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

Head Boy by Mark Wilson Excerpt

The following excerpt is from Chapter 10 of Head Boy by Mark Wilson Copyright to M.Wilson2013

Head Boy is available as a paperback and on kindle on Amazon US and UK

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Chapter 10

A Useless Five-Percent-er

 

Stevie removed his leather bomber jacket and threw it onto the ram-raid post to his left. Bloody warm tonight.

Having to wrestle two deadbeats out of Angel’s hadn’t helped him in staying cool either.

“Haw, Monkey,” he bellowed.

One of Stevie’s co-workers, a temp who had been hired from Rock Steady for the night, looked up at him. When temps appeared to provide an extra pair of hands on busy nights, Stevie didn’t bother to learn their names, but gave them nicknames based on their face or mannerisms. In the last few months, he’d worked with Mongers, Budgie, Nicki Minaj, Posh Spice and Django. Tonight’s guy was a bit simian-looking so had been christened, Monkey. Around an hour into his shift, Monkey had given up trying to tell Stevie his name, figuring that it was less trouble to simply answer to his new moniker.

“Aye?” Monkey asked.

“I’m going to stretch my legs and have a cig. You take over here Monkey-Boy.”

Stevie loped off, lighting a Marlborough as he went. Hearing his colleague huffing, he tossed over his shoulder. “I’ll bring ye a nice banana back.”

Monkey jabbed his middle finger at Stevie’s back as he left.

 

Half an hour later, Stevie was in a dark corner on the perimeter of the Tunnock’s factory. Leaning back against the brick, Stevie inhaled deeply on a Marlborough and craned his neck back to stare up at the sky, trying to enjoy the moment. All of his senses were sharpened but not in a good way. His nerves were shredded, every sound irritated him. The cold scratchy bricks on his bare arse cheeks chafed and Linda’s teeth, rather than stoking his lust as they gently nibbled and dragged back and forth assisting her lips, well, they just hurt. His semi had all but wilted to a five percent insult of an erection despite Linda’s finest efforts to revive it.

“Stop, hen, just stop there,” Stevie told her.

“What’s the matter, Stevie?” Linda looked up at him.

“Och, I’ve a lot on my mind, hen.”

“We could try something else?” Linda took a step to the wall, braced both hands on the brickwork and rotated her pelvis, presenting her peach of an arse to Stevie.

Stevie laughed, causing her to self-consciously straighten and cover herself over with her coat.

“Don’t ye fancy me anymore?” she accused him, looking ten percent hurt, ninety percent pissed-off.

“Och, it’s not you, it’s me, Linda,” Stevie offered, standing pathetically covering himself while his trousers lay around his ankles.

Linda poked a finger in his face. “Did you just say that? To me?” she screamed at him, overdramatically.

“I didn’t mean it like that, hen. I’ve really not been right.” Stevie had his palms open in a submissive gesture.

“Aye, well,” Linda told him, lighting a cigarette. “I’ve not got time for this. Gies a phone when it’s working again.” She jabbed a finger down at his crotch and departed, wobbling away on her fantastic legs and too-high heels.

Stevie sighed and lit another Marlborough. Holding the cig in his mouth he tucked away his soggy wee pal and did up his trousers. He’d been struggling badly to focus since he’d met with Hondo the previous day. Hardly sleeping at all the previous night, Stevie had tossed and turned, trying to figure out who and what he’d become. Had he really promised Hondo that he would help with Davie Diller?

Since he’d left the force, Stevie’s life had gone to shit. He’d lost and thrown away everything good in his life. The job, the house, his wife, their daughter; in an eighteen-month spell he’d lost the lot. Looking back, it was clear that in the months following his medical retirement Stevie had been badly depressed and in the darkest depths of PTSD. That one split second when the knife had slid into his thigh had changed his life forever and continued to define his actions now.

 

**********

DS Miller had been standing bullshitting about football with the boy behind the desk in the Shell petrol station when the call came in. An informant of his had tipped him off a few days previously that a substantial deal was taking place in The Orb, and that Hondo would be there in person, holding product. The call informed him that the deal was on.

DS Miller contacted the station, looking for the DCI to get the go-ahead, but Dougie was still down at Wishaw General visiting that nephew of his, the laddie with leukaemia. That meant that it was the Sergeant’s call. Relaying orders for a few uniformed officers to liaise with him on Hamilton Road, DS Miller went directly there on foot. Accepting a stab-proof vest from the attending DC, DS Miller briefed each of the half dozen officers, instructing them to go for Hondo first and then arrest any stragglers.

Almost as soon as the team burst through the door of The Orb bar, DS Miller spotted Hondo holding court at the far end of the bar. Team-handed they dragged him and three of his cronies to the sticky floor, cuffed and searched him. Nothing.

Hondo laughed at them throughout. “Better luck next time,” the old man had sneered at DS Miller as he was released from the barely-on cuffs.

“Just wait the now,” Miller told his team.

Stepping outside, he radioed the station. Five minutes later the dog team arrived. The station dog, a massive German Shepard named Kaiser, sniffed from man to man, finding nothing. The handler proceeded to lead Kaiser around the pub whilst Hondo and his crew laughed to themselves. Suddenly the mutt had leapt over the bar and begun scratching and barking at the cellar door.

“If there’s nothing else Sergeant? “Hondo laughed and left the pub. DS Miller had no excuse to stop him leaving.

Opening the cellar door, Miller had shouted down into the darkness, “Up ye come.” Suddenly a man flashed through the open hatch. Bowie knife in hand, the suspect had plunged the eight-inch blade into Miller’s leg and ended his career in a spray of blood and violence.

When he’d still been on active duty, Stevie had scoffed at other officers who had succumbed to PTSD after an incident on duty. If they can’t cope wi’ the job, they should fuck off out of it had been his assertion.

Like most officers he’d worked with, Stevie had considered mental illness a preventable and controllable condition. Just cheer up. Just don’t think about it. Just work harder.

Now he knew better. Stevie had spent hours crying for no reason. He’d slept for days at a time, starved himself and ignored everyone. He’d tried to re-engage but couldn’t face the simple act of talking to another person. Hell, he couldn’t even look at his own wife without suffering a panic attack. His daughter had cried at him, begging him to pull himself together. Don’t you love us anymore, Dad? It had broken his heart. Inside he was screaming “Yes! Help me!’” Outside, he rolled over and went to sleep whilst his broken-hearted family packed their things and left him.

He drank and did drugs. He gambled, and then, finally, eventually, he faced the world again. The doc had given him pills that helped him to face people, but the guy who emerged through the black fog with a medicine cabinet full of anti-depressants at home and a bloodstream full of whiskey and Class-As wasn’t really Stevie Miller anymore. He just wore him like a suit.

Who he was now – no family, reeking of cigarettes, alcohol and bitterness – would have sickened DS Miller. But he was who he was. He didn’t know how to be his old self anymore. The guy who’d laughed freely with people, who’d spent all of his free time with his family. The guy who people knew would do what he said he would and could be relied upon to back you up. The husband, the father and the police officer were all long gone and all that remained, it seemed, was the piece of shit, alcoholic, coke-snorting doorman who’d sell out his best friend’s son for the favour of a petty local drug dealer.

The old DS Miller would have detested Stevie Miller, but not half as much as he hated himself. Just like his dick, he was about five percent of what he should be.

 

Fuck it. Stevie tossed the butt of his cigarette at the wall. Five percent’s better than fuck all. Hondo can go fuck himself. Young Davie was a bit of a player but that could be sorted. Davie had never hurt a soul. He didn’t deserve what was coming to him.

 

Stevie straightened himself and headed back to Angel’s to finish his shift.

 

Head Boy is available as a paperback and on kindle on Amazon US and UK

Irvine Welsh and Snow Patrol F@cked It Up

I’m just so excited about the stage we have reached in terms of the music and literature industry in Britain right now. We’re about to hit a bubble where a massive explosion of new, exciting, meaningful and mind-blowingly energetic music and novels are about to emerge; clearing out the bland pish we are currently drowning in. Even the odd meaningful movie with a heart is sneaking through. Chronicle for example.

Don’t believe me? I’m a man in the know.

All my life, I’ve had a peculiar “affliction”. The technical name for it is synesthesia. Essentially it means that sounds in general, and music in particular, appear in my mind’s eye as colours. These are very specific and distinct to what each song or voice is conveying emotionally for me. As well as this, I love books and movies also. Imagine the soundtrack to a movie enhanced by flowing, swaying and splashing colours to accompany the music and words. Imagine the colour that flows from the words on a page when spoken aloud.

Now, how does this give me insight into the shifting landscape of our music and book industry? Well, for about 5 years now the British music industry in particular has been a very beige place to be in. The seemingly endless conveyer belt of X-Factor puppets and reformation of man-bands and Buble’s of the world have left the music scene dry, boring and colour-less. Where’s the excitement? Where are the songs and albums that you can identify with, laugh with, be outraged with, or that make you want to go f@cking nuts? Which particular artists are going to define the teen of today? The Script? The Wanted? JLS? Take-That? Nothing wrong with any of these acts, certainly there’s a lot worse around, but to my ears (and eyes) it’s music to chat to; music to have “ isn’t this civilised?” dinner parties to; but mostly, music to ignore.

Just look at Snow Patrol. This group actually produced some decent and innovative songs in their early days. Now? They’re slaves to their record company’s demands for formulaic coffee table soft rock ballads. They’ve gone from being a battered old VW van, full of charisma, tales to tell and character to becoming a 5 star safety rated Renault Megane. Don’t get me started on those bastards, Nickleback!

This Snow Patrol record is shite

The literary world is just as bad and just as beige. Irvine Welsh came along and redefined everything for me about how a book could be formatted and written, or a tale told. Trainspotting was a revelation; Glue was arguably his finest moment. Everything else? A copy of a copy. Each piece written to emulate what made his early work so vibrant, but never quite recapturing the hunger and passion of those works. Irv, please, don’t keep writing what you think the audience wants; rather give us your best, straight from your black heart. I miss Juice Terry, Begbie and the boys, but don’t trot them out like well-worn slippers for a tired re-enactment or two, put some good old-fashioned Welsh spunk in their stories or don’t bother yer arse.

I could list all day the formulaic strategy that writers have adopted and name and shame those c@nts, but why bother? You know how you are; Grisham, Cornwell, Patterson, Harris, Ludlum and your pals. The comparison between these “industries” is obvious to anyone who loves music, books and movies. The “big 6” have told us who and what we “want” to read for long enough.

Just as music is emerging (hopefully soon) from an age where the bean-counters and committees decide and dictate what we listen to, read or watch, so too is the literary world. Self-publishing without a doubt will bring its problems: poorly written, poorly edited or written to a formula John Locke-type “novels” etc. However with that comes the freedom of being able to publish the stories we want to tell when we want to tell them. To be able to write and distribute the very best words straight from our hearts to (hopefully) our audience. Fine times are ahead indeed.

Here’s the Brucie-Bonus though. Every so often when music or film or literature gets to its lowest point a monster of a group or completely new sound, or a new voice, director, writer or visionary comes along and inspires change of immense proportions. Guys like John Niven are starting to emerge and that suits me just fine Times of austerity and poverty also historically produce musicians, writers and artists who are hungry for change and have a message to force into the public consciousness.. Times are very tough at present.

Revolution is on its way, praise the Lord.

Good times are a comin’.

My debut novel, “Bobby’s Boy” is available now on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335467068&sr=1-1