Incident Report

Incident Report No. 65

The Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of October 21st through October 27th with links to news, reviews, and new releases.

The Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of October 21st through October 27th with links to news, reviews, and new releases.

The is the last Incident Report until December as I will be taking part in NaNoWriMo. I will not abandon book reviews and interviews during this time. 

This past week I reviewed J.J. Hensley’s “Record Scratch” writing, “You can’t go wrong reading Hensley, you really can’t.” I also reviewed Rachel Howzell Hall’s “Land of Shadows” saying, ” . . . is a police procedural but there’s Howzell’s voice that makes it different than anything I’ve read.”

I also appeared on Pam Stack’s Authors on the Air with several other book reviwers: Oline Cogdill,  Kay Hutcherson,  Dru Ann Love, David Nemeth, Kristopher Zgorski and Jim Thomsen. Check it out if you’d like.

What are book reviewers looking for in a book?


More on Philadelphia’s upcoming NoirCon here.

“Todd Bol, Creator of Little Free Library Movement, Dies at 62” (New York Times)

The idea was born of a home renovation and evolved into a worldwide movement.

In 2009, Todd Bol was renovating his garage in Wisconsin when he ripped off its old wooden door. He liked the wood, though, and didn’t want to throw it out. So after staring at it for a while, he decided to use it to build a small monument to his mother, who had been a schoolteacher.

He fashioned it into a replica of a schoolhouse, two feet high and two feet wide, put his mother’s books in it, and planted it on his front yard, hoping to start a little book exchange for his neighbors.

“It was a spiritual gesture,” he said.

“The Mystery of Jack Waer” by James Scott Bell (Kill Zone)

It’s terrific. A solid noir set up: After a night of drinking and getting into a fight, a guy wakes up in his apartment, not knowing how he got there. He finds his .38 on the floor and picks it up. Then he spots a dead body on his bed just as his cleaning lady comes in and, seeing the gun in his hand and the body on the bed, screams and runs out. It isn’t long before he’s on the lam and hiding out in L.A.

Excellent hardboiled prose, as in:

“His fist came up into my face and it was like having a stick of dynamite exploding inside my head. That was the end of the line. After that there was nothing but the black velvet road that led me through insane dreams.”

“J.J. Hensley – Author Interview” (Lesa’s Book Critiques

One of the main reasons I began writing was because I was tired of reading books in which the good guys were 100% good and the bad guys were 100% evil. I strive for authenticity in every chapter I put together. If a career in law enforcement and national security has taught me anything it’s that there is a lot of gray space in the world and decent people make huge mistakes. It’s weird. Sometimes, I find myself more comfortable around people I know are a bit shady because at least I know what to expect. People who seem too perfect make me wary. I don’t know of any adult who is completely good and I never trust a saint.

“Author and Reviewer Gabino Iglesias On What It Is Really Like to be an Author of Color” (RA for All)

At 4:00pm I took a stack of books I won’t read and some I received in the mail twice and went to a local used book store. I stood in line behind a white man at the selling counter. They asked him if he had sold with them before, took his license, asked him if he went by Paul, and told him they’d call him in a few minutes with an offer. Then I stepped up to the counter and the following conversation took place:

Counter guy: “You sold with us before?”

Me, giving him my license: “Yeah.”

Counter guy, looking at the stack: “So you…acquired these legally?”

“Stuff I Wish I’d Written … Aidan Thorn on Matt Phillips’s Know Me from Smoke” (Jason Beech’s Messy Business)

I read a brilliant quote from a review of this book today that defines noir for me. The quote is by Bruce Harris: “Noir succeeds when the atmosphere blends with the characters, defining and directing behaviors, becoming its own powerful driving force.”

For me noir is an atmosphere. It’s also about its characters, usually people on the edge of society, people that feel like they could be sat right next to you in a bar, at the gym, in a restaurant, but not people you’d have around for dinner or meet at work. They’re the same as us, and yet different. Noir stories always feel to me like the sort of thing I might have got caught up in myself if I’d taken a few different turns at times.

On Writing

“Cannibalizing A Draft (Or: The Art Of Rewriting)” by Aliette de Bodard (terribleminds)

Basically, I took a knife to my previous draft and used the fragments of its corpse to make the next draft–which is either very sophisticated cooking or advanced draft cannibalism. I wouldn’t say the revision was fun (funnier than first draft, but that’s mostly a comparison between being cut by a sword and being bitten by a dog), but it was certainly way more painless than I expected.

“Suspense Writers: Here’s How to Keep Your Readers Up All Night” by Laura DiSilverio (Career Authors)

In the miss-the-plane example, readers will feel concern only if the consequences of missing the plane are significant. Will she miss her best friend’s wedding, be late for an important job interview, not reach her father’s deathbed before he dies? Make the character’s goals clear from the get-go, and her reasons for wanting/needing to achieve them, and the stakes will come into focus. As the book progresses, the stakes should get higher (and you can—and should—foreshadow those early on, too).

“Are You Misusing These Common Words?” by Charles Harrington Elster (LitHub)

that vs. which

The distinction here is both simple and complex, and possibly irrelevant.
Way back in 1926, in Modern English Usage, the legendary grammarian H. W. Fowler exhorted us to distinguish between the relative pronouns that and which based on whether they were used in what he called “defining” or “non-defining” clauses, but which are now usually called either “restrictive” or “nonrestrictive” clauses or, more helpfully, “essential” and “nonessential” clauses. “The two kinds of relative clause, to one of which that & to the other of which which is appropriate, are the defining & the non-defining,” Fowler wrote, “& if writers would agree to regard that as the defining relative pronoun, & whichas the non-defining, there would be much gain both in lucidity & and in ease.”

As you can see, Fowler didn’t write English as we are accustomed to now, but he had a point and it was this: If the part of the sentence beginning with that or which is essential to the meaning of the whole, prefer that to which (a wonderful memory that I cherish). If the part of the sentence beginning with that or which is not essential but rather additional to the meaning of the whole, and if it could be deleted or expressed elsewhere, use which, preceded by a comma, instead of that (a wonderful memory, which I cherish).

To put it another way, that defines or clarifies what precedes, whereas which adds information about what precedes or follows. That’s why all those great things that you do for me is different from all those great things, which you do for me.

But things, as they always do, get complicated—and the trouble can be traced to Fowler’s perhaps forlorn plea to follow this distinction. He hoped that we would one day write The scary movie that was on TV last night kept me awake rather than The scary movie which was on TV last night kept me awake. Although most modern usage experts would agree that the first sentence, with that, is American style, while the second, with which, is British, reputable usage has swung both ways on both sides of the pond, and before Fowler’s call for a distinction it decidedly favored which.

So, almost a century after Fowler’s admonitions, you simply have to decide the side that you’re on or the side which you’re on and take the necessary steps, or precautions. You may be comfortable swinging either that way or which way with something like the scary movie that/which was on TV last night or all the scary movies on TV lately that/which have caused me nightmares. But what are you going to do about something like the scariest movie that/which has been on TV lately that/which gave me nightmares? If you want to make any sense of that I think you have to be Fowlerian and transition from the essential to the nonessential: the scariest movie that has been on TV lately, which gave me nightmares.

All this can give a usage maven nightmares, but if you’d like to know where I stand, my money’s still on Fowler. His pronominal distinction does promote, as he put it, lucidity and ease—a lucidity that is liberating, which can be executed with ease.

“How to Balance Character and Action” by Julie Hyzy (Career Authors)

Whether they start with a detailed roadmap or simply with an idea and a general direction, writing is likened to driving from one place to another with stops at interesting sites along the way.

While that’s a fine analogy, allow me to offer an addendum: Drivers/authors aren’t going to get far without fuel. Compelling characters are what provide the power to keep a story moving. Without them, readers won’t feel an urge to join the journey. In that unfortunate case, even the most exquisitely devised route—with all its fascinating must-see attractions—may never be fully explored.

Put another way:

Until a reader is emotionally invested in a character, any actions in support of or against that character’s well-being fall flat.

“Palm Beach Finland” by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda Books) (Bucks, Books & Beyond)

Throughout this book there are some brilliantly crafted sections of writing which had me laughing out loud with the situations some of these characters get into. The book for me had a feel of a Quentin Tarantino movie about it with it’s dark comedy. This is crime fiction with a bit of a twist and crime fiction for those that wouldn’t normally read this genre. Having said that, I think this book is so unique it kind of creates it’s own genre! I would recommend everyone giving this book a read for the fabulously witty, hilariously funny dialogue alone. 

  • “Why Slower Writers Edit Better” by Phil Hurst (Write with Phil)
  • “Five Things Readers Consider When Choosing Their Next Book” by Chelsea Parker (The Digital Reader)
  • “How To Use False Eyewitness Testimony in Thrillers” by Sue Coletta (Kill Zone)
  • “The First Two Pages: LEAH by Julie Tollefson (Art Taylor, Writer)
  • “Does Anyone Care About Your Book?” by Joel Friedlander (The Book Designer)

Short Fiction

Book Reviews

“Trap” by Lilja Sigurdardóttir (Orenda Books) (My Chestnut Reading Tree)

This is a wonderful example of Icelandic Noir and the research done by the author has made it a detailed and realistic portrayal of the financial crisis the country faced. Lilya Sigurdardottir has an understanding of humanity that means her characters feel complete and beyond fictional settings. I could truly believe in them and the situations they found themselves in even though I have no personal experience of their dilemmas! Trap also made me more determined to visit Iceland and tick another box on my bucket list!

“Sad Laughter” by Brian Allan Ellis (Civil Coping Mechanisms) (Dead End Follies)

I’ve enjoyed reading Sad Laughter because it was easy and entertaining without being hollow. Sure, it was confronting and sometimes outright brutal. But none of these aphorisms are more than two sentences long, so it’s hard to dwell and get angry at anything. It doesn’t offer any comfort or solutions against the hardships of publishing, but it’s honest and funny, more often than not. A good way of knowing whether or not you’re one of these desperate loons writing a novel in his basement is to read Sad Laughter and have a healthy sense of humor about it. Because there’s a good chance that if you’ve read this, you’ve chosen a miserable way to life your life.

“The Infinite Blacktop” by Sara Gran (Atria Books) (Col’s Criminal Library)

Lots to enjoy here, the landscape of LA – in the late 90s and our present day Oakland (ok 2011); the flip-flopping timelines and tales. I was so totally immersed in the investigation into the death of the LA artist that I was kind of sad to be dragged back to Oakland and another spell trying to get closer to the present day mystery of who was trying to kill our heroine. Then in turn I was mesmerised by the Las Vegas scenes and the unravelling of the origins of the Cynthia Magazine, a key factor in two of our puzzles.

Quirky, off-beat, unusual and enthralling. I liked this a lot more than I kind of expected to.

“Burn One Down” by Jeffrey A. Cooper (Self-published) (Col’s Criminal Library)

Interesting characters, a bit of action, some enjoyable banter and dialogue with our two thieves endeavouring to manage a feisty bunch of hostages, while still working out a few issues in their own developing relationship. Best book ever? No but a solid entertaining read.

Burn One Down is hopefully the first in a series with career criminal, Jack Apple. The ending of the book certainly leaves scope for further adventures without feeling like there’s unresolved issues to tie up.

New Releases

The Last Danger by Rusty Barnes
Shotgun Honey

Three months after a shootout with the renegade Pittman family robbed him of his brother, Matt Rider is trying to put his life back together. His wounds are many, his sworn enemy Soldier Pittman may wake up and begin to tell what he knows, his wife is on the knife edge of sanity, and his teen daughter has gone missing with the son of his sworn enemy. 

In a whirlwind series of killings, thefts and rash decisions, Rider ends up muling drugs across the Canadian border for the Pittman family in order to save his daughter and wife from an even worse fate, even as he betrays them. Rider must choose between what is best for his conscience and what his sometimes murderous instincts tell him: kill them all.


“Record Scratch” by J.J. Hensley
Down & Out Books

It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.

As Galloway pieces together the final days of rock and roll legend Jimmy Spartan, he struggles to sort through his own issues, to include having the occasional hallucination. He’s not certain how bad his condition has deteriorated, but when Galloway is attacked in broad daylight by men he assumed were figments of his imagination, he realizes the threat is real and his condition is putting him and anyone nearby at risk. The stoic demeanor that earned Galloway the nickname The Tin Man is tested as he reunites with an old flame, becomes entangled in a Secret Service investigation, and does battle with old enemies.

A story divided into twelve songs from Jimmy Spartan’s final album.


Switchblade (Issue Seven) edited by Scotch Rutherford
Caledonia Press

Switchblade is going south—way down south, like a thong bikini in the Daytona Beach heat, where there’s no escaping the humidity. Half of these fifteen tales of vice and suspense take place in the sunshine state, the other half are the same potency of beloved filthy noir, from someplace else. Cult leaders, serial killers, private eyes, rock stars, cigarette boats, bare knuckle fighters, alligators, fugitives, strip clubs, mobsters, and government spooks; add in some stepped on lines of dirty white powder, and you’ve got Switchblade Issue Seven. Featuring the criminal minds of Nick Kolakowski, J.L. Boekestein, William R. Soldan, Mark Slade, Jack Bates, Stephen D. Rogers, Jon Zelazny, C.W. Balckwell, Arthur Evans, Bill Davidson, R. Daniel Lester, Bryce Wilson, Mathew X. Gomez, Scott Hallam, David Rachels, and Michael R. Colangelo.


Trump Fiction: ECR Special Edition edited by J.D. Graves
Thrill Hill Bottom Press

Trump Fiction is an EconoClash Review: Quality Cheap Thrills Special Edition. Just in time for the election season, you’ll get to experience life with a mind bending parody version of POTUS 45. We’ve got cheap thrills for days: Virtual Reality RPG’s, Tiny Trolls, Big Mushrooms, Underground Cults, Guilty Bureaucrats, Nervous staffers, fingers near red buttons and much, much, more! Buckle Up Buttercup because these 8 tales are designed to rattle your teeth and leave you panting for more in this unique collection of political satire.


Broken Dreams by Nick Quantrill
Fahrenheit Press

A cracking authentic crime thriller.

Joe Geraghty is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull.

Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times.

The case soon becomes anything but routine when Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death in her bed, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry.

As the woman’s tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city’s regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends.

With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.

Broken Dreams is the first urban thriller from Hull based writer ,Nick Quantrill, featuring private detective Joe Geraghty.

Books 2 & 3, The Late Great and The Crooked Beat are coming very soon from Fahrenheit Press.


Thanks for visiting Unlawful Acts. Photographer unknown.

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