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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Loose Cannon - Jack Steele


Loose Cannon is a hard-hitting, fast-paced crime thriller and one that I couldn't bear to put down.

Detective Joe Stone works for the special investigations unit in London and he often comes into contact with members of the two rival mafia families who operate in his area so when Marcia, the daughter of Chico Stettsi, head of the London Mafia, is kidnapped from her home it's only natural that he's called in to investigate.

This is just the start of some brutal attacks and it's not long before Joe finds that he's become a target. As well as trying to figure out who's the mastermind behind all of this he's also struggling with the disappearance of his girlfriend Gemma almost a year ago. He doesn't know if she's alive or dead but he's sure that at least one member of the two families knows exactly what happened to her but with just his gut feelings to go on he can't pursue it any further. Joe has to try and put his feelings out of his mind for now and concentrate on hunting down the psychopath that's on the loose on his patch.

I absolutely loved this book and raced through it in just two days. With it's short but punchy chapters, each one ended in just the right place to make me want to read on. The story flowed effortlessly, the characters were engaging and the pace was relentless as I followed Joe and his colleagues across London as they tried to identify the culprit. Joe is an interesting protagonist who is immediately likable and one that I was instantly drawn to, you know he's a good guy and you want him to be safe and catch the bad guys. Jack Steele cleverly interspersed the story with little snippets about Joe's missing girlfriend Gemma and as a reader my interest was piqued with every mention of her.

As debut novels go, this one is an absolute stonker, as soon as I'd read the last word my first impulse was to email Jack to find out if there was going to be a sequel and here's a part of my email:

"OMG I've just finished reading Loose Cannon this evening. . . . . . . . . .please tell me there's a sequel!! I've never needed a sequel as much as I need one for Loose Cannon!"

I was one happy hippo when the reply came back with a resounding yes, the sequel is being written and it picks up the story two weeks later.

If you enjoy a gripping thriller then this is just the book for you and I would highly recommend it. Jack Steele is most definitely an author on my one to watch list and I can't wait to read more from him.

With kind thanks to author Jack Steele for the review copy.


The Hippo hands over . . . to Donna McCarthy



Today it's my pleasure to welcome the lovely Donna McCarthy to The Haphazardous Hippo. I've got to know Donna over the last few months after spotting some tweets about her debut novel The Hangman's Hitch and we've become firm friends. So I'm delighted to hand you over to her as she invites you to take a peek inside her mind.



Inside the mind of a seriously twisted author! (Donna's words, not mine!)

If I say that, when you see a group of people, laughing, enjoying each-others company, generally having a thoroughly good time… I see, a Devil, (there always has to be a Devil for me) jealousy, somebody on the edge and always a weak point in the group… then you will understand why I am quite a quiet person in company, as am normally thoroughly enjoying the other side!
No wonder people go quiet when I enter the room!
It is just how my mind works, it’s introvert, it’s weird, but it’s me.
There are places in my mind, dark realms, which after visiting, sometimes leave me wondering if its ok to think as I do… maybe, all us authors, have a yet to be disclosed condition? Perhaps one day we will be all locked up, and your precious books considered contraband! Black markets spring up, where a Class A book gets you 10 and then some! Maybe? but then I am just a crazy author, and now thinking of dystopian futures and trying to understand how you will react to this blog, maybe pin point your character without even meeting you!
Hope I don’t sound too scary, but as a breed authors can be.
My characters are very real to me, unfortunately, they are generally very dark too, so I live with some right weirdos! However, mine is a safe distance, and even though they pre-occupy me most of the day, I can put them safely down on a page and bind them in a book, or even just shut down word!
If you knew these Devils like I do, I am sure you would love them equal to any hero I create, and might surprise you to know that they generally get along famously, when they are not performing!
So, as you see, if I didn’t write, these Angels and Demons would have no voice, which would be a sad tale indeed, that inevitably would never be told!

Since I've been chatting to Donna I've noticed that although we have lots of things in common such as books, reading and wine, she has a rather strange love of something that totally freaks me out. . . . .clowns! I'm not talking your average clowns here like Ronald McDonald, Krusty the clown (of The Simpson's fame) or even the infamous French clown Pierrot, oh no. . . . . Donna much prefers the more unconventional ones like these guys . . . .

Pennywise from Stephen King's It (picture from scaryforkids.com)


Twisty from American Horror Story (picture from IMBd.com)


Art from All Hallow's Eve (picture from IMDb.com)

Aren't they just the stuff of nightmares? Well they are to me (especially after googling many, many more pictures like the ones above just before going to bed last night!) but I'm sure that Donna would jump at the chance to hang out with all three of these guys at the drop of a hat and if Pennywise was to ask her out for a drink it would be like all her birthday's and Christmases had come at once! Clowns aside though, don't be scared of her as I can promise you she is one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. So read on to find out a little bit more about the lady herself.

Photo courtesy of Donna McCarthy

By the age of 5 I had travelled the world twice, but ironically, because of my age, have little memory of it! However, I still wield it when in the intimidating company, of rich and seasoned travellers!
I love the South of France, Ireland, have been to Australia on my own in my 20’s, which was awesome!
I have 6 older brothers and no sisters, and only one female cousin, so of course, I am a bit of a lad!
Had my debut novel The Hangman’s Hitch published last year, which was the most phenomenal experience, and now have my 2nd ready to go… wish me luck!
My favourite childhood book was Alice in Wonderland, and think I have read it over 100 times!
My current favourite author is Anne Rice, but this changes constantly.
My last meal would be Sunday Roast with all the trimmings!
45 years old, loving the greys, (or do we all just embrace it because we have no choice!)
Living the dream on a pauper’s pocket!

The Hangman's Hitch is available for only £1 on Amazon until the end of August, so now that you know a little more about the author why not check out her book here, it's on my TBR.



 You can follow Donna and find out more about her at the places below:

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I'd like to thank Donna McCarthy for taking the time to stop by today, it's been so much fun and I hope you've all enjoyed it too.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Hippo Hands Over . . . to Owen Mullen

Today I'm starting a new feature where I hand over my blog to an author, hence the title 'The Hippo hands over'.  I've got lots of great guest posts from a wide selection of authors and I'm delighted to kick things off by handing over to Owen Mullen.

Photo courtesy of Owen Mullen



School was a waste of time for me. Or rather, I wasted time; my own and every teacher’s who tried to get me to work. It took twenty years to appreciate what they were telling me. Life has rules. They aren’t written down but they exist nevertheless. I got that. Eventually. But by then I was thirty five.
Along the way I missed an important clue. At ten I won a national primary schools short story competition – and didn’t write anything else for forty years.
SMART BOY WANTED
APPLY WITHIN
As a teenager my big obsession was music. Early on I realised if I was successful I would probably be rich and famous and pull lots of girls.
So how did that turn out?
Well, you haven’t heard of me, have you? And this morning I caught myself worrying about the electricity bill. So the short answer is: one out of three ain’t bad. 
Running around the country in a Transit van with your mates is fun. It’s your very own gang. You against the world. Until you fall out and the dream lies bleeding on the dressing-room floor.
When that happened I went to London [everybody from Scotland goes to London, it’s like first footing at New Year, or ten pints of lager and a vindaloo on a Friday night; a sacred tradition] and became a session singer. I also started gigging with different bands on the circuit.
Back in Scotland - most of us come back with wild tales of great success, none of them true - I wondered what I should do with myself and didn’t have to wait long for the answer. Her name was Christine. We got married, I went to Strathclyde Uni and got a bunch of letters after my name, and toughing it out at Shotts Miner’s Welfare, or dodging flying beer cans at the Café Club in Baillieston, was in the past. The long hair was short now, I wore a suit and pretended to like people I didn’t like because we were ‘colleagues’.
After many adventures I started my own marketing and design business and did alright. Christine and I were very happy, we travelled all over the place; India, Brazil, Botswana, Nepal, Borneo, Japan. One day I suggested we move. To the Greek islands. So we did. We bought land and built a beautiful villa overlooking the Mediterranean. Then the pan global financial crash happened, years of fiscal carelessness finally caught up with Greece; the exchange rate dived and the cost of living in Paradise went through the roof.
I had to do something. Then I remembered the short story competition. I had been good at writing, hadn’t I?
I wrote another short story called The King Is Dead…the first thing I’d written since primary school. When I typed the last word [Christine taught me to type] I held the pages in my hand then started to read. An hour and a half, rooted to the chair unable to believe what was in front of my eyes. For four decades I had shunned a god given gift. And as I read I started to understand why. It was awful. Not just bad. Bloody terrible.
But I kept going.
And now, eight years and seven books later, three literary agents plus two I turned down [they were reading a different book] I am a writer. My books are on Amazon. People buy them and come back for more.
One seasoned London agent has predicted I am destined to be ‘a major new force in British crime fiction.’



Owen has written two books, Games People Play and Old Friends and New Enemies, both featuring Glasgow PI Charlie Cameron. I was lucky enough to win signed copies of both of them over on Chelle's Book Reviews recently and you can see Hamlet and Howie showing them off below. 




Write Back At You


In Games People Play and Old Friends and New Enemies – the two books so far in the Charlie Cameron PI detective series set in Glasgow – Owen Mullen has created a quartet of memorable players: Charlie Cameron; private investigator and main man. Patrick Logue; Street-wise wide boy and Charlie’s side-kick. Andrew Geddes; a detective inspector in Police Scotland CID and Charlie’s friend. And Jackie Mallon; the manager of New York Blue café/bar/American diner and club where Charlie has his office.
Authors are often asked about the characters they create. Here, for a change, we focus on the other point of view and ask the characters what they think.

Charlie Cameron:
I suppose I should be grateful. After all, I’m the leading man in a terrific series. I get good lines – though not as good as Pat Logue – I’m smart, good-looking and I live in Glasgow; my favourite city. But there’s a downside. Clients lie, bad people want to kill me and every woman I get involved with…sorry…mustn’t give too much away. One of the conditions of doing this blog was no spoilers. All I will say is that if you fancy the Rafferty family chasing you, try it. Pat Logue, Andrew and Jackie don’t appreciate I’m carrying them. Have been from the beginning. Being the hero page after page wears you out. Might have been cushier to be a TV detective in a sleepy village where a murder is committed every week. Or is somebody already doing that? Just a thought.

Patrick Logue:
For me – and I’m just sayin’ – turnin’ up in a book is the same as getting’ kicked to death by a donkey: you always imagine it’s goin’ to happen to somebody else. Never you.  All of a sudden you find yourself with kids who hate you and a wife who has her bags packed and is halfway out the door. And because it’s crime fiction, the constant threat of meetin’ a psychopath like Kevin Rafferty is always there. If you believed Owen Mullen’s version of me, you’d come away with the idea that I’m a work-shy drunk.
A sad misrepresentation of the truth.
How hard would it have been to show me in a better light? All readers are ever told is that I’m at the bar in NYB; tappin’ Charlie for money every time he passes on his way out to find some missin’ punter. Mullen has me down as a wee no-user – as we say up here in Glasgow – when in fact, I’m an entrepreneur. A free spirit. The reason I’m at the bar is because that’s where I do my best thinkin’. And in my game thinkin’ is important.
What I’m gettin’ at is respect. Where is it? I’ve put two good shifts in for this guy. Saved the day more than once, as well. Yet here I am in the third book, still duckin’ and divin’ and leavin’ Gail to bring up the boys. Bein’ made to look like a clown. It’s not on. And I’ll be tellin’ Owen Mullen when I see him.

DS Andrew Geddes:
I hate to be the odd man out but I have to say that, so far, I’m not impressed with this Mullen guy. After the great work I did in Games People Play, I was expecting a promotion. It didn’t happen. Obviously the author doesn’t see me as DI material. Fair enough; he’s entitled to his opinion, although things didn’t improve much for me in Old Friends and New Enemies. He doesn’t show me in a good light. In every other scene I’m complaining about my ex-wife, Elspeth, or I’m half-cut. Not great either way. And when I dunk my croissant in my coffee, he describes me as – what was it again? – a truffle hound on acid. Nice. But what can you do? I’m just a character: one of the little people. If he knew I voted for Brexit, Christ knows what he’d do to me.

Jackie Mallon:
Some people imagine being the leading woman in a crime series is fun. We’ll it is and it isn’t. I’ve tried to get through to Owen Mullen; he isn’t listening. I want to tell him to give me a break. I mean, do I have to be hopeless with men? Would it really be easier if I had WANKERS WELCOME tattooed on my forehead? Because that’s what he told everybody. And is it necessary to see me stuffing my face with cream cakes every time a romance doesn’t work out? Couldn’t I be a guy-magnet, instead of an emotional car crash?
I can only assume the author has a problem with women and he’s taking it out on me. I know what you’re thinking: Jackie’s just another daft burd.
 Well I’m not.
Some of my grievances are justified. How come Charlie’s office is bigger than mine? And why make me such a bitch? Where’s that coming from?
I expect to find myself having a thing with Charlie. Please! He’s nice enough but he’s hardly my type. Too smooth. Anyway – according to the stories – I go for toy boys.
You’ll never guess what I’m doing in the new book. Just as I finally find a little bit of happiness…

Charlie Cameron: ‘Jackie! Jackie! Keep it to yourself.’
‘Why should I? Characters in books are people too.’
Charlie Cameron: ‘Stick to the deal or we won’t get to say anything again.’
Pat Logue: ‘Best do as Charlie says, Jackie. Remember how vindictive these author-types are.’

All I’m asking for is a better shake. A bigger office and maybe a new hunky man. Now that would be pure dead brilliant. Not going to happen, is it?  It’s enough to make me want to quit. Charlie’s all right, but if the author makes us an item I’m going to break his heart and stomp on the pieces.
Swear to God.
You have been warned, Mullen.

You can find out more about Owen Mullen at the places below:


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I'd like to thank Owen for taking the time to stop by today, it's been a pleasure and I'm looking forward to reading your books. If you've already read Owen's books please let me know your thoughts on them.