Reader Dad – Book Reviews

Dark Crime and Speculative Fiction book reviews



COMPETITION: Win a Copy of Jonathan Freedland’s THE 3RD WOMAN

The 3rd Woman Jacket image THE THIRD WOMAN

Jonathan Freedland (

HarperCollins (


To celebrate the release on July 2nd of Jonathan Freedland’s exciting new thriller, The 3rd Woman, which I will be reviewing here soon, those lovely folks at HarperCollins Publishers have given us three copies of the novel to give away. It couldn’t be simpler to be in with a chance to win: simply click here to send me an email with the answer to the question below as well as your name and postal address:

The 3rd Woman is Jonathan Freedland’s first novel published under his own name, but it’s not his first published novel. Jonathan has had a successful career publishing thrillers under a well-know pseudonym. What is it?

Entries must be received by midnight on Thursday 9th July, and the winners will be notified on Friday 10th July. This competition is open to UK residents only.

Don’t forget to follow the The Third Woman tour (see the banner for details), keep up to date with the buzz on Twitter and check back next week when I will be posting my own thoughts on the novel.


INFLUENCES: Literary Influences by OLIVER LANGMEAD & Competition


Author of: DARK STAR (2015)

Literary Influences, Contemporary & Classic


Dark Star has a lot of influences, because it’s three things in one. It’s science fiction, it’s a detective story of the noir and hard-boiled brand, and it’s an epic in the classical sense.

Dark Star blog tour skyscraperThe best place to start is at the beginning, because it’s possible to see the exact moment when a fairly predictable trend in reading became something else. I started out with Brian Jacques and Roald Dahl from the age of about six, and by the time I was half way through my teens, I had devoured everything written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, as well as a few other authors writing along the same lines. Then, at the age of sixteen, I was made to read All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, and everything changed.

It’s difficult to describe exactly what that book did for me. It was as if I had certain expectations about what books were, what books could be, and I could see the limits of that. Then experiencing a book like All the Pretty Horses opened my mind to a whole world of literary writing that I had not really considered before.

This is where it’s possible to start to see where Dark Star came from. Over the past few years, I’ve been reading pretty much anything and everything to broaden my sense of what a book can be. From Lovecraft’s grim and verbose short stories, to Philip Roth’s beautiful but horrible Sabbath’s Theatre (the best book I’ve never finished) to Bret Easton Ellis, testing the idea of vacancy in the lines he writes, and beyond. I’ve loved the architecture behind Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books, and been in awe of James Joyce’s almost impenetrable writing in Ulysses, and spent even more time investigating what makes gothic classics, Frankenstein and Dracula, tick.

From science fiction, I cite China Mieville and Michel Faber as major influences. Specifically, Mieville’s The City & The City, which had a sense of wonder behind each discovery that I desperately wanted to kindle for myself, and Faber’s Under The Skin, which evoked such a sense of character in both its place and in its moods, that I hoped to see something similar in my own work. For Dark Star, I wanted the reader to feel a sense of discovery in a world that is disarmingly familiar. I wanted to evoke that 1920s noir kind of atmosphere, then give the reader glimpses of the science fiction beyond.

I chose a few books from the classic detective genre to look at in order to understand it better, and Raymond Chandler is the author I have to cite above all others. The Big Sleep was crafted so well to be what it was, and it is possible to see why it has had such a big influence on authors other than myself. This is one of the main sources from which those most treasured clichés and tropes come, which I hope I have treated well in my own book. Making a world that felt familiar, just like Chandler did, was important to me. Closer to the atmosphere that Dark Star would have, however, has to be Frank Miller’s Sin City. Sin City had the voice that I wanted to use; that gritty internal monologue, bitter and beaten by its surroundings.

Dark Star is a love story for three genres, however, and the third might surprise you. I hope that you’ve heard of Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad. I hope that you’ve heard of The Divine Comedy, and the Aeneid, and Paradise Lost. Because these are all epics, written in an ancient style, which I completely fell for and decided to try and emulate. I’m hoping that you’re wondering whether writing a science fiction noir in verse would work at all. Because I wondered that, as well. But… it does work. Some of those recognisable elements are there: the pentameter, the descent and the divine, and some of them are not, but Dark Star is undoubtedly written in the tradition of those ancient greats.

It all comes back to McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses, in the end. When I read it, I thought that it was completely marvellous that I had never read a book like it before: that someone had tried something so ambitious, and had been so successful with it. It’s something that I wanted to try for myself. And the result of that is Dark Star.


To celebrate the release of this excellent novel, Oliver’s publishers, Unsung Stories, are very kindly giving away a signed copy of Dark Star and a signed Dark Star poster to one lucky winner.

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is send a single tweet answering the following question:

Which book changed your expectations of what books can be?

Make sure you include the hashtag #DarkStarGiveaway as well as including @MattGCraig @UnsungTweets to ensure your entry is included.

The competition will close at midnight, Monday 30th March 2015 and the winner will be notified shortly thereafter.

Book  & Publisher Information

Dark Star product page (Unsung Stories)

Amazon UK Dark Star product page

Amazon US Dark Star product page

Unsung Stories send excellent fortnightly short stories for free, direct to your email inbox. Sign up here to ensure you don’t miss a single one.

#GreatestGift–Giving the Gift of Reading for Christmas


‘Books are a uniquely portable magic.’
– Stephen King, On Writing

Blog tour list #GreatestGiftWhen birthdays or Christmas roll around, there’s nothing I like more than the book-shaped parcels that are an inevitable purchase for someone who loves to read. In our family, they’re invariably accompanied by the joke that never gets old (really, Dad!) about how it’s a bicycle or a bottle of whiskey. But it’s better than either of those things: it’s a hunk (usually, given my reading preferences, a rather large hunk) of paper and card that has the power to transport me out of my everyday life, and into something – or somewhere – completely different.

Maybe it’s for this same reason that books are always my first port of call when it comes to buying gifts for other people. New baby? The Fisher Price My First Book is perfect (at least it was when Fisher Price were still producing it). Sister’s wedding? How about a hardcopy of Edward Monkton’s A Lovely Love Story to commemorate the fact that it was the piece I opted to read during the ceremony? What child can resist F. Paul Wilson’s brilliant The Christmas Thingy at this time of year? Or the many adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh at any time of the year? And what adult can resist the charms of young Jack, the narrator of Emma Donoghue’s Room, or the myriad characters that form the central core of Stephen King’s Under The Dome?

I like to think of myself of something of an evangelist (though not of the Billy Graham type): I love to promote reading and try to do what I can to spread the love for books, so when I buy gifts for the young’uns, they’re books that I loved at that age and which I believe still hold the power to enthral and astound. It’s an encouragement to read, and in some ways a subtle hint that reading is an acceptable pastime, something that they shouldn’t be afraid of doing, or of being seen doing. With adults, it’s about sharing the books that I’ve loved with others, a much more personal – and personalised – version of the posts that you find on Reader Dad.

No matter what, there’s a pact between the recipient and I, an unspoken promise that it’s something I think they’ll enjoy, something that is much more than the paper on which it is printed. It’s a ticket to another world; a brief glimpse into another life; a gift that will bring hours, if not days, of escapism and entertainment.

Passion for Reading POSMy family have resigned themselves to the fact that there is a very good chance that a gift from me won’t be a bicycle or a bottle of whiskey, and I’m happy to say that I’ve even converted some of them to my way of thinking. And it’s great to see that I’m not alone: projects like World Book Night and Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read are evidence that there are plenty of like-minded people in the world, who love to give and receive books as gifts. All in all, I can’t imagine a greater gift than that of reading, or of something new and amazing to read.

Thanks to the wonderful Quercus family who will be running the #GreatestGift campaign throughout December; I’m delighted to have been asked to take part, and look forward to following the campaign as fellow bloggers and vloggers have their say.

Thanks also to Quercus, who have provided a wonderful bundle of books, as well as some lovely #GreatestGift stuff (gorgeous postcard, poster and bookmark, right), that will be given away at the end of today to one lucky winner. The books in question are all books I’ve read this year, and you can expect to see some of them in my list of favourite books later this month. Click on the links to see my reviews:

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Jöel Dicker

Research by Philip Kerr

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell

Irène by Pierre Lemaitre

Reader Dad

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is send a single tweet answering the following question:

Which book would be your #GreatestGift?

Make sure you include the hashtag #GreatestGift as well as including @MattGCraig @QuercusBooks to ensure your entry is included.

The competition will close at 6 PM this evening, 1st December 2014 and the winner will be notified shortly thereafter.

Follow the #GreatestGift hashtag on Twitter, find details of the full campaign at the Quercus blog, and be sure to check out Book Addict Shaun tomorrow for more on #GreatestGift and another giveaway of another amazing bundle of books.

COMPETITION: Win a Copy of RED WINTER by Dan Smith #DanSmithBlogTour

Dan Smith Blog Tour (2)

It’s the final stop of the Dan Smith Blog Tour (and what a tour it’s been!) and to celebrate last week’s hardback publication of The Darkest Heart and paperback publication of Red Winter, those lovely people over at Orion have given us 10 copies of Red Winter to give away. You can enter in one of two simple ways:

  • Comment on this post – simple enough…if your comment looks like it originated from a human you’ll be entered into the draw.
  • Tweet a link to this post (click the Share button at the bottom of the post and select Twitter), or retweet a link that’s already out there. If your Tweet contains my username (@MattGCraig), the hashtag from the title of this post (#DanSmithBlogTour) and a link back to the post, you’ll be entered into the draw.

You only need to enter once, as multiple entries won’t improve your chance of winning. And you have until midnight (BST) on Sunday 20th July to enter. The winners will be drawn on Monday 21st and notified by email or Twitter and will hopefully have their nice shiny new book by the end of that week. This competition is open to UK residents only.

So, what are you waiting for?

(Keep an eye on the blog next week when I’ll be reviewing Dan Smith’s The Darkest Heart.)

COMPETITION: Charles Cummings’ A COLDER WAR #MoleHunt

blog tour banner final-page-001


Charles Cummings (

HarperCollins (


Those fine folks over at HarperCollins’ Killer Reads are running a mole hunt this week to celebrate the publication of Charles Cummings’ latest novel, A Colder War. To be in with a chance of winning a Kindle, all you have to do is visit each of the five blogs in the banner to the left over the course of this week.

Each blog will have two videos, and two associated questions. Take the first letter from the answer to each of those questions to find the identity of the mole. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is email Killer Reads with the name of the mole before midnight on Friday 9th May. Full terms and conditions can be found here.

So, without further ado, on to today’s videos and questions.


Question 1: What is the name of the journalist working for The Guardian who broke the National Security Agency revelations from Edward Snowden?

Question 2: The Spanish Game by Charles Cumming featured which (now defunct) Basque separatist organisation?

COMPETITION: Joanne M. Harris’s #AskLoki Blog Tour

gospel-of-loki THE GOSPEL OF LOKI

Joanne M. Harris (

Gollancz (


Celebrating the publication of Joanne M. Harris’s first epic adult fantasy novel, The Gospel of Loki (Feb 13 2014), comes Joanne M. Harris’s #AskLoki Blog Tour.

Gollancz and a collection of the UKs leading websites are teaming up to share Loki’s opinions of his fellow inhabitants of Aesgard. BUT that’s not all…

We’ll also be sharing TEN Gospel of Loki gift bags complete with a signed book, tote bag, book mark and poster.

To win one of the bags, just tweet the correct answer to the question below using the hashtag #AskLoki and making sure to include @Joannechocolat @gollancz @MattGCraig


Loki describes this god as: “Not a bad guy, but a fool for blondes.”

Is he talking about: 1)Thor 2)Hodor 3)Frey ?

If you need a refresher on the trickster god’s opinion of the characters that you’ll meet in The Gospel of Loki, you can visit the Gollancz blog.

Please note one tweeter will be picked at random each day from the 3 – 14 February 2014. There are ten chances to win to in total. Good luck!

COMPETITION: Win a Copy of LIKE THIS, FOR EVER by Sharon Bolton

Thanks to those lovely people at Transworld Books, we are celebrating the recent release of Sharon Bolton’s Like This, For Ever by giving away three copies of the book to lucky Reader Dad visitors. This competition is open to UK visitors only.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of this brilliant novel, all you have to do is prove you’re human: post a comment below before midnight (GMT) on Sunday 17th November. Three winners will be drawn at random on Monday 18th November, and will be contacted shortly thereafter to arrange delivery.

Thanks, as always, for visiting. And don’t forget to follow the Like This, For Ever blog tour, which is happening all week. Details in the poster below.


COMPETITION: Win a Copy of THE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent Wife - ASA Harrison  

Thanks to those lovely people at Headline, we are celebrating the recent release of A.S.A. Harrison’s debut novel, The Silent Wife, by giving away a copy to one lucky Reader Dad visitor. This competition is open to UK visitors only.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of this brilliant novel, all you have to do is prove you’re human: post a comment below before midnight (GMT) on Sunday 14th July. One winner will be drawn at random on Monday 15th July, and will be contacted shortly thereafter to arrange delivery.

Thanks, as always, for visiting. Best of luck!

COMPETITION: Win a Signed Copy of THE TWELVE by Justin Cronin


Today sees the publication, in paperback, of The Twelve, the second part of Justin Cronin’s epic Passage trilogy. To celebrate the occasion, we have a hardcover copy of the novel, signed by the author, to give away to one lucky visitor, thanks to the book’s publisher, Orion Books.

To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is post a comment containing the answer to the question below, before midnight (GMT) on Thursday 9th May. I will select one commenter at random on the morning of Friday 10th May and will be in touch to arrange shipment shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

Question: Bernard Kittridge makes an appearance early in The Twelve. By what nickname is he better known to the world?

If you need a helping hand, be sure to check out Justin Cronin reading an excerpt from the book here.

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