My review of THE BALLAD OF DELTA ROSE by Jack Martin
Grim stuff, this. After more than 20 years away, Delta returns to the ranch he started with Etta James. He upped and left, itchy to make it rich elsewhere. He always planned on coming back – but it took him over two decades to get around to it. The main reason probably had something to do with the bullet lodged in his chest, working its way towards his heart. Delta was on borrowed time.
When he learns that he has a son by Etta, and the boy’s running with the wrong crowd, Delta finds a reason for living. If only for a little while longer – so he can seek redemption and turn the boy away from the road of crime.
Jack Martin’s third novel is sombre affair about lost chances. There’s some good writing in here, too:
“With death peering over a man’s shoulder, its icy breath felt on the back of a man’s neck, everything was enhanced. The cobalt sky was saturated and the landscape vividly exaggerated.”
Etta has problems, it seems, not only from her wayward son. Despotic Maxwell King owns half the town and now wants to own her. Which isn’t too surprising, since Etta’s “beauty was more than physical. It came from within, a radiance that positively shone in her eyes.”
There’s also a humorous cross-reference to the earlier novel, Arkansas Smith.
Delta is a man of few words, but, despite his days being numbered, he won’t compromise on right and wrong. He’ll fight for what is right. Which makes him a dangerous man – since he has nothing to lose. Recommended.
Q & A
Your first book The Tarnished Star was published in 2009 and since then you’ve had 9 books published.
The Ballad of Delta Rose
Wild Bill Williams
The Afterlife of Slim McCord
Granny Smith Investigates
Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs
The Dead Walked book 2 – Dead Days
Strangely enough Tarnished Star didn’t take long to gestate but rather arrived in my mind almost fully formed. I’d tried several novels before but these were usually in the crime/thriller genre and none seemed to work and yet as soon as I decided to write a western the character of Cole Masters, who I saw as a kind of cross between John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, popped into my head and I knew what the basic idea of his story would be and the rest just came as I wrote. I re-read the novel recently and although I think I’ve progressed a bit since that first one I think the story still reads well and the tale holds together. I’ve a lot of respect for Cole Masters and do have plans to revisit him one day but then again I’ve had those plans for a long time so maybe he’ll return and maybe he won’t.
In many ways, second novels are easier, because you’ve learned a lot from the first. (Some feel cursed by the expectations implicit in a second novel after a successful first one). You quickly produced a second book, featuring Police Inspector Frank Parade in The Welsh Ripper Killings. Was the second one easier?
I think the second book was a lot more difficult but only because the story was much more complex and I was dealing with a lot of historical fact. I had to get the details of the Ripper Killings correct and work these facts into my own fiction so that my story made sense. I must be honest and admit that I don’t think the book’s done as well sales-wise as I expected. I think it’s yet to really find its audience. I’m very proud of that book and will certainly be writing about Inspector Frank Parade again. Perhaps I’ll tackle his second story when readers discover the first book. The answer the book gives to the Ripper killings is, I think, unique and may even be the truth. Who can say?
How long have you been writing?
Forever and a day. I used to write novels, or at least what I called novels, when I was a kid. In longhand in school exercise books and although these so-called novels rarely went longer than ten pages, they certainly felt like books to little old schoolboy me. I think I started writing seriously in my twenties but it took until I was forty to have my first novel accepted. Though before that I had managed to place a story with BBC Radio Four as well as selling to magazines like Interzone, Samhain, Skeleton Crew and several others. I’ve always wanted to tell stories and I love the art of writing, the way when you enter that special zone the world around you ceases to exist and you become one with the story.
What influenced you to start?
My mother taught me to read and my grandfather used to tell me wild stories of his own invented adventures – between them they gave me my love of reading and storytelling. There’s nothing finer than looking at a blank page and then filling that space with words that magically work together to create something where there was nothing.
There is also the fact that I devoured comic books when I was a kid, and I was also a big TV viewer. I learned very early in life that great excitement could be had from fictional stories, that all things could be explored. In many ways I think comic book writers like John Wagner and Pat Mills have influenced me as much as authors like Louis L’Amour, George Gillman, Raymond Chandler, Donald Westlake, Tom Sharpe and Ian Fleming. On the face of it, they may seem like very different writers but they all have one thing in common, and that is the ability to create a world that becomes utterly real to the reader. And that’s what I want to do – I don’t want to be a serious writer in the sense of literary writers, but rather to entertain, to grip readers as tightly as say Stephen King does. I want to create beauty on the page and I want to somehow work my way into my readers’ hearts.
How do your family/friends feel about your writing?
I think you’d have to ask them about that but to be honest my family are really supportive, while my friends think I’m the same dickhead I always was. But seriously, friends and family are important and I love and cherish each and every one of them. And that’s including the community of friends I’ve gathered from my writing and online life. Love you all and hope my Facebook status messages entertain you.
You write in more than one genre: you’ve published western, crime with humour, and horror. Is there a genre you haven’t tried but would like to?
I’m due to publish another Granny Smith adventure so at the moment I’m working in the humour/crime genres, but I’ve another western on the backburner too. I don’t think there’s any genre I particularly want to try nor is there one I think I wouldn’t try. I suppose it comes story to story and, who knows, I may one day end up writing erotic industrial thrillers, but I think that whatever genres I work in, there is a good deal of humour.
My last western Wild Bill Williams contained much humour and my next one (published this November) The Afterlife of Slim McCord contains a lot of gentle character driven humour. I do like humour and think that maybe the fact that I’ve done some stand-up comedy means that I tend to see the funny sides of the blackest of situations. That’s not to say I pepper my work with jokes but I think that fully drawn characters will often bring humour with them. We all like to smile and I hope my work brings as many smiles as it does thrills.
Tell us a little more about THE AFTERLIFE OF SLIM MCCORD
I really do think that this is a different kind of western. For one thing, that main character plays a very active part in the story, despite being a mummified corpse. The book is told through the point of view of two aged outlaws who come across the mummified remains of Slim McCord, the man they once rode with, and after stealing his mummy in order to give him a decent burial, end up involved in the most audacious robbery of their careers. The three outlaws are together again but one of them is dead. Though you’d never tell from the way he plays out his part in the story…
Hale loved the book and I do too. I think it may even bring a tear to the eyes as well as telling a pretty traditional western tale. You know, in terms of imaginative storytelling I think this book will take some beating.
The new Granny Smith is due this December. Tell us about it.
I love Granny – that pipe smoking Miss Marple on steroids, that Batman with dentures. The new book’s called The Welsh Connection and sees Granny on holiday in Disneyland Paris and having to solve a murder. It’s another fast-paced, fun-filled read in the farcical tradition of Tom Sharpe with just a twist of Agatha Christie and a smattering of Conan Doyle.
The Granny series grows with each book and the lives of the secondary characters are built upon. In many ways, I think the series is a satire of both crime thrillers and soap operas. I also love the fact that Granny doesn’t give a shit for political correctness and is not afraid to say the things than we all think from time to time. She’s an anti-establishment figure and someone who won’t take growing old lying down. What, after all, is age? You can be an old twenty-one-year-old and a young seventy-five-year-old. Granny’s also been very popular and continues to be so with pretty strong sales.
A tall order, I know, but what is your favourite book? And why?
This answer would change from day to day. Wow, that’s a difficult one to answer. In fact that’s an impossible question since I’ve got so many favourite books. I think that maybe the book I’ve read more times than any other is Casino Royale by Ian Fleming and I think that grim little story contains most of the elements common to all of my favourite books. In this book Ian Fleming gave the reader a pace that is truly breathtaking, and at the same time managed to create this world that is tremendously larger than life and yet somehow seems utterly realistic. The character of James Bond here truly is the man every man would want to be and every woman would want to be with. You can’t get better than that. It’s a totally escapist story and that’s what I think all great fiction should be – an escape from the mundane realities of this world we live in.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
Sitting at a nicer desk, in a nicer house with a bigger readership. I just hope that in five years time I’ve created at least half a dozen new worlds and entertained many more readers with those imagined worlds. I also want to be the next Doctor Who, the creator of something really addictive and an aging sex symbol…
Your blog Tainted Archive has been around since 2008. Can you tell us how this came about?
I’m proud of the Archive. It started out as somewhere to pimp my books but it developed into some kind of anarchistic blog-cum-magazine that covers pretty much everything. I think it’s somewhere where anything can crop up and I think that for all the nonsense on there you will often find something that will raise a smile… I’ve spent my life trying to make people smile.
Where can readers find you?
The Tainted Archive http://tainted-archive.blogspot.co.uk/
The Welsh Ripper Killings - http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Welsh-Ripper-Killings-ebook/dp/B00CQ35194/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382937924&sr=1-1
Thank you, Gary.