Tag Archives: mystery

Murder by the Book by Eric Brown: a review

Murder by the Book by Eric Brown

I was lucky enough to be given a free copy of this lovely hardback, and still it cost me twenty quid. That Eric Brown can be a bastard like that.

Murder by the Book, a debut crime novel from a writer who has been publishing book-length fiction for nearly 25 years, winner and shortlistee of many awards, his books and short stories have mainly stuck to his science-fiction roots, straying occasionally into fantasy and horror (of the gentle, psychological variety), and a wide variety of fiction for teenagers and younger.

Murder by the Book is the first Langham and Dupre mystery. Don Langham is a middlingly successful 1950s crime novelist, Maria Dupre is the assistant to Langham’s delightfully over the top literary agent Charles Elder. The two are drawn together when Elder becomes the subject of a blackmail plot, with an extortionist demanding payment for some dodgy photos of Elder’s dalliance with a young man at a local swimming pool.

Before long blackmail turns to something far more sinister as it becomes clear that a recent flurry of deaths among London’s crime-writing fraternity are not the accidents they had first appeared. Murder by the Book is a cracking crime novel, with satisfying twists and turns along the way, but what is most striking – and engaging – about the book is the affectionate portrayal of 1950s London and the crime-writing community of the time. Much like Midsomer Murders, Brown has turned in a highly enjoyable crime romp that never takes itself too seriously, but always with a straight face; and also much like Midsomer Murders victims are soon dropping like flies.

Occasionally rushed, where a little more delay might have heightened the tension, Murder by the Book is the most fun I’ve had within the pages of a book in a long time, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next in the series.

That twenty quid? About a third of the way into reading the book I lost my copy, and I was enjoying it so much I had to buy a replacement. It’s very frustrating that such a good book is priced so highly (in both its hardback and ebook editions), but I still blame Eric for writing such a good book that I just had to cough up at Amazon. That Eric Brown: he’s wasted on science fiction.

Murder by the Book is published by Severn House (the price of the hardback has since dropped to £14.99) and is available at Amazon, etc.


Ebook pricing, again; or “Fifteen quid for an ebook?”

So here’s the situation…

I’m partway through Eric Brown’s crime novel Murder by the Book, and loving it. I’ve been encouraging Eric to write crime for years and now he has and it’s a great read, full of fantastic characters and lovely 1950s London period detail.

And then, yesterday, when I was about to return to it… where in hell was that book? We turned the house upside down, but couldn’t find it. It literally is a mystery. I have every confidence that it will turn up again at some point: accidentally picked up with someone else’s books, knocked under the sofa, whatever.

But I want to know what happens next!

Simple, I thought: I popped over to Amazon to get a copy for my Kindle, happy to spend a few quid just so I could keep reading without break.

Two problems with that, though:

  1. Although the hardback came out in March, the ebook won’t be out until July. What reason is there for this? There can’t be a logistical explanation: the ebook hardly needs physically shipping to distributors, and it’s not exactly labour-intensive to produce; I’m sure the file is just sitting there, gathering virtual dust while it awaits publication. I can’t see any way they would gain sales by the delay; if anything they’d lose them, as people like me go looking for the book, find it’s unavailable, and then move on to other things.
  2. It’s priced at £14.90. Come again? Fifteen quid for an ebook? This is where I’m completely baffled by the publishers’ policy. Who do they think is going to buy an ebook at that price? Is there some kind of logic that says “While it looks good to have an ebook version available, we don’t want people to actually buy this format”…?

I get the reasoning for pricing the hardback at £19.99. Presumably the vast majority of sales at this price are to the library market, and the higher price makes sense given that each copy of the book will get multiple readers. But £15 for an ebook at Amazon? I’d love to know which part of the market publishers Severn House are targeting with this strategy.

The only possible explanation I can think of is that they think potential buyers will be horrified at the price and opt to buy the slightly more expensive hardback instead. But that makes no sense: the profit margin on the hardback is so much lower, because of production and distribution costs. They could price the ebook for a fiver and make just about as much as they make from the hardback, and they’d actually, erm, sell copies.

An Eric Brown crime ebook at £5 would sell. If anyone could explain to me how even a novel as good as this is will sell ebooks at £15 I’d love to be enlightened.


New: In Springdale Town by Robert Freeman Wexler

In Springdale Town by Robert Freeman WexlerReconciliation, longing, and ambiguity combine in one astounding locale: Springdale. Is it a mundane New England town on a picturesque river, or the nexus of the paradoxical?

Springdale appears to be a quiet village, unblemished by shopping mall or mega-store. The town sits in a fertile valley, surrounded by countryside rich in natural wonder. Summers, tourists attend the area’s many arts and music festivals, and hikers crowd the trails. In the fall, reds and yellows of turning leaves decorate the landscape, and in winter, mountain resorts fill with avid skiers.

But some say Springdale exists only on the contoured highways of our collective imagination. Others point to references dating back to Colonial Boston, to multiple versions of a ballad telling a story of remorse and disgrace.

Here are three facts:
1. Maps cannot be trusted;
2. All History is awash with fraud and hoax;
3. Springdale is an absence of identity.

For two people, a lawyer named Patrick Travis and a television actor named Richard Shelling, Springdale is home and anti-home, a place of comfort and a distortion of everyday life. They are strangers to each other, yet connected. Their lives will intersect with a force that shatters both.

This edition includes a specially written afterword by the author.

In Springdale Town by Robert Freeman Wexler is available in ebook format from:

Springdale is told in a deceptively muted style and cunningly crafted so that the story appears to assemble itself around the reader like a trap he or she has sprung, yet remains innocent-looking until the end, when a spring-loaded hammer smashes down.” —Lucius Shepard, from the introduction to the original print edition

“For some writers, prose is a means with which to construct an analogue of reality. For Robert Freeman Wexler, fiction is a means with which to de-construct reality. Yet his stories have such a strong sense of linguistic integrity, it’s hard to believe that he isn’t reporting his experiences from a parallel universe.” —Rick Kleffel, from an interview at fantasticmetropolis.com.

“…In a list comprising some of the biggest names in contemporary genre fiction the appearance of a novella by a virtually unknown author causes a certain interest. In Springdale Town represents its author’s first book publication (after only a handful of short stories) and yet it fits into the PS Publishing list with such subtle skill that its presence on the shelf feels as if an invisible gap in the collection has been suddenly filled.”—Lavie Tidhar, Dusksite

“…no need for Lovecraftian monsters or rampaging serial killers to transform Springdale into a seriously creepy place. An old ballad suggests that one death haunts this village, but Wexler deviously, almost casually, creates a sense of wrongness that goes well beyond some past saga of jealousy and murder. Don’t read this one right before bedtime–or your next road trip.”—Faren Miller, Locus Magazine, October 2003

“The basic idea is familiar, almost banal, but Wexler’s treatment is witty, his writing is excellent, his characters are really well captured—I was very impressed with the story.”—Rich Horton, Locus Magazine, November 2003

“…Other writers, wiry and wry, as lithe as dragonflies, may seem more vulnerable, but their grace, their maneuverability, becomes its own kind of tensile strength. They can travel farther, faster, and in disguise.”—Jeff VanderMeer, Locus Online

“…lovely Americana set-piece turned on its ear.”—Jay Lake, Tangent Online

“…An emotionally scathing yet tender insight into the frailty, ignorance, and misplaced motivations of that most ridiculous of animals, the human being.”—William P. Simmons, Infinity Plus

“…Robert Freeman Wexler dives into the heart of Americana in his chilling and tender novella.”—Rick Kleffel Agony Column


Tom Piccirilli – let’s do good by the man, and read some fine books too!

Tom Piccirilli: award-winning author of mystery, horror and, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody good fiction whatever the category.

Tom Piccirilli: lovely guy, always there to support his fellow authors, always keen to be in touch with his readers.

Tom Piccirilli: went into hospital last week with headaches, stayed there with a brain tumour the size of a tennis ball, having an operation on Monday (1 Oct), followed by radio- and chemotherapy.

Fuck. 

As others have said, there are bound to be fundraisers for so respected and well-liked a writer, but in the meantime, let’s buy his books – it all adds up. Also, much as it’d be cool to see his works from big commercial publishers doing well, income from those tends to get set against advance payments and takes a long time to ever reach the author; if we buy his indie books, there’s a greater likelihood that the money from sales will reach him sooner (and he’d probably get a bigger cut, too).

So… Tom Piccirilli: buy his books, buy his indie books, and let’s all send positive vibes.


The Long and Winding Road – a guest post by Colin Murray

No Hearts, No Roses by Colin MurrayThere are many roads to becoming a published author. This was mine.

A few years ago, I found myself with some time on my hands. This happens quite often when you’re freelance: it seems that it’s either feast or famine. You complain about both but you much prefer feast. On this occasion, I was feeling just a little bruised as a new number-crunching, pie-chart-eating CEO decided that the publishing company where I had been successfully running an imprint for about eight years could no longer afford me and had ended what had been a mutually beneficial arrangement. (They had a vastly experienced editor at a cut-rate and I had some element of stability in my income. For what it’s worth, I had the last laugh: the bookseller who replaced me lasted just five months. I’d told the CEO that it would be six, but I didn’t mind being wrong.) So, while I was looking for replacement work (which came in surprisingly quickly), I, for no good reason, sat down and started to write a novel.

Of course, I should have known better.

I’d worked in publishing for long enough to know that it was rarely the path to fame and fortune, and that, far more often, it ended in tears and recrimination. But I had an idea and time on my hands and I’d also heard that a major publishing house was actively looking for new crime writers.

The writing went surprisingly well but, by the time I’d written the first hundred pages, I had a living to make and work to do and so I sent that chunk of the book off to one of the editors at the publisher and got on with my life, while continuing to write whenever I could.

Some six months passed before I received a very pleasant letter from an assistant editor, apologizing for taking so long and asking if there was any more to be seen as she thought the novel was pretty good and was planning to talk to her boss about it. Which sounded promising. As I had, in fact, more or less finished the book. I duly sent it off.

At that stage, having set things in motion, I thought it might not be a bad idea to contact an agent. I made a tentative enquiry and received a very positive response so I told him of the publisher’s interest and hoped that things might happen.

I guess I should have been even more wary than I was because in the publishing world, as in most areas of human activity, little is simple and straightforward. When my often elusive agent peered through the cloud cover on Olympus long enough to say, ‘Nothing would please me more than selling this for a hundred thousand pounds but that’s not going to happen,’ I understood him to be making a realistic judgement on the book’s worth. But I was wrong. What I didn’t hear was the suppressed clause, ‘and I don’t bother with anything that sells for less than that.’ My fault, of course, for not being cynical enough.

I knuckled down to some revisions and, after a while, my agent did arrange a meeting with an editor from the publishing house I had sent the novel to. He told me that my book was one of the most accomplished first novels he’d come across and I left the meeting with a warm glow, expecting my agent to hammer out a deal.

However, it turned out that the meeting was the one and only thing he did for me.

I rewrote again, sent the new draft off to him and the editor and then waited. And waited.  After five months of hearing nothing, I tried to contact the great man on the phone. I failed. I tried again. And failed again. In fact, I kept on trying for a month. And kept on failing. Eventually, I decided that maybe I wasn’t the client for him and that, ipso facto, made him not the agent for me. I wrote accordingly and, eventually, I received a gracious reply, admitting that he had not served me well.

Meanwhile, times had changed and the publishing house that had been interested in new crime novels was no longer looking for them.

However, this where the long story becomes a short one. I decided to represent myself and looked at lists I liked and sent the book off to Constable & Robinson. I received a very favourable reaction in weeks, an offer soon after and then a contract. Of course, I didn’t get a hundred thousand pounds but I was consulted on the cover and the blurb, the copy-editing was superb, everyone was enthusiastic and the rights people even placed the book with an American publisher.

And, no matter, how jaded and cynical one pretends to be, there is nothing like holding a copy of your first book.

What had I learned, apart from that? Not a lot that I didn’t know already. Agents and publishers can be very dilatory and can’t always be relied on, but there are some good guys out there.

Oh, and I now know that first-time novelists have long memories and nurture and cherish grudges. There’s one agent who won’t be getting any referrals from me, and British crime reviewers (who, for the most part, simply ignored the book) probably shouldn’t look to me for any favours for a decade or two.

But there are things that make it all worthwhile: a reviewer describing my book as ‘riveting and suspenseful’ and then exclaiming ‘What a terrific first novel!’; another saying that it was ‘brilliant’; and another talking about its ‘pounding suspense’. The fame and fortune are probably never going to happen, but I’d made a little money, I was a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, some people had read my novel and they hadn’t been disappointed. What more could I realistically have hoped for?

Summer Song by Colin MurrayColin Murray’s first novel, After a Dead Dog, a contemporary crime novel set in rural Scotland, was published in 2007. No Hearts, No Roses (‘quirky, engaging, Chandleresque’ Booklist), appeared in 2011, and September Song in 2012. Both are set in London in 1955 and feature the same main character.

September Song:

No Hearts, No Roses:

After a Dead Dog:


Iain Rowan’s Nowhere to Go shortlisted for a Spinetingler award

Great to see Iain Rowan’s rather good collection of crime and suspense fiction, Nowhere to Go, shortlisted for Best Short Story Collection over at Spinetingler magazine.

Nowhere to Go by Iain RowanIt’s very easy for good books to get lost in all the noise of e-publishing, and it’s common – and, to be fair, quite reasonable, based on the statistics – for reviewers and award-givers to assume the worst and overlook ebooks. It’s very much to the Spinetingler team’s credit that they considered and shortlisted Iain’s book, and yet another significant achievement in the career of a writer who deserves far more attention (it sounds silly to say that of a writer who has won a Derringer award for a story included in Nowhere to Go, and been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger for his novel One of Us, but he should certainly be getting commercial attention to match the critical success).

To coincide with publication of One of Us in March 2012 we’ve given Nowhere to Go a new cover; you’ll also notice that it’s a wraparound cover – the collection will be getting a much-deserved first print edition very soon, which we’re very excited about.

On a personal note, it’s been a delight to work with Iain. Editing and producing Nowhere to Go was that rare experience where I found myself prolonging a piece of work because I was enjoying the fiction so much; similarly, when working on One of Us I found exactly the same thing happening.

Here’s hoping that what we’ve done at infinity plus is just one step in the process of Iain becoming a hugely successful and award-winning (again) writer!

More:


New: One of Us, a CWA Debut Dagger shortlisted novel by Iain Rowan

One of Us by Iain RowanAnna is one of the invisible people. She fled her own country when the police murdered her brother and her father, and now she serves your food, cleans your table, changes your bed, and keeps the secrets of her past well hidden.

When she used her medical school experience to treat a man with a gunshot wound, Anna thought it would be a way to a better life. Instead, it leads to a world of people trafficking, prostitution, murder and the biggest decision of Anna’s life: how much is she prepared to give up to be one of us?

Shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger award, One of Us is a novel by award-winning writer Iain Rowan.


BUY NOW:

CreateSpace (paperback $11.99)
Amazon US (paperback $11.99)
…Amazon UK (coming soon: paperback $11.99)
amazon.com (Kindle format, $2.99)
amazon.co.uk (Kindle format, £1.99)

Nowhere to Go by Iain RowanTo tie in with the launch of One of Us, Iain’s highly-praised collection of crime and suspense fiction, Nowhere to Go, has been given a new cover.

Praise for Iain Rowan’s Nowhere to Go:

“Fine examples of modern crime stories, gripping and perceptive, probing the dark secrets of the human soul, just like an old Alfred Hitchcock movie… Crime enthusiasts must not miss the book: this is noir at its very best.”
SF Site featured review

“During the five years that I published Hardluck Stories, One Step Closer and Moth were two of my favorite stories. I loved the nuances and true heartfelt emotion that Iain filled his stories with, and Iain quickly became a must read author for me–everything I read of Iain’s had this tragic, and sometimes, horrific beauty filling it, and was guaranteed to be something special.”
– Dave Zeltserman, author of Outsourced, and Washington Post best books of year Small Crimes and Pariah

“A short story writer of the highest calibre.”
– Allan Guthrie, author of Top Ten Kindle Bestseller Bye Bye Baby, winner of Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year

“Iain Rowan’s stories never fail to surprise and delight, and just when you think you know what will happen next, you realize how much you’ve been caught unaware.”
– Sarah Weinman, writer, critic, reviewer, columnist for the Los Angeles Times and News Editor for Publishers Marketplace

“Iain Rowan is both a meticulous and a passionate writer, and these stories showcase his ample talent wonderfully well. You owe it to yourself to discover Rowan’s fiction if you haven’t already had the pleasure.”
– Jeff Vandermeer, author of Finch, Shriek: An Afterword, City of Saints and Madmen; two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award

“Every story in this collection is a gem… classy and clever Brit Grit at its best.”
– Paul D Brazill at Death By Killing


New: print edition of Kaitlin Queen’s “Essex noir” One More Unfortunate

We’re delighted to announce that the print edition of Kaitlin Queen’s murder mystery One More Unfortunate (described by one reviewer as “Essex noir”) is now creeping out into the bookshops.

Today it’s become available at CreateSpace, and in a few days it’ll be on Amazon and then starting to appear elsewhere. Here’s what one Amazon review said about the e-edition:

“There are twists and turns galore before finally the murder is solved… The characterizations are vivid, and in a couple of cases really quite affecting; the taut tale-telling rattles along at good speed; and the solution to the mystery is both startling and satisfying. Recommended.”

There’s also an extract up at the infinity plus website.

(Hint: while it’ll be great to have wider distribution, the author gets the best royalty if you buy direct from CreateSpace. Just so you know.)


10k at Amazon, and still shifting: One Step Closer

I’ve written here before about experiments with ebook pricing and marketing, but some time last night we hit a landmark with one of our experiments at infinity plus.

Back in March we published Iain Rowan’s first collection, a set of crime stories called Nowhere To Go which included his Derringer Award-winning story “One Step Closer”. The collection received some excellent reviews and blog coverage and performed reasonably at Amazon and our other distributors, but Iain and I wanted to give it a boost and so we discussed various options.

We decided to take that Derringer winner and produce it as a standalone ebook, priced initially at 99 cents but with a view to persuading Amazon to drop the price to zero. At those prices there’s a very different audience: casual browsers making impulse buys/downloads, readers who may like the look of something but not want to buy the complete book, readers looking for a quick lunchtime read, and so on.

What we didn’t know was how much crossover there would be. Would a reader with a liking for scraping up the freebies also be the kind of reader who would spend $2.99 on a book by the same author if they liked the free offering? Would there even be that kind of author-recognition once the quick read has been read and put aside?

One Step Closer went free at Amazon in September, and very quickly overtook our other free offering, the infinities anthology (which, itself, had been a big success, hitting number two in the free anthology charts in the US, and holding the number one slot in the equivalent chart in the UK for several weeks, a position it still holds).

To be honest, I don’t really understand why Iain’s short story has been such a big success. It’s a fine story, of course, and being an award-winner must help establish its credentials for anyone unfamiliar with Iain’s work. It has a great cover and is nicely put together. Iain has a strong social media presence, and has worked hard at promoting his various books. There must be lots of elements of good fortune involved, too, and a key thing is that success can be self-perpetuating: once a story hits number one, it becomes far more visible, which keeps the success going.

Whatever the reasons, some time last night Iain’s short story hit the landmark of 10,000 downloads through Amazon. It’s occupied the number one free story download slot in the UK for several weeks, and for that period has been a fixture in the top 20 free downloads of any kind at Amazon UK, against some tough competition.

What remains to be seen, though, is just how this translates into commercial success. What we do know is that more than 10,000 readers have liked the look of the book enough to download it. Some of those will have read it already; some will read it over the coming months; others will lose it among all the other freebies they’ve downloaded.

Of those who read it, some – a large proportion, I reckon – will like it a lot, because it’s a hell of a story. But how many of these will immediately follow up by clicking on a link to Amazon to find Iain’s other work? How many will intend to do that, but because they didn’t do it immediately, will become increasingly unlikely to follow through? How many will remember Iain’s name next time they’re browsing and so click on a link to his other books?

It’s incredibly hard to answer these questions, as it’s just not possible to track purchasing decisions back to their origins. Amazon gives us good reporting, but not that good!

After success like this, though, I’m certainly looking forward to trying to make sense of it all over the coming weeks and months!


Nowhere To Go by Iain Rowan – reduced to 99 cents for September

Eleven crime stories first published in Alfred Hitchcock’s, Ellery Queen’s, and elsewhere by award-winning writer Iain Rowan. Iain’s short fiction has been reprinted in Year’s Best anthologies, won a Derringer Award, and been the basis for a novel shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger award.

REDUCED TO 99 CENTS FOR SEPTEMBER! Here at infinity plus we think this book, and this author, are pretty special, so for one month only we’ve dropped the price.
BUY NOW:
amazon.com (Kindle format, $0.99)
amazon.co.uk (Kindle format, £0.86)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $0.99)

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