the publisher that believed in the wacky story, Blasted Heath.

I'm a true heathen.


UPDATE 25/11/12

The lovely Mrs B pointed out earlier today that I'll need to sell way more books to cover the cost of this tattoo. Maybe I'm not the marketing genius I thought I was...

Buy ALL my books, please.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

I need the royalties.

Thursday 15 November 2012

A Wee Wayne Simmons Review - BONE MACHINE by Martyn Waites


The body is discovered in a disused burial ground. A young woman, ritualistically mutilated, her eyes and mouth crudely sewn shut. Her boyfriend is arrested and charged with the murder. He might have a vicious temper and a history of violence towards women, but is Michael Nell really a killer? 

Michael's lawyer doesn't think so. 

She's hired Joe Donovan to prove his alibi. Donovan's investigations lead him into the murky world of people trafficking and illegal prostitution. But when the second body shows up, he realises it's not just local gangsters he's up against - but a deranged serial killer. A killer obsessed with the city's dark history. A killer who leaves clues pointing to his twisted plan. 

And if Donovan and his team can't decipher those messages in time, a killer who will kill again ...


What a great title, eh? BONE MACHINE. And the book lives up to its name: this is one hell of a ride! 

What we've got here is a serial killer novel/ gangster romp. The setting is Newcastle Upon Tyne, albeit the back streets and brothels of the city. We follow Joe Donovan and his quirky crew, an investigative journalist with a zeal for uncovering the truth. He's on the case of Michael Nell, a suspected killer. But a nose for trouble draws Joe & co into all sorts of bother with the local crime boss.

Written by Martyn Waites, one half of the Tania Carver writing partnership, I knew I was in for a good time with this one. Waites' writing style here is much the same as Carver's: short sharp prose, so stripped back that it's almost indecent; gritty setting and characters, with a splash of humour to wash it all down. It's my kind of writing. I flew threw all 481 pages within little under a week, proving this to be a page-turner.

It's a slightly more cluttered work to the Carver books, the plot somewhat meandering, looser and not just as procedural as the likes of THE SURROGATE. But Donovan's a likeable character, more principled than your average journalist, yet still flawed. He likes a drink or two, for a start. And then there's the ongoing story of his missing son: this plays out quite well in the book, leaving us with a killer cliffhanger.    

My only criticism is how easily I found it to identify the killer. 

Bottom line: if you like your crime pulpy and earthy, look no further..

Wayne Simmons
Genre Fiction Writer

Thursday 1 November 2012

A Wee Wayne Simmons Review - The Surrogate by Tania Carver


A shocking double-murder scene greets Detective Inspector Philip Brennan when he is called to a flat in Colchester. Two women are viciously cut open and laying spreadeagled, one tied to the bed, one on the floor. The woman on the bed has had her stomach cut into and her unborn child is missing.

But this is the third time Phil and his team have seen such an atrocity. Two other pregnant women have been killed in this way and their babies taken from them. No-one can imagine what sort of person would want to commit such evil acts.

When psychologist Marina Esposito is brought in, Phil has to put aside his feelings about their shared past and get on with the job. But can they find the killer before another woman is targeted?


I’ve a terrible habit of reading a series the wrong way around. 2009’s THE SURROGATE, although the first chronologically in Tania Carver’s Brennan & Espoisto series, is actually the third that I’ve read to date; THE CREEPER being my first and CHOKED being my second. This may have affected my enjoyment of THE SURROGATE, this book being my least favourite Carver so far. 

It’s less pulpy and more procedural than later entries, Carver’s economic delivery even more punchy as the series progresses, but the main focus as ever remains on our two protagonists DI Phil Brennan and his love interest Marina Esposito. They’re a likeable, if at times pedestrian, duo and their will-they-won’t-they romance is as much of a driver for the story as the crime. 

And what a crime it is. This isn’t a book for the squeamish, our killer’s prey being heavily pregnant young women and their soon to be conceived babies. It’s shocking stuff, to say the least, and Carver doesn’t hold back when it comes to relaying the full horror of each crime scene. Our list of suspects is quite tight, the focus of the investigation very compact, with few red herrings. But the pages keep turning nonetheless; Carver’s storytelling strong and addictive throughout.  

THE SURROGATE is a recommend in its own right and a solid introduction to one of the strongest UK crime series out there right now. Tania Carver, the writing name for husband and wife team Martyn & Linda Waites, is a forced to be reckoned with, bringing hard-boiled storytelling to the UK police procedural. It's a page turner, Carver's use of short chapters and sharp prose a sure way to power you through its 400 plus pages. 

But probably best to skip breakfast before reading...   

Wayne Simmons
Genre Fiction Writer

Tuesday 23 October 2012

A Wee Wayne Simmons Review - The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari


God Help Them ...

In the most brutal killing crusade Philadelphia has seen in years, a series of young Catholic women are found dead, their bodies mutilated and their hands bolted together. Each clutches a rosary in her lifeless grasp.

Veteran cop Kevin Byrne and his rookie partner Jessica Balzano set out to hunt down the elusive killer, who leads them deeper and deeper into the abyss of a madman's depravity. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams - and vanish just as quickly. While the body count rises, Easter is fast approaching: the day of resurrection and of the last rosary to be counted ...


Although the first book chronologically in Montanari's Byrne and Balzano series, THE ROSARY GIRLS is actually the second I've read. I started off with the third in the series, the most excellent BROKEN ANGELS. And while I enjoyed TRG a great deal, it doesn't reach the dizzy heights of the third book. 

That's not to say it isn't a great book in its own right - it is great. With bells on, great, in fact. But, for me, this was a book where the author was still getting to know his protagonists. The Kevin Byrne of TRG is quite a different Byrne to who we meet in BA. Less reserved, more gun-toting and pulpy. Not a bad thing, per se, but lacking the subtleties and finesse of book 3's Byrne, for sure. 

That aside, this is as tightly written a crime novel as you'll find and, while Byrne may have fallen a little short for me in this one, Montanari's characterisation in general is second-to-none. It's a well researched book, the police procedural element both accessible and credible. The mystery itself will lead you round the houses of the book's cast of suspects and, right up until the very end, leave you guessing as to who's dunnit. 

THE ROSARY GIRLS is yet another example of where crime fiction has delivered more horror than a lot of horror fiction I've read. As a serial killer novel, it ticks all the boxes and joins all the dots with style. Montanari's writing really comes alive in places, painting a more vivid picture of the victims than you'd perhaps ask for... 

And for a round-the-block gorehound such as I, that's a great thing.

Wayne Simmons
Genre Fiction Writer

Monday 22 October 2012

New Blood

Let's face it; this blog has lost its review mojo. And something needs to be done about it! Am I the man to rise to the occasion, come out swinging and furiously rattle the keyboard to the Rocky soundtrack?


I've tried and failed too many times at this point.

But the wonderfully tattooed and envy-inducing cool dude pictured below might well be the CSNI saviour.

Meet Wayne Simmons, best-selling horror author and big-time genre fiction fan. He's currently on a crime fiction kick and is enthusiastic to share his views on his current reading. And I'm the lucky bugger that gets to host said views.

This could be the start of something big. And even better, I've made a top contact who'll keep me right come the zombie apocalypse. And it is coming, folks. T'is only a matter of time.

Muah hah hah hah haaaaaa.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

An Interview - Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus is an author and journalist. His first book, the non-fiction GAA Confidential, was published by Hodder. He also released a comic novel, Cold! Steel! Justice!!!, as an e-book under the name Alexander O’Hara. For more than a decade he has written reviews, features and opinion columns for several papers, including The Irish Independent, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. Several of his short stories have appeared in literary journals, in Ireland and the US. He lives in the west of Ireland. See for articles, updates, book excerpts and more.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

Two things: a novel set in mid-1990s Cork, about a group of slackers and post-college layabouts, well, laying about and slacking. Hoping for a feel somewhere between a less-sentimental Douglas Coupland (though I do like his books) and a Richard Linklater movie. As in, nothing much happens, at all – but it’s enjoyable to hang out with them. Also working on a Young Adult novel – won’t give away too many details but it’s basically a horror set in a small town, about a plague of…I’ll stop there. Totally cool title, though. Which I’m keeping to myself, ha.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of your typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

Ideally I write fiction in the morning, because I’m mentally fresher. But, article deadlines often land before lunchtime, so sometimes that’s what I’m doing when I’d probably prefer to be writing fiction! As for the act itself, generally I start a book with an idea – could be broad theme, could be specific incident/character. And then you sort of work your way into it. I find the plot etc. suggests itself as you go along. Only once or twice have I had to stop and actually plot the thing out. This happened with my next crime novel, The Polka Dot Girl (blatant plug alert: it’s out on January 24, 2013) – I had pretty much gotten lost inside this byzantine story I was inventing.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Try to sleep as much as possible! Read as much as possible, though again, with the lack of sleep, etc… I run a bit, mainly to lose weight and so I don’t die in the next few years. Watch a lot of movies, usually something I’ve already seen – you know, like the film version of comfort-eating? Also enjoy watching The Mentalist and Simpsons re-runs, but that’s about the only telly. And my guitar stands forlornly in the corner, hoping for me to pick it up someday and learn how to play more than eight chords…

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

Ooh, gosh…I don’t know. Whatever about getting published, I will give one bit of advice re. writing itself: read plenty crime fiction, get a feel for it, get to know its conventions and reader expectations, its limits and possibilities…but ALSO read lots of other books, too. Literature especially. It mightn’t seem like it, but I really do feel that a broad and (especially) deep reading history makes you a better writer, in genre fiction or whatever the case may be.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

All oldies (I tend not to read fiction as and when it comes out, for some reason, unless for review). But they’re all goodies, for different reasons: The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez Reverto, N is for Noose by Sue Grafton, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosely, The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver. Am currently eyeballing Antonio Tabucci’s Vanishing Point and an ancient Lawrence Block title, A Diet of Treacle, which was reissued by Hard Case a few years back. Eyeballing them like a crazed drill sergeant, I am.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

George Orwell’s Collected Essays, Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Solzhenitsyn (it’s short but taking me ages to finish), a disappointing latest issue of National Geographic, and these words I’m typing…now.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Ideally, my own planet where I’ll throw kitschy, retro-1960s “moon parties” 24-7. No, ideally make some money out of Even Flow and Polka Dot Girl, sell the YA urban fantasy title I currently have out with an agent, and make this whole game financially viable. Artistically/literarily, I hope to finish my Coupland/Linklater mash-up, finish the YA horror, then – fingers crossed – get cracking on two sequels to the YA fantasy mentioned above.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

I think I’d probably start writing sooner! Apart from bad poetry and newspaper/magazine articles, I never wrote a word until I was 28. Then I struggled with a literary novel for a year, but managed to finish it which convinced me, yes, maybe you can make it as a writer after all. And from the financial perspective, I wonder if I should have started with a genre title, which let’s face it is more likely to sell than my self-indulgent debut novel. It was pretty decent, but nobody was interested and I can’t really blame them! I then followed up with an avant-garde collection of short stories on one theme…urgh. Dumbkopf.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

Oh Christ – where do I start? They’re almost literally uncountable! Mostly to do with stupid agents, lazy publishers, stupid/lazy agent/publishers, and so on – I’m sure you have the same stories yourself. I could write a book on this…which wouldn’t get sold. Okay, this is probably the most ignorant and ill-mannered of the lot:

I emailed, under a pseudonym, a certain famous agency: “I see on your website you do not ‘currently accept unsolicited submissions’. I don’t understand. What do you mean by unsolicited? Does the writer have to get another agent who then approaches yours, or something?”

I get this reply: “We do not accept work that has not been previously published. In the past we have received work from budding, amateur authors trying to break into the industry, and they send their work to us in the hope that we will represent them and greatly improve their chances of getting a book deal.”

I write back: “‘Budding amateur authors sending their work to literary agencies in the hope of improving their chances of a book deal’ – is that not the whole point of agencies? What other function does a literary agency fulfil? This is a serious question, I am not being funny.”

Them (from a different office): “‘Unsolicited manuscripts’ are those not sent to us from a publisher or international agency.”

And me again: “And thank you for me this meaningless answer, which doesn't actually explain anything. Although it was at least not as sneery and condescending as your other office's email to my question. I leave you – in the absence of any great expectation that I will ever get a polite, respectful and informative reply – with a little piece of advice: maybe you shouldn't be so quick to needlessly antagonise people for no reason. You know that old maxim about treating people well on the way up, because you may meet them on your way down? Well, not all of us will forever remain ‘budding amateur authors’. Some of us will have some real power someday.”

Then, they reply – in an apparent state of mild panic – “I am sorry to hear you are frustrated. Perhaps I can help address the questions you posed? (Blah blah…waffle waffle…until finally) You are welcome to submit a query. And we wish you and all ‘budding amateurs’ the best of luck.”

And me once more: “Right, I think I understand now. You DON'T accept unsolicited MS, but you DO accept query letters/pitches? I must have got confused with the line on the website about not currently accepting "unsolicited submissions". BTW I'm not actually a "budding amateur author" at all: I've been published by a major house under a different name, and write for several newspapers in more than one country. I just didn't like XXX’s sneery little jibe, as I'm sure you can understand. But you were very polite. Thanks.”

I didn’t bother submitting. No further correspondence followed… 

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Thank you! That’d be the main thing. Oh, and a little plug for the book if I may: Even Flow, a cinematic, thrilling, funny and provocative novel about a group of vigilantes inspired by feminism and gay rights, and bringing the pain to New York City’s macho men. Out now, in shops and online, print copy and e-book whatchamacallit. Second crime novel, The Polka Dot Girl, published next January 24, is a Chandler-style noir with a twist: all the characters are female. It’s Sam Spade in lipstick and a dress…

Thank you, Darragh McManus!

Even Flow... thoughts arrive like butterflies...

Even Flow Isn't just an awesome Pearl Jam song, you know. Check out the blurb for this new Irish crime fiction offering:

New York City: a man hangs upside-down outside a skyscraper. He’s being punished by three strange vigilantes – and he’s just the first.

The 3W Gang are regular guys, into movies, beer, reading, hanging out…and waging violent war on society. They believe it needs balance – ‘enforced karma’ – through selective, brutal punishment of misogynists and homophobes.

Wilde, Waters, and Whitman are inspired by revolutionaries and feminists, art and irony. They’re the grunge vibe made flesh and made angry: cool, witty, sexy…and dangerous. Hunting them is a gay detective, determined to see justice done but getting more morally ambivalent as he’s drawn into their world.

Even Flow is a fable wrapped inside a thriller. It’s Germaine Greer crossed with Kurt Cobain crossed with Dirty Harry.

It’s time for an Even Flow.

Tuesday 2 October 2012


I was delighted to meet Anthony Quinn at Tara West's book launch a few weeks ago. A very pleasant chap. Anybody who opens a conversation with a cheeky remark about my greying hair is all right in my book. I had seen his Q&A on Crime Always Pays and made a mental note to learn more about the guy. Unfortunately, I was up to my eyes in work for my MA and the note got lost. However, a quick chat with Mister Quinn soon jogged my memory. I later found out that Ken Bruen thinks his book, DISAPPEARED, is great. There is no higher recommendation as far as I'm concerned.

But if you need further convincing, check out this Culture NI review.

Or just buy the book.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Riding through this world...

So, last week I read Iain Parke's HEAVY DUTY PEOPLE, watched the first episode of SONS OF ANARCHY Season 3 and discovered the NI web series, THE CLANDESTINE. Three different forms, three very different approaches to the subject matter and three fine ways to spend a little time.

You can try one of the three right now. All it'll cost you is seven minutes of your time.


Thursday 13 September 2012

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Writer Man -- Sockpuppets Suck!

Yes, I'm very late weighing in on the whole 'sockpuppet' thing, but in my defence, I've been working on my MA dissertation. And maybe it is all old news, but I feel like it still deserves some sort of official CSNI statement. So, yeah... rather than write yet another 'sockpuppet' blog post, I figured I'd do this.


Thursday 6 September 2012

Belfast Reading at Crescent Arts Centre

Belfast writer, Tara West, is reading from her second novel, Poets Are Eaten as a Delicacy in Japan, at the Crescent Arts Centreon 7 September, 6.30pm. 

Be there or be quare disappointed.

This is an awesome novel (CSNI review impending) and I'm really looking forward to the event, especially since I missed the last two book launches I wanted to attend. Shout-outs and apologies to Declan Burke, John Connolly and Louise Phillips.

Monday 27 August 2012

A Gift Horse With No Name

Dan Starkey fans will get my ever-so-clever Dec Burke-esque title pun. Well, I say Dec Burke-esque, but his puns usually work...

Anyway, if you are a fan of Dan Starkey or the Mystery Man or anything else penned by Colin Bateman (and you have movies, TV series and stage plays to choose from as well as his novels) then this might well be your lucky (wet) bank holiday Monday.

The best-selling and award-winning scribe is launching a creative writing course aimed at writers about to embark on or in the process of writing their first novel. Folks, this is the kind of thing emerging writers would step over their granny for.

If you have a Facebook account, you can find the dedicated page here --

Click the link and 'like' the page to keep up to date with the course happenings.

Thursday 16 August 2012


My second novel from Blasted Heath is officially out now. So far the reaction has been crazy-positive. I'm loving it but I'm kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. No doubt there are many out there who will be offended by the irreverent treatment of religion in the book. Grand so. Nothing I can do about that. And until the crazies gather with pitchforks and torches, I'll just enjoy the ride.

If you want to download a copy and enjoy or take offence, here's the hub of activity -- Blasted Heath FIREPROOF page.

And should the book inspires you to start your own religion/cult just do me one favour:

Saturday 4 August 2012

Book Events to Die For

I've got my tickets. Have you?

BOOKS TO DIE FOR is a unique, must-have anthology for any fan of the mystery genre, featuring personal essays from 120 of the world’s most beloved and renowned crime writers on the mysteries and thrillers that they most admire, edited by two of their own—John Connolly and Declan Burke.

Tana French on The Secret History by Donna Tartt; Jo Nesbø on Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1280; Kathy Reichs on The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; Michael Connelly on Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, and Charlaine Harris on Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male: these are just a few of the 120 internationally bestselling mystery writers showcased in this collection—a book every reader of crime fiction should own.

In the most ambitious anthology of its kind ever compiled, each author pays a deeply personal tribute to one mystery that means the most to them, explaining why that book affects them and how it has influenced their own work.  This collection presents a treasure trove of works in the mystery genre by the people who know it best, and is an essential guide for all readers and writers.

Thursday, August 30 at 6:30 p.m.
BelfastNorthern Ireland
Belfast launch of THE WRATH OF ANGELS, BOOKS TO DIE FOR, and SLAUGHTER’S HOUND by Declan Burke
The Ulster Museum
Botanic Gardens, Belfast

Tickets Available from No Alibis Bookstore—free event!
44 (0) 28 9031 9601

Thursday, September 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Dublin launch of BOOKS TO DIE FOR
Dubray Books Grafton Street

36 Grafton Street

Dublin 2
(01) 677 5568

Thursday 26 July 2012


The Sweety Bottle -- my granda's shebeen circa 1974

And as of today I'm the same age Jesus was when he was crucified. Kinda freaky because the next book I release through Blasted Heath takes the piss out of religion a little bit... It's all in good fun, though. Hopefully it won't inspire a lynch mob.

Anyway, my 33rd year is off to a great start. I'm almost done with my creative writing MA and I found out last week that the play I wrote with my da, The Sweety Bottle, has received major funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This means an all Ireland tour in 2013 with the best actors Brassneck Theatre Company can hire. It's going to be so awesome.

And I'm off work tomorrow. Tonight I will mostly be working on tomorrow's hangover.

Happy birthday to me.

Sunday 8 July 2012

No Alibis Event -- Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben
Wednesday 18th July at 6:30PM
Venue: Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast
Tickets: £5/£3


No Alibis Bookstore is very pleased to invite you to an evening with Harlan Coben in the Ulster Museum on Wednesday 18th July at 6:30PM. Tickets are now available price £5 each (£3 concession).

Harlan will be signing and chatting about his two most recent novels “Stay Close” & “Shelter”.

Harlan Coben was born and raised in New Jersey. After graduating from Amherst College as political science major, he worked in the travel industry. He now lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben MD, a pediatrician, and their four children.

Coben is the first author to win all three of the most coveted literary awards: the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award. His books include the Myron Bolitar series, as well as other standalone novels, including Play Dead, Miracle Cure. Tell No One, Gone for Good, No Second Chance, Just One Look, The Innocent, Hold Tight, and Caught. Harlan Coben's books have been published in more than twenty-two languages.

Book your spot now by emailing David, or calling the shop on 9031 9607.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Been Thinkin' and Tinkerin'

How do I get the Fifty Shades of Grey readers to buy my books?

So, it's time to put the second phase of my self-publishing experiment into action. I gave POSSESSION OBSESSION AND A DIESEL COMPRESSION ENGINE away as a Kindle freebie for one day last month. The aim was to get it onto a few thousand Kindles out there in the hopes that it would yield some reviews, maybe encourage people to take a chance on my other books (published by Blasted Heath and Pulp Press).

Just over 200 copies were downloaded that day. I'm not sure about the knock-on sales effect but I do know that the only review I got came from a reader already familiar with my work (Hi, Katy! You're the best!) so in that respect, the experiment kind of failed.

But I've assessed the damage and come up with a slightly different plan. First of all, I've decided to make use of the sites out there that give shout-outs to Kindle freebies. Some need to be contacted ahead of time so I did that on Monday (I feel so organised). The rest I'll need to hit up on Saturday, the first day of the giveaway. Hopefully that'll draw a little more attention to the book. The fact that it's going to run for two days might improve my odds at getting that download figure in the thousands as well. So basically the same as last time but I've (hopefully) picked a better set of days, extended the freebie time period and told more people.

Well I didn't say it was a great and original plan. Just slightly different.

Whatever the case, I'll report the download figures here early next week.

It's Here!

EDIT: FREE THIS WEEKEND -- 7th and 8th July 2012


Possessed by the Devil. Obsessed with Rock and Roll. Under the spell of a charismatic Ford Focus driven by a diesel compression engine and a thirst for motor oil. This little collection of horror stories spruced up by a healthy splash of Northern Irish smart arsery revisits some classic themes and tips its hat to some new ones. You'll laugh, gasp and cringe, at times all at once.

UK version.

US version.


Monday 18 June 2012

Fade to Black

Top writer and general slick motherfecker Tony Black has just released a novella by the name of THE STORM WITHOUT. I've the great fortune of having both a print and Kindle version of this latest Black offering and if his track record is anything to go by, I'll likely read both versions.

Check out this super-slick video trailer (and spot the Northern Irish connection) right now.

The Storm Without from Quick Off The Mark Productions on Vimeo.

Saturday 9 June 2012

The Self Pub Rub

So, with the release of Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine on Kindle (appropriate links in the post below), I've dipped my toe into the self-publishing ocean. Figured I'd keep a bit of a journal on my experiences here.

I've signed up to Kindle Select and used one of my promotional "free" days. Not a massive success. 200 copies shifted between Amazon UK and US. Wee Rockets shifted a hell of a lot more than that when Blasted Heath offered it for free for three days. But then, they know what they're doing... I did it on the Jubilee bank holiday because I was about the house that day, but I might have been better off doing it on a weekend. I still have a lot to learn.

The next step in my (laughable) strategy will be to wait until I get a few reviews on there (if I'm lucky enough to get them, like) and then offer it for free for another few days. If anybody reading this wants to help me out with reviews, please drop me a line and I'll mail you an e-copy.

I might play about with pricing too... It's a very short book and 0.77p seems a fair price to me but other people have different philosophies on pricing and I'm happy to experiment with all of them. It'll be fun to see where this thing goes.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Coming Soon


Possessed by the Devil. Obsessed with Rock and Roll. Under the spell of a charismatic Ford Focus driven by a diesel compression engine and a thirst for motor oil. This little collection of horror stories spruced up by a healthy splash of Northern Irish smart arsery revisits some classic themes and tips its hat to some new ones. You'll laugh, gasp and cringe, at times all at once.

Wednesday 14 March 2012


So... not much going on here at the minute. I'm still working on that goddamned novel, now in it's nth draft, and am trying to limit distractions. And then there's the MA stuff I'm working on. Plus we got some bearded dragons and another puppy in the last few weeks... I'll get back on track as soon as things settle down.

In the meantime, another Northern Irish writer is working his tats off. Wayne Simmons has landed two awesome reviews lately. Stop by his site to read reviews with Lawrence Block and Charles Ardai! Then buy his book, FEVER.

Be cool.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Chapbook Giveaway

Okay, I'm needy. Please validate me by reviewing my work. Your efforts will not go unrewarded. The first three people to review either THE POINT or WEE ROCKETS on Amazon (and notifies me about it by leaving a comment on this post) will receive a signed copy of my rare chapbook, POSSESSION, OBSESSION AND A DIESEL COMPRESSION ENGINE. It's a collection of six interlinked humorous-horror short stories, the first being the piece of flash fiction below that'll give you a taste of the style.

This offer is open to all countries. It's a light book (45 pages) so postage isn't an issue.

Blood Bath

He lay in his bath of blood and sang O Fortuna at the top of his voice. The blood had cooled and clotted, but he felt far too comfortable to be bothered with scraping off and getting dressed. This was the only time he had to himself, away from the office politics and embezzlement investigations. He wanted it to last for as long as possible. Besides, this one had taken more effort to fill than previous baths. His muscles still ached from the exertion.

The best bathing blood had to be extracted from frightened accountants. The easy part had always been scaring them; you just told them there was a problem with the bottom line or gave them a debit-heavy Balance Sheet. The tough part was catching them. Those chaps worried so much they built up an unhealthy supply of nervous energy. As soon as they got that adrenaline rush they moved like lightning. Skinny fellows they were too. Very hard to hold on to when they squirmed.

This particular bath had taken him a whole day to collect for. The effort of the chase, the strength expelled twisting the accountants from their ankles to their necks, holding them upside-down over the bath; it vexed.

The only motivation when under such a strain was the promise of that pop; the sweet sound of a head letting go when it reached the maximum point of elasticity. And the splash-back refreshed him so much he was always able to twist one more. Corny but true; the harder you worked at something the sweeter the reward.

He relaxed and thought about the time he tried to fill the bath with lawyer blood. Now there was a lazy species. It took barely three hours to gather enough of them to fill his bath to the brim. Such a slovenly bunch. Not one of them tried to run or even struggle in his grip. Half of them attempted to bargain their way out of it with a jumble of highbrow words. Hitherto and henceforth and whatnot. The others did nothing at all, the sudden change from hunter to hunted too much for their shark-like minds.

Although the easiest bath he’d ever prepared, he hated it. It took three accountant baths to get rid of the toxic smell. Lawyer blood emanated a horrid whiff. And it clotted at an alarming rate. It formed a thick skin on the surface that hung from his shoulders like a cloak when he climbed out of the bath. A wonderful effect visually, but damned impractical. He rarely experienced the heebie-jeebies, but those lawyers hit all the wrong buttons. He vowed never to have anything to do with that species again. It wasn’t worth the hassle.

He gazed upon the emaciated accountants strewn around the floor. He sometimes worried there would not be enough to keep him in bath blood forever. The thought made him uncomfortable and he knew it could not be ignored. Every batch got skinnier and balder than the last. Not a great sign. But he had to bathe. It was his great escape.

He would begin experiments with alternative sources. Perhaps scientists were a good place to start the experimentation. It had a certain poetic justice to it.

The sticky, clingy feel of congealed blood interrupted his thoughts. Cursing, he got to his hooves and stepped out of the bath. He picked up the nearest twisted body and wrapped it around his waist. He still felt good about discovering a use for the broken remains. If only he could utilise all the pairs of spectacles he had accumulated. It seemed such a waste of good honest craftsmanship to let them gather dust in his spare room.

With a sigh, he picked up his trident. In one last instant of escapism he upended it and held it like a guitar. He fingered a silent pentatonic blues scale; the one he liked to play at the crossroads. Thunder rumbled in the back of his throat. Time to get back to the office. The place just fell apart without him.

Friday 17 February 2012

Three Great Novellas


In California Banks introduces us to Shuggie, an ex-con who may have finally figured out how to control his temper. He's on a mission to get from Calfornia, Falkirk, to California in the US. All he needs to do is collect the ill-gotten loot he'd stashed in his home town and get gone. Simple enough, so long as nobody gets in his way.

This is a short, straightforward read that is exceedingly well written. The insight into Shuggie's psyche is chilling in its stark authenticity. Banks is a heavyweight in the gritty Brit crime genre. Powerful.

SHOTGUN GRAVY by Chuck Wendig

Atlanta Burns, a teenager with attitude... and a shotgun. Shotgun Gravy is almost like Falling Down in high school. When a teenager with a reputation for brutal violence decides to go on a crusade against the bullies in her town it isn't long before she fnds herself and her ragtag mini-gang of friends in serious trouble. Noble as her intentions may be, she's bitten off way more than she can chew.

This novella is a shotgun blast of a read. Highly recommended. I'll be very interested to see what Atlanta Burns gets up to in her next adventure.

BARRACUDA by Raymond Embrack

This is a novella that oozes tongue-in-cheek wickedness. The hyper-reality that Embrack has created in Blonde City is tweaked to crystal meth levels. Peter Surf is a badass protagonist that the reader has utter faith in. Faith that he will strike down upon his enemies with great vengeance and furious anger. The plot is your basic revenge tale but the fun Embrack has with it livens what might have been a flat, worn-out story. The gangs of criminals the protagonist encounters could have been spewed from the mind of Tarantino if he were on a bad acid trip. Considering the pricetag, you can't afford not to buy this novella. Download and enjoy immediately.

You'll find links to these novellas on my Amazon profile page.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

A Message for the Kindle Junkies - Support the CSNI Guy!

Now follows a shameless plug for my Kindle offerings:

WEE ROCKETS does for Belfast what Irvine Welsh did for Edinburgh. It’s a frank look at the drink and drug-addled youth ejected onto the streets of a socially deprived community as they smirk in the face of authority and play Russian Roulette with their adolescent lives.

Praise for WEE ROCKETS:

“The Wire? This is Barbed Wire. A cheeky slice of urban noir, a drink-soaked, drug-addled journey into the violent underbelly of one of Europe’s most notorious ghettos, WEE ROCKETS make The Outsiders look like the Teletubbies.” – Colin Bateman

“Gerard Brennan stands apart from the Irish crime fiction crowd with a novel rooted in the reality of today’s Belfast. The author’s prose speaks with a rare authenticity about the pain of growing up in a fractured society, shot through with a black humour that can only come from the streets. WEE ROCKETS is urban crime fiction for the 21st century, and Brennan is a unique voice among contemporary Irish writers.” – Stuart Neville

“In WEE ROCKETS Gerard Brennan has written a fast paced, exciting story of West Belfast gang culture; brimming with violence, authentic street dialogue and surprising black humour. This is a great debut novel. Brennan takes us into the heart of Belfast’s chav underclass, in a story that lies somewhere in the intersection between The Warriors, Colin Bateman and Guy Ritchie. This is the first in what undoubtedly will be a stellar literary career.” – Adrian McKinty

Small time crook Paul Morgan is a bad influence on his brother, Brian. When Paul crosses one thug too many, the cider fuelled duo flee Belfast for Warrenpoint, the sleepy seaside resort of their childhood memories. For Brian a new life in THE POINT means going straight and falling in love with Rachel while Paul graduates to carjacking by unusual means and ‘borrowing’ firearms from his new boss. Brian can’t help being dragged into his brother’s bungling schemes but Rachel can be violently persuasive herself . . . and she isn’t the only one who wants to see an end to Paul’s criminal career.

Praise for THE POINT:

“Gerard Brennan is a master of gritty violence.” - Colin Bateman

“...a Coen Brothers dream, via Belfast... Gerard Brennan grabs the mantle of the new mystery prince of Northern Ireland..." - Ken Bruen

"The Point is the real deal -- the writing is razor sharp, the characters engaging, the ending a blast. From start to finish it's true Northern Noir, crafted with style and wit." - Brian McGilloway

"It needs to said that Gerard Brennan’s The Point is terrific. Scorchingly funny, black humour at its finest and the most inventive car theft ever!" - Arlene Hunt

"The Point is top stuff. Engaging from the start, the characters are loveable, the story is strong and the pace never lets up." - Adrian McKinty

"Noir from Norn Iron! A lean slice of grindhouse from Belfast's new crime hack." - Wayne Simmons

Please note, THE POINT is also published in paperback and is available at the wonder emporium that is No Alibis, Belfast (still the only bookstore with signed copies!), and in selected branches of Waterstones across NI. If your favourite bookshop doesn't have it on the shelf, just order it in.

I thank you for your indulgence.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Mick's Pic

Irish crime fiction connoisseur and altogether cool melon-farmer, 'Critical' Mick Halpin sent me this funky pic. I've decided he should call it 'Stuff What Brennan Has Written and or Written For and Some Other Stuff'. Catchy, right?

Thanks for making me smile, Mick!

Wednesday 1 February 2012

They Like Me, They Really Like Me...

Well, feck. THE POINT has only gone and scooped the Best Novella Spinetingler Award. Bloody marvellous!

Many thanks to all those who voted. According to the folks at Spinetingler Magazine there was only a few votes in it so every one actually did count.

I'd blather on a little more but I'm still pretty blown over by the whole thing. I'll say one thing, though... you could do a lot worse than to pick up a copy of all the nominees' novellas. I'm halfway through the list and they're all brilliant books. Probably why I'm still scratching my head over the whole thing.



Tuesday 31 January 2012

Spinetingler Award -- Final Voting Day

Today is the last day that you can vote for your favourite novella in the Spinetingler awards. All info and links can be found below (basically a cut and paste job from a previous post). I hope you'll consider voting for my wee book, THE POINT.

I wanted to blog about this earlier but I had an assignment I needed to get done first. And it's now done, so -- DRUMROLL, PLEASE! -- my novella, THE POINT, has been nominated for a Spinetingler Award. Oh, yeah. The little book that could, just did. I'm frickin' dee-lighted. I'm also fully aware that a nomination is as far as it will go. Have a gander at this cluster-feck of insane talent and wonder at the confidence trick I played to get lumped in with them.

California - Ray Banks
Barracuda - Raymond Embrack
Everything I Tell You is a Lie - Fingers Murphy
Every Shallow Cut - Tom Piccirilli
Felony Fists - Jack Tunney
Follow Me Down - Kio Stark
Old Ghosts - Nik Korpon
The Point - Gerard Brennan
Shotgun Gravy - Chuck Wendig
Smoke - Nigel Bird

But hey, I don't mind losing to any one of those guys. All I want to do is go down swinging. So, if you have the time -- and you feckin' do or you wouldn't be reading this, would you? -- Go to the Spinetingler website and throw a vote my way. It only takes one click and you don't have to register for anything or agree to any dodgy terms and conditions. Just clickety-click and you're done. What are you waiting for? If you'd stopped reading a sentence or two ago, you'd be done by now!

Thank you in advance, kind souls.

P.S. Why not buy some or all of the novellas on the list? I know I will. They're there for a reason, like. Purchase links to all of them can be found on the Spinetingler site.

Thursday 26 January 2012

New Review Policy

Last year I began writing shorter reviews to (I had hoped) allow me to produce more of them for the blog. It turned out I averaged about one review a month which represented only a small fraction of my actual reading. And I'm not even sure that the reviews did any real good for the books. So this year, I'm changing my approach again.

One thing that I've found since I released THE POINT and WEE ROCKETS is that the reviews that seem to have the most traction are those on Amazon. Now, this could well be because I'm relying heavily on Kindle sales, but I'm pretty sure that many other writers attach a lot of value to them too. I took a little time to think about whether or not it was 'professional' to review other writers on Amazon and came to the conclusion that most people don't give a feck about that sort of thing. And so, from now on, when the fancy takes me, I'll be reviewing my latest reads on Amazon. But just so the blog still has a bookish element to it, I'll be gathering them up every once in a whole and posting them on CSNI.

My main concern in this endeavour is how seriously people will treat my reviews. I'm not a fan of the 5-star system but that's what I have to work with. Thing is, when I'm reading a book that isn't floating my boat I do this really wacky thing... I stop reading it. So the majority of my reviews are going to be in the 4 and 5 star range. I suppose you could argue that the challenge is getting me to finish reading your book. Then again, most people don't give a feck about this foible either.

So, constant visitors, the latest Amazon reviews:

The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty is one of my favourites. He's a forerunner in the latest generation of Northern Irish crime writers. And this is the book he was born to write. A police procedural featuring a catholic RUC officer set against the backdrop of the 1981 hunger strikes. Talk about ambitious... But McKinty is a master of the craft and he has applied all of his talent to The Cold, Cold Ground.

The writing is electrifying, the characters top notch and his ability to spin a great yarn is enviable. If you want to learn a little about that crazy chapter in Northern Irish history and read an excellent story as well, you need look no further.

Buy this book.

Stolen Souls by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville brings us back to his dark version of Belfast in the latest Jack Lennon investigation. Set over Christmas, this novel delves into the murky depths of human trafficking in Northern Ireland and the gangs that control it. It's set at a relentless pace throughout with all the now distinctive hallmarks of a Neville crime novel. If you're a fan of the Belfast series there are plenty of little references to the previous books to delight and intrigue the constant reader. But they never distract from the main force of the story. I look forward to his next instalment.

Stolen Souls is 24 meets Die Hard in Belfast. Come on, tell me you don't want to read that and I'll tell you you're a liar.

All The Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith

This was officially my first Kindle read and I have to say, this book alone is pretty much worth the price of the Kindle reader. Just a pity the author couldn't get a percentage off that price-tag.

The story is set in Minnesota and Somalia, places of opposite extremes in temperature and culture. The narrative is split between a recently widowed, angry cop and a terrified American-born Somalian who has gone to his father's home country to join the 'ragtag army'. This is a big, ambitious story and it is handled with expertise by Smith. A tremendous novel with a distinct and confident voice. I actually slowed my reading down around the 80% mark to make it last a little longer. I'll be reading more from this guy.

All The Young Warriors is an emotional gut-punch. I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Why I Write - Part 3 of 3

So, is writing an escape for me? I don’t think so. I have a nice life. Apart from a dull day job, the rest of my existence is packed with blessings. I have a supportive wife who I still love very much. Then there are my three children: Mya (age 7), Jack (age 5) and Oscar (age 1). Those kids fuel and exhaust me in equal measure and they are three very different examples of pure brilliance. We also have a puppy that is so cute and fluffy that I can only walk him when it’s dark enough to hide my blushes. I’m broke most of the time, but make just enough money to provide my family with the essentials and the occasional extravagance. So, what’s to escape?

Is it a psychological impulse? Possibly. Though I have other impulses that can be acted upon as and when I decide. For instance, no mater how stressed I am, I rarely drink before the kids go to bed. Certainly never enough to get drunk. When I’ve been cut off on the M1 by some tube in a BMW 3 Series, I don’t drive my Nissan Micra into the back of his wank-mobile to teach the impudent prick a lesson. And when I pop a tube of Pringles, I often stop just to feel that little bit superior to the lost souls who make up the company’s marketing department. So, if I decided it was inconvenient, I’m confident I could quash the urge to write.

So, what is it?

Here’s a theory.

I am descended from a clan of highwaymen and bank robbers. And I am unhealthily fascinated with criminals. In fact, I believe that I have a criminal mind. However, I lack a criminal’s stomach. I simply do not have what it takes to actually commit a legal transgression. So, is the skill for figuring out inventive ways to break into a house or rob a high street shop wasted on this yellow-bellied man? Well, I usually write crime fiction, so maybe not.

Crime fiction has become my legal means of experiencing the joy of law-breaking. I want to be an outlaw but don’t want to risk a criminal record. The idea of a prison sentence captures my imagination, but I have no intention of spending any time in a cell. There are times when my temper gets the better of me and I threaten violence (from a safe distance) yet in my adult years I have yet to throw a punch that wasn’t in self defence. But in my mind, I’ve gone that extra mile so many times. Robbed, shot, stabbed. Danced, kissed, shagged. Lived, fought, died. Vicariously, I have had the most colourful lifetime I could imagine thousands of times and have infinite potential to live many more.

Surely the question is not, ‘Why do I write?’ but, ‘Why the fuck wouldn’t I write?’

That’d be a nice line to finish up on, but I haven’t addressed my skill for listening (remember I mentioned that in Part 1?), so humour me for a further paragraph or two.

I am a listener with an armoury of questions that draw conversation from others. This is useful in social situations that I can’t avoid. It is also essential for my writing inspiration. Other people have stories and I collect them, melt them down and reform them to suit my vision of a character in a story or novel. By listening to others, I refill my inkwells.

And when I can do so without it becoming too obvious to those concerned, I eavesdrop. It’s a little creepy and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I have heard some fantastic conversations on buses and in restaurant. It’s fuel to the creative fire, and a wonderful way to pass the time. But with all that information filling my brain it’d be a real shame to do nothing with it. So what do I do?

I choose to write.

Actually, that’s not a bad line to end this on either, is it?