Last year I was lucky enough to have a story in an anthology called Action: Pulse Pounding Tales, which was put together by Matt Hilton (author of the Joe Hunter series). Now it’s time for a return bout.
Like The Expendables 2, but in book form, Action: Pulse Pounding Tales returns in a second volume that is BIGGER, BETTER and more violent than before. My contribution is a follow-up to last year’s blood and thunder tale Cutter’s Law. The new story is entitled Get Cutter!
This story sees Nathan Cutter behind bars – after the events in Cutter’s Law – with a bounty on his head. In the tradition of Escape From Alcatraz (and I am not ashamed to say, Lockup), Cutter must fight to stay alive in Ironbark Correctional Institution, in Sydney, Australia. Relentless pulse pounding action ensues.
30 Action-packed Pulse Pounding Tales!
That’s exactly what you get in this collection of action stories from Matt Hilton, Paul D Brazill, Richard Godwin, Rod Glenn and many other established thriller authors, including stories from bestselling ebook authors and exciting up-and-comers.
Think back to the days when heroes were heroes and the action was furious and full-blooded. When often as not, the hero was quite the opposite: an anti-hero – but he needed to be, to bring the kind of violent justice to villains worse than him. When political correctness took a back seat, even as the bullets and karate chops were flying. Basically it was good old harmless fun. It was a case of disengaging your moral compass and getting down with the hero as they took on all comers, and they did it with balletic grace and uncompromising violence. Gratuitous? Mostly. Realistic? Not always. Great fun? You betcha!!!
Then fast forward to the here and now: What if the current action and thriller authors set their minds to bringing back the action genres of old?
Well, that question is answered here, for the second time: Within these pages you will find hit men, secret agents, vigilantes, private eyes, assassins and professional thieves, savage warriors and one or two others who can’t be easily categorized, all kicking ass and taking names. Some of the tales are delivered with shocking realism, some as lighter entertainment, some on the grittier side, but each and every tale included in Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 2 is sure to get your heart racing.
Kick back and enjoy the ride!
Here’s what you’ll find inside.
Introduction by Matt Hilton Dirk Ramm: Unsheathed by Matt Hilton Sins of Omission by Ian Graham See Saw by James Oliver Hilton Uninvited Guests by Rod Glenn The Missionary by Paul D Brazill Hard Wood by Tyson Adams Black Tuesday by Alex Shaw .50 Contingency Plan by Jochem Vandersteen Cold Redemption By Les Morris Kokoro by Andrew Scorah Get Cutter! By James Hopwood Jardine Rides Again by Ian McAdam Jack Be Nimble by Gavin Hunt Exit Wound by Steve Christie As Heroes Fall By Frank Sonderborg Goofy Brings The House Down by Richard Godwin Grand Central: Terminal by Terrence P. McCauley The Fixer by Dean Breckenridge Soup Sandwich by Christopher L. Irvin Pasnuta Means Arena of Death! by Richard Prosch Mududa’s Revenge by Graham Smith 97 Ways To Die In Istanbul by Paul Grzegorzek It’s Noir or Never by Absolutely*Kate Push by Kevin Michaels You Only Die Once by Rhesa Sealy Man About Town by Alan Griffiths Hanoi Heat by Iain Purdie Hammertime by Asher Wismer When The Devil Catches Up by Lee Hughes
Bonus Tale Suited and Booted by Matt Hilton
It’s nice to see a couple of my Fight Card colleagues, Kevin Michaels and Terrence McCauley have stories in this collection.
If you have not bought a copy, then now’s the time to do it. For Amazon USA click here. For those in the UK click here.
Coming soon is Volume 2 – with more Pulse Pounding stories from Matt Hilton, Andrew Scorah, Alex Shaw, Tyson Adams, Paul D Brazill, Les Morris, Graham Smith, James Oliver Hilton, Jochem Vandersteen, Ian Graham, Ian McAdam, Rod Glenn, Gavin Hunt, Steve Christie, Frank Sonderborg and Richard Godwin – and with more to come, it’s promising to be a killer line up.
And of course, I have a story included as well. It is a follow-up to last year’s blood and thunder tale Cutter’s Law. The new story is entitled Get Cutter – and there are a few readers of a certain age who are groaning at that title. Sorry!
This story sees Nathan Cutter behind bars – after the events in Cutter’s Law – with a bounty on his head. Pulse pounding action (and violence) ensues.
This anthology contains thirty-seven stories of high-octane adventure, written by thirty-six authors (of which I am proud to say I am one) – and a portion of the proceeds goes to Help for Heroes.
Yesterday, I started going through some of the stories in the anthology, skipping where ever my mind would take me. And that’s one of the great things about the book – with so many stories to choose from, there’s bound to be one that suits your mood. I started with Stephen Leather’s Strangers on a Train, then for a change of style, skipped forward to Eastern Fury by Andrew Scorah.
Tonight I am thinking I will read On Her Majesty’s Bloody Service by Iain Purdie – how can I pass on that title? And Man or Mouse by Mark Dark looks like it delivers the goods.
But I am just starting. Like I said, thirty-seven tales of gritty adventure, all serving up unique variations on the old Men’s Adventure stories of the seventies and eighties. What’s not to like?
If this sounds like your cup of cocoa, then check it out. You wont be disappointed.
Editor: Matt Hilton Authors: Stephen Leather, Zoe Sharp, Adrian Magson, Col Bury, I.S. Paton, James Oliver Hilton, Joe McCoubrey, Matt Hayden, David Barber, Jochem Vandersteen, Ian Graham, James Hopwood, Iain Purdie, Keith Gingell, Terrence P. McCauley, Asher Wismer, Graham Smith, Andrew Scorah, Paul D. Brazill, Paul Grzegorzek, Mark Dark, Robin Jarossi, Richard Godwin, Laird Long, K.A. Laity…and a few more to come Publisher: Sempre Vigil Press Published: May 2012
Growing up in rural Australia, the local bookshop (and I use the word loosely, as it was the newsagent) didn’t have much in the way of Men’s Adventure fiction. It had some of the Dirty Harry series – which was a grubby little series written by Dane Hartman. I still have about five of them. I seem to have lost a few along the way which I lent to people (Clive, if you are reading this, I will hunt you down! You cannot hide. I will find you!) And of course, there were the Conan books – which I also read quite a few. But I don’t recall Nick Carter, Mack Bolan or Remo Williams being on the shelves.
I came to these quite late in life, a by-product of my penchant for stalking second-hand book shops looking for old spy thrillers. But I found I loved them. They were simple, over-the-top, fast paced slabs of entertainment, that could be read quickly.
Earlier in the year, I wrote a review for Matt Hilton’s Cut and Run, which I enjoyed (so far I have enjoyed all of Hilton’s books that I have read – I still have Dominion waiting to be tackled on my Kindle for PC). While reading Cut and Run, I couldn’t help but notice, that in some ways, Hilton’s Joe Hunter adventures were an updated version of the old Men’s Adventure paperbacks – albeit with denser plots, and the punchy writing style adapted for the audiences of today.
It should come as no surprise then, that Hilton has launched a new project called Action: Pulse Pounding Tales. The book is an anthology of stories that purposefully attempt to capture the style of Men’s Adventure stories of the past.
Here’s Hilton’s project spiel:
Does anyone have any familiarity with the 1970s ‘action books’ typified by Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan: The Executioner, or Warren Murphy and Richard Saphir’s Remo Williams: The Destroyer? Do you remember the UK homegrown westerns by the Piccadilly Cowboys, exemplified by George G. Gillman’s Edge, Adam Steele, or The Undertaker? Have you any memory of barbarian swordsmen like Lin Carter’s Thongor, or Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane? Or even the Kung Fu boom, where we had books like Marshall Macao’s K’Ing Kung Fu: Son of the Flying Tiger?
Those were the days when heroes were heroes and the action was furious and full-blooded. Often as not, the hero was quite the opposite: an anti-hero. But he needed to be, to bring the kind of violent justice to villains worse than him. Political correctness took a back seat, even as the bullets and the karate chops were flying. Basically it was good old harmless fun. It was a case of disengaging your moral compass and getting down with the hero as they took on all comers, and they did it with balletic grace and uncompromising violence. Gratuitous? Yes. Realistic? No. Great fun? You betcha!!!
So here’s what I am planning to do:
I want to bring back the good old days… but with a contemporary twist.
That spiel was six weeks ago, and nearly all the submissions for the project are in, and the book is taking shape.
Writing under the pen name James Hopwood, I am proud to say a story I submitted, called Cutter’s Law made the – pardon the pun – cut. My story will be appearing alongside contributions by established authors such as Stephen Leather, Zoe Sharp, Adrian Magson, Paul D. Brazill, and Hilton himself. There is also a swag of new talent on display, names that may not be household names, but guys who know how to put down a fast and furious tale of adventure.
For Cutter’s Law I tried to come up with a story that captured the style (and possibly the mythology) of the Executioner series. Here’s a brief synopsis.
Sergeant Nathan Cutter of the Australian Army is coming to the end of his tour as a ‘Peace Keeper’ in war torn Iraq. All he wants, is to get home to Sydney and his loving wife and daughter.
On the day of his flight back to Australia, his wife and daughter are killed in a car crash. They are the innocent victims of an underworld gang war, that erupted on the city streets.
When Cutter finds out who is responsible, and the authorities prove impotent, he decides to take the law into his own hands, acting as Judge, Jury and Executioner!
Action: Pulse Pounding Tales will be out in early May 2012 (in about a week or two), so if fast paced, heart-pounding, high-octane adventure is your thing, then keep and eye out for it – you won’t be disappointed!
Author: Matt Hilton Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Published: 2010 Book No: 4 (in the Joe Hunter series)
Last month I had an opportunity to do a little jetsetting. Not far mind you, just up to Canberra, to the National Gallery where there was an exhibition of Renaissance paintings (Raphael, Titian, Botticelli et al.). You see, there is more to me than martinis, girls and guns – but not much. Of course, even a trip that short had me spending plenty of time on trains, buses and aeroplanes – and that required me to find a suitable piece of airport fiction. And to my mind there are only a few authors at the moment who are writing balls to the wall, by the seat of your pants, high octane thrillers, which take the drudgery out of endless hours of sitting on your butt, waiting on connections, or even worse, being delayed. One of those authors is Matt Hilton.
Cut and Run is the fourth book in the Joe Hunter series, and a rip roaring read it is too. For a brief second, I thought Hilton may have been repeating himself, with another psychopath chasing a defenceless woman story – but he proves he has a few more tricks up his sleeve by twisting this tale into a jungle adventure, with Hunter and his team making an incursion into Columbia.
The story starts with a nice twist. I must admit it has been about eighteen months since I have read a Joe Hunter story and had I forgot the story structure that Hilton uses. Which is, one chapter written in the first person, which is Hunter’s point of view; and then the next written in the third person which is the villain’s journey through the story. Now I am not going to spoil the beginning, but I forgot Hilton’s technique and he caught me on the back foot – almost so, that I was yelling at the book (which must have raised a few eyebrows in the departure lounge!)
The villain of the piece, is a fellow by the name of Luke Rickard and he is a hired assassin, and his target is Joe Hunter. But Rickard is such a twisted piece of work, and he doesn’t just want to kill Hunter, but also kill those close to him. In this instance, it is Imogen Ballard – a character carried over from the previous book in the series, Slash and Burn – that Rickard goes after.
Once all hell breaks loose, as it inevitably does, Hunter and his friends, Jared ‘Rink’ Rington and Harvey Lucas are seconded into the service of the CIA. It seems Hunter isn’t the only one that that has been targeted by Rickard. Other operatives who were on the same mission as Hunter, in Columbia, many years previous, have also been targeted (and killed), with their families, by Rickard.
Cut and Run is a great deal of fun, in a brutal riddled with bullets kind of way. But that is exactly the way it should be. By the end of the story, Hunter is battered, bruised and bleeding. He is absolutely put through the ringer – so too is the reader.
As someone who dabbles in graphic design, I must admit I am fascinated by the marketing and the presentation of the Joe Hunter books (in Australia and England at least, where we share the same cover art). They are presented as very slick, fast paced thrillers – which the stories undoubtedly are. Hunter is always shown in silhouette running and shooting, or rappelling from a helicopter, or parachuting down over a city. It’s all action packed, but they are very modern images. Despite the modernity, in some ways, as Hunter is often described as a vigilante, and the stories are blood and thunder epics, I do not believe they are too far removed from the old men of action thrillers of the 1970s and `80s. I certainly don’t mean that in a negative way, the Hunter books are considerably more substantial than those men’s pulps. But I can see a lineage which makes me enjoy the books even more – and there’s a nostalgic part of me that would love to see them with hand painted cover art, with an artist’s depiction of Hunter and ‘Rink’ standing back to back with their guns a blazin’. Of course, there’d be a dame on the cover too – most likely kneeling at Hunter’s feet, with an arm curled around his leg. Well it’s a dream anyway, but one that probably doesn’t belong in this modern world, but you know what I mean!
Author: Matt Hilton Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton Release Year: 2010
Slash and Burn is the third novel in Matt Hilton’s Joe Hunter series following on from Dead Men’s Dust and Judgement and Wrath. Is Joe Hunter a spy? No, but that brings up an interesting question. What constitutes a spy story. If you’ll forgive me as I talk about spy films for a moment – here’s a little guide that I am sure I have posted before which relates to the different styles of spy films and the characters that populate them. The same is true for spy novels. I have edited it slightly to make it more relevant. In my view, the seven main spy story styles are:
the globe trotter
This is the most easily detected espionage story style. It features international globe trotting secret agents fighting crime and evil masterminds all around the globe. In some case the stories are barely more than glorified travelogues, but it makes for some fantastic backdrops to the action. This style of story proliferated in the sixties, when the jet-set age really took hold. Beautiful people in beautiful locations doing particularly nasty things seemed to be the maxim here. Perfect examples of these are the James Bond or Matt Helm stories, but even many of the lesser known tales of espionage liked to work in foreign locations. In fact, the locations used were often a selling points for these films or novels. If a spy story utilised an exotic location then it wasn’t unusual for that location to be mentioned in the title. The role call of destinations included, Our Man In Havana, Funeral In Berlin, That Man In Istanbul, Espionage In Tangiers, The Girl From Rio, Assassination In Rome, Our Man In Marrakech, Fury In The Orient, Hong Kong Hot Harbour, From Beijing With Love, Our Man In Jamaica and many, many others.
the innocent bystander
This is the classic wrong place at the wrong time scenario. The innocent bystander is the sneakiest, but probably the most common of the espionage story conventions. It is harder to detect because the hero is not a highly trained secret agent but anybody or everyman/woman. It is the innocent person who stumbles in on an incident or who gets caught up in the web of intrigue by accident. The classic example would have to be, The 39 Steps where Richard Hannay by shear happenstance gets caught up with foreign spies. Or The Russia House, where Boozey Barley Blair, a book publisher, is contacted by a Russian defector whilst at a book fair in Moscow. Also, the Innocent Bystander is the least male biased of the espionage conventions. Often it is woman who gets caught up in the conflict.
The sleeper is an enemy agent that is hiding in plain sight. They live amongst us, appearing to live a normal life. In reality they are lying dormant, just waiting for a trigger to send them off on their mission of destruction. The triggers that send the agents off can be phrases, such as poetry, or images, such as playing cards. The best example of films in this style is The Manchurian Candidate (1962), based on the best selling book by Richard Condon. It’s an absolutely amazing film starring Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Harvey. In the film, Harvey plays Raymond Shaw, the all American son of a prominent politician. During the Korean War, Shaw is brainwashed in Manchuria, and set to become a killer. His trigger is a playing card. Practically any story which features brainwashing is a sleeper story. In reality, by brainwashing somebody, you are trying to get the subject to complete a task that is against their will and not in character. This, I guess, makes them a sleeper agent. The final scenes of The IPCRESS File (the film ,that is) feature a mind altered Harry Palmer battling the instructions that he has been programmed with. Quite different, but with the same intent, the lovely ladies at Blofeld’s allergy clinic in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service have all been brainwashed and given instructions to unleash a deadly toxin at various locations around the world. The Sleeper is one of the most dangerous of enemy agents because they seem the most unlikely.
Wartime spy dramas usually feature ‘The Soldier’. It’s always a thin line to tread, between some War stories and Spy stories, but generally the nature of the mission, helps separate them into their appropriate categories. For example there is no mistaking that films Saving Private Ryan, The Longest Day and Platoon – or the novel All Quiet on the Western Front are solely a war stories. Whereas stories such as Eye Of The Needle, Where Eagles Dare, The Eagle Has Landed, The Counterfeit Traitor, belong to the Spy genre.
The Assassin is an interesting sub-genre of the usual secret agent movie, where the glossy veneer has been removed, and all that’s left is the ruthless bastard. Let’s face it though, most secret agents are paid killers, even the James Bond’s of the world are sugar coated assassins. The world of the assassin is an interesting one, and a topic that has been visited again and again. But there’s quite a bit of confusion over which films are in fact spy stories, and which are crime stories. I suggest it is the employer of the assassin that defines whether the character is a spy or crime story. But this category isn’t for the well manicured, well dressed gentleman spy. It is reserved for the men who specialise in ‘wet work’ – the HARD men of the genre.
From the travesty that was Casino Royale in 1967 to more recent fare like the recent updates of I, Spy and Get Smart, there have been plenty of comedic attempts at capitalising on the success of spy films (spy novels too – look at the Clyde Allison 0008 stories or Alligator by I*n Fl*m*ng). Unfortunately few of them are very good. Most, to be honest are quite painful. Johnny English, Austin Powers and Le Magnifique are among the more successful attempts of the genre, but even they have their detractors. Many of the children’s spy films are clearly intended to be comedy films as well. Condorman and The Double ‘O’ Kid are prime examples. Both of them are bad films, but they were never intended to be taken seriously.
There are two variations on the retiree spy film. The first and most obvious variation is where the old retired masterspy is called back into action for one final mission because he has a skill set that is essential to the successful completion of the mission. There are a whole swag of films like this, such as Firefox with Clint Eastwood, or even the Matt Helm films with Dean Martin. In the Helm films, Dino has retired and wants to be left alone with his camera and coterie of dolly birds, but somehow gets dragged back into the action time and time again. The mini-series, Icon based on Frederick Forsyth’s book, with Patrick Swayze also trots out the formula once again. Swayze’s character is called out of retirement because of his knowledge of antiquated biological agents.
The second variation, which could almost be called the ‘messed with the wrong guy’ spy film, usually features a band of villains picking on a person or group of civilians (often a family). It just so happens that these people have been befriended by or related to a retired bad-ass spy. To the villains, the spy just seems like an old codger (or a nobody), but we know, despite the wrinkles, this guy is a lethal weapon. If the plot device sounds familiar, it is. The 1987 film, Malone, starring Burt Reynolds is essentially an updated version of the classic western, Shane. Television shows in particular have latched onto this style of story, with Man In A Suitcase,The Equalizer, and even Burn Notice featuring agents who have been ‘retired’ from active duty, and now spend their time helping out average Joes with their problems. On a more personal level, both Belly Of The Beast with Steven Seagal and Taken with Liam Neeson feature stories where they play retired spies, but their daughters have been foolishly kidnapped by evil doers. Once this happens the gloves are off, and the old retired spy is once again up to his usual tricks doing everything possible to get their loved one back. As you’d expect with this kind of storyline, generally these films tends to play more like a revenge flick and have a tendency to be rather violent.
slash and burn
And that now bring us back to Slash and Burn and Joe Hunter. Is Joe Hunter a spy? No. But he does have a lot of the same characteristics as ‘The Retiree’ as listed above. Let me tell you a bit about Joe. Hunter’s employment history reads as follows (pg. 360 Slash and Burn):
Joined British Army at age 16. Transferred to the Parachute Regiment at age 19 and was drafted into an experimental coalition counterterrorism team code named ‘ARROWSAKE’ at age 20. As a sergeant, Joe headed his own unit comprising members from various Special Forces teams. Joe retired from ‘ARROWSAKE’ in 2004 when the unit was disbanded and has since supported himself by working as a free-lance security consultant.
So that’s Joe Hunter. A retiree who now works freelance. He could be compared to Robert McCall in The Equallizer or if you prefer a more cartoonish comparison, maybe Hunter could be described as the one-man equivalent of The A-Team. But by now, you’re probably wondering about the book. Well Slash and Burn delivers everything that at book called ‘Slash and Burn’ should deliver and more. In fact I thought it was better than Dead Men’s Dust which I thought was fantastic – but Slash and Burn surpasses it. It is simply breathless reading.
When I read Dead Men’s Dust a year ago, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a fast paced thrill-ride. But it did have its flaws. In particular, during the middle chapters, the story crawled away from Joe Hunter – and for a while he struggled to keep up. Let me explain: Hilton constructs his stories in a fashion where (almost) every chapter alternates in viewpoint. For example, the first chapter may be from Joe Hunter’s point of view and is written in first person. The second chapter is from the villain’s point of view and is written in third person. Now this works pretty well, as it gives Hunter a unique voice, but also keeps the story rocketing along, keeping the reader in the loop – so to speak. But in Dead Men’s Dust, for a short while, Joe Hunter was left to play catch-up to information that readers already knew. The good news is, in Slash and Burn, Hilton has really mastered that writing technique now, and rather than waiting for Hunter to catch up, the reader has to breathlessly keep up with Hunter who rockets through the story.
The story opens with Imogen Ballard running for her life in the rugged countryside near the town of Little Fork in Kentucky. She is being chased by a cadre of killers who are determined to track her down.
Meanwhile in Pensacola in Florida, Joe Hunter is catching some sun of the deck of his beach house, when he is approached by a woman named Kate Piers. She needs his special type of help with a little problem. Hunter is wary at first, until she explains that she is the sister of Jake Piers, who Hunter knew from his days in the Special Forces.
Hunter agrees to help, and Kate outlines her problem. It appears that her sister Imogen, has gone missing. Furthermore, she may have become involved with some mobsters and corrupt officials. Consequently she may be in hiding.
Together Kate and Hunter make the journey to Little Fork and into the mountains to Imogen’s home. Within moments of their arrival, the couple are ambushed to two gunmen who believe in shooting first and asking questions later. Of course, Hunter is no stranger to gunfire, and can hold is own in a gun battle, but the real surprise package is Kate, who proves to be particularly adept with a pistol.
The hostile reception committee indicates that Imogen’s predicament is a little more serious than first perceived. And now Hunter and Kate have stepped into the fray, they are also targets for the killers who are seeking Imogen.
Along the journey, in their quest to find and protect Imogen, Hunter and Kate have to contend with plenty of life-threatening situations and aggressive characters, not the least being the seven-foot tall Bolan twins, Trent and Larry. These boys are just mountains on meanness, and once they have a target in sight, they don’t give up.
The situation gets so hot, Hunter has to call in his friends Jared ‘Rink’ Rington and Harvey Lucas to even the odds a little. But only just a little. You see, the man behind all the mayhem is a business man who goes by the moniker of ‘Quicksilver’. This is not because he is mercurial, but because he is a skilled technician with a cut-throat razor. Quicksilver also doesn’t believe in fair fights. He wants the odds stacked heavily in his favour, and calls in five of the most ruthless assassins that the syndicate has on its payroll.
The sound of gunfire is so loud in this book, that you almost need earplugs when you read it. Slash and Burn is relentless in its escalation of the action sequences – each passage building and improving on the previous passage.
From the blurb:
Joe Hunter is always ready to help a lady in distress. Particularly when Kate, the lady in question, is the sister of a dead Special Forces mate.
Robert Huffman pretends to be a respectable businessman. But the psychopathic twins he uses as his enforcers give the lie to that. Huffman is a player in the murky world of organised crime and needs Kate as bait for one of his schemes.
Joe is way outnumbered by the bad guys, but since when did that stop him? He’ll rescue Kate if he has to slash and burn to get her…
Obviously a book called ‘Slash and Burn’ is never intended to be high art. It’s popular fiction, and on that level, the book delivers, and I for one, am looking forward to Joe Hunter’s next adventure (which if memory serves me, will be called ‘Cut and Run’).
Here’s a release I missed. The second in the Joe Hunter series hit bookshelves in the UK last week. I had intended to ask Matt Hilton some tough questions about his latest thriller, but time slipped away from me. But for those you want to know more about Joe Hunter and his world can head across to the Arrowsake Alumni and join in the discussion. Joe Hunter doesn’t like bullies. So his latest job – saving a young woman from her bully boyfriend – is a no-brainer. Hunter’s only worry is that the man who hired him is looking for more than protection for his daughter. One thing Hunter has never been, and never will be, is a killer-for-hire.
As it turns out, the vengeful father isn’t the only one who wants the boyfriend dead. Soon Hunter is face-to-face with a contract killer who takes his work very seriously. Dantalion has a talent for killing and keeps a list of his victims in a book chained to his waist. Each victim is numbered.
And the body count is about to start rising…
There is a new literary hero on the scene and his name is Joe Hunter. Hunter arrived on the scene in May in the thriller Dead Men’s Dust. Now six months later, Joe Hunter returns in his second bullet-riddled adventure Judgement and Wrath which is out now in the UK (sorry US readers – you have to wait until May 2010).
Author: Matt Hilton Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Release Year: 2009
The running man conspiracy continues! No, not really. I am not going to discuss the cover artwork for Matt Hilton’s Dead Men’s Dust. The running man has already had a good run (sorry about that) in the blogosphere. I thought it was time to actually delve inside, and I am pleased to report that Dead Men’s Dust is a cracking good thriller. The opening is a ball-tearer, with the character Joe Hunter, from the outset proving that he has the skill set to help the small people of the world. Because that is what Joe Hunter does – he helps people. To put an espionage twist to it, Hunter is a bit like Robert McCall in the Equalizer, or even Michael Westen in Burn Notice. He’s a man who has been around the block – so to speak – and learnt a trick or two along the way. Now he has left that world behind and helps out people who aren’t able to protect themselves from the bullies of the world. But Hunter’s past is a bit vague. As he explains on page 59:
‘I hadn’t been a secret agent; it wasn’t for me to use guile and trickery to root out the bad guys. I was the weapon sent in when all the planning was done with and all that was left was the arse-kicking. Arse-kicking I was good at. It got results.’
Joe Hunter’s mission on this occasion, is a personal one. His estranged half-brother, John Tefler has gone missing in the U.S. of A. John has always been a bit of a try-hard schemer – only his schemes and his luck never seem to work out. Joe has to track down his brother, who has not only managed to attract the unwanted attention of the Syndicate, after he disappears with some counterfeit money printing plates, but also the attention of one of America’s most brutal serial killers, Tubal Cain.
Dead Men’s Dust is written in two styles, alternating chapter by chapter. The first style is first person and the story is viewed from Joe Hunter’s point of view. This is effective to a point, but towards the middle of the book it is a bit frustrating because of the other events happening in the book – but let me explain. The other style, every second chapter is written in third person and recounts the gruesome exploits of Tubal Cain. As we move through the story, Tubal Cain moves ahead of Joe Hunter in the story arc, and as such in the middle there is a small portion where Hunter is really playing catch up and planning his next move – while we readers are far ahead of him. Thankfully Hilton keeps these chapters relatively brief. The frustrating thing here is that Hunter is such an enjoyable character, especially when he is ‘let loose’ that we are left wanting and waiting. But we don’t have to wait for too long and the tense, atmospheric ending is well worth it.
Overall, I’d say that Dead Men’s Dust is a bloody good read. It does what it aims to do – and that is provide a rollercoaster ride riddled with bullets and broken bones, and it is packaged with a slick sense of style and pace. The publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, certainly did the right thing by Hilton down in Australia. Especially on a ‘street level’ where bright yellow and magenta Joe Hunter posters covered every wall and building site hording. In store it was backed up with a ‘publishers promise’ – enjoy the book or your money back. Well, they’re are pretty safe. I enjoyed Dead Men’s Dust from the knee splintering opening to the gruesome knife wielding last pages, and I am eagerly looking forward to the follow up Judgment and Wrath which is due out later this year.
Just a brief warning – this story does feature a serial killer – a serial killer whose prefered weapon is a scaling knife – so if you’re a little bit queasy then this may not be the book for you.
From the back:
‘Some may call me a vigilante. I think I’ve just got problems to fix.’
Right now, Joe Hunter’s big problem is a missing little brother, last seen fleeing the site of a gruesome killing. Hunter needs the help of an old army buddy, a whole lot of hardware and a trip to Little Rock, Arkansas, to fix this particular problem.
A brutal encounter with some very nasty criminals leaves Hunter fighting for his life. And that’s before he comes up against America’s most feared serial killer, ‘The Harvestman’, and his grisly souvenirs of death.
But blood is thicker than water. And a lot of blood will be spilt . . .
DEAD MEN’S DUST introduces Joe Hunter, an all action hero with a strong moral code. Like the gunslingers of the Wild West, Hunter is not afraid to use his weapons and his fists – but only to save the victims from the bad guys.