Tag Archives: murder

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.

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!


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.)

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.
amazon.com (Kindle format, $0.99)
amazon.co.uk (Kindle format, £0.86)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $0.99)

Guest blog, Iain Rowan: Police and thieves

Often, when people think about crime fiction, they think of stories in which the hero is a detective.

When I put together Nowhere To Go, a collection of my short crime fiction that’s been published over the last few years, it occurred to me that none of my crime stories was like that. Closest it gets is one story where a character claims to be a detective, but turns out to be something rather different. It was never a conscious decision to avoid police protagonists, just the way that it turned out, story after story, so I’ve given some thought as to why this happens to be this way in the stories that I want to tell.

Some of the protagonists in the stories in Nowhere To Go are criminals themselves. Some of them are victims. Most are people caught in the middle, involved in something beyond their control – sometimes by the choices they have made, sometimes just by the random, uncaring malicious lottery of fate.

I read something once by a photographer which said the most interesting things are always at the margins: where day starts to turn to night; where land meets water; where cities meet nature. That littoral zone is what I’ve always been most interested in exploring in my stories: the edges of society and the people that live there, the blurry margin between good and bad, right and wrong, between what the law says, and what people do to survive. Sure, plenty of detectives swim those murky waters, but they are not of them.

No matter how maverick, no matter the disbelieving boss, or the rival colleague, the detectives represent the state, and the power of the state, and all of the resources of the state. Although constrained at times, they can call on that power, and those resources. The characters I enjoy writing about the most are people who have no power, have no resources, but must still find a way to survive or escape. Those drawn into crime, those who find themselves caught up in crime, the victims of crime, they’re all more fertile territory for me than those who are paid to solve it.

And sometimes, it’s the police that they are escaping.

This focus shapes the kind of stories that I write. There’s less scope for them to be whodunnits, and it’s much more likely that they turn out to be to be howthehelldoIgetoutofits. It’s not that one’s better than the other. It’s just that I enjoy writing one more than I do the other.

I like having a wide choice of protagonists, of backgrounds, struggles, conflicts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read many excellent novels where the hero is a fictional police officer, interesting and rounded and believable. But I worry about falling into cliche were I to try, the terrible tightrope of making a character distinctive, without resorting to the cop-o-tron, where the lead is:

One Step Closer - a free ebook short story by Iain Rowanone of:

  • divorced
  • bereaved
  • long-term bachelor

has one of:

  • drink problem
  • psychological disorder du jour
  • implacable guilt

always plays one of:

  • bebop jazz
  • rare northern soul singles
  • scouse house

especially while drinking one of:

  • espressos, homemade in a lavishly detailed description
  • Wray and Nelson rum, neat
  • WKD. With a straw.

comes into conflict with one of:

  • ambitious, ruthless boss with executive haircut
  • cynical, jaded boss with wonky tie
  • Lieutenant Dobie

and doesn’t:

  • like authority
  • like authority
  • like authority

And anyway, everything I’ve said aside, the power and the politics and all of it, I’ve been re-watching Police Squad recently, and that alone ruins my chances of ever writing a detective lead.

“We’re sorry to bother you at such a time like this, Mrs. Twice. We would have come earlier, but your husband wasn’t dead then.”

Iain Rowan’s short story collection, Nowhere To Go, is available in the following formats:
amazon.com (Kindle format, $2.99)
amazon.co.uk (Kindle format, £2.12)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $2.99)

Iain’s Derringer Award-winning story “One Step Closer” is available as a free self-contained ebook:
.prc format (suitable for Kindle)
…other formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, available from Smashwords

New release: Nowhere To Go by Iain Rowan

Nowhere To Go - crime fiction for Kindle, Nook and other e-readersEleven stories of murder, obsession, fear and–sometimes–redemption. Featuring stories published in Alfred Hitchcock’sEllery Queen’s, and more, Nowhere To Go is a collection of Iain Rowan’s best short crime stories.

Iain’s short fiction has been reprinted in Year’s Best anthologies, won a Derringer Award, been voted into readers’ top ten of the year, and been the basis for a novel shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger award.

Free fiction samples and purchasing:
amazon.com (Kindle format, $2.99)
amazon.co.uk (Kindle format, £2.12)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $2.99)

“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 Postbest 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 theLos 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 FinchShriek:An AfterwordCity of Saints and Madmen; two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award


ONE STEP CLOSER: Life jumps the rails, runs away from you and there’s no catching it up. Not ever.
THE CHAIN: “You know what this is about, Mr Jackson,” the voice said.
A WALK IN THE PARK: Mason didn’t know much about the man they had been sent to kill.
ONE OF US: “You must be the doctor,” he said.
TWO NIGHTS’ WORK: As soon as the short man opened his bag, I knew what was going on.
EASY JOB: Harry could never resist an easy job, and the place on the moors road was the king of easy jobs.
FAKE: “Get me one note please, Mr Rogers. Any one. Pick it at random.”
MOTHS: “You’ve been watching me, haven’t you,” she said.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BORED: Oh, and I killed someone else too, but he was old and pointless and I doubt anybody noticed.
THE REMAINS OF MY ESTATE: I am the Alcatraz of the ironic. Nothing gets out of here alive.
NOWHERE TO GO: The man took a step out, then back, then stopped, no time any more, nowhere to go.

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