Firm by Robert Cowan – Review

Firm is Robert Cowan’s fourth work, following on from The Search for Ethan, Daydreams and Devils, and (my personal favourite) For All is Vanity.

 

In Firm we have a much less experimental approach than seen in ‘Vanity’ and what feels like a more melancholy Cowan than perhaps we’ve seen until now. The affection he feels for the lead characters in this work, as well as the locations and the people who inhabit the novel, is palpable and utterly endearing throughout.

Robert has written in third-person, past-tense throughout, a choice which feels right for a story that basks in the glow of old friendships and memories of times past.

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Our main characters are likable, funny, and far from saints, but utterly believable and rather charming. What made this book for me, was Cowan’s skilful use of dialogue through the novel. Where many writers choose clumsy exposition, Cowan, quite literally in print, allows his characters to speak for themselves, stripping away their outside appearance to expose the very real versions of themselves in their deeds and words. Most notably, the boys’ friendship is demonstrated most ably by Cowan’s spot-on dialogue which is at times warm, very funny, scathing and cutting, as reflects the relationship between best friends.

Another step forward and a very, very good work from an ever developing writer who has grown comfortable in his skill and knows how to craft an appealing story.

 

Available now at Amazon

For All is Vanity by Robert Cowan – Review

With ‘For All is Vanity’, we see Robert Cowan maturing as a writer. With two solid novels under his belt, Cowan has chosen to remove himself from any potential comfort zone and to stretch his literary legs with gusto.

‘Vanity’ is by far Cowan’s most creative and experimental piece to date. A novel that makes you shift in unease at the main protagonist at points, but also feel the deepest sympathy for the mad bugger at others. Cowan has utilised a lovely narrative that switches between straight-up novel prose and some too-real diary entries.

Brave, compelling, skilful and a bold step in a new, more powerful direction, ‘Vanity’ reveals Cowan as a creative force to be reckoned with on the Indie scene and sets him apart from the formulaic breed of writers too often found there and in traditional publishing.

 

For All is Vanity is available now at Amazon

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