#BlogTour Berlin Reload by James Quinn

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Berlin Reload by James Quinn.

About the Author

James Quinn is the author of the “Gorilla Grant” series of spy novels. A professional security consultant and corporate intelligence operative, he currently resides in the UK but likes to travel extensively around the globe.

His next projects are “Clandestine” – a short story anthology, based around espionage, deception and intrigue – and The Fisherman, which introduces a new character to the world of covert intelligence.

Visit the official James Quinn author website for more information about upcoming projects and events; Visit https://gorillagrant101.wixsite.com/jamesquinn, Follow on Facebook

About the book

“The time of reckoning is here, Gorilla Grant.” Jack “Gorilla” Grant, retired assassin and former spy, is living a new life as a peaceful, successful businessman. But when his daughter is kidnapped in Rome, it is just the opening gambit in a series of events that pushes him back into the “Redaction” business that he once walked away from. 

Unseen forces are moving against Gorilla and dangerous enemies from his past are threatening his future, intent on turning a cold war into a hot war. But Gorilla has one rule; don’t mess with my family. And he’s willing to kill to enforce it. From the dangerous streets of 1960’s Berlin to a hit contract in Austria, and finally to a race against time in East Germany, Berlin Reload is an epic cold war spy story that spans the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and throws James Quinn’s anti-hero Gorilla Grant into a mission where he may have to decide between the life of his daughter and the dawning of a new conflict between East and West.

Review

This is the fourth book in the Redaction Chronicles, however this can be read as a standalone novel. If you want to follow the path walked hard and furious by Gorilla, then I would suggest reading the other books in the series.

This time the political spy gambit becomes personal when his daughter is targeted and not only the fractious cold war ‘peace’ is purposely slowly ignited into a brewing explosion waiting to happen, but also the safety of what he holds dearest is put at risk.

It’s an engrossing cold war espionage thriller with a ruthless killer – a man to be reckoned with and a legend in his ranks – in the midst of the intrigue. However it’s fair to say his enemies make a crucial mistake when sizing him up. they believe his previous actions equate to the man he is, but they have no real clue who he really is and what he is capable of, especially when it comes to his family. That is their first and last mistake.

What Quinn does really well is creating a character the majority would be happy to file under one dimensional killing machine and yet simultaneously showing the multidimensional man. In life as in fiction we quite frequently make assumptions based on the one dimension we perceive – it’s important to see the man behind the myth.

This is the last hurrah for Gorilla, however one wonders if the author will be completely satisfied to let the man enjoy his family for a bit of pottering around the garden and cold pints in a Biergarten.

Buy Berlin Reload at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : Blurb; pub date 28 April 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Vault by Mark Dawson

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Vault by Mark Dawson.

The Berlin Wall – 9 November 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the 20th Century’s most notorious structures. Built in 1961 to divide East and West Germany, by the late 80s it was 156 km long with a 15m ‘death strip’ guarded by 11,500 border guards under shoot-to-kill orders. At least 140 people lost their lives at the Wall. The last in 1989 just months before it fell.

About the Author

Mark Dawson is an award-nominated, USA Today bestseller, with more than 20 books published and over 2 million books downloaded in multiple countries and languages. Mark was born in Lowestoft, in the UK. He has worked as a DJ, a door-to-door ice cream seller, factory hand and club promoter.

He eventually trained as a lawyer and worked for ten years in the City of London and Soho, firstly pursuing money launderers and then acting for A-list celebrities suing newspapers for libel.

Follow @pbackwriter on Twitter, on Amazonon Goodreads, Visit markjdawson.comBuy The Vault

About the book

In the dying days of the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall still casts a long and deadly shadow in 1989.

MI6 agent Harry Mackintosh embarks on an audacious plan to exfiltrate a valuable asset through a tunnel under the Berlin Wall. But things go badly wrong and what could have been a brilliant coup  ends in a bloody failure, with Mackintosh only just escaping with his life. Now he wants revenge.

Mackintosh returns to London for help. He asks for seasoned professionals but gets Jimmy Walker, a bank robber blackmailed into working with British intelligence. Walker has been given a stark choice: a long stretch in prison or a trip behind the Iron Curtain. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the resourceful robber – desperate to keep his liberty and lured by tales of Stasi gold – might just be the right man for the job after all.

Review

There’s nothing quite like a good old Cold War spy thriller. It’s exactly the right amount of subterfuge, politics, history and action. Dawson manages to accurately capture the atmosphere of the silent war.

I got about three quarters in and wondered how many readers would see Mackintosh as the villain of the piece and not just the protagonist – the British intelligence officer with an axe to grind. There is no doubt about the fact that he uses and treats Walker with contempt.

Mackintosh is ruthless, reckless and not particularly interested in keeping Walker alive, despite the fact he is actually the key to his entire scheme. Again I would make the point that he perhaps isn’t so different than the man he wants to bring to his knees.

It’s a spy thriller – a combination of Kelly’s Heroes meets The Lives of Others. You get the audacity of a man fuelled by greed, and perhaps by the thrill of the impossible task, which is balanced by the lack of compassion and heavy atmosphere of the Cold War scenario.

The Stasi is a chapter in history that is often overshadowed by the events of Nazi Germany and World War II, and the uplifting event of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Those oppressive years of Stasi rule tend to rear their head in books and movies – it’s easy to forget how many lives were controlled and destroyed during those decades.

I can’t decide whether I was more intrigued by the spy storyline or the fact Walker was all gung-ho and I’ll deal with the consequences later. Either way as a reader I definitely want more.

Buy The Vault at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unputdownable eBook – 31 Jan. 2020. Paperback Ind pub 31 Jan 2020 – Audio available 31 October 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Evil Things by Katja Ivar

Today it’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Evil Things by Katja Ivar. It’s a fascinating combo of Cold War political thriller with a hint of Scandi noir and a riveting murder mystery.

About the Author

Katja Ivar grew up in Russia and the U.S. She travelled the world extensively, from Almaty to Ushuaia, from Karelia to Kyushu, before finally settling in Paris where she lives with her husband and three children. She received a B.A. in Linguistics and a master’s degree in Contemporary History from Sorbonne University. Evil Things is her debut novel.

Follow @KatjaIvar @bitterlemonpub 

Buy Evil Things

About the book

Lapland, Finland, 1952. It’s the height of the Cold War and Finland is a snow-smothered powder keg. Sharing a long border with the Soviet Union the country is engaged in a high-wire act of protecting its independence from its sometimes dangerous neighbour. 

Hella Mauzer is the first female Inspector in the Helsinki Homicide Unit. Or was, until she was deemed too ‘emotional’ for the job and reassigned to Lapland. When a man disappears from a remote village on the Soviet border, Hella jumps at the chance to investigate. Her boss is sceptical; after all, people disappear in the snows of Finland all the time. Then a body is found. But the small village of Käärmela is harbouring a second crime. A crime whose evil is of another magnitude.

Review

I can imagine some readers may be inclined to overlook this book because the title suggests something more along the genre of horror. Luckily the blurb allays any such notion, because this is the perfect book for lovers of Scandinavian crime and Cold War fiction to dip into.

I’ll admit it took me by surprise. It is well-written and plotted with a fantastically obnoxious and eccentric main character. I think Hella Mauzer might be my grumpy soul spirit living in the type of freezing environment I would never venture into or live in.

One of the most annoying and most poignant points the author makes in the story is the second-class status of females in the police force during more than the first half of the twentieth century. Women were perceived, as is Mauzer, to be too emotional and fragile to work as effective police officers. They certainly weren’t allowed anywhere near a crime scene. Good gosh, they might cry or be overwhelmed with emotions. They should be at home making babies and baking cookies, waiting for their partners, who clearly have to be chosen by other people, because hey we all know women weren’t capable of making lucid choices for their own future. ‘Sigh.’

Those kind of attitudes are enough to drive anyone to become withdrawn or spend a lifetime pretending to be something they aren’t. They certainly do nothing for the career Hella wants to expand and enjoy. Instead she is blocked, deterred and insulted at every opportunity by the colleagues who should have her back, which leaves her in dangerous situations at times.

Unlike her male colleagues, Hella has a nose for crime. She has a gut instinct for things that just don’t seem quite right, but gut instinct just screams women’s intuition to her boss, which means he ignores her observations.

She heads up to an isolated area in Lapland to investigate the disappearance of a man, after his young grandson is found cold and hungry in their cabin. Everything Hella finds out suggests she would never leave the boy alone for six days, well not voluntarily. So, where the heck is he?

It’s a fascinating combination of Cold War political games with a hint of Scandi Noir, and a riveting murder mystery. The main character and the way she reacts to her environment and other people is what gives this read a flair of eccentric humour. You can almost imagine her stomping off into the cold or interviewing suspects with her brusque and less than charming manner.

I commend Ivar for coming up with a character who has to try and solve crimes within the constraints of misogyny and misguided misconceptions. She is without a doubt a writer to watch out for.

Buy Evil Things on Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press, pub date 11 Jan 2019

Visit bitterlemonpress.com and Buy Evil Things

#BlogTour The River Runs Red by Ally Rose

Today it’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The River Runs Red by Ally Rose. It is certainly more than just a crime story, because it incorporates a complicated time in history and politics to create a captivating read.

About the Author

Ally Rose writes –

“I’ve always been interested in writing crime stories and with the Cold War era, there is such a rich tapestry to draw from; especially the notorious and quelling Stasi reign in East Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, gives a contrast between the different worlds and any past crimes are held to account in a unified Germany.

Berlin is one of my favourite cities, and I’ve spent time living and discovering this diverse city and its surrounding areas. Seeing my characters in familiar places, they seem to come to life.

Hope you enjoy my Hanne Drais books.”

Follow @AllyRoseAuthor @fahrenheitpress on Twitter

Buy The River Runs Red

About the book

Berlin is in the midst of its worst winter in decades. Against the backdrop of freezing temperatures, blizzards and snowstorms, the city refuses to grind to a halt. Lurking within the shadows is a Stasi victim, out for revenge against the former East German informants known as ‘The Ears’. Their dark secrets are about to be exposed.

A mix of ice and water and a single gunshot, provides the ultimate payback.

With the Millennium approaching, Hanne Drais, the criminal psychologist working within the Berlin Mitte Police team led by the irascible Oskar Kruger and his laid-back sidekick, Stefan Glockner, are seeking the perpetrator of these violent crimes.

Who is the man they’ve nicknamed Snowflake? Who is turning the river red?

Review

Like many periods in history the Cold War era and the time before the Berlin Wall fell, has fallen into the bracket of ‘happened and forgotten.’ The true nature and manner of the atrocities committed behind the Wall has only really come to light since Germany became reunited again.

The Stasi and the DDR regime were and are guilty of many horrors, many of which still aren’t common knowledge to the public and the world in general. This includes state ordered steroid use for athletes, which caused a multitude of medical problems in said athletes and their offspring. East Germany was built on betrayal, lies and the premise of every man and woman for themselves. Many people who were reported, spied on and betrayed still travel to Berlin to look up the Stasi documents to discover the person who sold them up the river.

The story follows the investigation into a killer who leaves a very specific mark on his victims, and Rudy the Olympic rower who manages to escape the dangers of East Germany. He appears to be a shoe-in for the role of vengeful killer until the author adds another element of suspicion to the tale.

This is the third book in the Hanne Drais series, and the author purposely adds an element of right or wrong. moral or immoral to the story. Do some people deserve less sympathy or justice depending on their past actions? Would you view a killer differently if they were eliminating people guilty of torture and murder?

It’s hard to understand the rift caused not only by the Berlin Wall, but also the trauma of living under an oppressive regime, whilst the other half of the country was a democracy. Even now, so many years after the reunification the Germans still make distinctions between people from the West and East. I think the strength of the story is definitely Rose shining a light on how methodically cruel the regime was in the East and that the people were expected to just forgive and forget the crimes committed against them when the Wall came down.

This story may hold a few surprises for some readers. It is certainly more than just a crime story, because it incorporates a complicated time in history and politics to create a captivating read.

Buy The River Runs Red at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Buy at Fahrenheit Press Buy at Amazon com

Published by Fahrenheit Press on 24th July 2018.

#BlogTour Half a World Away by Sue Haasler

Today I am thrilled to host the BlogTour for Half A World Away by Sue Haasler featuring a fantastic guest post by Sue Haasler, Titles for Books, and my review.

About the Author

Sue Haasler was born and brought up in Co. Durham and studied English Literature and Linguistics at Liverpool University. After graduating she moved to London and worked for three years as a residential social worker. Since then, she has lived as an administrator for a disability charity, which recruits volunteer carers for disabled adults. Many of the volunteers are from abroad and this is how she met her husband, who is from the former East Berlin.

Sue has written four books, True Colours, Time after Time, Two’s Company (all Orion paperbacks) and Better Than the Real Thing. Two’s Company was optioned for film by Warner Bros. She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorized tie-in to Holby City.

She is married with an adult daughter and lives in London.

Follow @pauseliveaction @DomePress

Visit pauseliveaction.wordpress.com

Buy Half A World Away


About the Book

Charming and talented Alex dreams of becoming a professional saxophonist while working long hours in the family bakery. Detlef, lonely, repressed, and a small-time Stasi informer, develops an obsessive love for him. But Alex only has eyes for Nicky, an English woman visiting East Berlin as an au pair.

With no natural outlet for his feelings, Detlef’s passion becomes destructive, his need for approval enmeshed with the latent homophobia of the regime. As Alex’s band becomes more successful, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere, and Detlef’s passions threaten to endanger all of them.

Guest Post by Sue Haasler

Titles for books

I never find it easy to come up with titles for my books, so I’ve almost always used song titles that resonate with what the story is about. Previously I’ve used two Cyndi Lauper songs (‘Time After Time’ and ‘True Colours’), and my next book will be ‘Another Girl’ – a song by The Beatles, as it’s set in the swinging sixties.

‘Half A World Away’ is a song by REM from their album Out Of Time, which came out a few years after the events of the book. It’s a song I strongly associate with the period when I would often visit my boyfriend (now my husband) in Berlin, where he was a student. He was born and brought up in East Berlin, so even though it was after German reunification it was mainly the eastern part of the city that I got to know. Whenever I hear that REM song it reminds me of Berlin.

East Germany in 1987, the time that the book is mainly set, was half a world away from life in Britain or even West Germany – the same, but distinctly different. Young people were interested in the same things as young people anywhere – music, clothes, sex – but their choices and attitudes were shaped by a state that tried to impose order on its citizens through censorship, regulation and by encouraging them to report any transgressions. There are definitely shades of Orwell’s ‘1984’ in the way that the characters in the book find themselves in trouble with the authorities for behaviour that would be completely innocent anywhere else. The main character, Alex, goes on a journey in his attitude to the country he’s known all his life:

“From the airport over there [in West Berlin], you were allowed to go anywhere in the world: New York, New Orleans, Paris, London. No one got sent to prison for saying their government was corrupt or wrong; you could say what you wanted, even write books full of controversial ideas without anyone saying you were a traitor to the state. You could listen to music without being arrested. You could love anyone you wanted to.”

Review

Haasler couldn’t be more right about the now ex-East Germany being half a world away. If you weren’t there to experience it, it is extremely hard to fathom how an entire country, and of course Berlin for example, could be split in half as if there were a river of molten lava flowing between the two sides.

Half a World Away takes place in 1987, a mere two years or so before the fall of The Wall. The years after World War II are actually much more fascinating and troubling, as the plan to divide Germany between the Allies slowly took on an appearance, and the country was split into two separate ones. Even after many decades of becoming one country again there will be an occasional reference made to the division and the difference between the people from the East or the West. One of the favourite terms for the GDR (DDR as it was known in Germany) used by West Germans was, and often still is, Dunkel Deutschland (Dark Germany). Even after so many years the rift still emerges now and again, more so because the GDR was ruled by such an oppressive and strict regime.

The love story between Alex and Nicky is one that would have been frowned upon, and although Haasler describes the minutiae reporting of Detlef very well, in the confines of this story it sometimes appears to be part of his own obsession. However the people in the GDR were encouraged to spy and report on their fellow countrymen and women in this way. A Big Brother society where no deviation from the state rules or plans were allowed. Letters from and to the West were considered inflammatory. Family, lovers, friends and colleagues spied on each other to keep themselves free of suspicion.

The Stasi files can be accessed in Berlin, and quite a few people have requested permission to see who reported whom or why their loved ones or they themselves ended up in prisons or being punished. The State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD) had many things in common with the previous German regime, a mixture of Gestapo meets KGB.

The author describes the isolation and the lack of development or opportunities for the younger generations really well. Dreams and expectations are weighed up against loyalty and a sense of duty, as opposed to the free thinking minds and paths in life on the other side of Germany. Detlef has trouble adjusting his natural desires to the expectations of the dictatorship he lives in. His choices are rationalised by the rules he is governed by.

Haasler does a fantastic job of balancing the two sides of the coin, and why that broken coin needed to be glued back together. The separation is a distant memory, and yet the consequences are still felt within the country and its people to this day. The author draws an interesting parallel between the political and romantic fallout of this historical separation of mind, matter and state. Simultaneously she keeps the story light-hearted, authentic and free of any political opinions. A riveting read, and a bold combination of love and history.

Buy Half a World Away at Amazon Uk  (Kindle) or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Pre-order Buy Half A World Away (Paperback) Pub. Date 12th April 2018 by Dome Press.

Aftermath by Richard Crowder

aftermathDon’t expect any frivolous details or leaning towards the dramatic, this is a scholars book. Politics and history with an emphasis on the great men in power at the time.

Crowder has also added tidbits of information about those men. Idiosyncrasies, odd habits, power games and even unexpected funerals.

I think even now in the 21st century many of the generations are completely unaware of the Cold War machinations. As we speak or read, the wheeling, dealing and political games of chess are happening behind many a door.

I don’t believe any of it can be compared to the post-war political agendas. The shaping and creation of post-war treaties and alliances by the political greats and leaders of the 20th century.

Crowder has included such a vast amount of details it often seems like overload, and it seems to lack direction, but that may really have to do with the sheer amount of information.

Buy Aftermath at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

ExposureBased in 1960, this Cold War story is a mixture of politics, bureaucracy, spy story and about relationships. In fact I felt as if the emphasis was on family and love, regardless of whether it was hetero or homosexual.

I particularly liked the way Dunmore wrote the confrontational scenes between Lily and the person sent to interview her.

The misconception of people thinking that if you were born in a country it automatically means you can speak the language fluently, despite leaving the country as a young child.

Also the cold reality of naturalisation often only being a pretty bureaucratic word. Once a foreigner always a foreigner is a common reaction and the subconscious thought most people try to suppress

I actually think Lily made a subconscious decision to ‘forget’ her first language. Too many uncomfortable images. memories and anger. As if forgetting her origins would help in the remodelling of her self. She is still very paranoid about being treated differently because of her religion. Lilly looks for the anti-Semite in everyone. Completely normal for survivors and I would say almost a persecution complex, but then perhaps Lily isn’t so paranoid after all.

When Simon is accused of treason and spying Lily finds she has already landed right in the middle of this mess, even before any accusations had started flying. She acts instinctively in an effort to protect her family.

Throughout the turmoil and embarrassment of the accusations Dunmore has woven the two loves of Simon into the fabric of the story. His past and his present, his hidden desires and his open conformity. In their own way the two loves save Simon.

I liked the combination of emotion versus political chess playing, of betrayal versus protection and the backdrop of the minefield of a post-war world.

Buy Exposure at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.