Ben Turner is a Dead Man – Review.

I’ve an image of a hirsute idiot-savant drooling down his chin and laughing as he watches his imaginary pals act out his fantasies in his minds-eye whilst his clumsy, hair-covered fingers work a chunky crayon describing their humiliation.

Och, they keep him happy enough, this hairy, sausage-fingered, piss-panted genius. His guardians throw him regular snacks (could do with cutting back on the burgers) and lavish praise on him for each dirty new jewel he unleashes.

The follow-up to the refreshingly-irreverent Paul Cart is a Dead Man is another magic bullet from the prolific Rain-Man Bracha.

A normal writer, with a fully-functioning set of senses would stick with what worked in the first Dead Man book. He’d reuse the wonderfully creative and engaging characters who propelled us through the dirty satire of Bracha’s dystopian New Britain and we’d be happy to play wingman on the trip.

Rather than stick to the plan, Bracha throws the least likeable character from the first book, Ben Turner, front and centre, accompanied by his wonderful new creation, Nat Sweeney.

Ben Turner not only continues the excitement and inventiveness of Paul Carter but builds on, and surpasses its predecessor.
The pace is relentless and the plot marvellously, tightly-chaotic.

Yes, Bracha is kept in a small room, walls covered in Kim Kardashian and Bungle from Rainbow wallpaper splashed with the products of his self-abuse, but he’s happy, well-fed and by God he’s been busy.

You can find Ryan Bracha and his books at Amazon UK and US.

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Preview: dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2)

Throughout dEaDINBURGH: Book 2 I’ve placed interludes, following the development of Stephanie, Alys Shephard’s cousin, and how she deals with the vents of Book 1. In this scene, Steph- after months of hard combat and survival training with her aunt- has decided to leave The Gardens.

*The following excerpt is pre-edit and contains Book 1 Spoilers*

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This is how it feels to be Stephanie.

My cousin, Alys and my friend Joey MacLeod have returned from the south. They found no cure and almost killed the madman who took my eye. Almost….. Such a small, limiting word with such infinite potential. Alys, tired from her journey and debriefing, is asleep in another tent. Joey went to seek help from a friend. Lying surrounded by dozens of strong, highly trained women I’ve known my whole life, I’ve never felt so desperately separate. But I feel good too.

I feel alert, clear.

My legs are swift and strong as I slip silently from my tent. My mother lies sleeping soundlessly, confident in the security of her home, The Gardens. These delusions of contentment she taught me, that made me so weak. I’m done with them.

I crouch in the darkness of the early winter hours. Closing my eye, I increase my awareness of every little sound in The Gardens. Joey taught me to do this.

Focus on one sense at a time, close off the others and the one you need amplifies the world. I’ll never have the innate skill Joey has. He forged his senses over a decade and a half living in the infinite blackness of Mary King’s Close. I do well enough though.

I listen to the guards patrol their regular routes around the fences and gates. The rattle of the East gate tells me where Magda is. A crunch at the bottom of the North slope gives Helen away. Five other Ranger Guards broadcast their presence to me. I open my eyes and move silently on the balls of my feet, dancing between their sounds in the arms of the winter wind. Slipping through a gap between Helen and Samantha, I spider-crawl, low and quietly, my strong core muscles flexing and stretching, keeping me tight and able to stop on a hair if needed.

As I wait for two Rangers to pass by ten feet below me on the grassy slope, I smile a fraction of a smile, allowing myself to enjoy my hard-earned skills. I close my eye one more time, checking for trace movement or any guards I’ve missed.

All clear.

I’m entirely certain and infinitely confident in my assessment and use the three seconds I have to vault silently over the spiked iron fences, landing cat-like on Princes Street.

On the street I say a silent prayer of thanks that The Ringed are almost entirely absent, having been drawn North by a metallic giant collapsing. I feel, smooth, in control, powerful and strong, but I need more. More than I can have here.

End of Excerpt

dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2) is due for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing n March 23rd, 2015 and is available for pre-order at Amazon, US and UK.

* dEaDINBURGH: Vantage (Din Eidyn Corpus Book 1) is also available now on Kindle and as a paperback.

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Undercover by Gerard Brennan – Review

Undercover by Gerard Brennan.

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I’m not a crime-thriller sort of reader and find them to be generally fairly formulaic; but having devoured Gerard Brennan’s ‘Wee Rockets’ and ‘Wee Danny’ back to back, I picked up Undercover, confident that Brennan’s writing would see me through.

Pacey, smart and entirely driven by Brennan’s skilful narrative style and insightful characterisation, Undercover has more heart than a butcher’s window and the makings of a great series of novels in its main Character, Cormac Kelly.

Harbouring none of the clichéd mannerisms, foibles or ghosts of his pulp-noir peers, Kelly (whilst engaging and very much the focus of the story) is used (wisely) sparingly at times by Brenan, who carefully switches narrative perspective and allows his story’s ‘victims’ to come to the fore. This allows the potentially minor characters to show all their own strengths and weaknesses and truly affect the outcome of the relentless tale. Each is given time to develop and show their courage and cowardice, fears and strengths; and drive Kelly through the narrative.

Lydia, Rory, and young Mattie are all given central roles in the story and fully-fleshed characters. The ‘supporting cast’ are very much driving Kelly through their world, rather than being utilized as mechanisms for placing Kelly in various perils. I found this refreshing.

I’m a convert to Brennan’s style of crime novel and can’t recommend this book highly enough.

You can find Gerard Brennan and his books at Amazon, US and UK.

Undercover is published by Blasted Heath.

Top Books of 2014

2014 has been a breakthrough year for many authors, whether Indie, traditional, or the new breed of Hybrid authors who are dipping a toe in the old and new worlds.

I’ve discovered, rediscovered, read and re-read some quality books this year, written by  established and by new authors. For me, a new generation of writers- mostly, but not exclusively, British- are making their mark in the publishing world. Many without the assistance of publishing houses and producing literature that, for me, is the most exciting and fresh the industry has seen in years.

In no particular order, here’s my favourite reads of 2014:

1. Consumed by Kyle Scott:

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An easy pick for me. As well as being a former schoolmate, Kyle is a rare breed of writer, one who picks away at the scabbiest parts of your psyche. Kyle’s produced a few books this last year or so. Consumed was my favourite. here’s my review of the book.

You can find Kyle and his books at Amazon.

2. Fall of Night by Jonathan Maberry:

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Another easy pick. In the last two years, Maberry has become my favourite writer by a long way. Whilst his Rot & Ruin series was wonderful, and the reason I sat down to write my dEaDINBURGH series, the standout book for me this year from Maberry is Fall of Night.

Pacey, heart-felt, horrifyingly realistic, well-researched, prequel to Rot & Ruin and sequel to Dead of Night; this book showcases all of Maberry’s finest qualities as a writer. For me, Maberry’s greatest strength lies in his very strong characterisation, most notably his empowerment and realistic portrayal of his female leads.

When I grow up, I want to write like Jonathan Maberry.

You can find Jonathan Maberry and his books at Amazon.

3. Paul Carter is a Dead Man by Ryan Bracha:

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Probably my favourite Indie book this year and my favourite Indie Author. Yes he’s a hairy, goggle-eyed borderline alcoholic with personal space issues and an irrational fear of soap-based products, but the Bracha bloke is simply the most imaginative and ballsy writer on the Indie scene. Always uncompromising and experimental, with Paul Carter, Bracha finally reigned himself in just enough to give his storytelling the structure to match its quality. Wonderful stuff. He is a bell-end, but don’t let that put you off form taking a trip through his dirty dystopian masterpiece.

You can find Bracha and his books at Amazon.

4. Wee Rockets by Gerard Brennan:

wee rocketsGerard’s Wee Rockets is a belter of a book and ne that I’ve revisited twice already. Hailed as Irvine Welsh-esque, I’d rate this addition to Brennan’s catalogue as much, much better than anything Welsh has produced of late. I’ve read and enjoyed a few of Gerard’s books this year, but this was the standout for me. here’s my review of Wee Rockets.

You can find Gerard Brennan and his books at Amazon.

5. Glue by Irvine Welsh:

glueFor me, Glue is Irvine Welsh’s best book by a mile. Full of friendship, hardship, families, victories, humour and betrayal, Glue showcases everything that’s good about Welsh’s writing and Scotland’s infinite capacity for humour and heart-felt sentimentality. Not just my favourite Welsh offering, but my all-time favourite book, full stop.

6. This is How You Disappear by Allen Miles:

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Depraved in parts, gentle and insightful, Miles short story collection was a high point of 2014 for me. Here’s my review.

You can find Allen and his books at Amazon.

7. The Search for Ethan by Robert Cowan:

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An absolutely lovely wee story of growth and friendship, riddled with emotion and gritty realism. Lovely work from yet another new writer from my hometown. Here’s my review of The Search for Ethan.

You can find Robert Cowan at Amazon.

7. Dimebag Bandits Craig Furchtenicht:

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Lovely, lovely book that oozes class and shocking realism. One of those reads that as a writer you’re insanely jealous you didn’t/couldn’t write.

You can find Craig and his books at Amazon.

8. Russian Roulette by Keith Nixon:

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As well as the fantastic and Bestselling, The Eagle’s Shadow, Nixon also produced one of my favourite crime books of the year in Russian Roulette.

In this collection, Keith doesn’t spare a single word or gesture in his writing and delivers a punchy, intensely-paced series of shorts featuring his now trademark character, Konstantin. Awesome stuff from Keith. Here’s my review of Russian Roulette.

You can find Nixon and his books at Amazon.

9. Amsterdam Rampant by Neil Cocker:

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Probably my biggest surprise of the year. I picked this up expecting another ‘lads on holiday’ type read, but found a lovely little story filled with great characterisation and a nicely-paced plot. Cocker also uses a skilled technique to relay the protagonist’s back-story.  Here’s my review.

You can find Neil and his books at Amazon.

10. Twelve Mad Men by Various, edited by Ryan Bracha:

Despite telling Bracha that he was a mad bastard, I was delighted to be asked to contribute to this novel of shorts, joining some of my favourite writers in helping produce an ambitious and seemingly-impossible novel from a collection of stories written by a load of very good writers, but who are very different from each other. I doubted that Bracha could meld the stories into a meaningful, flowing narrative, but he did. The bastard.

Twisted, imaginative, demented and wonderfully weaved into a true novel, you can purchase Twelve Mad Men here.

Featuring the contributions of:

Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)

Please do check out, Sant and Douglas’ Near to the Knuckle Anthologies,  Blasted Heath  and Caffeine Nights Publishing; sources of excellent books and support for the fledgling Brit-writing scene.

Thanks for reading, please do check out some of the books on my list, you’ll be glad you did.

Mark Wilson is the Amazon-bestselling author of five fiction novels and one non-fiction memoir. You can find him and his books at Amazon UK and US

Book Review – This is How You Disappear by Allen Miles

Allen Miles doesn’t fuck about. Jeezuz. I think he either hates his characters or loves them a wee bit too much.

Sadistically, he drops his characters into the brown stuff and invites all his mates round to watch then swim. Not to mock, not to judge just to observe. Maybe have a wee smoke or a beer and take in the mayhem.

It’s only as the reader staggers through the ragged-edged corridors of each story that it slowly becomes apparent that Miles has issues. The scenes unfolding, the dirty-filthy, wonderful emotions his characters have to suffer and the sheer hardship they endure are excruciating at times. What makes me worry about this Miles laddie though is how he gets the reader smirking when they know they shouldn’t and places you firmly on his characters side rather than laughing darkly at them, from beyond the fourth wall. My granny would describe the boy as ‘Just no’ right, son’. Miles lays bare each and every one of his neurosis for us to see in this collection, at least in my head he does. Simply because it’s much safer to assume the laddie’s ‘no’ right’ than to accept that he’s just this good.

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Allen Miles and his books (and neuroses) can be found at Amazon, UK and US

Book Review – Russian Roulette by Keith Nixon

A collection of all seven Konstantin Novellas:

    • Dream Land
    • Plastic Fantastic
    • Fat Gary
    • Bullet
    • Infidelity
    • Close Contact
    • A Chorus of Bells

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If you’re a crime novel connoisseur and love punchy, bullet-paced plots with pitch perfect dialogue and the darkest of humour, Nixon and his anti-hero creation Konstantin are the very boys for you.

Me? I never read crime fiction. It’s just not my bag, I’m a character-development man and like a slow burn story where people are gradually revealed along the way. Despite my unmanly aversion to crime novels, I’m first in the queue when Nixon delivers his latest work. In the Konstantin series Keith manages to pull both worlds together, violently fusing a hurtling plot with outstanding characterisation and development.

As each chunk is a complete little story in its own right shoving you through Konstantin’s hurricane, so too is the greater collection a cleverly constructed journal of Konstantin’s complexity of character, morals, and capacity for general mayhem. Konstantin himself seems genuinely ambivalent towards the right or wrong of his actions.

Nixon’s work, all pace, venom and clattering twists, never fails to drag his readers into the piss-soaked murky alleys and streets his characters frequent.

Another lesson in storytelling from one of the mainstays of the new Brit writer invasion currently swaggering through Amazon Bestseller lists.

You can find Keith and his books at Amazon, UK and US

Book Review – The Search for Ethan by Robert Cowan

This was my literary surprise of 2014. I picked this book up for a few reasons. The author comes from my home-county. Mainly though because of some great reviews the book has been picking up.

Robert is a cheeky bastard. With his debut novel, Cowan has thrown out the rule book and avoided all the basic errors first-time writers always, always make. Cowan shows, he doesn’t tell. His dialogue is tight, and the pace is perfect. Generally books from Scotland fail to deliver the true feel of the towns and cities, simply because they’re steeped in stereotypes and tired clichés.

Cowan unapologetically lays his protagonists out for the reader, each of them a heart-felt, painful and emotional mirror of the towns they spring from. Each truly representative of the type of people found in every impoverished town. Complete with their problems, desperations, virtues and victories, Cowan’s characters radiate realness and are heroic in their murky, hopeless-heroics.

With his debut novel, Cowan joins the ranks of a new breed of British novelists, telling their stories the way they want them told. Wonderful.

Aye, he’s a cheeky bastard this Cowan.

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You can find Robert and his books at Amazon, UK and US