Month: December 2016

Review Policy: Crime, Thriller, Suspense

I’m happy to read and review any books or stories which fall into the crime, thriller or suspense categories, but my preference is for noir or cozy crime – meaning I’m not a huge fan of police procedural stories, but love a good old school PI story. They can be current, historical or futuristic but no super-natural themes, please.

I love reading new and older writing, both traditionally and independently published because I know, a publishing contract is no longer the benchmark it once was. However, I expect the writing quality to be good as I only review the story and style, not the writing proficiency.

You can send me any length of story up to 100k words, but in the first instance, please contact me with a brief note on what the story is about.

I also prefer to read via kindle, so a mobi file is appreciated.

Why Bad Reviews are as Good as Great Reviews

I’m writing this half way through my blog tour week for Dead Memories and honestly speaking, it’s hell! It’s not the fear of a bad review that makes it so terrible, even good reviews, really good ones, seem to rattle my cage. It’s kind of funny. We spend half our (non-writing) time thinking about getting more blog posts, Amazon and Goodreads reviews and then when they drop in, it’s like going to the doctor for a shot. Arrgh! I can’t look. Owwaw! Just do it already.


This first time around with No More Birthdays, I noticed a trend with the reviews: About 40% of them where very positive, 40% so-so and 20% not loving it, if that’s a way to describe it. And I expected that kind of spread… As they say in the hair commercial, “Here comes the science part!”

Average star rating for a bestseller?

A typical bestseller on Amazon has a review average of 3.75 stars. This is because, we as the review leaver, tend to compensate for other people’s reviews. If we love a book and the review before ours is a 1 star, you better believe, we’re giving that book a 5 (even though we did consider it a 4/4.5 before that). And if other readers are raving about it and it was just not our thing, that 3 star book review suddenly becomes a disgruntled 2 star review. Also it’s easier to slam a book by an author who (possibly did, or you imagine) was paid a gazillion dollars!

Get reviews for a self-published book

However, a lot of independent books have much higher review averages, around 4.25 stars. Wow. Does that make any sense? Well, yes it does. The independent, self-publishing market is a strong, social and loyal friend (if you play it right) and seriously dissing an author you may be friends with online, is a little awkward (footnote, if you do write a scathing review and post it on a FB group page, you must tag the author if they are a member too. I once saw an amazing feud between a blogger and an author’s fans over this – popcorn please ­– all over a bad review and missing tag, and I haven’t seen that blogger since).

Double Trouble

As it is a series, I put both books up on offer for review and got reviews back for No More Birthdays too. No More Birthdays if certainly darker than Dead Memories as it sets the scene for the series, but it’s pretty clear from the blurb (gritty crime noir) that there are going to be some unsavoury elements in the story. Still, if the wrong person picks up this book, they’re going to hate it. Even my sister hated this book but then she told me she was going to give it to her 13 year old daughter (I told her not to, absolutely not to, but she did). I can just imagine the conversations they had over dinner that evening. So I really expected a mixed bag for this blog week.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 10.52.23

Anyway back to the half time scores

So I did get a couple of bad ones… a 1 star (she would have given me ZERO stars if this was possible), who obviously stumbled across this book on her way to the shelf marked ‘Fairies’ and ‘Dashing, London Vampire Detectives’ (Yeah, I looked at her other books). And her review was a good read (No pun intended). For me, words matter! I want to see why someone HATED my book (caps used intentionally – for some reason haters love caps!’) She hated it because the only crime in the book was murder (okay) and it was ‘smutty and pornographic’ (a teenager fights of a potential rapist). So that for me, it totally fine, just the wrong book in the wrong hands. If she had said it was boring, and if it was boring, I would be upset.

The other bad review was a bit of a mystery, 2 stars and the reviewer complained that there was no detective in the story… but I’m pretty sure there was… I distinctly remembe writing her in. Anyway, as said, bad reviews also rock! Those people read the book and hated or maybe mixed it up with another book but, it is still all-good. After my 1 star review, the very next one was a 5 star. I like to think she wasn’t over compensating for the 1 star, but hey – I’ll take it!

But I’d be lying if I said I liked bad reviews as much as good ones. I love good reviews. I especially love it when reviewers ‘get it’ and really get it. When I have the feeling that they read the book I thought I wrote, my skin tingles! I’m looking at you Avid Reader. And of course, the reviews from bloggers who read a lot and are prepared to think between the lines and recognise that the hero is an unreliable witness, like at shawnashauntia. I don’t write stories that spell it out because I don’t want readers who needed it spelled out to them.


So these lovely people also tend to put their reviews (good and bad) up on Amazon and Goodreads too, which is great (essential) for any book. And there is nothing I love more than seeing a good healthy spread of very positive, good, and very negative reviews. Why? Well, when was the last time you bought a book based on its 20 reviews which all gave it 5 stars or even worse, the first 20 are 5 star reviews and the last 3 are 1’s? Finding a good book online is hard work. A lot of writers and publishers are buying reviews and they only want 5 stars. When a real reader gets it, they are so disappointed they give it a 1. And we all, instinctively know this.

So bring on the 1, 2 and 3 star reviews. I can handle it! Scratch that – I want them!

This blog piece was written at 3am – any spelling a grammatical errors are probably just your eyes. Go get a coffee 😉 





The Dark Themes Of Film Noir, And Why They Matter Today


Came across this while researching the theme myself. Someone asked me, why Noir had to be so dark? I think this blog answers that.

Quintus Curtius

noir1 Robert Mitchum and Jane Grier in Out of the Past

In the 1940s and 1950s, a new genre of film began to filter out of Hollywood.  It was a hard-bitten, cynical genre, dealing with the kinds of themes that movies had not dealt with before.  It’s often said that jazz is the only truly unique American art form.  This is nonsense.  Film noir is a genre that was created in America, and has been copied elsewhere around the world.

What is film noir?  It’s difficult to define precisely.  But when you see it, you recognize it for what it is.  It can be a genre, a style, or a motif.  What matters is the overall “spirit” of the film.  What is its message?  What impression lingers on the viewer’s brain?  All noir films deal with at least a few of the following themes:

Existential crises affect the main character


View original post 663 more words

The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson

Okay, so it was with some trepidation that I first opened this book. I am a Highsmith fan – a huge Highsmith fan – and the one thing that repulses me more than walking dog mess into my house is reading someone’s take on who they think Highsmith is/was… that differs from my own.


Not everybody enjoys a Highsmith novel, but for those who do, reading her work can become near obsessional. So we are a hard audience to please. I went into this book wondering…will it be respectful or exploitative and of course, will it agree with my own, personal imaginations of Highsmith? For a whole month, I didn’t buy The Crime Writer, but then, you know, it’s Highsmith related, so I did.

The Premise

In 1964, Patricia Highsmith moved to Suffolk to finish editing The Two Faces of January and carry on putting together Notes on Suspense in peace, so the story goes. This was a bit of a put-on, as she primarily wanted to be somewhere not too far away from London, where the woman many biographers refer to as ‘the love of her life’, lived with her husband. In The Crime Writer, Jill Dawson uses this detail as a springboard for a book, part biography, part Highsmith tribute novel in which Pat plays the protagonist.

Take Me There

The village setting Dawson creates is a perfect expression of the Suffolk background in A Suspension of Mercy. I found this to be a really good move. Highsmith used this world in her fiction and Dawson does the same. Dawson’s portrayal of 1960’s village life from the perspective of a famous (although not famous in the US) American author, is also spot on and as Dawson delves into her own area of research – Pat’s childhood in Texas – we could start to wonder if this book is just a vehicle for her own biographical urges. However, from the very start, her portrayal of Pat, warts and all, is so recognisable from Highsmith’s novels as well as some other biographer’s renditions that as a reader I was immediately lost and captivated.

Throughout the story, I had to repeatedly remind myself that this was a work of fiction. Patricia Highsmith did not write this story about her own experiences. This story is a perfect rendition of a Highsmith-esque escalation of tension. There is a murder, we care and dislike the person who is murdered but are then drawn into a cat and mouse game of whether this murder will be discovered. This creates a second, more disliked person that we and the protagonist desperately need to see the end of.

A Highsmith suspense often includes a suicide or accidental death and whereas Highsmith often got a lot of slack for this ‘easy way out’, Dawson creates a lovely (from a murderer’s perspective) death which Pat both has a hand in and from which she can be completely pardoned.


I enjoyed this book thoroughly from beginning to end and felt really thankful that someone with the right amount of obsession, attention to detail and the research skills to carry it off, was able to get it out there.

Well done Jill Dawson.