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Tuesday 31 March 2009

A Numbers Game

Thought these figures might be of interest.
Sadly, they don’t mean any extra royalties or even book reprints.
Of course, like any ranking, it’s ephemeral, but, hey, it's nice to be in a top ten listing!
The figures were posted on

Thursday, 26 March 2009
Robert Hale Western Bestsellers at The Book Depository - 26 March

1. Nightmare Pass - Lance Howard
2. The Tarnished Star - Jack Martin
3. Last Chance Saloon - Ross Morton
4. All Guns Blazing - Douglas Thorne
5. Draw Down the Lightning - Ben Bridges
6. Death at Bethesda Falls - Ross Morton
7. Return to Black Rock - Scott Connor
8. Silver Galore - John Dyson
9. Meredith's Gold - Philip Harbottle
10. Two for Sonora - Ryan Bodie

The amazing thing is that Jack Martin's book isn't published until the end of May so it has gained that position with pre-orders. Well done, Gary (Jack)!
Nik (Writing as Ross Morton)

Monday 30 March 2009

Genre Fiction Review: Ms Tree

Max Allan Collins

Hard Case Crime

Way back in 1980 the versatile and prolific Max Allan Collins created a comic book character called Ms Tree – a play on words: Miz Tree/mystery – illustrated by Terry Beatty. Even the book’s title is a play on words. Over the years the character has survived and even been optioned for film but this is the first Ms Tree novel.

Followers of the comics will note that there are differences; this is in fact a reworking of the ‘origin’ story for Ms Tree. From the beginning, it’s obvious this is going to be an intriguing ride. Michael (her father wanted a boy) is undergoing a session with her shrink, Dr Cassel and this is the framework for the first person narrative. Ms Tree is feisty, in-your-face, sexy and hurting. A year back her PI husband of one day was murdered. She killed the perp and took over the detective agency in his stead. While not the first female PI, she’s certainly been a strong influence on subsequent authors as she pushed the boundaries of what could be tackled by a PI, including abortion, homophobia, devil worship, incest, child pornography and date rape.

Ms Tree is asked by Homicide detective Rafe Valer to look into a no-brainer homicide. Why is that? Seems an open-and-shut case – the wife was found with the smoking gun and her husband’s bullet-riddled body was in bed with that of a hooker. Inevitably, her investigation drags up old issues, the possible involvement of the Muerta organized crime family, seemingly unconnected deaths and, before she knows it, Ms Tree is rethinking the murder of her husband Mike…

Max Collins has been round the block and it’s clear he knows how to write. Non-fiction, comics (Batman), comic strips (Dick Tracy), graphic novels (The Road to Perdition), novelisations (NYPD Blue, CSI), novels (The Last Quarry) to touch on a few.

This story flows deceptively effortlessly. Ms Tree is believable, likeable and fun. There are many slick one-liners. For example, ‘Rap sheet thicker than a Stephen King.’ There’s irony, too: the doctor began his autopsy, ‘which seemed overkill, considering the cause of death just might be the three bullet wounds…’

Deadly Beloved has everything that pulp fiction should be: fast and furious, great characters, with page-turning prose yet laced with morality, compassion, humanity and plenty of action. Sure, it ain’t great literature, but it delivers everything you want from the genre, hence the high score (5 stars). More please.

The cover of course is painted by Terry Beatty.

Sunday 29 March 2009


61 days to go to the publication of THE $300 MAN by Ross Morton - end of May 2009

125 days to go to the publication of the Large Print paperback version of LAST CHANCE SALOON by Ross Morton - end of July 2009.

Out of stock - the Large Print version of DEATH AT BETHESDA FALLS by Ross Morton.

Countdown etc according to today's view of (postfree worldwide).

Saturday 28 March 2009

Hale Book Review: The Fate of Women

As I'm a Robert Hale author, I thought it's about time I reviewed some of that esteemed publisher's books here. Naturally, I've been doing this for the westerns, but now I'm branching out.

First up, then, The Fate of Women by Lawrence Williams (2007). It's a gripping and well-written crime novel that resonates even after the end. DS Jack Bull is a tough, no-holds-barred copper, a bit of an anachronism in today’s police. But even his superiors acknowledge he gets things done. So he is recruited into SIU, the Serious Incident Unit, a shadowy police group that has UK-wide influence and powers. Jack has a history of womanising and now ironically he is being asked to find and arrest a serial killer who is killing released rapists. Jack is tasked with becoming Jake Corelli, a rapist liable to be next on the killer’s list. He is the bait, no less. Yet his attitude is ambivalent, particularly after he meets some rapist victims, because his sympathies lie entirely with these damaged women.

Authors especially may be interested in the fact that the narrative begins in the present tense, first person, from Jack’s viewpoint. Then it's first person historic, quite normal, and then we perceive his world in the third person as Corelli. Finally, we return to Jack’s perceptions in first person historic. There was the risk that this shifting of point of view could jar, but within a short time it seems to work and the reader inhabits the mind-set of Jack and even his alter ego Jake. Throughout, there is a sense of brooding doom hovering, not helped by the manipulative machinations of Jack’s bosses, Mr Stone with the metal hand and Mr Frimmer.

There are plenty of grim insights into Jack’s past and why he has no illusions about his unmarried place in the world he inhabits. ‘… the corrupting effect of being a police officer…; the poison of it wrecking marriages, breaking those apparently well-ordered homes to which colleagues returned drained and contaminated.’

Williams’s wry observations of characters raise a smile too. ‘… lost the salesman’s consolation of believing his own sales talk. He knows himself a hewer of wood in a plastic age.’ Succinct but illuminating. A number of characters are drawn with great wit and sympathy, notably the landlady and her small clientele. The light and ironic touches are welcome because, of course, the subject matter is grim. As Jack observes, ‘the murder victim knows no consequences; the rape victim lives them for ever.’

Sadly, even in this so-called enlightened age, some men believe it is the fate of women to be forced into becoming unwilling vessels of pleasure. This tale, a strong and deeply felt indictment against such primitive attitudes, concludes on a note of compassion amidst the violence. Strong stuff.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Book of the film: The Searchers

Alan Le May
(Leisure Books)

Some fifty years after first seeing the movie, I’ve finally read the book that inspired the iconic Ford western film. Apparently, the book has been out of print for decades. Well, it was worth the wait. LeMay is an excellent storyteller, building his characters with deft touches. He employs what is now regarded as the old-fashioned style, the omniscient point of view so we get inside the feelings of more than one character within a particular scene; it works because he never loses control.

Interestingly, the John Wayne character Ethan Edwards is called Amos in the book, and is not the lead. The story is told mainly through the eyes of orphan Martin Pauley, whose father was called Ethan. Surprisingly, perhaps, the film stayed true to the story even though Wayne dominates.

Inevitably, there are grim scenes in the book, but no gratuitous gore. There’s humour too. Amos says he had no book learning. ‘To us, grammar is nothing but grampaw’s wife.’ The old ones are the best. And later, the observation is made about tequila that ‘There is a great independence, and a confident immunity to risk, in all drinks made out of cactus.’

Possibly some people haven’t seen the film. Put simply, the book concerns the Edwards family who are massacred by a Commanche raiding party; the two young daughters are abducted. Amos and Martin set out on a quest to rescue the girls and also avenge the deaths of Amos’s brother and sister-in-law, the woman he loved and lost. They track the Indians until the snows obliterate all trace. Finally, when the snows have gone, Amos and Martin resume their search, persisting for over five years. And all this time Martin fears that Amos is intent on killing his nieces because they were bound to be ‘spoiled’. The book’s ending only slightly differs from the film; both versions are moving and memorable.

The striking cover is not merely a colourful generic image – the silhouette of the tree is significant to Martin’s recurring nightmares.

As a bonus, the book has a special introduction by Andrew J Fenady, who wrote several Wayne westerns and was the actor’s pal; as he says, ‘No man was more a part of the American landscape… He was a man to match the mountains.’

Justifiably, a modern classic western: 5 stars. (Leisure books are bringing out other classic westerns later this year)

Monday 9 March 2009

'Local author Nik psychs his way to a gripping thriller'

‘Nik Morton has been a writer virtually all his working life. Even having now ‘retired’ to the Costa Blanca he still contributes to periodicals in both England and Spain… when I received a reviewing copy of his book The Prague Manuscript, I had no idea what to expect. I was in for something of a surprise.

‘After what I felt was a raher bland introduction I found myself in a world of double-dealing and intrigue at a level which made James Bond and Modesty Blaise look like rank amateurs; I’m sure that John Le CarrĂ© enthusiasts would agree with me. Nik’s Cold War espionage tale was fast moving and had more than one sting in it. Action turns me on, I am addicted to this kind of thriller so when I discovered that a local author could get me on the edge of my seat and still add a few exotic touches to the spymaster genre I reckon I’d landed a unique bonus.

‘I’ve been weaned on highly trained agents with all kinds of fancy offensive gear at their fingertips; masters of such disciplines as kung fu and jiu-jitsu, constantly hpped in and out of bed. Nik goes one better with his mind-blowing characters. Through the medium of his super spy, Tana Standish – an Amazon of Polish/English extraction – he adds more than a touch of paprika to the machinations of the cloak and dagger world and weaves a really cleverly contrived plot – explosive from start to finish. Get this – Tana is not just a superwoman but a psychic too. Yet confusing the issue, the opposition are also training psychic agents, one of whom is able to influence Tana’s movements yet appeas to be sympatico… (plot revelations omitted)

‘This tale is a lively, well written espionage adventure with plenty of twists. And it seems there is to be a sequel – or do I mean sequels?’
The New Coastal Press, March 2009 – reviewer unknown, but it wasn't me!

That was a nice surprise and totally unexpected. The introduction may appear ‘bland’ to an action addict, but its purpose was to set the scene for the series, whereby I, the author, come into possession of highly classified manuscripts about Tana Standish and her fellow agents; this pseudo-factual conceit is maintained for the sequels too. And reviewer Danny Collins thought that it was even more effective than the similar ploys of Jack Higgins, praise indeed.