Bill Kirton

The Likeness

The Likeness
Author:
Published: October 14, 2016
Author's Twitter: @carver26
Aberdeen, 1841. Woodcarver John Grant has an unusual new commission - creating a figurehead to feature onstage in the melodramas of a newly-arrived theatre group. Simultaneously, he’s also trying to unravel the mystery of the death of a young woman, whose body has been found in the filth behind the harbour’s fish sheds. His loving relationship with Helen Anderson, which began in The Figurehead, has grown stronger but, despite the fact that they both want to be together, she rejects the restrictions of conventional marriage, in which the woman is effectively the property of the husband. As John works on the figurehead, Helen persuades her father, a rich merchant, to let her get involved in his business, allowing her to challenge yet more conventions of a male-dominated society. The story weaves parallels between the stage fictions, Helen’s business dealings, a sea voyage, stage rehearsals, and John’s investigations. In the end, the mystery death and the romantic dilemma are both resolved, but in unexpected ways.

Assessed  

Approved

5 Stars

In the port city of Aberdeen, the battered body of a young woman is found in the muck near the wharves. She is unidentified, but from her clothing is definitely not someone who would normally be in such a locale.

John Grant, a ship figurehead carver, is certain that the town’s constable will not do a good job of learning what happened to her, and in his quest for justice takes on the task of investigating her death. At the same time, Helen Anderson, daughter of a prosperous shipping company owner, is seeking to break out of the strictures placed on women of the era, and is pressuring her father to allow her to participate in managing his company. Her quest for liberation is affected by the growing romantic feelings for John.

This story starts off with a sense of heightened tension, as John is awakened to help rescue sailors from a ship that is foundering just offshore, and picks up with the discovery of the dead woman.

The Likeness is actually several stories that proceed on parallel courses, and while John’s investigation and finally solving of the young woman’s death is an important storyline, the main story is John and Helen’s relationship and how they manage to navigate the strict societal conventions of the mid-1800s and maintain their own sense of individuality and freedom.

The author has created a masterful interweave of several stories that come together beautifully at the end with all the mysteries solved and the personal relationships resolved in a most satisfying way. The mores, conventions, sights, sounds, and smells of the era are described so well, I was able to see the story unfolding in my mind like a period movie. The characters are so real, you can hear them, smell their sweat and perfume, and you either like and support them, or you want to take them to a locked room and throttle them mercilessly.

The mark of a great story is that it draws you in so fully that time unfolds without your awareness of it. I started reading this story in mid-morning, and didn’t eat lunch until I’d finished in mid-afternoon. Another is that after reading it you feel that you’ve learned something interesting about a bygone era.

A great story that is more than worthy of the five stars I give it.

 

 

 

Material Evidence

Material Evidence
Category:
Author:
Published: July 11, 2007
Author's Twitter: @carver25
This is the first in a series of police procedurals set in North-East Scotland and featuring DCI Jack Carston. A woman’s body is found at her home. She died of a gunshot wound, had been brutally raped and all the clues point to the husband being the culprit. As Carston investigates, however, the main puzzle facing him is who the woman really was. Husband, colleagues and acquaintances variously picture her as a frigid menopausal woman, a highly-sexed lover, a shrewd investor and manipulator, a valued financial adviser, an embarrassment to her employers, a sad, unstable person. Before he can solve the crime, he must first reconcile all these images to establish her real identity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Darkness

The Darkness
Category:
Tag:
Author:
Published: August 12, 2012
Author's Twitter: @carver24
For Andrew Davidson, tragedy marks a turning point… He’s a respected G.P. but when his brother is found with his throat cut, his thoughts turn to anger and revenge. Known villains, who have evaded justice thanks to the efforts of Cairnburgh’s cleverest lawyer, begin to disappear. For rape victim Rhona Kirk, getting on with her life means taking control… She starts a new life in Dundee but haking off her past is difficult, and the men she’s connected with also go missing. When the threats start, she accepts help against her better judgment. For DCI Jack Carston, solving the puzzle is a race against time… He searches for the links between these vanished persons, aware all the time of his own darker impulses and sensing the bond between himself and the vigilante. What he finds is beyond his worst imaginings.

Reviews

December 15, 2014

Elegant Prose and Memorable characters

Bill Kirton’s The Darkness charts the moral journey of a doctor who succumbs to fantasies of revenge. Dr. Andrew Davidson seeks justice for his brother, who commits suicide after his wife and daughter die in a car crash. He wants to punish not just the drunk driver who caused the accident, but other sociopaths who destroy lives and evade punishment. One by one, suspected criminals begin to disappear from the streets of Cairnburgh, Scotland.

Inspector Jack Carston, charged with investigating the disappearances, has mixed feelings. He isn’t sorry to have rapists, child molesters, and killers off the streets, but whoever has taken them is equally a criminal. He and his partner set about solving the cases in their quiet, methodical way.

The Darkness pits a compelling antihero against a reticent hero. Both are intelligent and likable. Davidson is kind to his patients, considerate of his coworkers, and sweet to his girlfriend. Carston loves his wife and enjoys his work. But the doctor eclipses the inspector through most of the story.

The doctor becomes the dramatic center as soon as he appears, largely because of the narrative point of view. Most of the narrative is third-person omniscient, but the doctor addresses the reader in first-person, which is direct and intimate and places him at the emotional core of the story. Everything happens around him.

Once the investigation begins to break, Carston’s role becomes more active and his character takes center stage. Still, the doctor remains the heart of the story. What will he do with the captives in his basement? Will his sanity survive the trauma of the crimes he’s committed?

Kirton writes elegant prose and creates memorable characters. Even secondary players stand out. I won’t forget the prostitute Rhona or her devoted boyfriend, Billy, for a long time. The Darkness might confound some readers who expect every mystery novel to follow a conventional pattern, but those who enjoy intelligent psychological suspense are in for a treat.

 

Pete Trewin

4 Stars

GO DARK, YOUNG MAN
The advice to beginner crime and thriller genre writers right now is, if you want to shift books, ‘go dark, young man’. Violence, murder, rape, bad language? Old hat. We want burnt bodies, extreme mutilation, anal rape, every third word in the dialogue a swear word. The villain is usually a monster who enjoys murdering and torturing, and the motivation is often sketchy ie the villain is a psychopath who was beaten as a child.
The premise is: ‘bad person does bad thing’. But, to me, ‘good person does bad thing’ is a lot more interesting. This is the premise of The Darkness by Bill Kirton, a thought-provoking twist on the police procedural genre.
The ‘villain’, Andrew Davidson, is an ordinary G.P. His brother’s family were killed in an accident by a drunken driver and the sensitive brother committed suicide. The villain evaded justice by hiring a clever lawyer and then Davidson notices that other local villains have escaped paying for wicked crimes in a similar manner. So, he decides to do something about it. This story is told by Davidson in the first person. The other lead character is D.C.I. Jack Carsten – his story is told in the third person – who notices that local villains are fortuitously disappearing from his manor. He can’t help but feel that they have deserved anything they get. The story of rape victim/prostitute Rhona Kirk – the men she is involved with also start to go missing – is expertly woven into the main narrative.
I know what you are thinking. Not Charles Bronson again. Death Wish 25? In any civilised country with a developed legal system clever lawyers will get the guilty off. In the USA it is summarised in the saying: ‘if you’re rich you walk, if you’re poor you fry’. But what to do about it, other than fight for political reform of the judicial system? Take matters into your own hands when the end result of self-righteous vigilantism is often worse than the original crime?
Bill Kirton has obviously thought about this and the twist to this novel will explode your preconceptions. The pacing is a little slow and I didn’t really get gripped by the novel until halfway through. But the interplay and battle of wits between the two main characters builds to a riveting conclusion. The book is well-written and the prose is clean and active, though there were several groups of typos in my ebook which looked like the result of ‘Microsoft Word going wonky’. Easy to fix. Similarly easy to sort out were the occasional ‘head-hopping’ changes of point of view within scenes. These are minor quibbles.
I found the book interesting and thought-provoking and a welcome change from the formulaic police procedural/crime thriller which tries to go dark but sometimes makes you slam the book shut in disgust. With this novel Bill Kirton has shown that ‘the darkness’ lies not down slippery steps into a dank and musty-smelling cellar but in the heart of each individual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways

Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways
This superbly written short story anthology showcases talented Awesome Indie authors from around the globe. Though from a variety of genres, the stories are all entertaining, contemporary and thought-provoking.   Indulge your taste for good fiction with this short story anthology by authors with bold new voices. Though from diverse genres, the stories share a contemporary and contemplative feel that will linger long after the reader has read the last one. Awesome Allshorts showcases talented authors from around the globe, many whose novels have received multiple honors, including Awesome Indies approved status. Stories selected by Tahlia Newland, Dixiane Hallaj and Richard Bunning.

Reviewed by Bill Kirton

5 Stars

First, a disclaimer. This volume contains a flash fiction story of mine but the review relates to the other 26 contributions. It’s entirely objective. If it weren’t, I’d be undermining my credibility as a reviewer.

The enigmatic subtitle of the collection, Last Days, Lost Ways, hints at disjunction, reflection, scenes in which a variety of voices recount departures, frustrations, lost or decaying loves. In fact, as you read from story to story, the variation in styles and subjects, the movement from striking characters to bleak or funny situations, the range of emotions provoked – all combine to make this a rich experience.

The authors all know how to grab the reader and draw him/her very quickly into the specifics of their settings and the mysteries of the characters and their obsessions. The mood swings from anxious to loving, sinister to funny, despairing to whimsical, futuristic to domestic, romantic to dystopian. Some stories are firmly set in an apparently mundane everyday world, but one unpicked by a character’s reactions to its pressures and interpretations of its moments. Others move straight into the paranormal or historical. But all touch on aspects of life, fears, relationships which will have echoes in readers’ own experience.

The anthology exemplifies the flexibility and continuing relevance of a form which is nowadays enjoying an overdue revival.

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

5 Stars

Full disclosure: One of my short stories appears in this anthology. This review is about the others.

I did not expect these stories to move me as deeply as they did. Short works often struggle to pack a significant punch in their diminished wordcount, but the pieces contained in this collection rise to the occasion. Some had me on the edge of my seat in suspense. Some brought tears to my eyes with their emotional depth. And some utilized unique writing styles so artfully that they should be studied in literature classes.

Like with any anthology, not everything in this book will appeal to every reader. But the breadth and depth of the writing styles, storylines, and people explored make it deserving of a spot on any avid reader’s shelf.

Reviewed by

Ignite

3 Stars

 

This is a collection of stories subtitled Last Days and Lost Ways. I received an Advanced Review Copy. It is not the final version. I don’t know if the stories will appear in this order but I found I didn’t really get on with most of those in the first half. The second half of the book picked up for me, but if I hadn’t been reading to review, I might easily have lost interest and abandoned it.

The writing was good. It was the definition of ‘story’ which didn’t click with me in some cases. To me, and I suspect, to many readers, a short story is a complete tale. Some of these read as, or maybe even were, excerpts from some longer work and I didn’t like that. I wanted closure.

The stories I liked best were Pearls, Home late, The Creator, Recipe for a Dinner Party, Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin; for the Devil to Show and A Matter of Trust. I enjoyed these stories and the feeling of having savoured a complete experience with them.

Reviewed by

Justin Spahn

5 Stars

As the husband of one of the authors in this anthology, I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. So, here it is!

I’ve read a few short story anthologies, and this one is definitely the most interesting. The collection is richly diverse in terms of subject matter, national origin and setting, narrative tone, length, and literary style. As I read, I found myself jumping from fantasy to vignette to full plots inspired by true events, and the transition somehow is fluid and seamless rather than jarring or distracting. Awesome Indies has managed to build an enjoyable whole out of various and disparate components!

Among my favorites in the lineup were ‘Clearing the Shed’, ‘Quarantine’, ‘I, Zombie’, ‘Chasing Dreams in the Time Left Over’, ‘Traffic’, ‘Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin’ for the Devil to Show’, ‘Home Late’, ‘A Matter of Trust’, ‘Pearls’, and what is likely the stylistic jewel of this collection, ‘Recipe for a Dinner Party’.

This anthology asked me interesting questions, presented me with some of my greatest fears in life, introduced me to new ideas not common in conventionally published shorts, and fed an interest in diverse snippets of literature that I didn’t even know I had.

To sum it up best, I’ll paraphrase one of the author’s descriptions regarding the virtues of the short stories collected in this anthology: The short form gives authors the opportunity to write in ways that couldn’t be sustained for an entire novel.

I recommend reading these shorts–open yourself up to unique experiences from authors all around the world who love writing so much that they publish themselves.

Reviewed by

Sandra Padgett

5 Stars

This collection of wonderful stories covers a variety of themes. From satire to thriller to contemporary life and much more. Each story gets your attention and keeps it from start to finish. They are thought provoking, with characters, dialogue and themes that are believable, but sometimes out in the twilight zone, which is what I like. I will be looking for more works by the various authors and follow them in the future. I received this free from Simon Townley for an honest review. Outstanding! Recommend to any and all.

Reviewed by

Annie Evett

5 Stars

Both emerging and established writers from Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand present a peek into the spectacular moments everyday life holds, but with a twist.

The collection opens with a bang with a story by Tahlia Newland. Intriguing to the last paragraph, I was surprised to find it was an excerpt from her newest project. It sits perfectly as a short story and a wonderful teaser into what looks to be an exciting premise.

Each story has an incredible depth and texture to them, that, although is specific to its own style, melds beautifully as a collection. The human condition is explored where the reader is challenged to reassess their perspectives on stereotypes and events. Post apocalyptic tales sit comfortably with personalised stories like fragmented memories; separate, but with a golden thread holding them together. Heart-wrenching, whimsical, tear-jerking and lighthearted there is a story to suit all moods and readers tastes.

It is difficult to chose a favourite story, with a wrestling loving gran meeting her idol, to emotional trials of marriages breaking apart or forming, futuristic zombies and maids from a gentler time.

Authors are recognised in their own right with multiple honours and prizes and although the anthology is an eclectic mixture of genre, reading one after the other only highlights the complexity and intrigue each story brings.

A great book to stash into someones Christmas stocking for some fireside holiday reading, Awesome Allshorts is set to be a winner in your readers life.

 

 

The Figurehead

The Figurehead
Author:
Author's Twitter: @carver22
Aberdeen, 1840. As John Grant is creating a figurehead combining the features of two women, he also uncovers the evils behind the death of the shipwright who employs him.<br> Return to an age where sail was being challenged by steam, new continents were opening, and the world was full of opportunities for people to be as good—or as evil—as they chose. When the body of a local shipwright is found on the beach, neither the customers and suppliers he cheated nor the women he molested are surprised. But the mystery intrigues woodcarver John Grant, who determines to seek out the truth of the killing. His work and his investigations bring him into contact with William Anderson, a rich merchant—and his daughter Elizabeth. Commissioned to create a figurehead that combines the features of two women, John eventually uncovers a sordid tale of blackmail and death as, simultaneously, he struggles to resist the pangs of unexpected love.

The Sparrow Conundrum

The Sparrow Conundrum
Categories: ,
Author:
Published: August 12, 2012
Author's Twitter: @carver22
An ex girl-friend, an exploding garden, two wrestlers, multiple homicides, a sociopathic cop, and fragments of a postman. All waiting for Chris Machin – codename Sparrow. Satirical absurdity at its funniest. Chris Machin may think he’s just a teacher, but the bottom feeders in Aberdeen squabbling over North Sea oil and gas contracts prefer to use his code-name – Sparrow. When his garden explodes he takes flight, unleashing various forms of Scottish mayhem.  More complications are added by his ex girlfriend and a sociopathic policeman whose hobbies are violence, making arrests and, best of all, combining the two. Several murders later, two wrestlers, a road trip to Inverness, a fishing trawler, a Russian factory ship, and some fragments of a postman complete the enigma of… The Sparrow Conundrum. Winner of the Readers’ Choice Award for Humor and Satire at Big Al’s Books and Pals 2012. Also winner of the Humor category in the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards. “… an over the top, thoroughly hilarious send-up, brilliantly realised and tremendously enjoyable. I laughed constantly, was horrified, was admiring and totally entertained all at once. It reminded me, in the best possible way, of the work of Tom Sharpe … writing that will have you spluttering on trains as you try not to laugh out loud”. Catherine Czerkawska, author of The Curiosity Cabinet, The Physic Garden and many others.