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  1. The Turn of the Tide by Margaret Henderson Smith. Book Review


    “The Turn of the Tide” is Margaret Henderson Smith’s latest episode in the ongoing saga of the accident prone Harriet Glover.

       Harriet is a teacher and is still besotted with, or should I say deeply in love with, her boss, one Joris Sanderson, though it seems she often wishes she felt different about that.

       Joris, or Mr Sanderson, as Harriet still insists on calling him, has apparently everything a man could desire. He’s a doctor, headmaster, Knight of the realm with friends in high places, and I mean stratospheric, as in Prime Ministers and the like, and you don’t get much higher than that.

       And now Harriet is pregnant and Joris, sorry Mr Sanderson, is the father, though no one else knows that, and in the meantime he has a bevy of beauties hanging around, former girlfriends and lovers, and even mothers of his children, and others eyeing up Joris’s fabulous house and extravagant lifestyle and wishing and hoping and thinking and scheming that one day Joris could be theirs and theirs alone. Not that Harriet is without admirers too, though she’s inclined to stand back and keep her counsel and play her cards very close to her chest.

       There’s something of the Real Housewives of Cheshire going on here, every time I see that programme I think of a rampaging Harriet, who despite being pregnant still gets herself into all kinds of scrapes, from mugging cab drivers and stealing his cab, to crossing swords with crazy drug soaked rappers.

       There are a lot of characters here too, as you might expect, seeing as this is the fifth book in the series, so you may wish to go back and start at the beginning, though you don’t need to do that as “The Turn of the Tide” stands alone as a separate novel, and there’s a very useful guide to all the players at the beginning of the book to keep you onside at all times.

       I particularly liked the ending, though I will say no more on that here, and it had me wondering as to whether “The Turn of the Tide” is indeed the end of the road for Harriet Glover and her consonant dropping chums, but then again, somehow I doubt that, for Harriet has an exciting future before her, and I suspect there’s still much intrigue to be told and stories to unfold.



  2. Today I’m delighted to write a few words about my new short book that is out this month.

    It’s called “Down into the Darkness” and is much shorter than most of my books, clocking in at around 140 pages, but some people have liked the fact that it’s a short and snappy read. Let’s face it, we don’t all have the time or want to read 700 page marathons.

    “Down into the Darkness” follows the fortunes of the thirty-something Tony Jenks. He lives alone in a small flat in an old Edwardian building that he shares with three other flats. All the other apartments are occupied by a weird bunch of people with a weird bunch of problems, but Tony’s happy enough to stay there for he has a decent job, and no mortgage, and believes he is as free as it is possible to be.

    Then one night while in bed, alone as usual, he hears noises the likes of which he has never heard before, and Tony’s journey down into the darkness has begun.

    The book has been described as “intelligent horror”, though I did not set out to write a horror story, and I am still not sure that it is, but as Graham Greene used to say, “I have to read what the critics have to say before I ever know what my books are all about”, or words to that effect, and I’ll go along with that.

    “Down into the Darkness” is out now as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy the ebook for less than a cup of high street coffee.

    Here’s the book trailer here:


    And you can look at the SEARCH INSIDE feature and read a couple of chapters on Amazon here:

    Thanks for reading my stuff, and I hope you like the book,








  3. In My Blood by Greg Waggett - Book Review


    Greg Waggett was a career soldier and when he eventually left the service he found himself at a loose end and so he did what many people do, he started a property letting agency. But that didn’t satisfy him for long and the money wasn’t great, and who wants to be chasing around difficult tenants all day? – (I know – been there – done that!) – so he started an advertising agency and that did okay, until things started to change, and maybe he needed something more – maybe there was a midlife crisis in there somewhere too, but he went back into the service, in a way, when he joined a PSC, a Private Security Company, utilising the skills he’d picked up in the Army… working in the Middle East and Libya and anywhere else where such people are always needed.

      It isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, escorting Corporation personnel around difficult terrain, guarding installations, being shot at, but the pay was good, £300 a day, and that was ten years ago, probably double that today, but the risks were and are enormous, as many people have found out to their terrible cost.

       This is his story and a cracking read it is too. I learned a lot, some trivial information, and others not. Here are two weird facts that stick in the mind. Did you know where Winston Churchill first found himself in a war situation? Everyone says: South Africa, and everyone’s wrong. Greg says Cuba, and Greg is right. And here’s another useless fact. Did you know that they don’t have eggcups in Kuwait? Nothing to dip your soldiers in? Catastrophe eh? Answer? A used toilet roll. Can’t you just see it set up on the table, boiled egg sitting proud, top off, salt and pepper on, soldiers in!!! Great.

       Greg Waggett is a prescient man. He said that if the American led coalition ever left Iraq for a second time the country and surrounding area would descend into chaos, and they would have to go back in and sort it out all over again, and that is precisely what is happening today. He can also write – this book is very well written, full of the kind of humour that is right up my street. He comes across as a man you’d want to share a G & T with, and if he ever wants to slow down a tad and find a new career, maybe he should consider writing a work of fiction based on the conflicts in the area, for I’m petty sure it would be better than a lot of the special forces stuff that has been written and put out up ’till now.

       Later on there are equally interesting chapters based in East Africa, in Juba and Nairobi and Mombassa and Dar, just as South Sudan was going through a difficult birth. There are a number of small colour photos – I’d have preferred larger ones -  and even a nod to long distance internet dating – (quite amusing too) after all, what else is there to do at night stuck out in the back of beyond?

       Greg Waggett is an opinionated man, and that’s cool, he says it as it is, without the shackles of political correctness, and that sure makes a change in this mollycoddled day and age, and I found, as I suspect many people of my, and his generation, that I agreed with almost every word.

       In case you hadn’t gathered I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in fact it is the best book I have read in the last twelve months, and might I also suggest that it should be essential reading for anyone considering joining a PSC or similar, anywhere throughout the world’s trouble spots, especially working within the turbulent Arabic world. The money maybe good, but the risks can be enormous, and it isn’t suitable for everyone, and some really do pay the ultimate price. Read the book before ye go! It might change your mind, it might open your eyes, it might even speed your journey. Highly recommended.

  4. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith



    There is no civilian crime in the perfect paradise of Soviet Russia under Stalin, only sabotage and mayhem carried out by foreign spies and mercenaries, no doubt instigated, backed, and sent by the West.


    Leo Demidov is a highly decorated war hero and now an outstanding officer in the MGB (KGB?) – the Soviet State Security Force.


    He possesses a decent apartment, an attractive trophy wife, and a status that befits a man of his position, but when he comes across something supposedly unusual, or even unheard of, like a serial killer, he keenly wants to investigate the case, but finds himself demoted and sidelined and denounced. But why?


    Child 44 is a cracking book about how anyone can work and survive within such a suffocating and murderous system, and was the first book from TRS.


    Unlike most people I read Tom Rob Smith’s second book first, and again, unlike most people I thought that The Secret Speech was the better read, (they feature the same characters) but maybe that was simply because the first title read in a series has all the advantages of freshness.


    Child 44 is a gripping and well-researched read, but then it jolly well should be. Why? Well, at the end of the book there are the usual thank you pages for people who helped with the book, and here, giving thanks to no less than twenty, no doubt highly paid and highly qualified people, who helped to knock the book into shape ready for final publication.


    Makes one wonder what the original draft was like, or am I just being picky? But seriously folks, it does remind us that the people who write and publish Indie novels, some of which these days are very good indeed, have to do all of that re-writing and correcting and polishing all on their own, or at least the vast majority of it, and good luck to them too, for they deserve all and any rewards and accolades that come their way.


    But back to Child 44. I enjoyed TRS’s novel and will look out for and read more of his stuff as they come cruising by. Child 44 is certainly recommended by me, and now I see that the movie of the same name has been released and I am looking forward to that too. Just hope it’s not a great disappointment like so many other thrillers turned movies have been in recent times, Reacher comes to mind so far as that is concerned. 

  5. I Got Bitten by a Dog in Highcliffe-on-Sea the Other Day.


    And here’s a photo of my war wound to prove it!!


    ferrari bite clarks ladies st basils grist cover 004

    More pics below.


    I was walking along the cliff minding my own business and turned up by the café.


    I heard these two guys really yelling at their dog COME HERE!!! JUST COME HERE!!! And immediately thought it a little weird.


    The dog was NOT on a lead and was clearly playing up. It then turned and looked over its shoulder – saw me – and came straight over.


    Without any warning it leapt up and tried to bite my face!! I kid you not, and as I brushed it away it ran round behind me and bit me high up on the back of the thigh.


    Still not content, it tried to bite my ankles, as the owners stood off, did nothing and uttered the famous words: HE WON’T BITE YOU!!! You wanna bet?


    Too late for that – it already had – and was coming back for more.


    I am not proud in saying that I lost my temper and swore at the dog and at the owner’s in turn only to be told: HE’S NEVER DONE THAT BFORE – Yeah right – I’ll bet.


    So if you are walking around Highcliffe on Sea in Dorset keep an eye out for a dog off a lead with two guys, a-yelling – you just can’t be too careful!!!!


    ferrari bite clarks ladies st basils grist cover 009


    ferrari bite clarks ladies st basils grist cover 013


    ferrari bite clarks ladies st basils grist cover 013



    Feedback by Lisa Montanino. - Book Review.



    “Feedback” is the first full-length novel by Lisa Montanino and it follows the fortunes for a year of Claire Convenzionale. Claire’s a modern woman who just happens to be a morning radio presenter at a New York rock radio station.

       She’s also down in the dumps because she’s recently broken off with her fiancé because of his substance abuse, though she’s putting a brave face on things. She’s now free and open to anything the world has to offer, and floating on the margins of rock music, she isn’t short of opportunities.

       In her quiet moments she frets that she hasn’t presented her grounded and adoring parents with grandkids, just like her sisters have done, but hey, everyone can’t be the same, and there are different paths in life for all of us, and still plenty of time for the desirable Claire.

       “Feedback” is a modern novel set against a music background and one that will certainly appeal to modern young women. And it’s also easy to read, easy to get into, and well written, something that not all modern indie fiction achieves, and because if that I suspect it will find a wider audience.

       There’s lots of snappy and realistic dialogue in there too, much of which I imagined had actually been spoken by someone, and that’s always a sign of accurately recorded speech.

       It’s not the kind of thing I would normally read, but I enjoyed it and I see that a follow-up is mooted and I’m sure a lot of readers would be interested in that too. Recommended.

  7. "The Times That Try Men's Souls" by T J Alexander


    A couple of centuries ago I studied history at school with some degree of enthusiasm, when I wasn’t staring out at the sports field, though being brought up and educated in England it was all Romans and Norman Conquest and Plantagenets and Agincourt and Tudors and Cromwell, and later on Disraeli and Gladstone and Bismarck and Queen Vic and the build up to World War I.

       The American War of Independence barely registered in my time back before the blackboards and maybe that isn’t entirely surprising, so I guess that I am not alone in being somewhat ignorant of the events of the fourth quarter of the 18th century. 

       In T J Alexander’s “The Times That Try Men’s Souls” – (a cracking title that was borrowed from a quote by Thomas Paine, the English born political activist born in Thetford,) the reader is treated to a fictional account of the cataclysmic events covering the period 1776 to 1790.

       Tis fair to say that if those years could ever be re-run a lot of things might have been done differently, but you can’t trade backwards, so they say, but it doesn’t stop us occasionally wondering how things might have turned out if a few different forks in the track had been taken.

       There’s a lot of dialogue in the book, which I like, and most of it is very believable too, though it is always a dangerous thing putting words and thoughts into the minds and mouths of famous people, especially iconic ones like George Washington, but lots of writers do it, and the world would be a duller place if they didn’t.

       Overall I enjoyed the story, it’s a worthy effort that’s clearly been thoroughly researched, so I’m glad I took the time to read it and I learned a great deal too. Why not take a look when you are next pondering on something to read? 


    If you'd like to learn more about that time and the American War of Independence here's a video that will take you back more than two hundred years. Hope you like it.



  8. Come on Royal Mail - Get a Grip!!!!




    This is the latest parcel taken to the Post Office and brought home to be sent by courier.

    And it's not a huge thing for heaven's sake: 22 x 22 x 17 and that's centimetres NOT inches.

    OK, it weighs a bit, 2.6kg, but look at the prices:

    Christchurch, Dorset, to Plymouth:

    Royal Mail: £15.30

    Courier - door to door - all day long  £7.50!!!!!!

    Get a grip Royal Mail before it's too late.

    We are sending so many now by courier that there could come a day when we will simply say that it isn't worth bothering about Royal Mail at all, and we wouldn't be alone in thinking that.



  9. Here's my Review for John Updike's last work of fiction, "Terrorist"



    Ahmad is a mixed up American teenager. He dreams idealistic dreams of his absent and handsome Yemeni father, while taking his Irish heritage mother for granted. She works hard in the hospital but dreams of realising her ambitions through painting, as she works her way through a stream of unsuitable lovers, men that Ahmad does not approve of, just as young men in such circumstances often do, or don’t.

       Ahmad laughs at his mother’s Catholic religion, what’s that all about? All that shrieking singing and crazy pictures? Preferring as he does, to follow his father’s Muslim calling, something that vaguely amuses his mother, as Ahmad spends more and more time at the mosque, learning long scriptures by heart, perfecting his Arabic, one-to-one, with a zealous and impressed Imam.

       Meanwhile, back at school Ahmad attracts the attention of teacher and career advisor Jack the Jew, an older man who’s pressing Ahmad to go on to college, to achieve great things, - you can do it boy, he says, but Ahmad has already set his heart on becoming a truck driver.

       ‘You could do so much better for yourself,’ insists Jack, turning to his mother, showing interest in her too, despite the twin facts that he’s married and twenty years older than Ahmad’s Ma.

       ‘Trucks are for me,’ insists Ahmad, ‘and the pay’s good too!’

       So begins John Updike’s book “Terrorist”, a novel that seems to have divided critics and readers alike and I can see why. He doesn’t hold back in taking a pop at various sections of society, the obese for a start, and who can deny that America has a big problem with that, and America is not alone either.

       In places it came across as a book from a man who was coming toward the end of his life and was disappointed at how things had turned out. In places he appeared to be losing touch with modern technology too, an easy thing to do when you get older, maybe yearning for the simpler life of pen and ink and landline telephones and damn all else, worried that if you take your eyes off the rolling ball of latest hi-tech developments for a couple of weeks you fall off the tech wagon forever, never to remount.

       I have seen Mister Updike described as America’s greatest modern writer and I have no idea if that is true as I have yet to sample the other 95% of them, but he is a great writer, and I use the present tense knowing full well that he passed away in January 2009, for great writers’ works remain with us forever, here and now, and his books will surely be read for generations to come.

       Critics have attacked this book for being filled with stereotypical characters, and to some extent that may be true, but I don’t see a great problem with that, lots of people out there are precisely that, typical, and Ahmad certainly isn’t like anyone I know, or have ever met.

       The book is filled with overlong sentences and do you know something, I quite liked that, it kind of hooked me and kept me reading, just as the book did itself. It kept me awake too when I should have been sleeping. (One up for the writer!) I kind of guessed the ending long before I arrived there, yet I didn’t quite do so, and I couldn’t put the book down, so keen was I to find out precisely how things really turned out.

       During his life Mister Updike wrote and had published more than seventy books, a mammoth achievement in anyone’s language, and I am sure there are far better ones of his out there than “Terrorist” – his last fictional work, but I really enjoyed it, and I am certain it will stay with me long after I set it down, and in the end I guess that’s what all writers are truly aiming for, because it doesn’t happen that often.

       And here's the man himself talking about advice for young and aspiring writers:








    Mad Frank’s Diary by Frankie Fraser with James Morton.

    - A Chronicle of the Life of Britain's most notorious villain


    I have to say this was not the easiest book to review. Why was that? Well, it is not so much written, as comes across as if someone gave the subject a tape-recorder, one Frankie Fraser in this case, and said: Tell us all your memoirs, all your adventures and knowledge about the crime scene, and most especially the London crime scene, and we’ll knock it up into a decent book, and because we all know that the general public are fascinated by gangsters and crime and murder mysteries in all their guises, we’ll sell loads and all make a pot of money out of it.

       If that’s true, and Frankie has indeed made some decent cash out of it, well, good on him, because for most of his life, as I am sure he would be the first to admit, he has got by, and got his family through, with income that has more often than not been made outside the law.

       And the book is not strictly a diary either as you might expect, just a whole load of random events, some of which Frankie was personally involved in, and some not, and they are simply listed in dated chronological order, days and months, but the year is ignored, so it could be 1939 or 1999, so there’s no real order of the events as they happened.

       That said, it’s quite a fascinating book, and indeed Mr Fraser comes across as an very interesting man. His grandmother, if we are to believe, was a full blood native Canadian Indian, and when you come to glance at his picture you can certainly see the resemblance in that.

       I have to confess that I wasn’t sure if Frankie Fraser was still alive or had passed over to the great prison in the sky, but sure enough, according to my internet research he is still with us, aged 90, at the time of writing, and living in sheltered accommodation in Peckham, London.

       And guess what? You might be surprised to learn that in 2013 aged 89, he was issued with an ASBO, an Anti Social Behavioural Order, by the police after a dispute with another resident, or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that at all.

       One of the things that came through from the book was his ongoing dispute with the Carter family or Carter gang, and I just want to say that whoever they are, they are absolutely no relation of yours truly!

       Frankie Fraser served no less than forty-two years of his long life in borstal and prisons, and that is far too long for anyone, and we can all but hope that he enjoys a long, happy, and contented retirement. In later life he has become something of a cause celebre, with famous friends, and books aplenty, and tours and shows and even being invited to address University debating societies and the like. He seems to have enjoyed all that immensely, and why not?

       If you have any interest in crime in general, and the London crime scene in particular, I am sure you will find enough stuff in this to keep you hooked. It’s a book you can dip into as often or as infrequently as you wish, as there is no continuity in it at all because of the way it is set up, so in effect they are numerous short stories, so if you like shorts then you will like this.

       And it’s written, much as I guess it was dictated, in Cockney, and maybe that brings more immediacy and authenticity to it. For the uninitiated, there will be a few puzzling sentences in there, that’s for sure. But in the end I enjoyed the book, it was easy to read, and I enjoyed trying hard to understand the man and his life, though I am not sure that I ever managed to do exactly that.

    Here's one of the last interviews with the now late Frankie Fraser, who died at the age of 90.