Monthly Archives: January 2012

Review – All You Leave Behind by Sean Cregan

One my favourite things about twitter, besides the cute puppy photos and hardcore sweariness, is finding criminally overlooked books which Waterstones are too prickish to keep in stock.  Sean Cregan’s All You Leave Behind is one of them.

Chase is a runner, making high risk deliveries into The Levels, a slum no reputable company will enter, and he knows his game; blend in, move fast, never, ever open the package.  Which is doable, until a package starts ringing.  Inside is a gun and a woman’s voice at the other end of the phone telling him he was being set-up as an unwitting suicide bomber for the recipient.  She’s saved his life but the job still needs doing.

Chase isn’t the kind of man to go blowing holes in strangers for the hell of it though and as he begins to pick up hints about the mystery woman’s identity he gets dragged deeper into The Levels fractured geography of burned out lots and ambush-friendly rat-runs.  Is she a vigilante or a guardian angel?  With the package’s original senders after him to finish the job and his family under threat as a turf war rages Chase needs her to be the latter.

The denouement is driven forward at a tremendous pace, an orgy of cinematic violence which is ultimately very satisfying.

It’s impossible to read All You Leave Behind without thinking of William Gibson’s Sprawl novels, the architecture is the same, all slow decay and Darwinian solutions, and Cregan has a fantastic eye for location.  The Levels slum is an accelerated version of any western world sink estate you could think of, thriving but precarious and given a light cyberpunk gloss.  As in Gibson’s later novels the familiarity is nicely disconcerting, we know this place but we probably aren’t equipped to survive in it, which is a problem because it’s coming closer all the time.

This is an impressively sleek novella, written in stripped down prose with not a word out of place.  The characters are well drawn, the plotting pacy, and Cregan creates such a pervasive atmosphere that you can almost taste the smell of dead junky.

All You Leave Behind by Sean Cregan is available now.


Review – Miles to Little Ridge by Heath Lowrance

The first volume of Edward Grainger’s Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles stories was one of the books of 2011 for me so when I heard he was graciously turning over his carefully crafted, and obviously well-loved, characters to another writer I was pretty surprised. It’s a bold move, one which most writers are far too territorial to consider – respectful touch of the hat brim to Mr Grainger. As an experiment it stands or falls on the ability of the author and Grainger has made a fine choice in Heath Lowrance, an established cult writer with his own weird western series in the offing from Trestle Press.
Miles to Little Ridge is a brisk, action-packed novella following African-American US Marshall Gideon Miles as he attempts to bring a suspect in for trial. The man, Gantry, is a reformed character when we meet him, eeking out a living and a trying to bring up his young daughter on a few acres of dusty scrub; nothing like the bad guy you expect. The actual bad guys are neatly subverted too, small time lowlifes whose relationship is underscored with an intriguing homoerotic frisson.
This is a strongly written novella and fans of the earlier Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles stories will find it fits perfectly into the cannon. Lowrance plays on Grainger’s pitch – it’s the same, raw, hard world, suffused with brutality and prejudice – and he respects the rules of the game, but reading Miles to Little Ridge is like watching a new manager take over a team you know well and guide them to a win using his own tactics.
It’s going to be interesting seeing where Grainger takes the series from here – you feel that after making the leap this can’t possibly be a standalone – and with the wealth of talent in the western genre right now he won’t be short on potential contributors.

 


Luca Veste wants your money…

 

 

Luca Veste has become something of a Renaissance Man lately; scholar, author, patron of fledgling bloggers, and in November he added charity campaigner to his repertoire, editing Off The Record, an outstanding collection of transatlantic crime fiction to benefit two very worthy child literacy charities.

So far the reviews have been excellent and the sales encouraging but Luca is a shameless pimp when charity’s involved, so he’s pulled on his floor length white mink and cherry red fedora to hawk Off The Record here today.

 

Taking on a charity anthology with no previous experience was a bit insane, what possessed you?

Idiocy and Jack Daniels. Like all people who drink, I overestimated my ability to do something well.

Why children’s literacy? Don’t you care about cancer or crippled kittens?

There’re tons of cancer charities, you can’t move for them. They get enough money, or so someone told me anyway. And kittens can fuck right off, horrible little things. Now, I’m not saying I’d go as far as Ray Banks does with cats (seriously, the dude is nasty), but I do think cats are evil embodied. I hate them. So, having kids myself, and loving the little blighters and that, I wanted to do something for the kids.

Off The Record features an impressive roll call of authors – you gonna spill the filth you’ve got on them?

Well, don’t tell anyone, but Neil White once got drunk, took off all his clothes, and then punched the Queen. I got the whole thing on video. The whole kitten/Ray Banks deal, I got photos. Steve Mosby still has a publishing deal due to me buying a 1000 copies of each of his books. And Helen FitzGerald…let’s just say I’ll never look at a cactus the same way.

So, yeah, I got stuff on every single one of them. They need the karma uplift.

It’s an interesting mix of commercial names and cult authors  – all your taste or were you being provocative?

I only asked writers I’d had contact with previously, and I kinda make it a rule not to befriend people I think are shit. So, I love all the stories, all my taste…this sounds like I’ve just put this thing together for myself. Damn.

Anyone you want to shove some love at for it? You can gush, it’s manly.

Well usually, I’d go into my usual fanboy mode over Steve Mosby (dude is very close to considering an internet restraining order on my gushing), and I could go for Les Edgerton or Nick Quantrill, as they are two of the coolest guys around who I’m honoured to know. But this time, I’m giving my gushing love to Neil White. Dude has had an incredible 2011, sold over 100,000 copies of his latest book, signed a six figure book deal with Sphere, and still found the time to buy me lasagne (not as nice as Nonna Veste’s) and beer when visiting Liverpool. He had never written a short story before, but said yes anyway to being involved with OTR. He’s a fantastic writer who gets better with every book, and is as down to earth as any Northerner is. White’s going to be huge. And it is well deserved. He works hard at his craft, and it’s always great to see someone get the reward for that.

Why the musical theme?

I was torn between film titles or song titles, and the consensus went with songs. I think that’s because there’s a lot more scope with song titles, more stories to tell etc. I think it works perfectly, as the diverse nature of song choices works with the diversity of the stories. It means there’s something for every taste in there.

You went with Comfortably Numb yourself; so I guess you’re a big Scissor Sisters fan…

I’ve killed for less.

Scissor Sisters. Gah.

No. Comfortably Numb only exists from one band in my mind. Pink Floyd is a band I’ve listened to all my life. My Dad was a huge fan (he eventually put ‘The Wall’ on stage with a group of unemployed musicians in Liverpool in front of 3000 people. It was amazing.), so they were always on in our house. Now, they’re constantly on in my house. Wife thinks I’m 40 years older than I actually am.

Off The Record’s earned honest-to-god rave reviews but it’s new year and people are hungover and skint, why should they part with the last few pennies on their overdraft?

Because for 77p/99c you get 60,000 words, written by some of the best damn writers both sides of the Atlantic, and every last penny or cent of profit goes directly to helping kids read. I mean, what other reason do you need?!

Tempted to do it again yet?  Or still a bit traumatised?

Not yet. I still wake up in a cold sweat mumbling to myself about paragraph breaks. Who knows in the future!

So, what’s coming up for Guilty Conscience Publishing in 2012?

At the moment, things are quiet. But I have plans…big plans.

You quietly slipped out your own collection More Liverpool Five last month. What should we expect from that?

More of the same depressingly uplifting tales from Liverpool. And a lot of death.

Heard you’re working on a novel right now – come on, spill.

Yep. Taking the plunge and trying it out. Early days, but I can reveal someone spends a year in a box. And there’s unethical psychology experiments going on. So it’s a real feel good tale.

Wanna give us a prediction for the Man City game?

Like not betting on my own team, I also never make predictions about them. I hope we win, would be joint fourth then, and who would of predicted that a few months ago. King Kenny is quietly doing the business.

 

Off The Record is available now as an ebook from Amazon or, if you’re the sentimental sort, in paperback from Lulu.com.  All profits go to charity.