Category Archives: Thrillers

Round Up of Recommended Reads

I haven’t been posting much about books here lately. I’ve been very busy. Not only do I read, I also write and I also produce ebooks for other writers. Not that I’m reading less, but I have less time to natter on about it.

In no particular order, some books I’ve read lately that you might find fun and/or interesting to read, too.

The Moses MacGuire series by Josh Stallings.

When I first started reading about Moses I wasn’t sure I’d like him. He’s a burnt out strip club bouncer with a prison record and few socially redeeming qualities. He grew on me. Bad boys tend to do that. Stallings writes gritty, unapologetic thrillers with nasty bad guys, nasty crimes and a lot of surprising twists.  As soon as I finished reading Beautiful, Naked & Dead, I immediately read Out There Bad. Pretty soon there’ll be a new Moses story, One More Body. I’m looking forward to it.

Moses McGuire a suicidal strip club bouncer is out to avenge the death of one of his girls. From his East L.A. home, through the legal brothels of Nevada and finally to a battle with the mob in the mountains above Palo Alto, it is a sex soaked, rage driven, road trip from hell.




“Out There Bad is the follow up novel to the critically claimed Beautiful, Naked & Dead. Armenian mobsters, Russian strippers, human traffickers, Mexican assassins, they all want Moses dead. Hell most days, even Moses wants Moses dead, but he’ll have to put his dark thoughts on hold. Somewhere between Moscow and LA a young girl has disappeared. The hunt for her will take Moses deep into the heart of Mexico. He will be taught once again that that which does not kill you, often leaves you scarred for life.”

On the paranormal side, two stories from two of my favorite authors: Ben Aaronovitch and J.F. Lewis. Aaronovitch writes the Peter Grant series about a London cop who ends up apprenticed to a wizard. Sort of Harry Potter meets Sherlock Holmes, but funnier. The latest is Whispers Underground where Peter has to solve a magical murder with a most mundane motive. Then we have J.F. Lewis who writes the wildly funny Void City novels featuring Eric the vampire and a screwball cast of creatures. A Corpse of Mistaken Identity is not a Void City novel, it’s a novella featuring a zaomancer (a very special resurrectionist). I really hope everybody runs out and buys this to encourage Lewis to write more about the zaomancers.

If someone dies an unnatural death, an untimely death, and you have to have them back, no matter what the cost… Marlo Morne can help, but there are rules, time is an important factor, and there are always clients who want those rules to be broken on their behalf.

For a change of pace from murder, magic and mayhem, I read a Regency romance, The Taming of Lady Kate, by G. G. Vandagriff, the second in her series: Three Rogues and Their Ladies. Written with wit and style and plenty of big sigh romance.

Back to murder and mayhem, but this time in sci-fi, Riding Fourth, by M. H. Mead. Let us call it carpooling run amok. This short story (available free right now!) is a teaser for a new novel, Taking the Highway,  coming in December. Can’t hardly wait.

That’s not all I’ve read, but I have to get back to work. Ebooks don’t format themselves, you know.



A New Addiction: Junkie, by Robert P. French

I’m going to go out on a limb and say something that many people are going to take as an insult or else think it’s snobbish or just plain weird. I’ll say it anyway. I don’t expect terrific quality from self-published books.

Bear with me, because I’m not insulting self-pubbers at all. In fact, I love them. Self-pubbing as a viable method for getting one’s books before readers is in its infancy. Those writers who are coming into it without having been published by a traditional publisher tend to be… rough writers. What most self-pubbed novels remind me of is pulp fiction. For those of you too young to remember when us old folks rode dinosaurs to work, pulp fiction consisted of cheap paperback novels, mostly mystery, romance, Westerns, soft-core porn and science fiction, written fast, produced fast and released in mass quantities. They weren’t meant to be great literature. Many of the writers described themselves as “hacks.” Despite that factory-inspired method of writing, pulp fiction produced genuine stars. Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Lawrence Block, Barbara Cartland, Robert Heinlein, Donald Westlake and many others. Those were good writers. Some have produced classics. I see today’s crop of self-pubbers as cousins to yesterday’s pulp fiction writers. I don’t expect great literature. Usually I’m satisfied with readable. I’ve found a few self-pubbers worth watching. Their work is raw, they need experience and some editorial help (or maybe a lot of editorial help), but if they hang in there, they’ll produce some good fiction someday.

Then I read Junkie, by Robert P. French. I found something I wasn’t expecting. A writer with the “It” factor. The “It” factor is like art, impossible to explain, but I know it when I see it.

French has created Cal Rogan, ex-cop and heroin addict. Cal kept me on an emotional roller coaster throughout the entire novel. A sad, frustrating, heartbreaking game of will-he-won’t-he. He wants to be clean, he’s got so much at stake, but the pull of addiction is so powerful he’s helpless before it. Cal lies and promises and betrays. At times I hated him. Yet I found myself rooting for him, begging him from my reader’s chair to beat the heroin. The hardest part of it is how far and how hard Cal fell. He’s smart, tenacious, he was a really good cop. Then he blew it. In spite of that, at heart he’s still a good cop and he wants to do the right thing. Junkie has a strong mystery and some well-drawn villains, but the true conflict at the heart of the story is between Cal and the monkey on his back.

The story: Cal’s best friend commits suicide, but Cal knows it’s murder. That’s when Cal starts making promises. He promises the victim’s mother to leave it alone, then promises the father he’ll not only prove it was murder, he’ll bring the killer to justice. Meanwhile Cal’s ex-wife is engaged to be married and threatening to take Cal’s daughter 2000 miles away. He promises he’ll get clean for his daughter, and promises himself he’ll be reinstated on the police force. He promises the cops he didn’t murder his friend. It’s a twisty, tricky, action-filled story– just the way I like them.

This novel isn’t perfect. There’s some roughness around the edges, a few places that need an editorial kick in the pants, and it needs another go-round with a proofreader (which says a lot for the quality of the story telling that my inner editor never tried to grab my Kindle out of my hands). French definitely has the “It” factor. If he keeps writing, keeps honing his skills and developing as a writer, he’ll be up there with authors like John Sandford, Michael Connelly, and Robert Crais.

What about anyone else? Have you discovered any self-published fiction writers rising from today’s version of pulp fiction?


Duane Swierczynski: When Only A Roadrunner Will Do

Sometimes I need a good “roadrunner” movie. That’s what I call over-the-top, action adventure movies so filled with insane stunts and crazy situations, they resemble Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. Think Die Hard (actually, almost any movie starring Bruce Willis) A-Team, Lethal Weapon, Desperado. The characters take licking after licking, but keep ticking and ticking. Part of the fun of watching those movies is seeing how deviously twisted and nasty the writers and directors can get when it comes to abusing the characters. Who doesn’t love a scene with Bruce Willis in a semi-tractor trailer trying to outrun a Cruise missile?

Roadrunner movie-stories aren’t as easy to pull off in fiction. Duane Swierczynski does. The first of his novels that I read was Severance Package. A gift from DD1. I laughed, I winced, my jaw dropped. Swiercyznski shoots, stabs, defenestrates, and poisons. He throws characters down stairs, locks them in mortal combat, and burns them up. “Good Lord,” I said after I finished the book. “This writer is sick. Outrageous. I love it!” The next novel I picked up was The Wheelman. More violence, more twists, more turns, more sick stuff. Swierczynski went on my Must-buy list (or should I say, Dust-Worthy list, since I only bring print novels into my house if they’re by authors who are good enough to be worth the extra housekeeping).

I balk at buying full priced ebooks from the big publishers. When Fun and Games went on sale, I snatched it up for my Kindle (oh Amazon One-click to Buy button, you shall be the death of me!).

Oh yes, Fun and Games is definitely a roadrunner book. A house-sitter and an actress try to survive the unceasing attempts on their lives by a mysterious shadow organization that stages “accidents.” There are the requisite car crashes, poisonings, stabbings, falls off buildings and cliffs, gassing, burnings, shootings and even a few encounters with cacti. Much of the reason the books are so much fun to read is that Swiercznski knows how to create characters from the inside out. In lesser hands, the novels would be mere shoot-em-ups. I know the characters are doomed, but I root for them anyway. In Fun and Games the author pulled off a shocker. I won’t tell you what it is since it would spoil the fun. I’ll just say this novel is part of a trilogy. So now I have to read Hell and Gone to see what happens next. (and no, I will not pay ten bucks for a Kindle edition. Publishers, are you nuts? I’ll buy it in paperback)

Unexpected Thrills: The Detachment, Barry Eisler

I enjoy a good thriller. The  punchy prose, the non-stop action, the sheer joy of experiencing, “Okay, just one more page and then I’ll go to bed.” Barry Eisler is one of my favorite thriller writers. I love his character John Rain, international assassin. (I’ll save my thoughts on anti-heroes for another post) His books are fast and furious and scary as hell with insights into the true nature of evil, especially evil governments.

Then I found this sentence in The Detachment, his latest novel:

“I waited on a bench under the shade of some trees in the nearby Stadtpark, just a harmless-looking Japanese tourist taking in the sights and sounds and smells, savoring the sense of loneliness and freedom that comes only from solitary sojourns in strange lands, where all the everyday things seem subtly wondrous and different and new, where there’s no one to please or disappoint or explain to, where the traveler finds himself suspended between the beguilement of the comforts he left behind, and the allure of an imaginary future he senses but knows he can never really have.”

That’s one sentence, folks. 98 words. Ninety-eight words. Reader-me is delighted. Writer-me is awed. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to control that many words in one sentence?

Wow. No, I mean really. Wow.

That is a beautiful sentence. It’s a powerful passage. It’s almost a story all by itself. You wouldn’t think to find a gem like that in a thriller.

I enjoy thrillers. The majority are cheap thrills (pardon the pun). I enjoy them as I’m reading them, but by the next day I’ve forgotten them. Part of the problem is that too many thriller writers take their characters right out of central casting. They’re not bad characters, but they are stock characters and it makes them rather flat. Eisler made it onto my must-read, must-buy list because his stories do stick with me. There’s an emotional depth to his characters I don’t find all that often in the genre. Along with the fights and the chases and the scheming and ticking bombs, his stories contain touching scenes of loss and discovery, indecision and hard choices, friendship and uneasy alliances. All of Eisler’s characters have an ambiguity about them I find irresistible. I find myself worrying almost as much about the fate of the bad guys as I do about the good guys. Some of the good guys I really worry about because they dance so close to the edge of evil they are only one poor decision away from falling off.

In The Detachment, with that incredible sentence, Eisler attained a whole new level of writer-hood for me. There are quite a few writers I read just for the sheer pleasure of experiencing how they use language. They write gorgeous prose. I never expected to find it in a thriller.

Find it on Amazon here.

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