Incident Report

Incident Report No. 57

Unlawful Acts’ Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of August 26th through September 1st with links to news, reviews, and new releases.

Unlawful Acts’ Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of August 26th through September 1st with links to news, reviews, and new releases.

I’ll be at Bouchercon this week. I’m honored to be participating in The Reviews Are In: Reviewers Recommend panel on Friday morning at 8 am. Otherwise I’ll be popping in on panels, buying books and drinking at the bar. My better-half Marian is coming along. Say howdy.

You will also note the Short Stories and On Writing sections are back. There was some public back channel chatter. No one put a gun to my head.

Also, because of Bouchercon, there will be no Incident Report on September 10th. I’m just trying to be realistic.

I was more than thrilled by Kristopher Zgorski’s mention of Unlawful Acts in his Blog Bytes column in the latest Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Zgorski is the editor of BOLO Books.

Nemeth stands out as one of the few bloggers who focus mainly on small- and indie-press crime fiction. In our world where more books are published than any one person can ever hope to read, it is nice to have a notable and knowledgeable individual to single out those less heavily marketed books from smaller presses that readers should not miss.

This week there were many books reviewed. Two I want to point out are JJ Hensley’s “Bolt Action Remedy” (Down & Out Books) and Gale Massey’s “The Girl From Blind River” (Crooked Lane Books). Jim Thomsen wrote that Massey’s book was “one of the great discoveries of the year” in his Shoulder Wounds column. I called Hensley’s book “a fantastic thriller”.


Max Allan Collins on the importance of Mickey Spillane at “Ellery Queeen Mystery Magazine”.

In July of 2006, the last major mystery writer of the twentieth century left the building. Only a handful of writers in the genre—Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, among them—achieved such superstar status.

Spillane’s position, however, is unique—reviled by many mainstream critics, despised and envied by a number of his contemporaries in the very field he revitalized, the creator of Mike Hammer had an impact not just on mystery and suspense fiction but popular culture in general.

The success of the reprint editions of his startlingly violent and sexy novels jump-started the paperback original, and his redefinition of the action hero as a tough guy who mercilessly executed villains and who slept with beautiful, willing women remains influential (Sin City is Frank Miller’s homage).

Peter Corris, author of the Cliff Hardy series has passed away. And where do I go for information about Australian crime fiction, Andrew Nette’s Pulp Curry blog. Nette, author of “Gunshine State”. Nette has both an appreciation and an interview up at his site. Have at it.

I suspect a lot of fans of contemporary Oz crime fiction, and more than a few of its current practitioners, may have forgotten or perhaps don’t even know the debt we all owe to Sydney based crime writer Peter Corris, who died last night at the age of 76.

I have written a bit about Corris on this site and others. And given Pulp Curry originally started off wholly dedicated to crime fiction, I wanted to make a few observations about an author who has given me a lot of pleasure, as well as being incredibly influential on Australian crime fiction.

I am usually not a fan of articles like how someone learned out to write by canning peaches, but this recent post at Retreats From Oblivion is different: “Writing Saved My Life” by Chris Roy.

Throw a kid in prison. They are in a closed-in world of criminals. An extremely tribal environment with gang members competing against each other for rank and status within their own organizations, and the organizations themselves competing against each other.

The kid learns that very few keep their word, that lying is as natural as breathing to nearly everyone. They will lie to preserve the high value of criminal reputations… or to steal a ramen noodle. Some consider lying a kind of creative thinking; prisoners will fabricate a story so elaborate, of enormous length, just to out-wit another convict for the purpose of bragging rights—just so they can tell their pals they did it.

So you think you are too old to write a book? How about 101?

A.E. Hotchner, the man who was everybody’s best friend — Ernest Hemingway’s, anyway, and Paul Newman’s — wrote his latest book in longhand. He did not let his wife, Virginia Kiser, read the manuscript as he went along.

She would peek over his shoulder, or try to. He would cover the words with his other hand.

She said, from across the room.

Robert Dugoni, author of “A Steep Price”, interviewed Catharine Riggs, author of “What She Gave Away” (Thomas & Mercer) as part of The Thrill Begins’ Debut Author series.

The first year after signing was tough. We didn’t sell the original manuscript and although there was interest in my second, the first few editors passed. I was at a groundbreaking for a trio of Habitat homes when a young mother got up and gave a tearful speech thanking the community for the opportunity to own a new home. Chastened by her family’s story, I ordered myself to stop whining about a book sale and be grateful for all I had. That’s when I glanced at my cellphone and saw the text, “We have an offer!”

Other news you can use.


On Writing

Lise McClendon, author of “Blame It On Paris”, on why kind of brain it takes to write a mystery.

For one thing, you have to enjoy the organization of a million pieces into a coherent whole, somewhat like putting together the Starship Enterprise out of Legos. Except you don’t even have picture instructions, you have to make up the instructions yourself. But like Lego projects the more you do, the better you get. The more you write the more you see that going down that path lies madness, or that path lies rich complications. You learn to choose wisely. You save time and energy by figuring out which direction will work for you, for your story, based on what has worked in the past.

Some other writing links:


Short Stories

Some short fiction to read.


Book Reviews

Dustin LaValley’s “12 Gauge: Songs from a Street Sweeper” (Sinister Grin) reviewed at Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness.

12 Gauge: Songs from a Street Sweeper is my first read from Dustin LaValley, a writer who feels as though is about to start making some waves, if he hasn’t already. 12 Gauge showcases some prominent horror chops and I’d say guaranteed to contain material to please any horror fanatic.

Robert Parker’s “Morte Point” (Endeavor) reviewed at Col’s Criminal Library.

Well-written, decent action scenes and an ending I enjoyed. I do think the thriller of the lone man pitted against the authorities type, with the fate of the nation hanging on the outcome requires a temporary suspension of disbelief to fully enjoy them and this book is no exception. I was happy to go with that. A bit of a cliche but Morte Point is a bit of a page turner and a fast read – two work days which is quick for me.

Christopher Haung’s “A Gentleman’s Murder” (Inkshares) reviewed at Crime Fiction Lover.

The plot is complex but the ending itself is pure Golden Age, with a spot of the psychological thrown in. It’s as if Sherlock Holmes was revived by Dorothy Sayers, and the result was a complex, thought-provoking novel with much more to it than first meets the eye.

Paul D. Brazill goes nuts with a bunch of recommendations: Nick Kolakowski’s “Boise Longpig Hunting Club”, Jason Beech’s “City Of Forts”, and Matt Phillips’ “Know Me From Smoke”. Brazill also really liked Martin Stanley’s “Fighting Talk”.

Edwin Hill’s “Little Comfort” (Kensington) reviewed at BOLO Books

This book is most definitely not a cozy. It is Edwin Hill’s ability to imbue every character with the necessary psychological make-up that keeps readers invested. This is not a book of good versus evil but one of troubled souls on life’s journey where no one is completely innocent, but some stray too far to ever return home.

You-Jeong Jeong’s “The Good Son” reviewed by Jedidiah Ayres in LA Review of Books.

South Korea is a region whose crime films have been gaining a worldwide audience and earning a well-deserved reputation for innovation and invigorating the genre for the last 15 years or so. With this first English translation of best-selling Korean novelist You-Jeong Jeong (translated by Chi-Young Kim), perhaps the region will soon have a wider reputation for its crime literature to match.

John D. MacDonald’s “The Neon Jungle” reviewed at Dead End Folllies.

I’m not sure what the legacy of The Neon Jungle is, but I’d bet it is largely forgotten today despite having been reprinted in 2014. It is the earliest occurrence I could find of mixing noir with psychological horror or what I like to call contemporary noir, but I’m not sure it had any incidence in shaping it. But like every John D. MacDonald novel I’ve read so far, it deserves to be remembered. It’s a more difficult book to read than any of the Travis McGee novels because of its odd structure and it’s definitely the bleakest thing I’ve read all year, but it has the power to make you soil your trouser and reexamine your life.

  • Edwin Hill’s “Little Comfort” (Kensington) reviewed at dru’s book musings: “fast-paced and action-packed drama pulled me in immediately quickly becoming a page turner”
  • Seth Graham Jones’s “Mongrels (William Morrow) reviewed at Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness: ” a wonderful, satisfying read”
  • Tina Kashian’s “Stabbed in the Baklava” (Kensington) reviewed at dru’s book musings: “a cleverly written drama”
  • Elmore Leonard’s “Maximum Bob” reviewed at The View from the Blue House: “the prose and dialogue was very easy on the eye, but the story is a little flat and never really captured the imagination”
  • Michael Wood’s “The Hangman’s Hold” (Killer Reads) reviewed at Jen Med’s Book Reviews: “a proper cat and mouse chase, with the killer taunting the police”

New Releases

Tough: Crime Stories
edited by Rusty Barnes
(Redneck Press)

TOUGH. These are not your mother’s crime stories. Collecting established writers as well as newcomers to the indie scene, Tough aims to bring readers excellent stories in a dynamite package. This anthology contains 14 hardcore pieces from some of the indie scene’s best talent including works by Michael Bracken, J. D. Graves, Tom Barlow, Matthew Lyons, S. A. Cosby, Court Merrigan, Richard Prosch, J. M. Taylor, Mark Rapacz, Tom Andes, Nelson Stanley, Matt Phillips, Chris McGinley, and Doungjai Gam. (Buy)

Sort ‘Em Out Later
by Jim Wilsky 
(Down & Out Books)

Malefactors is defined as “those who commit an offense against the law”, or more simply put, “one who does ill toward another”. This collection of short stories from Jim Wilsky is chock full of them. Tales that are all different, yet all the same.

The locales and characters range from rural to urban. Office buildings, swamps, wealthy estates and corn fields are some of the places. The people range from folks with money to flat broke, from those who have a lot on the line to those who have nothing to lose, old and young alike. There are stone cold killers to good guys and those in between. Those walking on that shaky bridge, that thin tightrope that connects good and evil.

The stories all share the same common ingredients though. Plots that are brutal, chaotic, desperate, vengeful and violent. These pages paint the rage and burning fire that dwells within almost everyone but only surface and re-erupt in some.

From guns, to knives, to swords and bare hands, this collection will push all the right buttons for crime fiction readers. These specially selected stories touch every base. So, buckle up and read on. (Buy)

Fortunate Son
by J.D. Rhoades
(Polis Books)

Years ago, the Jakes brothers were found alone, hungry, and freezing, in a trailer where they’d been left by their mother. One found a happy home. The older son never did, but he always dreamed of the day when they would be together again.

Thirteen years later, big brother appears, and he’s determined to reunite the family, even if he has to do it by kidnapping his younger brother. The mother they haven’t seen in years is in New Orleans, and she’s in trouble. Her sons are coming to the rescue, even if one of them is doing it at gunpoint.

But things are rapidly spinning out of control in New Orleans. The Jakes boys, the disgraced former sheriff trying to chase them down, and an ambitious Louisiana deputy investigating the mother are in for far more danger than any of them bargained for. As they’re caught between two sides in a vicious drug war, everyone’s fighting to survive, no one knows who to trust, and it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be left standing at the end.

A story of loss and redemption, of love and betrayal, and above all of how far some will go to be part of a family, FORTUNATE SON will keep you up all night and leave you unable to forget it.

You’ll Get Yours
by William Ard
(Stark House Press)

YOU LL GET YOURS A dark room…a warm woman…a cold knife… It begins at the end of the line with a killing. But it had started simply enough when press agent Archie St. George hires private investigator, Barney Glines, to retrieve some missing jewels stolen from his beautiful client, Kyle Shannon. Glines knows he s being set-up for something but he goes along with the exchange out of curiosity more than anything. That and Kyle Shannon. Turns out that the real jewels are a cache of nude photos of Miss Shannon, who is now being blackmailed. Soon Glines finds himself in a dead woman s room who s been shot with his own gun and the police are jumping to conclusions. It s beginning to look like whoever s behind the blackmail wants to make sure that Glines is the fall guy. Unless Glines can find him first. (Buy)

The Baby Doll Murders / Killer Take All! / Frenzy
by James O. Causey
(Stark House Press)

THE BABY DOLL MURDERS Cliff Tierney was trained by Markham to be the best, a carny s carny. Then Holly entered his life and messed things up and Markham had Tierney stomped. But that was months ago. Now Tierney is back, and Markham wants him to handle a blackmailer for him. Ann should be easy. She s in love with Cliff. But then Markham brings Holly back into the picture, and the set-up becomes complicated. Because Holly s father is the eminent Dr. Thad Ross, who not only controls the town but is involved in Ann s blackmail scheme. And Holly, well she s just as dangerous as her father, and more than a match for Tierney s carny skills. KILLER TAKE ALL! Tony Pearson knows he is no match for Steve Locke, Fern s new husband. Locke has the charm, the drive and the physical prowess he doesn t. He also has Fern. But as a failed golf pro, Tony doesn t have that many options either, and takes Locke up on his offer to work for Tony s boss, Max Baird. Max is a reformed gangster trying to fit in. He even bought a Rembrandt to show off his class. But now he needs the bucks more than the art, and Locke calls in an expert to appraise the painting. That s when they discover that the painting Max owns is a forgery. And who gets framed as the fall guy? Why, Tony, of course. FRENZY After the plan to snatch the boss s girl and some of his casino profits backfires, Norman Sands rails it back to his hometown to lick his wounds. His brother Matt lives there, and Laurie, who used to be his girl, now engaged to Matt. But with Matt and Laurie s help, Norm knows there is a killing to be made here, if he can just figure the angle. When he meets up with the town s movers, he realizes that Murdoch is the real power here. And when he meets Shannon, he knows he has found the perfect match she s as greedy as he is. But Shannon is Murdoch s girl, and Murdoch isn t giving up anything without a fight. (Buy)

Mystery Weekly
edited by Kerry Carter

Featuring short stories by Robert Mangeot, Chris McGinley, John M Floyd, Steve Liskow, Earl Staggs, and Jude Roy.

At the cutting edge of crime fiction, Mystery Weekly Magazine presents original short stories by the world’s best-known and emerging mystery writers.

The stories we feature in our monthly issues span every imaginable subgenre, including cozy, police procedural, noir, whodunit, supernatural, hardboiled, humor, and historical mysteries. Evocative writing and a compelling story are the only certainty. (Buy)

Finding Eva
by J.A. Baker
(Bloodhound Books)

Eva is desperate to find her birth parents after spending her childhood in foster care. She leaves London and heads to Whitby in search of her mother and father, after breaking up with her boyfriend, Gareth.

Gareth is furious with Eva. He loved her deeply and the disclosure she made when she ended the relationship is eating away at him.

Celia, Eva’s friend, is concerned about Eva. She has stopped answering her calls and when Celia goes to London to find her, she realises Eva has moved without telling anyone. Celia makes the decision to follow Eva to Whitby, concerned that Eva is unravelling. Both women have been damaged by their childhoods.

When Gareth also decides to go to Whitby, it is the start of a lethal situation.

Who exactly is Eva and why is Celia so concerned?

Some relationships are toxic. Others are deadly. (Buy)

The Other Victim by Helen H DurrantThe Other Victim
by Helen H. Durrant
(Joffe Books)

Ronald Potter is found dead on the kitchen floor of a house he was about to show a client around. Ronald led a blameless life and Detective Matt Brindle and the team cannot find any motive for his murder.

But an intensive search of the property leads to a very disturbing discovery in the cellar.

Meanwhile, a young mother is being held captive by someone who will stop at nothing to get the information they want.

DI Matt Brindle discovers connections to organised crime and a sleazy night club. Can he expose the villains before any more people die?

This is a detective mystery full of twists and turns, with a stunning edge-of-your-seat ending. (Buy)

by Cody Goodfellow
(Eraserhead Press)

From two-time Wonderland Book Award-winning author, Cody Goodfellow, described as “one of the best writers of our generation” by grandmaster of horror Brian Keene, and “the Ellroy of speculative fiction ” by acclaimed cult author Jeremey Robert Johnson, comes a novel of desperation and degradation in the city of mutilated dreams.

Loathe him or hate him, nothing can stop Charlie Parsons from living the Hollywood dream––not homelessness, not a shady agent who sends him on daily suicide missions, not even the combined might of the LAPD and the infamous Blood Eagle Security. With only a tattered tell-all bio of the most problematic child star in TV history for guidance, Parsons is going to get famous if he has to blow every studio mogul in town to make his dream come true.

But Charlie slides into a nightmare when he touches the bulging belly of a runaway pregnant woman with the unborn son of a cult-leader so powerful, thinking his name could give you cancer.

From the empty LA River to an eternal, interdimensional A-list party, Charlie is running for his life, crashing through twisted alternate Hollywoods where the religious right rules all and bloodthirsty studio execs hunt the homeless for sport. On a quest to save the proverbial damsel in distress, he’ll have to pitch a dozen shit-hot movie ideas, slay the dragons of his problematic past and somehow overcome the temptation of the most dangerous addiction in the dirty business of dreams––true, unselfish love.

Sleazeland is one of Cody Goodfellow’s absolute best works of bizarro fiction. A parable for the harsh realities of surviving in one of the filthiest industries on Earth. (Buy)

When You Can’t Stop
by James W Hall
(Thomas & Mercer)

One woman’s quest for revenge, a dangerous international conspiracy, and ruthless corporations intertwine in this page-turner from bestselling author James W. Hall.

Despite Harper McDaniel’s best efforts, the man responsible for the murder of her husband and son was exonerated thanks to some slick legal wrangling. This blatant injustice has only made Harper more determined than ever to bring down the culprit. Her ammunition? Incriminating information about his olive oil operations in Italy. But the clues that she follows are leading her into the depths of a corrupt plot that is more poisonous and far-reaching than she realizes. And more dangerous, too, because her enemy is prepared for her pursuit.

Accompanied by her brother and mobster grandfather, Harper treks across Spain from Seville to a medieval castle, home to a successful olive farmer who is one of Harper’s closest allies. Shadowed every step of the way by a ruthless assassin, Harper is moving ever deeper into enemy territory—and questioning whom she can really trust on this personal path of justice and revenge. (Buy)

The Third Breath
by Malcolm Hollingdrake
(Bloodhound Books)

DCI Bennett is away on compassionate leave. After much soul-searching, he has decided to attend his father’s funeral.

DS Owen is left at the helm when the discovery of a body in a car in the multi-storey car park is reported. Initially, the Coroner rules out suspicious circumstances but when a second body is found with similar symptoms, Bennett is back in the fold. He suspects that the coincidences must be of some significance.

Soon Bennett’s team are hunting for a callous and devious killer who has covered his tracks effectively.

Will Bennett’s perseverance and attention to detail eventually crack this perplexing case? (Buy)

Appleby Talks
by Michael Innes
Agora Books

A collection of witty, at times absurd, but always entertaining short stories from one of the most esteemed writers of Classic Crime.

Spanning Inspector Appleby’s cases from his youth to his time as an respected detective of Scotland Yard, these twenty-three short mysteries are sure to delight fans of Innes’ literary comic crime.

Told by the fireside over tea, or at a pub washed down with a pint, this collection featuring “Dead Man’s Shoes” is worth being savoured. (Buy)

by Graham Ison
(Severn House)

A serial killer is at large.

One item ties the victims together: in each case, their bra has been removed.

Can DCI Harry Brock and DS Dave Pool crack a disturbing case.


River of Secrets
by Roger Johns

When a controversial politician is murdered in cold blood, Baton Rouge Police Detective Wallace Hartman struggles to find the killer amid conspiracies and corruption in River of Secrets, a gripping new mystery from Roger Johns.

Herbert Marioneaux, a Louisiana politician infamous for changing his mind on hot-button issues, has been murdered and his body posed to send a message. Baton Rouge homicide detective Wallace Hartman has to figure out who’s sending that message. DNA points to Eddie Pitkin, a social justice activist who also happens to be the half-brother of Wallace’s childhood best friend. But even with the combative history between Pitkin and Marioneaux, murder seems out of character for Pitkin, whose usual MO is to confront the wealthy and powerful with their inconvenient past. As Wallace digs deeper, she unearths a possible alibi witness, along with evidence of a deeply troubled relationship that points the finger of suspicion at Marioneaux’s son.

While Eddie’s supporters are convinced of his innocence, his enemies are equally certain of his guilt. Under pressure from all directions, Wallace pursues her investigation into the dark heart of the political establishment as Baton Rouge falls under the shadow of escalating violence. When it appears a police department insider may be sabotaging her efforts by leaking information about the case, and after menacing messages are left for her and her loved ones, Wallace is forced to untangle a trail of old and disturbing secrets unaided by those she most needs to trust. (Buy)

Blackout by
Ragnar Jonasson

Hailed for combining the darkness of Nordic Noir with classic mystery writing in the tradition of Agatha Christie, author Ragnar Jonasson’s books are haunting, atmospheric, and complex. Blackout, the latest Ari Thór thriller, delivers another dark mystery that is chillingly stunning with its complexity and fluidity.

On the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykajvik to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thor Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjordur struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies.

Murder at Midnight
by Faith Martin
(Joffe Books)


Felix Olliphant was found stabbed to death at a New Year’s Eve costume party for the turn of the millennium.

Seemingly liked by everyone, motives for his murder are hard to find. There was one suspect, but no evidence.

Hillary struggles to solve this baffling case. And she has to contend with a new colleague, Jake Barnes. Young and rich, he says he wants to give something back to the community, but Hillary has her doubts.

Will Hillary finally be defeated by this cold case and will she lose her boss and love interest to a new job?

Hillary Greene has returned to Thames Valley Police HQ, acting as a cold-case consultant for the Crime Review Team, looking into murders which the police have never been able to solve.

She wasn’t sure she wanted to go back. But solving crimes is irresistible for Hillary Greene. And it doesn’t hurt that her new boss is devastatingly handsome.

This is a crime mystery full of well-observed characters, which will have you gripped from start to the absolutely thrilling conclusion. (Buy)

Blood Work
edited by Rick Ollerman
(Down & Out Books)

Edited by Rick Ollerman. Alphabetical list of contributors: Scott Adlerberg, Eric Beetner, Kristi Belcamino, Michael A. Black, Michael Bracken, Don Bruns, Gary R. Bush, Austin Camacho, Dave Case, Jessie Chandler, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jen Conley, John Gaspard, Lois Greiman, Libby Fischer Hellmann, David Housewright, William Kent Krueger, Jess Lourey, Michael Allan Mallory, Terrence McCauley, Jenny Milchman, Stuart Neville, Rick Ollerman, Nick Petrie, Gary Phillips, Lissa Marie Redmond, Michael Stanley, Duane Swierczynski, Randy Wayne White, and Case Younggren.

Many of today’s top writers get together to celebrate the themes of books and bookstores (and even a tuba or two!) As we celebrate the life of Mystery Writers of America Raven Award-winning Gary Shulze, long-time owner of the legendary Once Upon a Crime bookstore in Minneapolis. Gary left an indelible mark on the crime fiction community across the world before he passed away in 2016 due to complications from leukemia.

Join as Duane Swierczynski, William Kent Krueger, Randy Wayne White, Jess Lourey, Stuart Neville and more come together in this tribute to a man whose legacy will not be forgotten. (Buy)

by Dave Zeltserman
(Severn House)

Classic contemporary horror from the Shamus and Derringer-winning author of Small Crimes.

Charlie is a Husker on the prowl in the New Hampshire wilderness when he falls in love with one of them: a girl named Jill. Loving Jill means leaving the Husk clan, with its gruesome cannibalistic rituals, and that will be far more difficult – and dangerous – than Charlie could have foreseen.

It’s only in New York City that the secret to ending his terrible cravings may reveal itself – if it doesn’t kill him and everything he has grown to love first.

A darkly imagined tale, all the more frightening for its apparent ordinariness and plausibility, Husk is guaranteed to leave readers shaken, stirred – and chilled to the bone. (Buy)

Some other sites with new releases:

Thanks for stopping by and reading Unlawful Acts’ The Incident Report.


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