Monday, 22 January 2018

Book review: Baby Moll by John Farris

Baby Moll (Hard Case Crime #46)Baby Moll by John Farris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first of the Hard Case Crime series I've read. The series has made a name for itself by republishing lots of great but nearly forgotten noir gems. In this book, Peter Mallory, our antihero, has left the mob behind to start a new law-abiding life. He's got it all--a shop by the beach in California, a house, a rich and beautiful fiancee. But then the mob pulls him back, as the mob always does in these books, and he has to help his old boss solve a series of murders--someone is picking off the mob boss's subordinates ones by one and he's convinced the list will end with him. Because the boss is Peter's father figure, he reluctantly agrees to help.
At this point the narrative slows. Much time is spent in the mob headquarters, a beachside bungalow filled with a variety of lost souls. They all have their hangups and madness and they all drink way too much. They also don't seem to do much of anything else. Everyone knows the boss is losing his grip on the territory and is terrified of the mysterious murderer, giving the place a sort of Hitler's bunker feel. While this is effective, there's such a large cast of misfits we don't get to know any of them terribly well, and entire chapters go by without Peter doing anything to solve the murders.
The final third of the novel speeds up considerably as Peter gets out into the world more. He writes about he seamy side of the 1950s brilliantly, showing the poverty, ignorance, and brutality that Hollywood films of the era tended to ignore. There's also an epic fight scene that's handled very effectively.
While I enjoyed this novel and will definitely pick up more from Hard Case Crime, the pacing on this one was too uneven to give it four stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, 19 January 2018

Military History Photo Friday: The Pharaoh Ramesses II Smiting the Enemies of Egypt


This carving is from the National Museum in Cairo and shows Pharaoh Ramesses II (1279-1212 BC) smiting the traditional enemies of Egypt. Shown from left to right are a Nubian, a Libyan, and an Asiatic (perhaps a Hittite). The "smiting pose" was a popular one for pharaonic imagery. Ramesses has an axe in his hand.

Ramesses II campaigned against all three of these peoples, but is most famous for his long war with the Hittites, an empire based in what is now Turkey that had spread into the Levant and threatened Egypt. His victory at the Battle of Kadesh was recorded in a long and bombastic text that was copied onto many later buildings.

Sorry for the grubby picture and the light reflection. The National Museum needs to clean its display cases!


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Case of the Purloined Pyramid is out now!

Today Kindle Press released my neo-pulp detective novel The Case of the Purloined Pyramid in ebook format. The print edition will come out later this month. This is the first in the Masked Man of Cairo series and I'm hard at work on the second. You can get the first book here. A blurb is below.

An ancient mystery. A modern murder.

Sir Augustus Wall, a horribly mutilated veteran of the Great War, has left Europe behind to open an antiquities shop in Cairo. But Europe’s troubles follow him as a priceless inscription is stolen and those who know its secrets start turning up dead. Teaming up with Egyptology expert Moustafa Ghani, and Faisal, an irritating street urchin he just can't shake, Sir Wall must unravel an ancient secret and face his own dark past.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My Travel Year: A Look Back and a Look Forward


This past year has been pretty good for travel with me. I went to Egypt twice, spending a total of six weeks there to start my Masked Man of Cairo neo-pulp detective series. I made some great friends, explored Cairo more thoroughly than I did when I was first there way back in 1991, and got to see the pyramids again. Always a plus! I also had an all-too-brief trip to Tangier. I've been to that city a dozen times now and it still relaxes me. It's a quick and cheap getaway from Madrid, being only an hour's flight away, and I always seem to get a lot of writing done. You see, I hardly ever go on a real vacation. All my trips are work trips but enjoyable anyway. As usual, my family and I spent Easter and the summer in Oxford as we do every year. I get lots of research done at the university library.


So what's in store for 2018? More Egypt, certainly, and perhaps a trip to Fez, a fascinating Moroccan city I still haven't explored. For Egypt I intend to go to the western oases, which I have never seen, and perhaps up the river again to revisit the sites around Luxor and Aswan. There will be the usual trips to England and around Spain, and perhaps a few other short trips. One trip I and my family would like to do is a visit to Paris. A good friend lives there and my son is taking French in school, so he can be our translator. And who knows what else 2018 will throw at me? We shall see.

Monday, 1 January 2018

My Writing in 2017 and Looking Forward to 2018


Happy New Year! Well, at least if you use the Gregorian calendar like I do. It's been a busy year and I'm looking forward to an even busier one in 2018.
At the beginning of the year I set myself the challenge of writing a million words a year. I counted words the same way I did in 2016: fiction, nonfiction, and blogging all count. I also included editing at a ratio of 10:1, so editing 10,000 words counts as writing 1,000. I rounded down to the nearest 250 words.
So how did I do? I got to 927,000 words, up from 900,750 in 2016. So I missed my goal, but still had my best writing year to date. I'll be trying for the million mark again this year. We'll see how that goes.
Despite it being my best year, I was not entirely happy with my output. Much of it was ghostwriting, and while that certainly helped my bank account, it meant that no new titles came out under my name in 2017, a first in more than a decade. I also ended up in a higher income bracket and the taxman really nailed me.
I did have some successes. My neo-pulp mystery novel, The Case of the Purloined Pyramid, won the Kindle Scout program and got a contract with Kindle Press. The ebook edition comes out January 9 and the print edition later this month. I also got more than a third of the way through the next in the series, The Case of the Shifting Sarcophagus.
This year I'm making a concerted effort to work on more of my fiction. This will mean saying no to some ghostwriting offers, but I think it's best for my long-term career. Sales of my own books fell off sharply in 2017 because I wasn't bringing out more stuff, and that needs to change. In this new publishing world, visibility is the key. So, besides a million words for this year, here are some more resolutions I'll try to stick to:
Writing 1,000 words a day of my own fiction.
Writing a short story every month (more on that later).
Pitching a nonfiction article every month.
Getting more of my back list out in print, and sprucing up things like metatags and blurbs.
It's going to be a busy year!
If you're a writer, artist, or other creative type, how did your past year go? What are you plans for this one? Tell us in the comments section!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Case of the Purloined Pyramid available for preorder!



My neo-pulp detective novel The Case of the Purloined Pyramid is now available for preorder. This recently won the Kindle Scout program and is being published by Kindle Press. Thanks to all of you who voted for it and you should have already received an email from Amazon on how to download your free copy. I'm in Cairo now working on the second in the Masked Man of Cairo series, The Case of the Shifting Sarcophagus. You can get the first book here. A blurb is below.

An ancient mystery. A modern murder.

Sir Augustus Wall, a horribly mutilated veteran of the Great War, has left Europe behind to open an antiquities shop in Cairo. But Europe’s troubles follow him as a priceless inscription is stolen and those who know its secrets start turning up dead. Teaming up with Egyptology expert Moustafa Ghani, and Faisal, an irritating street urchin he just can't shake, Sir Wall must unravel an ancient secret and face his own dark past.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Off to Egypt!

Two of the five Abusir pyramids

Today I'm off to Egypt for another three-week writing retreat. During the last one I worked on The Case of the Purloined Pyramid, the first in a series of neo-pulp detective novels in the Masked Man of Cairo series. This time around I'm going to continue the adventures of Augustus, Moustafa, and Faisal in The Case of the Shifting Sarcophagus.

I'll be visiting friends and old haunts in and around Cairo, and seeing some new sites as well. The main one will be Abusir, a V Dynasty pyramid field that was built by the pharaohs after the Giza plateau filled up in the IV Dynasty.

I probably won't be blogging much, but I will be posting regular pictures and updates on my Facebook author page and my Instagram account.

Stela from the tomb of Ptahshepses (vizier under the pharoah Nyuserre)

Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons. My own pics coming soon!
Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.