Monday, 29 September 2014


Two more from the ranks of the unread and another author who I know very little about. I do like taking speculative punts on the unknown, whether it's a title or a cover that sucks me in. Probably the knife fight title on this occasion.

Walter Walker is a trial lawyer, so I imagine these have a legalistic bent to them. Both were published in the mid-80's. Walker published 5 books in the 80's and 90's before concentrating on his legal career.

He returned with a new book last year - Crime of Privilege.
 I do like my 80's crime!

A Dime to Dance By

Chuckle Bishop, ex-high-school-football-star, is now a hack lawyer--divorced, not unlucky with women, looser in lifestyle than his contemporaries. He works in the Boston suburb of Portshead, where a local cop is under investigation, then indictment, for shooting an unarmed burglary suspect who was found fleeing the house of screenwriter Lanny Brandon (another local boy who's done well). And Chuckie is handed the job of defending the cop--who happens to be the brother-in-law of a Portshead city councilman with mayoral ambitions. Chuckie's prime enemy in the case, then: the current mayor, who isn't pleased by the challenge, and who uses the shooting as an opportUnity to indulge in the intricate mechanics of smalltown power-broking. And Chuckie has to find some retaliation-dirt on the mayor, some leverage--which he does by uncovering a city cemetery seam: there's a secret policy of selling the same plots over and over; when a grave is, say, 50 years old, the bones are disinterred, dumped, and the gravesite resold. First-novelist Walker sometimes extends this small tale with run-of-the-mill subplots: Chuckie's strangled relationship with his wayward daughter; his tangles with the exotic and shadowy Lanny Brandon, who has a beautiful, available wife. But when Chuckle is working--talking in euphemisms to the mayor, briefing the dumb and unfortunate accused cop, researching cozy corruption--the book has all the draw of first-rate journalism. And Walker deepens the narrative with a keen sociological portrait of small-city failures (more humane than George V. Higgins' raucous version), while treating Chuckie with a respect--a refusal to make him grotesque--that gives the novel a quiet sort of grace. All in all: a solid debut.(Kirkus Review)

The Rules of the Knife Fight

The third novel by the author of A Dime to Dance By is a powerful and gracefully written, cleverly structured story that displays his remarkable facility with dialogue and character. Although on one level this is a taut murder mystery, it is more an exploration of morality and circumstance, with astonishing surprises in store for the reader. Walker's central theme seems to be that despite everything, the truth will assert itself. The story is told from five points of view: Bobby O'Berry, a punk from Portshead, Mass., who is bullied into marriage by the brothers of his pregnant bride; attorney Chris Cage, who quits his job to defend his wealthy friends Leigh and Cathy Rossville in an unusual civil suit brought by Owen Carr, a hustling private detective who cleverly deduces the truth; and finally Roger Gifford, a judge whose job has left him estranged from his family. "In litigation," Chris explains to Leigh, "You have what actually happened, . . . what the witnesses say happened, and . . . what the jury decides happened. Now you tell me . . . which one's reality?" This is compulsive reading. (Publisher's Weekly)

Friday, 26 September 2014



It was Monday morning when Al Jackson drove into Willow Creek, a hot, dusty little Midwest farm town. Twenty-four hours later, Grace Amons, a local waitress – unmarried and pregnant – was found murdered; Al Jackson, who had inflicted nothing worse on her than a few old jokes, was accused of rape and murder; and an ingenious young killer was stirring up the townspeople to make sure that the accused man never reached a courtroom alive.

My first time trying out this author and it was an enjoyable first outing for me. James McKimmey was an American author that never figured on my radar until Scottish author and publisher Allan Guthrie interviewed him back in the early 2000’s. It’s an interesting interview and is available online in a couple of parts. (Part 1, part 2) Guthrie is a bit of an aficionado when it comes noir fiction and had initially compiled a list of 100 recommended noirs which I was trying to work my way through. I can’t say I was too impressed when he subsequently re-jigged his list and expanded it to 200 titles!

In the revised version of his list, eight of McKimmey’s books figure; The Perfect Victim (1958), Cornered (1960), 24 Hours to Kill, The Wrong Ones, The Long Ride (all 1961), Squeeze Play (1962), Run if You’re Guilty (1963) and Blue Mascara Tears (1965). From the little bit of detail I can find online about the author he passed away in 2011, at the age of 88. He also wrote science fiction and I believe some of his stuff is available online at Munsey’s.  

The Perfect Victim takes us to a hick town in America, Willow Creek, population of 1500. We meet the victim Grace Amons – a waitress, the local lads, the sheriff, his deputy, the newspaperman, the doctor, the college boy, Roger and his out of town Hollywood friend – Buggie Alstair. Into the mix comes a travelling salesman, Al Jackson.

Grace is the local beauty and she’s perfectly aware of her charms and the affect they have on the local populace. She can joke around with the locals, but when our own of towner makes a clumsy play, he’s immediately alienated some of the townsfolk. When Grace turns up dead a day later, Jackson is an immediate suspect and the perfect fall guy.

As readers we know how Grace died and we know who is responsible. What follows next is interesting as we see our real killer manipulate the populace into a frenzy, thirsting for vengeance. Common sense, decency and all rational thought, gives way to a lynching party mentality, with the lone voices of reason swallowed up by the screaming of the mob. McKimmey ratchets up the tension until the end. Can Jackson be saved and the town re-discover reason and its conscience or will the bloodlust win out.    

Really enjoyable, with an interesting mix of characters about who we learn plenty - how life in an isolated small town fifty years ago can play out….how the community rules, the gossip, the stupidity, the prejudices, the loneliness of some of the residents, the hidden desires, the spoiled ambitions, the general decency as well as the routine and the tedium and the general lack of excitement.      

James McKimmey
4 from 5

McKimmey is definitely someone I want to read more from in the future, with Squeeze Play figuring highest on my radar. Surprisingly I have nothing else from the author on the shelves at home.

I bought my copy second hand recently on E-bay, in order to participate in Rich’s monthly meme over at Past Offences. This month’s year was 1958. Check the link to see what enthusiasts have been reading for the year.

With regards to my large print Linford Mystery Library copy (1997). McKimmey is listed as James McKimmy on the front and back covers and spine and on the inside title page as James McKimmey..... very sloppy – perhaps if they had printed it larger someone might have noticed.

Bill Crider has reviewed this one and Cornered here.  

Thursday, 25 September 2014


Winner of the Unhanged Arthur Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel, 2012
Twenty-nine-year-old Michael Drayton runs a private investigation agency in Vancouver that specializes in missing persons — only, as Mike has discovered, some missing people stay with you. Still haunted by the unsolved disappearance of a young girl, Mike is hired to find the vanished son of a local junk merchant. However, he quickly discovers that the case has been damaged by a crooked private eye and dismissed by a disinterested justice system. Worse, the only viable lead involves a drug-addicted car thief with gang connections.
As the stakes rise, Mike attempts to balance his search for the junk merchant's son with a more profitable case involving a necrophile and a funeral home, while simultaneously struggling to keep a disreputable psychic from bilking the mother of a missing girl.
5 from 5 and the best book of the month so far. More Canadian crime fiction, another debut novel and a PI tale to boot; which hand on heart are my favourite type of sleuth within the genre.

Wiebe introduces us to Michael Drayton, an ex-cop running his own investigative agency. Drayton has a couple of office assistant-cum-employees-cum helpers-friends – Ben Loeb and Katherine Hough. There’s an interesting dynamic between the three of them. Loeb is a game designer and a constant reminder to Drayton, not that he needs one of an on-going, unsolved, going-nowhere missing child case. The child in question is Loeb’s sister and while the case file sits permanently on Drayton’s desk and Michael himself works it, you sense Loeb has given up. Hough is the part-time employee, someone more committed to her college education and not totally sure if working with Drayton is wise.

Drayton himself is interesting. He lives and cares for his elderly grandmother and frets over his cancer-ridden pet dog, not quite able to do the right thing by them both and let her go. In the course of the book we cross paths with his ex-fiancee, Mira Das and her partner, Gavin Fisk. Das and Fisk are both cops who become involved in Drayton’s missing child case. The fact that Das and Fisk cheated on Drayton together adds another layer of intrigue to the relationships both personal and professional during the course of the investigation.

As well as the Loeb – unsolved, Drayton has two cases on the go through the course of this book. Another missing child case which has stalled and a disturbing sex case involving someone interfering and defiling some corpses at a funeral home. Following Drayton as he pursues both cases, juggling his time and his limited resources while managing his home situation is fantastic. The stop-start-stall nature of the cases and the gradual uncovering of facts, witnesses, leads, plans and ultimately action gradually brings the plot to a boil.

Wiebe nails it. Plot, pace, character, setting, action and resolution with moments of genuine tension and dread as the climax approached. Causing this reader to scratch head and ponder………how did he do that?

I’m hopeful this is the start of a series as opposed to a one-shot deal, but I don’t know.

Probably September’s book of the month.

Sam Wiebe can be found here on his website and @sam_wiebe on Twitter. The book was recently published early September by Dundurn Press who can be found here

My thanks to Caitlyn at Dundurn for allowing me to get this one via Net Galley.      

Wednesday, 24 September 2014



Danny Grant figures he's hit the big time when he lands a job growing pot for a backwoods biker gang. The Libidos are picky about their hires and prone to radical pruning when members go rogue. Members like Perko Ratwick, the aspiring Road Captain who stretched club rules to hire young Danny, putting his own patch-never mind his life-on the line if the punk screws up. What could possibly go wrong with a high school dropout left unattended in a barn full of high-grade marijuana? Plenty, it turns out. In a world where indoor plumbing's optional and each local wacko is more twisted than the last, drug money draws reprobates like moths to a lantern. From loveable losers to gnarly thugs and law-and-order wannabes, every last one of them has an angle-their best shot at being stinking rich. But Perko's got warped ideas about right, wrong, and retribution, and the gang's not far behind.

"Brunet's hilarious caper [is] populated with a motley collection of unforgettable would-be heroes, all scrabbling for a piece of the action. Thoroughly entertaining!" -Owen Laukkanen, Anthony-, Barry-, ITW-, and Spinetingler-nominated author of The Professionals, Criminal Enterprise, and Kill Fee

"One of the wildest romps you'll ever go on...the cast is right out of a John Waters movie and with more unexpected twists and wrong turns than a blind rat on crack running a maze. This book rocks!" -Les Edgerton, O. Henry-, Edgar Allan Poe, and Spinetingler-nominated author of The Bitch and The Genuine, Imitation Plastic Kidnaping

 "If Carl Hiaasen were Canadian and enjoyed partaking in a little Class D substance for recreation, then you'd have an idea of what Stinking Rich has for you between its covers." -Todd Robinson, Anthony-nominated author of The Hard Bounce

Another enjoyable debut novel for me and another drug-fuelled romp around Canada. It’s been a while since I read anything with such humourous undertones….. maybe 6 years since I picked up a book by Floridian author Carl Hiaasen, but there were definite reminders of him in Brunet’s Stinking Rich.
Brunet has assembled a cast of hopeless villains with varying degrees of desperation and ineptitude.

Danny Grant is our main dude and his troubles form the focus of our tale. He has landed himself a cushy job, overseeing a marijuana crop. It allows him plenty of opportunity to get drunk, get high and blow his cash gambling every pay day. We learn a bit about his situation, he’s a lone child from a single mother and he dreams of providing a better life for her. Oh, he also has a pet iguana that he talks to, most often when he’s blasted after smoking the product he’s being paid to babysit, by a hapless biker named Perko.

Perko is using his initiative to move up the ranks of the Libido biker gang by arranging a massive drugs deal once Danny’s crop has been harvested. Perko has his own issues and rivalries within the gang and struggles to assert himself. He’s at constant loggerheads with Mongoose, a gang rival and they wind each other up at every opportunity.

Predictably things start to go into free fall when Danny has a falling out with his gambling partner and accidentally kills him with a baseball bat. After enlisting another dubious acquaintance in burying the body, Danny ends up fleeing the cops and the bikers when the drug deal is raided after his friend Terry puts the cops onto the scent of the marijuana crop, just as the handover is going down. 

Danny manages to leave the chaotic scene with $750k in drug’s cash in confusion after a mystery blaze sends the whole grow-op up in flames. Danny is eventually caught and imprisoned for 4 years after his inadvertent baseball bat victim’s body is discovered.

We pick up 4 years on after he breaks parole to try and recover the cash he has stashed at a hermit-outsider friend’s house when he discovers his friend has also died in a blaze.

Still following or confused?

Our story continues at pace with great humour and more than a touch of slapstick and absurdity. A bent, scheming, cash-hungry lawyer; a posse of vengeful bikers; a former friend/police informer now turned part-time fireman-cum-gigolo; a cop who is romancing the lawyer whilst being unwittingly played by her and a helpful neighbour who may provide Danny with the means to come out on top………all these figure and more, as does an exploding toilet, a poisoned dog, an iguana named Iggy (obviously) and a stolen camper van complete with kidnapped old lady.

Sometimes I read to learn something about the world. Sometimes it’s enough to be entertained and amused and to help forget about things for a while. Brunet’s book firmly falls into the second category and does it well.

Recommended if like me you occasionally enjoy a change of pace and some laughs. I’m off to dig out something else in the library that will amuse, it’s been a bit too long.

4 from 5  

Many thanks to Rob for sending me a copy of this. You can catch up with him here on his website and over on Twitter - @RRBrunet 

On his website, you can find some links to his short fiction which has appeared at Shotgun HoneyThug-Lit and in Paul D. Brazill's recent Exiles anthology, among other places. 

Stinking Rich was recently published by Down & Out Books.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Herbert Lieberman is the author of over 10 novels, most of which reside on the shelves of my library. My first encounter with him was when I read CITY OF THE DEAD (1976) sometime in the 80’s. It’s a novel concerning a medical examiner in New York whose daughter has been kidnapped. My memories of the book are dim and fuzzy and probably less than totally coherent, but I can vaguely recall being amazed, enthralled and absolutely terrified as I read it. Enough so that I was moved to collect most of his other books over a period of time. CITY OF THE DEAD is scheduled for a re-read at some point as is CRAWLSPACE. If I’ve read any of the others, I can’t really recall them.

Lieberman, born in 1933 and now in his 80’s is still with us living with his wife in Los Angeles according to Fantastic Fiction’s website. He may have been well on the road to becoming a forgotten author but Open Road Media have republished most if not all of his books in the past year or so in Kindle editions.


"They say I'm dead. - Shot in a cafe in Asuncion. Lured into Brasil and mown down by an Israeli assassin team. dredged out of the Iguacu Falls, my throat slashed." : Words spoken by the Death Angel of Auschwitz - Dr.Grigori - who lives and thrives in the corrupt, crumbling dictatorship of Paraguay where he continues his murderous, inhuman experiments. One man still pursues Grigori, though. A man of cold persistence, a man of violence...


In this novel of mounting suspense from award-winning author Herbert Lieberman, a terrifying surprise waits beneath a couple's New England home
Albert and Alice Graves live a normal, if monotonous, domestic life. They've never had children; they spend their days tending to their home and enjoying their time together. One day, when the oil man, Richard, is refilling their furnace, Alice invites him to dinner, never suspecting that a casual act of charity will lead to a horrifying, morbid discovery in the crawlspace underneath their beloved house.

The Graves take Richard into their lives, becoming attached to his presence as though to the son they never had. Their town, though, is not nearly so welcoming. When the locals lash out against the Graves and their strange houseguest, the contented household is irrevocably drawn into a darkness they could not have imagined.

Monday, 22 September 2014


Last month's starred book was Canadian author Dietrich Kalteis' debut Ride the Lightning.

Review here

Dietrich has taken his turn answering a few questions for me.

Is the writing a full-time or a sideline-passion-hobby? If not, whatʼs the day job?

I write every day, and for me, itʼs the best job in the world. Five years ago, my wife convinced me it was time to close my graphics business and start writing full time, something Iʼd talked about for a long time. And thatʼs what I did.

Whatʼs been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

Coming home one day two years ago and finding out I had a book deal. After I finished my first novel Ride the Lightning, I sent several queries to agents and publishers that accepted submissions over the transom. A few weeks later I heard from Jack David at ECW Press, and he liked the story and offered me a contract. As far as high points in my life, that was right up there.

From start to finish how long did “Ride the Lightning” take from conception to completion? 

I started with a single scene and just started writing. That first draft was finished in about three months. After a short break, I went back over it with fresh eyes and started editing, taking out anything that didnʼt work and adding in some new details. I ended up going back over it three/four times over the next nine months before I was satisfied that everything flowed the way I wanted.

How close was the end result to the book you envisaged writing at the beginning? Did you have a beginning and end in mind before you started, or is it a case of making it up as you go along?

I write by the seat of my pants. For Ride the Lightning, I started with the spark of an idea based on an article I read a few years ago, and it set the overall theme for the story. The article talked about the incredible number of illegal grow-ops here in British Columbia: an industry generating billions annually. It claimed our pot industry was bigger than fishing or lumber or tourism. It fascinated me, and so I started putting scenes together and forming ideas for the story. I borrowed my lead character, Karl Morgen from a short story I wrote a couple of years earlier about a process server who tries to serve up divorce papers on the manager of a travel agency. He has a hard time getting past the
guyʼs pretty receptionist, and I liked the way the dialogue between the two sizzled. Dropping Karl into a scene, I just started writing, letting his character develop along with the story. I didnʼt work to a tight outline, rather letting the story unfold.

Whatʼs your typical writing schedule? 

Itʼs very simple: Walk dog, eat, write. Repeat. I do throw in some strong coffee and loud music, writing every morning until noon, often coming back to it later in the day, but morning is the best time for me. Iʼm sharp, focused and more energetic then.

Do you insert family, friends and colleagues into your characters? Would they recognise themselves?

I havenʼt modeled characters after family members, friends or colleagues, although I may have borrowed a trait here and there. The characters are pure fiction, true Frankensteins in the sense that theyʼre a little of this and a little of that.

Are there any subjects off limits as far as your writing is concerned?

I write the kind of books I like to read, and for me, crime fiction with elements of dark humour fits the bill. I donʼt think I could write something I consider morbid, depressing or completely horrifying. Something the length of a novel takes many months to complete, so I have to feel fully committed in order to stay enthused for that length of time.

What are the last five books youʼve read?    
I just finished Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen. Before that, my summer readings
included Black Rock by John McFetridge, White Jazz by James Ellroy, American
Detective by Walter Mosley, Forty Lashes Less One by Elmore Leonard (the only book of his that I hadnʼt read at least once).

Who do you read and enjoy? 

I read a lot, both fiction as well as non-fiction, and enjoy anything that is well written, with a lean toward crime fiction. Old favorites in the genre are Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, George V. Higgins and Robert B. Parker. Thereʼs also a whole sea of great contemporary crime-fiction writers: Robert Crais, Carl Hiaasen, John McFetridge, Peter Leonard, just to throw a few names around. 

Outside the genre, I like anything by Hunter S. Thompson, Patti Smith, Jack Kerouac, Leonard Cohen, William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, as well as classics by Hemmingway, Salinger, Steinbeck, Twain …

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

I canʼt say thereʼs any one book I wish Iʼd written. But there are many great books that I admire, writers with jaw-dropping voices that inspire and leave me in awe.

Favourite activity when not working?   

I like to paint, play with cameras and guitars, watch football (soccer) and go for long walks and longer trips. And, of course, I read a lot.

Whatʼs the current work in progress? Howʼs it going?

I just handed over the final edits for my second novel, due out next year: itʼs a crime story called The Deadbeat Club, set in Whistler, BC. The story was never intended to be
part of a series, but it does borrow a minor character from Ride the Lightning. Dara Addie becomes a main character in the new story. Sheʼs a year older, just as edgy and ready for the deep end. I also have a third crime novel complete and am presently working on some historical fiction.

Have you done much meeting and greeting in an effort to get the book in front of people? Do you enjoy that aspect of being an author? (Me - I can think of few things worse, TBH)

Iʼve attended conferences, been on panels and taken part in interviews and readings. Along with several local writers, we put on a Noir at the Bar, Vancouver-style, and are getting ready for our next one in November. Itʼs all a lot of fun.

If I check back in a couple of yearʼs time, where do you hope to be with the writing?

Book ten – still getting up every morning, keeping to my schedule: walk the dog, eat, write and repeat.

And lastly, I want to thank you for inviting me to be your guest, Col. I wish you and your readers all the best.



Many thanks to Dietrich for his time. You can catch up with him here on his website or over on Facebook here.

Friday, 19 September 2014


Judy Nedry was the latest author kind enough to tolerate a few questions from yours truly. Judy has written a couple of mysteries with a 50-something main character - Emma Golden

The first - An Unholy Alliance was read and enjoyed recently. The second - The Difficult Sister sits on the pile waiting for its turn.  

My review appeared yesterday and is here.

Here we go .........

Is the writing a full-time or a sideline-passion-hobby?  What’s the day job?

•        At this point, the writing is a sideline/passion. I lost most of my retirement funds in the crash of 2008, and therefore am working at a couple of part-time jobs just to keep in the game. So I write when I can. I worked as a full-time writer/editor for many years, and have been addicted to writing since I was very young.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

•        Probably the most satisfying moment was when I published my first novel, An Unholy Alliance, at age 60. Imperfect though it is, this was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. Although I’d always wanted to be a novelist, my career was in journalism.

From start to finish how long did An Unholy Alliance take from conception to completion?
•        10 years from conception to completion. Seven of those years was noodling around in my head while I did other things—including writing two nonfiction books. When finally the story started to gel, it took me about three years to get it written and published.

You have written a second novel featuring Emma Golden, the main protagonist in An Unholy Alliance  – The Difficult Sister (it’s on my TBR pile), without  spoilers is Emma someone you anticipate writing about for the considerable future? Is there plenty of legs in her character yet?

•        Currently I am working on the third novel in the Emma Golden series—set in wine country again, after her adventure at the coast with Melody Wyatt for The Difficult Sister.  I am contemplating a prequel. Emma was a wine writer for 20 years, and I just think the industry was more fun/interesting back in the early years. I can see her having some hair-raising adventures in the Oregon wine country’s early years. She’s also well-versed in the wine regions of several European sites—particularly Burgundy, but also Alsace, Bordeaux, Portugal, northern Italy, and all over the U.S. These could be a lot of fun.

Do you have any unpolished diamonds tucked away in the bottom drawer or your writing desk?

•        Nothing in the bottom drawer. However, I have a biographical tale of my year as an anarchist—a bumbling anarchist—editing a counter-culture magazine in Eugene, Oregon in the early 1970s. That could be quite hilarious. Right now it is interfering with the progress of novel #3.

You have a non-fiction book to your name, how does the writing process vary between factual stuff  and your fiction? (Oregon Wine Country and Washington Wine Country, if readers are interested)

•        They actually are two separate books—Oregon Wine Country (1998) and Washington Wine Country (2000). They are very out of date but wonderful histories of the Washington and Oregon wine industries from their beginnings up to the years they were published. Plus, they have stunning photos by my colleague Robert Reynolds.  Fiction or non-fiction, the process does not change. For me there is the plan/research, very rough outline, more or less sectioned into topics and sub-topics. And then I sit my butt in a chair and write. When I really get going it’s magic. One of the joys of being a trained journalist who also did most of my journalism/freelancing while I juggled a job and family and household management, is that I could write anywhere at any time whenever time was available. So…once I get going, I’m able to write whenever I can squeeze in a few minutes.

Do you insert family, friends and colleagues into your characters? Would they recognise themselves?

•        Most of my characters are made up. There are hints and bits of people I’ve known or have encountered or characteristics of people I’ve encountered, but the characters themselves are products of my imagination. In An Unholy Alliance, a lot of people thought they “recognized” people in the book. Well, good luck. One woman thought I’d used her B&B as the setting. Nope, not even close. The one whose B&B inspired me didn’t recognize it. Fiction is so tricky that way.
•        There is one exception: Melody Wyatt. She is directly inspired by a very dear friend of mine, who is very pleased to be so recognized. They are not the same person, but if people who know Jessie are told she was the inspiration for Melody, they instantly get it. You can check out my website, and read the blog, “The Making of Melody Wyatt”. I even have a picture of her.

Are there any subjects off limits as far as your writing is concerned?

•        The idea of Emma ever touching a gun doesn’t work for me. She wouldn’t do it. She’s too much of a wuss. She’d make a complete hash of it. I do not envision myself writing graphically about rape or any violence toward women or children, although plenty happens off-stage. I think the sex scene in The Difficult Sister is probably as far as I will go depicting sex. In the bigger picture, I can promise you there will be no vampires, zombies, or dystopian fantasy post-apocalypse hoo-haw of any sort. Oh, and I won’t kill animals in my books.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

•        The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
•        A Most Wanted Man by John LeCarre
•        The Fatal Gift of Beauty by Nina Burleigh
•        A Murder in Tuscany by Christobel Kent
•        The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Who do you read and enjoy?
•        Since I write mystery/suspense, the mystery/suspense genre is my drug of choice. However, I really enjoy good biographies of celebrated people (I’m Your Man about Leonard Cohen for example) and non-fiction, particularly historical (In the Garden of Beasts about pre-WWII Berlin,or Seabiscuit or The Boys in the Boat…things like that).

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

•        To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald—both quintessential American fiction. I re-read them both every couple years.

Favourite activity when not working?

•        Reading—it goes without saying, film, cooking/baking, gardening, food, walking, and travel when I could afford it.

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

•        The third novel in the Emma Golden mystery series has been a struggle to date. I’ve had problems with a couple of the characters. Also, promoting Sister has taken up a fair amount of my time, so I haven’t had the time I’d like to devote to writing.

What’s the best thing about writing-publishing?

•        I enjoy the process of writing, revising, editing, re-editing, and seeing a project to its completion. I co-founded a wine and food magazine in the 1980s and I always loved all aspects of the process. I’ve self-published both my novels and love selecting the cover art and tweaking the design. As for the writing, once I am into it I lose consciousness of everything else. It is like I’m out of my body and in another dimension where I am living the story. It’s complete escape for me.

What’s the worst?

•        All the dithering up in my head before I hit that vein of gold.

If I check back in a couple of years’ time, where do you hope to be with the writing?

•        The third book in the series will be published and I hope to be well into the anarchist project.

Thanks to Judy for her time.



"Like many women in their fifties, Emma Golden feels invisible. She lives quietly in her Portland, Oregon bungalow and minds her own business. But her tranquil life is about to change. She is asked to return to the rolling hills of her former wine country home south of the city to supervise a friend’s bed and breakfast inn near Dundee.

Emma arrives at the Westerly Inn during grape harvest. She is under contract to write a book about Oregon wineries, and it’s business as usual until she discovers one of her subjects dead in a wine vat—murdered at his own dinner party.

Cougar Crossing Winery owner Ted Maxell was a ruthless and dishonest newcomer to the northern Willamette Valley wine scene. Many people wanted him gone—including his son, many local winegrowers, and even Emma’s ex-husband, Dwight. Then Maxell’s daughter, Tiffany, calls Emma and begs for assistance. “I know who killed my father,” she wails. When Emma answers Tiffany’s cry for help, she finds herself drawn into the search for a murderer or murderers with secrets worth killing for."

On the face of it, this book isn’t something that would typically attract my attention, but having previously acknowledged that I don’t read a sufficient number of books by females and that most of my books are tilted towards the edgier extremes of the genre I thought I would redress the balance on both scores. When offered the chance to read this and the second Emma Golden mystery, The Difficult Sister I said yes.   

A wise decision. I started and finished this 320-odd page book in a day, not something that happens particularly often these days. Cliché time….a bit of a page-turner then.

Our setting is the wine country of Oregon, a subject and setting our author has a familiarity with, which shows. I learned a bit about the process of wine production and how a winery operates without getting drowned in a glut of facts and technical detail.

Our main character; Emma is interesting, capable, intelligent but not without her issues or baggage. Emma is returning to her painful past, trying to pick up the pieces of a damaged friendship and help a friend overcome the same difficulties with alcohol that Emma herself has beaten. She’s immersed back into a familiar community including an ex-husband, but it’s a community and a circle that she previously turned her back on and fled from. This in itself carries a threat for Emma, exposing herself back to the temptations of the bottle.  

Our victim, a winery owner is a pretty loathsome individual, so we have no shortage of candidates for the crime. Ted Maxell is beaten and drowned in a vat of his own wine. As the story progresses, Emma under the guise of researching her forthcoming book, discovers more about Maxell and both his business dealings and personal behaviour and relationship. Hell after half the book, I would have been tempted to kill him myself if someone hadn’t beaten me to the punch. A second death follows and the plot deepens.

Judy Nedry
Overall – a really interesting book and something a bit different from my usual crime fiction reads. The sideshow with Emma’s involvement in her friend’s troubles helped fleshed the story out and give it more meat on the bones and added to my overall enjoyment. I’m looking forward to Nedry’s second book – The Difficult Sister (I could say that’s something I know all about, but that would be mean, so I won’t……oops, already have)

4 from 5 

Judy Nedry’s website is here.

Thanks to the author for my copy.    

Thursday, 18 September 2014



Treasure Coast is the wild new thriller from Tom Kakonis, the acclaimed author of Criss Cross and Michigan Roll.

A compulsive gambler goes to his sister's funeral on Florida's Treasure Coast and gets saddled with her loser-son, who is deep in debt to a vicious loan shark who sends a pair of sociopathic thugs to collect on the loan. But things go horribly awry...and soon the gambler finds himself in the center of an outrageous kidnapping plot involving a conman selling mail-order tombstones, a psychic who channels the dead and the erotically super-charged wife of a wealthy businessman. As if that wasn't bad enough, a killer hurricane is looming...

It's "Get Shorty" meets "No Country for Old Men" on a sunny Florida coast teeming with conmen and killers, the vapid and the vain, and where violent death is just a heartbeat away.

"Kakonis is a sharp new gambler in the literary crap game -- he just takes the pot." The New York Times

"Aptly compared to Elmore Leonard, Kakonis builds exquisite tension...steamy with a high-rent, low-life atmosphere...and an unforgettable cast." Publishers Weekly

"Tom Kakonis is a master of the low-life novel. Nobody does it better." Ross Thomas

Tom Kakonis is one of my favourite authors of all time; a judgement I have arrived at on the strength of reading 4 of his books. Kakonis first came to my attention in the late 80’s with the superb Michigan Roll – a tale about a former college professor-cum-professional gambler-cum-ex jailbird.
After a fairly long absence from the publishing scene and now thanks to the dynamic duo of Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman and their recently spawned love-child - Brash Books – he’s back.

Treasure Coast is fast, funny, black, violent, irreverent and politically incorrect……populated by a cast of predominantly misfits, losers and failures. In short my kind of book.

We cross paths with Jim Merriman, a failed gambler and reluctant uncle, assuming responsibility for his naïve and bewildered nephew, Leon who just happens to owe 45k. Jim and Leon are soon to meet Morris Biggs, Jr. - a racist and misogynistic, debt collecting ex-con and Hector, his Hispanic side-kick. Leon’s unlicensed lender has just enlisted his collection agents to come and collect.

We happen upon Bryce Bott an opportunistic chancer and grifter selling the recently bereaved a conduit to their dear departed, in tandem with his sick-note partner, Waneta. Bryce’s previous scams may not match the potential his current scheme offers, though Waneta does seem to be acting rather strangely.
Added to the mix is the sexy temptress, Billy Swett – the head-turning, third wife of the fabulously wealthy “Big Lonnie” Swett.

Billy keeps bumping into our central protagonist Jim, seemingly at every turn. Jim not immune to the charms of the lovely lady is surprised to meet her at Bott’s. Billy’s been contributing to Bott’s wallet in return for messages from the other side, regarding something troubling her from her past. Whereas Jim, slightly less believing in Bott’s spirit world connections is trying to recover some funds the witless Leon has palmed over, in the belief his recently deceased mother can offer him some guidance on how to escape the clutches of the neanderthal, Junior Biggs.    

When our grifter, debt collectors, uncle and nephew collide; Bott hatches a plan on the hoof to kidnap, Billy and relieve “Big Lonnie” of some of his fortune to everyone’s mutual advantage. Jim, stalling for time and with limited options reluctantly goes along with it, shrewd enough to understand that Biggs won’t be willing to settle for a share of the 5 million when he has to tools and inclination to eliminate his accomplices for a bigger share of the pie. Big Lonnie’s unwillingness to part with his cash in return for Billy without further enquiries introduces another dynamic to the mix – “Cheetah” McReedy an ex-cop turned investigator.       

With Cheetah closing in on the kidnap gang and Junior Biggs running light on patience, we reach a climax just as a hurricane strikes.   

Overall verdict – really enjoyable. Perhaps feelings of nostalgia cloud my judgement, as I scored it slightly lower than the much loved debut, Michigan Roll. It’s been one of the highlights of my year seeing Tom Kakonis back in print after all this time.

4 from 5

Many thanks to Lee at Brash for an ARC of this. Brash are in the process of republishing all of Tom’s previous books, including a couple previously published under the pseudonym of Adam Barrow. Several are available now, with more to come in February 2015. More details on their website.

There's a couple of blog posts by Tom on the Brash site - Creating Waverley and The Story Behind Treasure Coast.

Kings River Life Magazine have a review and interview with Tom here.

Can you tell I'm a fan?