Book Review: Slow Down by Lee Matthew Goldberg

How far would you go to make your dreams come true? For budding writer and filmmaker Noah Spaeth, being a Production Assistant in director Dominick Bambach’s new avant-garde film isn’t enough. Neither is watching Dominick have an affair with the lead actress, the gorgeous but troubled Nevie Wyeth. For Noah’s dream is to get both the film and Nevie in the end, whatever the cost. And this obsession may soon become a reality once Dominick’s spurned wife Isadora reveals her femme fatale nature with a seductive plot to get rid of her husband for good. Slow Down, a cross between the noir styling of James M. Cain and the dark satire of Bret Easton Ellis, is a thrilling page-turner that holds a mirror up to a media-saturated society that is constantly searching for the fastest way to get ahead, regardless of consequences.

My Thoughts

Slow Down is a fast-paced thriller written as though memoir from the perspective of protagonist and wannabe writer and film director Noah Spaeth. He’s about twenty-six looking back on events of four years prior and how he came to create his debut film Slow Down. Set in Manhattan, Slow Down depicts a privileged, entitled, pretentious and extremely decadent social milieu, mostly centred in the film industry. Debauchery and drug-taking abound in this behind-the-scenes exposé that focusses on the lengths a director will take to capture a great scene, produce a great movie.

Noah opens his tale by explaining how he came to meet the obnoxious Adonis Dominick Bambach, the original creator and director of the movie Slow Down, a movie then in genesis. Dominick is also a manufacturer of the designer drug Fast. This drug, akin to methylamphetamine, soon takes up stage centre when Noah becomes Dominick’s assistant. As he is drawn into his mentor’s world, he finds himself appalled, frustrated and challenged. He comes to loathe Dominick as much as fear him. And then he decides he is capable of creating a much better movie. Arrogant, cruel, out-of-control and almost deranged, Dominick tests Noah’s loyalty and as he does, Noah becomes more and more disillusioned. From there, the narrative descends into increasingly extreme and bizarre acts. The pace quickens in the second half of the novel, the final twist unexpected and arresting, one of those moments that make you want to start back at the beginning to figure out who was justified in doing what.

The architecture of this story is impressive. There is nothing to fault in the plotting and pacing. Written in punchy, upbeat and acerbic prose, Goldberg nails the voice of a washed-up, drugged-up young film director, a style that is self-mocking, self-contemptuous and self-justifying by turns. Stories like Slow Down are not easy to construct; Goldberg is to be commended and displays himself as a formidable literary talent.

Slow Down is ultimately a disturbing morality tale and a meditation on truth, deception and corruption.

About Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second book in the Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming in 2020, along with his first Sci-Fi novel ORANGE CITY. His new endeavor will be as the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe Press and Fringe Digital, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at leematthewgoldberg.com.

Website – Leematthewgoldberg.com

FB – https://www.facebook.com/leemgol

IG – https://www.instagram.com/leematthewgoldberg/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/LeeMatthewG

Book Review: The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg

About The Mentor

Kyle Broder has achieved his lifelong dream and is an editor at a major publishing house.

When Kyle is contacted by his favorite college professor, William Lansing, Kyle couldn’t be happier. Kyle has his mentor over for dinner to catch up and introduce him to his girlfriend, Jamie, and the three have a great time. When William mentions that he’s been writing a novel, Kyle is overjoyed. He would love to read the opus his mentor has toiled over.

Until the novel turns out to be not only horribly written, but the most depraved story Kyle has read.

After Kyle politely rejects the novel, William becomes obsessed, causing trouble between Kyle and Jamie, threatening Kyle’s career, and even his life. As Kyle delves into more of this psychopath’s work, it begins to resemble a cold case from his college town, when a girl went missing. William’s work is looking increasingly like a true crime confession.

Lee Matthew Goldberg’s The Mentor is a twisty, nail-biting thriller that explores how the love of words can lead to a deadly obsession with the fate of all those connected and hanging in the balance.

 

My Thoughts

Lee Matthew Goldberg’s The Mentor is a tense, dark,  psychological thriller. It starts in the urbane world of an upwardly mobile young professional, and descends, step by terrifying step, into a nightmare world of depravity and murder.  It is a thriller that cuts across genres and works on many levels.  There is a nail-biter of a crime mystery, which keeps the reader hooked from deceptive start to gruelling finish, with twists and turns that leave them wondering what is real and what isn’t.  There is a narrative about relationships and history, as we gradually learn the complex back stories of the main characters and their relationships with each other.  All the characters are interesting and the changes in point of view mean that we see the story in the round, understanding how each of the characters has their own version of the world.  Goldberg is masterful in creating sympathetic characters who are all engagingly imperfect, as well as a deeply worrying villain who none the less has charm and occasionally pathos.

For a lover of books, one of the most entertaining undercurrents of this novel is its running commentary on the production of fiction.  Kyle is a publishing editor; Lansing is a teacher of literature; Kyle has dreamt in the past of writing novels; Lansing still does.  Throughout the novel there is a conversation about how fiction works, richly peppered by references to authors from Edgar Allen Poe to Jean Paul Sartre, Camus to Orwell.  The story in no way depends upon knowing these references, but if you do recognise them, they give an additional depth to the read and each adds a clever counterpoint to the events of the novel.  This production of literature theme operates at a number of different levels, starting at the end point of the commercial publishing house, and gradually stripping the process down, layer by layer,  like a dance of veils, back to the origin of fiction in the darkest psychological secrets.  The opening chapters give a satirical  perspective on the publishing industry, wherein both books and authors are commodities to be cynically traded.  Moving back from this, we see the process of writing a novel – two almost comically different first-time novelists, both struggling to bring their precious works to completion.  Then, as we are drawn into the mind of the terrible William Lansing, we enter an exploration of the dark side of the creative process, the point where reality and fiction intersect.

Most authors of dark books will know that intersection, or at least will recognise the anxious looks on the faces of friends, family, partners, as the nagging question occurs to them.  This dark story, emerging from the mind of someone they have known and trusted:  “How come you have written this? I thought I knew you… Where does this stuff come from?”  The answer in Lansing’s case is far from reassuring – as the narrative moves on, we discover that in his case, the line between reality and dark fantasy is fine to the point of illusory. At times it appears that Lansing’s ghastly novel-within-a-novel is not only recording a real past, implicating both Lansing and Kyle, but also, in some terrifying way, writing their real future. The shocking events at the climax of the story underline that possibility, as does the wicked twist at the end of the book.

Perhaps, in fact, there is no boundary at all.

About Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second book in the Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming in 2020, along with his first Sci-Fi novel ORANGE CITY. His new endeavor will be as the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe Press and Fringe Digital, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at leematthewgoldberg.com.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Mentor-Thriller-Lee-Matthew-Goldberg/dp/1250083540/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+mentor+lee+matthew&qid=1579824002&sr=8-1

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A Bailey.

 

Book Review: 113 Hours by Zach Abrams

133 Hours

 

Arriving at work to find she’s lost more than five and a half days of her life, Briony has no recollection of where she’s been, or what has happened. Has she been ill or had a breakdown – or could she have been drugged and abducted?

Doubting her own sanity, Briony is fearful of what lies beyond the surface, yet driven to discover the truth. Going through her scarce memories, she realizes that something terrible might have happened to her during the time she has no recollection of.

Assisted by her friends Alesha and Jenny, they team up with a retired detective to uncover the truth. But where was she for 133 hours… and why?

 

My Thoughts

A mysterious attack on a young woman who was drugged and held captive for a week, and then finds herself walking through Glasgow train station, dopey and confused and unaware of what has happened to her makes for a compelling opening to this fast-paced, gripping read. Briony turns up for work and is taken in hand by a colleague who accompanies her to the local police station to report the apparent crime. Gradually Briony is reassured as the friend she was planning to meet the night she disappeared rallies around to support her. Suddenly she is surrounded by caring folk. Even her acerbic boss is being extraordinarily nice to her. Can any of these people be trusted? Briony isn’t sure. She also isn’t sure about the flashbacks she keeps having. Are they memories or just her imagination running wild?

Written with all the economy and up-close and personal of deep pov in short sharp chapters, Abrams never misses a beat. The plotting and pacing are terrific. The protagonist is fully developed and believable and I especially appreciated the effort Abrams took to nuance Briony’s emotions. He captures her feelings, the numbness and confusion perfectly, evidence of Abrams own depth and empathy. The police procedural aspects of this thriller are handled delicately and realistically too, something I was pleased to find.

The author keeps you guessing to the very end in this highly compelling thriller that can easily be read in one sitting. Recommended.

About Zach Abrams

 

Purchase Links:

http://mybook.to/133

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07ZT9VRF3

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZT9VRF3

Author Bio –

Having the background of a successful career in commerce and finance, Zach Abrams has spent many years writing reports, letters and presentations and it’s only fairly recently he started writing novels. “It’s a more honourable type of fiction,” he declares.

Writer of the Alex Warren Murder Mystery series, set in Scotland, Zach has also written the psychological thriller ‘Ring Fenced’ and the financial thriller ‘Source’, as well as collaborating with Elly Grant on a book of short stories.

Zach is currently producing a non-fiction series to help small businesses -using the collective title ‘Mind Your Own Business’. The first, ‘So, You Think You Want to be a Landlord’ is already available.

Social Media Links –

Website : http://zachabrams.wix.com/zach-abrams
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Zach-Abrams-author-463346010364540/
Twitter: @authorway

Book review: Burning Crowe by Geoff Smith

About Burning Crowe

Two teenagers, both alike in indignity. Will they be civil? Or will there be blood?

Bartholomew Crowe is 18 years old. His dad dead, and deserted by his stepmother, he’s running seriously low on justice. And when he is hired to find a rich kid gone AWOL, it isn’t just a job; it’s a chance to do good, a chance to fix things up, to make things right.

Handsome and loaded, Zack Richards has it all. A beautiful girlfriend. A burgeoning sideline in music management. Hell, he’s even semi-famous! But for all his good fortune, Zack Richards is angry. He’s addicted to trouble. And he’s gone into hiding.

But Bart isn’t the only one with Zack in his sights.

And as tensions rise and bullets fly, Bartholomew Crowe learns that the only things he can count on are friendship, and love.

My Thoughts

Burning Crowe is one of those thrillers that is impossible to put down. Smith draws the reader into the dark underworld of Margate and Ramsgate, two coastal towns in Kent, England – all sandy beaches and fun parks on the pier –  that were once primary holiday destinations for Londoners, and later infamous for gang violence. The author takes his readers into clubs and pubs and squats and cheap hotels, on the waterfront, the beaches, the arcade and there’s even a fabulous scene in the Turner Gallery. I enjoyed this realistic backdrop; Smith’s portrayal of these towns, through the youthful eyes of his protagonist, is well-executed and appropriately noir.

Smith’s private investigator is as unlikely as it gets, an eighteen year old not yet out of school, setting off on his first case, his solution to all the hurt he is feeling after the death of his father and his step mother’s apparent rejection. This is not a criticism; Bartholomew Crowe is a well-rounded and thoroughly endearing if hapless PI, bumbling and stumbling along, the most ineffectual hero, yet a hero turns out to be.

Smith deploys all the elements of a really good thriller, the twists and turns of the plot as the various players reveal their hand in a slow game of bluff, deceit and lies, play out convincingly. The pacing is good, the characters sharply defined. I particularly enjoyed the exchange of emails between Crowe and his granddad and seeing how that played out in the end. Satisfying complex, Burning Crowe is in essence a coming of age tale of love and relationships and the tensions in blended families. It is also a story of malice and greed and vengeance. This novel held my attention the the very end.

Find Burning Crowe here

 

Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes 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. Her Canary Islands’ collection begins with The Drago Tree and includes A Matter of Latitude and Clarissa’s Warning. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey and the dark mystery A Perfect Square. Even her first novel, Asylum, contains a touch of the magical. Isobel is at work on her fourth Canary Islands’ novel, a sweeping historical work based on her own family history. You can find her novels here on her website.

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

************

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.

 

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

Book review: Her Name is Mercie by Chris Roy

The joy of writing book reviews is stumbling on good stories, well told. When the stories take your breath away, all the better! Here is my review of one Her Name is Mercie, a collection of short stories by Chris Roy.

“Mercie Hillbrook lives a simple, quiet life working as a gas station attendant. Then her parents are killed. Her home is taken. The people responsible are excused for just doing their job. When an attempt to get justice her way lands her in trouble with the law, Mercie realizes she still has something to lose: her own life.

Then she finds reason to believe her parents were murdered… and she doesn’t care anymore.”

My thoughts:

As the cover suggests, Her Name is Mercie is a dark and thrilling ride, the lead story, almost novella length, an edge of seat experience that demands to be read in one sitting. Roy does not let his readers stray from his pages. He has you right there with the action, living it, feeling it. Mercie and her sidekick are likeable characters, and through their eyes, from the initial story set up to the dramatic ending, Roy explores the theme of injustice. Hard and racy and thoroughly entertaining, ‘Her Name is Mercie’ contains a perfect story arc. The writing is vivid and controlled, Roy demonstrating poise and restraint even as he delivers the gruesome details.

All the elements of a good short story are present throughout the collection; with writing that is taut and punchy, sparse and edgy, and with plenty of twists and turns and unexpected and satisfying endings. There are moments of visceral horror yet the horror element is never overplayed. A good craftsman, Roy sets his scenes with acute observations and a minimum of detail and a healthy measure of wit.

The second story, ‘Re-Pete’ is a gem. Told from the perspective of a young child with OCD, the result of a ghastly and recent trauma, the tale is funny and absurd, and packs a delightfully wicked punch, if ‘delightful’ can be used in the context. Roy enters the mind of young Pete with sensitivity and compassion. Pete, like the other protagonists in the collection, deserves better than the life he has been given.

Themes of justice and corruption and revenge against wrongdoers dominate the collection. In Her Name is Mercie, Roy’s protagonists, the victims of bad deeds, step into their own power.

Roy clearly has a gift, invoking in his readers immediate and deep engagement. With this collection he has thrown down the gauntlet, meeting the challenge of originality and displaying prowess across multiple styles – spooky, sinister, surreal, brutal and ironic – each story is distinct. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Review: Captor by Anita Waller

I’ve had a short detour into the realm of thrillers with Anita Waller’s smashing read, Captor.

 

“Liz Chambers is a devoted mother who works for a successful law firm. She has two children, a husband and a blossoming career. But behind closed doors, Liz is harbouring a secret that could destroy her life.

Then the unthinkable happens, and in a frenzied attack, her young son is snatched from the home of the childminder charged with looking after him.

As Liz’s life unfolds, it becomes clear that someone is out for revenge.

Desperate to get her baby boy back, Liz must work out who is responsible for his kidnap, and why.

But as the body count begins to mount, Liz’s concern grows for the safety of her child.

Who has taken her baby?

And why is Captor so determined on revenge?”

My thoughts:

What makes a good thriller? Relatable characters, a relatable plot, and a fast pace with plenty of twists along the way are all essential elements of a good thriller. Deviate from the strictures and the author will risk alienating thriller readers who don’t want detailed backstory, long paragraphs of reflection or thick descriptions. Thrillers have to create an edge of seat tension in the mind of the reader and they absolutely must not falter or meander in any way. Reading Anita Waller’s novel, it is plain she has mastered every element of the thriller genre with finesse.

Captor does not miss a beat. The twists come at just the right moment and drive the plot forward at breakneck speed. The protagonist, Liz Chambers, is sufficiently complex and flawed to make her likeable if selfish and blinkered, and Waller leaves it to her readers to judge Liz’s past and present deeds. Indeed, it is Liz’s questionable acts and decisions that provoke the reader to think and ponder what they might do, or not do in a similar situation.

The story unfolds rapidly once Liz’s baby son is taken, and from then on Captor is laced with a satisfying mix of mystery and complexity. The parallel narrative works well too, in keeping the reader informed and building up tension. I defy any reader to put this book down before they get to the end!

I thoroughly enjoyed Captor, and look forward to reading more from the author.