Work of Steele Proves to be King Rat

To read an exclusive extract selected by John Steele for this blog, click HERE

Rat Island by John Steele



New York, 1995. Cop Callum Burke arrives in New York from Hong Kong, drafted in as part of an international investigation into organised crime.

With the handover of Hong Kong to China only a couple of years away, gangsters are moving their operations out of the territory and into New York ahead of the looming deadline.

Burke’s experiences with East Asian crime and the Triads’ links to the Irish Mob make him the perfect man to send in undercover.

But as he infiltrates these vast and lethal criminal networks, bodies start to pile up in his wake and his conscience threatens to send him over the edge.

And when Burke’s NYPD handlers push him to continue the investigation at all costs, he may have to cross the line from cop to criminal just to stay alive…

Readers of Don Winslow, Michael Connelly, Steve Cavanagh, Richard Price and John Sandford will love this dark and morally complex novel which presents a searing portrait of mid-1990s New York as you’ve never seen it before.

Reviewers of novels, especially novels in this milieu, should be exceedingly careful about bandying around what I call the “Winslow Card”. Don Winslow is a giant of the sprawling novel, reflecting society back on itself and using the contemporary Escher nightmare of the facile “War on Drugs” to reflect our complicity in its pointlessly prolonged form.

That’s a big card to drop on anyone’s desk as they make their name. But, what we absolutely do have in John Steele’s novel Rat Island is a writer who has produced a tautly atmospheric portrait of New York at that tipping point in its history as it moved from pimps and hoes, No-Go Zone to the sanitised tourist trap it was to become.

And Steele certainly comes equipped with the writing chops to sustain our interest and intrigue across its nearly 400 page span. He writes with a cinematic eye. As his narration scans a street, a character chancing to pass, has hair “darker than shadow”.

Likewise, he has that sardonic touch that Ian Rankin rings to the best of his work. “The DEA had wanted to greet the Hong Kong policemen…but they were swamped with guys on temporary assignment from Miami playing Crockett and Tubbs with the Colombians.”

All of this is played out against a complicated investigation which brings to mind the best of ‘The Wire’ while Callum Burke juggles enough demons to put McNulty to shame.

Overall, this is powerfully rendered period piece in the pre-9/11 age where the good guys wear black as much as the bad and no one’s motives can be left unquestioned.


‘A nonstop thrill ride… a lyrical, super read filled with plenty of intrigue, action and suspense and sent against an exotic and seldom explored corner of crime fiction’ Gerald Posner

‘RAT ISLAND speeds and thrashes with the dangerous energy of the Manhattan streets which are so vividly recalled’ Gary Donnelly

‘John Steele writes with grit, pace and authenticity’ Claire McGowan

Purchase Links

Author Bio –

John Steele was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1995, at the age of twenty-two he travelled to the United States and has since lived and worked on three continents, including a thirteen-year spell in Japan. Among past jobs he has been a drummer in a rock band, an illustrator, a truck driver and a teacher of English. He now lives in England with his wife and daughter. He began writing short stories, selling them to North American magazines and fiction digests. He has published three previous novels: ‘RAVENHILL’, ‘SEVEN SKINS’ and ‘DRY RIVER’, the first of which was longlisted for a CWA Debut Dagger award. John’s books have been described as “Remarkable” by the Sunday Times, “Dark and thrilling” by Claire McGowan, and “Spectacular” by Tony Parsons. The Irish Independent called John ‘a writer of huge promise’ and Gary Donnelly appointed him ‘the undisputed champion of the modern metropolitan thriller’.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @JohnSte_author

One thought on “Work of Steele Proves to be King Rat

  1. Pingback: Taking Wings Against A Blackened Sky | PAJ Newman

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