Archive for skill

HELL TO PAY By Shaun Hutson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This book from 2004, follows a similar pattern to Hutson’s other “horror’ thrillers of the time such as White Ghost.  Around this time, Huston seems to leave the supernatural horror of his previous books behind and head into this new “thriller” territory. Normally there would still be plenty of violence and disturbing gruesome descriptions (that Hutson’s known for) to up the ante on the usual thrillers out there.

Hell to Pay follows the same principles, including the various plot-lines intersecting towards the end for a climactic showdown.

Nikki Reed is in trouble, big trouble. Her and her husband owe the local gangster twenty thousand pounds, most of it spent down the bookies and gambled away, the rest spent on Playstation 2s and similar unrequired accessories. They have until the end of the week to find the money, or they’re likely to be killed by the loan shark, who is already threatening them with violence.

Roma Todd is having an affair. Her husband is virtually estranged, spending all of his time at work and providing little in the way of parental support for their ill daughter Kirsten.

Detective Inspector Fielding is called to another murder. A young boy found washed up by a lake. The third child to be killed. Is it a serial killer they are looking for or a paedophile? Or both? With few clues to follow the police are searching for any lead they can get.

So these three plot lines will eventually intersect, but the climatic action denouement that you would expect ultimately fails to be realised. There is a slight twist, but not enough to satisfy.

One of the great things about Hutson’s novels is the pop-culture references, but reading a book that’s eight years old mean searching through the annals of history. That’s not Hutson’s fault obviously, the fact the book has been lying on my shelf for eight years though is down to the dissatisfied feeling I had after reading White Ghost. That is Hutson’s fault.

Ultimately Hutson is a decent writer who has moved away from what he was good at, writing horror novels, to have a go at the more lucrative thriller market where he does not excel. Nowadays Gary McMahon does urban horror with a much better grasp of the intricacies of modern youth culture, and a better handle on violence and atmosphere.

To write off Hutson as a has-been based on a book written eight years ago is far too harsh. Some of his novels, those that I grew up with such as Nemesis, Death Day, and Relics, are classic British horror. I need to read a more recent Hutson novel to make a more informed decision, and because of his former skill he can’t be written off after a couple of decent, if not impressive, horror thrillers. Decision pending…

THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME By Paul Teutil, Sr with Mark Yost – Reviewed

Posted in Personal Finance, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2009 by stanleyriiks

If you’re coming to this book as a fan of the show, as I was, if you’re thinking this is a business book, as I was, and are looking for insights into running your own business, as I was, then you’re in the wrong place.

This is a very basic management book. It contains very few business tips, there are a few time-worn management skills, many of which are basic common sense, and most of which are fairly obvious. The depth of the book, at nearly a hundred and fifty pages, isn’t worth mentioning. Reading the chapter titles will give you a very good idea of what to expect as Paul gives us his own person take on management. He’s obviously a big man with a good strong head on those broad shoulders, who tries to surround himself with good people.

He also has some serious issues with his parents and his troubled childhood, and he’s rightly proud of doing so well considering his upbringing and dealing with his own demons, in the form or drugs and alcohol, which he was addicted to for twenty years.

What comes across more than anything is that this is a hard-working man. He doesn’t have any special secrets or any special talent, but he does have the drive to succeed and a passion to do his best.

As a fan of OCC and American Choppers I can’t help but think of this as a cash-in. Perhaps not by Paul, who seems to think his wisdom is worth sharing, but more by the publishers, who haven’t pushed Paul at all to reveal how he managed to be a functioning alcoholic, and build two successful businesses.

If you’re looking for business insight then you would be better served with another book. If you’re looking for an OCC book then look elsewhere too. This is not a bad management book, but it’s not a bible, and it’s only one man’s opinion. And it’s very basic, barely backed up by experience.

This book is for those really interested in OCC and how Paul got started, and his management style. Which I would imagine is really only a few people.

The book doesn’t fail because of the OCC tie-up, it’s the only thing it has going for it. I can’t help thinking that as the season of American Chopper ends, with the family going in their separate direction, the future of OCC is going to be very different. Apart from the unknown daughter, the sons don’t particularly come out too well in the book either. And despite appearing so important to Senior in the book, the arguments and the way two of his sons are treated in the series and described in the book, it seems that his children won’t stand in the way of his success either. It seems that it is the end of OCC as it was, and that Senior is powering on by himself, and with his management tenets behind him, you have to worry that the future may well not be as bright as he thinks it is.

GARBAGE MAN By Joseph D’Lacey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2009 by stanleyriiks

As reviews editor for Morpheus Tales Magazine I tend to get first choice of the material that comes in for review. It also means I’m stuck with all the leftovers too!

When I get the choice I pick books I like, authors I enjoy. I don’t do this for the money, mostly I do it for the free books! I’m not a masocist, why would I pick a book I’m fairly unlikely to enjoy? That’s why I read horror, science fiction and fantasy and not romance and girlie books. I don’t have anything against rom-coms, I just prefer my entertainment served up in a bodybag, after a thorough beating!

Early last year we got a book called MEAT by Joseph D’Lacey, a debut novel from Bloody Books, a new publisher I’d never heard of. New author, new publisher, new book…. Mmm…

Unknown quantities scare me. I like to mentally prepare myself for whatever experience I’m about to have. But D’Lacey had travelled around the country in a “Meat Wagon” promoting the book, which appealed to my dark sense of humour so I thought I’d try it.

MEAT is not a subtle book, it’s refreshingly shocking, brutal, and nasty. It’s kind of like a Shaun Hutson novel, it’s dirty and wrong, but that’s why you love it. And I did! I did love it, MEAT is one of those rare books that can shock you, it sucks you in and then vomits you out before you’re ready for it.

So when Joseph D’Lacey’s second novel turned up I begged for it!

GARBAGE MAN By Joseph D’Lacey

Bloody Books

This book is absurd. It’s ridiculous. And it’s bloody marvellous!

In D’Lacey’s debut novel MEAT he teased us in, providing a stark, gritty realism to draw us into his world, and then slamming us face first into the dark, depraved heart of his brutal, unforgiving, twisted reality.

Well, he’s back!

Shreve is a small mid-England town, a normal enough town with a normal enough set of individuals populating it. Shreve is also home to one of the largest landfill sites in the UK.

The populants of the town are Shreve are a varied bunch, there’s the Smithfields, their son Donald, a young paperboy having sex with one of his married neighbours, and Aggie, the wannabe model and teenage temptress. There’s Miss Ahern the nosey neighbour and religious nut. There’s Kevin and Tamsin, the married couple on the verge of breaking up. Ray and Jenny, two students whose relationship has run it’s course and who may find happiness in the arms of that married couple. And then there’s Delilah, an Earthy goth chick. And Mason Brand, former star photographer and now caretaker of one of the strangest creatures to ever grace the printed page…

In a superbly Frankenstein-esque moment during a lightning storm several piles of rubbish from the landfill awaken into creatures. But only one of the creatures survives as Mason finds it and starts feeding it, with his own blood. The creature, made of rubbish, feeds and grows. This truly gives a new meaning to recycling, as the creature consumes everything given to it, or it can take, and uses it to heal itself, to upgrade itself. It’s like a Transformer made of rubbish and when it eventually feeds on an entire human being it starts to get the taste and realises that it shouldn’t be alone, it should be the commander of a massive army of other garbage creatures, and so it sets its army on a path of destruction that will change Shreve and the world forever.

This really shouldn’t work. It’s too ridiculous, except that it’s not. This does work, and it works well. The town of Shreve is set up very realistically, and the characters and their bad habits are all presented to us well before the actual horror starts. And when the horror does kick in it’s hard and fast and furious.

Not only does D’Lacey provide his knack for brutal realism, he creates a creature you care about almost as much as the other characters. The Garbage Man, although certainly a villain, is also something of a hero, and at the end you can’t help but feel a certain empathy with him in an almost King Kong moment.

The final ending is even harsher and more brutal than the attack of the garbage men and deserves mention as one of the spookiest endings I’ve read in a long time, one that will not only leave you pondering the sheer wretchedness of it all, but leaving you aching for more. The last few chapters show us the true power that D’Lacey can unleash.

It’s not a perfect package by any means, our ensemble cast provide little in the way of emotional involvement. The best character is Delilah and she doesn’t appear until the book is halfway through. And Aggie’s adventures in London are cut far too short, and probably could have been quite a decent book on their own.

D’Lacey’s tendency to use pertinent socio-political themes doesn’t detract from the entertainment, it enhances it. You can’t help but smile at the clear message, whilst enjoying the bloodlust and nastiness that D’Lacey uses to such great effect. A bloodlust and nastiness that is akin to Jack Ketchum’s brutality and is highly entertaining for the horror connoisseur.

Garbage Man is ridiculous, but in a good way. It is the skill and subtlety with which D’Lacey tells the story that raises this so far above beyond the ridiculous.

This is what horror should be like, no-holds-barred brutality, nastiness in an action-packed package.

Stephen Fry…. Genius? Bastard?

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I’ve just finished reading Fry’s The Hippopotamus. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be reviewing a booking that was first published fifteen years ago, and don’t worry, I’m not going to. It’s a little difficult to think of Stephen Fry, and much of his work, in a critical light.

I was never a fan of Fry and Laurie, or Jeeves and Wooster. Neither particularly floated my boat.

My fascination, my love, of Stephen Fry and his work started when I read his first novel, The Liar. A deeply personal and semi-autobiographical coming of age novel. A kind of English, middle-class Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a comparison I’m sure he’d hate. But it’s a personal equivalent, both of them touched me and helped me to identify who I am in a way I still find difficult to put into words. Without experiencing either The Liar or Ferris Bueller I would be a very different person, in the same way that if I had never read that first Conan novel when I was fourteen, I wouldn’t have discovered fantasy, horror and science fiction and very probably wouldn’t even be writing this now.

Stephen Fry is one of those people with an incredible memory, with such written skill and humour that it makes you hate his talent. He’s one of those people you would love to meet and have a conversation with, but when faced with him, you probably wouldn’t be able to mutter a single word.

I know Stephen Fry only from his work – including his Blackadder appearances – I’ve never met the man, so I can say all this in complete ignorance. I set my Virgin + box to diligently record QI, Stephen’s current dispensary of knowledge, a quiz show for those less intelligent than the great man. Which is all of us.

Fry’s novels make me weep, not only because he draws you into the lives of his characters in a way few people can, not even because his books are sometimes so funny that tears drip from the corners of your eyes, but because it sickens me that I don’t have half the talent he does. That’s why I have to hate him, envy.

If you’ve never read a Stephen Fry book then you’ve deprived yourself, and you should remedy this immediately.

The Hippopotamus is a funny, irreverent, and highly enjoyable read.  To review it would be to do it a disservice.  Fry’s poet and critic Edward Wallace is my hero, as is his creator.  Enough said.