Launching Blackthorn Book Tours

I am thrilled to announce Blackthorn Book Tours, a review-only book tour service dedicated to dark fiction.

After almost a decade promoting my own novels I have a real understanding of how hard it can be sourcing reviews. I have pitched single emails to over two-hundred book bloggers for a single title. A 5% take up rate is said to be good. Out of that 5% maybe half will review. It’s demoralising, so I turned to paid book tour providers and booked tours. For a modest sum, the stress was removed, I could relax, and I got to enjoy the thrill of the tour and receive about twenty solid reviews of my book each time. But when I searched for a book tour service for my dark fiction, I couldn’t find one. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough.

Seeing many of my peers in the dark fiction scene also struggle to get reviews, I decided to create Blackthorn Book Tours, throwing in my lot with PR Manager and mover and shaker Henry Roi of Close to the Bone Publishing, and already we have a long list of top reviewers who have jumped aboard. We kick off our enterprise on September 1st with Bloody Sheets by Andy Rausch.

 

Following close on the heels are these three book tours:

You can find out more about our book tour service here https://isobelblackthorn.com/blackthorn-book-tours/

 

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Book review: Pigeon Blood Red by Ed Duncan

About Pigeon Blood Red

For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job: retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it.
But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu. There, the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory, when innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in a crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, hunter and prey develop an unlikely respect for one another, and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

About Ed Duncan

My Thoughts

What a treat it is to read a fast-paced hard-edged thriller when you know the author is in complete control and will take you to that point of release at the end, the literary climax, that vital point in any novel, but especially in a thriller. Duncan is a commanding writer who toys with his readers as all good thriller writers should. The author knows how to squeeze a story through a pin prick in a dam wall, the story unfolding in tantalisingly measured steps, the hallmark of great thriller writing.

Meet shady Rico and his side-kick Jerry, the corpulent and vile underworld figure, Frank Litvak, and a very expensive necklace. When hapless store owner and womanising drunk, Robert, snatches the necklace off the backseat of Rico’s car, he has no idea what he is letting himself in for. Then there’s Robert’s wife, Evelyn, her friend, Rachel, and her old lover, Paul. A small collection of main characters and at first it is hard to know where to place your sympathies, except for Litvak! There’s a slow build, the sense of the threads intersecting without knowing how, the added complexities along the way. A portrait of Chicago, then Duncan takes the story to Honolulu, as the necklace itself takes up stage centre. 

Tightly plotted and cleverly told, Pigeon Blood Red has a gritty noir feel and the prose is crisp and clean and laced with a sharp wit. The characters are well-crafted and believable. The reader is given a bird’s eye view, adding to the tension. The twists continue right to the end, which does not disappoint. Shining through Pigeon Blood Red is the narrative voice, a voice I can hear, a voice that resonates in tune with the story. To being with, I could see Pigeon Blood Red would make a great movie and about three quarters in, all the way to the last page I was still thinking that. Highly recommended.

Find Pigeon Blood Red on Amazon

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About Me

For those new to me, I am a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. I write dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. On the dark side are Twerk, The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks. My Canary Islands’ collection begins with The Drago Tree and includes A Matter of Latitude and Clarissa’s Warning. My interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey and the dark mystery A Perfect Square. I am at work on my fourth Canary Islands’ novel, a sweeping historical work based on her own family history.

 

A Time for Violence anthology wows readers

A Time For Violence

A Time For Violence: Stories with an edge is out to rave reviews and little wonder. This anthology contains many top names in the scene including several who have co-written with Stephen King. I am chuffed to have one of my shorts included.

Along with many of the authors, I was interviewed on T. Fox Dunham’s What Are You Afraid Of? podcast, which includes an extract of my contribution, LACQUER, read by David Walton.

Here are some early reviews of A Time for Violence

“I thoroughly enjoyed so many of the short stories featured in here. The contributors include many of my own favorite authors. Exceptional writing from authors like Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, Tom Vater, and Chris Roy. (To name just a few.) And, boy, that last story! ‘Waste Management’. The name says it all.” – Debbi Mack, author of the Sam McRae mysteries

A Time for Violence is a hard-hitting anthology that pushes the envelope on themes of violence. Though a few authors have co-written with the likes of Stephen King, every story is its own superb boundary breaker and draws the reader in with such intensity that every word feels like a heartbeat. This anthology is for those of us who have looked at the monsters created by humanity and not flinched when they returned our gaze. The stories never fail to deliver thought-provoking takes on oft-told tales. From roaring hitmen thrillers to tense, gritty investigations into the very human soul, A Time for Violence will satisfy your every crime-reading need.” – Grace Wilson

And here is a review quote on mine! –

“Lacquer By Isobel Blackthorn.
This is one of my favourites so far in the book, a private investigator ends up finding a Jane doe when his drinking goes too far and he ends up in an alley. The person wasn’t too far from the back entrance to the bar and a friend of his has also seen the deceased. His friend begs him to find out who this person is and he also feels compelled as it is a particularly gruesome crime.” – Haley Belinda Belinda, Goodreads

Book review – Sangre: The Color of Dying by Carlos Colon

About Sángre: The Color of Dying (Volume 1)

Carlos Colón’s first published novel is the story of Nicky Negrón, a Puerto Rican salesman in New York City who is turned into foul-mouthed, urban vampire with a taste for the undesirables of society such as sexual predators, domestic abusers and drug dealers. A tragic anti-hero, Nicky is haunted by profound loss. When his life is cut short due to an unforeseen event at the Ritz-Carlton, it results in a public sex scandal for his surviving family. He then rises from the dead to become a night stalker with a genetic resistance that enables him to retain his humanity, still valuing his family whilst also struggling to somehow maintain a sense of normalcy. Simultaneously described as haunting, hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, Sángre: The Color of Dying is a breathtakingly fun read.

My Thoughts

Carlos Colón has penned a gem of a noir thriller in Sángre, the best vampire novel to come my way since Dracula. Meet Nicky Negrón, a thoroughly likeable and very reluctant vampire suffering from the burden of his own genetic resistance, which places him in a curious space in between being a fully fledged vampire and dead. He is a vampire with a conscience. Consequently, Nicky is the most fully rounded-out vampire character there ever was. He has scruples. He agonises over his every action. He is consumed by the intricacies of his moral position and his desire to do no harm, and his blood lust. And he is consumed with guilt and grief over the betrayal that led to his demise.

The story opens in Rahway State Prison, where Nicky is forced to find his next feed and the reader is confronted almost straight away with the raw reality of Nicky’s existence. What unravels is the story of how Nicky became a vampire and how he copes with his undead life. After his own ‘death’, Nicky encounters two other genetically resistant vampires, Travis and Donny, who educate him on the reality of his situation and offer guidance. Nicky discovers he was killed by a complete vampire, Simone, who Travis and Donny are determined to banish forever. Will they succeed? Or will Simone continue to kill and create a whole army of true vampires? And what of the curious Dr Teresa Gunder, bent on proving the existence of vampires with her groundbreaking investigations?

I loved the narrative style and the urban vibe. Told with compassion and insight, the narration in Sángre is upbeat, droll and sharply observant, the setting distinctly noir. Colón exercises superb narrative control, with excellent dialogue and perfect pacing. Exposition is kept to a minimum, carefully placed to keep the reader abreast of the reality of a genetically resistant vampire. The author has structured his novel with finesse, the movement through time, back and forth from past to present seamlessly intertwined, chapter by chapter, and culminating in a breathtaking and satisfying conclusion. Yes, there is horror here, but it is nothing the average dark thriller reader cannot take.

Sángre is laced with social commentary on the Bronx in the 1960s, on life for Puerto Rican New Yorkers, their values, culture and challenges. The author clearly knows and has a deep empathy for his subject.  A rich and immensely satisfying read. Can’t wait for the next instalment!

Check out Sángre: The Color of Dying on Amazon

A Time For Violence Anthology Podcast with T Fox Dunham

A Time For Violence

What Are You Afraid Of? – Podcast with T Fox Dunham and David Walton

NEW EPISODE 115 – CURSE OF THE BLACKTHORN

“Author T. Fox Dunham interviews Australia’s noir and horror writer, Isobel Blackthorn. Isobel answers questions about her writing, the state of women authors in the industry, her thoughts on crafting and shares some insights for new authors. In addition to her interview, she sent the show a haunting tale of an aggressive entity that haunted her in the Cockatoo house, narrated by David Walton. Fox also plays an excerpt from her noir fiction, “Lacquer”, which is featured in the anthology A Time For Violence: Stories with an Edge, available on May 1st from Close to the Bone. It is an anthology of noir and horror stories featuring the best in the industry for 2019.” 

Listen to the Podcast:

What Are You Afraid Of?

What Are You Afraid Of?

Book review – The Blood Red Experiment: A Neo-Giallo Anthology

Giallo fiction

About The Blood Red Experiment

Inspired by the genius of Hitchcock and his films, latin luminaries such as Argento and Bava directed macabre murder-mystery thrillers, that combined the suspense with scenes of outrageous violence, stylish cinematography, and groovy soundtracks. This genre became known in their native Italy as giallo.

Giallo is Italian for yellow, inspired by the lurid covers of thrillers, in the way that pulp fiction was derived from the cheap wood pulp paper of the crime stories, or Film Noir came from the chiaroscuro of the German Expressionistic lighting.

Craig Douglas and Jason Michel bring gialli-inspired stories together from some of the best crime writers on the scene today to a wider audience, giving birth to a new literary movement in crime writing, NeoGiallo, and drag this much maligned genre screaming and slashing its way into the 21st Century.

My thoughts on The Blood Red Experiment

The six stories contained in this anthology are exemplars of the sub-genre of giallo. The pages ooze sensuality, the writing is slick and the horror stylised and graphic. After a useful introduction to the terrain by Richard Godwin, the anthology opens with K. A. Laity’s ‘Madonna of the Wasps’, a gruesome tale of ritual killings in a Bohemian Parisian world, enacted to sate the hunger of a bloodthirsty dominatrix. Like all the authors in this anthology, Laity’s writing is poised and masterful. The author provides an interesting and diverse cast of characters and the protagonist, Mira, an artist with a fantastical imagination, is especially well-rounded. ‘Madonna of the Wasps’ is a fast-paced tale with some unexpected and shocking twists. Ultimately satisfying and provocative, this story is a terrific opening not just to the anthology, but to the sub-genre of neo-giallo.

For the uninitiated, Mark Cooper’s ‘Quaenum In Illis’ is the most accessible read in the anthology. Here, a former scholar of linguistics is invited by a mysterious woman to translate the pages of an ancient text. Cooper draws the reader straight into the intrigue in true thriller style, saving the blood for later. Moody, dark and fascinating, the mystery and tension unfold from shifting perspectives.

‘Canvas of Flesh’ by Jack Bates will bring out the voyeur in the best of us as artist Preston completes his art exhibition using a particular portion of the body of Jessica. Sensuality and horror blend beautifully in this tale, the reader enchanted and disturbed all at once, compelled to turn the pages. As the story unfolds the initial wonder soon shades into revulsion, as Bates confronts the reader with a portrait of obsession.

Urban, noir and mysterious, Jim Shaffer’s ‘Blood of the Lamb’ is a superb example of where giallo takes a crime-thriller. The story opens in a church then follows the observer to a shabby hotel, then back out on the streets, for the kill. The story switches to Frank, a feature writer quick with his camera. What unfolds will be read in one sitting, the eyes never leaving the page.

‘The Impermanence of Art’ by Kevin Berg is probably best not read while eating. Graphic horror is rendered sensual, the storytelling intense and unrelenting until the final twist as an art student is seduced by some illicit videos streamed on her phone by a maverick art instructor. Berg’s offering is at the extreme end of the sub-genre and not for the faint of heart, yet it is a gripping tale told with imagination and wit.

Bookending the anthology is Richard Godwin’s ‘Machine Factory’, an exposé of a deranged psychiatrist. In taut, rhythmic and urgent prose, Godwin thrusts his readers inside the mind of a serial killer. The extent of the protagonist’s insanity is boundless, his fanciful and quasi-intellectual rants alarming and all too real. The story is brutal, confronting and disturbing. There is no redemption here.

Find The Blood Red Experiment on Amazon

Book review: Return to Hiroshima by Bob Van Laerhoven

There is fiction that is entirely make believe. Then there is fiction that has its basis in fact and the historical record. Return to Hiroshima by Bob Van Laerhoven, in the tradition of political thrillers, is situated firmly in the latter group.

Return to Hiroshima

About Return to Hiroshima

Xavier Douterloigne, the son of a Belgian diplomat, returns to Hiroshima, where he spent his youth, to come to terms with the death of his sister.
Inspector Takeda finds a deformed baby lying dead at the foot of the Peace Monument, a reminder of Hiroshima’s war history.
A Yakuza-lord, rumored to be the incarnation of the Japanese demon Rokurobei, mercilessly defends his criminal empire against his daughter Mitsuko, whom he considers insane.
And the punk author Reizo, obsessed by the ultra-nationalistic ideals of his literary idol Mishima, recoils at nothing to write the novel that will “overturn Japan’s foundations”….
Hiroshima’s indelible war-past simmers in the background of this ultra-noir novel.
Clandestine experiments conducted by Japanese Secret Service Unit 731 during WWII are unveiled and leave a sinister stain on the reputation of the imperial family and Japanese society.

My thoughts

I have a healthy appetite for noir fiction and found Return to Hiroshima a sumptuous and wonderfully grotesque feast. Centred in Hiroshima and written for a Western audience, Van Laerhoven paints a vivid and dark portrait of Japan, its culture and society, and an equally vivid and dark portrait, both immediate and fifty years on, of the aftermath of Little Boy – the atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.

Through the eyes of a diverse cast of characters, the reader enters a deep-state reality, shadowy, deceptive, peppered with lies and brutality. The author slowly reveals in short sharp chapters, the twisted and corrupt interplays at work behind the scenes as Japan endures a cataclysmic economic crisis. The novel is set partly amid the abandoned high rises built atop the coal mines of Hashima Island near Nagasaki, where Mitsuko wrestles with the reality she is forced to endure, dominated by her monstrous father and mafia-boss, so-called Rokurobei. She escapes to Hiroshima and forms a friendship with Yori, whose drug-crazed and maniacal boyfriend, Reizo, is at work on his novel in a squat in a disused warehouse.

Soon, the reader meets German photographer Beate Becht, Belgian graduate Xavier Douterloigne and maverick police inspector, Takeda. Each shines a spotlight on Hiroshima, and each is of course instrumental to the plot. What unfolds is on one level a straight ahead race to save Mitsuko from danger and reveal hidden truths. On a deeper level, Return to Hiroshima challenges authorised versions of events and their causes and perpetrators, those versions reported by the press.

Superbly written in an easy, fluid style with characters that are complex and believable, Return to Hiroshima contains a taut and artfully constructed plot. The reader is kept on edge. At any moment the tension will release. Eventually it does, dramatically yet incrementally, intertwined with revelation upon revelation, carrying the reader through to the last page.

While there are a few confronting scenes in this novel, with various victims meeting their awful ends, the ultimate victim in Return to Hiroshima is truth, at once laid bare by the narrator and distorted by the characters. Driving the plot are themes of memory and remembering, childhood trauma and unhealed wounds. Gruesome mutations caused by the atomic bomb are set alongside those caused by secret medical experiments. In all, Return to Hiroshima is an elaborate and insightful depiction of obsession.

Younger readers may not recall the sarin attack in a Tokyo subway that took place in March 1995, and the religious cult, Aum Shinrikyo who claimed responsibility. They may not know of Unit 731 and the atrocities the Japanese meted out in WWII on their prisoners of war, atrocities ignored by the West as we focus all our attention on the Nazis. Cruelty is a global phenomenon, then as now. In addressing this, Return to Hiroshima and its author deserve to be acclaimed.  An intelligent and compelling read.

 

Find a copy of Return to Hiroshima on Amazon