Tag Archives: Books

James Crumley – The Last Good Kiss

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James Crumley – The Last Good Kiss (1978)

For the past year, about 80% of my reading time has been dedicated to crime fiction. SF and horror have taken the back seat to the likes of Jim Thompson, Ross Macdonald, Jo Nesbo, Izzo, Ian Rankin and more, but after reading this, I feel I can finally step away for a while and explore something else. I have just finished James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss, the best crime book I’ve read so far.

Blurb:

Tough, hard-boiled, and brilliantly suspenseful, The Last Good Kiss is an unforgettable detective story starring C. W. Sughrue, a Montana investigator who kills time by working at a topless bar. Hired to track down a derelict author, he ends up on the trail of a girl missing in Haight-Ashbury for a decade. The tense hunt becomes obsessive as Sughrue takes a haunting journey through the underbelly of America’s sleaziest nightmares.

As soon as I opened the first page, I was met with this line

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside Sonoma California, drinking the heart out of a fine spring afternoon.”

I was hooked and determined to write down every passage that made me groan with jealousy and awe but I had to give up on that idea quite early on. It’s just too quotable.

The book opens with C.W. Sughrue, A private investigator hired to find an eccentric writer called Abraham Trahearne by his ex-wife. After weeks of searching, Sughrue finally catches up with the writer after learning about his strange affinity for bar dogs, which leads him to Fireball and of course Trahearne.

“Whenever I found anybody, I always suspected that I deserved more than money in payment. This was the saddest moment of the chase, the silent wait for the apologetic parents or the angry spouse or the law. The process was fine, but the finished product was always ugly. In my business, you need a moral certitude that I no longer even claimed to possess and, every time, when I came to the end of the chase I wanted to walk away.”

After a misunderstanding, which leads to Trahearne taking a slug in the arse, the owner of the bar asks C.W to look for her daughter, who has been missing in San Francisco for ten years. She stepped out of her boyfriend’s car and was never seen again. Sughrue eventually accepts the case even though he feels it’s pointless and not worth the measly $85 he’s paid but it’s all the mother has and Trahearne is willing to fund the search for a few more days away from his mother and ex-wife. What follows is full of twists and turns, pint bottles of vodka and Femme Fatales that will hold you to the very last word.

Crumley nails every character to the point of tears. As Sughrue and Trahearne look for the runaway Betty-Sue Flowers, it becomes clear that they’re all running from something. Sughrue tries to outweigh his own feelings of inferiority by telling himself he’s happy with the mundane life of a PI, who has to support himself by working in bars when work is slow. Trahearne tries to run from his infidelities, alcoholism and his thought that the last line he wrote could be his last.

In a strange way, I came out of this book with optimism. It revels in celebration at the obstacles Sughrue must face. The complexity of the story, the flawed and damaged characters makes this seem timeless. I’ve only just finished the book so it will be interesting to see how I feel about it in the upcoming weeks and months but for now, this is the most absorbing and on-point piece of pulp crime fiction I have read. You owe it to yourself to try it.

“Stories are like snapshots, pictures snatched out of time, with clean hard edges. But life always begins and ends in a bloody muddle, womb to tomb, just one big mess, a can of worms left to rot in the sun.”

As this is unavailable as an ebook, you will have to go to a bookshop. You never know, you might like it.

James Arthur Crumley was the author of violent hardboiled crime novels and several volumes of short stories and essays, as well as published and unpublished screenplays.

The edition I read was part of the Vintage Crime series from Black Lizard.

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StephenKing.com Announces “Mr Mercedes”

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Mr. Mercedes has now been officially announced on King’s official site. The release date is set to June 3rd 2014. He calls it his first hard-boiled detective book about a deranged terrorist with a bomb. King said he began it before the Boston Marathon bombing, but the events were “too creepy for comfort.”

As I can’t seem to get enough of the hard-boiled genre, This has excited me more than the announcement for Doctor Sleep and I can only hope that it matches the level of emotion of, hard case crime outing, Joyland

Who knows how good it will be but with a release date of early June us Constant Readers wont have to long to find out

Check out Cemetery Dance for a special slip cased edition. I got their 25th anniversary of IT which was stunning.

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The Darwin Elevator – Jason M Hough

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Titan is really starting to grab my attention. With authors such as John Birmingham, Steven L Kent, Cory Doctorow and Jack Campbell, they’re increasing their market share in the genre and adding Jason M Hough and “The Dire Earth Cycle” to that list, it’s hard to find better military/psychological SF at the moment.

In the year 2283, the last habitable place on Earth is Darwin, Australia after aliens constructed an elevator from Darwin, into space. A global plague has turned all but a small percentage of humans into crazed “Sub-human’s”. Darwin is safe from the plague because the space elevator emits an aura that protects the area around it but the origin coincides with the human interaction with it as they established orbital colonies along the elevator’s cord. Was the plague also left behind by the alien builders?

Skyler Luiken and his fellow immune scavenger crew are struggling. Skyler is finding leadership tough and the crew are borderline mutinous. When he leads a mission into the dangerous wastelands beyond the aura’s edge; he has to learn to lead quickly because the fate of Darwin could depend on it.

At the top of the Space Elevator, a battle for control begins. Neil Platz and his groomed assistant Dr Tania Sharma are trying to find a pattern in the appearances of the builders, but Neil knows more then he’s letting on and this keeps him a few steps ahead of the ones trying to claim control of all he built. When the master manipulator sends Tania along on Skyler’s mission, he becomes the catalyst of Earth’s next phase.

Jason M Hough’s debut is an ambitious one. It’s a mix of SF, mystery, corporate espionage and zombies. You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking Hough might have taken on too much for this book but as you race through the story, in a shower of bullets and debris, you realise that not only has Hough executed all of the above, he has taken on a whole lot more and pushed The Darwin Elevator to the front of modern SF. It’s incredibly fun but without being trashy, and I guarantee you won’t see the ending coming. It is great that such a relatively straightforward adventure story provokes so many questions. Hopefully this will show writers, new and old, that there can be more to Military SF.   There’s huge scope for the next two in the series so let hope Jason builds on this excellent start

4.5/5

Dire Earth Cycle are all published this year by Titan Books

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The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding. Book Review

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“All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew. They’ve been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They’ve stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they’ve gone and started a civil war. This time, they’re really in trouble.”

I’ve been following this series from the beginning. Retribution Falls was picked up on a whim because of its fantastic cover and I’ve been hooked on every word since. It’s not often I find a series as good as this one and every time I’ve picked up the latest on release day, it’s been like coming home. From the opening line I’m pulled back into Chris Wooding’s world and “The Ace of Skulls” was no different.

It’s hard to review the forth book in a series, because I don’t want to spoil anything for potential readers but I’ll try and keep it brief.

Darian Freye, Captain of the Ketty Jay, is good at starting fights, most of the time it’s purely accidental, and dragging his dysfunctional crew along for the ride but this time they started a civil war. They must decide which side they’re on before they’re caught in the cross fire. Frey’s choices have always been extreme and mostly selfish, whether it’s stealing from an orphanage or trying to save his own skin from Daemon’s like The Iron Jackal, but the crew follow him anyway.

As Vardia’s war rages, they find out Frey led them into danger to find the woman he loved and lost, the infamous Pirate Queen Trinica Dracken, and it threatens to tear them apart. As the story unfolds, Frey’s hold on the crew starts to slip but when Frey needs his crew the most, who will be left at his side?

The Ace of Skulls is fantastic with tonnes of action and heart pounding moments. The crew have come on so much since the first book without losing a step. I genuinely care about each of them and their individual plot lines. The dialogue between them can be hilarious at times but heart breaking at others and in this book it feels like Chris has really got into his stride.

These books really are incredible. It’s a mix of Firefly and Pirates of the Caribbean just without being cut short too soon and defiantly without Orlando Bloom. If you could somehow describe them in one word, it would be “fun” but they achieve this without ever becoming trashy. They include some really dark scenes which are quite hard to read. My particular favourite is Crake’s, a daemonist of high society, and his childlike but brutal Golum Bess. How they came to be aboard the ship is a constant theme throughout and their story runs even deeper in this one.

To experience everything The Ace of Skulls has to offer, you need to go back and read the first three first. Trust me the pay off is 100% worth it. The series goes

1 Retribution Falls

2 The Black Lung Capitan

3 The Iron Jackal

4 The Ace of Skulls

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I’ve heard that this could be the last of the Ketty Jay books. If it is, it’s a perfect bon voyage. I would love him to continue the series but I would rather Chris go out on his own terms rather than suffering through a dip in quality. I’ve had such a good time reading these books and I’m looking forward to what Chris produces next. So fill up those aerium tanks one more time. You in for a helluva ride, I promise.

So whether you’re new to the series or seasoned swashbucklers I’d love to hear how you get on, so get in touch on here or twitter @Europa_Outlaw

This book is published by Gollancz and is available now

http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/chris+wooding/the+ace+of+skulls/9595048/

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Competition – Signed Police by Jo Nesbo

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On Friday the 13th September, I had the privilege to attend both Jo Nesbo signings in Manchester. One at Waterstones Manchester Deansgate, as part of there Dead On Deansgate Crime festival and the other at Manchester Town Hall for the Manchester Literature Festival.

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The nice people at Harvill Secker and Random House, gave me a copy a signed copy of Police, just to give to you. Good luck and I hope it goes to a good home.

Just click on the link below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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