Thursday, 31 January 2013

FLASH FICTION, GUEST AUTHOR: Joe's Pint by Nick Quantrill

‘Busy day?’ Barry’s pouring me a pint.
‘You know how it is.’ I’d spent the day driving around delivering unwanted warrants to unwilling punters, chasing the bastards round backstreets and grey estates - the private investigations business isn’t all glamour.
‘You know City were at home in the Cup last Saturday?’ Barry put the beer on the Carlsberg mat on the bar.
I wiped the bottom of the glass. ‘Won easy, didn’t they?’
‘Two-nil; barely had to break sweat.’
The pub was quiet, so he joined me on my side of the bar. ‘We had a load of the other lot’s supporters in here. Giving it plenty of attitude – like they were a firm, or something.’
Barry was hard as nails. You had to be to run a pub in this city. Even though he was well into his sixties, you didn’t mess with Barry. He was old school and the pub reflected that: rough around the edges, but with a certain charm.
‘They were acting like they owned the place,’ he explained. ‘Swaggering around, all of them looking the same, all of them with their heads shaved.’ He laughed. ‘All dressed the same, too: diamond geezers; probably once watched a Guy Ritchie film and thought they were hard.’
I knew there’d been trouble at the game but I was willing to bet nothing kicked off in here.
‘Anyway, this bunch got their feet under the table, then one of ‘em comes up and orders a round of six pints. Now when we’re busy and people order a big round, I count the glasses out and put them in front of me, next to the tap. That way I know what I’m doing, see, and I won’t get sidetracked.’
I nodded. I could see the sense in that.
‘I’d poured the drinks but the ringleader said I’d short-changed him, giving him one less drink than he’d asked for. He made a right scene, shouting, making threats, upsetting the other customers.’
‘What did you do?’
‘Told him I was sorry, that I must have made a mistake, and poured him another pint. It kept him happy and he swaggered back to his mates, giving it loads about how clever he was.’
‘You poured him a seventh pint?’
Barry stood up, ready to go back behind the bar. ‘I charged him for eight, like. I might be getting on a bit Joe, but I’m not stupid.’
'Joe's Pint' was first published in the flash fiction section of Article Magazine in October 2009 - the first time a certain Joe Geraghty had made an appearance in print. Subsequently he's been Nick Quantrill's main man in the novels 'Broken Dreams' 2010 and 'The Late Greats' 2012, both published by Caffeine Nights. Nick's third Joe Geraghty novel, 'The Crooked Beat', is due to hit the streets in September, 2013.
Along with Alfie Robins, Nick Q and I will be reading and chatting all things crime and writing at Beverley Library on Saturday 23 February at 1pm.

Monday, 21 January 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Stop Dead - Leigh Russell

The opening of Leigh Russell’s Stop Dead finds Inspector Geraldine Steel recently installed in a north London homicide team. Far from Kent and her familiar turf, Steel is yet to finish unpacking the moving crates that litter her new flat. It’s a new start all round: new gaff, new job, new colleagues and the twists of turns of the new office’s sexual politics to negotiate.
‘She hadn’t realised how lonely she was in London. But there was no time to question the sense in driving two hours to meet a friend for a drink.’
To top it all, there’s a murder to solve. Patrick Henshaw, owner of a swish Soho restaurant has been found brutally murdered at the wheel of his Merc on the Caledonian Road. As Steel negotiates the opening stages of the case with her new Detective Sergeant, Sam (Samantha) Haley in tow, she needs to find her feet, and fast. When Henshaw’s business partner is murdered in the same horrific manner, Steel is under pressure.
If there isn't trouble enough, a scene of crime DNA sample implicates a woman who has been in prison for twenty years, and another who has been dead for two years, Steel and Haley find themselves clutching at straws with a killer on the loose and notching up the body count.
In a crime fiction market littered with emotionally bruised DIs with more hang-ups than Woody Allen’s coat rack, Geraldine Steel sticks out as a believable copper. Homesickness and a family hiccup from the discovery of her status as an adoptee aside, Steel moves methodically from scene to scene searching for the clue that picks the crime apart.
There are the usual cast of police-pro characters, a brassy griefless widow and her toy-boy lover, a spiky young pathologist, a brusque guv’nor, grubby witnesses and a French chef who arrives direct from central casting in time for some light relief.
Stop Dead rattles along apace. There is something of a mid-story dip, but for the most part the narrative unfolds with reveals a-plenty. The fifth in the series of Russell’s Geraldine Steel novels – the first, Cut Short was nominated for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for first novel – it flows easily on the stream of investigative minutiae. Leigh Russell’s research is evident and she confidently steers Steel and Sam Haley along their investigative path.
And it is Steel who carries us through. Frequently uncertain of herself, it’s her apparent fallibility which is Stop Dead’s strongest suit. But when push comes to shove, Geraldine Steel takes her chances and gets the job done.
Stop Dead by Leigh Russell is published by No Exit and is available on kindle – paperback to follow in May 2013.