Nothing Stale About These Remains

‘The Dark Remains’ by Ian Rankin and William McIlvanney

If the truth’s in the shadows, get out of the light …

Lawyer Bobby Carter did a lot of work for the wrong type of people. Now he’s dead and it was no accident. Besides a distraught family and a heap of powerful friends, Carter’s left behind his share of enemies. So, who dealt the fatal blow?

DC Jack Laidlaw’s reputation precedes him. He’s not a team player, but he’s got a sixth sense for what’s happening on the streets. His boss chalks the violence up to the usual rivalries, but is it that simple? As two Glasgow gangs go to war, Laidlaw needs to find out who got Carter before the whole city explodes.

William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw books changed the face of crime fiction. When he died in 2015, he left half a handwritten manuscript of Laidlaw’s first case. Now, Ian Rankin is back to finish what McIlvanney started. In The Dark Remains, these two iconic authors bring to life the criminal world of 1970s Glasgow, and Laidlaw’s relentless quest for truth. (Synopsis courtesy of Canongate)

Ok, I’m going to start with a caveat: never have I been more crabbit about a book review than this one.

As a Scotland-based book blogger, I have never chased harder, nor gone through so many channels or pulled as many puny strings as I have at my feeble disposal (short of messaging Rankin himself directly on social media. That just seemed icky) than I did when trying to get hold of an advanced copy of this book.

After all, I’m a middle aged white guy with a blog and I’m definitely in the top six million people in Scotland who blog about books. Don’t they know who I am?

No, they don’t. And I didn’t get a copy. And I was gutted. ‘Bugger them,’ I thought. I’m sure not having a review from me will decimate sales.

But it’s Ian Rankin. And William McIlvanney. And the audiobook is read by Brian Cox.

Ok, three of Scotland’s finest united? I crumpled like a gangster under a Jack Laidlaw interrogation.

Rankin is, in my irrelevant opinion, the best crime writer working today and joins a tiny list of authors who get bought no matter what. I have written about my admiration of Rankin’s Rebus series elsewhere, but here it bears repeating: he’s a writer who’s work I believe is going to be read in hundreds of years and outlive the ridiculous “literary” fiction which does nothing to accurately reflect its era and is dull to boot.

So, the best of the best, polishing off the original and the best in William McIlvanney.

The first piece of close reading (comprehension for those not in Scotland or of a certain vintage) I taught was an extract from ‘Laidlaw’. To this day, that novel remains a revelation in the use of simile and metaphor and the prose crackles with impactful imagery.

In these types of literary Frankensteins, it’s always tempting to spend a chunk of the novel trying to spot the joins.

The references to contemporary politics, the issues with Nixon and the creeping Americanisation of Scotland feels Rankinesqe.

Metaphors like “a hole deep enough to hold a coffin,” feels like vintage McIlvanney. I suspect this is the sort of case where I’m wrong on both counts.

But, mainly, who cares? This is the godfather being helped to posthumous glory by the pupil who became the master.

If I have a criticism, it’s actually with the production of the audiobook. The lack of spacing between chapter and even paragraph breaks means that it sounds like Cox has forgotten the words and is being rushed to catch up.

But this is a trifle and his performance is still excellent.

So, I’m pleased that I got over my mardy response to my rejections. Because this is the best in the business at the top of their game.

Highly, highly recommended.

Purchase Links

Bookshop.org

Waterstones

Authors

Ian Rankin

Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature.

After university and before his success with his Rebus novels, Ian had a number of jobs including working as a grape-picker, a swineherd, a journalist for a hi-fi magazine, and a taxman. Following his marriage in 1986, he lived briefly in London where he worked at the National Folktale Centre, followed by a short time living in France, before returning to Edinburgh.

Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America’s celebrated Edgar Award for Resurrection Men. He has also been shortlisted for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and Germany’s Deutscher Krimipreis.

Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Hull, Abertay, St Andrews and Edinburgh as well as The Open University. In 2019, he donated his archive of over 50 boxes of manuscripts, letters and paperwork to the National Library of Scotland.

Ian has received an OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his wife and two sons. (Biography courtesy of Hachette)

William McIlvanney

Photo by Ian Atkinson, courtesy of http://www.canongate.co.uk

William McIlvanney’s first novel, Remedy is None, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and with Docherty he won the Whitbread Award for Fiction. Laidlaw and The Papers of Tony Veitch both gained Silver Daggers from the Crime Writers’ Association. Strange Loyalties, the third in the Detective Laidlaw trilogy, won the Glasgow Herald’s People’s Prize. He died in December 2015. (Biography courtesy of Canongate)

Life in the Old Diamond Dogs Yet

‘The Man Who Died Twice’ by Richard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can the Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them? (Synopsis courtesy of http://www.Penguin.co.uk)

I’m not sure when I have enjoyed a novel more than I enjoyed Richard Osman’s debut, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’. That story was convoluted, sure, but it nipped along, the characters were charming and there was a frothy light touch like a glass of cooled Pimms on a summer’s afternoon.

What Osman has here managed to do, is navigate the difficult second album. He had left himself with some work to be done: the first book had bodies dropping like ‘The Wire’-era Baltimore, a killer revealed to be a beloved character and now the challenge becomes: do it again. But, you know, better.

Well, I’m delighted to say that he has. Here, Osman takes us inside Elizabeth’s murky past – her role with the Security Services, her rakish ex-husband and the way her history keeps peeking into her present.

There are less characters than in the whirlwind original outing but Douglas is joined by hopeless waitress Poppy, who may not be all she seems, as well local drug Queen pin, Connie Johnson and her ascendancy and a nasty little character called Ryan Baird. This wee hoodlum is, to my mind, one of the few people in Osman’s fiction who I would happily see shot in the face by Elizabeth from point blank range.

‘The Man Who Died Twice’ is a charming romp covering treasure hunts for twenty million pounds worth of diamonds, the exact way to disguise the exact identify of a body and the reason why MI:5 use a safe house in Godalming.

I am well aware that there are readers who dislike Osman’s work because he is famous to begin with. Others dislike the fact he does not write serious Dostoeveskian meditations on the nature of crime. But I find his writing charming, safe and as entertaining as an afternoon cup of tea at your nan’s house and I thank him for it.

Also, I listened to both the original and the sequel in audiobook form read by Lesley Manville. I listened on long car rides alongside a mother who has dementia and doesn’t take that much pleasure in long form stories these days. Both Manville’s performance and Osman’s writing delighted her, amused her and kept her entertained and, for that, they were cheap at twice the price and I shall be ever grateful to them for their work.

https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/141792/richard-osman.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MrRichardOsman

Twitter: @richardosman

If Downton Did Homicide…

‘Murder At The House On The Hill’ by Victoria Walters

Once Upon A Crime…

Nancy Hunter and her grandmother Jane Hunter run the Dedley Endings Bookshop, selling crime, thriller and mystery books, in a small, quiet Cotswold village where nothing ever happens…

That is, until the wealthy and reclusive Roth family open up their mansion for the first time in twenty years, inviting the people of Dedley End to a lavish engagement party.

While everyone is thrilled to finally look around the mansion on the hill, the festivities are quickly cut short when beautiful Lucy, recently married to young Harry Roth, is found dead after being pushed over the first-floor balustrade.

But who among the guests could have been capable of her murder – and why?

Nancy and Jane decide to investigate – after all, not only do they own a crime themed bookshop, they were also both named after famous literary detectives – but soon wonder if they’ve taken on more than they can handle. Especially when it seems the killer has worked out that they’re hot on their heels…

Can they catch the murderer before the murderer catches up with them? Or will there be a deadly ending to this story?

Join the unlikeliest detective duo for the killer opener of The Dedley End Mysteries series, by a major voice in women’s fiction.

In my quiet moments, often when I am standing in front of a class of bored teenagers failing to inspire them to anything other than sleep, I can be found staring out of the window, dreaming of my perfect bookshop.

It will be Dickensian in its untidiness. Wobbling piles of books will adorn the floors, the steps, the  shelves will be three deep with paperbacks. You will need to rummage for your trophies and, when you find them, you will celebrate like you’ve won the cup final.

There will be coffee and a bookshop dog. It will have battered leather armchairs and you will be allowed to sit in the armchairs, reading the books and the smell of musty books will mingle with the autumnal damp and freshly brewed coffee and you will be content.

More importantly, so will I.

Into this particularly vivid daydream which I can, in no way, finance, waltzes Victoria Walters and her charming opening instalment in ‘The Dedley End Mysteries’ series, Murder at the House on the Hill.

Walters introduces us to Jane and Nancy – channelling her literary influences perhaps? – and Charlie, the bookshop beagle. I love it – it is a novel which has pinched my dreams and populated them with capable women solving crimes in a picturesque village setting. What’s not to like?

Fans of Fiona Leitch and Martin Walker should be prepared to be bowled over by this charming little tale of murder up at the big house.

A cozy homicide of delight. I look forward to book two!

Purchase Links

AMZ: https://amzn.to/3yJqSKk

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2SzAN4h

Apple: https://apple.co/3yJGkWE

Author Bio – Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of the bestselling GLENDALE HALL series, which continues with its third book HOPEFUL HEARTS at GLENDALE HALL in September, as well as two other standalone novels – SUMMER at the KINDNESS CAFE, and THE SECOND LOVE of my LIFE. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Find out more about Victoria by following on Instagram at @vickyjwalters,

Twitter: @Vicky_Walters 

She blogs at https://www.victoria-writes.com/.

A Lightness of Touch for A Lethal Arrogance

‘A Lethal Arrogance-An Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery Book 3’ by D.S Lang

After returning home from her service as a United States Army Signal Corps operator in the Great War, Arabella Stewart’s goal, to save her family’s resort, seems within reach as the summer season progresses. She and her business partner, Mac MacLendon, look forward to re-establishing a successful championship golf tournament, once the signature event of the resort’s year. Problems arise when one of the contestants, an overbearing snob who has created problems at other competitions, clashes with more than one person. When he is found dead, the victim of a suspicious automobile crash, Bella once again helps Jax Hastings, the town constable and her childhood friend, investigate. As they pursue answers, Bella and Jax find several suspects who might have wanted to make the victim suffer for his lethal arrogance.

I’m not one for wishing I lived in another place and time. For all of the horrors of this world, I’ll take the advancements in medication, standard of living and ease of convenience of the 21st century over the rationing, rickets and shortened life expectancy of the mid-20th century or the powdered wigs and tights of the 19th.

But, if pushed, I would have certainly enjoyed a shot at the Jazz Age. Cocktails, tennis and parties – yeah, I’d have put my back into that particular set of activities.

And it is into this milieu that we Arabellla Stewart and her Scottish business partner and honorary grandfather, Mac MacLendon. Joined by her chum Jax Hastings, the trio fly through the period hunting Cadillacs which plunged into ravines in the best spirit of Raymond Chandler and set out to prove there are dastardly deeds afoot in the best spirit of Lord Peter Wimsey.

This is a pacey, well written crime story of the cozy variety: the dialogue crisp and well written, the plotting tight and convincing and the settings rendered for the reader in clear fashion. It has a lightness of touch to delight the reader.

There are some things which can trip a UK-based reader up. The description of Ballantyne as a resort that has been in the family for 30 years is confusing as this is seen as a long time, whereas this is just about enough time in this country not to be frowned at as a dangerous stranger. Additionally, Jax tends to be a female name which lead to the introduction of that character (or reintroduction as this is Book 3) a small measure of confusion.

But these are mere trifling quibbles which do nothing to take away the joire de verve of the piece and add attractive details to its US setting.

Overall, a very enjoyable read!

Purchase Links

Author Bio –

D.S. Lang, a native Ohioan, has been making up stories since she was a little girl, and she still is! Along the way, she studied English and social studies as an undergrad. After graduate school, she went on to teach government and American history in high school. She also taught English at the junior high, high school, and college levels. In addition, she has worked as a program coordinator, golf shop manager, and online tutor.

Now, she spends much of her time reading, researching, and writing. Most recently, she has delved into the Great War era and the years immediately after it. Her Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery Series was inspired by her Great Uncle Brice who served in the American Expeditionary Force during World War One, and by her love of historical mysteries. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with family and friends, including her dog Izzy.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/Author-DS-Lang-106722091331345

Lay With Pigs – End Up Bacon

‘Mum’s the Word’ by Lorraine Turnbull

When Ann-Marie Ross murders her abusive husband and feeds him to the pigs, she thinks she’s got away with murder and secured the future of her Scottish cider farm. But she soon finds herself having to keep more than one deadly secret to protect those closest to her.
As four women embrace their new-found independence, Ann-Marie is tormented by the threat of discovery.
A darkly comic tale of murder, friendship and Love.

Lorraine Turnbull’s ‘Mum’s the Word’ will probably get listed under the cozy crime or black comedy genre. And this is fair enough. It is darkly comedic, Turnbull has a love of the contrast and ironies of living and it does have the sweet, “oh well, never mind,” aspect which can make cozy crime so easy to read.

What is also has – especially if you’re a reader in rural Scotland who also has to care for an ill, elderly parent – is a sense of dismay at the way that society has trapped the women in this novel.

“Used” is the word which keeps coming to mind: for their inheritances, for their cooking, for their patience, for their bodies. It is a darkly comic novel, but it is just dark in its view of human nature and how society has trapped people in dependency and misery.

This is not to make ‘Mum’s the Word’ sound depressing or po-faced. It is a romp of rare humour and entertainment, with a Glaswegian’s eye for the humour of the macabre detail. After all, there’s more fun at a Glasgow funeral than an Edinburgh wedding. Just ask Ann-Marie Ross…

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mums-Word-Lorraine-Turnbull-ebook/dp/B093C6YXJH

US – https://www.amazon.com/Mums-Word-Lorraine-Turnbull-ebook/dp/B093C6YXJH

Author Bio – Lorraine Turnbull was born in Glasgow where she lived until 2005 when she and her family moved to Cornwall to run a smallholding. She relocated to France in 2017 where she continues to make cider, writes books and learns French.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/LorraineTurnbullAuthor

 Twitter – @LorraineAuthor

Murder in the Market Town

Death Comes to Bishops Well’ by Anna Legat

When Sam Dee moves to the beautiful Wiltshire village of Bishops Well, he expects a quiet life of country walks and pub lunches. OK, so his new neighbour, Maggie Kaye, is a little peculiar, but she’s very nice – and his old pal Richard Ruta lives just down the road.

But when Richard throws one of his famous parties, things take a sinister turn. Sam, Maggie and the rest of the guests are dumbfounded when Richard falls down dead. A horrible tragedy – or a cunningly planned murder?

With a village full of suspects – and plenty of dark secrets – just who exactly would want to bump off their host? Is there a connection to another mysterious death, nearly twenty years before?

Armed with her local knowledge, Maggie – with Sam’s reluctant but indispensable help – is soon on the case. But when the body count starts to rise, will sleepy Bishops Well ever be the same again?

I recently wrote glowingly of Simon Whaley’s novel ‘Blooming Murder’, describing it as “essentially, what would happen if Gardener’s World had an illicit love child by Midsomer Murders via the work of Tom Sharpe.

Anna Legat’s ‘Death Comes to Bishops Well’ has something of the same spirit but strikes me as more what would happen if ‘Midsomer Murders’ was crossed with ‘Escape to the Country’.

Here we have the obnoxious Richard bumped off – despite his boasts of eternal youth and his swimming pool – while new resident Sam is swept along in the investigation by his neighbour Maggie.

Legat has clearly worked at her writing craft and is an especially wonderful observer of human posture. Richard is described as “an old man, whether he cared to admit it or not: his frame was hollowed and his skin leathery and wrinkled, the hue and texture of tea-soaked parchment.”

Likewise, Sam is an, “ex-full back, he had a boxing-glove textured body, heavily padded with raw muscle.” The vivid nature of these descriptions offers a telling insight into the characterisation of Legat’s players.

‘Death Comes to Bishop Well’ is a straightforward cozy crime mystery set against the picturesque backdrop of the English countryside. Legat handles dialogue with a pleasingly assured hand, although the shift from a third person to first person narrator early in the book threw me at first.

However, as the opening instalment of what Legat is calling the ‘Shire Mysteries’ I hope that the unconventional pair of Maggie and Sam will be back thwarting murderers and struggling with ethical dilemmas in the near future.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Comes-Bishops-Well-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B093XV385N

US – https://www.amazon.com/Death-Comes-Bishops-Well-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B093XV385N

Author Bio – Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. Murder isn’t the only thing on her mind. She dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from dark humorous comedy, through magic realism to dystopian. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Social Media Links –

Anna’s News, Rumours and Scandalous Revelations at https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/j6b7k1
To find out more:
https://annalegat.com/
Follow Anna on Twitter:
www.twitter.com/LegatWriter
Join Anna on Facebook:
www.facebook.com/AnnaLegatAuthor/

Exclusive Extract: ‘Porno Valley’ Chapter Three

You can read a review of Philip Eliott’s second novel, ‘Porno Valley’ you can find it here: Review

It’s the year 2000 and 78-year-old Mickey O’Rourke has been a Los Angeles PI for a very long time. He’d thought he’d seen it all until the disappearance of porn star Jeffrey Strokes sends him from the sex-filled studios of the San Fernando Valley to the desperate streets of Compton where Mickey’s final case becomes his biggest test.

Flash back to 1998 and struggling hair salon employee Jemeka Johnson, suspecting boyfriend Ray-Ray of infidelity, follows him one night from their East Compton home to what turns out to be a drug deal gone sour where a twist of fate finds Jemeka tossed onto a dark and dangerous path—one that offers huge reward for someone bold enough to seize it.

Meanwhile, in 1999, tired of robbing small-town diners and shooting bad dope in filthy motel rooms, newlyweds Richie and Alabama return to LA in search of the perfect score.

Paths cross and past meets present as bad decisions hurtle toward worse consequences—and no one will ever be the same. (Synopsis courtesy of http://www.philipelliottfiction.com)

Chapter Three

Shaking Bethany’s hand as he bid her goodbye, Mickey was again struck by her petiteness and how it contrasted with the aura of confidence she emitted, that confidence visible in her movements and clear comfortability in her choice of career, her seeming lack of self-doubt. “Strokes, Jeffrey Strokes,” she’d said when Mickey had asked her for Jeffrey’s full name, so Mickey had said, “I mean his real name,” thinking it was a stage name, and Bethany had giggled, enjoying this clashing of worlds. “That is Jeff’s real name,” she had said. “Guy was born to do porn.”

Mickey pushed through the front doors of MidnightPussy Productions into the blinding sunshine, mountains rippling on the horizon.

Born to do porn. An interesting way to describe the man who, according to a couple newspaper articles and dozens from underground zine Sleaze, had been the male star of the Los Angeles porn scene, multi-award-winning with legions of fans, until his sudden disappearance a year ago. LAPD had investigated without much success and the case had soon fizzled out. Jeffrey Strokes, it seemed, had simply vanished.

“Yo, Mickey Rourke,” a voice said. Mickey glanced toward the source: Riccardo, Bethany’s lover, sucking on a cigarette in the shade of the studio. “Can I’ve an autograph?”

Riccardo grinned at his own joke and swaggered toward Mickey. “Listen, no hard feelings about earlier. I didn’t mean to suggest you couldn’t do your job or nothing like that. I just never heard of an eighty-year-old fuckin’ PI before, you know?”

“Seventy-eight.”

Riccardo took a drag. “Sure.”

“Are there any seventy-eight-year-old porn stars, Riccardo?”

“I don’t know if star is the right word, but, sure, a few.”

“Well then, if we can pull that off, I think we can manage a bit of detective work.”

Riccardo tossed the cigarette into the dirt. “You got a point there.”

“Finished work for today, Riccardo?”

Riccardo nodded, exhaling smoke.

“Jeffrey Strokes. You know him?” Mickey said.

“Yeah, everyone knew Jeff. He was a bit strange but we got along.”

“Was?”

“What you mean?”

“You’re speaking about him in the past tense.”

“Figure of speech, old man. Figure of speech.”

“Why do you say he was strange?”

Riccardo squinted into the distance. “You see that Coen Brothers movie came out last year?”

The Big Lebowski.”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“I saw it, yes.”

“You know Jeff Bridges’ character, The Dude? Well, imagine The Dude as a porn star who wins an AVN Award every year and you won’t be far off.”

“AVN?”

“Adult Video News. The Oscars of porn.”

“A big deal?”

Riccardo shrugged. “To us.”

“And so Jeffrey—”

Riccardo held up his palm. “This is a lot of questions.”

“I have a few more.”

“Yeah, well, I’m busy.”

“Busy doing what? You said you’re finished work.”

Riccardo eyed Mickey suspiciously. He smirked. “You got me.”

“Just a few more questions and I’ll let you go.”

“Okay Mickey, but not here.”

“Not here?”

“I need a drink,” Riccardo said, “and you’re buying.”

**********

Riccardo, it turned out, owned a Harley-Davidson. Mickey, in his Pontiac Catalina, followed Riccardo on the Harley for ten minutes to a dark and smoke-filled dive bar. A hand-painted, slightly lopsided sign above the door declared the establishment “Bloody Mary’s.” A dozen choppers sat parked in a line outside, gleaming under the sun.

Inside, Riccardo slapped hands with some of the patrons—all heavily tattooed bikers dressed in leathers—while Mickey choked on the fumes, eyes stinging. The walls were decorated with graffiti, American flags, framed photographs of motorcycles and groups of men posing around them. Aggressive rock music throbbed out of speakers. Two men who had been playing pool were staring at Mickey now, along with everyone else. Was Riccardo hoping to intimidate him, bringing him to a biker bar?

“Hey Mary, how you doin’?” Riccardo said to a skinny woman behind the bar.

“Better now that you’re here.” Mary’s dyed-red hair and colorful tattoos appeared at odds with her weathered face and somewhat emaciated figure. “You gonna take me down the back alley today? I could use a seeing to.”

“One of these days, Mary. I promise.”

“You been sayin’ that for two years. A woman has needs.”

“I got my friend here today.”

Mary appeared to notice Mickey for the first time. She looked him over. “Your friend can take me with you, if he can still get it up. I like an older man.”

Mickey couldn’t believe his ears.

Riccardo clapped a hand on Mickey’s back. “You hear that, old man? What you think? You wanna take Mary out the back, show her a good time?”

“I think the lady ought to get to know me first.”

Riccardo grinned. “You’re funny. For an actor.”

“You’re in porn too?” Mary said, eyeballing him with interest.

“Not that kind of acting, Mary,” Riccardo said. “Hollywood acting. You might know him. This here is Mickey Rourke.”

“Not that Mickey Rourke . . .” But she sounded unsure.

“The one and only,” Riccardo said.

Mary frowned, looking Mickey up and down. “You’re lying.”

“I wouldn’t do that, Mary. Mickey here wants to get us a couple drinks.”

“What can I get for you boys?”

“Bottle of Bud for me,” Riccardo said.

“I’ll have a cranberry juice, if you have it,” Mickey said.

Mary raised an eyebrow and glanced at Riccardo.

“Actors,” Riccardo said.

********************

“Yeah, Jeff’s a unique guy,” Riccardo said, sitting opposite Mickey at a small table in a corner. “Enjoys too much of the ganja, if you know what I mean.”

“He smokes marijuana?”

“Like a fuckin’ Rastafarian.”

“Does he use other drugs?”

“Most of ’em, probably.”

“Could be he got himself into trouble with some drug dealers, had to disappear?”

“Doubt it,” Riccardo said.

“Why’s that?”

“Jeff’s so chill he’s practically horizontal. Couldn’t see anyone having a problem with him.”

“Bethany seems to think Jeffrey may have decided to disappear.”

“Wishful thinking,” Riccardo said. He drank from his beer. “Much better to think the guy’s laying low than dead in a ditch somewhere.”

Mickey nodded. The smoke was less concentrated in this part of the room, but still his eyes burned, throat dry, the deathly taste of it in his mouth. Bloody Mary’s clearly paid no heed to the smoking ban.

“Bethany loved him?” Mickey said.

“She tell you that?” Riccardo was looking into his eyes.

“She did.”

“What she tell you about me?”

“Your name didn’t come up.”

Riccardo’s eyes narrowed. “Can’t say I’m surprised. Even with the guy gone all anyone talks about is Jeff.”

Mickey wrote “Jealous” beside Riccardo’s name in the Moleskin.

“By all accounts, Jeffrey was something of a star in the pornography world?”

“An understatement, if anything. Jeff won three Best Male Performer of the Year AVNs in a row, probably would have kept winning ’em too. He was the highest paid guy in the business before he vanished. I’m assuming you’ve never been to a porno convention. You should go to one sometime, get the blood flowing. It’s the women who are the stars at these things. I mean, no shit, right? But Jeff would have fans lining up to meet him. I never understood the attraction. Guy would be standing there, swaying, eyes drooping out of his head, talking like Keanu Reeves on tranquilizers. Even had a line of dildos modeled on his cock. A bestseller, apparently. But whatever.”

Mickey underlined the “Jealous.”

“But you think he’s dead?”

“Why would a guy at the peak of his career choose to disappear? You’re the PI—in your experience are missing people usually dead or in hiding?”

“Usually, no one ever finds out.”

Riccardo picked up his beer. “Ain’t that the truth.” He downed the last of it.

“When did you and Bethany become romantically involved?”

Riccardo glanced away. “About a year ago, probably.”

“Before or after Jeffrey went missing?”

Riccardo met Mickey’s gaze. “After.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, old man, I’m sure.”

“So a year ago at most then?”

“Must be.”

Mickey scribbled “Affair?” in the notebook. Out of the speakers a man was yelling about the ace of spades to a background of snarling electric guitars and lightning-speed drums.

“One final question and I’ll be off,” Mickey said.

“Shoot.”

“Why pornography?”

“What, like, why do it?”

Mickey nodded.

“I dunno. I couldn’t much stand doing anything else. Plus I like fucking. I’m good at it.”

“Does it bother you that Bethany has sex with other men?”

“No, old man, it’s like that. It’s a job. Just like yours.”

“If Bethany had sex with another man, privately, not for her job, would it bother you then?”

“It would tear me apart.”

“Funny, isn’t it? The subtle distinction.”

Riccardo shook his head. “It’s not subtle at all. You’re talking about two different things—work, and betrayal. Sex, and love.”

“Poetic.”

“For you maybe. For us, it’s life.”

Mickey stood up. “All right. Well, thanks for answering my questions, Riccardo. I’ll be seeing you.”

“I’m sure you will.”

Mickey pulled out his chair and turned to find Mary coming toward him with a camera in her bony hands.

“Sorry to bother you, Mr. Rourke, but before you go, do you think I could take your picture to put on the wall? It’s not every day we get a celebrity in here.”

Mickey looked at Riccardo, who shrugged at him, smirking. “Sure. Just so long’s you catch me on my good side.”

*******************

They walked up a driveway in West LA stinking of sweat, in dire need of showers and fresh clothes, each lugging a sports bag containing all their worldly possessions. The Greyhound had dropped them off near Skid Row shortly after midnight and they’d spent the night shooting up there in their own corner of that little section of Hell, keeping their heads down and waiting for morning.

Richie passed an expensive-looking Audi on one side of the drive and a tacky water fountain on the other and rang the bell of a large suburban home, big bay window on the left. It being Saturday, Richie hoped the person he was looking for was home. Alabama hadn’t said a word to him since he’d sent the deaf guy into the desert, not even when he’d explained that this neighborhood was where he had grown up, believe it or not, spending more time in Stoner Park around the corner than his house, saying the park was perfectly named because all he and his friends had ever done there was get high and skateboard—friends like Scotty Browning whose very house they were outside right now. But Alabama wouldn’t even look at him. He’d pushed her too far beating up the deaf kid like that. He’d have to play it safe for a while, get her back on his side.

The door opened and Scotty Browning stood looking at them with his mouth hanging open, spectacles crooked on his face.

“Scotty! My main man. How you doin’? This is my wife, Alabama. We’re in town, thought we’d drop by and say hello.”

Scotty just stood there, stupefied.

“Can we come in?”

The Browning family home was exactly as Richie remembered it: comfortable and lived-in, wooden floors and wooden stairs—wood all over the place—mass-produced kitsch on the walls, such as the phrase in thick sans-serif font hanging on a frame in the kitchen: “Having Somewhere to Go Is Home. Having Someone to Love Is Family. Having Both Is a Blessing.” The insincerity of it made Richie sick.

“Listen Richie,” Scotty said, standing hunched by the boiling kettle, “just so you know, my mom’s gonna be home soon.”

Richie stared at him. “Fuck is that supposed to mean?”

Scotty glanced at the floor, adjusting his glasses. “Just thought it was worth mentioning . . . How’d you know I still live with my parents?”

Richie frowned, the wooden chair bruising his ass. How had he known that? “You know what, Scotty, it simply never occurred to me that you would ever leave here. You’re not that kind of guy.”

“What kind of guy is that?”

“Normal.”

Scotty held his gaze on Richie for a moment, then glanced away, sinking into himself like a sack of flour.

Alabama scowled at Richie. “This is a very nice house, Scotty. You live here your whole life?”

Scotty looked at her as if trying to decipher if she was being sincere or setting him up to fall. “Yep . . . since I was a baby.”

“You twenty-five like Richie?”

“Twenty-four.”

“Scotty was the baby of the group,” Richie said.

“What do you do for work, Scotty?” Alabama said. “If you don’t mind me askin’ ’bout your business, that is.” She flashed one of those disarming smiles at him.

Scotty loosened like a used condom. “Computer programming. Nothing too interesting.” Quiet, shy about it.

Alabama said, “Oh, I love computers. They’re just like big brains that can do anything.”

“Well, I guess they are pretty fascinating,” Scotty said, adjusting his glasses.

“I read somewhere it’s the best industry to be in right now, and only getting bigger,” Alabama said. “You got the right idea, Scotty.”

“Yeah, it’s really taking off. Actually, I just got offered a job down in Palo Alto with a company called Google, you probably haven’t heard of them but they’re growing fast, really taking over.” He looked at Richie. “I’m thinking about taking the job and moving there.”

“Well shit. Look at Scotty, finally growing a dick.”

“We’re not kids anymore, Richie. You shouldn’t talk to me like that.”

Richie sniggered. “Take it easy, Scotty, I’m just playing. I’m happy for you doing well for yourself. You were always the one of us who was gonna make it, we all knew that.”

Scotty touched his glasses, looking a little surprised, as the kettle started screaming. He switched the gas off and poured boiling water into three cups.

“We only have green tea,” he said. “You know my mom . . .”

“I’ll never forget her,” Richie said.

Scotty ignored him. “You want regular or lemon-infused?” he asked Alabama.

“Oooh, lemon please.”

“Me too,” Richie said.

Scotty rooted inside a cabinet and dropped teabags into the cups and placed the cups on the table, pale-gold liquid swirling inside them, the scent of it like citrus and honey.

Richie blew on top of his and put it to his mouth, nearly melting the lips off his face. “Fuck, that’s hot. Damn, tastes good though.” Sweet and very slightly sour.

“It’s very healthy, you should drink it more often,” Scotty said, not moving from the stove. “Or are you still set on destroying yourself?” The little fucker growing a backbone.

“Don’t worry about me, Scotty. I’ve done things you couldn’t even dream.”

Silence seized the kitchen. The cuckoo clock beside the doorway counted the slow march toward death.

Scotty said, “So, are you going to tell me why you’re here in my house, after, what is it, seven years?”

“Could be. I’m here because I want to ask you, as my good friend from the good old days—my best friend—I want to ask you if I could borrow your car for couple days. Just while we get on our feet. Three days, tops.”

Scotty had a face on him as if Richie had just rolled down his jeans and shat on the floor. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Also, I was hoping we could crash here for a few days. The basement is fine if it’s still got that sofa and TV down there.”

Scotty shook his head. “I can’t believe this.”

“Hey, what’s the big deal? We were friends—”

“Friends? Is that what you think? Friends?” Scotty stood up straight, gazing down at Richie with a hard look in his eyes that Richie had never witnessed in them. “You’ve never been a friend to anyone, Richie, least of all me. No, you can’t borrow my car and you can’t crash here.” He pointed at the doorway. “Get out of my house.”

Richie jerked his neck back. Who does he fucking think he is? The little twerp could barely make eye contact with strangers last time Richie had seen him, now he was giving orders?

Richie glanced at Alabama’s knuckles turning white on the table. He could play it safe, or risk losing her.

His moment of glory behind him, Scotty didn’t look so confident anymore, doubt creeping into his expression. Yeah, starting to regret it, about to shit his pants.

“For old time’s sake, Scotty, I’m gonna let that slide.” Richie could practically feel Alabama’s ass cheeks relaxing beside him. “But you’re gonna have to give me one thousand dollars along with your car.”

Scotty stared at him, back to looking stupefied.

“And this time,” Richie said, pulling the Smith & Wesson out of his jeans and banging it onto the table, “I’m not asking.”

******************

“Didya have to take his mama’s jewelry?” Alabama said, in the passenger seat of Scotty Browning’s Audi, which, she supposed, was no longer Scotty Browning’s. “You got the car, a few hundred in cash. Taking the jewelry just seems mean.”

Richie sped the Audi toward the end of Scotty’s street and turned the corner too hard, swerving to avoid a fire hydrant.

“I told him to give me a thousand bucks or I’d shoot him,” he said. “I had to get him to make it up somehow. A man’s only as good as his word.”

Alabama rolled her eyes. She’d remember that next time Richie promised he’d take her out to a romantic dinner if she’d suck his dick.

“And besides,” Richie said, “Scotty’s mom is a class A cunt. One time, when we were real young, she slapped me with a spatula. A fuckin’ spatula. Bitch. She was hot, though.”

Richie slowed the car as they approached a fenced grassy area. He glanced at Alabama, a coy expression on his face. “I was thinking one of those necklaces would look pretty good on you.”

She shook her head. “No Richie.”

The Audi slowed almost to a stop.

“You really think so?” she said.

“Yeah, to go with those gorgeous green eyes.”

Her heart damn near melted every time Richie paid her a compliment, and it became impossible to be mad at him.

“Here, lemme show you.” Richie brought the car to a stop along the sidewalk next to the fence, behind which was a public swimming pool with changing rooms, a small skate park where kids drifted around on skateboards and smoked, and patches of well-trimmed grass lined by benches. He grabbed the plastic bag he’d shoved under Alabama’s feet and fished through it.

“Yeah,” he said, grinning, “I remember this one.” He withdrew his hand. A silver chain hung from his finger, a smooth jade stone dangling at the end.

Alabama’s breath caught. “It’s beautiful.”

“It’s real jade. I remember Scotty’s mom saying that before. I always knew I was gonna steal this one day, I just needed to meet the right woman to steal it for.”

Alabama touched the stone. Smooth, almost slippery, and firm.

“Turn your head,” Richie said.

Alabama twisted her neck and felt the jade bounce against her chest as Richie placed it over her, cold on her skin, but weighty. Worth something.

“Show me,” Richie said.

She faced him.

His eyes opened up. “Wow. Look’s incredible on you. I was right, it goes perfectly with your eyes.”

“Really?”

“Look.” Richie swung open the sun visor above Alabama’s head and slid open the mirror.

Alabama angled the visor, glimpsing the jade resting above her cleavage and glinting in the light like something magical. She flicked the visor and gazed into her own eyes. They were almost the same color. Richie was right: the necklace had been made for her.

“I love it,” she said.

“Me too. And I love you.”

The surprise of it quickened Alabama’s heart. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d heard it.

Richie said, “I know that sometimes you don’t agree with the things I do. And I know that sometimes I can get a bit . . . frustrated.” He swept his long dark hair behind an ear. “I’m just trying to do what’s best for us, give us the life we deserve. ’Cause, babe, nobody’s gonna give it to us, no one’s ever given us a damn thing. We gotta take it. Understand?”

Alabama nodded, feeling a little heat between her legs, wanting him to stop talking and kiss her.

Richie squeezed her knee, looking past her out the window now. “This is Stoner Park I was telling you about.” Onto the next thing. “What a perfectly stupid name, right?”

“Richie?”

“What?” Still staring at the park.

“Richie?”

He looked at her. “What?”

“Kiss me, you idiot.”

Author Bio

Philip Elliott’s debut novel ‘Nobody Move’ won Best First Novel in the Arthur Ellis Awards. Follow-up Porno Valley is out in August, 2021. Feature-film screenplay The Bad Informant is currently in development with Passage Pictures. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Philip lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and spoiled pug where he is never not listening to rock ’n’ roll. (Biography courtesy of http://www.philipelliottfiction.com)

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Bookshop

Book Depository

Desperadoes and desperate souls in the City of Angels

It’s the year 2000 and 78-year-old Mickey O’Rourke has been a Los Angeles PI for a very long time. He’d thought he’d seen it all until the disappearance of porn star Jeffrey Strokes sends him from the sex-filled studios of the San Fernando Valley to the desperate streets of Compton where Mickey’s final case becomes his biggest test.

Flash back to 1998 and struggling hair salon employee Jemeka Johnson, suspecting boyfriend Ray-Ray of infidelity, follows him one night from their East Compton home to what turns out to be a drug deal gone sour where a twist of fate finds Jemeka tossed onto a dark and dangerous path—one that offers huge reward for someone bold enough to seize it.

Meanwhile, in 1999, tired of robbing small-town diners and shooting bad dope in filthy motel rooms, newlyweds Richie and Alabama return to LA in search of the perfect score.

Paths cross and past meets present as bad decisions hurtle toward worse consequences—and no one will ever be the same. (Synopsis courtesy of http://www.philipelliottfiction.com)

I reviewed Philip Elliott’s debut novel ‘Nobody Move’ when it came out in 2019. At the time, I described it as “a love letter to the crime thriller movies of the 90s and is packed with enough sleazy motels, 80s punk rock and characters making questionable life choices to make you want to ask, “Whose chopper iz dis?’”

It was one of those slow burning books for me. When I had begun it, I had been sampling the movie references like a wine connoisseur ticks off flavour notes on the tongue:  there’s a Heat, here comes a Reservoir Dogs. Do I detect a soupcon of Jackie Brown? I do. Notes of Pulp Fiction laced with The GodfatherBaby DriverNo Country for Old Men and Get Shorty? It arrives on the tongue with gusto. 

It is then interesting to read the second in Eliott’s Angel City series which also arrives with a Pulp Fiction-esque series of disparate storylines swirling and coalescing around the same milieu of pimps and whores and drug deals gone wrong.

What is also clear is that Eliott has also taken the time to really continue building his craft. What ‘Nobody Move’ did so well was make you care about the characters once you got past the movie spotting tapestry game. What ‘Porno Valley’ does here is subtler – it is an initially slower moving novel which swirls to a crescendo – and takes the time to reflect on the effect of poverty and violence on these communities.

I’m not going to lie: for all the slick dialogue, believable bathetic characters and evocative setting, especially early in the novel, I did find the three timelines a little hard to keep track of at times. However, the characters are so visceral that it is better to just let the story sweep you along and let all be revealed in the fullness of time.

In short, this is an excellent read from a writer brimming with confidence and with something to say. The continuation of the Angel City series is becoming a highlight of the literary calendar for me and I look forward to following Eliott’s progress with interest.

It you want to read an exclusive extract from ‘Porno Valley’, selected by the author, you can find it here: Extract

Author Bio

Philip Elliott’s debut novel ‘Nobody Move’ won Best First Novel in the Arthur Ellis Awards. Follow-up Porno Valley is out in August, 2021. Feature-film screenplay The Bad Informant is currently in development with Passage Pictures. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Philip lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and spoiled pug where he is never not listening to rock ’n’ roll. (Biography courtesy of http://www.philipelliottfiction.com)

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Bookshop

Book Depository

Putting a Finger on the Issue

Sophomania’ by Danielle Zinn

When Detective Inspector Nathaniel Thomas is presented with an anonymous letter and three unexplained deaths in less than twenty-four hours, he realizes that his idyllic home village Crottendorf masks a turbulent reality. Summoning his trusted colleague, DS Ann Collins, Thomas begins to unravel what quickly becomes an overwhelming mountain of conflicting evidence.

So many secrets. So many lies. So many attempts to cover things up.

All is not as it first appears and it proves a lot harder to pin down the killer who prides himself on being more than one step ahead of the DI.

A deeply rooted family tragedy, greed and vengeance are at the core of this crime novel. The twists and turns of Sophomania leave you wondering to the very end who the real murderer is—or if there may actually be more than one killer on the loose in the anything-but-sleepy village of Crottendorf.

I love crime fiction set outside the UK – and, after the last two years – the escapism of which my mother would have referred to as, “a nice murder” is of benefit to us all.

I’ve written in these pages of some of my favourites Martin Walker, Donna Leon and a pairing I’ve not written about as yet, the parents of Scandinoir, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (who I will get to at some stage, honest)

But my knowledge of German literature – crime and otherwise to be honest – is scant. So, Danielle Zinn’s second novel Sophomania immediately appealed.

This synopsis driven attraction was soon rewarded by the arrival of a mummified thumb which sets our hero, Detective Inspector Nathaniel Thomas, off on the track of the rapidly expanding body count in rural German village, Crottendorf.

Zinn spins a pleasingly pacy yarn with a likeable, hulking 6ft 7 tall, detective just trying to get by in the world of murder and lingering trauma from past experience.

Oh, and a tip from a novice gardener to another, just be patient Nathaniel. The plum tree will be fine with patience.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3vCT7IF

Author Bio –

Danielle Zinn is a German author, born and raised in a small village in the Ore Mountains, Germany where not only her debut crime novel Snow Light is set but also her second book, Sophomania.

She holds a BA (Hons) degree in Business and Management from New College Durham/UK and has settled down in Leipzig where she works as a Financial Controller at an IT Consultancy.

She was introduced to the world of English literature and writing from an early age through her mother – an English teacher. Over the last years, she circumnavigated the globe and loves visiting her friends scattered all over the world.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @DanielleZinn4             https://twitter.com/daniellezinn4

Facebook: Danielle.zinn.7           https://www.facebook.com/danielle.zinn.7

A Dead Man’s Grave But a Very Much Alive Talent

‘Dead Man’s Grave’ by Neil Lancaster

For those keen to know more about Neil Lancaster and Dead Man’s Grave, Neil kindly agreed to speak to me about his writing routine and this latest book. You can find the interview here:

This grave can never be opened.
The head of Scotland’s most powerful crime family is brutally murdered, his body dumped inside an ancient grave in a remote cemetery.
 
This murder can never be forgotten.
Detectives Max Craigie and Janie Calder arrive at the scene, a small town where everyone has secrets to hide. They soon realise this murder is part of a blood feud between two Scottish families that stretches back to the 1800s. One thing’s for certain: it might be the latest killing, but it won’t be the last…
 
This killer can never be caught.
As the body count rises, the investigation uncovers large-scale corruption at the heart of the Scottish Police Service. Now Max and Janie must turn against their closest colleagues – to solve a case that could cost them far more than just their lives… (Synopsis courtesy of
https://harpercollins.co.uk/products/dead-mans-grave-ds-max-craigie-scottish-crime-thrillers-book-1-neil-lancaster?variant=39314373050446)

The cover of Neil Lancaster’s latest novel, Dead Man’s Grave

‘“Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore, it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell,”’ she said, dryly, as she got out of the car.

‘Sorry?’ said Max.

‘Doyle?’

‘Eh?’

‘Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you know, Sherlock Holmes. That’s from The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. Have you read it?’

‘I only read books with exploding helicopters on the front cover,’ said Max, shaking his head.”

One of the best compliments I can pay Dead Man’s Grave by Neil Lancaster is that I’m fairly certain that lead detective Max Craigie would not enjoy it. No exploding helicopters, far too little of the Rambo on the run which people might expect from this genre.

Lancaster has made a name for himself as a writer of kick ass thrillers with fast paced plotting and bone crunching action. And his biography does suggest that, more than most writers, he has the experience to back this up.

Armed Forces background, surveillance and undercover work for the Met and now successful thriller writer based in the Highlands. His debut novel featuring, ‘Going Dark’ was part of a trilogy featuring Tom Novak, a man who seemed in capable of not being chased by various Eastern European mafia hoods and corrupt law enforcement officers.

This time out we have Max Craigie, a former soldier struggling with PTSD and recently moved from London to Scotland under a cloud with a fatal shooting on his record.

When a prominent gangster disappears near a creepily titled grave in the Badlands of Caithness, it isn’t long before Craigie and other outsider from the squad, Janie, is sent to get involved.

Lancaster manages to twirl this plot on a sixpence with no warning for the reader and this is a really attractive trait for the reader. Expectations are dashed at every turn and, for readers who have enjoyed the Tom Novak series, whilst there are similarities between Craigie and Novak – both military men, both are or have worked in the Met, both have ties to Scotland – here the character of Craigie is more cerebral, more open to human relationships and more easily likeable than the sociopathic here of the ‘Going…’ series.

The other aspect of this new series of novels which demonstrate the evolution of Lancaster as a master craftsman is the humour. Whilst plot is clearly where this author lives, funny interchanges between Craigie, Janie and their foul mouthed but essentially cheery boss, Ross, are handled with aplomb.

“‘What’s your instinct on this one?’ Ross asked.

‘Honest answer?’

‘No, I want you to bloody lie to me, you daft twat. Stop pissing about.’”

For my money, this is the funniest novel in terms of character relationships outside another crime writer with a Black Isle connection, Ian Rankin.

And, it would appear that I am not alone in my appreciation of the novel. While I was halfway through my advanced copy, it was announced that Dead Man’s Grave had been long listed for the coveted McIlvanney Prize from Bloody Scotland. This puts Lancaster alongside luminaries such as Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart MacBride and Denise Mina which is the right company for any crime writer, I’d have thought!

My only complaint on that score is that I’ve been a reader for that award since the inaugural year and I rarely get a novel as good as this.

In conclusion, Dead Man’s Grave is a fine introduction to a series and packed with plot twists, enjoyable characters and the verisimilitude of the author’s experience make this a fine addition to the Tartan Noir canon.

Neil Lancaster joined the RAF in 1983 and served as a Military Policeman for six years, in the UK, Germany, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands, mostly as a patrol dog handler.

In 1990 he joined the Metropolitan Police where he worked in a number of roles as a Detective investigating the most serious of crimes in the capital and beyond.  He was a covert policing specialist using all sorts of tactics to obtain evidence against murderers, human traffickers, drug dealers and fraudsters.

Since leaving the Met in 2015 he has lived in the Scottish Highlands where he now writes crime and thriller novels alongside work as a broadcaster and commentator on true crime documentaries.    (Biography courtesy of www.neillancastercrime.co.uk)