Archive for Book Reviews

11 Aug 2013

“The Outback” by David Clarkson

1 Comment Book Reviews


final 2 part 2THE OUTBACK

Matt joins the outback harvest trail filled with apprehension. Is it really worth doing three months of back breaking labour in exchange for another year added to his visa? His new friends certainly think so and it is not long before they convince him of the same.

Of course, none of them are counting on their new boss. Rhett is cold, callous and delights in watching others suffer. Convinced that the old man is hiding a criminal past, the backpackers begin to do a little digging. Nothing however, can prepare them for what they find.

As the past starts repeating itself, Matt comes to realise that unless he can discover the truth about his foreman, he and his friends may be in more danger than he could possibly have imagined..


“The Outback” by David Clarkson was a chance find for me. I have a thing for travel and backpack stories and jumped at this book which follows a group of international younger people on a work assignment in the outback, clearing fields for three months.
The world is full of possibilities, visa problems and living in the moment. Beer, love, smoking and discovering the world, but the real world catches up with them in form of a nasty supervisor, the hostile nature and clashes with the law and the world of the aborigines. The group of characters in the book is colourful and entertaining, the friendships and relationships formed are very realistic and the book gives an excellent account of the work as you travel experience. 
This is excellently written, has great suspense and is a treat for anyone who has ever been on a backpack holiday. I found this very hard to put down, the tension and the pace of the story is really well done. Maybe I am too partial to the genre but I recommend this highly.


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Interview with David:


David, thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little something about yourself as both a person and an author:

It took me 8 attempts to pass my driving test, so when people say that the most important trait for a writer is perseverance, I think that I pretty much have it covered!

What made you decide to be a writer? Have you always written?

I don’t think that I ever made a conscious choice to become a writer. When I returned from travelling I started to transfer my hand written travel journals to computer format, editing them as I went. With time and practice, I became more creative with what I wrote and started to semi-fictionalise some of the journals. Then one day, after a really rough day at work I came home and visualised the place that I would most like to be (it was camping under the stars in Outback Australia) and just started to write a story about it.

I know from your bio that you spent a lot of time in Australia where your book is set. How autobiographical is the story?

The setting and characters are all fictional, but much of it is a mishmash of people and places that I came across travelling. The stick picking job that the characters do in the book is based on my own experience of the same in Queensland. We had a cantankerous old supervisor who also drove one of the tractors. He used to smoke these really tightly packed rolly cigarettes, which somebody suggested were indicative of time spent in prison and it led to us all trying to guess at his past. This was where the idea of Rhett (the novel’s villain) came from.

Travel books like “Backpack” and “The Beach” have inspired me to see the world. Did you have similar experiences and do you still have the travel bug?

I don’t think that anybody ever really loses the travel bug. If I could, I would have carried on the backpacker lifestyle forever, but if you want to start a family and lay down some roots, you have to give it up eventually. I read “The Beach” shortly before I visited Thailand and when I experienced it for myself and realised just how accurately the book captures the spirit of travelling in Asia, but also turns it into such an exciting thriller, I wanted to find a book that did the same for Australia. When I started to write “The Outback”, I was really trying to write the book that I most wanted to read.

Did you have the story all planned out before you wrote it or did the characters and story surprise you?

The original story plan was a little more off the wall. The second half of the novel was going to move to an isolated observatory where some crazy scientists were doing experiments into astral projection.  Once I started writing it though and created characters that felt so real to me, I did not want to trash it all by adding the sci-fi element. The book was split in two, with the story about the observatory developing into my third novel; “Diamond Sky”.

Did you have any actors or people in mind when writing your characters?

The sisters were originally based on two girls I met briefly in Melbourne, but I now think of Keira Knightley and Emma Watson in their roles. The way that Colin speaks and his humour is based on a friend I worked with on the farms in Australia and he was always having trouble with a couple of stoners who he shared a dorm room with. I suppose that makes it ironic that I made Colin the number one stoner in the story.

Which character did you most enjoy writing? Are you like any of them?

I enjoyed writing the villain; Rhett. It was fun seeing how far I could take him and the fact that his hatred was so self defeating meant that I could show things from his perspective without clouding the morals of the story. I also enjoyed creating Colin. The main protagonist, Matt, is an everyman character and I did not want to burden him with too many vices and flaws for fear of losing the reader’s empathy for him.  That is where Colin comes in. His recklessness and attitude reflect the darker side of Matt. A bit like the devil on his shoulder, whilst Jenny is the angel on his other shoulder, who speaks to his conscience and stops him from getting into the kind of trouble that he would certainly find himself if he listened to Colin.

If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?

The journey for many of the characters is quite dark. The exception is Jonas, who is the only one who manages to retain a level of innocence by the end of the story. For this reason, I would have to pick him. The others just lose too much of themselves in the horrors that they face.

With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck on a deserted island?

Jenny – she’s hot, although my wife may have a thing or two to say about that. Out of the guys, I would again, have to choose Jonas. He has a naivety coupled with limitless enthusiasm that makes anything seem possible, even on a desert island. We could have fun together trying to construct a raft to get back to civilisation. On the surface he may seem like a minor character, but he actually adds a lot in way of balancing the overall tone of the story. There is always room for an optimist.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

I make a joke towards the end of the story about residents of the outback being stuck in a musical time-warp. So I guess that anything by AC/DC or Cold Chisel would be fitting in that respect. If I had to choose just one song though, it would be “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. On my first night stick-picking, we all had a party after work and one of the guys picked up a guitar and just started playing it. By the chorus the whole group was singing along and it is one of those memories that has stuck with me whilst so many others have faded.

What is your writing environment like?

I can write pretty much anywhere. I even write in front of the TV sometimes! All of my best ideas come to me when I am on the move though. I can create entire scenes on a thirty minute jog around my local park. I always plot out a scene in my head and then when I sit down at the computer it is simply a case of playing around with words until what is on the page accurately reflects what was in my mind.

Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it?

When I decided to self publish I had no idea that many indies hire professionals for covers and editing. I thought that we had to do everything ourselves, so that is what I did. I used a photograph taken during my own time in the outback and played around with it until I thought that it conveyed the appropriate tone for the book. It took me a while to get the effect that I wanted, but I would not change it for a pro design as it holds a direct link to the inspiration behind the story.

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows? 

I have certainly found it a lot easier to make the content available than I thought it would be. Every positive review and word of encouragement is a high. I also never expected so many friendly communities of indie authors to exist, which is a bonus. The lows are the marketing. Everybody moans that traditional publishing is too corporate and places profit over art, but then there are so many trying to force the same business model onto self publishing. I think that self published books should be distinct from their bookstore counterparts. If we retain our identity as artists, than we can compete on a level playing field with the corporate chains, but once we start viewing our work as a product it greatly devalues it. Ultimately, if you see your story as nothing more than a disposable product, the reader will too.

What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing? 

I like the fact that nothing is set in stone. If something is not how you want it to be, you can always change it around until it is. The worst thing is the neurosis that writing breeds. Whether it is the guilt of not spending enough time with loved ones or just the insecurity of opening yourself up to being judged by everyone who reads your work; writing can be tough at times.

What is your advice to new writers?

Don’t try writing what you think readers are looking for. Try looking for readers that you think would be interested in what you want to write. If you were told from the start that you will never sell a single book, would you still write? If the answer is yes – you are a writer.

Who are your favourite authors?

John Grisham is my favourite for thrillers and I like the fact that all of his books stand alone, when it would be so easy for him to play it safe with a series (he does have YA series about a kid lawyer named Theodore Boone, but I think that stands apart from his main catalogue). Alex Garland is another favourite for similar reasons. To follow a novel like “The Beach” with “The Tesseract” (a complex story where the narrative only makes sense when unravelled into its constituent parts) is incredibly bold and then “Coma”, which is almost written in a stream of consciousness style, takes him off in yet another original direction. For non-fiction, I really like science writers such as Paul Davies, “How to Build a Time Machine” (he actually delivers on the title!) and Marcus Chown, who opens up the world of quantum physics to his reader in the way not unlike how the masked magician reveals his tricks.

What is your favourite book?

That is much too difficult a question to answer.  If books were wives I would be a polygamist.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)? 

It is a paperback of “The Uninvited” by Liz Jensen. I hate to admit it, but my wife is a much more eclectic reader than I and this was one of her recommendations. I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction, so the next book I read will likely be a travel journal or something on speculative science. As a writer it is useful to know as much as possible about the world and how it works.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

Denial, then acceptance and finally, I will try to improve. One of the toughest parts of the job is knowing that the strongest opinions often come from those least qualified to have an opinion. A one star review says more about the reviewer than the author, but 3 stars can never be taken lightly. I’m only starting out so I’m lucky in that I have not received any harsh reviews yet. My wife was rather blunt when she read through the first draft of my third book, however. The opening chapter moved her to tears, but then the ending left her feeling “cheated” (admittedly, it was a tad over the top). Once I stopped sulking, I realised that she was right and completely rewrote the final three chapters.

What are you working on now?

I am undergoing the final edit of my second novel, “Stealing Asia” for self-publishing soon. Like “The Outback”, it was inspired by my days travelling, but it has more of an adventure/action tone to it. After that I will publish “Diamond Sky”, the first in a trilogy about scientists who create a machine that enables astral travelling, although it is really just an unconventional love story at heart.
Please provide me with all your links, websites, buy links etc, an author picture and any book cover pictures you want to be included

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09 Aug 2013

Corporate America by Jack Dougherty

1 Comment Book Reviews


Thank You For Smoking meets House of Cards in this fast-paced, sharp satire about the business world. 

After aspiring novelist Francis Scanlon is expelled from a prestigious graduate creative writing program, he is forced to become a spin doctor at the Prock Chocolate Corporation while he awaits the publication of his masterpiece. 

But Francis’s expectations of easy money and literary glory are thwarted by a paranoid boss determined to run him out of the company, a charlatan writing coach, a snarky reporter, a sanctimonious public health crusader more Goebbels than Gandhi, an oily U.S. Senator with presidential aspirations, and a radical Muslim cleric with absolutely no sense of humor.

As the story unfolds in San Francisco, Washington, New York, Krakow, Mumbai, Jakarta, and a series of lush equatorial corporate jet refueling stations, Francis is swept up by market forces and transformed from pretentious literary cliché to reluctant executive to master practitioner of the black art of corporate power-politics. The story ends up, rather unexpectedly, as a surprisingly sweet romantic comedy as well.

A unique exploration of the way business, politics, career trajectories and interpersonal relations intermingle, Corporate America is a smart, literate comedy that deftly blends bone-dry satire, high ideals and bad taste without ever showing its seams.

About the Author1013529_10200795839072107_1119599198_n

Jack Dougherty has operated at the highest echelons of Corporate America—a place where few authors go. A former top PR executive inside two Fortune 500 companies and a consultant to more than a dozen others, he has formulated communications and media response strategies for CEOs and companies targeted by investigative journalists, headline-hungry politicians, revenue-hungry Attorneys General, wild-eyed activists and crafty plaintiff’s lawyers. Jack’s political clients have included elected officials at the local level, members of the United States House of Representative and the United States Senate, and politicians abroad. He coauthored a business book entitled Most Likely to Succeed at Work (St. Martin’s Press).



Jack, please tell us a little about yourself as a person and as author.

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. I am from a gigantic Irish-Catholic family.  Youngest of eight with seven sisters ahead of me—which is why I enjoy writing female characters. 

I began my career in politics, writing speeches for members of the Missouri House of Representatives, then moved to Washington, DC, and did similar work on Capitol Hill. For a few years I worked as a staff writer for a DC-based NGO, one focused on helping high school dropouts get back on track. After that, I worked for a big PR firm and then went on to work as an executive inside two Fortune 500 corporations. 

What is your connection or fascination with Eastern Europe? Or where is your fascination coming from?

When I was 22 a girlfriend turned me on to Milan Kundera and I got seriously hooked.  I got very heavily into Czech and Polish literature.  I suspect the books awakened in me my dormant Jewish gene: Though I was raised 100% Irish-Catholic (Archie Bunker division), my maternal grandmother was a Polish Jew.  I think I simply had an eerie biological connection to the place.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

The marketing guy in me thought something “high concept” would telegraph to the readers what the book was about.

How did you create the plot for this book?

Soon after the Berlin Wall fell, for my birthday, I treated myself to a roundtrip ticket to Auschwitz. 

Loaded down with my Eastern Euro lit, I stopped on the way from Prague to Krakow in a little village called Šumperk, in Czechoslovakia.  Tiny place.  No more than ten buildings.  And, the Czechs being the Czechs, eight of them were pubs.  I checked in to my hotel, this grim Communist hostel holdover.  Next to the bed is this tiny little radio.  Cheap, plastic—from the 1960s.  I pushed the first preset station button and I got a talk show.  Two people, a man and a woman, very distinct voices.  Then I pushed the next button saw that I jumped a few inches down the dial—but I got the same talk show.  So I pushed the third button, and I got it a third time.  Then the  fourth and …you guessed it.  Now, this wasn’t like an annoying teenager who hijacks the stereo in your car and programs all the stations to his favorite one.  Each station was at a different place on the dial. You were given the illusion of choice, but behind curtain number one, curtain number two and curtain number three the state put the same cheap prize.  It was so sinister. Yet comically sinister, in my view.  Somehow, in my imagination, I began to fuse my experience in the East Bloc with my corporate work at the time (I was doing PR work for a Fortune 200 company).  It became a comic shotgun-wedding of sorts.

How do you come up with your ideas? Who or what inspired you?

I basically cooked up about 20 different scenarios—some informed to a certain degree by experience yet wildly embellished, others made up entirely. 

Did you have it all planned out before you wrote it or did the characters and story surprise you?

Yes!  I storyboarded the book.  (I actually wrote the final chapter first—just so I’d know where I was going to wind up.)  The characters, who were thin and sketchy at first, emerged organically as I wrote (and re-wrote, and re-wrote, and re-wrote). 

Is your main aim to entertain or relay a message?

Entertain.  Great quote from the British novelist Henry Green:  “If you can make the reader laugh he is apt to get careless and go on reading.”

Would you say your book has a message and could you hint at it – for the confused?

I was very interested in exploring the never-ending tension between the political Left and Right in the US.  I set the story in a chocolate company because “Foodism”—if I may invent a term—is the  new battleground on which the culture war in America is being fought:  the fast food slobs versus the slow food snobs. The food industry is a delicious backdrop against which to set this story because it bundles all of America’s class war issues into one glorious, landfill-clogging Styrofoam box:

  • It’s the unscrupulous capitalists at the food companies versus the insufferable do-gooders of the public health community, the news media, and Capitol Hill.
  • It’s the wealthy, wicked, white guys in the corporations against poor, undereducated, people of color and children.
  • It’s the paternalistic Left against the personal responsibility Right.
  • The obesity battle, in particular, has my personal favorite ingredient—that uniquely American class war issue that dare not speak its name—the skinny people against the fat people.

How could a satirist possibly resist this topic? And setting the story inside a chocolate company seemed to me the pinnacle of ridiculousness.

What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favorite thing?

Best:  Writing jokes.  Least: Cutting jokes, because I think all my jokes are funny (which they are decidedly not.)

What is your writing environment like?

My wife and I live in a 150-year-old former train station in rural VA.  Great place to write!

How have you found the experience of publishing? What type of publishers are your publishers? What were your highs and lows?

I published with a major house (my first book) and for Corporate America (my second) I did an exclusive deal with Amazon, which has a new program for writers represented by literary agents.  Frankly, the experience was almost identical.  In short, if you are the writer today, you own it:  You must submit a 100% perfect book, because no one in the publishing industry has the time, budget or editorial staff to help you “craft” a novel anymore; you own marketing and PR; you own distribution; you own making reviews happen.

What is your advice to new writers?

Read poetry.

Who are your favourite independent writers?

I don’t distinguish.  Increasingly, I don’t think other readers do either.  Either people write well or poorly.  Either they tell a good story or they do not.

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

One of the most powerful books I can recommend is Under a Cruel Star, by Heda Margolius Kovaly.  It’s on my desert island list.  If you read one book before you die, read her memoir.  A Czech-Jew, Kovaly escapes from Auschwitz and returns to Prague, marries, and then gets caught up in a notorious Soviet show-trial in the early 1950s. 

Hanna Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem heavily informed my novel, as did Hitler’s Airwaves: The Inside Story of Nazi Radio Broadcasting and Propaganda Swing by Horst J. P. Bergmeier  & Rainer E. Lotz.  Joseph Goebbels created an ersatz swing band called “Charlie and his Orchestra” comprised of German musicians who were technically competent but utterly soulless, lackluster improvisers.   Only “master-race” Goebbels would have the audacity to rip off an artform invented by African-Americans, and later wildly popularized by two American Jews (Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw).  This, to me, makes the story all the more ironic, fascinating and diabolical.   

Who would you say are the biggest influences?

The Gloomy Slav (Bohumil Hrabal, Milan Kundera, Jerszy Kosinski) and The British Satirists (Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, David Lodge).

What books have you read more than once or want to read again?

I have read Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet at least five times.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Trudy Tylor, the glamorous, elegant, unreconstructed right-wing spokeswoman for the fashion industry. My aim was to make her “irresistibly detestable” to readers.

Are you like any of your characters? How so?

Every character in the book—except for the CEO—is a scoundrel.  So, naturally, I identify with everyone except the CEO.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

“Charlie and his Orchestra’s” cringe-making rendition of “Makin’ Whoopie”

How do you handle criticism of your work?

My first book was extremely well reviewed and I was shocked at how much I could have cared less.  You write what you write, you do your best, and you know when you’re done if it’s crap or something to be proud of. 

What are you working on now?

This interview.

Here is a sample/excerpt from the book:

The Scene:  At the Willard Hotel’s “Round Robin Bar,” in Washington, DC.  The hero of Corporate America, aspiring novelist Francis Scanlon, has just explained the plot of his novel-in-progress to a woman he’s trying to seduce, Trudy Tylor, a self-described “libertarian fashionista.”  Here is their exchange.

“Just ….oh, please…not another tedious story about the Nazis.  Yet another doomed love affair between a Nazi commandant and a camp inmate.  Haven’t we heard quite enough already?” said Trudy.  “Why is it that no one affords equal time in literature to the atrocities of the Left, which, in my view, were far more sinister?  The Germans—they only held on to power for fifteen years.  Do you know how easy it for propagandists to play to an audience’s vanity?  Parades and scapegoats and what not.  That’s not so hard.  But the Russians—they were about breaking the audience’s will; they terrorized the audience—and lasted seventy.  They’d knock down a 500-year-old baroque treasure and erect a grotesque cement box up in its place without blinking an eye.  What discipline!”

Even though I had been forced to take a corporate job, I was still a progressive who sided with the wretched of the earth.  “At least the Left is motivated by ideals.  Their leaders were, admittedly, deeply flawed.  But the initiatives of the Left, no matter how misguided, started out as an effort to do the right thing.”

She waved her champagne flute in the air.  “That sentence is proof positive that the Left perpetrated the greatest P.R. scam of the twentieth century, and quite possibly in history.  The communists killed a hundred million people.  The Nazis killed twenty million.  Yet Mao gets immortalized on a T-shirt; Hitler does not,” said definitively, clinching the argument.

Trudy Tylor gulped more champagne.  “You’re a bloody awful debater, but I’ll grant you that the fascists occupy a more prominent place in the collective imagination for one reason and one reason only:  They knew how to dress.  For second only to the Left’s crimes against humanity were their unspeakable sartorial crimes.  The Left has absolutely zero fashion sensibility.  That dreadful little man Khrushchev, slapping his cheap plastic shoes on the counter.  Pol Pot outfitting his rebels in Capri pants and those poufy gingham kerchiefs tied about their necks.  What was that man thinking?  Where did he think he was fighting his guerilla war?  In Chelsea?  No right-wing dictator would allow his men to be debased that way.  And let’s not even start on their grooming.  Positively hideous.  Look at Fidel Castro’s beard.  Beans, rice and maduros caked in it.  Bloody awful.”

I licked the corners of my mouth; no maduros on me.

“Wretched, all of them.  And that greasy Che Guevara, vile man.  Take a bath and have a shave.  Pluck your eyebrows, Comrade Brezhnev.”  She flipped her wrist and the vintage men’s Cartier Tank slid down her twiggy arm.  “Ah, but the look of the right!” she exclaimed.  “Smart and snappy.  Well groomed.  Pressed uniforms in fabulous menacing colors—loads of reds, browns and black.  Pinochet looked like a million pounds in his uniform.”  She pulled a long, philosophical drag off the Dunhill.  “I’d rather be thrown out of the airplane by him than sentenced to the gulag by that dreary Mr. Stalin,” she said wistfully.


Find the book on Amazon:


05 Aug 2013

Malla Duncan: Fat Chance

4 Comments Book Reviews

 fat-chance2“Fat Chance” by Malla Duncan was recommended to me by a friend. Not usually a friend of humorous crime fiction I reluctantly followed her recommendation and was pleasantly surprised to find a book that made me laugh a lot.
We are in Italy and are following the investigation of a serial murder of fat women. Besides the police detectives there are a group of colourful fat women doing their own snooping amongst the suspects
The sense of humour really worked for me, I thought those characters were brilliantly chosen and the solving of the murder was cleverer than I had anticipated.
This is a great beach read, highly amusing.

“This delightful, witty story moves at a spirited pace, with Malla Duncan’s talent for description transporting the reader not only to the warmth and beauty of the Amalfi Coast, but into the middle of a great mystery.”

“I absolutely adore this book! It’s witty, intelligent, humorous (I laughed out loud often), suspenseful, has twists and turns, is set in Italy (who doesn’t love the Amalfi Coast?), and is without a doubt well-written. The details, the setting, the characters, the story – all  fantastic.”





What made you decide to be a writer? Have you always written?


Writing began for me at the age of seven when I wrote a poem because it popped into my head. Once I had discovered the joy of creativity and power words can give you, I was hooked. I wrote screeds of poetry after that – inspired oddly enough by the great war poets of the 1st World War – Sassoon, Brooke, Owen. I eventually wrote my first short story at the age of seventeen and achieved publication in a local magazine when I was nineteen.


I think one desires to become a writer rather than decides. They say writing is a drive that shows itself at a very young age. Often it’s a hankering for something you’re not quite sure of – then gradually this feeling hones to a compulsion that sees you spending chunks of time by yourself with the people in your head. You don’t always see an end – you just want to conquer the characters – to bring them out whole and vibrant on paper in a way that makes them seem real and memorable.


How did you come up with the idea for Fat Chance?


Fat Chance grew out of desperation. I had written children’s books, horror, women’s thrillers – and struggled for years with agents and rejection. Finally I thought I was writing the wrong thing. I needed to try a new genre. Friends told me: ‘Write something funny. You can do funny.’ So I chewed that over. Then I thought that people also like recipe books. Imagine combining funny and food! What a combination! (Been done before, I know, but I was overwhelmed by the magnificence of my idea.)


Then I expanded possibility by adding murder as a factor – this book was going to spoof all those formulaic thriller novels out there. Yes! Once I got to this point I knew I would combine murder and recipes. Couldn’t be better. Then Marsha pushed into view: one of those rather overpowering characters who nurse all sorts of secret doubts about themselves. When Milly joined her, equally large but rather timid, I knew I had a novel.


I lined up a recipe designer and we were off! Except the designer was never able to get around to those puddings – so the recipe part was ditched and ‘Fat Chance’ was born as a comedy murder mystery laced through with the universally identifiable problems of food and fatness.


Which character did you most enjoy writing?


Characters are like babies – once you’ve brought them out they’re pretty much with you for the rest of your life. I’ve always believed that your characters shouldn’t be anything like you as the author – they should be entirely different. The writer is simply the vehicle through which people and situations are brought to the reader’s attention.


If I had to choose a favourite character from one of my books, I would choose Ilsa Joubert from ‘Deep As Bone’ – my first psychological thriller. Ilsa is a dark little number, somewhat sly and underhand, a plotter and manipulator who doesn’t really let you know much about her – it’s only looking back over the book that the pieces fit together. And yet the great thing about Ilsa is that you can’t help liking her. I liked her in the beginning when she seemed good, then I liked her when she got bad, and when she got really, really bad – liked her even more. I’m probably as puzzled by this as the reader.


Tell us about your other books.


‘Deep As Bone’ was my first adult book of any substance that I actually completed. A London agent loved it but was unable to sell it. Many new writers don’t realize that just cracking an agent is not the end of the story – the agent then has to sell your book to a publisher and goes through all the difficulties that a writer experiences in trying to attract an agent in the first instance. Most publishers are wary of unknown names and wary of books that are too ‘unique’ – books that don’t have what they consider follow-up value. Many publishers will say that they want ‘something different’ but not so different that the writer cannot write at least six others in the same in look, feel and tone.


‘Dark Sanctuary’ became my next offering but was – as everybody had feared – completely different in feel and tone. I deliberately cut the writing to short and snappy, a modern thriller tone because I thought that way I would be more engaging and acceptable – but I was still unsuccessful because by the time I had finished with the rewrites the agent requested, I had a different book altogether – and nobody was happy.


‘Catchee Monkey’ was my third offering – an ambitious book that wanted to capture a sense of neurosis in the main character, a touch of paranoia which would add beautifully to the mystery: is she right about her husband trying to kill her – or is she just plain nuts? But now the agent didn’t like the characters – who granted were somewhat dark and irritable, but to my mind very much reflections of real life. So at this point agent and author parted ways, a tad distressed.


Since then, I have gone on to write humorous books for African children – the Miki series. There are few books out there for African children at affordable prices. I also began a fantasy series for children The Shadow Garden series and Book I is on all sites as ‘The Vampire Castle’. I also wrote in 2012 what I consider my last thriller offering: ‘One Night’ written exactly the way I wanted to do it and a book that I was happy to publish straight to the Net.


How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?


Self-publishing has been an exhilarating experience. I absolutely loved it – loved being able to write without interference, enjoyed the learning curve on formatting, thoroughly adored deciding on my own covers. That said, for any kind of success you have work at marketing continually – otherwise your book is going to hang like a lightless star in cyber space. It’s all about keeping traction on social media – and of course, writing the right kind of material that is popular on the Net. I would never advise people not to self-publish – it’s one of the great joys afforded to writers – but be prepared for disappointment. Not many people make money with ebooks. Those that do are lucky. I don’t think there’s a secret magic formula – but what I do know is that any clever person who comes up with a way for self-published writers to connect more successfully with readers, should be dipped in gold.


What is your advice to new writers?


If I had to mention all the things I’ve learnt over many years of writing, I’d fill a book! So I’ll just offer a couple of pointers on key aspects I’ve struggled to master:


1) Your point of beginning is key. Where in the story will you begin? How much back story are you leaving yourself to write? How will you get that across without spending pages talking about the past? Really good writers always have an intriguing beginning. They also manage to lay scene and character and back story neatly in about three pages or less. Or they cleverly interlace the back elements into the current text. This was for me, the most difficult part of novel writing to get to grips with. Often I would be at chapter four and suddenly realize that the beginning was entirely wrong and needed to be redone from a different point in time or point of view. It’s nothing to panic about – but as you gain experience and confidence, you will develop a ‘nose’ for this and it will get easier. Eventually, I found the prologue structure extremely helpful in laying out a snippet of back story that would ‘lead’ the rest of the book without cumbersome explanations.


2) Your reader is not stupid. Readers pick up the elements of the story, scene and tone very quickly – so don’t tell them the same thing twice. Every page should introduce new information that takes the story forward. That goes for dialogue as well. There is nothing worse than pedestrian conversation – kills a novel stone dead. Everything your characters say must be relevant to the story. If you don’t keep tight control here, your characters can wander off into idle talk and it’s really difficult to bring them back. Don’t waste space on the page. Add behaviour and description into conversation – this develops characters as they speak – ie: He wasn’t smiling but there was a cheeky glint in his eye.


3) Writing is always about the re-writing. Get to like editing because initially it’s going to be about two thirds of your work.


How do you handle criticism of your work?


Fortunately, most of the feedback I’ve had so far on my writing has been positive. But there’s hardly a writer out there that doesn’t get the nasty little one star from time to time. I got a one star on one of my books because it wasn’t for free! So no matter what you do there’s always someone who might not like your story or your style – or who, for that matter, may just want to hurt you because you have written something really good.


As a copywriter, I learnt to take criticism in my stride otherwise I couldn’t have done my job. But criticism is also good. If I do feel a reader has a point, or enough readers come back with the same complaint, I will always look at my work again and try to rectify the problem. All writers should only have one aim – and that is to continually improve. Readers who take the time to connect can be very helpful. I for one, am very grateful to those who take the time to give feedback.


What are you working on now?


Several things fill my head at any one time. At the moment I’m considering Book II of The Shadow Garden series as Book I ‘The Vampire Castle’ is selling so well. I’m also in the middle of a paranormal murder mystery that I might continue soon. And of course, I’m looking at a sequel to ‘Fat Chance’.


Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.


I can tell you that in one statement: Table Mountain. I live in its shadow. The weird thing is that I never get used to it. I look at it in wonder every day. It has been an inspiration to much of my writing in all sorts of ways: moody under cloud it’s good for mystery; draped in misty wraiths it’s good for dark fantasy; and clear-cut against the sunset just makes the imagination soar!



About this author

Malla Duncan lives in Cape Town and writes across a range of genres from women’s thrillers ‘women-in-jeopardy’ to children’s fantasy, romantic adventure and humor for African children. Her thrillers focus on ordinary, flawed women in extraordinary circumstances. Fast-paced for intrigue and tension, her novels are geared for readers who enjoy mystery and suspense.

You can find Malla at Smashwords:… 
You can join Malla on Facebook:…
Follow on Twitter: @MallaDuncan
Find on Amazon:




05 Aug 2013

Andy Szpuk: “Poetry and Fate” and “Stories for Homes”

2 Comments Book Reviews


Today I am pleased to welcome back novelist and poet Andy Szpuk. He’ll be talking about his poetry and about Stories for Homes, a charitable  anthology he has contributed to.

Poetry and Fate


My interest in poetry blossomed when I was working on a historical memoir of my father’s life, Sliding on the Snow Stone (That Right Publishing 2011). The story opens in Ukraine in 1932 and is one man’s journey through famine, Soviet terrors, Nazi occupation during World War Two and subsequent eviction from his beloved homeland. It’s one man’s quest to get back home, and for personal and cultural freedom.

I included, with permissions, English translations of some sections of ‘Kobzar’ by Taras Shevechenko, the most revered of Ukrainian poets, and each chapter of Sliding on the Snow Stone opens with a Ukrainian proverb. At that stage I resisted the notion of writing any of the memoir as poetry, although there is a short section in chapter one adapted from a poem of my father’s, and because of that, perhaps seeds were planted.

As a debut, Sliding on the Snow Stone proved to be a powerful and profound experience, and I knew finding a project to follow it wouldn’t be easy.

One day, almost by accident, a year or so after it was published, I constructed a short 12 line poem, called ‘History’, all about Sliding on the Snow Stone, and it served to act as a closure of sorts. A burden was somehow shifted, and I then knew it was time to move on.

Not that I’d wasted any time. Following the publication of Sliding on the Snow Stone I set up my blog: One Author’s Very Own Discovery Channel (, to showcase my work and to engage with readers and the outside world. I also worked on a couple of side projects, while looking for another full-length work to undertake. And I wrote poems.

Then, one day, I discovered a story I knew was the one to tackle. My mother’s family comes from a region in the Carpathian Mountains called Lemkovyna, an area split across the borders of Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia. At the conclusion of World War Two, the Ukrainian Partisan Army remained active in battling for a free Ukraine, and regular ambushes took place on Polish or Soviet patrols. My mother’s people, the Ukrainian Lemkos, provided support to the partisans, whose activities continued into 1947, until an event occurred that was to trigger an act of revenge. A Polish General was murdered in an ambush by the partisans, and retribution arrived in the mountains. To break support to the partisans, the Polish Army came to carry out a forced resettlement.

The working title is ‘Fate and Circumstance’, and it already includes some poems, reflecting the thoughts of one of the characters, Kasper, who runs away to join the partisans.

My intention is to preface the novel with my own translation of one of Shevechenko’s works, a 16 line poem called ‘Fate’, from the abridged version of ‘Kobzar’. It was quite a challenge to translate even such a short piece, it took several attempts to get it into shape, and my appreciation of the talents of translators has grown as a result:




Those poor, starving 
wretches, my brothers and sisters,
All over Ukraine, eked out an existence,
Without mercy, you 
crushed them under your boot,
But, as a young boy, you led me to school,
You guided me well, and
 I quenched my thirst,
For knowledge and
 learning, wisdom and verse.
‘One day, we’ll be
 something, so learn well, my love’,
Your words drove me
on, they were enough,
To make sure I listened 
and learned so much more,
But your words were 
deception, for still I am poor.
My eyes on a road
 that turned onto nowhere,
I followed you
 blindly, I followed you square.
But my heart is still 
open and so is my hand,
And we still walk
 together all over this land.
We journey to glory, we 
wander so far,
And my legacy rests in the depths of my heart.


This poem sees Shevchenko reflecting on the fortunate circumstances that enabled him to get an education, but his affinity with the common man is evident.

‘Fate and Circumstance’ is multi-themed, with three interwoven storylines. I hope to get it finished soon.




I was lounging on social media one day when a post caught my eye – it was a request for submissions to a short stories anthology called ‘Stories for Homes’. I took a look at the WordPress blog and then emailed the editor Sally Swingewood to ask whether she would consider poetry. She said to send some over, so I did, and then received an email a few weeks ago informing me my poems were to be included. It’s now available on Amazon Kindle! The proceeds from ‘Stories for Homes’ go to the housing organization, Shelter. It’s a worthy cause, and by way of a preview here’s one of my poems from the collection:


The Sign Said For Sale

The sign said for sale

And when the people moved out

Removal men came

To heave away the piano

Along with the beds and everything else

Until the house was empty

And standing forlorn

Like a dog without a tail

The letterbox flapped

And deliveries of junk mail

Landed in a pile

Gathering layers of dust

On a worn out, left behind, welcome mat

The doorbell didn’t ring

And no footsteps

Ran down the hall to answer it

The doors were all locked and bolted

Lamps left on timer switches

The seashells in the bathroom

Long gone with the goldfish

Now and then, people arrived

To poke around and peek in corners

Until, one day, a ray of sunshine came

And took the for sale sign down

Once again, the house could breathe

The world was returning

It might be two-year old terrors

Making mucky marks on the landing walls

Or people with a taste

For Sky dishes and wallpaper paste

The house opened its doors

And let them in




Here are some links to ‘Stories for Homes’ 

on Goodreads


More Links:





© Andy Szpuk 2013

03 Aug 2013


1 Comment Book Reviews


One of my favourite writers, master of horror J.H. Glaze has released NEMESIS, Episode II of the thrilling YA series RUNE.

Send the demons back to Hell!

At the stroke of midnight on Jacob Rowan’s 18th birthday, he undergoes a transformation that will change our world forever, if only he can survive another day. He learns that his entire life up to this point was a lie, but there’s no time to dwell on it, as he quickly discovers that there are demons desperate to kill him.

With the help of an unlikely mentor and newly formed alliances, he must decipher the language of his ancestors to recover a set of ancient scrolls. These documents hold the key that will open the gateway to the demon’s hellish world and send them back before the final curtain is drawn on all of humankind.

In this new YA Thriller Series, author J.H. Glaze takes his readers on an adventure that spans thousands of years and multiple geographic locations as it races headlong toward its electrifying conclusion.

“Rune Episode II: Nemesis” by J.H. Glaze is a great second instalment of this new series by the very talented master of horror. As this is directed at young adults the horror is less gruesome and presented with a focus on entertaining yet in a strong and powerful style.
Episode II begins where Episode I left us: in the vault of a bank where our hero Jake receives a message by his late grandmother. He learns about his special mission in the battle against demons from hell and how to fight them.
Episode II is less action driven as it is a widening of the plot for the future instalments and introduces more characters that will be no doubt prominent in the next few books. There are some hilarious scenes in the book regarding his companion Pete who inhabits the body of a dog is due a visit to the vet.
Somewhat quieter than Episode I, Nemesis is more playful and stays true to Glaze’s tradition never to repeat himself or resort to formulaic writing. Great entertainment.JHGlaze (1)

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads Author Page

Rune II on Goodreads

Rune II on

Rune II on

My previous feature on J.H. Glaze

01 Aug 2013

John F. Hanley: “Against the Tide” and “The Last Boat”

3 Comments Book Reviews


“Against The Tide” by John F. Hanley is an amazing piece of literature that was my reading highlight of some time. Set on the small island of Jersey between France and Britain in 1939 it paints an authentic and amazing picture of Europe and the World before the outbreak of the war.
Jewish refugees from Romania, a Dutch businessman, people with communist leanings, British fascists and a lot more characters crowd this story and make it a colourful and engaging read.
Jack, our protagonist, is part of a water polo team where he clashes with Dutchman Rudi Kohler, who seems to catch the eye of Jack’s girlfriend Caroline. Jack toys with the idea of going with Rachel instead. Besides this personal rivalry there are political and economical uncertainties that create further tension in the powder box that is Jersey. Torn between the horrors of Franco and Stalin all of the characters have their own ideas and agendas: communists, Jews, Fascists, businessmen and bankers.
The balance between historical facts and personal tragedy is well kept and ensures we never lose interest, the times bring out the best or the worst in everyone while the world seems to hang in balance waiting to spin of its axis.
I have read my share of books set in the times and I found “Against The Tide” particularly well crafted in its portrayal of the times and its characterisation.
This is as close to six stars as you can get. Very well done and highly recommended.



“The Last Boat” by John F. Hanley is the eagerly awaited sequel to “Against the Tide”, which ended with the outbreak of WWII.
The second book takes us to the evacuation of Dunkirk and Allied troops from Northern France. I was amazed at the amount of detail the book was able to supply. So much happened in such a short time span at the beginning of the war that few of us can imagine the multitude of factors that came into play for the people of the Channel Islands and Northern France: Where to escape to, how to escape and how far exactly the Germans had progressed, to name a few. The book gives a rich and realistic impression of the invasion and its progress.
Most of the cast from the previous book return and so several personal dramas and issues between the main characters are still to be resolved and these add splendidly to the illustration of the uncertainty of the time.
Written in excellent prose and rich in plot the book was hard to put aside, with new turns, dramas and events in nearly every chapter. 
Civilian and military considerations, espionage, some precious cargo and personal tragedies mingle with some historical events, such as the eventual sizing of the Channel Islands and the famous sinking of battle ships.
The book is an amazing compilation of data and facts and with its great characters and plot historical fiction at its best. It gets to show how much there was to events that in most history books only get a sentence or two, and how much there is to say and feel about them.
This is a gripping and compelling read as much as it is informative. 
Highly recommended!


Interview with John:

JFH Author photo

Hi John

Your novel “Against the Tide” is set in Jersey. Can you briefly explain the special status of the Island and why you chose it as location for your book? Do you have any ties to the island?

Though it is only 10 miles from France and over 100 from England, Jersey has been part of the British Crown for over 800 years. It’s only an associate member of the European Union and is responsible for all its own laws which until the 20th Century were written in Norman French. Because of its unique status within the sterling area it has become well known as an offshore finance centre or tax haven. I was born there and my mother lived through the German Occupation of the island during the Second World War. 

How did the idea for the novel come to you?

I grew up surrounded by the remains of the German Occupation. The fortifications built to repulse any Allied attempt to retake the island are visible everywhere as the islands were better equipped than the beaches actually used for the D-Day landings. Hitler was obsessed with retaining the only British soil his forces ever captured and diverted huge resources from where they were really needed to defend islands which had little strategic value. With this as a background I took a great interest in the Second World War and always wondered what it would have been like to be 18 in 1939 instead of 1965 and how I would have coped.

How did you come to writing in the first place? Was it always going to be Historical Fiction for you or did you have other genres in mind, too?

I’ve always wanted to be a published writer and have experimented in the past with modern thrillers but was always drawn back to this period especially as I had acquired so much information about it and felt a strange affinity with the people of my mother’s generation.

How did you choose the characters for the story?

Jack was always clear and though he is not my alter ego there are many similarities. His friends, some of them very loosely based on old friends of mine, barged their way into the story and at times took over its direction!

Who is your favourite character and why?

I don’t have a favourite. Jack can be extremely annoying with his quixotic and iconoclastic tendencies but he provides my eyes, ears and mouth so I can hardly dislike him. To choose between Caroline and Rachel would introduce a spoiler to the story but I’m very fond of both of them. Saul can be an utter pest but there is something dynamic about him which I admire but am loathe to say anymore because of what he does in future sequels. I suppose I have a great affection for Uncle Fred and Miko who have both suffered so much but retained their self-belief in the face of adversity which might have crippled others.

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?

Jack is the closest because of our shared backgrounds in swimming, water polo, life-saving, love of Shakespeare and many of our attitudes to life but he is more robust and technically proficient that I ever was though, on balance, I’m a better pianist!

What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

As much of Against The Tide is set on the Jersey Swimming Club’s vast sea water pool at Havre-des-pas, I dug out all the information held on the club from the Jersey Archive. I have complete records of all correspondence for the period along with day books, receipts, staffing wages as well as all competitions and results. Initial drafts of the novel were top heavy with this information but following professional editorial advice I wielded a sharp knife and pared this to the bone to save the story from choking to death on fascinating but ultimately irrelevant detail.

How did you research for the book?

I have acquired an extensive library of my own over the years which is stuffed with information on the 1940s but filtered through the hand of a range of authors who have investigated the period. I was also fortunate to have the stories I’d been told growing up in the island about the German attack and occupation. My mother lived through it and her tale formed a basis for parts of the story. One of the most useful resources was the microfiche collection of contemporary newspapers held in the Jersey Library which provided a wealth of detail especially about weather and tides.

Did you have any say in the cover art and how was that process?

I suggested the idea of the two divers to my publisher and worked closely with their production manager to achieve the impact I wanted. He created the text and manipulated the images and we batted it back and forth before getting the right colour balance to reflect the period.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

I had an initial plan but it failed to survive the first encounter with the characters as they dragged me off in quite unexpected directions! That’s not unusual for me as I taught improvised drama for many years and always delighted in the unexpected twists and turns which develop when characters are let loose. Of course at the editing stage I had to bring some coherence to the story and keep it true to its historical roots so some of the more outrageous episodes were put back in their box!

This is part of a series. How many books will there be and can you tell us where this will be going – without any spoilers?

I have planned a series of 10 books with one for each of the war years and a couple of extras taking the reader up to 1950. So far the first two in the saga, Against The Tide (1939) and The Last Boat (1940) have been published. The third, provisionally called ‘Room 39’ (1941) is on the stocks. The final book ‘Ho 17’ (1990) is complete as I didn’t want to leave my readers without closure should I fall by the wayside! However, because of the lack of discipline my main characters demonstrate and their reluctance to follow my instructions, I’m having to update it as they throw unexpected adventures and outcomes at me!

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

I’ve always enjoyed the actual typing of the stories as I am quite speedy at the keyboard and can lay down 5,000 words in a session. Editing is always interesting though capturing all the typos and grammatical errors caused by fingers trying to keep up with thoughts is a challenge.  As the period details have already been carefully researched before I start typing and I’ve located myself firmly in my characters’ world, I don’t have to keep stopping to check for anachronisms or other historical pitfalls. So as far as laying it all down is concerned there are no minuses – those come later in the publication process.

Can you tell us a little about your publisher Matador?

Matador is an imprint of Troubador, a well-known academic publisher in the UK. They were one of the first to offer full-service publishing to authors who were prepared to bear the financial risks themselves. As such, they are a fully-fledged publishing company with all the expertise and staffing necessary to bring a book to the market and support it through distribution, storage, publicity, including arranging media interviews, and other promotional activities.  As mentioned above they also offer a full design service along with copy editing, proofreading and sales management including ebook conversion and distribution.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

I haven’t managed that very well as I’ve been so immersed in marketing since Against The Tide was published last summer. Now that The Last Boat is out as well, I’m having to neglect Jack and the crew for a little bit longer.

What do you do when you don’t write?

I retired after nearly 40 years of teaching in and managing secondary schools in 2006. Once settled in my new home which we had rebuilt – a process far more challenging than publishing – my two daughters who live nearby each produced a son. So a great deal of fabulous time is taken up entertaining them! My dream, which I managed to realise, by moving to Cornwall was to build a swimming pool and I spend six months of the year training in it. During the winter months when it is closed down I spend time on the golf course trying to reduce my handicap though recapturing my youthful flexibility has so far eluded me.

Who did you have in mind when you wrote the characters? Who would play them in a film?

If Tom Cruise can play Jack Reacher without filmgoers hurling their popcorn at the screen then he could probably manage Jack Renouf though he’d have to pay me a shed load of money first! Seriously though, Jack is 18 when the series starts and 30 when the first phase ends in 1950. It’s possible for a skilled actor to pull that off though and a quick check of the Internet Movie Database shows that the English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson could fit the bill though I don’t know about his swimming ability!  Saul is quite nerdy so would be easier to cast. Emma Watson could play Rachel.  Dianna Agron manages to play 18 in Glee so she is a possibility for Caroline.   

Who are your biggest influences?

My mother probably had the greatest influence on my development. She was a very feisty redhead and brought me up by herself as her marriage failed while I was still a baby. She survived the German Occupation of Jersey, TB, cancer and a whole range of illnesses which she bore with fortitude. She was a very skilled dressmaker and Rachel’s initial story is closely based on hers as they were both born in the same year. Against The Tide is dedicated to her though, sadly, she passed away before it was published. 

I was fortunate in having some excellent male teachers who filled the vacuum created by my father’s absence. One taught me the delights to be found in poetry and Shakespeare. Another demonstrated that to win in chess I had to show more aggression and master threat and counter threat rather than just move the pieces about and hope! My swimming coach taught me patience and application. On one occasion he also took out his glass eye, wrapped it in his towel, then showed me how to play ‘dirty’ water polo. One of the characters in Against The Tide is based on him.

Which are your favourite books and authors?

If my mother is to be believed, between the ages of 7 and 18 I had my nose permanently in a book. So many books to remember but I was very fond of Neville Shute, Leon Uris and Hammond Innes. However, my goto author for inspiration and clarity of expression is John D Macdonald. I read everything he had written back in the 70s and keep returning to him now. Lee Child is a good modern equivalent.

Which indie writers can you recommend?

I’ve just finished reading Gentleman of Fortune: The Adventures of Bartholomew Roberts, Pirate written by Evelyn Tidman who is a serious historian and very talented writer. She’s English and lives in Norfolk and weaves her tale around some events which seem almost too outrageous to be true but are. She publishes through CreateSpace and One Small Candle, a novel about the Pilgrim Fathers, is on my list. She’s also planning one about the English Civil War. She writes with such confidence and accuracy that her work is a joy to read.

What would you take to an isolated island?

The complete works of Shakespeare and a pair of reading glasses.

What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?

I think your questions have teased out far more than I expected to answer but I’d like to record my thanks to the writing community especially the teams who make the Authors Social Media Support Group (ASMSG) such a powerful force.

Essentially, writing is a hobby for me as I have no expectation of making any sort of living out of it – unless Tom Cruise comes calling! However, I find myself locked into a world peopled with fascinating characters like Rachel, Caroline, Jack and Saul and feel obligated to allow them to tell their stories until my readers say ‘Enough — come the full stop!’


Website with all purchase links:

Facebook author page:

Goodreads author page:

Amazon Author page:

Twitter: @jf_hanley



28 Jul 2013

“Everyone Burns” by John Dolan

1 Comment Book Reviews



Everyone Burns by John Dolan

It is January 2005 and the charred remains of two Europeans have been discovered on the Thai island of Samui.

Local Police Chief Charoenkul, sidelined by his superiors, enlists the reluctant David Braddock, a burnt-out private detective, to assist in an ‘unofficial’ investigation.

But Braddock has problems of his own, including an affair with the same Police Chief’s wife …

Peppered with irreverent humour and some pithy comments on everyday life in the Land of Smiles, ‘Everyone Burns’ is much more than a crime novel. It is also a carefully-crafted psychological study of an anti-hero for our time

My review:

“Everyone Burns” by John Dolan was recommended to me by several friends.
The story is about a British Private Investigator and counsellor David Braddock who lives in Thailand to make his money stretch further. Braddock is a very interesting, washed out and overall really great character whom to follow is hugely entertaining. Although he has marital problems and a lot of depth there is a dubious and not so serious side to him.
Braddock gets asked by the police to assist in the investigation of a series of murders. At the same time he is being sent anonymous notes, suggesting blackmail, pointing at his affair with the wife of a colleague.
I can picture a film made from this book and I would ideally cast a Humphrey Bogard in B&W in it but fans of the genre will probably have better suggestions.
What I liked most about the book is Dolan’s writing. He is clever, perceptive and very witty. Each chapter has literary or philosophical quotations as headings and they are apt to the chapters as they bear witness to a very well read and educated writer, almost “wasted” in a crime story. I am certain that I missed lots of great references and in-jokes that pay tribute to Sherlock Holmes and other famous crime fiction but I really enjoyed the book even without catching all of them.
This book should do very well.


For an interview please go to my blog


18 Jul 2013

“A World of Possibility” : A Short Story Collection by the Authors of ASMSG

1 Comment Book Reviews



A truly eclectic offering of short stories ranging from humorous and inspirational to dark and frightening, A World of Possibility presents the work of many authors in the group ASMSG, or  Authors’ Social Media Support Group, and each author’s link is provided for your further review of their other work. We hope you enjoy the diversity, laugh, cry, shiver, or look behind you once or twice as you read.

The Authors’ Social Media Support Group (ASMSG) is proud to present the 1st Authors of ASMSG Short Story Anthology under the title A World of Possibility. ASMSG represents a membership of authors throughout the globe, so we found the title of the book and it’s cover appropriate. Inside, you’ll find twenty-six stories of pain, pleasure, anger, despair, fear, love, hatred, passion, and hope. Stories of historic inspiration to the edge of current affairs. Stories that will occupy your thoughts when you turn the lights out, or dance on your mind as you arise with the sun. We hope you will enjoy them


A World of Possibility” is a wonderful selection of short stories of a remarkably consistent high quality of writing throughout the entire book.
Always unsure what you get from an anthology that includes unknown writers I was glad to be captivated by the opening piece, “The Jumper”, and the mystery what said jumper represented in the story.
The book takes us through worlds past and present, into the minds of a killer, victims of abuse, to a possibly haunted Inn, into the past of shipping at Cap Cod in the 1869 or to Germany after WWII.
Not one of the stories failed to grab my attention, something that I find rare in anthologies and which I accredit to good editing and selection processes.
The situations described are inspired, captivating and provide amazing entertainment as well as food for thought.
I have noted down several of the names in the hope to find more of their work in novel form, my personally preferred genre.
This is an excellent showcase of writing talent and I wish all contributors the very best for their promising futures.
Highly recommended.


What a wonderful collection of stories, showcasing the talents of many new authors. The stories range, as do the emotions and visuals they invoke. This is the perfect book to read when you only have a few moments… that five minutes waiting for the bus, ten minutes waiting to pick someone up… the perfect collection for everyone.


“A World of Possibility”, an anthology of short fiction by ASMSG Goodreads authors compiled by Christopher Shields, is a heterogeneous blend of vibrant writers. We find stories of all genres ranging from Kirstin Pulioff’s tale of a young boy and girl unearthing a deadly buried treasure, to Yelle Hughes’ detailed account of a journalist’s sexual experience while interviewing a porn star. Alan Hardy’s sad depiction of a marriage gone stale also deals with sexual frustration.
Criminal acts, both present and past, abound: Iain Parke’s Lala Salaama is masterful with its gruesome depiction of the methodical butchering of a human body.
Ghosts, spirits and vampires make an appearance in quite a few stories. Susan Hawthorne’s description of how the spirit of a long-dead boyfriend takes over the body of a younger man in order to entertain his now elderly lover is captivating.
Each story had the power to transport the reader to another reality and to leave strong imprints of each character. Well done ASMSG authors! I bow to the talent in all of you.

For more on the book on Goodreads:

Download it now on Smashwords:

For more on the Author Alliance:

6643379 6055453







Alliance Founder R. Grey Hoover



Editor Christopher Shield


08 Jul 2013

Of Words and Water: An Anthology in aid of Water Aid

Comments Off on Of Words and Water: An Anthology in aid of Water Aid Book Reviews, News


Of Words and Water

by Words and Water group, Ali Isaac (Goodreads Author), Kerry Dwyer (Goodreads Author), Marie-Anne Mancio (Goodreads Author), Mark Bell, Mike Duron (Goodreads Author), Mona Karel (Goodreads Author), Neel Kay (Goodreads Author) , more…

Short description

Published in support of WaterAid, a delightful selection of varied short stories, poems, and song lyrics from an international group of top class authors, that features Peggy Seeger, noted singer and environmentalist. The cohesive theme is Water, something most of us take for granted. For millions of people clean drinking water is a luxury. Together we can change that.

Water. Many of us take it for granted. With the turn of a faucet, an endless supply runs across our hands, douses our face, fills our pots, kettles, tubs and swimming pools. We depend on the life-sustaining qualities of water for everything from the essential to the mundane, to refresh our bodies and replenish our thirst, to clean ourselves, our clothes, our automobiles and even to maintain our lawns. For us, the fortunate ones, safe water and sanitation is an integral part of our daily lives. Could we survive without it?

Roughly one in ten of the world’s population do not have access to safe water. Two in five people do not have access to adequate sanitation.(*) WaterAid is working to change that. Since 1981, the international non-profit organization has been transforming lives by helping the world’s poorest communities help themselves.

Of Words and Water is a collection of water-themed works from authors around the globe, all of whom wish to contribute to WaterAid’s invaluable efforts. Our work is given freely: if you enjoy it please give generously to share the gift of clean water, the gift of life.

(*)WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Report 2013 update

In my opinion: 

Of Words and Water” is an impressive anthology of short stories and poems, all around the theme of water, a charitable project for WaterAid.
The pieces chosen cover a broad range of approaches, they are poetic, poetic prose or use more modern language; some are more symbolic, others more direct and literal.
The editors did an excellent job at compiling a huge variety of unique styles and ideas on the subject. Whether we experience the power of ocean waves or have a comparatively safe swimming pool as setting, a flooded house, a woman’s water breaking or snow in an unusual location – the collection as a whole hits home the importance of water, its many shapes and forms and its all permeating importance. Water is needed everywhere, water is life.
The book can be downloaded for free, a donation for WaterAid is suggested.</em>


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