Only Killers And Thieves by Paul Howarth – Review.

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About the Book

One scorching day in Australia deserted outback, Tommy McBride and his brother Billy return home to discover that their parents have been brutally murdered.

Distraught and desperate for revenge, the young men set out in search of the killers. But the year is 1885, and the only man who can help them is the cunning and ruthless John Sullivan wealthy landowner and their father’s former employer.

Rallying a posse of men, Sullivan defers to the deadly Inspector Noone and his Queensland Native Police an infamous arm of colonial power whose sole purpose is the dispersal of Indigenous Australians in protection of settler rights. The retribution that follows will leave a lasting scar on the colony and the country it later becomes. It will also haunt Tommy for the rest of his life.

Set against Australia s stunningly harsh landscapes, Only Killers and Thieves is a compelling, devastating novel about cruelty and survival, injustice and honour and about two brothers united in grief, then forever torn apart.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.I read a lot of historical fiction but this is the first that I have read that is set in Australia and also the one with the biggest impact. It is set in Queensland in 1885 at a troubling time with the white settlers determined to remove the Indigenous Australians from the land that they want for their own. I had heard of the horrific events that had happened but I had never heard of the role that the Native Police played.
It is a fascinating book to read, often upsetting, often sickening but it’s also humbling and shows the different ways of coping with grief. Both Tommy and Billy cope in different ways,Billy is determined to be just like the men they are with, and he wants to prove himself and Tommy is determined not to be.
There is some violence, you couldn’t really expect anything else with a book like this, but it’s almost like being in the background. It does happen, sometimes with graphic descriptions, but most of the novel focuses on the increasing differences between the two brothers and the volatile situation in the group. There are more horrible people than nice ones, some could show compassion and understanding but then they would show their true colours in other ways. The second part of the novel which is only short shows that attitudes don’t really change but there was a chance to make amends.
It is an important piece of fiction, brilliantly written with plenty of compassion and understanding. Highly recommended and I’m sure it will be one of my top books for 2018.

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh – Blog Tour Review.

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About The Book

To your knowledge, is there anything that would preclude you from serving on this jury?’

Murder wasn’t the hard part. It was just the start of the game.

Joshua Kane has been preparing for this moment his whole life. He’s done it before. But this is the big one.

This is the murder trial of the century. And Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house.

But there’s someone on his tail. Someone who suspects that the killer isn’t the man on trial.

Kane knows time is running out – he just needs to get to the conviction without being discovered.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Thirteen is the second full length novel that I have read featuring Eddie Flynn. And what a brilliant novel it is and it has served a reminder that I need to read the two that I missed.
It is a court based drama, which you can gather from the synopsis, but the first half of the novel concerns Kane and his attempts to be part of the jury on the case involving a Hollywood celebrity. It also focuses on Eddie trying to find a way of clearing his client’s name. What the author does so well is his different personalities. He shows the ‘showbiz’ side to the top named lawyers who are only interested in getting their names in the papers and who have no interest in justice.  And he does the ones who are in a situation they have no control over. There are only a couple who do the job for the right reasons. One of these is Eddie. Eddie is different to the others, he has a conscience, a dubious past and a wrecked marriage. But he refuses to back down, believing his client is innocent.
The parts of the novel that involved Kane were sinister. The reader knows from the prologue what he is capable of and he gets worse. There is nothing that he will stop at to ensure that he will be on he jury.  I had no idea who he was or how far he would go to do this, nor did I know why. He is only ever identified as Kane, not the person he pretends to be.
I don’t read much court based drama, they sometimes feel a little cold but this series is different to all the others. This is a series that has a lawyer who despite his past and his faults, is honest, down to earth and has a good heart. He wants to earn a living, who doesn’t? but he wants to do his job to the best of his ability for the right reason.
I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next.

THIRTEEN BLOG TOUR (002)

Rubicon by Ian Patrick -Blog Tour Review.

 

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About the Book

Two cops, both on different sides of the law – both with the same gangland boss in their sights. Sam Batford is a corrupt undercover officer with the Metropolitan Police who will stop at nothing to get his hands on fearsome crime-lord Vincenzo Guardino’s drug supply. DCI Klara Winter runs a team on the National Crime Agency, she’s also chasing down Guardino, but unlike Sam Batford she’s determined to bring the gangster to justice and get his drugs off the streets. Set in a time of austerity and police cuts where opportunities for corruption are rife, Rubicon is a tense, dark thriller that is definitely not for the faint hearted.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Rubicon is one of those novels that takes over your life. From the opening chapter I could see immediately that this would be a novel that I would struggle to put down. It was very fast paced with some very unlikable characters.
The characters who feature are either members of the police, from a variety of departments, none of whom really want to work together or criminals. There is at least one who is both. I had my suspicions about more. Sam Batford is one of them, and unlike the others he admits to being corrupt from the beginning.
You get to know him quite well. When I first read about his nightmares I felt very unsettled, mainly because I hadn’t realised what was happening. But that, and his other nightmares explain a lot about the way he is. They made me realise that even though he was a corrupt officer it wasn’t only for his gain. He noticed a lot more than I did.
I read a huge amount of crime fiction and thought I had seen it all. But this book contains murders that are among the most gruesome that I’ve read. I think that when this book makes it to the TV screen, it has been optioned by the BBC, I will be hiding behind a cushion.
A great debut, I just wonder what will be next.

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My #20booksofsummer2018

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Last year I did a  challenge called #20booksofsummer that was devised by Cathy at 746Books. The plan is to read 20 books between 1st June and 3 September. It was something I really enjoyed doing and after some consideration I decided I would do it again this year.
If 20 is too many  you could also choose to read 10 or 15 books. I have decided to go for 20 hoping mainly to get the books that are outstanding on my NetGalley shelf down to a manageable level. There are also a few for blog tours that I have committed to.

I have listed all the books I want to read along with their descriptions. Some may change, but this year I hope to stick to my original list.

1) Big Sister  by Gunner Staalesen Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen – Blog Tour Review.

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2) Letterbox by P. A. Davies

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3) The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke

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4) Find You In The Dark by Nathan Ripley

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5) Only Killers And Thieves by Paul Howarth Only Killers And Thieves by Paul Howarth – Review.

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6) It Was Her by Mark Hill

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7) Don’t Make A Sound by David Jackson

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8) Dead Of Night by Michael Stanley

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9) Snap by Belinda Bauer

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10) Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

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11) Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman

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12) Redemption Point by Candice Fox

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13) The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

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14) The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

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15) The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox

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16) The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste

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17) The Lost by Mari Hannah

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18) The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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19) Blood Lines by Angela Marsons

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20) Do No Harm by Lucy Hay

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The Man Who Lived Twice by David Taylor – Guest Post – Blog Tour.

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It is my pleasure today to welcome to my blog David Taylor to  talk about true facts in historical fiction.

About the Book

The Man Who Lived Twice tells the remarkable story of a nineteenth century British anti-hero. Colonel George St Leger Grenfell was the black sheep in one of Cornwall s most illustrious families. His wild speculations in Paris bankrupted his father and drove his brothers and sisters out of their home. Wanted for fraud in France and mosque desecration in Morocco, Grenfell became a soldier of fortune, a mercenary who fought in innumerable campaigns all over the world, always with conspicuous gallantry. He charged with the Light Brigade at Balaclava, defended the bullet-strewn barricades in the Indian Mutiny, hacked his way through the Chinese Opium War and helped Garibaldi to liberate Italy. Sailing to America to fight in their Civil War, Ole St Lege became a legend to the gullible hillbillies under his command.

As massive armies collided and one hair-raising cavalry charge followed another, this complex man fell in love with a beautiful spy and came to realise that he could no longer run away from his past. In what was to become a spiritual odyssey, Grenfell met the men and women who made, marred and mythologised the American century: the business tycoons and social reformers as well as the Lincoln conspirators and back-shooting gunslingers. Although seemingly indestructible – in one military skirmish he was shot eleven times without serious injury – Grenfell had to endure long years in prison before his luck finally changed. The Man Who Lived Twice describes a personal search for redemption set against the emergence of the United States as a world power.

GUEST BLOG: THE MAKING OF HISTORICAL FICTION

Is your story true? Historical novelists are often asked this question. Sadly, there is no clear-cut answer. Truth is a relative term not an absolute. The belief that there is a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of later interpretation is a complete nonsense. Yes, you can get your dates right. The Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 but where it was fought and why the Normans beat the Saxons are still hotly debated issues.
We know comparatively little about the distant past and what we do know is coloured by the fact that history is always written by the winners. For instance, in the sixteenth century, a historian’s first duty was to support the shaky Tudor claim to the throne while, even in the modern age of mass communication, those in power have been tempted to suppress serious criticism, which helps to explain gulags and concentration camps.
So where does this leave history? I think it’s like a shipwreck that has sunk out of sight, leaving bits of debris floating on the surface for scholars to salvage. In sifting through this flotsam, historians come to radically different conclusions about the wider picture. It’s like trying to do a jigsaw when most of the pieces are missing. ‘Facts are not truth,’ award-winning author Hilary Mantel argues, but simply ‘the record of what’s left on the record’ – state papers, birth and death certificates, self-serving biographies or merely scraps of writing. What’s not there, of course, is unrecorded speech, the testimony of the masses. Hence the need for historical fiction which, at its best, fills many of the gaps and silences in the archives.
Hailed as a new art form, the historical novel actually draws on a very old tradition. Before the written word, our ancestors relied on storytelling, an oral history that was far more democratic than the document-based evidence that succeeded it. ‘The historian will tell you what happened,’ wrote the American author E L Doctorow. ‘The novelist will tell you what it felt like.’ What matters is not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, the poetic awakening of ordinary folk.
And it took a poet to get the ball rolling. Finding himself eclipsed by Byron’s celebrity and greater originality, Sir Walter Scott abandoned narrative verse and turned to fiction with immediate success. The first edition of Waverley in 1814 sold out in two days. However, not everyone welcomed its appearance. ‘Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones – it is not fair,’ wrote Jane Austen, with tongue in cheek. ‘He has fame and profit enough as a poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths.’
There was no stopping Sir Walter’s literary juggernaut. Churning out twenty-seven books in seventeen years, he made himself the greatest writer of his age and remained a literary icon long after his death, almost as revered as Shakespeare for his ability to visualise history. His tartan kilted romances were said to have defined Scottish identity while Ivanhoe, his twelfth century tale of love, valour and intrigue, not only glamorized the Middle Ages but reawakened academic interest in it. Scott’s influence was everywhere. An ocean away in America, his tales of chivalry – the cult of knightly honour and the glorification of womanhood – captured the romantic imagination of the Southern upper classes to such an extent that Mark Twain would later claim that Sir Walter was largely to blame for the American Civil War.
But it couldn’t last. Tastes were changing. Scott’s romances fell out of fashion as Victorian England searched for social and psychological realism. Dickens and Thackeray authored grittier stories for a new generation while, far away in Russia, Tolstoy wrote War and Peace, a truly panoramic novel which somehow managed to be both romantic and realistic.
The divide between these two kinds of historical fiction is very apparent today. Bookshops stack shelves with the latest historical romances, many of which have lurid bodice-ripping covers, although none of these books could possibly equal Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 masterpiece, Gone With the Wind, a sweeping Civil War novel that was also a lament for a lost civilisation, an Iliad with a Southern accent. Much less shelf space but rather more praise will be devoted to the literary subgenre known as historical realism, a category in which Hilary Mantel’s novels about the inner life of Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell surely take pride of place.
Which brings me to my own novel, The Man Who Lived Twice, and why anyone should buy it. In answering that question, I might direct you to the reviews on the book’s Amazon page where it is called ‘an epic tale’ with ‘a gripping narrative’ and flattering comparisons are drawn with Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey series. I know this much; I wanted my readers to experience the carnage of a Civil War battlefield and to know what it was like to wear heavy leg irons in a damp prison cell with cockroaches and mosquitos for company. To trigger my imagination, I used real people and real historical events, filling the gaps in the story as I went along. But why don’t I tell you about it and let you decide whether my novel deserves a place on your bookshelf?
The Man Who Lived Twice is a panoramic novel set largely in nineteenth century America. Its central character is Colonel George St Leger Grenfell, a courageous but deeply flawed Cornish mercenary who happened to be the highest-ranking British officer in the Confederate Army. Admired by General Robert E Lee and a legend to the gullible hillbillies under his command, ‘Ole St Lege’ claimed to have charged with the Light Brigade at Balaclava, hacked his way through the Opium War, defended the bullet-strewn barricades in the Indian Mutiny and helped Garibaldi liberate Italy. Yet the tall, forbidding figure who tells these campfire tales is a wanted criminal, a fraudster who bankrupted his own father. He also has a death wish, an almost suicidal urge to risk his skin for a cause he privately believes to be doomed.
As massive armies collide and one hair-raising cavalry charge follows another, this complex man meets the love of his life, Rose Greenhow, a femme fatale who had gone from being the de facto First Lady in the White House to a notorious Confederate spy, and comes to realise he can no longer run away from his past. In his spiritual odyssey, Grenfell travels the length and breadth of the continent, soaring precariously over enemy lines in a balloon and riding the rails in the Wild West, meeting the men and women who made, marred and mythologised American history: the business tycoons, early feminists and social reformers as well as the big-city bosses, murderous gunslingers and so-called Lincoln assassins. Although apparently indestructible – in one Civil War skirmish he is shot eleven times without serious injury – Grenfell doesn’t have much luck. He is sentenced to death for a crime he never committed, spends long years in prison, and loses the woman he loves. Then his fortune changes and he gets a second chance in life. The Man Who Lived Twice is the story of a personal search for redemption set against the emergence of the United States as a world power. I hope you will consider reading it.

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