Tuesday, 28 January 2014



Rough Justice is a brilliant read. It offers the entertainment and distraction that I like to find in a thriller, but it also had me thinking about a number of issues and really stretched my opinions until they were out of shape.

The subject under investigation is justice itself and the book demonstrates just how complex and thorny a topic it is. Mr Leather pushes the boundaries with the clever juxtaposition of the various strands of the plot. In each of these elements there is a need for justice and in none of them is the outcome either straightforward or the same.

Shepherd is working undercover as a member of an elite police unit. He’s mixing with hard people who have strong beliefs. The investigation is aimed at uncovering a gang of law-enforcers who have decided to take the law into their own hands. We get to follow the gang as they mop up the streets and take serious villains from the streets. Their methods are unorthodox these days, but could be viewed as ‘an-eye-for-an-eye’. Rather importantly, they seem to be succeeding where the law appears to fail time and time again. They’re brutal, efficient and it’s difficult not to feel sympathy with what they’re aiming to achieve – difficult for Shepherd and difficult for me as a reader. To add to the elements here, the issues of racism are raised at a number of levels and examined in ways that aren’t easily or frequently aired.

Added to this, Shepherd finds himself in a position of assisting the Major as he seeks closure for himself and his brother after a number of off-duty soldiers are gunned down by Irish terrorists.

Further fuel is thrown onto the fire when Shepherd’s son is found with a clip of a beating on his phone; because Shepherd reports this to the school, a chain of events is set into motion that leave his home and family at risk. It needs to be dealt with, but the police seem powerless to take it on. Worse still, it’s not long before Shepherd is made to feel like he’s the villain of the piece by one particularly PC PC. Said PC talks sense and brings a liberal mind to the tale, but somehow manages to come out rather badly in doing so.
The development of each aspect is taken at the perfect pace. They link together and bounce off each other perfectly to make the whole even greater than the sum of its parts.

I particularly enjoyed the characters. They come across as very real people in very difficult situations and are presented in ways that blur black and white throughout. Stephen Leather does a fantastic job of zooming in and out in order to build a level of sympathy with the majority of the people who inhabit the book and manages to do this without ever giving the sense that he’s out there pulling the strings and manipulating events, something that I found rather impressive.

At the time of reading, the verdict on the Mark Duggan police shooting came through. The conclusion of the courts clearly doesn’t satisfy everyone, nor could it possibly. What the coverage of the story has shown is how powerful the police are and what amazingly difficult situations they have to cope with. Having grown up with some of the old-fashioned policing that is oft referred to in crime novels of late, I’ve rarely been a police sympathiser, but I think this book came close to helping me understand something of the impact the power of being a police officer must have and it was interesting to take a look at the world from such a different point of view.

I also read this immediately after Ian Rankin’s ‘Saints Of The Shadow Bible’, a novel which also deals with issues of justice and police stretching it to try and make it work. The books are both great, very different and complement each other really well.

For Rough Justice, the 5 stars were never in doubt. Any fewer and it would have been a crime.

Saturday, 25 January 2014


The latest Rebus novel is a real treat. The tagline on the cover reads ‘Saint or Sinner?’ and we all know there’s no easy answer to that one. It’s his duality that makes the man such an interesting character. It’s that duality that allows us to excuse some of our own extremes.

For a law-enforcer who began his career in a very different climate than we have today, the contradictions of Rebus are marked. He’s to live with the things he sees and understands about human nature and, at the same time, play it by the book and remain squeaky clean. It’s no wonder he’s the maverick he is. I tend to picture him in the style of a star in a noir movie, half his face in bright light, the other in complete darkness. Part Jeckyll, part Hyde, one copper.

This book works really well in terms of exploring aspects of a murky past while at the same time focusing on a current set of interlinking investigations. It’s also wrapped up perfectly with a prologue and epilogue that close the circle beautifully and allow for a highly satisfying conclusion to the novel.

The ingredients are all quality. There’s an investigation into Rebus and his days as a Saint Of the Shadow Bible, where policing methods were rough and tough and sometimes created victims of their own; there’s Siobhan Clarke heading up a murder investigation in relation to the death of a criminal linked to the Shadow Bible members and using some of what she learned from Rebus to do a very fine job; Malcolm Fox from Complaints; a new pathologist and some rather old ones; the conflicting politics of the Yes/No campaigns for Scottish independence; the same old internal wranglings of senior officers over the right to the limelight; a couple of leaders of the underworld; a mummified body; scrap-yard; an ex-lover; an old case of a missing woman; and a few pubs.

The pots are kept simmering wonderfully by Ian Rankin and when he finally allows it them come to the boil, the resulting feast is a treat.

If you’re a Rebus fan, you should be there. If you’re not, but you like your detective novels written with skill and style, why not give this a go? A pound to a penny says you’ll be back.

Friday, 24 January 2014

The Editors

The world of writing is a hugely interesting one. Increasingly, with the advent of eBooks, there are more facets to it all than could have been imagined not so many years ago.

Regardless of the changes, the need to write to the best of one’s ability remains paramount. In order to achieve this, I believe that one has to be constantly working on self-improvement in the craft. Of the things I feel are essential to all but the most original and highly talented minds out there, I’d suggest that reading quality work, mingling with better authors than oneself and working with talented editors can provide the bare bones of such development.

I’ve been lucky over the past few years to have been able to learn my craft from people with more ability and experience than me. I’ve had the benefit of being supported by many within the writing community and I’ve tried to keep it in mind when at the keyboard.

One key character in the process for me has been Chris Rhatigan.

I’ve worked alongside Chris in a number of ways. We’ve written a short piece together (soon to be published in a wonderful magazine), I’ve mingled with him in an editing group called Crimeficwriters and have co-edited the amazing Pulp Ink and Pulp Ink 2 with him.

What I love about working with Chris is his range of skills. He has an intuitive understanding of what a writer is trying to say and can identify ways of helping them say it better with a few slight alterations. He can work with a plot and make sure that it remains on track - where it falls off the rails, he’ll help to get it back on with the minimum of fuss. He can see the minutia as well as the big picture, from sentence level right through to a whole novel, with the skills of someone who is expert with both telescope and microscope alike. He knows how characters are and will be able to spot inconsistency or the need more detail with ease. Best of all, he’s not scared to express an honest opinion, something he can afford to do because he’s constructive and well-meaning from the off. He doesn’t do flannel, ego or pussy-footing but nor does he do assassination or clumsiness.

Needless to say, when I’ve had work that I feel I’ve finished I’ve turned to Chris for an opinion. My belief is that the work has always been better for it and that I hope I can keep him in my corner for a good while yet.

The reason I’m telling you this is that he’s recently set up his own editing service One Bullet Editing. You can check it out here and you’ll see something of his no frills approach. If you need someone to take a look at your writing and would like to team up with someone you can learn from, I reckon Chris could well be your man. Check him out at his site, look at his own writing and at the work he’s edited in the past and I’m pretty sure you’ll be convinced about his credentials. I, as one of many, have no hesitation about recommending him to you.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Dancing With Myself: KATH MIDDLETON interviews KATH MIDDLETON

Dancing with myself?

That’s a laugh for a start! I was educated in an all-girls’ school and as I’m tall, I had to ‘be the man’ so I can only lead – I can’t follow.  It never goes down well when you shove a bloke around the dance floor!

Who are you and what are you doing on the Sea Minor blog?

I’m Kath Middleton, new to published writing but I’ve been a reader since I was three. As to Sea Minor, I’ve always been a D Major girl, really.

What have you had published?                                                                                           

To date I have my first novella out on kindle.  It’s a 40k word story called Ravenfold,
 which is set in mediaeval times and filled with unpleasant things but laced with hope. I am continually amazed and astonished at how humanity can rise above adversity.  We are amazing people! 

How did you come to write Ravenfold?

I wrote a 500 word story for a competition run by Michael Brookes.  His prompt for the story was a box-tomb and a rave. A friend who looked at my story said I had more to say about it. The word limit was inhibiting me.  Usually I work hard to get up to 500 words!  I thought about it for a minute or two.  I have a very short attention...  Oh look!  A starling!
So I filled in the story and there you have it!

Any thoughts on writing a full length novel?

My other published work is a few short stories in anthologies and a slack handful of drabbles (100-word stories) contributed to Jonathan Hill’s second drabble book, ‘Beyond 100 Drabbles’.  I didn’t think I could write a novella a few months ago.  At the moment I don’t think I can write a novel but I’ve surprised myself before. To me, the best novels have multiple plot lines, which interweave and can confuse the reader, but it all unravels at the end.  I think that takes a logical mind.  I’m a bit more intuitive.  I ‘find’ an answer then work out how it happened backwards!  Of course, that might be just what is needed for novel plotting.  I’m not assuming I will, but I’m not ruling it out.

If someone produced an audio book of Ravenfold, who would you like to narrate it?

Oh, Derek Jacobi, please!  I love his voice.  He could read me the telephone directory and I’d still be fascinated!

What genre would you not write in unless you were paid a lot of money?

Whatever I say I’m going to upset someone now, aren’t I? However, I don’t think there are funds enough anywhere to make me write (let alone read) paranormal romance!   What’s that about?  “I love ghosts, me!”  Does not compute!

If you wrote an erotic novel, would you publish it under your own name or a pen name?

Erotic fiction doesn’t really appeal to me.  I’m not that sort of Granny!  I do find some writing deeply erotic but it’s not usually flagged up as such.  I like the things that aren’t self-consciously erotic.  I find tender scenes more arousing than rumpy-pumpy which I’m afraid I often find risible.  So I don’t think I’d write it, but if I did, I’d be prepared to stand by it under my own name. 

So, with the books.  Are there any more books on the horizon?

Yes.  I have a second novella, shorter than the first, which is written but will be re-visited in a few weeks’ time to give it a good old editing.  I hope to have both those novellas out in paperback too.  I’ve also begun a third book.  The latter two are set in the present day and the work in progress is possibly the best candidate for being a novel.  At the moment.  Probably!

And in the immediate future?

Home-made spaghetti bolognese!  

Ravenfold is available here!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Dancing With Myself : JIM WINTER interviews JIM WINTER




The Compleat Kepler is a collection of all my short stories that are not Nick Kepler.


Not yet. Nick’s not quite done. But there’s more to crime than just a PI skulking about looking in people’s windows.

Well, Nick is generally not wanting for company, but that company usually gets him into trouble. These stories are about people finding more creative ways to get into trouble.


Well, we have a band manager stick his hand in the band’s collective cookie jar, not really catching on the guitar player and the drummer not only hunt, but they know a good place to bury the body.
We have a good cop make a righteous kill, only it’s the son of a sitting mayor.
We have a chronic loser getting ambitious when he sees an armored car.
I’m particularly fond of “And on the Seventh Day…” That one came about one morning when a street corner preacher called me out for carrying Ken Bruen’s American Skin instead of The Bible. It’s a nice piece of revenge fic. Then there’s “Frank, Jr.,” which came from a challenge by Patty Abbott. I took her literally and wrote about Frank Sinatra, Jr.’s kidnapping from the point of view of the two accomplices.
Yeah, someone challenged me to rewrite a classic short story from another point of view. I picked Poe’s “The Confessor.” The premise was a story in and of itself: Who the hell is Montressor talking to?
There’s one out making rounds now.
I spent last spring rewriting Holland Bay, which is best described as 87th Precinct meets The Wire with a female Carella/McNulty. (Actually, I think she’s more like Bunk in the Carella role, but we’ll see.)
The truth will come out when it comes out.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Untreed Reads Free Book Bonanza :)

Untreed Reads have had their fingers on the e-book pulse for a long time. As a consequence of their knowledge, experience and hard work, they've put together a huge and varied catalogue that includes some brilliant books.

They're also doing something rather special this year. It's the offer of a free book for every month of 2014, up to the value of $5.99 (US) /£3.56. All you need to do go across to their page via this link here and email them your details. It's explained much better on the page, but it's simple and catch free and is really unmissable if you like a bargain and a good book (they're 2 of my favourite things, to putting them together is orchestral).  

If you did need any tips, I can tell you that Discount Noir has some of the finest around in there. Paul D Brazill has his excellent 13 Shots Of Noir; Kaye George and Jack Bates publish with Untreed; Grimm Tales in another anthology, featuring some amazing talent and a foreward by Ken Bruen; and I've got a few of mine there too. That's only a taster - there's a mass to choose from and you'll definitely find something to your taste I can pretty much garuantee.

Check it out and enjoy.



Monday, 6 January 2014

You've Got Mail - or at least you might have...

Remember that great advert about saving energy that had the tag line 'There's plenty of fish-in-the-sea', or some similar great pun on efficiency anyway.

I'm going to try and become more efficient in life this year. Call it a New Year's resolution if you like.

What I'm going to try and do is a little less web-surfing and a little more writing.

This means I'll be less visible. To some of you, this will be a very good thing. To a few others, you might feel like seeing me around. If you're in the latter camp, you might want to sign up to a mail list I've just created. All you need to do is enter your details in the right-hand column here.

What I intend to pass on is interesting information about the books I've read and the books I'm writing or have written. The truth is that I'm not entirely sure how it will shape up. The only thing I can promise subscribers is that I won't be a heavy user (in spite of my OCD).

We'll see how things play out.

Hopefully, you'll sign up and give it a try - there'll always be the option of unsubscribing at a later date.

Thanks for playing.

And Happy New Year folks. See you soon.


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Sherlock Holmes - a little tip

I love Sherlock Holmes in many of his forms.

Last night, I thoroughly enjoyed his return in the latest interpretation, Sherlock. It's impressive stuff.

I do hope that people will decide to read the books on the back of the success of the series, but I also understand that not everyone loves reading or has time for it. Here's a possible solution.

I recently took out an audio-book from the library, a collection of Sherlock's stories. They're brilliant in themselves, but the voice of an audio-book is hugely important. In this case, the books were read by Derek Jacobi.

Derek Jacobi's voice is perfect for the work. He gives his characters accents that fit to a tee, adds colour, flavour, atmosphere and humour in a way that many actors wouldn't be able to pull off. It's superb stuff.

The edition I listened to doesn't seem to be available, but check out e-bay and do the Sherlock / Jacobi search and you'll find them aplenty on CD.

If you love Cumberbatch and Freeman, I think you'll love Jacobi. Seriously.

End of tip.

ps Does anyone know anyone called Sherlock? Or Shylock for that matter?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year - Free and Super Bargain books.

In a few hours, I'll be running into the sea for the New Year's dip. It's a crazy thing and I'd avoid it if the family pressure wasn't so huge. After that it's hot soup and a little social time, followed by a chillax.

The New Year's resolutions have been sketched out, but aren't very interesting and aren't worth sharing.

I'd like to share a few reading opportunities with you though, so you can start your reading year off with a bang.

Best of the lot is the Barney Thomson box set. It's going for a staggering £1.09. I was telling some people to buy it and my wife pointed out that cheap doesn't necessarily mean good. She's right, but I put her right in this case - there are seven books here and the first is soon to be made into a film which will be a hot topic when it's released. Wouldn't you want to be able to say you were there before everyone else? Now's your chance.

Blasted Heath are also running a few other titles at discounted prices. I'm really pleased that they have Smoke in the pile. I think it might be my best work and really feel it deserves a place on a kindle that does't mind brutal fiction.

If you look in the sidebar here, you'll notice that Hymn From A Village is free today. It's a short story collection and I'm proud of it. Imagine a best-of and you're almost there.

Blackwitch Press has so many freebies that I'm not going to list them. Paul D Brazill's done that already and you can check it out by following the link.

I'm pretty excited about Willy Vlautin's new one, The Free. It's to be released at the end of January, but you can pre-order if you're as curious as I am.

Also very well worth a list is the list of favourite reads from last year over at Jen's Book Thoughts. It's a tasty looking list and I'm intending to pick up all of them (one of those resolutions I didn't share). Take a careful look and buy some of her tips - you won't be disappointed, I'm pretty sure.

And that's it for now.

Happy New Year to you - I hope nice things happen to you and the wind's always at your back.