Lancashire Post Reviews Bill S. Ballinger’s Portrait in Smoke and The Longest Second

LEP.CO.UK - Portrait in Smoke and The Longest Second by Bill S. Ballinger

“[Bill S.] Ballinger, who died in 1980 at the age of 68, wrote scripts for eight feature films, more than 150 teleplays, 30 books, and in 1961, he won an Edgar Award for one of his teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His novels, several of which were made into films, have sold more than ten million copies in the States and been reprinted in 30 countries and translated into more than 13 languages. A book critic for The New York Times called him ‘a major virtuoso of the mystery technique,’ and yet Ballinger remains an overlooked writer, with much of his work long out of print.

Fortunately, the gap has now been plugged by the publication of a two-in-one volume from Stark House Press featuring two of the author’s personal favourites, Portrait in Smoke, and the Edgar-nominated The Longest Second, two unique mystery classics that shocked the literary world when they first came out in the 1950s.

In his introduction to this new volume, Nicholas Litchfield, editor of the Lowestoft Chronicle, a quarterly online literary magazine, revels in the republication of these two noir masterpieces, writing: ‘These two powerful, provocative tales from the Fifties are as fresh and impressive today as when they first startled and enthralled the world and earned their place as mystery classics.’

The Longest Second, says Litchfield, is ‘neither gimmicky nor contrived’ but ‘a cunningly deceptive work that is full of twists and shocks, and has a storyline intended to continually keep you guessing about the past and the present.’

Abnormal and packed full of surprises because of the two seemingly unconnected storylines, an unreliable narrator, and the author’s wily weaving between first-person and third-person narration, The Longest Second is ingenious, suspenseful, and memorably intriguing.

Perfectly paired with Portrait in Smoke, these two exceptional novels are as fascinating and entertaining today as they were 60 years ago.”

Pam Norfolk’s review of this new reprint of Bill S. Ballinger’s novels is published today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK.

Read the full, in-depth book review here.

Litchfield Reviews Carter Brown Mysteries in the Lancashire Post

LEP.CO.UK - No Harp for My Angel, Booty for a Babe, and Eve, Its Extortion by Carter Brown

“Wise-cracking, lecherous homicide detective Lieutenant Al Wheeler investigates the disappearances of pretty ‘dames,’ a complex hit-and-run case, and murders at a science fiction convention in three entertaining entries in the phenomenally successful Carter Brown mystery series. Written in the 1950s and long since out-of-print, No Harp for My Angel, Booty for a Babe, and Eve, It’s Extortion are a trio of swift-paced, tongue-in-cheek stories by the incredibly prolific Alan Geoffrey Yates, writing under the house name Carter Brown.

The playful humour, fast-paced action and lean, uncomplicated plots help make these Carter Brown mysteries quick, pleasurable reads. These three in particular highlight Yates’ ability to add a fresh spin to a familiar story and inject a heavy dose of fun into American ‘gangster’ fiction.”

Read more of my review at:

Litchfield Reviews Matthew P. Mayo’s Timberline for the Lancashire Post

LEP.CO.UK - Timberline by Matthew P. Mayo

“In keeping with other Roamer adventures, Timberline is a nimbly told tale of rough justice and frontier survival with fierce action, intense danger, and high-grade excitement. A rousing, first-rate read!”

My review of Timberline, another action-packed Roamer western adventure by the always-excellent Matthew P. Mayo, is featured today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 25 regional newspapers across England.

A past winner of the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award for Best Western Novel, Mayo is a dab hand at carving out enthralling stories set in the American Old West, and this third installment in the Roamer series in one of the author’s best novels.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been fortunate to review three of Mayo’s books for British newspapers, and I was tickled pink when I discovered that a snippet of my review of this splendid novel was featured on the front cover of this fine hardback edition from Five Star. Long may the series continue!

Read the full, in-depth book review here.

Lancashire Post Review of Floyd Mahannah’s ‘The Broken Angel and Backfire and Other Stories’ by Lowestoft Chronicle Editor

LEP.CO.UK - The Broken Angel and Backfire and Other Stories by Floyd Mahannah

Floyd Mahannah was a talented but overlooked 1950s writer of hardboiled tales. Although his novels received strong critical reviews and he managed to place his shorter work in numerous popular magazines, Mahannah didn’t achieve the success he was striving for and his writing career fizzled out early.

This week, Stark House Press publishes a collection of his work, including some mighty fine stories that were published in leading magazines of the day.

You can read my review of Mahannah’s work today in the Lancashire Post, and syndicated to twenty-five newspapers in the UK.

“Treachery, revenge, blackmail, theft and murder are rife in The Broken Angel and Backfire and Other Stories, a memorable collection of hardboiled tales by the talented but overlooked 1950s crime writer Floyd Mahannah.

In a literary career that spanned a mere eight years, Mahannah, who died in 1976, produced five reasonably successful novels and eleven short, gritty stories that were published in popular magazines like Argosy, Adventure, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Manhunt.

This new story collection from Stark House Press includes the author’s most accomplished novel and six of his best shorter works, as well as an enlightening introduction by Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Bill Pronzini, who believes Floyd Mahannah’s ‘hard-edged’ work ‘stands the test of time better than many of his peers.’

The Broken Angel, described by New York Times book critic Anthony Boucher as a surprisingly good novel that ‘has much of the appeal of Charles Williams’ studies in temptation,’ is about Roy Holgren, a provincial newspaper editor in Nevada, who is lured into a highly dangerous situation involving blackmail, grand theft and murder.”

Read the full article here.

Lancashire Post Review of Invigorating Passages: A Lowestoft Chronicle Anthology

LEP.CO.UK - Invigorating Passages Edited by Nicholas Litchfield

Invigorating Passages: A Lowestoft Chronicle Anthology

Invigorating Passages is a rare and dynamic literary collection which grabs readers firmly and sweeps them away to strange and exhilarating places, presenting intriguing situations, colourful characters, and making us yearn to strap on the backpack and go exploring.” —Pam Norfolk, Lancashire Post

The latest volume in the Lowestoft Chronicle Anthology Series goes on sale on April 1st. I like to think that this book is one of the best we’ve published yet. It even contains a terrific foreword by Matthew P. Mayo who, just two weeks ago, won the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Fiction for his novel Stranded.

Recently, the anthology received high praise from the excellent writer Robert Wexelblatt, award-winning author of Zublinka Among Women. “Two things one wants from an anthology: everything should be different and everything should be good. An anthology of travel writing—generously conceived, like this one–should serve up a variety of trips to surprise and stimulate the mental traveler. Invigorating Passages delivers on all counts, hits on all cylinders too. Here you will find journeys not only to varied locales in space and time but into the inexhaustible intricacies of human psychology, adventures of all sorts and in every genre: poetry, nonfiction, stories. The writing is skilled, the choices rich, the passages manifold, and the invigoration unfailing.”

The book also received a wonderful review today in the Lancashire Post, one of the oldest newspapers still in circulation. Journalist Pam Norfolk had these kind things to say about the book:

“Looking for drama, adventure and a taste of the exotic? Then look no further than the latest anthology from the refreshingly unique Lowestoft Chronicle, Suffolk’s leading literary journal.

Invigorating Passages, the seventh enthralling book in the magazines anthology series, offers up offbeat fiction, stimulating poetry, incisive interviews and engaging creative non-fiction, all with a sharp focus on those spirited souls who revel in taking to the skies, the seas and the roads in order to escape the humdrum everyday and rove the globe.

Once again, editor Nicholas Litchfield, an English-born author who lives in Western New York, has put together an entertaining compendium of original and amusing travelogues, poetic reflections, and tales of far-flung adventure that range from science fiction and fantasy to mystery and crime, offering something for all tastes.

So, take a leisurely literary stroll through Lowestoft Chronicle’s latest offering and lap up the life-nourishing gulps of humour, drama and thought-provoking adventure.”

Pam Norfolk’s review of Invigorating Passages is published in the Lancashire Evening Post and syndicated to 25 newspapers in the UK. You can read the full review here.

Litchfield Reviews Flight to Darkness and 77 Rue Paradis by Gil Brewer

LEP.CO.UK - Flight to Darkness and 77 Rue Paradis by Gil Brewer

Two more welcome suspense novels from Gil Brewer:

“In two turbulent, mesmerizing tales from the 1950s, a Korean War veteran gets involved with a troublesome beauty and finds himself caught up in immense family strife and murder, and a disgraced former aircraft manufacturer is blackmailed into treason.

Flight to Darkness and 77 Rue Paradis are two early career novels by the late American author Gil Brewer, a prolific writer of compelling crime stories. Author of 50 novels and more than 100 short stories, Brewer was among the most popular noir writers of the 1950s.

Written in just three days, Flight to Darkness was published in 1952, one year after his hugely successful bestselling third novel, 13 French Street, which sold more than 1.3 million copies.”

My review of these two classic tales by novelist Gil Brewer is featured today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 25 newspapers in the UK. The full review can be found at the web link below and elsewhere.

Read more at:

Litchfield Reviews Ed Lacy’s ‘The Men from the Boys’

LEP.CO.UK - The Men from the Boys by Ed Lacy

Hardboiled crime from 1956 (The Men from the Boys)

“Frank, provocative and untamed, Marty Bond is an impressively colourful, distinctive character whose presence makes this competent mystery novel infinitely more enjoyable. He’s bigoted and morally deficient, and when he doesn’t wound with his tongue, he lets his powerful fists do the talking.

Lacy expertly manages to bring a sympathetic aspect to the mean, hard-edged Marty, and for all his crude, derogative talk, the reader can’t help but root for him and want to find out how the story ends.”

Featured today in the Lancashire Post is my review of The Men from the Boys, an entertaining standalone mystery by acclaimed crime novelist Ed Lacy, the pseudonym of Edgar Award-winning American novelist Len Zinberg who died in 1968. You can read the full review at the web link below or at other syndicated newspapers.

Litchfield’s Lancashire Post Review of Richard Wormser’s ‘The Body Looks Familiar’ / ‘The Late Mrs. Five’ - The Body Looks Familiar and The Late Mrs. Five by Richard Wormser

“In two thrilling, out-of-the-ordinary crime stories, an assistant district attorney attempts to frame the city’s police chief for the murder of his mistress, and a travelling company vice president finds himself accused of the murder of his ex-wife.

The Body Looks Familiar and The Late Mrs. Five are both impressive novels by the late Richard Wormser, a prolific American writer of some 300 short stories, 200 novelettes, and numerous crime and detective novels, movie and TV novelisations, screenplays and Westerns.

Beginning his literary career in the 1930s as editor and writer for the famous publishing house Street & Smith, which specialised in dime novels and pulp fiction, Wormser went on to write for Hollywood film studios like Columbia Pictures and contribute seventeen of the Nick Carter spy novels.”

You can read my review of Wormser and these two mysteries in the Lancashire Evening Post and syndicated to 25 newspapers across the UK.

Read more at:


Litchfield’s Lancashire Post Review of The Bridge Troll Murders by Sheldon Russell

LEP.CO.UK - The Bridge Troll Murders by Sheldon Russell
“In the gripping fifth book in Sheldon Russell’s critically acclaimed historical mystery series, one-armed railroad detective Hook Runyon goes undercover as a hobo to hunt down a formidable serial killer who is murdering and mutilating vagrants.
Set shortly after the Second World War, The Bridge Troll Murders marks the welcome return of Russell’s tough, book-loving Yard Dog, last seen in the top-notch 2013 novel The Hanging of Samuel Ash.”
My review of The Bridge Troll Murders by Sheldon Russell, book five in his marvelous Hook Runyon Mystery series, is published today in the Lancashire Evening Post and syndicated to 25 newspapers across the UK.

Litchfield Reviews Never Say No to a Killer by Clifton Adams for the Lancashire Post

LEP.CO.UK - Never Say No to a Killer by Clifton Adams

“In a violent and fast-paced crime noir tale, a wily, dangerous criminal escapes from prison and vows to avenge the murder of his former cellmate and continue the man’s extensive blackmail operation.

Never Say No to a Killer, reprinted from 1956 by Black Gat Books, an imprint of Stark House Press, is the first of two gritty Adams’ novels under the pen name Jonathan Gant. It tells the story of ruthless and clever Roy Surrat, an unrepentant prison convict determined to break out of jail and resume his life of crime.”

My review of Never Say No to a Killer by Clifton Adams is published today in the Lancashire Evening Post, and syndicated to 25 newspapers across the UK.

Read the full review here