Noir Journal 44
1. Book Giveaway Contest: Before I Go to Sleep, S. J. Watson
2. Allan Guthrie's Two-Way Split now on Kindle
3. Book Review: Kiss Her Goodbye, Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
4. Book Review: Untouchable, Scott O'Connor
5. U.K. Author Leigh Russell (Cut Short, Road Closed, Dead End) and the Amazon Top 100
Book Giveaway: Before I Go to Sleep
by S. J.Watson (HarperCollins, June 2011)
Noir Journal is giving away three free copies of an excellent new book--Before I Go to Sleep, by S. J. Watson. Just go to the Facebook page for Before I Go to Sleep and click "Like." Then e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the book's title in the subject line.
Three winners will be selected based on blindly picking Scrabble tiles in a way that every entrant has an equal chance to win.
I've read the book myself and pretty much agree with all the excellent reviews it has received.
The first half of Before I Go to Sleep follows Christine Lucas as she painfully tries to piece together her life--although each morning as she awakens, she can't remember anything, not just from the previous day, but from the past two decades.
The second half of the book is filled with heart-stopping surprises. That's when this piercing psychological study turns into a true mystery. Just when you think you've figured out what's going on, you get smacked across the head with a chilling new discovery.
Thanks to Mark Ferguson at HarperCollins for the advance review copy as well as the three contest copies. Here's some of HarperCollins's info about Before I Go to Sleep.
Before I Go to Sleep S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with this compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento. Following a mysterious accident, Christine cannot remember her past or form new memories. In place of memories, Christine has a journal in which she’s been meticulously recording her daily events. But as the pages accumulate, inconsistencies begin to emerge, raising disturbing questions that Christine is determined to find answers to. And the more she pieces together the shards of her broken life, the closer she gets to the truth . . . and the more terrifying and deadly it is.
“Based upon a deceptively simple premise, Watson’s debut novel unwinds as a story that is both complicated and compellingly hypnotic. . . Watson writes in the first person, from the perspective of a woman, and the voice is surprisingly spot-on. The angst is unimaginable but palpable…Watson’s pitch–perfect writing propels the story to a frenzied climax that will haunt readers long after they’ve closed the cover on this remarkable book.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
TWO-WAY SPLIT by Allan Guthrie Now Available on Kindle
TWO-WAY SPLIT, Guthrie's debut novel is now available for download from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. The novel was originally published by PointBlank Press in the US in 2004, and went on to win the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year in the UK in 2007.
TWO-WAY SPLIT, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger award. Allan Guthrie is the author of four other novels: KISS HER GOODBYE (nominated for an Edgar), HARD MAN, SAVAGE NIGHT and SLAMMER and three novellas: KILL CLOCK , KILLING MUM and BYE BYE BABY, a Top Ten Kindle Bestseller. When he's not writing, he's a literary agent with Jenny Brown Associates and runs the ebook crime fiction blog, Criminal-E.
About TWO-WAY SPLIT:
Robin Greaves is an armed robber whose professionalism is put to the test when he discovers his wife has been sleeping with a fellow gang member. Robin plans the ultimate revenge, but things go from bad to worse when the gang bungles a post office robbery, leaving carnage in their wake. Suddenly they are stalked by the police, sleazy private eyes, and a cold-blooded killer who may be the only one not looking for a cut of the money…
"With razor-sharp characterisation and an evocative sense of place, the novel's pace never relents: the supremely damaged characters that Guthrie conjures up are seldom let off the hook, and stew throughout in their fetid juices. Dark and splendid." --The Guardian
"...a memorable and stunning and pitch-perfect debut and one you should grab forthwith. I can't remember a first novel this good in a long, long time." --Mystery Scene
Kiss Her Goodbye by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)
Reviewed by Ann Snuggs
(Thanks to Michelle Bonanno from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the review copy.)
Mike Hammer is back in the city. Many thought he was dead after the blazing shootout that put him in the hospital, critically wounded. But he slipped away from police protection and New York. He cut all ties, even to Velda.
For a year he's been healing and lying low in sunny Florida, determined to leave the city of his birth and his rough-and-tumble life there behind forever.
It was a simple phone call - a surprise, but not a shock, to hear the voice of old friend Pat Chambers on the line - that summoned him back. Even the strongest resolutions can't deny the call of death.
Mike's old friend and mentor, Bill Doolan, is dead. A suicide.
What?! Not Doolan.
The cancer was bad, Pat tells him. Doolan had become an old man. The pain would become unbearable, the docs said. It's hard for me to accept it, too, but that's the way it reads.
There's a plane out at three. Hammer, of course, will be on it but the trip to New York will only take a few days. He can't wait to get back to the sun and the sea and his new life. The city has nothing left for him. But, just in case, he throws his gun into the suitcase at the last minute.
Just as Chambers knew he would, Mike insists on examining Doolan's apartment. He can tell the police have gone the extra mile to confirm the verdict of suicide but Hammer knows his old friend unequivocally repudiated the concept of taking his own life. He has to admit Pat has examined every facet of the shooting, but Mike can't let it ride. He has checked and double-checked Doolan's place when it hits him. It's subtle, but the incongruity that proves murder finally penetrates Hammer's brain.
The bodies start to pile up as Mike's investigation into the last year of Doolan's life takes him back to his old haunts and some new ones. The old retired cop wasn't as retired as many of his cronies thought. Drugs and mobsters and even a stash of uncut gems from the days of Nazi Germany weave through Hammer's search for the crafty killer.
Old friends and enemies pop up along Mike's path. Some are pleased to see him alive; others wish he had stayed "dead." The P.I. with whom Doolan shared office space sees Hammer as all washed up.
"Ah, I can read you like a book," he told me, waving me away like a wino begging him for a buck. "It was all over you the other day, like a sick bad smell. And you know I'm right."
"You were right."
"What do you mean?"
I opened the jacket and I showed him the .45 in the sling. Then I showed him my teeth and let him see my eyes.
"Shit," he said. He swallowed. "Sorry. I, uh, should have given you a closer look, Mike. You are back."
Mike finds a few new dames, too. Big and beautiful they may be but none can compare to Velda. Her aura remains, though the story he hears is that she found a new man and left the city.
Whatever or whoever gets in his way will be thrust aside. It's not going to be a short trip. This world of deception and violence is where Mike Hammer belongs - right along with his reading public.
"When I'm gone, there's going to be a treasure hunt around here. Take everything you find and give it to Max - he'll know what to do."
Spillane was as accurate as Mike Hammer's .45. Collins does know exactly what to do with the notes, rough drafts and pieces of Hammer stories he inherited.
Spillane was often scorned by critics but adored by his devoted readers who loved the vivid, garish prose he used to bring Hammer and his other protagonists to life. And that is the right phrase - "to LIFE." Collins knows how to keep Spillane's tone, the essence of the characters, the pace, the grit, the vividness. He has the gift of popping the characters and settings from the pages into a virtual reality for the reader. It's rich. It's detailed. It's alive.
"At nine p.m., West Fifty-fourth between Broadway and Eighth Avenue was an artery clogged enough to give Manhattan a heart attack. The taxis slightly outnumbered the brave, foolish souls with their own wheels, and it was so hopeless, even the horn-honk symphony seemed half-hearted."
Analysts who want to spend the time examining word-for-word each phrase of Kiss Her Goodbye may find a few un-Spillane-isms. But faithful Hammer fans will just be glad to have Mike Hammer back on the streets - tough and unyielding as ever.
If there is one little cavil about Kiss Her Goodbye, it's the final chapter. For long-time Spillane readers there's an overwhelming feeling of deja vu. It would have worked as well - or maybe better - had it ended ahead of the final confrontation.
Quibbles aside, it a terrific read - a must for followers of Mike Hammer.
Max Allan Collins deserves kudos for keeping the hard-boiled P.I. alive and true to himself. As Mike himself says, when denying that age could change the old cop Doolan enough to turn him to suicide:
"I was older. . . . But I was still Mike Hammer."
Amen to that.
Reviewed by Ann Snuggs
(Thanks to Leyane Jerejian, Senior Publicist at FSB, for the review copy. For more info and reviews of Untouchable, go to Tyrus Books.)
David Darby's job description would be enough to push anyone to the brink of mental instability. He cleans up the gore at crime scenes and suicides. Swathed in mask, goggles, protective body suit and gloves, he and his fellow technicians erase every trace of the horror left behind in places where life unnaturally departed the body.
In addition to the grisly details of his work, Darby has his own devils chasing him. His wife died the year before, leaving him mourning, trying to understand her death and also attempting to cope with their son, Whitley, a sixth-grade misfit, who has refused to speak since his mother's passing. He communicates by writing in notebooks. Everyone knows him as The Kid.
Untouchable begins by dropping the reader into the grim world of Darby's work life, but this is The Kid's story. It is The Kid - tormented by class bullies, trapped in mental anguish by his belief that his mother is not dead but has left him because the ugly gibes of his classmates are true - who drives this story of damaged lives.
The Kid struggles through the abuse, the often-frustrating Covenant he made not to speak until his mother returns and the steadily growing irrationality of his father to show a dogged resilience that makes the reader applaud his efforts.
The Kid may not be one of the superheroes he so admires but he is a tough little human being. Were it not so graphic in places, one might wonder if Untouchable was originally intended as a young adult entry.
Untouchable is a sad but true-to-life tale. Bullying in the schools is rampant, especially against square pegs like The Kid. Children do interpret events - such as sudden death - with their own spin. The grisly aftermath at scenes of crimes and suicides does require the skills of cleaners who must develop strategies to keep themselves sane as they scrub up human muck day after day. Young mothers do die, leaving their families in crisis.
All that said, this story would have been greatly improved had it been a little less story - less length would have made it more effective.
There comes a point when the next bullying episode or spiraling of Darby closer to insanity becomes repetitive rather than adding depth.
The basic premise for Untouchable is intriguing. Scott O'Connor has a good touch for descriptive prose. The initial images of Darby’s work situation are mesmerizing. However, the story could have used some tightening and a strong edit to make this intriguing novel sharper and more effective.
News from U.K. author Leigh Russell:
U.K. mystery author Leigh Russell's new novel Dead End has just hit the Top 100 (number 79) on Amazon in the U.K. Her second novel, Road Closed, reached the Top 100 on Amazon in Germany last week. Russell's goal now: "that one of my books made its way into the Top 100 in the U. S. on Amazon!"
All for now; much more to come,