The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin

Jack Reacher is only the second of Jim Grant’s great fictional characters: the first is Lee Child himself. Heather Martin’s biography tells the story of all three.

Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation.

Three things attracted me to this book, about an author that I have never actually read.  The price, a first chapter titled The Library, and thirdly a reference to the wonderful One Hundred years of Solitude, which I happened upon whilst flicking idly through the pages.

Despite my lack of knowledge about the author, other than seeing his many books, which are seemingly everywhere, I found this biography to be very readable, no doubt because it’s good to be nosy about someone else’s life.  it is interesting how the mundane can become rich when examined from the outside, and there is a wealth of detail here to dive into here.

Over half of the book charts Grant’s life before finding his inner (Lee) child, and whilst was good to find the origins of not only the author – an inveterate reader himself  – but also of Jack Reacher, the text does jump around a bit between times and people causing a bit of confusion at times.  This part of the book about humble and tough beginnings was interesting enough and I looked forward to reading about his writing career. Continue reading “The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin”


Camino Island – John Grisham

The most daring and devastating heist in literary history targets a high security vault located deep beneath Princeton University.

Valued at $25 million (though some would say priceless) the five manuscripts of F Scott Fitzgerald’s only novels are amongst the most valuable in the world. After an initial flurry of arrests, both they and the ruthless gang of thieves who took them have vanished without trace.

Now it falls to struggling writer Mercer Mann to crack a case that has thwarted the FBI’s finest minds.

I’m not a big thriller reader, but I love books about books so I bit the bullet and decided to pick up for Camino Island, even despite the wildly inaccurate Think The Da Vinci Code (the capital D always bothers me, as does the book itself) meets Sherlock Holmes, which was claim of The Sun, a paper not known for anything worthwhile.

This novel has no doubt split his loyal readers, as it has little of the legal side of things and is slowly paced for the majority of the book, but I couldn’t help but have fun reading it.  This is a beach read of the best kind, and it probably helps that I’m not a staunch Grisham fan.

Strangely there were a fair amount of things that would usually annoy me in this book, yet they didn’t: a certain event from one of the characters past being alluded to way too much, perhaps that is an idea for a future book but it didn’t need to be quite as laboured here. Grisham writing for a female character didn’t always convince, the pacing was slow in the main which was fine but perhaps thriller is the wrong term for the book, and the characters were all one dimensional with no development to speak of.  Yet with all that in mind I still enjoyed the book. Continue reading “Camino Island – John Grisham”

In Which, Bestsellers are Discussed, and Cowardly Actions Take Place

With a heavy heart I dragged my feet, which is hard to do whilst also pushing a pushchair, towards ASDA, the local supermarket.  Inevitably the usual torturous shopping trip loomed.  The routine is usually something like this; we have a list, then wander aimlessly around the store, before settling on said original items.

This time though a plan was forming in my devious mind.  It involved volunteering to take Amelia to the books, so she wasn’t bored and joining up somewhere in store later, which actually in reality meant hiding in a cowardly fashion near the books until the shopping was completed.

The books on offer were not exactly thrilling. As you would expect there were an array of bestsellers, you know the type, a book with Clive Cussler’s name emblazoned on it when the other co-author (in much smaller print) wrote most of it, yet another book about someone doing a job in Auschwitz, and some grim true crime, etc.  Admittedly I once saw a copy of To Kill a mockingbird hanging around on the bottom shelf so since then I have been keeping a keen eye out. Continue reading “In Which, Bestsellers are Discussed, and Cowardly Actions Take Place”

Valley of Thracians – Ellis Shuman

Valley-of-ThraciansA Peace Corps volunteer has gone missing in Bulgaria and everyone assumes he is dead, everyone except his grandfather, who refuses to give up hope. Retired literature professor Simon Matthews launches a desperate search only to be lured into a bizarre quest to retrieve a stolen Thracian artifact—a unique object of immense value others will stop at nothing to recover.

A novel set in Bulgaria?  This is something new for me and it’s nice to get an insight into and learn about a country that is arguably – and perhaps unfairly – best known for its football team of the 1994 world cup.

My first impressions were that this was going to be a Da Vinci Code style book but I am happy to report that it isn’t and that makes me happy…very happy.

From the outset the author’s words radiate a genuine passion and a deep sense of love for the beauty of Bulgarian culture and history and gives the story that authentic feel.

The book is a slow burner with many plot threads that are unravelled then twined together and developed for the inevitable finale.  With the story sometimes reading like a travel book or perhaps an advert for the Bulgarian tourist board,not that that is by any means a criticism, I like the picturesque.

There was something soothing about viewing mountains from afar, as if the capabilities of nature to create such majesty could easily solve the trivial concerns of those who fell captive to their wonders.

The story is divided neatly into parts which seamlessly transition between plot and cultural lessons of Bulgarian idiosyncracies, geography and pronunciation.  There is a nice change between third and first person perspectives at one point as we are introduced to key character Scott which helps the book feel fresh and had me sympathising with him more than I perhaps would have done in third person…the workings of the mind render characters ever more intimate. Continue reading “Valley of Thracians – Ellis Shuman”

Running with the Enemy – Lloyd Lofthouse

Low-Def Kindle Cover December 11Apologies for not replying to or checking out your blogs of late, I shall be catching up with you all in the next day or two so keep your welcome mats out.  Whilst I’m at it, a big thank you to Mr Lofthouse for his patience whilst I battled (see that, a pun this early on) through various backlogs of various things.

Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. In “Running with the Enemy”, Ethan Card is a loyal US Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again. And the women he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

In the claustrophobic theatre of war, there is always a feeling of hidden yet blatant peril which could be lurking anywhere and in this cat and mouse game that takes place in various countries there really is a sense of oppressive drama and isolation.

As this is a book set in the Vietnam War, then you will probably appreciate there is a fair amount of brutality involved including one particularly grim torture scene.  This is over quickly though as the book rattles along at a cracking pace, with action aplenty but also a fair amount of army politics and a forbidden love thrown in as well.

In keeping with the real thing, a bit of technical jargon is used, some of which I wasn’t familiar with and I did have to search out some words but overall I was able to understand what was meant through context and even if you need to learn the meaning of all words like myself that you don’t know, it doesn’t detract from the flow of the book at all.

As Card and the truly sinister antagonist Ortega – an intelligent psychopath with influence who will stop at nothing for power and revenge – play out their deadly game of hide and seek to the backdrop of the grim insanity of war, we see it’s madness and lies corrupting everybody down to their deepest morals. Ortega is representative of some of the more unpalatable displays of what go on in armies – which one would be naive to think doesn’t go on – which makes him a really good hate figure.  In fact this guy has no redeeming qualities apart from the fact that he makes a character that the reader loves to loathe. Continue reading “Running with the Enemy – Lloyd Lofthouse”

The Raid 2 and Cinema Experience

Yesterday I went to the cinema, a rare event for me as I tend to watch my films in the company of two or fewer people, in fact mostly just by myself.  Having said that every so often a film comes along that demands to be experienced on the big screen..The Lord of the Rings were three such films with the epic scope to the fighting and the realisation of the world that it raised the benchmark for epic films.

Despite all that I do like the cinema with that sensory deprivation that gives an edge of danger and the unknown to what you are experiencing. The truly great films take you away to another world or time and it’s an amazing feeling to discover that piece of art which allows you to forget you are in a room full of other people and just be totally focused in that moment.


Although multiplex chains have become commonplace and make the world of quality cinema seem almost vestigial these days, (fans of independent cinema I salute you), there is no shame in giving the corporate suits some of your hard-earned money if the film demands it.  Ignoring the shamefully expensive food and drink as well as the people talking about how amazing Saw 26 was, it is somewhere I perhaps need to start going to more often.

The film I went to see was The Raid 2, a film in an all together different category from your average action flick. It’s a fantastically colossal action/thriller martial arts film which takes choreographed combat to the limits.  The sequel to The Raid, imaginatively titled The Raid 2: Berendal is one heck of a film…for those of you not familiar with the first film it had a simple plot of taking down a gang leader that didn’t get in the way of pure action, it’s a pacy film with really exhilarating to watch fight scenes which get longer as the film goes on.  The second film builds on this with even more style than the first without just rehashing the same film. Continue reading “The Raid 2 and Cinema Experience”

Smokescreen – Khaled Talib

Yet another featured author who kindly allowed me to review his book, follow Mr K. Talib’s trendsetting and Contact Ste! if you wish to get correspond me.

At an ancient café in Cairo, two veteran spies plot a covert mission to resolve — once and for all — the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. The pledge: Israel will make a major concession as part of the peace treaty. In Singapore, Jethro Westrope, a magazine journalist, stumbles onto the scene of a murder: the beautiful Niki Kishwani directs him, in her last breath, to a digital recorder, evidence that puts Jethro’s life in serious danger. And, much worse, he is framed for Niki’s murder. Jethro sets out to find Niki’s killer and is drawn into a web of deception and intrigue involving officials from the Singaporean, Israeli, and American governments, each with a complex, competing, and potentially deadly agenda. Against this pulse-pounding backdrop, Jethro races to find answers and save himself —yet nothing is as it seems. He finds himself at the centre of a political plot so diabolical and sweeping in its world implications that he is stunned to discover tomorrow’s news headlines today. He is being set up not only as a murderer but as an assassin, and something much larger than his own fate is in his hands.

Whenever I read a thriller there is always a temptation – which I try to avoid – to mention such well-worn classic clichés such as ‘fast paced’ and ‘page turning’ and ‘labyrinthine’. In this case though that is difficult as that is precisely what this book is, however it would be disingenuous of me to dismiss them in this case.

Smokescreen is an apt title for a novel dealing with political chicanery and this is evident from the first pages, I found myself getting ready to relish a story that felt international, realistic and above all intense. I was not disappointed.  With a high body count and some nice detailing, I was in my element,  in fact I defy anyone to reach that state of mind when there is a character called Hong Kong Chong in the mix. Continue reading “Smokescreen – Khaled Talib”

Cydonia: Rise of the Fallen – Seyi David

A mere thirty days… …is what ex priest, Aaron Cohen has to stop a devastating attack on earth from elusive and ruthless forces but events soon took an alarming turn for the worse. The Vatican came under attack when a demonic bloodhound under the command of Tyrus, Lucifer’s son, went on rampage. They left destruction on their trail. As events unfold with alarming speed, Aaron Cohen’s life spiralled out of control, chased by forces beyond human comprehension; he embarked on an adventure to protect the Ark of the Covenant and the stones of fire from brutal forces intent on annihilating the human race. Set against an extraordinary and enigmatic church of St Mary, Axum in Ethiopia, Aaron fought with demons, escaped assassins’ bullets and every attempt to halt impending doom seemed slimmer than ever.

agp-sd-c-cover-3dfileAnyone pootling around these here local parts of WordPress recently will have noticed our fellow blogger Seyi and others have been bigging up her new book.  Rather belatedly I have gotten around to doing a review of Cydonia – which was released in December – and after a busy period, I have finally finished the book and am ready with my verdict, which is thus: Continue reading “Cydonia: Rise of the Fallen – Seyi David”

Desperation – D.W. Carver

cover8Kate thought that once her mother died, the pain she had caused would end. Then she discovered that a letter had been sent to a prominent television presenter on her mother’s orders taunting him with the fact that Kate now held photographs which would ruin him and probably lead to his arrest. Suddenly Kate is running for her life. She seeks help from Rob, a much older man whom she has only known for a very short time. While at his London apartment, she rescues a teenage girl, Vickie, from a street pimp and over the following days finds a bond growing between them that feels like a lot more than friendship; but with both their lives now in danger there is no time for thoughts of anything but escape and survival.

Once again an author has gotten in touch via the Contact Ste! page, D.W. Carver whose work Nightmares and Other Therapy I previously reviewed kindly offered me another novel for the perusing.

My dalliances with romances have to date been bad experiences, the books I have previously read and reviewed, Fifty Shades of Grey and The Man Every Woman Wants were definitely not my cup of tea so I approached this desperately hoping that this would break my barren spell and give me something that I would enjoy.

The author did describe this book to me, in our initial correspondence, as BDSM without the B and within a few pages I was straight into that aspect of the explicit yet oddly personal world of fetish fans.  To begin with the psychology of the shared predilection for discipline is quite interesting but after the initial encounter this aspect is moved to the side somewhat to make way for the main storyline.

Continue reading “Desperation – D.W. Carver”

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