Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: BEYOND THE RAGE by Michael J Malone

BEYOND THE RAGE by Michael J Malone (Saraband, 2015)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Glaswegian author Michael J. Malone's prose is onyx; unique and glittering in its darkness. While journalism is a common background for crime writers, Malone has 200 published poems to his name, and that rare talent for language bleeds into his storytelling in this noir-ish tale.

Kenny O'Neill is both hero and villain; a likeable criminal at the core of this exquisite thriller. A Glaswegian gangster capable of brutality, but with a degree of heart and (sort-of) moral compass, whose rage powers a fascinating thrill-ride into the underbelly of Scotland.

Kenny has every right to be angry. His father abandoned him after his mother's suicide, yet is now reaching out years later, while at the same time his girlfriend - a high-class hooker - has been viciously attacked. Balancing white knight and black hat, Kenny is driven to try to solve the mysteries of the past and the present, quick-stepping through a minefield of dangers as he seeks answers, and vengeance.

Malone does a tremendous job at crafting a novel with a dark heart, yet peppered with moments of humour and plenty of things that can make readers grin, even laugh. Kenny is Tony Soprano-esque, in that he's a bad guy, but also incredibly fascinating, layered, and you just can't help but root for him on his quest. There's an intriguing cast of characters that orbit around Kenny's life too, from the high to the low in Glaswegian society, wannabe tough-guys to aging mentors and dangerous monied men. Malone infuses them all with some nuance - there are no cardboard cut-outs or caricatures here. People want things, for very human reasons.

BEYOND THE RAGE has a twisting plotline that will thrill crime fans, keeping the reader guessing as events unfold, while delivering depth of character and stylish prose that elevates it to the higher echelons of the genre. Just a damned good story. Dark, absorbing, filled with ferocity and feeling.

Delightful seems a bizarre word to use for such a noir tale, full of unsympathetic people, but delighted I was as I was carried along by Malone's craftsmanship, the words crackling with intensity, pages filled with spark.

A violent and visceral read from a master storyteller. Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Murder in the Library hits Lower Hutt tonight!


The Ngaio Marsh Award, in association with the New Zealand Book Council and Hutt City Libraries, invites booklovers to a thrilling event celebrating two talented Wellington writers.

As crime writing has evolved from puzzle-like mysteries to novels delving deeply into people and places, it has continued to be the world’s most popular form of storytelling. But what makes the genre so fascinating?

2015 Ngaio Marsh Award longlistees Cat Connor and Paul Thomas will quiz each other about creating memorable characters, exploring real-life issues through storytelling, and what drew them to crime fiction.


WHEN:         Thursday, 2 July 2015
WHERE:       War Memorial Library, 2 Queens Drive, Lower Hutt
WHEN:         6.30pm author discussion

RSVP:            Hutt City Libraries, (04) 570 6633
                        libraries@huttcity.govt.nz

Cat Connor’s ‘byte’ books starring FBI Special Agent Ellie Conway have been described as “fast-paced techno-thrillers with black humour, likable protagonists with real depth, and full of twists and turns” (Crime Watch)

Paul Thomas has been described as the ‘Godfather’ of local crime writing (New Zealand Listener), and his books featuring Tito Ihaka have won the Ned Kelly Award in Australia (1996) and the Ngaio Marsh Award (2013). 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

9mm: An interview with Sarah Ward

Welcome to another great edition of 9mm, Crime Watch's quickfire author interview series. Pull up a comfy seat, grab yourself a tasty drink, and get ready to learn a little more about another terrific storyteller who is bringing tales of murder, mayhem and more to the page (or screen, if you're an ebooklover).

Today I'm pleased to introduce Sarah Ward, a new British author from Derbyshire, whose much-anticipated debut crime novel, IN BITTER CHILL, is released this week (great book, by the way, go grab a copy). Ward is well-known in English literary circles for her crime fiction reviews for a number of outlets, including her own popular blog, Crimepieces.

IN BITTER CHILL centres on historic and contemporary tragedies: two girls are abducted in the late 1970s, one is found. More than 30 years later, the mother of the missing girl commits suicide, upturning the life of the now-adult girl who returned. As Ward's agent said when a two-book deal with Faber was announced last year, "This is a story that gets to the heart of a community and the legacy of a tragedy like this. It’s a story about loss and secrets – those we tell ourselves and those we tell each other."

As I noted at the start of 2015, this is a book I'm very much looking forward to reading. Ward wrote the novel, set in her home county of Derbyshire, while living and working in Greece, and missing home. I imagine you'll be hearing a lot more about Ward over the next few weeks, given her outstanding debut, but for now, she becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH SARAH WARD

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
This is a really hard question for me to answer as I've read so much crime fiction over the years. I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan and I'm so tempted to mention one of her characters or perhaps P D James's Adam Dalgliesh. However I'm going to concentrate on contemporary crime fiction and my favourite detective is Fred Vargas's Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. He's innovative, reflective and completely original.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I can't remember the very first book I read myself as learning to read is such an organic experience. My mother read to me a huge amount when I was a child. I'm sure one the early books I read on my own would have been a Ladybird fairytale. I used to love them all.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Before IN BITTER CHILL, I wrote a book featuring the same police characters but I wasn't happy with the story so I didn't do much with it. I'd like to revisit it some day and resurrect one the characters that didn't make it into the finished book. We'll see.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Well I'm a huge reader still, even though my reading has taken a hit by my writing. I'm not sure my blog, Crimepieces, counts as leisure as I spend so much time on it, but reading and reviewing crime novels is a passion. I also sing in the Manchester Cathedral Voluntary Choir. This is a great group of people. As I learnt to speak Greek while I was living in Athens I also practise this with a friend.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I live in the countryside in Derbyshire Peak District which receives lots of tourists who use the national park for outdoor activities. I'm interested in the industrial landscape of the area. Former mines, mills and so on are worth a visit because our industrial heritage is fascinating.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
There's absolutely no way I want my life made into a movie.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I'm currently writing my second book which I'm completely absorbed in. But I suspect your debut novel always holds a  special place in your heart.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I was having a tea break in a Language School when I saw the e-mail from my agent to say Faber had offered for the book. I replied 'hooray' and went back into the classroom.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
These are yet to come, I suspect.


Thank you Sarah, we appreciate you taking the time to chat with Crime Watch. 

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You can read more about Sarah Ward and her writing here: 

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A dirty dozen: some new Kiwi crime titles


As the announcement of the finalists for the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award looms (in the next few days), celebrating the best of last year's New Zealand crime, mystery, and thriller titles, I thought I'd pause to appreciate the present, and the future.

Here is a dirty dozen of recently released or upcoming (available for preorder) Kiwi crime titles. Next year's Ngaio Marsh Award finalists and winner may very well be among them, but for now, they're just great reads. I can personally vouch for Cleave's TRUST NO ONE, Daniell's THE FIXER, Nicol's THE MISTAKE, Sanders' AMERICAN BLOOD, Sarafis's SOMETHING IS ROTTEN, and Thomas's BLOOD, WINE & CHOCOLATE. Those books are all in the good to outstanding range. I'm looking forward to reading the others (I recently really enjoyed Ryan's prequel to THE MARK OF HALAM, so that's high on the list).

I will be ramping up the publication of New Zealand book reviews here on Crime Watch in the coming months (sixty full reviews, a dozen or so mini-reviews, and 100+ international book reviews and counting).

If you are a reviewer, and would in particular be interested in reading and reviewing any of the above books - or any other New Zealand crime, mystery, or thriller title - for Crime Watch, please leave a comment or contact me on craigsisterson[at]hotmail[dot]com. I can provide review copies.

Monday, June 29, 2015

9mm: An interview with Rosie Claverton

One of the great things about being involved with the crime writing community as a reviewer, features writer, blogger, and attending various events, is that I get exposed to a terrific array of authors, from big-name bestsellers we all recognise to new-to-me up-and-coming scribes with a diverse variety of stories and perspectives to share. It really is a fine bunch of people, overall.

At the recent Crimefest, an excellent crime writing convention in Bristol, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to London-based author Rosie Claverton, who has written a series of cybercrime thrillers, and is now working on a historic fantasy mystery set in Victorian times. That's certainly an interesting mix!

Today, Rosie becomes the 120th author to stare down the barrel of 9mm. Enjoy our interview!

9MM INTERVIEW WITH ROSIE CLAVERTON

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Just one?? Dido Kent in the novels by Anna Dean – Jane Austen meets Miss Marple, an accidental amateur detective who finds out everyone’s secrets, never accepts anything on face value, and subtly pushes for women’s rights everywhere she goes.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
It was probably Enid Blyton. I loved the Famous Five and Mallory Towers, but my favourites were The Five Find-Outers, the mystery-solving gang. One of my most well-worn childhood books is The Mystery of Banshee Towers. Young people solving crime really called to me – I wanted to be out chasing criminals! Alas, only sheep in my neighbourhood.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I was a terrible teen poet, and a couple of those monstrosities were published. I was also an avid fanfiction writer in my misspent youth – my first fandom was Stargate SG-1, when I was thirteen. I’ve written everything from 100-word drabbles to novel-length fiction in that space. I also have two unpublished NaNoWriMo novels languishing on my hard drive, where they should probably stay.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love to read, of course. My favourite reading space is in a hot bath, preferably with a G&T on the side. My husband and I try to introduce each other to different TV we love, but we have really divergent tastes! I like big action movies at the cinema, particularly this latest run of superhero films. And I’ve recently taken up live action roleplay and renewed my interest in Dungeons and Dragons.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
My spiritual home is Cardiff, even if I’m currently living in London. My favourite thing to do there is take people round the Doctor Who filming locations, and Torchwood Ianto’s little shack in the Bay. One tourist destination everyone should visit is St Fagan’s, where they’ve transplanted historical houses from all over Wales into one village.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Ooh, that’s really difficult. There aren’t many prominent British Asian actors to choose from and none I know of who share my ethnicity. But I’ll plump for Karen David, known for playing Princess Isabella in Galavant. She’s classy and she has a great singing voice (because it’s musical, right?).

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
The one no one else has seen yet! I’m working on a gaslamp fantasy mystery. It’s been an interesting transition from cybercrime in modern Cardiff to supernatural happenings in Victorian London. I’m really enjoying getting to know the characters for the first time and I think I’m becoming a better writer with every novel, so this is my best yet!

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
Stunned. I entered a Twitter pitch for Carina Press while I was half-asleep after a night shift, so I never really expected it to come to anything. My wonderful husband took me out to dinner and we drank red wine. The most surreal moment was opening it up on the Kindle – my words, where other people’s should be!

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I recently did a Spotlight session at CrimeFest 2015 and they gave me a lectern! The room was full to the brim, with folks sitting on the floor, engaged and asking questions. It was a heady experience for me. And also drinking with Craig Robertson and Luca Veste at 2am on a Harrogate lawn. But then we’ve all been there, haven’t we? ;)


Thank you Rosie. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch

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You can read more about Rosie Claverton and her writing here: 

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Comments welcome.