A Western With Heart and Soul


It was the fall of 1882. After killing four men in West Virginia, the mute, Cody Williams, and Tompal Banks, killer of twenty-three men by his own estimates, crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky….Tompal swore that they would not kill anyone in this land new to all three, a vow they would break before the next sunset in the town of Mercy…

Ok 280 Steps, you have my attention. It seems every book I have picked up from your company has kept me glued to the pages and has kept me thinking of the book even after the last page has been turned. But with Out of Mercy by Jonathan Ashley, you have outdone yourselves.

This book was a flat-out kick-ass, wild ride through the old west. It is a bloody, pulpy tale that had me hooked from the opening chapter. With witty dialogue, great characters that come to life, and bloody scenes, this book shows you that Jonathan Ashley has writing skills that few others can match.

When Tompal Banks, Cody Williams, and the mute roll into the town of Mercy, Kentucky, they find themselves surrounded by a slew of strange and interesting characters that have hidden agendas and secrets they would prefer stay hidden. The threesome have some merchandise that acquired after a deadly shootout and they now have to stay one step in front of the rightful owners of said merchandise.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the wide range of characters and how well developed they each are. They each have in-depth background stories and Ashley paints them with vivid strokes of heartbreak, desires, and motivations. As the reader feels they truly know each character, their actions are understandable and help the storylines weave together and allow the story to seem multilayered.

This book started out with a blast and seemed to get better and better as the book continued. I was a little unsure if I would like the book, as I don’t read “westerns”. But I had nothing to worry about; the book was a dynamite read. I will be seeking out more books by this author and I will certainly be keeping my eye in 280 Steps in the future!

Highly Recommended.

No Tomorrow is Another Hinkson Winner


“Despite having had sex with her and covered up a murder with her, I had only the vaguest notion of who she was.” –No Tomorrow by Jake Hinkson

Every reader needs a list of authors they know will knock each book the write out of the ballpark. You know the kind of author I’m talking about; the ones that write books and stories with great plots, characters that have depth and soul, and dialogue that jumps off the page and rings true to the reader’s ear. The type of author that, no matter what genre or time period they are writing in, make you feel like you are living with the characters and they whisper their story into your ear and bring out an emotional response from you. The good news is we are living in a time where there are many such authors writing in the noir genre. The great news is one such author just published another book. That author is Jake Hinkson and his latest release is No Tomorrow published by New Pulp Press and believe me when I say it is one hell of a winner.

Hinkson has had one hell of a writing career so far. Each book he has put out has shown him to be an author who grasps the nuances of any quality book or short story; a great cast of characters whom each have depth and allow the reader to understand and connect with their motivations, a plot that moves quickly and smoothly without getting bogged down with unnecessary minutiae, and dialogue that is believable.

Hinkson continues his trend of penning great books. With this release he tackles a task that might have tripped up a less experienced and savvy author. He not only chose to write his narration through the eyes of a woman in 1947, he chose to make her a lesbian in a time where it was a taboo subject in and of itself.

Billie Dixon (yes, she is a woman with a man’s name) works for a motion picture distributor and she traverses through the Midwest looking to get their films into small town movie theaters. She’s happy to have a job and enjoys the interactions she has throughout her journeys. She eventually winds up in Stock’s Settlement and finds herself pitted against a local preacher who is hell-bent on keeping motion pictures out of the town. Billie is more than willing to attempt to change his mind, but matters become complicated when she senses an attraction between the preacher’s wife and herself.

As in any noir story, this attraction leads all parties involved into a web of lies, deceit, and murder. This book gives you the feeling that Hinkson could have dug it up out of an attic where it has been sitting for the past 50 years. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this book owed a lot to the old dime store novels that are now labeled as classics. Hinkson’s ability to create a book that is relevant to today’s noir landscape, yet hawks back to the classics is a surefire sign that he is near the top of the heap of authors publishing books today.

This book is like a stick of dynamite … the fuse it lit when you read the opening paragraph and the reader just tries to stay ahead of the impending blast. Prepare to lose sleep if you start it at night. Hinkson continues his streak of putting out ass kicking books.

Highly recommended

Nicely Plotted and Fun to Read


We all have relationships in our lives that were meaningful at one time and, as time passes, these relationships fade from our lives, leaving memories and often regrets.

Pale in Death by Ed Brock brings this familiar theme to the reader as Mark Freer, cop reporter, finds himself reporting on the beating death of Amelia, a woman he recognizes and was romantically connected to in his not too distant past. While this would cause anyone to question how this tragedy might have turned out differently if their relationship had remained intact, Mark has even more reason to question his choices to end the relationship. While he was dating Amelia he introduced her to Lester Little, who got Amelia hooked on meth. As Amelia’s life begins to spiral out of control, Mark realizes he must break off this relationship if he has any hope of finding the life he is seeking. He leaves Amelia to fend for herself and moves on with his life. While his life turns out fairly well, seeing how Amelia’s life ended he is forced to question his choices and also seeks answers to how Amelia’s life ended the way it did.

Brock delivers a nicely paced thriller that has an interesting cast of characters and is well plotted. 280 Steps publishing is certainly adding some great books to their catalogue and this is a worthy addition. While not particularly noir in its scope, it is a book that is worth picking up and enjoying.


What Happens in Reno is a Happening Book


Someone really needs to tell me what the hell is in the water at All Due Respect Books! Every book they publish kicks ass and this book shows that not only do they publish kick ass books, the publishers write them too!

What Happens in Reno by Mike Monson is classic noir. A main character that has plans of grandeur but is destined for disaster, a dame with no allegiances other than to herself, a criminal recently released from prison, and a financial windfall that everyone wants to get their hands on.

When Matt gets money from selling the dilapidated home he inherited after the death of his mother, he intendeds to give some money to his wife to pay for her cosmetic surgery and pay down their ever expanding debt. But once the money is in his hands, those ideas go by the wayside. He quickly decides that a trip to Reno is a better plan of action.

Soon he has everyone looking for him to get their hands on his money. Lydia, who has been supporting Matt through his long stretches of unemployment, wants him to give her the money he has promised to her. Lydia’s new lover, Hunter who was recently released from prison, needs the money to pay off the IRS, and his stepson Tanner, who is simply looking to impress Hunter and repaying him for the attention he has been lavishing on his.

If Matt wants to make it out of Reno with any money at all he has to keep his wits about him to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. But nothing is as easy as it seems in the world created by Monson. This is a fun, quick read that shows great noir is still being published (or re-released in this case).

Highly Recommended

The Kind of Friends is my Kind of Book


“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

Never has this quote seem more prophetic than in Chris Rhatigan’s The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other. Three people share their secrets and all three are willing to kill to keep them secrets.

When Simon, Mackey, and Slade set to drinking one night at the local bowling alley, their conversation follows the typical bar banter; taxes, the high cost of cigarettes, etc. This typical bar banter takes a dark turn when the friends each share a dark secret about themselves. The secrets range in depravity, from breaking into homes to watch people sleep, to being the driver in a hit and run accident and finally to admitting being guilty of murder, the friends each share a piece of their soul without thinking of the consequences.

The problem with their indiscretions become apparent when they each become paranoid that the others now have a bargaining chip over them. They each realize that the only way to rectify their mistake is through the elimination of the other two. Each friend sets out to put their own plan of self-preservation into action, while also watching their own backs.

One of the highlights of this book is the manner in which Rhatigan portrays the decomposition of the narrator’s mind and soul. At the beginning of the book, Simon seems like a stable, hard working man, but as the story progresses we start to see all the cracks that exist within him and we know this story won’t end well for him.

This is noir just the way I like it…a quick hit that leaves a mark. I am very glad to see this book getting re-released and it is apparent that All Due Respect has another winner of their hands. This book is a noir lovers dream and is best consumed in one sitting so you can truly appreciate Rhatigan’s genius.

Highly Recommended

Strip is a Hell of a Read


So you say you are looking to dig into a book that has really bad bad-guys, strippers, murder, sex, and a great crime at its heart? Well then look no further that Strip by John Bruni. This book is a noirish crime novel that has a superb cast of characters that intersect in the second half of this book that had me engaged to the final scene.

Will works as an announcer at a strip joint, but he has problems. Big problems. He doesn’t make enough money to keep a roof over his head. When he approaches his boss for a raise, he is rebuffed. This sets the wheels in motion for him to plan to rob his boss of the thousands, if not millions, of dollars that are kept in the office safe.

As Will ponders how to bring his plan to fruition, he meets a crazy cast of characters who are more than willing to help him steal the money. From a recent prison parolee to an undercover policewoman masquerading as a stripper, this book has a great cast of characters that allows the story to flow smoothly.

Bruni has a lot of things that work well in this book, but the strongest aspect to the novel is the way the story incorporates all the characters so seamlessly and provides nice background stories for each of them. Bruni clearly has a strong understanding of how to move his plots along and the book never seems to drag. I was engaged from the first word to the last word and was sorry to have the book conclude.

Overall this book is a strong crime novel, as well as a nice piece of noir. The characters start at the bottom and never seemed destined to get any higher than the bottom rung. I strongly recommend you pick this book up and see what a strong writing career Bruni seems to have in front of him.

Highly recommended.

A Sure Fire Winner


Number Thirteen Press just dropped their tenth book and their releases keep getting better and better. When the Music’s Over by Aidan Thorn is a hell of a hit of noir. Everything about it feels right; great characters, perfect plotting, great economy of words, and most importantly, it is a satisfying read that hooks you from the beginning and leaves you no choice but to read it to its blistering end.

When Benny Gower murders the heir of a criminal organization, he sets into action a chain of events that will have ramifications for everyone involved. Benny flees the scene and sets out to make a clean getaway. Fairly standard plot, right? The kick to this one is that Benny is a man of moral integrity that leaves behind many associates who don’t believe him to be guilty, and feel that even if he is, he should be protected from the consequences of his actions.

Wynn McDonald, a long retired mob enforcer, is forced out of retirement and ordered to find and exact mob justice on Benny to send a message to all who know what has happened. As McDonald searches for answers on the street, he is also searching for answers from within, as he realizes his loyalties may have changed during his time away from the mob life. While he understands he has to follow the truth where it leads him, he has his own ideas how justice may be best served for all those involved in this situation.

Thorn does a magnificent job keeping the plot tight and he never seems to take his foot off the gas pedal. This novella seems to be injected with adrenaline and any reader of this one will feel that adrenaline in their own veins as they race towards the very satisfying ending that Thorn has in store for them.

Number Thirteen Press is becoming a heavy hitter in the noir publishing world and this book will only further solidify their standing in the eyes of noir lovers. If you haven’t jumped on board this bandwagon, it would be in your best interest to pick up all the titles they have published and get better acquainted with a publisher that is putting their stamp on the noir landscape.

Highly Recommended.

Bull Mountain is a Beautiful First Novel



Bull Mountain opens with this simple word that reverberates throughout the plot of this moving and finely written debut novel from Brian Panowich. This is a family drama and crime novel rolled into one and Panowich handles this multi-layered juggling act with the sure hand that you would expect from a more experienced novelist. The story is told in a back and forth manner spanning three generations of the Burroughs family and provides changing narrative perspectives. Panowich does this seamlessly and the story runs smoothly regardless of what generation is sharing their story.

Bull Mountain has always been the home to the Burroughs clan and as far as the patriarchs of the family are concerned, it always will be. The book follows the Burroughs over the course of decades and allows the reader a glimpse into the multidimensional relationships that develop between both fathers and sons, and also between brothers. In its quest to rule all the mountain has to offer, both its inhabitants and its resources, the family runs distilleries, grows and sells marijuana, and also turns to cooking meth. As the years pass, they find it harder and harder to hold on to what they believe is their birthright and they are willing to go to any length to tighten their hold of what they have secured as their own.

Clayton Burroughs is the sheriff of Bull Mountain. He is the youngest brother of Halford Burroughs, the head of a criminal empire who now runs the mountain. Clayton has been exiled from the family compound, as he is deemed a traitor to the family for pursuing a career in law enforcement. Halford blames Clayton for the death of their brother and the two live separate lives. Clayton may be the law in the local town, but he understands and accepts that Halford is the law of the mountain.

When an FBI agent comes into town warning Clayton that if his brother doesn’t quit the families illegal business immediately he will lose not only his freedom but his family’s mountain, Clayton seeks out his brother for a reconciliation in an attempt to bring an end to his family’s reign of terror in the most peaceful manner he can. When Halford refuses to consider walking away from his criminal enterprise, Clayton must decide how far he is willing to go to protect his brother, the town, and ultimately himself and his family.

I hate to use cliché expressions in reviews, but this is a beautifully written page-turner. To say Panowich is a writer to watch is an understatement. His talent shines from the pages of this book and leaves you begging for his next novel. This book is sure to be talked about on many Best of 2015 lists in a few months. This book is simply amazing.

Noir Like It’s Meant to Be


All Due Respect Issue 7 has arrived and if that doesn’t quicken your pulse you may be dead. The release of the All Due Respect quarterly publication is one of the greatest events that happen in the noir realm. Every issue has been jam packed with great noir stories, great interviews, and awesome book reviews and this issue continues that trend.

The issue opens with the story Wet City by Ray Zacek and it is a great slice of noir with 2 men looking to take what belongs to a local drug dealer. They believe this will be an easy robbery, but as in any great noir story, things aren’t always as they appear. This story sets the bar pretty high for the stories that follow, but as a reader of all the ADR quarterly issues, I knew the other stories could, and would, hold their own.

Shoot the Dog by Joe L. Murr demonstrates the most deadly thing in a noir story just might be a woman who is out to make sure she gets what she wants. This story leaves you wondering why any man would trust any woman. Great story with an awesome ending that leaves you racing onto the next story like a fiend who needs their next hit.

Well that next hit satisfies even the most hardened noir lover! Histories of the Dead by Math Bird is like noir crack for the reader. I loved this story and really enjoyed the notion that sometimes revenge may take a long time to come around, but it always comes around. Great tale that proves revenge is best served cold…as long as it is served in spades.

Dead Dogs and Boomsticks by Matthew J. Hockey mixes family loyalty with drugs and murder. I loved the manner in which Hockey uses his words to paint a picture of absolute revolution. “Yellow hooded sweatshirt open over his distended stomach, tar black blood pooled solid in the lines of where his gym-sculpted abs would have been if they hadn’t dissolved away”. Beautiful imagery…absolutely beautiful.

Next up is Night Driver by Brian Haycock. This shows the life you subscribe to if you choose to be a call girl or a pimp. A quick, but hard hitting story that shows an economy of words is not a detriment to a great story.

Six-Inch Valley by Frank Byrns is a love story with a noir twist. This shows that even criminals long for love…but we all know it is out of reach. I found this story to be a great one and closed the short story section with a bang.

This issue contains interviews with the publisher of 280 Steps Publishing (check out some of my older reviews for an idea of the great books they are publishing) and Patricia Abbott. I have not read Abbott’s Concrete Angel and this interview put it right at the top of my TBR pile.

Add all this goodness to 6 book reviews and a preview of the ADR book, Nine Toes in the Grave by Eric Beetner and you have an issue that is begging to be bought and enjoyed in a sitting.

Highly Recommended

Death Thing is Full of Life and Laughs


I just finished reading Death Thing by Andrew Hilbert and I think this is one hell of an entertaining and fun read! While the plot is definitely on the unbelievable side, with a little bit of suspension of disbelief, I had a great time flying through the pages of this exciting book.

When Gilbert (don’t call him Gil, only his wife calls him that) gets sick and tired of getting his car broken into, he sets out to turn his car into a death trap for would-be thieves. What seems like a crazy idea at first gets him the desired results and the attention of his neighbor and the local police force.

From Gilbert’s obsession over tuna fish with pickles to his insistence to not being called Gil, this book has lots of laughs, lots of violence, and shows this author has lots of potential to have a hell of a writing career.

This book deserves a large audience. Although it is hard to pigeonhole it into a specific genre, I feel safe labeling it as a laugh out-loud, ass kicking, fun and wild read. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy and strap yourself in…it’s gonna be a long enjoyable ride.