Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

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Murderous Reviews: Voodoo Daddy/State of Anger – Thomas L Scott (2012)

STATE OF ANGER: A Thriller (Detective Virgil Jones Mystery Series)

I get very confused by authors naming or renaming their novels as something that is either meaningless or unconnected to the novel. When I bought this book it was called Voodoo Daddy and at some point changed to State of Anger.
The first title has some relevance which is revealed near the end. The replacement title is a bit rubbish to be blunt and is so vague as to be meaningless.
Virgil Jones is a seasoned cop whose team is called in to investigate a double shooting at the governor’s residence. The shooting however was of a cop and one of the governor’s neighbours. Further seemingly random shootings occur which appear to be linked to a disaster at an airport years before.
I don’t really want to get into any more of the plot as there lies the problem.
Structurally the novel holds up until about 80% in and then falls apart. The murderers are dealt with in quite an anticlimactic way while the author has left the hero too physically damaged to be very heroic.
Then there is the extended tidying up of a subplot involving corrupt televangelists and Jonesy’s army buddy who turned up out of the blue bringing trouble.
There’s also an odd ghostly incident which would have been best left out. In fact there’s a whole lot of spiritual philosophising that would have been fine if it actually went somewhere or helped to define Jonesy’s character, but it doesn’t. It ends up seeming somehow out of place.
I suspect there was just too much going on in this book. It also didn’t help that we know who the murderers are, if not their motive. It also suspends disbelief slightly that Jonesy’s ex-wife is connected to both the murderers and the corrupt godbotherer, as well as a rather too convenient connection between the murderers and the Governor.
One expects a novel to build to a certain climax with perhaps some suspense, some drama, a twist, but it never gets there. The bad people are dealt with before you know it, and then we are left with tying up what’s left of the plot.
Characterisation isn’t too bad although some romantic scenes are a little schmaltzy. There’s even an attempt at ethnic diversity since Jonesy and his dad run a restaurant with a Jamaican chef. He doesn’t appear a great deal. Everyone else is white. I am not sure how realistic that is, and thinking about it although it is made clear that we are in Indiana there is little sense of ‘place’.
Having said all that, however, it’s not a bad read, and some revisions to the last 20% of the book would make an enormous difference. I didn’t see any of the typos and grammatical errors that others have pointed out and presume that these have been amended, with the exception of the word ‘taught’ being used where it should have been ‘taut’ in the sense that something is pulled tight to a state of rigidity.

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The Drowning Man (2008)

You remind me of that bible story about the drowning man
who expects God to save him.
He dies and asks why God didn’t save him
and God says ‘I sent you a motor boat and
a helicopter.’

You’re quite right
There were no helicopters in the bible…
Or motor boats.

It must have been made up later,
after helicopters were invented,
but that’s not the point.
The man did not see that God was
trying to save him.

Well, yes, the man was dead
when he found that out.

I don’t know how we know
what God said, but that’s not the point.

It’s a story.

I don’t see what’s funny about that!
You should be drowning, not laughing.

1 am (2016)

I think of you at 1am
when heat can’t get to sleep

will not rest till the rain’s come home.

You’re a call to the head.
I have no voicemail there.

On Radio Four a man is telling
a story about a spider in a tower
who only speaks the language of itself

can never learn another.

A man climbs the tower.
He knows only the language of shoes

or so I remembered,

as I fell asleep at this point

sweated hot rain

dreamt of someone else.

Preparing for the onset (2014)

I should make a list
of the people I despise
in case I forget;

start being pleasant.
It’s a side effect of this
I never thought of.

But if i forget
where the list is, or that there
was a list. What then?

Feeling the Pull of the Fringe Magnet

If you are in Edinburgh, Try this out.

melaniebranton

I’m taking my first full-length spoken word show to the Edinburgh Fringe in August (see Forthcoming Events page for details) and I’m going to try to blog about how it’s going, starting from now, when I’m about a month into full-time, serious preparation.

In many senses, my expectations are modest. I know, for instance, that I’m not going to make any money. Edinburgh is always just a very expensive holiday. I’m going with PBH’s Free Fringe, an organisation which doesn’t charge for venue hire, but also doesn’t charge audiences to watch (although a bucket is passed round at the end, so they can pay you if they want to). While this eliminates the single biggest cost of taking a show to the paid Fringe (if you’re paying for venue hire, you can be looking at anything between £300 and £2000 a week), all the other costs involved (accommodation, travel, printing…

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the chief petty officer (2013)

your anger’s like the water in an argos kettle
battering its fists on a cheap lid.
your mouth can’t help it
lets go of anything
not loose lips so much as careless.
they just don’t care.

those socks do you no favours either.
your moaning; it’s professional.
i’d pay good money for someone like you
to moan on my behalf

with your round flat face
like a platter of fried grouch.

there must be good money in that.
you should look into it.

Murderous Reviews: A Reason To Kill – Michael Kerr (2013)

A Reason To Kill (DI Matt Barnes #1)

DI Matt Barnes is part of a team assigned to protect a witness scheduled to testify against one Frank Sartini, a mob boss. Little do they know that a schizophrenic hitman is holding a couple next door hostage and in no short time shoots them, poses as the husband taking the dog for a walk and then slaughters everyone in the safe house apart from Matt, who is left for dead with a shot up leg.
The hunt is on for the killer who soon realises that Matt and the wife from the neighbouring house have survived and need to be eliminated as witnesses.
If one did not know one would hardly guess that this is set in London. There’s very little background atmosphere and not much to suggest where Matt’s police station is. His love interest, Beth, a forensic psychologist, lives in Roehampton. I used to live there myself. It’s a distinctive and somewhat leafy area, but as far as the reader is concerned it might just as well have been Kilburn or Oxford Circus.
My other issue with this is the dialogue which is stilted and unrealistic.
It’s a quick and easy read but ultimately unsatisfying. The killer, Gary, is almost superhuman in his ability to evade detection. This is a common trait of serial killers but is usually offset by a depth of characterisation which gives them a level of credibility. Hannibal Lektor for instance gets away with umpteen unbelievable things before a breakfast of human liver, but there is so much more going on with him that we are able to suspend our disbelief. That extra dimension is missing here.
There’s a higher than average body count, some of them being quite surplus to requirements, as if Kerr felt he was being paid by the murder.
It’s a decent enough read, having said all that, but reads more like a first draft where the author has not really got to know his characters all that well yet.

Murderous Reviews: The Mummy Case (Jim Knighthorse #2) – JR Rain (2010)

The Mummy Case (Jim Knighthorse, #2)

I like Jim Knighthorse. I’d follow him round Waitrose if he lived in Shepherds Bush. Jim is a musclebound ex (American) football player turned Private Eye.
He’s got his angst, having not yet been able to solve his mother’s murder and has a drink problem which he is struggling to keep a handle on.
Balancing that is a ready wit, a sparkling personality and a tolerant attitude. Although it’s not PD James, Rain has created a fascinating world with believable characters and a strong sense of place.
In this second volume Knighthorse is called to the desert to investigate the death of a young researcher who was looking into the mystery of a 100 year old mummy; a body found with shotgun wounds but preserved by the desert’s heat and mineral properties.
As side stories, Knighthorse is helping his friend’s son Jesus (Knighthorse insists on pronouncing this in the Western Christian way rather than the proper Hey-Zeus, much to the annoyance of the boy’s father) track down the individual members of a gang of bullies who beat him up and allow Jesus to exact revenge.
Additionally, his girlfriend, an evolutionist biology lecturer whose name happens to be Darwin, has become the subject of vandalistic attacks by Fundamentalist Christians.
It’s a bit of dichotomy in perspective from the first volume where Knighthorse apparently regularly had coffee with God in McDonalds. I read that long before American Gods was on TV, a fact I only mention because I imagined Rain’s God to be Ian McShane.
God doesn’t appear in this one and Rain, perhaps purposefully, shows no sympathy to the Fundamentalist cause. It’s a shrewd touch, since too much God can be a little wearing, particularly for an atheist like me. I’d rather not have it in my escapism, but with Knighthorse I’ll make the occasional exception. Ian McShane does God very well and I’m looking forward to reading him again.
It’s a short and fast paced piece and quite addictive. It leaves me feeling better about the world and that can only be a good thing.
Will I read more? Oh definitely.

September 2009

Summer decays like a love unreturned.
Greens will fume to bruises, gaping scars
vexing warm with rage till they crumble, just
something we want to pass away, to die.

Half of September left now, the sun’s heart
still rages red, but waning. It lessens
like pain from a burn or a wound. He drags
his hot feet, gone all awkward to leave us.

I imagine me, holding my back to you.
We can’t set the leaves from their crimson turn
before they bleed into forgetfulness.
‘Oh well,’ they say, ‘That’s life,’ through parchment lips.

I count the leaves like sheep that will not jump,
or even try. Just wait there, shaded. Stained.

the golden age (2009)

half my life is lived in space
between the stars, between the painted covers
of a thousand books
by writers mostly dead.
i never feared, but boldly tread
the paths that sorns and triffids trod.

the golden age of science fiction
is they say when you’re fourteen
if so, i’m still there behind that door
in seventy-four;
my mother’s platitudes about ‘fresh air’
falling on creatures with no ears
who followed me around for years.

the other half is lived down here
between the stars of the apprentice
and my patient human lover,
walking round this planet laughing
at stupidity and strife.
i’m an astronaut with a bag for half a life