Saturday 26 January 2013

A Wee Wayne Simmons Review - THE CREEPER by Tania Carver

If ever there was a book that 'does what it says on the tin', it's THE CREEPER. 

Everygirl Suzanne Perry wakes after a nightmare where an intruder came into her room while she slept, only to find a photograph of herself on the edge of the bed. Meanwhile, Colchester's finest are at the docks where the mutilated body of a young woman has been discovered. A little to'ing and fro'ing by DI Phil Brennan and team, and the two cases become linked. So when Suzanne Perry goes missing, the body of her best friend left in the wake, everyone fears the worst... 

This book is something of a rarity: a hard boiled crime novel set within the UK, yet American in its delivery. Carver delivers the goods, THE CREEPER's writing almost noir-ish in feel, with tersely written prose and punchy dialogue, hacked into short, sharp chapters. The characters are mostly well-rounded and flawed, and - until the end, at least - don't fall foul of stereotyping. 

Everything is well balanced within this book. Sure, the focus is often on our two main players, their relationship a particularly important part of the story. But nothing overstays its welcome. This is a pacey read, the story belting along at a ferocious pace, twisting and turning towards an action-packed finale. 

As a horror fan, I'm always looking for gore and suspense within my crime reading and THE CREEPER didn't disappoint on either front. In fact, I've nothing really bad to say about the book. This is as addictive a read as you're going to get, the very definition of page-turner. 

I can't recommend it enough. 

Wayne Simmons

Saturday 19 January 2013

An Interview - Catriona King

Catriona King was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She trained as a Doctor, moving to London to live and work. She obtained her M.B.A. from Henley Management College in Oxfordshire , trained as a police Forensic Medical examiner  and worked in central London in General Practice, Community Paediatrics and Health Management and strategy. She worked closely with the Metropolitan Police on many occasions. In recent years, she has returned to live in Belfast.

She has written since childhood, fiction, fact and reporting.

‘A Limited Justice’ is her first novel. It follows Detective Chief Inspector Marc Craig and his team, through the streets of Belfast and Northern Ireland, in the hunt for the killer of three people.

‘The Grass Tattoo’ her second novel was released in December 2012. It follows lust, greed and foreign gang influences leading to murders in Belfast and further afield.

The third D.C.I. Craig novel ‘The Visitor’ will be released in March 2013 and a fourth novel is nearing completion.

What are you writing at the minute? 

I've just finished editing the third book in the D.C.I. Craig series called 'The Visitor' due out in March 2013. It's set in April 2013 and is about unusual murders set in the world of a fictional hospital in Northern Ireland. I've also completed the first draft of book four which is provisionally called 'The Waiting Room' set around the time of the June 2013 G8 summit being held in Northern Ireland this year. We're hoping to release that in late May 2013. I've also written a play which is being performed in Belfast in May.

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

Well… if I'm lucky enough to have a full day free to write (I have a real job as well) then I'll start at 8 or 9 am and write until the natural light fades, somewhere between five pm in the Winter to seven pm in spring/summer. But I can only do that for three days in a row then I have to take a break for a couple of days or my head starts to hurt! :)

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I work in the real world to pay the mortgage, and I run a Belfast-based theatre company called The Studio which will be putting on two plays at the MAC in Belfast later this year. And I do all the normal things. Watch TV (crime or movies! especially anything with Viggo Mortensen or Michael Fassbender in them. Or directed by David Cronenberg. That being said a bit of Bruce Willis is fun too, especially the Die Hard movies) and meet friends for coffee, chat. Generally I just live life.

Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the genre fiction scene?

Yes, absolutely. Keep trying and don't be put off by rejections. A rejection just means that particular person didn't click with your book. Take on-board any advice they give you and take a long look at your book, and if you believe in their advice then redraft. But don't lose the core of your book or idea. Believe in yourself and trust the opinions of honest people you respect and then keep writing. There is no substitute for being a good writer except to write, practice, edit and redraft. It's hard work but it's worth it.

Which writers have impressed you this year?

Hilary Mantel without a doubt and Alifa Rifaat.

What are you reading right now?

Distant View of a Minaret by Alifa Rifaat. It's about the life of a woman in Egypt. Excellent. And I would tell everyone to look at the Perceval Press for surprising and truly wonderful books. It's a U.S. site but they ship everywhere. And support your local bookshops.

Plans for the future?

Perhaps write another play. And I'd love to script write, for TV or film and I'm thinking of ideas for a screenplay right now.

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

Mmm.... That's an interesting question. I had an agent for a while and I do regret that, principally because it delayed everything and I spent ages just waiting for them to submit to people that they thought I should submit to. I left them and then weeks later read an article about a Belfast Author Rose McClelland who was with Crooked Cat Publishing, a new publisher setting up in Edinburgh. So I submitted directly to them and we clicked immediately. They are brilliant and very supportive.

Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

The agent, who shall remain nameless. I think also that publishing can be a very cliquey business and established publishers sometimes won't take a risk on first time authors or less well known writers. They are also often to take risks and just go for what they know sells, which will change in any given year e.g. the vogues for vampires, reality show based books, celebrity biogs. That's why Perceval Press is such an awesome organisation. They stretch people to open their eyes and look at things differently.  And genre bookshops like 'No Alibis' in Belfast which focuses on Crime and American studies are well worth a visit.

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

Just to say that I've deliberately set my detective series in post -troubles 2012 Belfast and onwards. I think people are tired hearing/reading about the Troubles (or maybe I am). The hero has no political or religious bias at all, and he's half-Italian to represent the other communities living in Northern Ireland. I wanted the books to belong to everyone and perhaps to do something positive to cross the divide (even if they are murder mysteries!) and I also wanted to showcase the beauty and good things like restaurants and countryside of Northern Ireland, as Morse does with Oxford and Rebus does with Edinburgh. Perhaps people will get to know Northern Ireland through the books and pay it a visit.

Thanks for interviewing me.

Thank you, Catriona King!

Monday 14 January 2013

A Wee Wayne Simmons Review - HABIT by Stephen McGeagh


Manchester, the present. Michael divides his time between the job centre and the pub. A chance meeting with Lee, an introduction to her ‘Uncle’ Ian, and a heavy night on the lash lead to a job working the door at a Northern Quarter massage parlour.

After witnessing the violent death of one of the ‘punts’, Michael experiences blood-drenched flashbacks and feels himself being sucked into a twilight world that he doesn't understand but that is irresistibly attractive. When he eventually finds out what goes on in the room below 7th Heaven, Michael’s life will never be the same again.

Think Bret Easton Ellis. On a writing break in the north of England. And all he packed was Fight Club and some early Stephen King novels. Stephen McGeagh’s powerful debut will stay with you for a long time.


We’re all about the fusion here at CSNI. Last week featured a horror hack tackling crime. This week, debut novelist Stephen McGeagh writes a horror-esque/ crime-esque thing, and releases it through literary publisher, Salt. Is your head spinning yet? Good. Because that’s exactly the right frame of mind for talking about this book. 

In many ways, HABIT could be part of the Bizarro or New Weird movement. But don’t let that put you off: for all its weirdness, this is still very much a story grounded in reality. The writing style is loose and colloquial, narrator Michael as Scally as they come. It’s dog rough at times, paragraphing and sentencing both out the window. And therein lies its strength: with such a down to earth narrative, characters and settings so familiar, the meat of the story, that big reveal in 7th Heaven, will prove all the more devastating, going way beyond what either crime or horror fiction has delivered in recent years in terms of shock factor. Make no mistake: HABIT is brutal. It will shake you to your very core. 

It’s a cinematic read. For tone and content, I’m reminded of films like MARTYRS or Paul Andrew Williams’ 2006 release LONDON TO BRIGHTON. There’s something lyrical about the book too, the easy-flowing narrative of booze and sex and Manchester’s clubbing scene reminiscent of songs like Arab Strap’s THE FIRST BIG WEEKEND or The Streets’ BLINDED BY THE LIGHTS. It’s the kind of book I’d recommend to people who don’t normally read much, the short chapters and slim volume making for a very digestible page-turner. 

The characters are people you’ll know, or once were yourself. Protagonist Michael is far from innocent, but he’s naive and fresh enough to ease us gently into the shenanigans at 7th Heaven while still retaining that all-important integrity. Lee makes for a good damsel in distress, in a twisted, neo-noir kind of way, with Mike’s sister as the equaliser (kind of) and best friend Dig providing some black humour.

There’s nothing to criticise. Everything about this book works.     

In fact, let’s make this easy for you: HABIT is groundbreaking. The kind of book that when you’re not reading you’re thinking about reading, and chomping at the bit to dive back into. It's full of dirt and grime and charm. Easily one of my favourite and most memorable reads of the last ten years. 

You need this book.     

Wayne Simmons
Genre Fiction Writer

Saturday 5 January 2013

A Wee Wayne Simmons Review - EPITAPH by Shaun Hutson


He sucked in a deep breath full of that strange smell he couldn't identify. He trailed his hands across the satin beneath him and to both sides of him and, when he raised his hands, above him too. He knew why it was so dark. He understood why he could see nothing. He realized why he was lying down. He was in a coffin. A distraught couple thinks you've killed their daughter and they want a confession. If you say you did it, they'll kill you. If you say you didn't, they'll leave you to die. It seems hopeless but there is one way out... What would you do?


With the exception of two Hammer adaptations, Hutson seems to have ditched the supernatural elements of his 80s and 90s horror output, focusing more on real-life horror of recent. Or crime, as we call it. 

EPITAPH is a crime book through and through. 

The catalyst for the story is a particularly heinous crime: 8 year old Laura Hackett’s rape and murder is vividy described from the child’s perspective in some of the most effective writing I’ve ever encountered by Hutson. From there, things go from bad to worse, grieving parents Frank and Gina Hackett doing what many would undoubtedly want to do in their situation, taking the law into their own hands. But is Paul Crane, the man they’ve pinned the murder of their daughter on, definitely guilty? 

I’ve read a lot of Hutson over the years and enjoy him a great deal. He gets a bit of stick for being something of a hack: ‘gutter horror’ is a term I’ve heard used when describing his work. For me, his writing is addictive. A kind of neo-noir style, with tight prose and short, sharp chapters. 

This is perhaps the most character-driven I’ve read from Hutson, and great for it. 

Our main protagonist is Paul Crane, the man the Hacketts believe to have raped and murdered their little girl. Paul wakes after a heavy night’s drinking to find himself in a coffin, presumably buried alive. It’s pitch black and he can’t move an inch. There’s a mic somewhere close from where a voice talks to him, telling him why he’s there.

The main body of the novel is the conversation Paul has with his captors, who we soon discover to be the Hacketts. They want to know all the gory details of their daughter’s rape and murder. This makes for very tough reading at times, and for that reason I wouldn’t say this novel is for everyone. The writing is powerful and emotive, the reader unsure until the heart-stopping climax as to whether Crane is guilty or not. 

It’s hard to think of a book this grim as a page-turner, but Hutson nails it. We can empathise with everyone, from the grieving parents, frustrated by the seemingly apathetic justice system, to Crane himself, desperately trying to reason with his captors, claustrophobic and all too aware of his diminishing supply of oxygen. It goes about as dark as you could imagine, and then some, Hutson never holding back. 

Yet still we read on.

In short, EPITAPH is a brutal crime novel dealing with heinous subject matter. It’s a cruel reminder, if one is needed, that true horror is what happens around us; a very human affair that has nothing to do with ghosts or zombies or vampires.           

Wayne Simmons
Genre Fiction Writer