My publisher, Fahrenheit Press is a recognised world leader in crime fiction, often with a disturbing twist or plot. Yes, there are police procedurals, but there is so much more to crime fiction, and Fahrenheit Press is the star to which writers should aspire. (PS. They’re good fun, and definitely anti-establishment.)
I assiduously try to review books I’ve read. Here are a few:
One Of Our Jeans Is Missing – by Paul Charles
Right of passage? This is the 70s in technicolour
I wish I’d read this when I was in my teens instead of Lady Chatterley’s Love: it would prevented my obsession with chasing married, titled ladies and dressing up as a gamekeeper. It is a romp of a read; a gallop through late 60s London club land with a twisty mystery ending.
Some authors take the reader by the hand and lead them through the plot; Paul Charles is different. He’s the bloke at the big round table in the pub. When he starts his story, nobody moves. Charles is a raconteur who captures, holds, manipulates and creates laughter, gulps of incredulity and a constant smile of missed youth.
One of Our Jeans is Missing is a history book: a sort of sexualised Horrible Histories where, instead of death and violence, we have a rite of passage for a man treading the new uncertain path of sexual exploration. It is also an introduction to the late 60s, where great musicians and great bands were playing it for love in The Marquee Club before they ended up in free-booze dressing rooms at Wembley and Shay Stadium.
Charles is a proven writer of crime fiction, but this is different and well worth the last third of a book that is, at heart, a conversation with a friendly and welcoming narrator.
August by Jim Lusby
Intrigue and turning back the carpets of Irish child abuse
One of the most intriguing and well-penned crime novels I’ve read this, or last, year. Lusby is compared to Rankin, McDermid and Connolly, and August has elements of the best of these perennial best-sellers.
The book is set in Ireland and features abuse in Catholic schools, and the storyline gradually leads to a major community festival. You just know it’s going to end with a gloriously bloody finale at the carnival … but, will it; there are so many twists and turns that nothing is as it seems. August has one of the most intriguing and flowing finales: masterful writing.
The relationship between our hero, Detective Sergeant Jack Mason of the Guarda and his sidekick DC Shaw, fresh from undercover work, remind me of a little bit of Morse and Lewis. Mason has his personal problems, but this time it’s not alcohol, it’s an addiction that’s much more interesting and marriage-wrecking.
August begins with three teenage deaths and the clear recognition that the deaths were drug related. Mason has a nagging doubt, and the book takes on a roller coaster of a ride through police wanting a quick result and no peeking under the blanket of institutional child abuse, organised crime and drug dealing, and a policeman who simply won’t give up. Mason gets dropped from the case, but we all know he’s not going to let it end there.
Lusby is a craftsman of crime fiction. I get the nagging feeling that he actually knows much more than he commits to fictional print.
Broken Dreams – by Nick Quantrill
A private investigator with a soul – and darkness
If I’m ever in trouble I want Joe Geraghty as my private investigator. He’s not too concerned about money; if he’s in mortal danger, and that includes severe cuts and bruises, he’s still going to follow through with the job; and he’s as tenacious as a Jack Russell, or at least an untrained dog refusing to hand the tennis ball back. On second thoughts, perhaps not: Joe Geraghty is far too immersed in a seedy side of life that we only find in great crime fiction. Let’s leave him in Hull, in this great literary environment.
Broken Dreams alternates between soul-searching personal quests, righting the wrongs of criminals and their victims, and descriptions that dig deeply into the historical, architectural and social aspects of the author’s hometown, and Hull is one of England’s most interesting cities.
Our hero, Joe, is recently widowed after a fire in his sister-in-law’s house, and the grief is raw and constant. There’s a missing woman and a murder, and Geraghty is rapidly swept into a series of events that takes him deep into the heart of Hull’s underworld, of prostitution and gambling, of shady business deals and rampant corruption. Part of him would like to drop it and choose safety; the other more reckless part wins. Joe Geraghty needs the money and these criminal characters keep throwing it at him.
Running alongside there’s an emotional quest for a woman who chose the life of a failing club singer, and it gradually becomes clear that the two cases will be inextricably linked. Find one and the clues to the other will start to take shape.
The author has an absorbing style. There is a smooth flow of prose that takes the ready by the hand and leads them through a plot that could be complex, but such literary nurturing is always going to make the journey captivating and logical.
I’d love to give Broken Dreams five stars, but it is the first in a trilogy and the next will undoubtedly get better.
Crack, Apple & Pop – by Saira Viola
Down and dirty in a seedy world of drug-dealing and rhythmic beats
Saira Viola fires words packed with emotion on to the page as if she’s a machine gunner on the Somme, but she’s not cutting down characters, she’s effortlessly building three-dimensional people out of the sewer-like detritus of drug dens, cocaine-addled nightclubs and flash, low-life ‘surgeries’.
Crack, Apple & Pop begins with a fusillade of descriptions. They cut through the crap and leave a mixture of odd balls, gangsters, wasted socialites, and drug addicts wandering zombie-like through a world populated by every skin colour and most nationalities. Meanwhile the key protagonists confidently and cruelly pull their strings in the manner of master puppeteers as the plot gathers direction and pace.