Sunday, 18 December 2011

Books for 2012

Here's a quick look at some of the books I'll be reading in the early part of 2012.

On 29 January the new science fiction novel by Alastair Reynolds, Blue Remembered Earth,  comes out. Reynolds is probably my joint favourite science fiction author right now along with Stephen Baxter. It's been a couple of years since his last novel so I'll looking forward to the new one, Blue Remembered Earth.

On 16 February From the Deep of the Dark, Stephen Hunt's sixth Jackelian steampunk adventure appears. This one seems to involve a submarine adventure which bodes well as my favourite of the previous books, The Kingdon Beyond the Waves, involved a similar odyssey.

On 13 March An American Spy, Olen Steinhauer's third thriller in the Milo Weaver series comes out. Steinhauer quickly became a facourite author and I'm looking forward to this one.

On 29 March the new spy novel by Charles Cumming, A Foreign Affair, comes out. I quite enjoyed his last novel, The Trinity Six, so I hope this ones is as good. Harper are also reprinting two of his first three paperbacks on the same day so I'll be glad for a chance to get them as well.

As previously mentioned in another post The Thief, the fourth collabaration between Clive Cussler and Justin Scott, The Thief, comes out on 1 March.

Finally on 26 April The Wind Through the Keyhole, the eighth book in Stephen King's epic Dark Tower series comes out. Well, it's not actually the eighth book as it's set between the present books four and five. I bcame a big fan of the original books back in 2003 and it will be a pleasure to return to mid-world and met up with Roland and his ka-tet again.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr

I've just finished Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr. I believe this is the eighth book in his Bernie Gunther series, although it's only the third one I've read, following If the Dead Rise Not and Field Grey. I had read a couple of his earlier novels back in the 1990s, namely Gridiron and The Second Angel, both of which could be described as high-tech thrillers not a million miles from that pioneered by Michael Crichton.

The Gunther series however is mainly set in 1930s and 1940s Germany and features Berlin Cop Bernie Gunther and his struggles to solve crime while avoiding pandering to the excesses of Nazi Germany. The two previous books jumped around in time a little between 1930s Germany and 1950s Cuba.

Prague Fatale is a lot more focused and is set mainly in 1941 in Berlin and Prague. Gunther is back from "the east" and is investigating the murder of a Dutch worker. He gets sidetracked when he has to rescue a lady who is attacked while delivering a mysterious letter in the middle of the blackout. Gunther is trying to work out what connection she has, if any, to a spy ring when he gets called away to Prague at the behest of Reinhard Heydrich where the Nazi top brass are staying at Heydrich's house.

While in Prague one of Heydrich's adjutants is found dead in a locked room with bullet woulds to his body but the shell casings in the hall. Gunther must solve the murder and is told to treat everyone as a suspect regardless of their rank or affiliation to the Nazi party, a task he is uniquely suited for as he detests the party.

Of course there is more to the investigation than meets the eye and Gunther soon realises that the murder may be connected to a hunt for a traitor who is supplying secrets to the Czech resistance.

The Gunther novels are beginning to turn into a favourite read of mine. I still have the five earlier ones to read while waiting for the next one. Recommended.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Justin Scott "Isaac Bell" series checklist

In what seems a very short space of time author Justin Scott has produced quite a few books in the Isaac Bell series along with Clive Cussler.

The books are set in the early years of the 20th century and feature the adventures of Van Dorn agency detective Isaac Bell.

While the books have "Clive Cussler" in Really Big Letters on the covers I suspect the actual writing was dong by Justin Scott. Honestly he deservers at least equal billing as he's been producing quality thrillers for years such as The Shipkiller, Normande Triangle and A Pride of Royals, all of which are among my favourite novels.

The Bell series actually started with The Chase authored by Clive Cussler alone. This was followed by Justin Scott collaborations The Wrecker in 2009 and The Spy in 2010.

Today is the official publication date of The Race, at least in hardback in the UK I note that the trade paperback appeared in bookshops last month.

However Amazon and other sites are already listing the next in the series, The Thief, for publication as early as March 2012.

All the UK editions feature striking cover art by Larry Rostant. I quite enjoy how the art focuses on early 1900s tenchonlguy such as the steam engine, the dreadnought, an early aeroplane and what I assume is the Mauretania on The Thief as it's mentioned in the blurb.


Given the setting opf the books there are inevetiable hints of the tensions between the great powers of the time and the drift towards war. The books are essentuiall adventure stories however Scott also includes a nice amount of period detail such as a turn of phrase. I also have detected at least one mention of a character from one of his own books, namely the main character from A Pride of Royals which is set not long after the Bell books.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Alien Vault by Ian Nathan

I just discovered the existence of this book this evening and as soon as I did I ordered a copy. It promises to be the definitive account of the making of the first Alien movie with lots of previously unseen photos and pre-production art.

It also includes ten 'arifacts' such as a Nostromo blueprint and sticker, storyboard art, Giger illustrations and an example of a page from the script.

I don't know how news about this escaped me. I look forward to it. All other priorities rescinded.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Deniable Death by Gerald Seymour

Abigail Jones, aka Alpha Juliette, is an MI6 agent in Iraq. She develops some sources across the border in Iran that help her identify the engineer who is developing the sophisticated IEDs that are causing so much death and injury to allied troops in Iraq and Afganistan. She also learns that the engineer’s wife is seriously ill and will be travelling to seek medical expertise outside Iran. If MI6 knows where they will be travelling then they can “interdict” the engineer with help from the Americans and the Israelis.

But the sources inside Iran are killed and so an alternative method of finding out the destination is needed. The decision is made to send in two experts in CROP - Covert Rural Observation Posts. They will set up position near the engineer’s house and listen with a microphone for the all important destination.

The two men picked are nicknamed Badger and Foxy. They have never worked together before and take an instant dislike to each other. Badger is young and has a natural talent for the role of a “croppie”.Foxy is older, more experienced and most importantly he knows Farsi.

However Foxy is also a little full of his own self importance. For example as he lies in the hide he imagines working the experience into an anecdote in his next lecture.

The novel describes their covert entry into Iran and vividly describes their experiences in the mosquito ridden marshes as they wait, watching and listening for any hint of where the engineer and his wife will be travelling. Across the border Abigail Jones waits with her protection team to help extract Badger and Foxy as curious locals edge closer.

In typical Seymour fashion the “opposition” are not faceless and evil. We get to know the engineer, his wife and their security “goon” Mansoor. We get to know the motivations of each and sympathize a little despite their actions.

Gerald Seymour routinely turns out high quality work but every now and then one of the books is exceptional. I think this is one of the exceptional ones. The final section of the book is agonisingly tense.

The book is bookended by descriptions of repatriations of British service personnel through the town of Wootton Bassett. In another author’s hands the passages would feel like extraneous material inserted for their topicality. It’s hard to imagine this book without them.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

New covers for Sharpe 30th Anniversary

I've just spotted some of these new Sharpe editions down in my local Waterstones. (Amazon have the relase date as 15 September so I guess they are jumping the gun.)

It's 30 years since Bernard Cornwell's first Richard Sharpe novel, Sharpe's Eagle, was published. To mark the occasion HarperCollins are releasing new paperbacks with a retro nineteenth century design.

I'm a big fan of the Gino d'Achille and David Scutt art on the covers of previous editions but I quite like the new design.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Deniable Death out now

A Deniable Death is officially out today in hardback and trade paperback editions. I actually saw the softcover edition a week ago in Easons but decided to hold on for a week to get the hardcover edition, especially since both versions are identically priced.

Tesco are offering the hardback edition for £8, which is where I got my copy. I suspect Asda and Sainsburys will also be selling the book but I have not had a chance to check yet.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Just published is another movie tie-in from an author I've been meaning to read, namely Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard.

This is actually a collection of some Conan short stories "personally selected by the makers of the new film and the greatest Robert E. Howard scholars". In any case it should prove to be a good introduction to the character.

The book features some movie art on the cover.

The movie itself stars Jason Momoa, following in Arnold's footsteps, as Conan. I know him from Stargate Atlantis which was a favourite TV show of mine. Here's another of the movie posters designs.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre

I must confess that I have yet to read any of John le Carre's novels. I'll make a special effort to read his Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which is being reissued to tie-in with the new movie staring Gary Oldman as George Smiley.

The paperback is due out on 4 August 2011.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Olen Steinhauer Kindle bargains

Just a quick note about a couple of bargains I found on Amazon UK's Kindle store, namely Olen Steinhauer's The Nearest Exit and the spy story collection Agents of Treachery for just 99p each.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Bloodmoney by David Ignatius

Recently I read the new hardcover novel by David Ignatius, Bloodmoney, and thought it worth a mention here. Ignatius is perhaps best known for his novel Body of Lies as it was made into a movie by Ridley Scott a few years ago.

Bloodmoney is a present-day thriller, mainly dealing with the relationship between the American and Pakistani intelligence agencies. The plot deals with a secret off-shoot of the CIA that is sending off-the-books agents into Pakistan to bribe local warlords to stay out of the fight. Somehow the agents are being identified and picked off one by one.

Sophie Marx is given the job of tracking down the leak or mole responsible for blowing the identities of the agents. Along the way she discovers the unusual method being used to fund the bribery operation.

As a nice departure from the norm, the main "villain" is not some crazed terrorist looking to destroy the west. He's a university professor who's family was killed in a US drone attack and he is trying to balance the scales a little.

Overall the book was an entertaining enough read. I'm not a big fan of what I call "da Vinci Clones" and serial killer books so it's nice that there are still some authors out there writing espionage thrillers.

Faber & Faber Secrets and Lies

While browsing a local bookshop I spotted these eye-catching covers from Faber & Faber's "Secrets and Lies" themed series.

There are eight books in the series and two of them are books I've been intending to read for a while, namely Resistance by Owen Sheers and The Observations by Jane Harris.

You can see all the books in the series at

Saturday, 11 June 2011

John Gardner's James Bond reissues

I've just read that Orion are reprinting John Gardner's James Bond novels to mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of Licence Renewed in 1981.

The first five novels, Licence Renewed, For Special Services, Icebreaker, Role of Honour and Nobody Lives Forever, will get new hardback editions complete with their original classy cover artwork from the 1980s that was designed to match the cover designs of Fleming's hardbacks from the 1960s. The hardbacks will be out in June and July 2011.

Later all the books will get new paperback editions which is welcome as I believe they have been out of print since that late 1990s.

The Gardner Bonds are probably a littl bit underrated and it will be good to go back and reevaluate them. I suspect I'll be buying at least a few of the new editions.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Carte Blanche review

As mentioned in a previous post the new James Bond novel by Jeffery Deaver, Carte Blanche, was published on 26 May. I managed to find a hardback copy in my local branch of Tescos for £5.00, a price I was quite happy to pay. I read the novel of the weekend and here are my initial impressions.

The book itself is very nicely presented. There is a nice glossy '007' embossed on the front cover and the dust-jacket has a pleasing satin finish. At around 428 pages the novel is quite a bit longer than previous Bond novels.

The character of Bond has been moved to the present day. He is now a veteran of Afghanistan and works for an organisation called the ODG, which is attached to MI6. A lot of Bond characters make appearances such as M, Miss Moneypenny (albeit briefly), Mary Goodnight and Felix Leiter. Q Branch still exists although there is no Major Boothroyd.

The story concerns an intercepted message that suggests an attack on British interests will take place at the end of the week, resulting in the deaths of thousands. Bond has to investigate and find out who the players are and what the plot is.

There are four main settings: Serbia, the UK, Dubai and South Africa. I thought there was relatively little time spent in Dubai considering how the book was being trailed as being set there. I think I probably enjoyed the early UK-set parts of the book more than the latter parts, maybe because of the passages describing Bond's thoughts on his appealing colleague Philly. I do have to say that I think Deaver has got Bond's 'voice' spot-on.

And there are definitely little touches of Fleming in the book, for example when describing Bond's Bentley thus:
'It had always been his goal to own one of the stately yet wickedly fast and clever vehicles.'

When I read lines like that I just smile.

If I have any complaints they would relate to some of the slightly contrived misdirection and that there were not enough 'Fleming' style chapter titles. As I read the book I thought up quite a few suitable ones.
It must be noted that the American Deaver must have done a lot of research on British pop culture. Top Gear, The Two Ronnies and  ASDA all get a mention. The only 'mistake' I picked up was one reference to 'Dr Who' instead of 'Doctor Who'.

Overall it was a very enjoyable read and I would not object to seeing Mr Deaver's name on the next Bond novel, whenever that may be!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Carte Blanche for a fiver

Today Carte Blanche, the new James Bond novel by Jeffrey Deaver, is published. Some shops are selling it for half price, however I managed to buy a copy in my local Tescos for a mere £5.00, or 75% off the RRP.

Other new books out this week that caught my eye include the new Jason Bourne novel The Bourne Dominion by Eric Lustbader, the paperback of The Dealer and the Dead by Gerald Seymour and the paperback of Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

LUTHER: The Calling by Neil Cross

Last year a new detective show appeared on the BBC called Luther. I quite enjoyed it so it's interesting to see that the creator of the show has written a novel about the character. It's due for publication in the UK (in proper hardback!) on 4 August.

Meet Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. He's a murder detective. A near-genius. He's brilliant; he's intense; he's instinctive. He's obsessional. He's dangerous. DCI John Luther has an extraordinary clearance rate. He commands outstanding loyalty from friends and colleagues. Nobody who ever stood at his side has a bad word to say about him. And yet there are rumours that DCI Luther is bad - not corrupt, not on the take, but tormented. Luther seethes with a hidden fury that at times he can barely control. Sometimes it sends him to the brink of madness, making him do things he shouldn't; things way beyond the limits of the law. Luther: The Calling, the first in a new series of novels featuring DCI John Luther, takes us into Luther's past and into his mind. It is the story of the case that tore his personal and professional relationships apart and propelled him over the precipice. Beyond fury, beyond vengeance. All the way to murder...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Gerald Seymour's A Deniable Death cover

A cover image for A Deniable Death has turned up on Amazon UK.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Frederick Forsyth reissues

Over the weekend I noticed a new paperback edition of Frederick Forsyth's first novel The Day of the Jackal in the shops, featuring the words "40th Anniversary Edition" prominently on the cover. I realised that I had never read the book or bought a copy before so I decided to get it.

Nice shiny book, but I was expecting perhaps a new introduction by Forsyth or some other new content to explain why the book is considered such a milestone in thriller writing. Alas no. Still, I'm a quarter way in and it's a good read.

Searching online it appears that Arrow are also reissuing his other earlier novels including The Odessa File, The Dogs of War, The Devil's Alternative and The Fourth Protocol. Also included in the range are No Comebacks, a short story collection and his short novel The Shepherd.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming

I've just finished my first novel by Charles Cumming, titled The Trinity Six. This is the fifth novel by this author and it belongs very much in the spy genre. This makes a nice change from the usual Di Vinci Clones and serial killer epics that are presently filling up the shelves of the bookshops I visit.

The book is set in the present day with Sam Gaddis, an English academic and expert on Russia, finding himself in financial trouble. He needs to write a best-seller instead of his usual dry tomes. He comes across the theory that there was a sixth doube agent called Eddie Crane who was spying for the Russians during the Cold War. Apparently Crane's death was faked in 1992 and he has been living under another identity ever since. Gaddis starts the detective work.

Eventually he encounters a contemporary of Crane who starts revealing some details to Gaddis. Meanwhile otyher people who know of Crane's faked death are being eliminated, apparently be the Russians. It would appear that Crane has knowledge of a secret with implications to the relationship between the UK and Russia.

This was an entertaining novel and was quite well written. While not action packed it did feature a increasingly paranoid Gaddis traveling around Europe trying to get to the bottom of things while avoiding the Russian assassins and potential MI6 interference.

In time I will be checking out the author's other four novels.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Gerald Seymour update

Thanks to Brian for alerting me that the release date for the next Gerald Seymour hardback has been put back slightly. A Deniable Death is now due for release on 4 August 2011.


The paperback of last year's The Dealer and the Dead is due out on 26 May 2011 from Hodder paperbacks and Amazon have the following cover image up.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Afrika Reich by Guy Saville

I'm a fan of alternate history novels and there's a new book out this week called The Afrika Reich by Guy Saville that looks to be in the mold of The Man in the High Castle, SS-GB and Fatherland.

1952. It is more than a decade since the Dunkirk fiasco marked the end of Britain’s war and an uneasy peace with Hitler.

In Africa, the swastika flies from the Sahara to the Indian Ocean. Gleaming autobahns bisect the jungle and jet fighters patrol the skies. Britain and the Nazis have divided the continent but now the demonic plans of Walter Hochburg – architect of Nazi Africa – threaten Britain’s ailing colonies.

In England, ex-mercenary Burton Cole is offered one last contract. Burton grabs the chance to settle an old score with Hochburg, despite his own misgivings and the protests of the woman he loves. If Burton fails, unimaginable horrors will be unleashed in Africa. No one – black or white – will be spared.

But when his mission turns to disaster, Burton is forced to flee for his life.

His flight takes him from the unholy killing ground of Kongo to SS slave camps and on to war-torn Angola, finally reaching its thrilling climax in a conspiracy that leads to the dark heart of the Reich itself.

Guy Saville has combined meticulous research with edge-of-the seat suspense to produce a superb novel of alternate history.


The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett

Discovered an interesting sounding book due out in April called The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett.

The year is 1919. The McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry. They built the guns that won the Great War before it even began. They built the airships that tie the world together. And, above all, they built Evesden — a shining metropolis, the best that the world has to offer.

But something is rotten at the heart of the city. Deep underground, a trolley car pulls into a station with eleven dead bodies inside. Four minutes before, the victims were seen boarding at the previous station. Eleven men and women butchered by hand in the blink of an eye. All are dead. And all are union.

Now, one man, Cyril Hayes, must fix this. There is a dark secret behind the inventions of McNaughton, and with a war brewing between the executives and the workers, the truth must be discovered before the whole city burns. Caught between the union and the company, between the police and the victims, Hayes must uncover the mystery before it kills him.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer

Over the Christmas break I made sure to read the latest Olen Steinhauer thriller, The Nearest Exit. This is the author's seventh novel and the second to feature his "Tourist" hero Milo Weaver, who works for the Department of Tourism, a super-secret branch of American intelligence.

This book follows on a number of months after the events of The Tourist where Milo discovered that his Department was responsible for an assassination in Sudan. The repercussions of this event form the background to the new book.

Since then Milo, estranged from his family back in America, has been doing some low-key missions as he is reintroduced into the fold. Now after being ordered to kill a teenage girl in Germany he discovered he has to disobey orders.

And if that's not enough to keep him busy it then transpires that Chinese intelligence may have uncovered information about the Department and the identities of its agents.

I really enjoyed this book. Steinhauer has quickly become one of my favourite thriller authors. I'll be reading the rest of his backlist in 2011 and looking forward to novel number eight.

Aurelio Zen novels by Michael Dibdin - TV tie-ins

The BBC is broadcasting adaptations of the first three Aurelio Zen Italian-set mysteries by Michael Dibdin, namely Ratking, Vendetta and Cabal. This is an author I have noticed on the shelves for many years but never got around to reading any of the books. I'll rectify that now.

The first three novels have been given Rufus Sewell covers (he's playing Zen) and are out now.

It seems that Ratking is the first in the series although the BBC has broadcast Vendetta as the first episode.