Lancashire Post Reviews Helen Nielsen’s Borrow the Night and The Fifth Caller

LEP.CO.UK - Borrow the Night and The Fifth Caller By Helen Nielsen: A superior pair of unique tales which richly deserve a revival - book review

“American writer Helen Nielsen – a scriptwriter for episodes of the television dramas Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason – was a popular author in the late 1940s and the mid-1970s. Many of Nielsen’s stories appear in the anthologies Best Detective Stories, Alfred Hitchcock’s Hangman’s Dozen, Ellery Queen’s Double Dozen, and Best Legal Stories, and several were adapted for television. Gold Coast Nocturne, her second novel, was made into the 1954 film, Murder by Proxy, starring Dane Clark and Belinda Lee.

Although these and other books by Nielsen – who died in 2002 at the age of 83 – sold well and were critically successful, much of the author’s work is long out of print.

Fortunately, Stark House Press have started a revival of her work, and this new publication of a two-in-one volume features Borrow the Night and The Fifth Caller, a couple of complex and ingenious murder mysteries that first came out in the late 1950s.

In his introduction to the double-novel collection, writer Nicholas Litchfield, who is editor of the popular literary magazine Lowestoft Chronicle, describes Nielsen’s pair of unconventional whodunnits as ‘two exemplary mystery novels that are sure to leave you on edge and breathless and in search of more of her thrilling, intricate, and astutely written tales.’

Litchfield, a keen supporter of Borrow the Night, believes the strength of the novel lies in ‘the exceptionally well-sketched principal characters and the skilful way Nielsen drops hints and revelations and introduces unexpected plot twists to cast doubt on just about everybody.’

The Fifth Caller is an original mystery for the period because of its toughness, pace and invention, and for the measured way Nielsen presents realistic, complex characters in a fast-paced drama.

A superior pair of unique tales which richly deserve a revival…”

Read the full, in-depth book review here.

Paperback Warrior Reviews James O. Causey’s The Baby Doll Murders / Killer Take All! / Frenzy

The Baby Doll Murders / Killer Take All! / Frenzy by James O. Causey

“James O. Causey got his start in the 1940s writing short stories for “Weird Tales” and “Detective Story Magazine.” As the pulps died off, he became a highly-regarded, if not well-known, author of short, hardboiled crime novels. Stark House has compiled three of Causey’s classics into one volume for 21st Century audiences. The new trade paperback includes “The Baby Doll Murders,” “Killer Take All,” and “Frenzy” as well as an introduction by Nicholas Litchfield.

Despite problems of plot and pacing, Causey’s hardboiled, first-person prose is among the best. For example, His descriptions of acts of violence are vivid while also being matter-of-fact. Taking a professional beating in the groin, ribs, and kidneys is just an occupational hazard in this world, and those scenes were vivid as hell.”

Paperback Warrior is a review and discussion blog that takes a humorous look at the Men’s Action-Adventure book genre. From barrel chests to bullet belts Paperback Warrior doesn’t pull any punches. You can read their review of this new reprint of James O. Causey’s trio of novels on their website.

Read the full book review here.

Book review: ‘Sleeping Dragons’ for the Colorado Review

“At times, the open-ended nature of Baudoin’s stories has the effect of making a narrative seem unfinished and crying out for resolution. Argentine-born writer, translator, and editor Alberto Manguel addresses this issue in his introduction, writing: “We come to the last page of a Baudoin story and we ask ourselves, what exactly just happened?” Time and again throughout the collection, you find there is always more to the story than Baudoin is willing to reveal, and by the end, we are left with an unclear take on things, a feeling that, as Manguel notes, something essential seems to have escaped us.

That said, what makes Baudoin’s atypical writing so distinctive and so critically appealing is her eloquence and subtlety, and her willingness to leave things unsaid and allow readers to interpret a story for themselves. Largely ominous and somber in tone, the concise, intelligent fiction contained in Sleeping Dragons will move, intrigue, and not fade quickly from memory..”

Published today in the Colorado Review is my review of Magela Baudoin’s slim but impactful story collection Sleeping Dragons.

Read the full, in-depth book review here

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.

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’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.

‘SWAMPJACK VIRUS’ BOOK REVIEW IN THE LANCASHIRE EVENING POST

LEP.CO.UK - Swampjack Virus by Nicholas Litchfield

“British-born Nicholas Litchfield, a librarian, journalist and researcher who has settled down in Western New York, pays homage to both his old homeland and the classic thriller-adventure spy novels of the 1950s and ’60s in this exciting and wryly funny adventure novel.

Swampjack Virus, a fast-paced, well-plotted and gripping 21st century espionage thriller, follows a middle-aged, maverick CIA agent on a deadly assignment through England’s dark, satanic landscape.

Litchfield paints a pitch perfect portrait of a delightfully offbeat US spy who bucks the trend by coming out of the heat and into the cold.”
— Lancashire Evening Post

The Lancashire Evening Post features an excellent book review of Swampjack Virus today. The review is available to read on their webite or in various other regional newspapers. There will also be a review published in the printed version of the Lancashire Evening Post on the 28th of October.

Read the review here.