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Tuesday 28 February 2023

ORGAN SYMPHONY - Book excerpts


ORGAN SYMPHONY published by Rough Edges Press

Some crime subjects don’t go away. Organ harvesting is one of them. It crops up in the news from time to time. It’s also the inciting incident that starts this Leon Cazador novel.

Occasionally, I like to book-end a tale – with a quote or image at the beginning and end of the book; for this one, I chose the word ‘heartless’:

August, 2016 - Lazzaretto Piccolo, Laguna Veneto, Italy

Gho Jun chuckled beneath his surgical mask and in his high-pitched voice joked, “Soon our rich client will be heartless, no?”

It doesn’t give anything away to reveal the book’s last line, here:

Carlota nodded. “Truly, Leon, those who ban people from listening to music are heartless.”

By no means exclusively, but in my books (and even some short stories) I attempt to feature places I’ve visited. Here, we go to Venice, Charleston, South Carolina, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Stockbridge, Córdoba and Torrevieja in Spain and Tokyo. The story ranges from 2016 to 2022.

Nik Morton is really good at creating characters and describing action scenes.’ – a reader’s comment.

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

Organ Symphony – a few excerpts:

By chance all three stayed together, and were trucked to South Carolina. Here, Rafael was taken away – it must have been about two weeks ago – and returned with a bandage wrapped round his body. One of the older kids showed his own operation scar, proudly displaying it as a badge of honor, and said, “They start on the bits we’ve got two of – like kidneys, eyes, lungs...” The rest was left unsaid. (p25)


Normally on weekdays they would exercise after waking. With Carlota sitting enticingly on his ankles, he would perform seventy sit-up crunches, alternate elbow to alternate knee, followed by seventy press-ups. Carlota did the same, though she was faster than him – but then again she was younger. After breaking a sweat, they would shower. At the weekend they would refrain and instead perform tai chi in a convenient park for a complete change.

But he’d vowed that on this mini-holiday they would give that form of physical exercise a miss. “Only that form of exercise?” she queried mischievously.

“Quite,” he answered straight-faced. (p97)


A mountainous landscape populated by dragons strode out of the swathes of hammam’s steam and approached Leon Cazador and Carlota.

Leon wasn’t surprised when Carlota stifled a gasp.

Hiroki Kuroda was tattooed over his entire torso and down to his wrists and calves. At a glance, he gave the impression that he was wearing long johns; instead, he was a walking exhibition of body art. Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man always sprang to mind when Leon saw him, but this was no fantasy. As a member of the Yakuza—a Japanese criminal organization similar to the Mafia, but much older—Hiroki as a much younger man had endured hundreds of hours of pain from a bamboo sliver simply to show that he could. He waved a greeting with his left hand. The little finger should have been missing at the first knuckle, but a shining substitute appeared grafted in place.

Sitting on the wooden slats of the bench, Leon wore light blue swimming shorts and Carlota, on his left, was skimpily covered by a dark green bikini she’d brought for use in the hotel pool but had yet had the opportunity to christen.

Hiroki adjusted the towel about his waist, acknowledged Carlota, and lowered his huge bulk on Leon’s right. (p109)


In the blink of an eye Leon raised the pistol and harshly whipped Okudara’s face with the silenced barrel.

The man backed against the shelving and rubbed his chin.

“Carlota,” Leon called over his shoulder, “shoot the other guy’s knees from under him if he so much as blinks!”

Leon aimed his automatic at Okudara’s left knee. “I can even things up,” he said. “You can limp with both legs.” (p167)


“We haven’t packed enough clothing to go gallivanting,” Carlota said. “We were only supposed to spend a couple of days in Córdoba.”

“We’re not gallivanting,” Leon corrected. “This isn’t recreation, my dear, it’s hunting.”

She kissed him. “I like it when you put on your serious face. Sends shivers down my spine.”

He hugged her and traced his fingers down her spine. “This isn’t getting the packing done, is it?”

“There’s time for that, don’t fret, my hunter.” And there was; time for everything. (p179)


Once they were back in their hotel room, Leon unwrapped the brown-paper parcel. Rose had managed to meet his specifications as to size, stopping power and weight. The Beretta Model 84 weighed a mere twenty-three ounces and was only six and a half inches long, suitable for concealing on Carlota’s person. Its magazine held thirteen rounds.

To fill his shoulder holster he’d opted for a Bernardelli P-018, its magazine holding fifteen 9mm parabellum cartridges. The slightly smaller and lighter Tanfoglio TA90 snugly fitted his ankle-holster; it too held fifteen 9mm parabellum cartridges. Rose had also supplied a spare clip of cartridges for each weapon. Between them they should have enough fire-power to deal with a crop of organ harvesters, he reckoned. (p199)


“You’re wet,” he observed. She wasn’t wearing a bra under her clinging white bandeau.

“I can see why you’re a private eye.” She grinned. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to catch my death. The sun and the warm breeze will soon dry me.”

“Hope not – catch death, I mean.” He revved the boat forward.

She stood and moved to his side. “We all die, eventually, darling.”

He hugged her with one arm while steering. “Let us not hasten the inevitable, eh?” (p213)


That, I hope, will provide a flavour at least...

Saturday 25 February 2023

NO PRISONERS - book excerpts



When Leon Cazador discovers the body of a fellow investigator who was working with the British National Crime Agency to infiltrate a pedophile group that uses the pursuit of golf as a cover for their organized abuses, he refuses to chalk it up to coincidence. Seeking justice for his fallen friend, Leon is presented with another missing person’s case. But this one is decidedly different. Diving deeper, Leon finds himself one step closer to uncovering the deadly pedophile ring that took down his comrade. Finding missing persons is all in a day’s work for Leon. But can he fight his ultimate nightmare in a race against time to save a group of innocent children and exact revenge on their abusers?

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:


“But you can’t tell me about it,’ Leon said. A statement, not a question.

“I’d like to – you know, unburden myself. The luxury of catharsis. But no, I’ll leave you out of it. Just breaking bread with you helps, even if I don’t divulge any details. I tell you what, though – I’ll never look at golf in the same way again!”

And with that cryptic remark he seemed to cheer up and they had finished the bottle of red.

If only he had quit the job, Leon reflected. Instead, the poor guy had quit this mortal coil. (p5)


Carlota Diaz had high cheekbones which flushed at sight of him. She was twenty-four yet had a mature head on relatively young shoulders, which had served her well in the police – until she was shot in the leg by an escaping felon. Afterwards she’d been offered a desk job but she decided to resign instead. Leon made her a better offer.

She limped up to him, her warm and smooth hands clasping his. “I waited in for you.”

“Thank you. There was no need.” He gently released her hold and shut the door. He was pleased to see her. She was always full of life, a beacon of hope in the gray world he tended to inhabit.

They had a good relationship, despite the difference in their ages; God, it didn’t bear thinking about: he was thirty years older! His heart held a special place for her, but they had not taken it further than the occasional kiss. That age difference inhibited him. (p10)


Wanda stood up at the head of the table and explained: “You all may not appreciate that this is a fairly radical venture. For too long paedophiles have been shunned by society. You’re probably aware that in the bad old days homosexuals were ostracized, hated and hounded, and yet, nowadays, they are widely regarded as ordinary, healthy people, no more ‘ill’ than people who are left-handed. It really is time that paedophilia should perhaps gain similar acceptance.”

“I can’t see that happening any time soon,” moaned Curtis. “I’m no youngster and I fear it won’t happen in my lifetime.”

“Oh, don’t be so pessimistic,” countered Nige. “What PG is doing is quite exciting! The fervent following of a popular sport – what could be more innocuous and acceptable, eh?” (p93) 


From the office safe he took out his Astra A-100 automatic snug in its black leather shoulder holster, and dumped it on his desk.

Then he opened the closet in the corner. He removed his shirt, bunched it in a roll and gave his underarms a swift wipe with it then dropped it in the wastebasket. From the closet he took a black silk long-sleeved shirt and put it on , kicked off his shoes, unbelted his pants and replaced them with a black pair of cargo pants.

Carlota was unfazed. The first time he’d needed to change in a hurry, he’d asked her to go into her office. She’d complied but halfway through changing she’d entered with an urgent phone-call. “Don’t worry,” she’d said, “nudity is no big deal.” So this wasn’t the first time he’d undressed in front of her. Nor would it be the last, he suspected.

He selected a pair of black rock hopper neoprene shoes and fastened them.

She delved into a filing cabinet and handed him two magazines for the gun.

He distributed them in the various pants pockets so they wouldn’t make a noise knocking against each other. Finally, he pocketed two pairs of latex gloves and a set of wire-cutters.

“I guess you’re ready to go?” she said, stroking his cheek. (p111)


Victims don’t stop being victims once they’re dead, Leon thought, facing the sick individual. “I’m not going to shoot you,” he said.

Andrés let out a sigh of relief and hastily crossed himself. Hypocrite.

Instead, Leon kicked Andrés between the legs, putting as much power and anger he could muster into the movement. The contact was immensely satisfying.

Andrés yelped and bent forward, wobbling with his pants round his ankles, trying to retain his balance while intent on clutching his damaged manhood. Next instant, Leon deployed the ninja Fudo-ken, the clenched fist slamming full into the bastard’s nose, shattering the bone structure. While the bone and cartilage probably wouldn’t penetrate this sick person’s brain, the blow would undoubtedly cause subdural hematoma which was bound to deny the brain adequate blood flow. As a result, a biochemical cascade was in all likelihood happening right now as Leon dispassionately watched. Brain cell death was imminent. No great loss to humanity. (p121)


Myriad stars and a full moon shone in the deep blue night sky and reflected in the waters of Marsaskala Bay. Other reflections, from the odd occupied moored boat and buildings, bars and restaurants, diminished the magical effect. Dressed in their gray-and-black wetsuits and wearing their buoyancy compensators, an air tank each, and neoprene gloves and footwear, Leon and Carlota carried the rest of their scuba gear down to the rocky shore. Here, in the light of the moon they did their pre-dive checks on each other – air switched on, all quick-releases and straps secure, visible and within reach, and contents gauges showed “full”. Then they put on their fins and face-masks and swam a short distance into the wide bay and then submerged. (p184)



The far door opened and a man walked in carrying a full bottle of vodka. Replenishment time. He saw them immediately. He was right-handed and the bottle was in his right hand. He fumbled. Instead of dropping the bottle – which would have smashed on the tile floor – he grabbed it with his left hand, clutching it to his chest, then reached for the revolver in his shoulder-holster.

Leon fired once. His bullet went through the vodka bottle, shattering it, soaking the man, and penetrated his chest, the vodka doubtless anaesthetizing the wound in the process. Not that it would do any good. He collapsed noisily to the floor amidst the shards of glass and liquor, dead.

“No prisoners,” Carlota whispered behind him. (p189)







Tuesday 21 February 2023

ROGUE PREY - Book excerpts


ROGUE PREY – Published by Rough Edges Press


Kindle currently £0.99/$0.99 -


Each hunter has the same equipment—a sniper rifle, five bullets and a machete. An even killing field.

A corrupt organization in Spain is selling the ultimate thrill. They cater to rich amateur game-hunters who hunger for the privilege of stalking and killing human prey. Their targets are non-persons. In effect, the vile process gets rid of illegal immigrants. Enter Leon Cazador—a half-English, half-Spanish private investigator who occasionally assists the authorities. Eager to take down this immoral organization, he’s tasked with going full cloak-and-dagger. But when his cover is blown and he’s forced to join nine other captives, will he become the hunters’ ultimate prey?

Here are a few excerpts:

‘Oh, I’ve made a kill or two,’ Leon said.

‘Which wildlife have you potted?’ Rudolf asked.

‘Plenty of wild animals.’ Mostly men.

‘Do you collect trophies?’ Harley pressed.

‘No. I just kill.’ Never for pleasure. (p24)


‘You’ve been in the wars, I see.’ Mateo indicated the scars on Leon’s torso and arms.

Knife and bullet wounds. But you should see the other guys – in the cemetery.

Mateo said, ‘Lost your tongue, eh?’

Leon recalled a Spanish proverb: Don’t mention the noose in the house of the hanged man. By now, his bruised stomach was advising him not to say the wrong thing anymore. He compromised and shrugged.

Mateo said, ‘No matter. We aren’t here to chat.’

Then the so-called ‘softening-up’ process began. (p40)


‘Your silly quips, they hide your insecurity, your fear, I know,’ she said.

‘I hope you don’t charge by the hour,’ Leon said. ‘Your psychoanalysis is sadly very wrong.’

‘You would say that, wouldn’t you?’ She came closer and touched his bare torso, running a hand over a couple of ancient scars. The tip of her tongue wetted her lips. ‘For a man of your age, you have kept yourself fit. A lesser man, taking such a beating…’ She lifted a shoulder fatalistically.

‘I’ll live.’

‘Not for much longer, though.’

‘We all must die sometime. Even you.’ (p49)


Baeza addressed Leon and the rest of the so-called targets: ‘I will signal the end of your thirty minutes with a single shot.’ He tapped his holster. ‘That will tell you that our hunters will begin tracking you down.’ He beamed sincerely. ‘And when they find you – which they will – they will not hesitate to eliminate you. All of you. Without exemption. This is an equal opportunity hunt!’

He unholstered his revolver – it looked like a Smith & Wesson Model 500 – and gestured with the barrel. ‘Get ready!’ he bellowed.

He consulted his fob watch and then fired the gun in the air. ‘Go! Run for your miserable lives!’ (p85)

Wednesday 15 February 2023

TOKYO STATION - Book review


Martin Cruz Smith’s standalone thriller Tokyo Station was published in 2002. I’ve read several of his books and haven’t found a bad one yet. This one is very impressive indeed.

The book spans three time periods: 1922 in Tokyo when the main character Harry Niles is a young boy; 1937 in Nanking, mainly a flashback of Harry’s that reveals the many atrocities committed by the Japanese against the Chinese; and 1941 in Tokyo, some days before the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour.

The amount of detail seems prodigious but never swamps the narrative.

Harry was the son of an American missionary couple Roger and Harriet who were absent and busy proselytising most of his formative years. He gets involved with a gang of Japanese kids and quickly learns the language and the tricks of pickpocketing and generally conning people. A chance encounter with a local artist Kato ends up with him running errands and fraternising with his models, among them the beautiful Oharu. ‘To Americans a whore was a whore unless she was willing to be rescued; to the Japanese, a girl sold by her family to a brothel was a model daughter’ (p262).

Harry’s close friend Gen undertakes one of Harry’s errands as a favour and becomes involved with one of Kato’s clients, the enigmatic samurai Ishigami. Years later, Harry is responsible for Ishigami losing face in Nanking and thereafter he is hunted by the samurai. And neither he nor his friends and lovers are safe from the samurai sword…

The switches between the timelines are not labelled, but in most instances it’s obvious when that shift occurs.

Harry’s parents didn’t have much success in converting the citizenry: ‘The Japanese would smile, bow and say anything to move the gaijin along. Or would accept Jesus as a mere backup to Buddha’ (p101).

Harry owns and runs The Happy Paris nightclub. His jukebox operator is Michiko, who possesses a fiery temper and shares his bed. To complicate matters Harry lusts after Alice, the wife of the British ambassador, Beechum: ‘She did crossword puzzles in four languages. Most of the day, she was a brainless thing who spent her life at the Ginza’s shops and smart cafes, but every morning she spent in the code room of the British embassy’ (p168).

The imminent war with the United States is like an oppressive shroud over the Tokyo of 1941.  ‘A cart with metal-rimmed wheels went by, the nocturnal visit of the night-soil man visiting homes without plumbing, gathering what kept the rice fields fertile, the cycle of life at its most basic. The cart moved aside to let pass a van with the crossed poles and looped wires of a radio direction finder on the roof. The van sifted the air for illegal transmissions the way a boat night-rolled for squid. Or, Harry speculated, if the van was from the Thought Police, perhaps they were trying to sift dangerous ideas out of the air’ (p54).

Unusually, there is an instance of a single paragraph running to almost six pages (pp241-247), but Smith can be forgiven as it’s a painful reminiscence of his time in Nanking and his encounter with Ishigami – powerfully done.

Harry’s sexual awakening is finely judged and well told without being prurient. It’s almost poetic: ‘Followed by a profound sleep with Harry folded around  Oharu as if they were riding with their eyes closed slowly through the rain, the heart’s rhythm like a black horse. A faint electric haze lay in all directions. They rode through high grass soughing in the wind’ (p257).

A willow house was an establishment where geishas entertained, and there were plenty of them about. ‘A willow suggested something yielding and feminine, the sort of tree that knelt by water to admire its own reflection’ (p266).

There are suspenseful moments, some others quite grisly, and several finely tuned wisecracks pepper the tale. The characters are fallible, complex and believable. Throughout, Smith captures the time and the place convincingly. Recommended.

Saturday 11 February 2023

SEA LEOPARD - Book review

Craig Thomas is on top form with his seventh novel, the thriller
Sea Leopard published in 1981.

This adventure again features Kenneth Aubrey, Deputy Director of British Intelligence, and Patrick Hyde, one of his field agents.

The book begins with a map of the North Sea, UK, Scandinavia and Russia and the Barents Sea. This is followed by documents from Plessey, the weapons manufacturer, the SIS, Ministry of Defence and the US Navy Defence Department, all relating to the installation of a new anti-sonar system for submarines, ‘Leopard’.

The nuclear submarine HMS Proteus has the system installed and is running trials at sea when a distress call is detected.

At about this time a search was underway for Leopard’s inventor, Quinn, who has gone missing. Hyde is attempting to track down Quinn. Soviet agents are attempting to abduct Quinn’s daughter, Tricia, in the hope that she will lead them to Quinn’s whereabouts.

The distress call is a trap and the captain of Proteus, Commander Lloyd falls for it.

The tension mounts as a number of Soviet surface ships and submarines play cat-and-mouse with the Proteus – for their sonar is incapable of detecting the British submarine, thanks to ‘Leopard’.

Ingenious methods are deployed by Russian Valery Ardenyev, office in charge of the Soviet Underwater Special Ops Unit to incapacitate the submarine and take the crew captive and then learn everything about the Leopard system.

A rescue mission is then mounted by Aubrey, using USN special agent Ethan Clark.

The suspense mounts, switching from Hyde’s search in England, Ardenyev’s bold assault in inclement weather, Aubrey’s altercations with Ministers and the Navy’s hierarchy, Commander Lloyd’s concern for the safety of his vessel and crew, and Clark’s near-impossible mission on the edge of the Arctic Circle.

 A gripping thriller that time has not spoiled in the slightest. 

Wednesday 8 February 2023

BEN RETALLICK - Book review


The first of E.V. Thompson’s nine book historical saga, Ben Retallick, was published in 1980. It begins in Cornwall in March 1818. The title character is fifteen and has just survived the flooding of the tin mine where he worked. His father Pearson, 37, also a miner, is suffering from years of working underground mining tin: ‘I’ve spent too many years following tin lodes, Ben. I carry a part of every one of them inside me now.’ In short, he’s finished; the tin in his blood and lungs.  Ben makes the acquaintance of Jesse Henna, a young girl and neighbour. There appears to be a mystery involving Jesse’s mother Maude and the local landowner Sir John Vincent. We will learn the answer in good time. However, when Sir John’s Colman inherits the manor house and land, he casts out the Hennas and encourages his game-keeper Reuben Holyoak to wed Jesse. Colman is not a pleasant man.

Holyoak is unaware of the attraction Ben and Jesse share. ‘In the darkness of the night, with only the stars to bear witness, Ben and Jesse had consummated their love, and Jesse had crossed the threshold of womanhood’ (p100).

Times were hard in those days, and people suffered real grinding poverty, and Thompson reflects this well. All the ingredients are here: suicide, press gang abductions, still-born birth, mob anger, fishermen and tin miners at odds, the imposition of cruel law, death on the gallows, drunken domestic violence, blighted love, poignant deaths, kind-hearted neighbours and social commentary that never dominates the story and characters.

The second volume is Chase the Wind (which surprisingly was published in 1977!).