Smallbany by Graham Wynd

Cover for Smallbany Graham Wynd

At just over ten pages that is a short, sharp shock. Ideal for a chilled out lunch break.

Reviewing anything this short is difficult without spoilers or getting more technical than I’m capable of doing. It is a pretty standard noir short story, hard-boiled in more than one sense. That said it does mess with you a bit. Accents and appearances that jar against the” norms” make you think about your own inbuilt prejudices.

I know this is a lead in story for Drag Noir by Fox Spirit Books so if you enjoy this I heartily recommend checking them out.

I enjoyed this story as I do most by Wynd but I wanted more.


Torn and Frayed by David Cranmer

Torn and Frayed Book Cover

The seventh book in the Drifter Detective series sees Jack Laramie wandering in to yet another new town.  This story felt different from some of the other Drifter books. It felt like Laramie was going to settle down and this was going finish the series with a nice and neat ending. I was wrong. Fans of clean endings may find this one frustrating. I really liked the ending or as some may have thought the lack of one. For me the entire series has been about Laramie never really getting closure for his issues and that was emphasized nicely in this story.

In this story Laramie finds himself embroiled in a long running bitter feud that could not have ended well for anybody. As usual the gains from this adventure are at best minimal and Laramie continues his hand-to-mouth tour of America with redemption still beyond the horizon.

I enjoyed this book but I have to admit that I preferred the bonus story at the end. Missing was a Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles story set in The Old West. I’ve been a fan of these characters for a while and it wasn’t a surprise that I enjoyed it. My one  criticism was that having sat with my thumbs on the triggers I had trouble understanding how anybody could describe the Maxim as a large pistol. For me  it has always been a weapon apart. That said the use of the gun in the story worked really well and was an interesting way to show that time of the gunslinger was at risk from modern weaponry.

The Last Laugh by Paul D. Brazill

Book Cover The Last Laugh by Paul D. Brazill

The cover just about summed up this book for me. From the misanthropes to the degenerates there was a theme of self abuse particularly substance abuse. When it comes to Brit Grit and hard-boiled noir I can think of few authors I have enjoyed more than Brazill.

Every character seemed not only real but like somebody I knew and could relate to. The real genius for me was how the author managed this with a cursory description and a killer one liner. I have considered writing down a list of Brazill’s genius quips as his books are worth reading just for those.

I have been used to most of the authors noir being set in his fictional Seatown but the first story starts with some ex-pats (or immigrants as we’d call them over here) on the continent. I found this setting to be an interesting change of pace and something I’d like to read more about. I was however most eager to get back to Seatown.  For me Seatown sounded like Jaywick Sands but in the north east but I’m fairly sure the way these stories were written will mean it sounded like a different town to each reader.

I have deleted about fifteen drafts of this paragraph. It was supposed to be a brief description of the stories. Every time I tried to describe them I made the stories seem rubbish. So much of this book happens inside the readers head that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it justice without rambling. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed it and will be nudging Brazill to ask if there are any more stories set in Spain coming out soon.

Near To The Knuckle presents Rogue: The second anthology

Near To The Knuckle presents Rogue: The second anthology

I bought this anthology on the recommendation of one of the authors. Graham Wynd knows my tastes and was pretty sure I would enjoy this. Wynd was not wrong.

This book contained stories set on both sides of the big pond and one that spanned it. I found it fascinating that although the locations and language changed throughout the book the essential grime and nastiness was pervasive throughout this tome. There was a fascinating quality of mutually assured destruction that I found quite intoxicating.

These stories were short and sharp pokes at the underbelly of society. Each poke releasing a festering boil of what passes for humanity on this rock. My tone may well be reflecting the way these stories influenced my mood. This was not a happy read. The chuckles I got were wry ones.Such as Graham Wynd’s diner scene or my personal favourite line from Alan Griffiths “A smile as genuine as a politician’s expenses claim…”

For me there was a good standard of story through this anthology but the final two stories by Alan Griffiths and Keith Nixon finished things with such aplomb that I almost forgot about the half a dozen or so niggling misses by the proof reader that could have spoiled things a little for me. That is about the only negative I’ll say about this book. I found this to be a punchy and well paced dive to the bottom of our societies. It was well worth a read and I’ll be looking out for more by the publisher (I haven’t read their first anthology yet so I might grab that for a start).

Hard-Boiled Witch: Hocus Pocus, You’re Dead by K.A. Laity

Hocus Pocus, You're Dead by K.A. Laity

This was a very short title. One of the problems I have found with short serialized fiction that has decent cover art is that I expect something longer. This title made it a lot cleared than some that it was twenty pages long.

Kate Laity writes in several different genres and styles and I had forgotten how much I like her style of noir. This book was definitely hard-boiled but not quite as expected (which should be expected from Laity). I loved the simplicity and pace of this story. This was one of those books that somehow managed to convey a lot more story than possible for such a short story. I loved that. My brain seamlessly knew what Laity was trying to show without any long wordy descriptions.

Laity has produced a fun and interesting supernatural tale that works perfectly as hard-boiled noir. I’ll be grabbing the next installment soon.

Netflix Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

I Don’t usually review films and this is my first Netflix review. I had been looking forward to this for a while. I really enjoyed how gritty Daredevil was and had extremely high hopes for this series. It was not what I expected. I’ve seen many attempts to capture a noir feel on screen fail miserably. Krysten Ritter manages to make everything seem so natural in a way that fit perfectly. It didn’t feel like anybody was forcing a 1930s feel it felt much more like how things should have evolved.

The very best thing about the series is David Tenant as The Purple Man. I was worried that he might come across as a bit too cheesy for the dark feel I was hoping for. I was utterly wrong. It was a masterful performance that added extra layers of darkness I hadn’t expected.  The attention to detail was great. Jessica Jones drinks a lot of whisky throughout the series. I challenge you to count how many different brands she drinks.

Ritter and Tenant were the clear stars but the support cast worked really well. I enjoyed how Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple linked Jessica Jones to Daredevil and how Mike Colter’s Luke Cage was a numb as I’d hoped he’d be.

I watched the final six episodes of this series straight through. I’ve gone back and watched the final episode again and the pivotal moment between Jessica and Kilgrave not only still surprised me but lost none of the impact. It was the kind of ending that I wanted to see. Whether you are a Marvel fan or a crime noir fan this series is a much view. I’m struggling to find anything about it I didn’t like.

Drag Noir Edited by K.A. Laity

Drag Noir Edited by K.A. Laity

Drag Noir Edited by K.A. Laity

If like me you often skim read or outright ignore the introductions found in anthologies as sycophantic and generally boring monologues then stop right there. The introduction section of this book is not just funny and insightful but it genuinely made me think about things and in ways I’d never done before. That is just about the highest praise I can heap on any piece of writing. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in sexual politics but for me this book is all about one word, sexuality.  The drag and the noir intersect in the different meanings of the word. There are some sexy dames in this book but not all of them are dames, or are they? What defines a sex siren? Is it intrinsic in their gender or is it an attitude and look that has nothing to do with gender? These are just a couple of the surface questions I found myself asking, there were plenty more but I’ll let you discover them for yourself.

There was an easy favourite for me in this anthology. A Bit Of A Pickle by Paul D. Brazill not only has a really clever title but addresses something I hadn’t considered. Fading glory. Such a perfect noir subject applied in a fascinating and spellbinding manner. King Bitch by James Bennett was completely different and yet captured the spirit of drag noir just as well. Every story had a niche all to itself, just like every dame is more than the bright red warpaint and stilettos they wear. There wasn’t a single story that I didn’t enjoy.

This book could easily be considered subversive by encouraging lifestyles that are seen by some to be against their cultural norms. Good. This book made me think and challenge my own perceptions. I hope it does the same for you.

Wake Up, Time To Die by Chris Rhatigan

Wake Up, Time To Die by Chris Rhatigan

Some book covers have spectacular covers and some are just terrible. This one is neither. I call this a Ronseal cover. It does what it says on the tin. Or in this case the cover gave me a good idea of the twisted and bloody crime noir contained inside.

I like hard-hitting stories, especially the kind that has an odd slant to it. These stories are seriously weird. Most elements of these stories are perfectly normal and expected within the genre and that is the rub. Everything seems as it should until you get slapped in the face with a wet kipper. There were several points where I exclaimed in public places whilst reading this book. Bill Gates holding up convenience stores for the adrenaline rush stunned me but nowhere near as much as the was that The Boss ends the story. Yes you did just read that. Bill Blinking Gates is a gun-toting nutcase in that story.

This collection shouldn’t work as noir. It should come across as too silly. I’ve read most of the stories twice and I still can’t understand how the author managed to maintain the gravitas I’d expect in this kind of book. I found myself thinking about the stories and the writing for several days after I finished this book. It is well worth a read and a great example of subject being less important than the quality and voice of the storyteller.

A Case Of Noir by Paul D. Brazill

A Case Of Noir

There is a uniquely British feel to Brazill’s noir. Even when his characters are right at home in Poland there is a feel that is unmistakably tied to the way the working class traditionally (and still do in many cases) manage their weekly pay. That is to say that as soon as work finishes they head to the pub until they are tossed on to the street and wander home. This adds a vivid feel that somehow manages to evoke unpleasant smells as well as the expected sights.

This book is a series of linked stories. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate technique to throw the reader back towards the previous story but I personally found that the couple of times a phrase was repeated it knocked me out of my reading rhythm and I had to re-focus. That is about the only negative thing about this book for me. I don’t normally quote from a book in a review but I just have to in this case because this snippet stopped me dead. I thought about it for quite a while before continuing and for me it gets to the heart of Brazill’s writing.

“Anonymous hotels attract interesting peoples but only anonymous people stay in interesting hotels since they hope it will add a bit of colour to their dreary lives.”

This is a thoughtful look at the seedy underbelly of cities across Europe and is well worth a read.

Dinero Del Mar by Garnett Elliott

Dinero Del Mar by Garnett Elliott

This cover perfectly sums up the washed up drifter detective Jack Laramie. Like a lot of detectives in noir stories Jack Laramie is drinking to forget. I find this frustrating in some books because there seems to be no reason and it is just a sulky response to a hard life. Portions of the back-story are scattered through this book in a way that draws you in and puts Jack’s drifting in to context. I really appreciated that.

Although there are two stories in this book they are inter-connected and this led to an ending that was completely unexpected but absolutely perfect. The first story is set at a beauty contest that is scarier and more extreme than those reality show versions on recently. Jack gets screwed in more ways than one and ends up in the cooler. This leads him nicely in to the second story. This one is set in a bohemian estate and showed that it doesn’t matter how rich or well bred people are the same impulses hold sway.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anybody that enjoys crime noir.