Blog Tour: Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson

Hey everyone,

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all a little further down.

About the author:

Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson is an Icelandic author who lives in Reykjavík. Shadows of the Short Days is his first novel. He writes in both Icelandic and English and is the founder and editor of Iceland’s first SFF magazine, Furðusögur (Weird Stories). Alexander is also the vocalist and lyricist for Icelandic black metal band Carpe Noctem.

About the book:

Sæmundur the Mad, addict and sorcerer, has been expelled from the magical university, Svartiskóli, and can no longer study galdur, an esoteric source of magic. Obsessed with proving his peers wrong, he will stop at nothing to gain absolute power and knowledge, especially of that which is long forbidden.

Garún is an outcast: half-human, half-huldufólk, fighting against an unjust government that refuses to grant people like her basic rights. A militant revolutionary and graffiti artist, recklessly dismissive of the status quo, she will do anything to achieve a just society, including spark a revolution. Even if she has to do it alone.

This is a tale of revolution set in a twisted version of Reykjavik fuelled by industrialised magic and populated by humans, interdimensional exiles, otherworldly creatures, psychoactive graffiti and demonic familiars.

Shadows of the Short Days by Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson

Extract from Shadows of the Short Days

Eitt


Garún removed her mask and stepped away from the wet graffiti
to see clearly the whole of the hex sigil she’d painted. It was
difficult breathing through the filters on the leather mask and it
felt good to taste the fresh air. It was dark, the only light coming
from the pale moon that sat low in the sky. She relied on insight
and feeling when she painted, so the dark didn’t bother her. She
didn’t need to see to know if the graffiti was good or when it was
ready. She simply felt it, but it was a raw feeling. She wanted to
be sure, so she slipped the goggles over her eyes in order to see
the sorcerous seiðmagn bleeding from the paint.
Sharp geometries jutted out unexpectedly from the red and
obscure graffiti, and even though the paint wasn’t dry yet the
seiðmagn already radiated powerfully into the environment.
Exhausted from the work, Garún felt dried up after using so
much delýsíð paint in such a short time. While she painted, the
emotions expressed within her art were amplified by the delýsíð
in the paint and cast back to her in a vicious psychedelic cycle:
she was the snake that fed on itself. Now, it was complete. Garún
turned down the volume of the electronic music booming in her
ears and focused on letting the painting speak to her.
The graffiti was in a good location atop the store Krambúðin
and with luck it would be weeks until it was discovered. All the while it would continue to bleed seiðmagn into the environment,
where it would infiltrate the subconscious of those nearby. It
would slowly infect their minds and sow the seeds of discord.
If left undisturbed, the painting would become as a death mask
over the building and its neighbourhood.
Krambúðin was a store owned by Sigurður Thorvaldsen, a
merchant who ran several enterprises in the greater Reykjavík
area. The one below Garún’s feet had become one of the most
popular colonial stores in the city since Sigurður had moved to
Reykjavík and set up shop almost the same day as the occupation of the Crown began. Not for the soldiers, but for all the
people from the countryside flooding to the city to work for
the army. The Crown needed a large working force, especially
to build the forts in Viðey and the barracks on Seltjarnarnes.
Sigurður had pushed those out who threatened his business,
threatening, blackmailing and maiming – but, above all, profiting. By the time occupation became colonisation and the forts
of the colonial masters were built, Sigurður Thorvaldsen had
become a wealthy man and Reykjavík a fully grown city.
The graffiti Garún had sprayed on the roof was an antiprosperity hex. It was intended to drive away the establishment’s
elite customers who prized Krambúðin’s imported luxury products. Exotic spices, delicate fabrics, handmade soaps, candies and
perfumes were only a small fraction of the merchandise available.
Those who did not subconsciously avoid the store would become
victims of the hex. Pushy customers would argue with the staff,
who in turn would be unhelpful and patronising. With luck
the influence would spread over the whole street as the graffiti
fed on the people’s negative emotions and spewed them back
out. She hoped that it would be able to remain unharassed for
longer than her other work, which had all been found within
a few days.

She took the spray cans and the painting mask and stuffed
them into her backpack along with the goggles. Before climbing
down from the roof she double-checked that she’d left no empty
cans behind. She slid down the fire-escape ladder in the back
and turned up the volume again. It was calm and slow, the
bass steady and comforting, telling her that nobody was around,
nobody was watching. She ran silently through empty yards,
vaulted over the fences in her path. The beat became faster the
closer she got to the Hverfisgata Road and the stressed rhythm
hinted that the police might not be far down the street. She
weaved through alleys and backyards alongside Hverfisgata’s busy
road. The evening traffic had barely started to trickle downtown.
Sudden breaks and booming basslines told her if someone was
about to cross her path or about to look out of their window,
and she reacted instinctively, ducking into cover and waiting
for the threat to pass. She could never be absolutely sure that
she had not been seen, and often it was hard to read the music,
but after endless practice it had become almost second nature,
a part of her natural reflex. She let go and let the music speak
to her subconscious.
The closer she got to Hlemmur the more uneasy the music
grew. Patrol automobiles were lined up in front of the police
station, which was fused with the central station like a tumour
grown outside a body. The beat was thick and murky, the music
absolutely deafening. She turned down the volume so it was
barely audible, pulled her hoodie up and tried not to think about
what would happen if she was stopped for a random search.
The central station was home for those who had nowhere
else to go. Hobos, junkies, a few blendingar. She made sure not
to glance towards them as she felt them notice her walking
past. As if they resented her for not sitting with them in the
gutter. Policemen stood by the ticket booth and gates, docile but

formidable. She tried to keep a low profile, but without it being
suspicious. Just as would be expected from a blendingur like her.
She took the train to Starholt. Most working people had
got home by now and the nightlife didn’t pick up until after
midnight, so the train was relatively empty. The city lights took
on a blurred halo in the grimy windows.
No one greeted her when she came home. She missed Mæja.
What was she thinking, leaving the cat with Sæmundur? He
could barely take care of himself, let alone a cat. She was unsure
what her intention had been, exactly. She’d wanted him to feel
guilt or remorse, or anything at all, there at the end. But he
had been simply too numb and now her little cat was probably
starved to death underneath worm-eaten manuscripts and dirty
socks. One more thing she tried not to think about.
Her studio flat was a bedroom, kitchen, working area and
living room simultaneously. The sink was filled with paintbrushes
and squeezed paint tubes were found on almost every surface.
Half-completed paintings were scattered around in stacks leaning against the walls. The air smelled of paint, oil, acrylics and
spray mixed in with a faint, sour reek of delýsíð. It was probably
good that she was rid of Mæja. The cat would have been long
dead from all the toxic chemicals in the air.
Garún took off her large headphones and removed the
audioskull from the backpack. Sæmundur had summoned the
noisefiend himself and bound it into the skull when she’d started
to tag small, powerful delýsíð staves here and there. Wires stuck
out of the bare headphones, an old operator’s headset she had
converted. She had always meant to make a casing from wood
or brass, but had never got around to it. The headphones were
plugged into the forehead of the audioskull. The skull had a blue

shade to it, covered in runes and esoteric symbols coloured a
dark red. It was both illegal and dangerous to summon demons,
but Sæmundur never cared about risks. She’d got a used portable
transistor radio cheap and had been listening to it on the go,
carrying it around in her backpack. That’s what had given him
the idea. Transmundane beings were incredibly dangerous even
when bound in bone, and Garún had absolutely lost it when he
gave her the skull. Still, she had used it.
She took off the black clothes and emptied her backpack. She
hid the clothes, along with the backpack and audioskull, under
a loose board in the closet. Inside there was a hidden compartment where she put the nearly empty delýsíð spray cans. She
was practically out, and she needed more. She’d gone tagging
a bit too frequently these last weeks, excited for the upcoming
protest they had planned. She would have to get more. The
bright and unnatural colours had stained her fingers. She turned
on the shower and washed her hands with strong and coarse
soap before stepping in. The water smelled faintly of sulphur, a
familiar and soothing feeling.
After the shower she dried off with a towel and wrapped it
around her head to dry her shoulder-length hair. She stirred
a raw egg into skyr and read a book while she ate. The book
had come free from a nearby café; many of the coffee houses
in Starholt had various kinds of free shops and trade markets.
Many of the local residents were artists and it aided them in
their never-ending pursuit of inspiration and materials. Almost
a century had passed since the book was written, long before
the occupation by the Crown. The novel was about a huldukona
who wanted to become a poet, but her poems were rejected
by the Hrímlanders because of who she was. Because of what
she was. All her life was one long struggle. The book was a
handmade reprint some decades old. It was singed and burned

and many pages had been ripped out of it. There still remained
some readable parts and Garún devoured them. She’d never
found a novel about huldufólk before.
When she finished eating she wrapped the towel around
herself, sat out on the balcony and rolled a cigarette. Just a
bit too tight, so she had to work her lungs to inhale the livid
smoke. Winter had begun smothering autumn and the evening
dark was sharp and deep. The apartment buildings surrounded
a playground where a few children played in an old wooden
play castle that had once been multicoloured, but the paint had
peeled off long ago. No one was monitoring them. Late as it was,
this was a common sight. She looked over to the other balconies.
Clean laundry hung out to dry on taut clothes lines everywhere,
among the junk that artists and collectors had gathered: old
fishing nets, rusted iron and driftwood, sheets of corrugated iron
and other garbage that was a gleaming treasure in some eyes.
Garún threw the butt over the balcony and went inside. She
had to get more delýsíð spray paint. Viður would hook her up.
She put on a pair of old jeans and a plain black top, grabbed a
moss green coat on the way out. She took her time walking to
the central area of Starholt, the epicentre where the artistic types
and other ideological outcasts, self-declared or not, met each
night with the common goal of gossip, flattery, drink and dope
in various degrees. As she got closer to the heart of it all, the
neighbourhood came to life. Massive cement towers gave way
to lower, friendlier houses. Electric lamps with stained glass lit
up the streets, twisted modern sculptures that were a welcome
change from the Crown’s uniform standard issue lamps everywhere else in the city.
Gangs of náskárar sat on eaves over dark alleyways, selling
drugs. They were adorned with markings of their tribe, all of
them warriors with iron claws or beaks. Bright laughter moved

through the crowd like an infectious cough and occasionally
glasses of beer shattered. Huldufólk and humans hung together
in separate groups outside bars and clubs.
The huldufólk’s attitude towards her was reserved when she
walked past them, all of them reflexively reaching out to see who
was there. Garún barely noticed, having grown used to shutting
it out long ago. Not that humans considered her an equal either
– on the contrary – but some huldufólk had a vicious way of
upholding what they considered the old ways, and she served as
an offensive reminder to them of how far they had fallen.
She shook off these thoughts and lit another cigarette to clear
her head. Those strangers didn’t matter. She had found her own
people. And above all, she had herself.

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Blog Tour Extract~Halcyon by Rio Youers

Hi guys,

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Halcyon by Rio Youers and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all in just a little bit!

About the author:

Rio Youers
Rio Youers is the British Fantasy Award–nominated author of Old Man Scratch and Point Hollow. His short fiction has been published in many notable anthologies, and his novel, Westlake Soul, was nominated for Canada’s prestigious Sunburst Award. He has been favorably reviewed in such venues as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and The National Post. His latest novel, The Forgotten Girl, was released by Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press in June 2017.
Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife, Emily, and their children, Lily and Charlie.

About the book:

Halcyon.jpg

Halcyon is the answer for anyone who wants to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems.

A self-sustaining community on a breathtakingly beautiful island, Halcyon is run for people who want to live without fear, crime or greed. Its leader has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing, and believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.

On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. Yet he soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer. As the founder captivates his young family, Martin sets out to discover the truth of the island, however terrible it might be, where something so perfect hides unimaginable darkness beneath…

Halcyon by Rio Youers

Extract:

Laura muttered, “He does Dylan better than Dylan,” and Martin snapped out of his show. That was when he noticed the clicking. It wasn’t the rhythmic clicking he associated with Shirley’s texting. This was constant. A purr. He looked up, expecting to see her zoned out. And she was, but not in the usual way. Her head was angled awkwardly and her eyelids uttered. Her thumbs blurred on the screen.

“Shirley?”

She was having some kind of seizure. Martin drew his leg off the arm and sprang from his chair. He got Laura’s attention by waving a hand in front of her eyes, then crossed the room to where Shirley reclined in the other armchair.

 

He cradled the back of her head in one hand and gently tilted her jaw to keep her airway open. She garbled something. The veins across her throat bulged.

“What’s happening to her?” Laura asked, crouching beside the armchair. She tried removing the cell phone from Shirley’s hands but Shirley held tight, her thumbs still working.

“Seizure, I think,” Martin said. “Maybe she was looking at flashing images.”

“Should I call nine-one-one?”

Martin looked from Shirley to Laura, then down at the cell phone’s screen as Laura tried to free it from their daughter’s clasp. He glimpsed what she’d typed: a string of random letters, symbols, and emojis, but with several full words interspersed in all the nonsense. Martin barely logged them before Laura pried the phone away. He definitely saw SCARED and CHIPPEWA and perhaps BOTTLECAP, or maybe it was BOTTLETOP.

“Martin?” Laura snapped. She threw the cell phone on the floor and clutched Shirley’s hands. “Nine-one-one?”

“Wait,” he said. He eased Shirley onto her side and peeled damp strands of hair from her brow. “It’s okay, baby. Mom and Dad are here.” Her eyes flashed open and closed. Her mouth moved silently. Martin pressed the cool back of his hand to her cheek and she whimpered. A moment later, she screwed her face up and started to cry. It was like a pressure release. The tightness left her body at once. Her trembling first lessened, then stopped altogether.

“Mom . . . ?”

“Okay, sweetie,” Laura said. “It’s okay.”

 

Martin wiped her tears away. She blinked, took deep breaths, and looked into her empty hands for her phone. Her expression switched from confusion to fear.

“Edith,” she said.

“What about Edith?” Martin asked.

Shirley shook her head and groaned. More tears spilled from her eyes. “She’s screaming inside,” she said.

 

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Halcyon blog tour banner.jpg

Blog Tour Extract~ Cold Breath by Quentin Bates

Hi everyone,

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Cold Breath by Quentin Bates, and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all a little further down!

About the author:

Bates, Quentin.jpg

Quentin Bates made his escape from suburbia at the end of the seventies as a gap year turned into a gap decade spent in the north of Iceland. He worked ashore and at sea before returning to England and, once finally ashore for good, drifted by accident into journalism.

Finally the lure of fiction became too strong to resist. Sergeant Gunnhildur and the series of novels she features in have their origins in a deep affection for Iceland and its people, and an intimate knowledge of Icelandic society and its language, customs and quirks.

Today Quentin divides his time between the north of Iceland and the south of England, translating books from Icelandic in addition to working on his own fiction.

About the book:

COLD BREATH.jpg

Gunnhildur reluctantly allows herself to be taken off police duties to act as bodyguard to a man with a price on his head . . .

Hidden away in a secure house outside Reykjavík, Gunna and the high-profile stranger, a guest of the interiors minister, are thrown together – too close for comfort. They soon find they are neither as safe nor as carefully hidden as Gunna and her boss had thought. Conflicting glimpses of the man’s past start to emerge as the press begin to sniff him out, as does another group with their own reasons for locating him. Gunna struggles to come to terms with protecting the life of a man who may have the lives of many on his conscience – or indeed may be the philanthropist he claims to be.

Isolated together, the friction grows between Gunna and the foreign visitor, and she realises they are out of their depth as the trails lead from the house outside Reykjavík to Brussels, Russia and the Middle East.

Cold Breath by Quentin Bates

Extract:

Go for a walk,’ the pale man suggested. ‘Don’t go far. Don’t go out of sight.’
The plump man opened his mouth to speak and then quickly shut it. It had been an instruction, not a suggestion.
‘How long?’ he asked, his voice quivering. Next to him his wife could not hide the helpless hatred in her eyes.
‘Twenty minutes,’ the dark man said, pointing to the wavelets being whipped up on the surface of the lake by a bitter wind. ‘Leave your phones on the table. Go that way and walk around the lake. Be where we can see you.’
‘You . . . ?’ the woman began.
‘Come on, Hanne. We don’t have a choice,’ the man muttered to his wife, taking her arm. He stared steadfastly ahead as they walked away, while she shot a single furious glance over her shoulder towards the two men.
It was supposed to be the holiday they had been looking forward to. For the first time there was no need to hurry. There were no longer projects to manage, classes to teach, meetings to attend, deadlines to meet, or jobs waiting for them to return to. Retirement meant they could spend as long as they wanted touring this rocky island they had long wanted to visit, arriving before the tourist season got underway and taking things slowly, dawdling around the northern coastline as they made their way to Reykjavík, stopping whenever and wherever they saw fit.
That had been the plan, she reflected bitterly, until the unwelcome visitors had arrived one night before they had got as far as the ferry, with an offer they dared not refuse.
‘How long should this take?’ the pale man asked, watching as the tubby man and his stick-thin wife walked stiffly, arm-in-arm, around the shore of the lake.
‘Not long. Under the driver’s side bunk. Tools?’
They disappeared into the camper van, and the dark man opened a compact tool box on the table as he looked around.
‘Nice truck,’ he said. ‘House-proud people. Very tidy.’
‘Maybe they
wanted the place to look its best for their visitors.’
The elderly couple, still arm-in-arm, returned windblown after a slow walk around the grey waters of the lake where the wind filled the air with spray.
‘We’re finished. Thanks for your co-operation,’ one of the men said, standing up from his seat in the camper van’s back door as the couple approached.
‘It’s not as if we had a choice in the matter,’ the woman snapped at him, her voice loaded with helpless anger.
He shrugged. ‘It’s not our choice either, I’m afraid. Now we’d like you to go away and enjoy the rest of your holiday. Forget you ever saw us.
It goes without saying that you won’t say a word to anyone, ever. In which case you’ll never hear from us again.’
The pale man dipped a hand into his pocket and took out a sheet of paper folded into four. He held it up and handed it to the woman.
‘What’s this?’
‘Take a look.’
She unfolded it carefully and stiffened as she saw it. Her husband’s face sagged as she showed it to him.
‘Your
house. Your daughter’s house,’ the pale man said, his finger sliding over each of the four pictures. ‘Your son-in-law’s business. And this is where your mother lives. Just so you know. Not one single word.’

 

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Cold Breath - Quentin Bates - Blog Tour (2).jpg

Blog Tour~Unrest by Jesper Stein

Hi everyone,

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Unrest by Jesper Stein and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all a little further down!

About the author:

Jesper Stein, journalist, forfatter
Jesper Stein, journalist, forfatter

Jesper Stein was born in Aarhus, Denmark. He began his writing career as
a journalist and covered the Balkan war, and catastrophes in Africa. He
then worked as a culture journalist for 10 years, interviewing lauded fiction
writers, such as John le Carré, Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbø, Henning Mankell, Peter
Høeg, Peter James, PD James, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood and Haruki
Murakami.
He made his literary debut in 2012 with Unrest – the first in the Axel Steen
series. He has received massive attention for his sharp eye for detail, rich
and innovative plotting and confident prose. Praised by critics as a writer
who will keep readers on the edge of their seat, Stein has emerged as one
of the most talented authors of crime fiction in Scandinavia.

About the book:

UNREST_HIGH

2007. On the streets of Nørrebro, the worst riots Denmark has experienced for many years see violent
clashes between the police and far-left autonomists protesting the closure of the Youth House.
Meanwhile, in a local cemetery, an unidentified man is found bound and murdered, his body propped
up against a gravestone.
Detective Superintendent Axel Steen is called to the scene, where all signs suggest the dead man is the
victim of police brutality during the riots. But as the investigation progresses, Axel soon discovers that
many people, both inside and out of the force, have an unusual interest in the case – and in preventing
its resolution.Axel will stop at nothing until he’s uncovered the truth – no matter what. But as he tussles
with his ex-wife, his boss, a far-left journalist with a grudge, the security forces and a well-known drug
lord, the consequences turn out to be greater than expected… especially for Axel himself.

Click HERE to get your copy!

Extract:

While they were speaking, Axel looked over at the dead man. He was slight and appeared to be dark-haired, with a narrow face and wide open, empty brown eyes. Axel took a few steps closer. The custom was to wait for the forensics team, let them do their work and afterwards hold a preliminary post-mortem with a forensic pathologist, but Axel always tried to read the crime scene right away. The first unconscious impression could be invaluable later.

There were traces of blood on the body’s lips; not red, closer to black, the colour blood goes when oxygen has been working on it for a short time. The tongue was sticking out between them, thick and purple, as often seen in victims of strangling.

The earth around the body was heavy and black, with no grass. There were bottle tops, broken glass, a chipped cobblestone, wet branches and a pizza box between the white snowdrops. No particular signs of a fight, but on the wall about three feet above his head there were traces of a dried liquid, most likely blood. Maybe he had been killed right here?

Axel thought it through: was it one of the autonomists who, during the street fighting, had got into a scuffle with some officers, who had then overreacted? At the police academy in recent years, much hadbeen done to ensure the mental health of the corps, but it didn’t change the fact that many policemen hated the demonstrators in Nørrebro and their occasionally life-threatening actions. There weren’t many who, like Axel, could remember as far back as May 18, 1993, when the police had found themselves forced to shoot at a group of demonstrators who were on the verge of killing them withcobblestones – but there were enough confrontations nowadays for the hatred to are up again.

He had to swiftly get an overview of which police officers had been on guard duty in the cemetery. And if it turned out that they had nothing to do with the murder, who could have killed him and, moreover, dumped him in a place that was swarming with cops, while the rest of the city had been vacuumed clean of police?

Axel walked up to the wall and looked behind the dead man’s back. His hands were bound with something that looked like strips – the modern plastic handcuffs that the police used. They had been pulled really tight and seemed to have cut into the skin on his wrist. He was wearing a pair of black military boots, black canvas trousers, a brown sweater and a black windcheater. He didn’t look like a typical autonomist. Axel went over to him and bent down. The smell of death was mixed with the stench of urine. It could have been people who had pissed up against the wall, but it was more likely the victim who had wet himself during the treatment he had been subjected to. Axel carefully put his hand into the inside pocket of the jacket and shed around for a wallet or something else that could reveal who he was.

Nothing.

He called the divisional commander over.

“I’ll need a list of the names and numbers of the men on duty in here last night, where they’ve been, when, and records of anyone else who’s been in the area – personnel, people under arrest, press – withnames and civil registration numbers. And then all of you will have to come into HQ to report what you’ve seen – or not seen.”

“Isn’t that a bit over the top? We’ve been on the go since eight o’clock yesterday evening.”

“Nothing is over the top when it comes to murder.” Axel looked down the path. “Do you have everything under control? Are you sure you haven’t seen anyone here yesterday evening or tonight?”

He got an ice-cold, indignant look from his colleague.

“We’ve taken six people in total – four of them climbed over the wall during the street fighting outside and they were just thrown out again. Two were arrested. We hunted them down with dogs. Theywere stockpiling Molotov cocktails in here.”

“No one else?”

“We haven’t seen anyone. We’ve kept it completely closed.”

Axel shook his head and nodded at a figure trudging towards them. “And what about him over there, you bloody amateur? Is he one of ours in civvies, maybe?”

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UNREST_blog tour 2018

Blog Tour Extract ~ Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds

Hi everyone,

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Rod Reynolds’ latest book, Cold Desert Sky. I’ll be sharing an extract with you all further down, but first here’s the all-important bookish information 🙂

About the author:

Rod Reynolds.jpg

After a successful career in advertising, working as a media buyer, Rod Reynolds took City University’s two-year MA in crime writing, where he started The Dark Inside, his first Charlie Yates mystery. This was followed by the second book in the series, Black Night Falling, in 2016. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.

About the book:

Cold Desert Sky.jpg

No one wanted to say it to me, that the girls were dead. But I knew.

Late 1946 and Charlie Yates and his wife Lizzie have returned to Los Angeles, trying to stay anonymous in the city of angels.

But when Yates, back in his old job at the Pacific Journal, becomes obsessed by the disappearance of two aspiring Hollywood starlets, Nancy Hill and Julie Desjardins, he finds it leads him right back to his worst fear: legendary Mob boss Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a man he once crossed, and whose shadow he can’t shake.

As events move from LA to the burgeoning Palace of Sin in the desert, Las Vegas – where Siegel is preparing to open his new Hotel Casino, The Flamingo – Rod Reynolds once again shows his skill at evoking time and place. With Charlie caught between the FBI and the mob, can he possibly see who is playing who, and find out what really happened to the two girls?

Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds

Extract:

CHAPTER ONE

DECEMBER 1946

No one wanted to say it to me, that the girls were dead. But I knew.

Maybe the desperation showed on my face. No one wants to disappoint a zealot when he’s coming at you, demanding answers and looking for a sign that his search isn’t futile. The ninth day since they went missing, and every street rat and lowlife I could collar told me just enough to get me off their back: no clue/they probably split town/I’ll ask around. Walked out thinking they’d soaped me and that I didn’t know how this would end, the same as ever – two broken bodies in a funeral home or some godforsaken alley in this bullshit City of Angels.

Sunlight came at me between two buildings; late afternoon, already low in the sky – winter’s touch on an otherwise bright day. I bought a newspaper from a vendor, leaned against the wall and pretended to skim the headlines, front and back. I’d already been through it for real that morning, found no mention of them. Now it was just cover to scope the diner across the street. The joint was a corner dive on North La Brea, name of Wilt’s, nothing going for it save for the pretty broad dressed in Mexican getup out front, peddling the brisket special and looking like she’d sooner be someplace else.

 


Most everything I’d done so far was conducted in the hours of darkness; this was the first daylight meet I’d risked. Not my choice, but short notice was Whitey’s condition when we’d arranged it that morning. Whitey Lufkins – a lifetime losing gambler who stemmed his losses turning snitch for anyone with enough green. I knew him from my stint at the LA Times when he was a bottom-rung stop for every legman looking for street talk. Now that same street talk held that he was in over his head with his bookmaker – and his readiness to meet suggested it was true. He didn’t know it’d be me on the other side of the table, though; caution came first. Whitey thought he was seeing a private dick on the missing girls’ trail; I had to ask Lizzie to make the calls to set it up, and she played the dispassionate secretary without much call for pretence.

I was early but I spotted Whitey through the window, already inside. I stayed where I was, waiting and watching, looking for anything out of place. It was automatic now, had been since we returned to LA three weeks before.

I’d felt it as soon as we set foot back in the county, and Liz-zie the same. It’d taken less than a day to confirm that Bugsy Siegel was searching for us. Buck Acheson, my editor at the Pacific Journal, was the one to break the news; a rushed call from a payphone on Wilshire the day we got back, Buck saying he’d picked up on it a week before, while Lizzie and I were still upstate. His voice, his words – he played it all as low key as he could in the circumstance, but his sign off was resounding: ‘I’m pleased you’re back and your job’s still yours ifyou want it, but Charlie, it’s best ifyou stay away from the officesfor now.’ Buck wasn’t one to worry for himself, so the meaning was clear: don’t make it easy for him to find me.

 


The city that used to be mine, and now I couldn’t move for looking over my shoulder.

I let five minutes go by. Whitey fidgeted with his cup and checked his watch twice. Two men left the diner but no one else went in. About half the tables were occupied, more seated along the counter. No one that worried me on first glance, but who the hell knew any more? After Hot Springs. After Texarkana—

Whitey checked his watch again, looked ready to bail. I cracked my knuckles and crossed the street, went inside. He was facing the door, saw me as soon as I did. He had a pallor about him, where the name came from, but worse than I remembered and accentuated now by pockmarks on his cheeks. He made to get up then stopped himself halfway, caught in two minds. I slid in opposite him.

‘Charlie?’

‘Have a seat.’

Previous reviews:

Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds

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Blog Blitz Extract ~ The M Word by Eileen Wharton

Hi everyone,

Today I’m taking part in the blog blitz for The M Word by Eileen Wharton and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all further down!

About the author:

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Eileen Wharton is not the naughty great-grandaughter of Edith Wharton. She is currently employed by MI5 but has had various jobs including: wigmaker to Donald Trump, Megan Fox’s stunt double and Ann Summers ‘toy’ tester. She also tells lies for a living.

She currently has five ‘lively’ offspring ranging from thirty to ten years of age and has no plans to procreate further much to the relief of the local schools and police force.

Her first novel, ‘Shit Happens’ was published in 2011 to worldwide critical acclaim. She’s also won awards for exaggeration. It did top the Amazon humour chart so she’s officially a best-selling author.

Her first children’s picture book, ‘The Shmoogly Boo’ was published in the same year and another is in the pipeline entitled, ‘My Dad’s Better than Your Dad.’

Her first crime novel, ‘Blanket of Blood’ was launched as a paperback on Friday 28th November 2016. She is now working on the sequel ‘Blood’s Thicker.’

 She teaches English to teenagers and lives on a council estate in Bishop Auckland. She has never eaten kangaroo testicles, is allergic to cats and has a phobia of tinned tuna.

Author links

https://www.facebook.com/eileen.whartonwriter

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eileen-Wharton/e/B00QQT2IKE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1525777837&sr=8-1

http://eileenwhartonwrite.wixsite.com/eileenwharton

About the book:

Eileen Wharton - The M Word_cover_high res.jpg

Roberta Gallbreath is middle aged and menopausal. She dislikes her children, detests her ex-husband and despises her colleagues.

When her mother dies, Roberta is left with a pile of letters and a mystery surrounding her son. The letters reveal Roberta’s heritage is not what it seems and she is soon on a mission to become a better person.

Told with humour and emotion, The M Word is the tale of one woman’s journey to find out where she came from. As she looks to the past for answers, more questions are raised. Will Roberta discover who she really is?

The M Word by Eileen Wharton

Extract:

Chapter 1

 

@RobertaGallbreath

#Restingbitchface

#Flissflop

‘Mother is dying,’ a voice on the house phone says.

‘Who is this?’ I ask.

‘It’s Fliss, who do you think it is?’

‘Let me see. It’s three years since I spoke to you last, Felicity, so I wasn’t expecting to pick up the phone and hear your voice.’

‘Are you coming or not?’ my sister snaps.

‘Where?’

‘Home, of course. She’s dying, Roberta. Even you must care about that.’ What’s with the even you shit? Why do people say that? My sister is good at emotional blackmail. ‘She’s asking for you. God knows why.’

‘How long?’

‘Days rather than weeks. Doctor said to gather the family. Can you tell Carolyn and Shoni?’

‘And Drew,’ I say. Silence. ‘He didn’t do it, Felicity.’

‘Whatever.’

‘I know my own son.’ Silence. ‘He might be a lot of things, but he’s not a thief.’

‘I didn’t ring to argue with you. Just get here, will you.’

‘I’ll come tomorrow,’ I say. She hangs up.

My sister’s a bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all sweetness and light myself, but Felicity is a witch and a martyr, and there’s nothing more unattractive than the smell of burning martyr. She stayed with Mother when she could have left to live in Bermuda with a police officer from Pocklington she had met on eHarmony. She’s bitter and twisted, and let’s face it, who wouldn’t be, living with Mother all those years?

 

#nilbymouth

Mother’s on form. Even on her deathbed, she can make me feel like crap. She sits up in bed, her grey curls flattened by the pillows she’s now propped on, winceyette bed jacket draped around her spiky shoulders, “ALICE GALLBREATH: NIL BY MOUTH” at her head.

‘Don’t know why you bothered coming all the way up here,’ she says.

‘It’s only twenty minutes up the road.’

‘Why do I never see you, then? There’s nowt for you in t’ will.’

‘I don’t want anything, Mother,’ I say.

‘That’ll be a first. Stand up straight and put your legs together. You couldn’t stop a pig in a passage.’

‘Stop with the compliments, will you?’ I say.

‘What you doing here?’

‘I came to see you.’

‘Want to watch me die?’

‘No, Mother. I came to say my goodbyes.’

‘Goodbye, then.’

‘Jesus, can you not just…’

‘What? Just what?’ Mother asks.

‘Just be nice,’ I say.

‘That’s rich, coming from you.’

‘Look, I know I haven’t been the World’s Best Daughter,’ I say.

‘Pah. Understatement of the year. Get one of those thingies from the nurse, will you?’

‘Thingies? Which nurse?’

‘The one that’s plain as a pikestaff. I need to say a decade of the rosary every time I look at her… A thingummy jig whatsit doodah…’ She sets off coughing, and I think she’s going to choke to death there and then. She waves her hand madly in the direction of the cupboard next to the bed.

‘In here?’ I ask. She nods. ‘A tissue?’ She nods again. I hand her a tissue, and she spits into it. Fresh red blood mixed with black swirls like a marble. She folds the tissue, shoves it into my hand and gestures to the plastic bag taped to her locker. I try not to retch as I stuff it in. ‘You haven’t exactly been Mum of the Year, either.’

‘Go on, kick me while I’m down.’

‘I’m not here to kick you, Mother. Felicity said you were asking for me.’

‘Yes, I wanted you to know that I know who took the money and your father’s watch, and I want you to get it back.’

‘Listen, if you’re going to accuse Drew again, I–’

‘I’m not.’

‘That was a terrible time for us…’

‘I wasn’t going to accuse Drew,’ she says. ‘I know it wasn’t Drew. He wouldn’t nick off his granny. I want you to get it back. I still want Drew to have it.’

‘Who was it?’

‘I don’t want it to cause trouble. I just want you to get it back.’

‘From where, Mother? Where do I get it from?’

‘Fliss,’ she says faintly.

‘I don’t understand. What about Felicity?’

‘It wasn’t your dad’s watch. Well, it was. But not the man you thought was your dad.’

‘What do you mean? What are you talking about? You’re talking in riddles. Whose was it? Mother?’

‘The letters explain,’ she says, her breath shallow and laboured.

‘Letters? What letters?’

‘In there,’ she says, pointing to the bedside cabinet. ‘They explain.’

‘Explain what?’

‘Everything. They explain everything. Forgive me…’

Her breath grows ragged, and the machine beside her beeps. A nurse comes running. It’s all a bit of a blur after that. Doctors run in. They shock her, and her heart starts again, then stops. They shock her again, calling, ‘Alice, Alice, can you hear me, Alice?’

When I’ve seen paramedics performing CPR on the telly, it’s so clean and clinical. This is brutal. Messy, noisy, the sound of ribs cracking, a blue mouth foaming, eyes rolling.

It seems like hours before a man in a white coat shakes his head and says, ‘Time of death, eleven twenty-two am.’

I can’t say that what I feel is sadness, but there is shock. Definite shock. Seeing Mother silent and not deadly. I wouldn’t say she looks peaceful or that she looks like she’s sleeping. She looks dead. Bitter Alice. Deceased. What did she want to explain? What did she want me to forgive?

I open her bedside cabinet and take out a brown bag. Inside is a bundle wrapped in red cloth. Unwinding the material, I can see letters, a huge bundle of letters, held together by elastic bands. I stuff them into my bag, intending to read them when I get home.

I sit beside the bed in a state of shock until Felicity arrives and blames me for killing our mother. ‘I think, in fact, that it was lung cancer that killed her.’

‘She was alright last night,’ she says. ‘She was chatting about Freda Birchill’s granddaughter being done for shoplifting.’

‘She wasn’t alright, though, was she? You called me up here because she was dying. You said to me that she didn’t have long left.’

‘Yeah, but I didn’t think…that she would really die.’ Her face crumples then, and I feel almost sorry for her. I put my hand on her shoulder, and she shrugs it off. ‘Do you think it’s been fun looking after her for the past twenty years while you swanned off to the city? You, the big I am.’

‘It’s Newcastle, Felicity, not New York. If you wanted a life, you could have chosen one.’

‘Chosen? Chosen?’ Her voice rises, and she beats her chest. ‘I didn’t have choices. My path was paved when you left. I couldn’t leave as well, could I? She’d have been on her own.’

I ignored her self-pity party. ‘She mentioned the money and Granddad’s watch. She said she knew Drew didn’t take it.’

‘If you’ve come here to cause trouble, I swear I’ll …’

‘Do what? Fliss, you invited me to come.’

‘Just go back to where you came from.’

‘I came from here, actually.’

‘So why do you talk as though you have a mouth full of marbles?’

‘What is it you want from me, Felicity?’

‘Nothing. I want nothing. Precisely what you’ve given me over the years.’

‘I’m going back,’ I say. ‘Let me know the arrangements for the funeral.’

‘Oh, yes, leave it all to me as usual. You can tell Drew to stay away, for a start.’

‘I’ll tell him no such thing. And I’ll tell you another thing, Mother wants him to have his granddad’s watch. Well, she said it’s not Dad’s. So, what do you know about that?’

‘Nothing. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.’

‘She wants me to find the watch and give it to Drew, and that’s what I’m going to do.’ Her face turns red, then green, then white. She storms off, sticking her nose in the air.



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Blog Tour: Burnout by Claire MacLeary

Hi all,

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Burnout by Claire MacLeary and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all!

About the author:

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Claire MacLeary lived in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Fife, before returning to her native Glasgow. She describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies.

About the book:

Burnout.jpg

“My husband is trying to kill me.” A new client gets straight to the point, and this line of enquiry is a whole new ball game for Maggie Laird, who is desperately trying to rebuild her late husband’s detective agency and clear his name. Her partner, “Big” Wilma, sees the case as a non-starter, but Maggie is drawn in.

With her client’s life on the line, Maggie must get to the ugly truth that lies behind Aberdeen’s closed doors. But who knows what really goes on between husbands and wives? And will the agency’s reputation – and Maggie and Wilma’s friendship – remain intact?

Click HERE to order your copy!


Burnout, by Claire MacLeary

The woman leaned in. ‘I’ll get straight to the point. I think my husband is trying to kill me.’

Wow! Maggie jolted upright. That’s a first!

She struggled to maintain eye contact whilst her mind worked overtime. If their initial telephone conversation was anything to go by, this Mrs Struthers promised to be a profitable new client for the agency. But a threat on her life? That was a whole new ball game.

Maggie re-lived the dressing-down she’d had from DI Chisolm earlier that year when she got herself involved in an active murder investigation. What on earth was she going to do now?

Maggie took another squint at Sheena Struthers. Small-boned. Short hair. Good skin. Not much make-up. Pretty in an old-fashioned sort of way. And ages with herself, she reckoned, or thereabouts. In short, the realisation hit home, like Maggie in another life.

Poor woman looked a bag of nerves: eyes staring, fingers picking relentlessly at her cuticles. Almost as fraught as Maggie had been when she’d first picked up the reins of her husband’s private investigation business. Still, the woman would be frightened, wouldn’t she, if someone really was trying to top her?

‘That’s a very serious allegation, Mrs Struthers,’ Maggie continued.

‘Sheena, please.’ The woman opposite pushed her cappuccino to one side.

They’d met in Patisserie Valerie in Union Square. Maggie had passed it often enough but never been inside. In her straitened position, she couldn’t afford to stump up nearly three pounds for a cup of something and the same again for a pastry. But the easy parking suited both her and her prospective client, and the cafe was low-key, more private than Costa Coffee or Starbucks.

‘Sheena.’ Maggie started to smile, then, remembering the subject matter, hastily rearranged her face. ‘On what grounds, might I ask, is this allegation based?’

Lord, would you listen to yourself? Since becoming a PI, Maggie had schooled herself to think like a detective. Now she was beginning to talk like one.

‘Just a feeling, really. It’s hard to explain, but…’

‘It’s this time of year.’ She cut the woman off mid-flow. ‘The run-up to Christmas puts a strain on the most solid of marriages.’ What she wouldn’t give, now, to have a man at her side, strain or no.

‘You’re so wrong.’ Sheena Struthers looked her straight in the eye. ‘I’ve done my homework, Mrs Laird. Looked into other agencies, in Aberdeen and further afield. For one thing they’re much too big. You’ll appreciate that in my situation…’ She cast a furtive glance around the cafe. ‘Discretion is paramount. With companies that size, one can never be sure.’

‘But the police,’ Maggie interjected. ‘Shouldn’t you…?’

‘My dear…’ Keen brown eyes gazed into Maggie’s own. ‘One gets the impression they’re stretched enough, don’t you agree?’

Maggie offered a non-committal, ‘Mmm.’

‘And besides,’ Mrs Struthers insisted, ‘you must realise that any police involvement could endanger my marriage.’

For the second time that afternoon Maggie was caught on the back foot. Make your mind up, woman: your marriage or your life? ‘Oh, yes,’ she murmured, ‘I see what you mean,’ though she was at a loss to follow this line of reasoning.

‘Nor could I take the matter to a solicitor,’ Sheena Struthers continued. She leaned in close, dropped her voice. ‘My husband is an accountant, you see. Moves in rather a closed circle. And Aberdeen, it’s small enough, still. Word gets around,’ she looked to Maggie for reassurance. ‘Doesn’t it?’

‘It certainly does.’ Maggie buried her nose in her cup. She knew only too well what the woman was alluding to. The police were as much a closed circle as any other professional body.

‘From what I’ve heard, you are a person of some integrity. And operate outwith,’ she raised a questioning eyebrow, ‘what one might loosely call “the establishment”. In short, Mrs Laird, your firm seems the perfect fit.’

Oh, to Hell! Maggie had intended to bring the meeting to a close. Now she’d let this Struthers woman take control. She straightened in her seat. ‘It’s kind of you to say so, but I really don’t think I’m the right person.’

‘You will help me, won’t you?’ Sheena reached across the table, clutched at her arm. ‘Please?’

Burnout, by Claire MacLeary is published by Contraband. Available as an ebook from 8 March, price £5.99. Available in print from 29 March, price £8.99.


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