Cops Behaving Badly  

Category: Author Post



It’s that time of year again, when we frolic on the dark side, flirt with bad spirits and inexplicably spurn perfectly-functioning reverse digits to ‘bob’ for apples.

As I turn off the houselights, hide my confectionary and sit in the dark until it’s all over, it seems the perfect moment to celebrate those perennial anti-heroes of Hollywood: the bad ass cop.


In my novels Alone with the Dead and Dance with the Dead, main character Donal Lynch is a rookie cop propelled into the ‘dark side’ every time he encounters a freshly-murdered body. Like all the fiendishly-immoral, deviant characters in the list that follows, he doesn’t so much wrestle with his inner demons, as dust them down and take them out for a gloriously irreverent can-can before the bewildered faces of authority.




No.5 Captain McCluskey [Sterling Hayden]: The Godfather, 1972


Bent Irish mob patsy Captain McCluskey isn’t just irredeemably corrupt, he breaks Michael Corleone’s manly-but-tender jaw in an eye-watering fit of pique. What joy then when Al Pacino spoils his Italian lunch by despatching a slug into his great big Irish potato head before he even has the chance to order a Machiatto.


No.4 Captain Louis Renault [Claude Reins]: Casablanca, 1942

The police chief of the Vichy-controlled Moroccan capital cosies up to Nazis, inveigles young immigrant women into his bed and sends noble political refugees back to Europe and certain death.

But Renault, played with oily urbane charm by Reins, finds redemption and ‘beautiful friendship’ in the shape of Bogart’s crumpled, lovelorn but oh-so -manly reluctant hero.


No. 3 Bad Lieutenant [Harvey Keitel], 1992

Although the title somewhat gives it away, Keitel’s unnamed degenerate plumbs fresh depths of depravity during a routine traffic stop that will make you think twice about unwinding the window next time you’re pulled over. No amount of AA / RAC marketing could have sent so many motorists scampering out of the cinema to check on the functionality of their tail lights. At least he isn’t sporting his ‘Winston the wolf’ moustache in this one. Only he and de Niro can make facial hair look so sinister, or comedic [check out Mr Potato Head de Niro in Cop Land.


No.2 Captain Dudley Smith [James Cromwell]; LA Confidential, 1997

Forget about framing suspects, stealing drugs and whacking cops, Cromwell’s singular most=heinous crime in this classic has to be his Orish accent [why are bent cops always Irish?].


No.1 Gerry Boyle [Brendan Gleeson]: The Guard, 2011

He may pop drugs [albeit opportunistically], sleep with prostitutes, strike deals with IRA men and make racist comments… no, not the latest Tory Northern Ireland minister… but the anti-hero to top all others. Writer and all-round genius John Michael McDonagh and actor Brendan Gleeson deliver a true Irish Marlowe, a knight errant figure and soulful rebel who lives by an Homeric code of honour, albeit his own.




A brave new world – by Jackie Baldwin, author of DEAD MAN’S PRAYER

Category: Author Post

The irony of being published as an ebook has not been lost on me. All my life, I have been easily frustrated by technology and prefer to use pen and paper and speak to a ‘real person.’ I used to run a busy court department with one large hard backed diary. My system was never down. I have allowed myself to fall so far behind with modern technology, I fear I may never catch up.

If I had a time machine, I would send back the following tips to myself…

  • That thing you found on your desk after maternity leave and called ‘the abomination?’ Get it back out of the cupboard and learn to deal with it. Computers are not malign entities out to get you, (yet!)
  • Get a move on with that book you plan on writing. You need time lapse photography to show progress that slow.
  • Do not snort, roll your eyes and paw the ground like a bull when you see a Kindle for the first time. One day you’re not only going to be using one, your book is going to be on one. You are going to have so many books on that Kindle it is going to resemble a literary black hole with its own gravity field.
  • When your husband buys you a Smart phone do not thank him, smile sweetly, and ask him to take it back to the shop. Learn how to use it. You will also be able to chat on it to an AI called Siri and ask it meaningful questions in the hope that you will one day get a sentient reply.
  • Start going to parties, or store openings or anywhere with crowds of people in preparation for attending crime festivals. Practise your opening conversational gambits in the checkout at Tesco.
  • Engage with social media. Change your Facebook settings so that you are not the only one who can see your posts. Oh and do some posts. Nothing terrible will happen if you post that is raining. (Usually, but subject to the usual disclaimers).
  • One day you will be on something called Twitter and make tweets of 147 characters or less. I mean it, stop laughing!
  • You will go on a blog tour. No it’s nothing to do with rock music and you can’t buy a T-shirt. No you don’t need a suitcase or a tour bus. Organise this in plenty of time if you want to maintain a tenuous grasp on your sanity.
  • You will have to read from your book in public. Wear a stiff unyielding fabric that won’t tremble with you.

That about covers it.

Oh, and enjoy every single crazy moment!

Jackie Baldwin’s chilling debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer is out now in ebook. Buy it now.




The story behind… A BURNABLE BOOK, by Bruce Holsinger

Category: News


This week sees the publication of A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger, a stunning debut historical thriller set in the turbulent 14th Century. We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Bruce to the Killer Reads blog today, to talk about the fascinating story behind this epic novel…


Crime, corruption, international conspiracy, deadly prophecies and missing manuscripts, English prostitutes and Italian mercenaries: A Burnable Book is a historical thriller that tells a big story with a lot of moving parts.

While writing the novel I often felt that I was scripting an episode of The Wire—but setting it in medieval England rather than present-day America! At its heart, though, A Burnable Book tells a more intimate story about a real-life friendship, and it was imagining the dark sides of this particular historical friendship that inspired me to begin sketching out the larger tale told in the novel.


John Gower, our deeply flawed protagonist, was an English poet who lived in the late fourteenth century—the age of Richard II, John of Gaunt, and Henry Bolingbroke, whose lives are so vividly recreated in several of William Shakespeare’s history plays. This was also the age of Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, and generally regarded as the greatest English writer before the Bard. Despite his prolific career and his featured role in Shakespeare’s Pericles, though, Gower has always suffered by comparison to his more illustrious contemporary. Yet Gower and Chaucer were close and perhaps life-long friends. We know about this friendship from several sources, including a document granting Gower power of attorney during one of Chaucer’s mysterious trips to Italy. They both lived in and around London (Chaucer over Aldgate, Gower across the bridge in Southwark) and must have swapped poetry and discussed their writing on a regular basis.

There are also several fascinating moments in which the two men speak to one another within the lines of their poetry. One of these is an intriguing stanza that comes near the end of Troilus and Criseyde. It begins like this (and I’m modernizing the Middle English):

Oh Moral Gower! This book I direct

To thee, and to thee, philosophical Strode,

To approve, and where there’s need, to correct…

In calling his friend “Moral Gower,” Chaucer portrays his friend as the morally upright fellow that tradition has assumed him to be. This is a view seemingly validated by Gower’s own poetry, which can tend to be rather plodding, severe, and, yes, moralistic. (“Philosophical Strode,” incidentally, is Ralph Strode, a medieval London lawyer who also plays an important role in the novel.)

The protagonist of A Burnable Book is a more…let’s say compromised Gower. We all have at least one difficult friendship, full of petty jealousies and unspoken resentments. One of the guilty pleasures of writing this novel has come in portraying the darker sides of Gower’s character and of his friendship with Chaucer.

The story begins as Chaucer sets Gower on the trail of a lost book of prophecies—a book with explosive implications for the realm, but also for the complicated relationship between these two old friends. As the bigger story plays out in the arena of city politics and international intrigue, Gower must confront the more intimate balance of loyalty and betrayal as it bears on his closest friendship, his family, and his own life.

I suppose all of this explains why I love writing historical fiction—and also teaching it to college students (in my day job I’m an English professor at the University of Virginia). Historical fiction allows you to tell big, sweeping stories about the past, yet forces you to ground these stories in the difficult intricacy of human relationships and rivalries.

No one understood these tensions more deeply than John Gower. As he put it near the end of his greatest work, “I know not how the world is went.”

– Bruce Holsinger


A Burnable Book publishes on Thursday 30th January – order your copy today!

Read an extract now on Scribd

Listen to an extract now on SoundCloud