‘The Bowery Slugger’ by Leopold Borstinski


****

Arriving in America in 1915, Alex Cohen is tagged with an unusual name, courtesy of a dull-witted official. Moving into a tenement apartment with his family, Alex’s reputation as a fighter (Slugger) secures him work in one of the many gangs who use extortion and muscle to make their money.

This is book 1 in the Alex Cohen series and the first of this author’s books I’ve read. Charting the rise of an immigrant into the Jewish New York mob, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the story, but its similarity to classics like The Godfather are hard to ignore. As the hero acquires two other names (apart from his real one), various family members/thugs/gangsters etc refer to him as Alex, Slugger or Fabian. While this is fine, what’s irritating is the author’s habit of doing the same thing, so while he tells us what’s happing to Alex in one paragraph, he’ll then refer to him in the next as Slugger, and then Fabian. Maybe I’m just being picky, but a bit of consistency would work wonders—the character is called Alex, so he should be called that throughout, leaving the book’s characters to refer to him by whatever name they know him as.

I really wanted to like this book but found it difficult to identify with any of the characters, and that’s never a good sign. Having said that, I’ve already agreed to read book 3 in the series, so we’ll see what happens.

‘Fog of Doubt’ by Christianna Brand


*****

When Belgian paramour Raoul Vernet is found with his head bashed in on the night of a particularly dense fog, suspicion naturally falls on members of the house he was visiting at the time. While no-one appears to have been in the immediate vicinity when Vernet was killed, Inspector Charlesworth is certain someone in house must be responsible. The family, however, are keen their good name should not be tarnished and call on the services of old friend Inspector Cockerill, who soon gets to work interviewing all concerned.

Originally titled ‘London Particular’, this is the first of Christianna Brand’s Inspector Cockerill mysteries I’ve read (though I’ve seen the film version of Green for Danger many times). Her writing style took me a little while to get used to, but by chapter five, I’d tuned in and began to enjoy it. The story seems to wander around a lot, without giving us any real clues, but then it all begins to fall into place as we learn how each of the suspects has a motive for murder. By the time it got to the court case for the prime suspect (although this isn’t necessarily the killer 😉), I was completely enthralled.

An interesting and clever book that ably demonstrates Brand’s reputation as one of the Queens’ of Crime.

‘So Anyway…’ by John Cleese


*****

(Audiobook)
From his earliest memories of school, to the Monty Python O2 show in 2014, John Cleese reveals the intricacies of his life and career, and how studying for a degree in law led him into such iconic shows as the Cambridge Footlights, TW3, At Last it’s the 1948 Show and of course, Fawlty Towers. Detailing his work with Python co-writer Graham Chapman, Cleese also recounts his writing and acting contributions with comic legends such as Peter Sellers, David Frost and Marty Feldman.

Having long been a fan of all things Cleese, I enjoyed this book immensely. While, as some reviewers have expressed, it isn’t packed to the gills with unceasing comedy gold, it is nevertheless at times absolutely hilarious, to the point where I had to re-stich my split sides many times over. What is truly fascinating, however, is JC’s talent for deconstructing comedy, highlighting how and why some sketches worked and some didn’t. Including several short recordings from classic shows, Cleese also reveals the inspiration for such classic Python sketches as The Cheese Shop, The Parrot Sketch and many more.

An absolute gem that entertained me from start to finish.

‘Evil Relations’ by David Smith, with Carol Ann Lee


*****

At the trial of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady in 1966, David Smith acted as chief prosecution witness. But his evidence did him no favours. Due in part to the insistence by Hindley and Brady that Smith took part in the murders, he was reviled and vilified by the press for years afterwards—even after Hindley finally admitted she had lied about his involvement. In this account, David Smith tells his own story.

Following Carol Ann Lee’s critically acclaimed biography of Hindley, David Smith agreed to work with the author. Originally published as ‘Witness’, Evil Relations includes interviews, archival research and excerpts from Smith’s own memoir. As with Lee’s other biographical works, this is a meticulously researched and highly detailed account which shows how Hindley and Brady, in particular, lured Smith into their world of deception and death with the intention of making him, at the very least, an accessory to murder. Although not specifically about the Moors Murderers, the book does explore with frightening detail the killing of Edward Evans, which led to Smith going to the police and the subsequent arrest and trial of the killers.

What is most frightening is how the press and public hounded David Smith and his then wife, Maureen, despite the obvious belief in his story by both the police and the courts. A fascinating, scary and, at times, upsetting book.

‘The Mile End Murder’ by Sinclair McKay


*****
(Audiobook)
When wealthy and eccentric widow Mary Emsley is found dead at her home on 17th August 1860, the resulting murder inquiry grips the nation. Faced with several suspects, the police home in on two individuals, finally narrowing it down to one man – James Mullins. Convicted and hanged for the killing, the Mullins case left the public baying for justice, convinced the police had the wrong man. But if Mullins didn’t kill Mrs Emsley, who did?

Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about this case many years later but even he seemed unable to come up with a solution to the mystery. Charting the events leading to the murder and its aftermath, Sinclair McKay creates an absorbing and highly-detailed account, exploring every possible angle. Though occasionally lapsing into social history (which nevertheless helps create a complete picture of the times), the author also provides a solution to the murder.

Narrated by Lewis Hancock, this is an interesting and thought-provoking account of a murder that remains unsolved.

‘Blade Runner’ by Philip K Dick


*****
(Audiobook)
Classic sci-fi novel originally published as ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ Set in 2021, after World War Terminus has killed millions, living creatures are coveted by everyone. While most individuals can only afford fake animals, the few remaining real ones go for very high prices. As well as animals, a range of android humans have been developed, but these are now banned on earth and the ones who escape their homes on Mars are hunted down and ‘retired’ by bounty hunters like Rick Deckard.

Though based on the original novel, the movie Blade Runner has little to do with the book, where the writers took some of the characters and gave them a lot more to do than in Philip K Dick’s version. The author seems to have been more interested in character development than action, and while there are some scenes where Deckard is forced to use his laser, the focus is very much on mankind’s obsession with what is fake and what is real.

If I’d read the book before watching the movie, I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it a lot more, but of course there’s an expectation that filmmakers will do justice to the original. In this case, the book is great, but it’s a completely different kettle of androids to Ridley Scott’s big-screen vision. Considering when it was written, this is a clever and thoughtful piece of work and richly deserves its place in the annals of sci-fi classics.

‘The Trouble with Trouble’ by Joy Mutter


*****

Set in a Sheffield police station, this is a powerful erotic thriller following on from ‘The Trouble with Liam’. With the invention of a new sexual arousal cream called Trouble, DCI Cosgrove and his sex-addict liaison officer, Kate, find themselves in a bizarre situation. In the hands of a lustful security guard and his sex-mad pals, the scene is set for corruption, blackmail and murder.

Having read several of this author’s books, I’m familiar with her bloodthirsty and unconventional scenarios, but even so, this adventure hits new highs in the shock and awe stakes. As with much of Joy Mutter’s work this is not a book for the feint hearted. Packed with explicit and highly detailed sexual shenanigans, not to mention murderous goings-on, the author holds nothing back as she throws her protagonists into a series of carnal conflicts, before giving them the opportunity for revenge.

Outrageous, funny and stuffed with unfettered saucy antics, open this book at your peril!

Author Interview – Lex Lander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creator of the Andrew Warner Manhunter series, author Lex Lander talk about characters, place and Brigitte Bardot…

Thinking back to when you started writing, is there anything you would do differently in terms of the writing, or in getting your books to market?

I started at the age of 7 and have written intermittently ever since. I should have tried harder to find an agent, so that I could concentrate on the creative stuff and not get involved in marketing. I don’t believe publishers do a lot to promote most new writers unless they paid out a hefty advance, and need to recover the outlay.

Do you write to please your readers or to please yourself?

Mostly myself, but I do keep an eye on market trends. A UK agent once told me not to write fixated on producing a best seller, but write what I enjoy writing and I will produce a better book. That was some time ago, but I think he was right. Of course, if one is writing popular fiction one can’t stray too far from the conventional. I am aware that my Warner stories are somewhat offbeat thrillers, as they invariably insinuate a romantic interest in amongst the crime and violence. I’m not sure it works as well as I would like, but I dislike writing to a formula.

As someone who’s done a fair bit of world travel, how much does this knowledge/experience assist with the plots of your books?

Tremendously. I try to set my stories only in places I have actually visited. For instance, in the case of ‘Blood Red and Bardot’, which is set in Nice, I spent over two months there, and wrote the book during that time. It helped me to recreate the atmosphere of the city and the Cote d’Azur in general. (I also once met Brigitte Bardot in St Tropez, where she still lives, long before I wrote the book).

The work and lifestyle of your main character Andre Warner requires precise details about guns and combat. Assuming you weren’t a hitman in a previous life, where does this information come from?

Pass. A lot of info, but not all, can be found online.

Have you ever used real people or real experiences to create characters/plots?

In the case of people, often. It helps me visualise the character and bring him/her to life. The women protags in particular are almost always based on someone I knew and generally fancied. The arch villain Rik de Bruin, who featured in ‘I Kill’ and ‘She Kills’, was based on a Dutchman I knew and who let me down badly in a business/personal matter. I took my revenge by creating a really nasty character.

In the case of real experiences, I often introduce a little cameo based on something or someone I encountered. For the rest I must pass again.

Do you have many unpublished novels/stories?

Hardly any. There are a few that I started but dropped. All my completed novels have been published. Wait, I stand corrected. My very first serious attempt at publication, an adventure story titled ‘Atrocity’, set in Rhodesia before it became Zimbabwe, was rejected by a publisher way back when, in part because it was too long for an unknown writer. (160,000 words!)

How many hours a day do you write, and do you stick to a set schedule?

Anything from 1 hour to 8 hours. I usually write 6 days a week, but there is no set schedule. I try and write in the mornings, but often find I am more creative in the evenings.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

There are a lot of my views and habits in the Andre Warner character, which is why I write the Warner books in the first person. His politics, tastes in women and music, pastimes, languages, places et al. But the way I envisage him he doesn’t look like me. In fact the way I describe him he resembles a friend from my youth whom I last saw over twenty years ago.

What can we expect from Lex Lander in the years to come?

A new trilogy of psychological thrillers, another ‘Jackal’ story, and Vol VII in the Warner series. Possible sequels to ‘She Kill’s and ‘Blood Red and Bardot’, but these would be several years down the track.

For more info anyone interested can check out my website or my publisher’s website.

NB Check out my latest review – Lex Lander’s Spanish Rock.

‘Spanish Rock’ by Lex Lander


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****
In a bid to retire from his murderous day job, hitman Andre Warner plans to buy a bar in Spain. However, while in London, he’s invited to a posh party where he agrees to look up the wayward daughter of an American acquaintance. Back in Spain, he tracks the girl down in Malaga and lands in trouble with a mysterious general. But Andre soon finds himself caught between the general’s mistress and the man’s beautiful daughter—a situation which cannot fail to spell trouble. Meanwhile, the UK government are keen to enlist Warner’s help in an undercover operation to infiltrate GIBESTA—a group fighting for independence in Gibraltar…

This is Lex Lander’s fifth book in the ‘Andre Warner, Manhunter’ series. As with the others, there’s plenty of action, though the story is more of a slow burner than in previous books. As I had no clue about the political situation between Spain and Gibraltar (and Britain’s influence either way), the governmental shenanigans went a little over my head, however, the set-up is intriguing and the twisty-turny plot held my interest throughout. Other than a particularly gruesome torture scene (which might put some readers off), this is a jolly romp that shows a real development in the hero’s character.

A proper thriller that’ll keep Andre Warner fans thoroughly satisfied.



 
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Midtown Hustler by Leopold Borstinski *COVER REVEAL*

I’m delighted to be part of the Damppebbles cover reveal for Leopold Borstinski’s new book – Midtown Hustler. This is volume three in the Alex Cohen series of violent historical novels, ripping through the early years of the Jewish New York mob.

Here’s the blurb:

Can you keep your gelt and freedom when the cops have enough evidence to take you down?

1930s Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen runs Murder Inc for Lucky Luciano. After the death of Prohibition he must find a new way to make money, just as the cops are baying at his heels. When Luciano goes down for racketeering, Alex loses his protection and is arrested for tax evasion-he must decide between saving his skin and ratting out his friends.

If he chooses prison time then his gang will fall apart and he will end up with nothing. If he squeals then he will have to flee the city he loves and the family he once adored. What would you do in a world where nobody can be trusted and you have everything to lose?

The third book in the Alex Cohen series is an historical noir novel, which plunges you deep into the early days of narcotics trafficking and the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s piercing crime fiction delivers a fix to every reader like heroin from a needle.

About Leopold Borstinski

Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

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