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Douglas is heading back to Grantown-on-Spey in November for this year’s Wee Crime Festival.

It all kicks off on Friday November 3 with the gala premiere of the new Carry on Sleuthing extravaganza, Murder at the Knickerage, with Caro Ramsay, Michael J. Malone and some guest performers.

Douglas with Caro Ramsay in Carry on Sleuthing. A brand new mystery will make its debut in Grantown

Douglas with Caro Ramsay in Carry on Sleuthing. A brand new mystery will make its debut in Grantown

Caro with Michael J, Malone in Carry on Sleuthing

Caro with Michael J, Malone in Carry on Sleuthing

Then on Saturday and Sunday he joins fellow authors Caro Ramsay, Lin Anderson, James Oswald, Yrsa Siguroardottir, Mason Cross, Michael J. Malone and Daniel Shand in a number of events.

Detail here:

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BLOOD TORMENT by TF Muir (Constable, hardback)

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The sixth Andy Gilchrist novel sees our dogged St Andrews cop on the trail of a possible kidnapper. His investigations reveal blackmail, dark secrets and, naturally, murder.

Naturally, he has his tough-talking DS, Jessie Janes, at his back and sometimes darting ahead of him. Neither of them are particularly careful when it comes to dealing with those in power, whether inside or outside the job.

This time he has an additional problem. He’s been somewhat intemperate with another cop and a version of it has surfaced on video. If it reaches the powers-that-be, who are none-too-enamoured with Gilchrist at the best of times, our hero may well be getting his clubs out for an extended putter on the links. (I don’t know if he plays golf. I was just going the whole St Andrews thing).

This is the sixth novel in Frank’s series (there’s also a short story) and he does seem to be going from strength-to-strength. This time round, though, there is less of the gut-wrenching horror of his last one, ‘The Meating Room’. The title of that one alone should alert you to the horrors within.

Gilchrist may not walk the mean streets of a big city but his beat is still pretty perilous all the same. It does make me wonder what the local tourism authorities feel about him painting the douce township as a hotbed of crime and, let’s be honest, occasional debauchery.

That being said, Frank paints a vivid picture of St Andrews and the procedures of coppering.

It must also be pointed out that he has found a unique way of getting round the decision to amalgamate local forces into the behemoth that is Police Scotland that is so pesky to crime writers. He simply ignores it!

 

THE TIME TO KILL by Mason Cross (Orion, paperback)

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The third Carter Blake thriller is a fast-moving, edge-of-the-seat express ride of a read.

The previous two books in the series gave us little hints to Blake’s past, nothing much, just little nods and winks, but this time it comes raging back to haunt him. If the past is a foreign country, Blake’s past is one the government would not advise travellers to visit.

While on a milk run of a job in Seattle, tracing a computer geek who has made off with some techno giant’s secrets, Blake finds himself on the run from shadowy covert agents who think nothing of terminating with extreme prejudice.

Blake and his computer king head off on a cross-country train ride to escape them but that proves to be a mistake.

I’m a sucker for thrillers on trains. From ‘The Lady Vanishes’ through to ‘Breakheart Pass’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Narrow Margin’, there’s nothing more exciting than riding the rail and pitting your hero against the bad guys. And Cross does it incredibly well.

He also seamlessly weaves the nail-biting chase thriller with flashbacks to exactly why these covert goons are after him – and why he had to change his name.

However, I still prefer the original title ‘Winterlong.’ But what the hell do I know?

 

WICKED LEAKS by Matt Bendoris (Contraband, paperback)

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Like ‘The Time To Kill’, this is the third in a series and, frankly, Bendoris’s best yet.

Tight, taut and titterful (not in a Playboy way, in a laughing way), this is a page-turning thriller with a side order of fun.

Matt is really into the swing of this writing game. April Lavender – still love that name – and Connor are now fully rounded characters (April in every sense of the phrase, if Bendoris is to be believed). The amusing interplay between them is still a high point, as is the often caustic critique of the modern newspaper industry. They are human, with all the frailties and annoyances that come with it, and yet fit so well with the thriller aspect of the books.

This time around they are in conspiracy theory territory and the inclusion of a well-known and shocking royal death adds a touch of controversy to the mix.

As before it’s fast-moving and exciting. Bendoris has hit his stride with this one. A real winner.

 

 

So, 2015 – looks like you’re on your last legs.

You’ve been a funny old year, my first as a full-time author. Whatever the hell that means.

It has been successful, although I’m far from achieving my goal of going into tax exile.

But this year’s Davie McCall was very well received overall. That made me happy.

I read some great books this year, which made choosing just one for the Daily Record’s Book Club Page on January 2 extremely difficult. I don’t think I read as much this year, judging by the number of titles by top authors on my To Be Read pile. So if your name doesn’t appear here, don’t take it personally – I’ve just not read it yet. So many books, so little time – and I don’t read fast. My lips get very tired.

I did read a few books that are not yet out – and let me tell you, you’re in for a treat next year and in 2017.  I may also have worked on a thing or two myself.

Michael J. Malone’s ‘Beyond the Rage’ was an absolute belter, as was Neil Broadfoot’s ‘The Storm,’ which was so smooth you wouldn’t believe it was only his second novel. Their writing just gets better and better and if you haven’t caught up with them, then get those sandshoes on and pick up the pace. I’m expecting big things from them both next year.rage storm cover

Matt Bendoris brought his tabloid chirpiness and no-nonsense story-telling stunningly to the fore with ‘DM for Murder’ (shortlisted for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year. Contractual obligation to mention that fulfilled), while Graeme MacRae Burnet’s more literary ‘His Bloody Project’ was a stupendous achievement, an historical crime story where we know the culprit yet it still managed to surprise me!

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I approached Graham Lironi’s ‘Oh Marina Girl’ with caution as, like Graeme’s book, it was literary. Being of a pulpy bent (although I believe there are pills I can take for that) I tend more towards the thick-ear school but this Rubik Cube of a novel was a delight.

All of the above were published by Contraband, a courageous Scottish imprint dedicated to bringing the best in crime writing to the shelves. (They’re bringing one of mine out next year. Yes, I’m crawling. No, I’m not ashamed of myself).

Speaking of literature, crime writer Benjamin Black is actually poet John Banville and this year I caught up with his Philip Marlowe turn ‘The Black Eyed Blonde’. OK, it wasn’t Marlowe in his prime but it was close enough.

After his sojourn in the Faroe Isles with the utterly fabulous ‘The Last Refuge’, Craig Robertson returned to the streets of Glasgow. His new one, ‘In Place of Death’, was a hugely satisfying mystery set around the world of urbexing, exploring urban sites usually closed off to the public. It was another in his Narey and Winter series, which if you’ve never read you should add to your list. You really feel the city tremble beneath your fingers in Robertson’s writing. Don’t tell him I said that, though.

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I started reading Caro Ramsay’s Anderson and Costello thrillers this year. The first, ‘Absolution’, was a gripping read with a surprise ending. I like surprises. The rest of the series is on my list for future reading and I know I won’t be disappointed.

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Theresa Talbot’s first novel, ‘Penance’, was very impressive. Funny and dark in equal measure, it took a real-life incident from the 1950s and weaved in a modern-day murder mystery. She’s a name to watch – and a voice to listen to if you’re driving, for she reads the traffic report on BBC Radio Scotland. So when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you know who to blame.

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This year I also read Peter May’s ‘Entry Island’ and ‘Runaway’. Loved them both. That man writes so well it’s sickening (something he shares with all the authors I mention here. Some of them have to go. I mean, seriously). He is a true craftsman.

Craig Russell’s ‘The Ghosts of Altona’ was also expertly delivered by a master. The prose was so evocative.

Val McDermid returned with ‘Splinter the Silence’, in which Tony Hill and Carol Jordan found themselves mired in the murky world of on-line trolling and the even murkier world of internal police politics. It did not disappoint the author’s myriad of fans.

Val also gave us a belter of a non-fiction piece in ‘Forensics’, a highly readable look into the nuts and bolts – and beasties and slime – of forensics. A must read for any would-be crime writers.

Meanwhile, Alex Gray took Lorimer away from the concrete and stone of Glasgow to the tranquillity of Mull with ‘Keep the Midnight Out’. Naturally, there was a murder or two – and fans lapped up the change of scene eagerly. The opening scene in particular was brilliantly descriptive.

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Tony Black stepped away from urban noir a couple of years ago and this year he brought us his second Bob Valentine book. The Ayr-based cop with the tendency to see dead people (long before TV’s ‘River’) found himself dealing with a tragic family drama that took him across the water to Arran. The seaside setting makes for a refreshing alternative to the city-based cop thrillers we’re used to and ‘A Taste of Ashes’ was a fine read.

I also enjoyed my introduction to his Gus Durie novels, ‘Loss’. Terse, dark, brutal.

Nick Sweet took us even further afield – to Spain – for a ‘The Long Siesta’. There wasn’t much loafing about in the sun in this dark tale of murder and past crimes in the Seville sunlight. It was another fast-paced, no-nonsense read and we’ll hear more from this author, I’m certain.

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Mason Cross gave us his second Carter Blake thriller in ‘The Samaritan.’ He writes American so well it’s hard to believe he’s not got mom’s apple pie running through his veins.

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None of the above are listed in any order of preference. But which one did I choose for Shari Low’s column?

It was a tough decision, a REALLY tough decision, because all of these books deserved it for one reason or another.

In the end I decided on…

Sorry – you’ll need to buy the paper to find out.

Unless my contribution doesn’t make the cut.books

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I’m just back from Bristol and Crimefest 2015. I’m off booze for life. Well, maybe a couple of days.

Of course, there’s more to these crime bashes than drinking. There’s networking – something I’m not very good at – and meeting new people – which I’m even worse at. And you catch a panel or two, not including your own.

I saw some great panels this year. Caro Ramsay moderated a great line-up to talk about detective duos and later formed part of a panel on Psychopaths: Not very nice or just misunderstood? It was all very informative, entertaining and I learned that Stuart Neville wanted Francis Dollarhyde to get away at the end of ‘Red Dragon’. Which was controversial.

Craig Robertson was part of a group talking about Crime at the Borders of the Arctic and also chaired one on Mean Streets and Small Towns, during which he attempted Icelandic. And apparently failed.

Neil Broadfoot had a tough panel with Social and Political life in Crime Fiction but I had to return on Sunday so missed him with Anna Smith on Lawyers and Journalists: Upholders of truth and justice? Or…can we trust you? I think the answer to both of those questions is no.

And Mason Cross, international man of mystery, was there, first on a panel taking Thrillers from Psychology to Action, chaired by the always good value Stav Sherez, and then moderating the psychopaths session that featured Caro Ramsay.

I was delighted to meet up with Susan Wilkins, Howard Linskey and David Thorne four our panel on Villains as Heroes. Fergus McNeill was an excellent chair for the event and the panel had some very interesting things to say on the subject. I was my usual eejit.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Sex and Crime panel, hosted by the erudite Barry Forshaw, featuring Antonia Hodgson, Nev Fountain, Peter Guttridge and Simon Toyne. It was a very witty 50 minutes, a bit spicy here and there. For anyone who saw me, I was fanning myself because the heat and not because of any rising blood pressure caused by immoral thoughts. I’m was thinking of doing a one man talk on the same subject but knowing me it would be all over after two minutes.

Can I just say that everyone I’ve mentioned above are superb live and if you ever get a chance to see them, take it. Tell them I sent you. No, on second thoughts, don’t. They might not let you in.

Of course, there was a lot – LOT – more going on. A host of superb authors entertaini

I enjoyed a relaxing moment or twenty listening to the Cathedral bells tolling on Sunday

I enjoyed a relaxing moment or twenty listening to the Cathedral bells tolling on Sunday

ng, enlightened and perhaps even enraged over the four-day event.  Crimefest is a great place for fans of the genre, not just for writers and bloggers. You can meet your favourite authors, buy them a drink, get books signed, buy them another drink, talk to them about their work and even buy them a drink or three.

Bristol is a beautiful city and the sun came out on Friday and hung around till Sunday, which was thoughtful. I didn’t take the trusty Nikon this year and forgot my phone took shots until it was too late so have no pics of the panels. However, you’ll find a couple on Twitter if you’re of the notion.

Speaking of which, a number of people were tweeting during the sessions. I didn’t because I’ve got a mobile phone that is so old the read out is in Latin but I was able to retweet some of them when I got home and wound up the PC. I really need to get a better phone.

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The Killing Season by Mason Cross. killing season

The first line of this book speaks volumes.

‘The first thing you should know about me is that my name is not Carter Blake.’

Here’s another thing you should know – the author’s name is not Mason Cross. I can’t tell you what his real name is as I’ve signed a confidentiality agreement but I can tell you he is an international man of mystery.

Carter Blake is pretty enigmatic, too. We’re drip-fed tiny droplets of info but not enough to really know who he is or where he comes from. What we do know is that he’s an efficient hunter of men – in this case an escaped con with an agenda which includes killing as many people as he can.

The action covers a goodly proportion of the ol’ US of A at a brisk pace. Cross’s characters are skilfully etched without getting in the way of the breakneck storytelling. The suspense builds sharpely until you’re turning the pages so fast you could get a paper cut.

The second book in the series, ‘The Samaritan’, will be released in July and I believe we’ll learn a bit more about the enigmatic Mr Blake.

You can see the mysterious Mason Cross in Aye Write this year when he hosts a panel of ex-police officers and probation officers who have turned to crime writing. Details here