Saturday, 31 December 2011

Blood Tears The Cover

Hi peeps,

Just thought I would end my bloggy year by posting the cover of my debut crime novel "Blood Tears".

It's getting real now, folks !!!!!!

More info to follow.

In the meantime, I wish you everything in 2012 that you wish for yourself.


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

My Favourite "Crime" Reads of 2011

In no particular order, here are some my outstanding reads of the year. Well, everybody else is doing it ...

Megan Abbott – The End of Everything
Just WHO can you trust? Friends, family? Can you even trust yourself?
This is a book about sisters, fathers and daughters, family and friendships, truths dripping reluctantly from the owner, but more than that, it’s a book about two young girls on the verge of discovering the confusing and heady power of their gender. It’s “noir” fiction, but not as we know it.

R J Ellory – Bad Signs
Two brothers on a road trip to hell. A fascinating take on the nature/ nurture debate from one of my favourites, and one of the most consistently excellent writers in the field today.
Maybe I’m becoming a wimp as I grow older, but there were several times during the race to the end of this book that the tension became too much for me and I had to set it aside for a few minutes. Now, that is good writing!

Tony Black – Truth Lies Bleeding
Our Tone gives Gus Drury a well-deserved rest and turns his eagle-eye on the police procedural.
In my Crimesquad review in April I said, “Another area where Tony Black excels is in his depictions of those living on the edge of the law. There is no soft edge to these people. Every flaw is stripped of shadow and every bad deed gets punished. Truth Lies Bleeding is fast, sharp and brilliantly plotted. It’s only just turned spring but if I read a better example of the police procedural this year I will be amazed.”  
Nothing came across my desk to allow me to review that opinion. ‘Nuff said.

Tom Franklin - Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
An old crime returns to haunt the town’s loner, allowing us, the reader to examine our judgement of others and ultimately, our own conscience. The writing is delicious, the pace sure and steady and the sense of place offers an atmosphere that is impossible not to be seduced by. There is much to admire about this novel and a whole lot more to love and if there is any justice in the world this will become a huge bestseller.

Sam Hawken – The Dead Women of Juarez
This has to me my favourite debut read of the year. Visceral and haunting. The real-life victims of the crimes that pervade this city are in the background, their tragedy highlighted by the simple but effective ploy of showing the effect that their deaths have had on the people left behind. Time and again we see them draped in black, crushed under the weight of their grief: a much more effective device than a passage of torture. REALLY looking forward to seeing what Sam comes up with next.

Declan Burke – Absolute Zero Cool
Trying to describe this book adequately is like trying to grab a bar of soap in the bath. Just believe me when I say it is frickin’ brilliant. I'm totally in awe of Burke’s ability to craft a sentence and to unleash the bon mot. This a brave book, both in context and content. It has brains, wit and heart and the ending was pitch-perfect. Gave me a wee lump in my throat. This has got cult classic written all over it. Just off now to re-read. It’s that good!

Bill Kirton – The Sparrow Conundrum
Ahh, Bill. The man. In the interests of full disclosure I have to say that Bill is a friend (as are a few others on this list – but I knew Bill before I knew his writing) nonetheless, he has fully earned his place here. Besides, my list: my rules.

The characters that Bill Kirton serves up in award-winning, The Sparrow Conundrum are a continuous delight. My favourites were the sociopathic detective, Lodgedale and the crime boss, Eagle who surely had his head turned by a gang of bullies at a private school. Kirton is a master of the comic. If you like a change from the normal mystery/ thriller fare and you don't take your crime fiction too seriously you owe it to yourself to get a copy of The Sparrow Conundrum.

James Lee Burke – Feast Day of Fools
We’re in the Texan landscape with Hack Holland and we’re hunting a psycho. Which is nice.
Flippancy aside, JLB is one man who deserves that much used word – “awesome” in respect of his work. There is richness to this man’s writing that cannot fail to delight. He specialises in imbuing his characters with certainty of action, even while their motives are conflicted. Burke is the master of an oblique dialogue that in the hands of someone less skilled would serve only to confuse, but with him it never fails to enlighten and engage. Biblical. Epic. Awesome.

Adrian McKinty – Falling Glass
This is an archetypal tale of a man who is sent to find a woman he then falls for. What keeps the story fresh and fascinating is the quick-fire pace, the insight into his characters and the quality of the prose. Adrian McKinty is a fine stylist who says much with a few carefully chosen words and he rounds this off with touches of mythology and whispers of the arcane. A writer who deserves to be more widely read.

Nick Stone – Voodoo Eyes
As a fan of Nick’s work, Voodoo Eyes was a book that was well overdue. This is Nick Stone’s first outing since King of Swords in 2007 and boy was it worth the wait. His private detective, Max Mingus is older, not necessarily wiser but still determined to bring down the bad guy. And they really don’t come much badder than Solomon Boukman. Max is a wonderful literary creation. He is washed thin by personal tragedy, partly because he feels he deserves most of it, but still he keeps on coming. The sympathetic but honest eye that Nick Stone used to chronicle the past of Haiti in his earlier work is now used to good effect on the neighbouring island of Cuba.  Stone observes with the skill of a journalist and paints a word picture as effectively as any poet. The sense of place in this piece is so vivid you leave the books pages feeling as if you had just spent a few hours on the island itself.

Amanda Kyle Williams – The Stranger You Seek
Serial killers are (to borrow the cliché) ten-a-penny in crime fiction and it takes something a little bit special to grab and hold my attention. The Stranger You Seek has got “special” in bucketloads. Keye Street is my new favourite character and it’s her voice that takes us through this cracking read.  She is spunky, sparky (he feverishly seeks another word beginning with “sp”) and (goes for) sassy. (I didn’t get the “p” in there. So sue me.)

Aspiring writers who are struggling with the concept of “voice” should read this book and they’ll receive the message loud and clear. The author uses this to great effect not only giving the reader everything they would be looking for in such a novel, but with added warmth and wit. And this (despite the tension and body count) makes The Stranger You Seek such a joy to read.

Can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Xmas ... (and tartan underpants)

... to my three regulars. You're persistence in popping by May Contain Nuts in the face of my paltry and pathetic efforts these days is truly inspiring. (Wondering where I could possible stick more "p"s in this sentence.)

By way of thanks, I'm going to be as lazy as I've been for most of the last year and replay a blog I posted  a long time ago, but dinnae worry, it's a goodie.

Remember the Tartan Underpants?

Some of you may already know that as a lad I was a dervish in a kilt, a demon at the sword dance, yes people, I was a Highland Dancer.
I can’t remember the age I was when I started (4, 5 or 6) but I stopped as soon as I grew out of my tartan underpants. Twenty one. No, I’m joking, I was around about 11 years, 3 months and 2 days. But who was counting?
Blame the nuns. They thought it was character forming. There was one issue that the nuns didn’t foresee when they took steps to mould the future me.  The wee fella Malone had the knack. He was doing well with the highland dancing and being asked to perform at Burns Suppers, St Andrew’s Nights and Christmas parties for geriatrics around the country (well, North Ayrshire).  
The problem? Tradition was a big thing in all of this. I danced with real swords, to a real bagpipe player while wearing a real kilt.  How far could the nuns allow me to take tradition? Many non-Scots reading this will surely be fascinated to know that “a real Scotsman” wearing a kilt does so without underwear. Yes, we were going commando long before anyone else. (Apparently this was a military thing and men in Scottish regiments were banned from wearing kilts. To ensure this rule was not broken Sergeant Majors were known to fix a mirror to the end of a golf club and walk along the line scanning for visible danglies )
Could the nuns afford to make this eight/ nine/ ten year old lad a true Scotsman? If there was a mishap, male specific body parts (MSBP) would be on show. What if the lad slipped? Group shudder. What if when he slipped his kilt ended up over his head, Holy Mary, Mudder of Jaysus?!
This was a major concern. The sight of, the thought of, the mention of MSBP was enough to bring on group hysteria, much gripping of rosary beads and rapid and repeated signs of the cross. They could not, would not allow private parts to be on display. The world could not, would not face such an evil and depraved display, Jaysus, Mary and Joseph.
A compromise was found. I was to be made a pair of underpants from the same tartan as my kilt. This meant that if I kicked too high the MSBP would not be displayed. They would in fact be invisible. All the audience would be faced with was a pair of disembodied legs.
Said knickers were made. Not only were they the same tartan – they were of the same rough, heavy woollen material. However, before you all wince, they were lined. So not only would tradition be maintained (sort of) and dignity preserved (praise be to God), there would be efforts made to keep chafing to a minimum (awww, bless).
From a distance of time I can smile, rub the scars (yes, there was chafing. I remember tucking my shirt into the pants around my thighs) and wonder if the “seamstress” was told that these knickers were for a boy. There were tight, flat and there was absolutely no room for MSBP. Thankfully these parts were pre-pubescent and yet to reach their...ehm... full potential (TMI?) but "stuffing" was nevertheless still required.
I’m betting the maker of the tartan undies went on to bigger and better things. Didn’t you ever wonder where Drag Queens stick their man-stuff?  Under the sequin and lace panties, I'm willing to bet you they’re wearing a pair of tartan underpants.

I'd like to adapt an old Scots greeting and offer you this - Lang may your lum reek and your danglies dangle. 
Here's to a Merry (and inclusive) Christmas (ooo, controversial) to each and every one of you!


Thursday, 22 December 2011

James Lee Burke - FDOF

I'm coming over all fanboy on the subject of the above book at CRIMESQUAD

Here's a wee taster ...

"There is richness to this man’s writing that cannot fail to delight. He specialises in imbuing his characters with certainty of action, even while their motives are conflicted - and he is the master of an oblique dialogue that in the hands of someone less skilled would serve only to confuse, but with Burke it never fails to enlighten and engage."

Eeesh, sounds like I almost know what I'm talking about. For the full bhoona go click on the above link. You know you want to.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Xmas in NZ

If you don't crack a smile at this, you should visit a hospital quicksmart and ask them to split open your ribs to see if their's a heart in your chest cavity -


Friday, 16 December 2011

Some Friday Fun

I love the expression on this guy's face ...

He's so absurdly pleased with himself.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

born under a bad sign ...

I recently reviewed Bad Signs by R J Ellory over at CRIMESQUAD

Here's how it went.

The blurb - 

Orphaned by an act of senseless violence that took their mother from them, half-brothers Clarence Luckman and Elliott Danziger have been raised in state institutions, unaware of any world outside.

Their lives take a sudden turn when they are seized as hostages by a convicted killer en route to death row. Earl Sheridan is a psychopath of the worst kind, but he has the potential to change the boys' lives forever. 

As the trio set off on a frenetic escape from the law through California and Texas, the two brothers must come to terms with the ever-growing tide of violence that follows in their wake - something that forces them to make a choice about their lives, and their relationship to one another.

What did I make of it?

Bad Signs is a road trip novel that sweeps you up and haunts you long after you have finished the book and set it aside.  As with all of Ellory’s oeuvre, we are treated to an experience that is rich with detail and heightened with emotion.  In fact, so convincing is his sense of time and place that you feel you are holding a chunk of 60’s Americana in your hand.

The two brothers are an examination of our best and worst impulses. Why do we act the way we do? Nature or nurture? Are some people really born under a bad sign, or are those who give in to their darkest inclinations forced to do so by circumstance?

The boys share different fathers, but the same mother. One brother maintains his innocence despite all of the external and internal pressures, while the other travels down a path that has only two destinations at the end: a chair wired to the national grid or a bullet.

Here, in this brother’s gradual deterioration, R J Ellory displays his skill as a writer. We experience the boy’s influences, his neurosis and his insecurities and we are there as fully engaged observers while he takes his first tentative step into violence and his shaking, puking, terrified delight. From there, he simply can’t turn back.

The other brother’s journey is equally compelling and the writer racks up the tension by the simple but hugely effective expedient of introducing a mix-up of identities.  The “good” brother becomes the guileless prey hunted by every law-enforcement agency in the country, while his brother glee-fully goes on the hunt and punishes every imagined slight in increasingly violent ways. Will the truth become known before a “shoot to kill” order is carried out?

Will your fingernails ever grow back?

Maybe I’m becoming a wimp as I grow older, but there were several times during the race to the end that the tension became too much for me and I had to set the book aside for a few minutes. Now, that is good writing. 

This is a stellar work of fiction that deserves to be on everyone’s reading list. Loved it. 5/5 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Mikey Goes on a Rant and Gets Salty With The Language.

It has now been a year since I bought my Kindle, so I thought I would take stock of my reading experience with it thus far.

I have downloaded 33 books. Which is not too shabby. How many have I read? Any guesses?


Yup, you up the back, that wasn’t a typo. 3.

There are about 4 or 5 others that I have read too halfway, some I looked at briefly and some that have never been opened.

How does that compare with the hard copies of books I’ve bought, borrowed from my local library and books I’ve been given to review? I haven’t noted the empirical data – so sue me – but I would guesstimate that I read anything from 1 to 3 books per week. So, a light approximate would be that in the time I have read 3 e-books, I’ve read anything from 100 - 200 paper books.

It’s not that the books on my Kindle are crap. They’re not. 

I’m thinking that there are two things at play here.

#thing 1 – see me, I love the feel of a paper book.

#thing 2 – when I’ve paid anything from £3 to 0.99p for an e-book I feel less inclined to follow up my purchase. There is little perceived value there so I don’t bother reading it once the initial impulse has flown. (So how does that tie up with the fact that you get a lot of free paper books, bozo?)

#thing 3 – so, there’s more than 2 things, quit moaning – ahem, thing 3 – It mostly doesn’t even occur to me to look out my Kindle and read from it. I forget where I’ve put it most of the time.

Is it just me? We’re all reading e-books aren’t we? Am I so out of step with the rest of the reading world?

Bloggers and journalists out there often use the changes in the music industry to highlight the eventual death of the book. The techies among them doing it with a certain degree of glee, it has to be said. It has been reported so often that the download has killed off the CD that it has almost become fact. And repeated till Pinocchio’s beak circumvents the globe. So I thought I would check it out.

I read some research carried out by the UK music industry – not sure what the situation is in the US – but here are the figures for 2010...

Sales of digital single tracks represented 98.0% of overall singles sales, with CD singles only accounting for 1.9m sales (down on last year’s total of 2.5m).

So that seems to bear out what “everyone” is saying, right? But is that the whole picture? Nope.

98.5 million CD albums were sold against a figure of 21 million digital albums.

So, it seems for a single track we’re loving a download, but for an album the CD still rules the roost.

Side-bar, your honour - Interestingly, this allows me to draw a correlation between novels and short stories. It seems that the e-book is allowing the short story to flourish. After all, the e-reader is the perfect tool to read a short story on the to-and-from from work etc.

The one movement in the music industry that worries me is the overall downward trend of sales caused by the illegal download. Let’s hope the book peeps get to keep control of that particular nastiness. It has been calculated that the total number of people in the UK illegally downloading music on a regular basis is 7.7m.  It is likely to be even larger given other methods by which music can be illegally obtained, such as e-mail, instant messaging and newsgroups.

That’s a concern, innit? If it happened to that degree in the book world it would be nothing short of disastrous.

And what is it about people who think that its fair game to obtain creative content for free? They wouldn’t dream of popping into Tesco and knicking a CD/ book/ movie or fresh fruit and veg off the shelves, so why is it ok to steal digital content?

Oh, don’t get me started. On one blog I visited the other day; where they were debating the price and therefore the perceived value of ebooks, one numpty came on to leave a message saying, why pay when you can get it for free?

Because someone has spilt their life blood on to the page, they’ve studied their craft, they’ve put in hour upon hour upon hour, day after month after year to try and entertain you, you asshole. That’s why. Music, literature, the arts – it all enriches our lives - this stuff doesn’t and shouldn’t come free – or the well will eventually run dry. And what a horrible world that would be.

Eeesh, I’m going to have to go and lie down or have a camomile tea or SOMETHIN’.

Fuckin’ free.

Fuckin’ A-hole.