One Rainy Night by Richard Laymon

Another charity shop bargain, as expected. I can’t imagine too many people buy Richard Laymon books new, or if they are available anywhere.

There has been a brutal racially motivated murder of a young man in the town of Bixby. The following night there is a storm. Black rain falls, and anyone who comes into contact with it becomes a homicidal crazy psychopath. Just your regular Richard Laymon splatterpunk special.

That’s about it really. Different groups of people huddle together and try to survive, fighting off the crazies. There’s one group in a local restaurant. Another consisting of a babysitter, her boyfriend and the girl she is sitting. Finally, a group with one of the local policemen, who are actually trying to put an end to it.

The book does feel quite dated as it was first published over 30 years ago. However, there is plenty of gore, plenty of shocks, a few surprises and a couple of people who were already homicidal psychopaths before the rain fell. What more could you ask for?

Reacher, Reacher, Reacher

I don’t want to give the impression that all I’ve done in the last few weeks is read Jack Reacher books, although that isn’t too far from the truth. Me and my lovely wife Helen have spent almost a week in the Lake District enjoying Loughrigg Tarn (read about it here), and with the hot weather we cooled off swimming and lazed about reading. Hopefully we’ll have chance to go back before the end of the summer.

One day I would like to blog about a book within a couple of days of finishing it. At the moment I have 28 books lined up for reviewing. It is my own fault. Last summer I hardly blogged, although I was still reading as much as always. On top of that, my new job involved a train journey to Manchester one day a week, giving me an extra two hours of reading time.

Anyway, here is a review of another four Jack Reacher books.

The Enemy (Book #8)

This is the first book in the series to be set back when Reacher was in the army. If you were to read the books in chronological order, this might be the one to start with.

Reacher finds himself suddenly transferred from active duty in Panama to a more supervisory role in an army camp a long way from anywhere. He also finds out that a number of his contemporaries have also been transferred. Someone high up is playing chess, especially when Reacher finds out that the signature of his commanding officer transferring him was forged.

However, before Reacher can get to the bottom of that, a general is murdered in a seedy motel next to strip club. And then the general’s wife is also found dead. The strippers in the club have been known to earn a little extra by taking soldiers to the motel for an hour, but none of them will admit to being with the general. More importantly, where is the general’s briefcase. Another murder then occurs within the base and Reacher is framed for it. The victim was a well liked member of Delta Force, who are out for revenge. Can Reacher solve the murders before either he is sent to prison, or is killed himself.

As with all Reacher books there is a lot going on here, with a main plot and sub plot, which as expected are intricately linked. The book is also set in a time when being gay in the armed forces wasn’t allowed, even before the don’t ask, don’t say era. I’m pleased to say that Reacher is forward thinking and doesn’t have a problem with gay men and women serving in the army, stating simple statistics that with the armed forces numbering almost one million, there must have been at least 50,000 who were gay.

One Shot (Book #9)

A sniper opens fire just as people are leaving work, killing five. One bullet misses. Within hours the police have arrested a suspect. The evidence is overwhelming. His van is on camera. His fingerprints are on the gun and it’s his gun. When arrested he doesn’t say anything except that you’ve got the wrong man and to get Reacher.

Reacher is three states away when he sees the name of the shooter on the news. He immediately jumps on a bus to get to the city in question as quickly as possible. Reacher is under no illusion that the shooter is guilty and is therefore surprised to find out that the shooter requested his presence. Things get more complicated when the District Attorney’s daughter becomes the defense lawyer. Then Reacher is attacked outside of a bar and again framed for murder.

Another good book with plenty of twists and turns, although the reason’s behind the shooting seem a little contrived and far fetched. The villains also feel contrived, almost wasted in this plotline. I’m also fairly sure that this book was turned into one of the films staring Tom Cruise (too short for the part, just saying).

Nothing To Lose (Book #12)

I know that I’m jumping past book #10 and #11, but I reviewed them over a month ago, back when I wasn’t fussed about reading the books in order.

Reacher finds himself traveling through Colorado. He’s hitching and is dropped off in the small town of Hope. It is too early to stop so Reacher decides to walk the 12 miles to the next town, Despair, with the aim of a coffee, some food and maybe a ride out of the town in the other direction. Instead he is refused service at the only diner and then two hoodlums attempt to teach Reacher a lesson. It doesn’t go well for them, however, they turn out to be Police Deputy’s and Reacher is arrested. Four hours later Reacher is up before a judge on Vagrancy charges, found guilty and driven back to the border between the two towns.

Not one to turn around, Reacher is determined to find out what is going on in the town of Despair with the help of the Sheriff from Hope.

Why does the town of Despair not want anyone staying there? Where is the Sheriff of Hope’s husband? Who are the random women in the motel in Hope? Why is there a unit of Military Police stationed on the other side of Despair.

Another good Reacher book, although the ending is maybe a little big and a little unbelievable. It is alos the first book in the series to have an average score lower than 4 stars, so while I enjoyed it, there have been a number of other readers who have had some issues with the story.

61 Hours (Book #14)

I’m missing out book #13 as it wasn’t available from Music Magpie. I might have to purchase it new!

Anyway, 61 hours is a countdown, but a countdown to what? Probably something that isn’t going to be good, and probably not going to be good for Reacher. It’s winter and Reacher finds himself stranded in Bolton, South Dakota. He was on a bus which crashed due to a blizzard. The police in the town are welcoming, but something is going on. There is a large biker gang a few miles outside of the town who are suspected of making and selling Meth. They are based in an old army base, but why are there no records of the base and what was it used for?

One of the bikers was arrested for dealing meth, and an old woman in the town is due to testify against him. The biker is being held at a relatively new prison, a large prison, also on the outskirts of the town. The Mayor signed a deal whereby if there is a riot or an escape, all of the police in the town have to go to the prison, immediately. If this were to happen, the old woman would be left without police protection, so Reacher offers to help.

On top of this, who is the deranged crime lord from Mexico who is on his way to Bolton, and why?

Another good book in the series, and what the army base is storing is unexpected, as is the explosive ending. We also get to meet, albeit via a phone line, Major Susan Turner, one of the supporting characters in Book #18 Never Go Back, which was also made into a film with Tom Cruise (still too short to play Jack Reacher).

However, there is a definite cliff hanger at the end, so my advice would be not to read book #15 Worth Dying For, until you have read this one.

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Another second hand book I purchased from the excellent Old Pier Bookshop in Morecambe.

The Fireman was first published a few years ago, before Covid, but it is all about a virus that sweeps across the world. This isn’t any regular virus. The virus is given the name Dragonscale because those infected soon become covered in tattoo like tribal markings. Unfortunately, there is a nasty side effect of the virus – spontaneous combustion.

As the virus spreads, the infected are quarantined, sometimes successfully, other times not so much. Harper, a small town nurse trying to help out in the local hospital meets The Fireman, who is trying to save a young boy. Harper’s husband might have contracted the virus, so he leaves, even though Harper is pregnant. The Fireman and a couple of kids come to her aid and welcome her into their commune, where the inhabitants seem to have overcome the small problem of bursting into flames.

Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, and this book definitely follows in the same horror filled vein, much like The Stand, in that both books are long apocalypse themed tomes. The Fireman is too long. There are sections where not a great deal of anything takes place. If I was the editor I would have slimmed the book down by at least a hundred pages, possibly more.

Despite that, the book was an enjoyable read with interesting characters. Also, with all good horror books, the real villains are other humans and not the virus. I gave the book 4 stars, which is almost exactly the average score, although there are a number of scathing reviews. If you like Stephen King then you’ll enjoy this as it is more aligned with his earlier work.

The Royal Lancashire Show

I have fond memories of going to the Surrey Show when I was very young. There was always a marble stall, which for six year old me was the most exciting thing in the world. More recently my parents used to attend the New Forest Show. My mum loved watching the dray horses from various breweries, and my dad enjoyed watching the New Forest Plonkers, who are a similar musical group to the Lancashire Hotpots, but from the south. He also drew a brilliant watercolour of The Plonkers, which is safe with my nephew.

Anyway, the Royal Lancashire Show is similar, in that there were a number of displays, lots of farm animals, plenty of stalls, food and drink, and hundreds of dogs.

First stop was to watch the shirehorses from Thwaites brewery. Magnificent beasts. Huge but incredibly kind and gentle.

We had a good wander around the ground, watched a bicycle display, looked at some pigs, which were very interesting to Nelly. Watched a falconry display, who was having trouble with his birds. One of them tried to attack a Tern, and then the wind was too strong for the owl. We then watched a Shetland Pony grand prix, which was also great fun.

There was a dog agility course which you could pay to have a go with your dog. Nelly declined the opportunity, so instead we entered her into the fun dog show, in the Golden Oldie category.

Nelly wasn’t in the top three, even though she was brilliant. No complaints with the winner. The woman with the green top next to Helen and Nelly won, with her 16 year old dog. She immediately burst into tears, that is how strong the bond is with dogs.

We then had a bit more of a wander and bought some spiced rum from Two Lasses Spirits. The two women had set up their own distillery during lockdown, and their spiced Yorkshire rum was too good not to purchase a bottle.

All in all a great day out, and we even managed to time our escape a few minutes before it started to rain. We’ll definitely be back next year.

Substitute by Susi Holliday

A good premise. You can save the lives of three people that you love, but three people that you don’t like will die in their place.

A stranger appears at the door and offers Chrissie that choice. In a moment of doubt, she signs up for it, thinking that it is a hoax. As expected, within a few days she has to save the life of her best friend. The following day her next door neighbour dies from an unexpected heart attack.

I’m going to keep this review short. The first third of the book drew me in, but beyond that point the plat was telegraphed a mile away. Spoilers: Her father and his best friend were behind the miracle regeneration drug. He best friend is having an affair with her husband. Her mother wasn’t in fact killer by her father.

I often look at reviews on Goodreads and struggle to understand if people had read the same book as me. I gave this 2 stars, one of the poorest scores that I’ve ever given a book. The overall score is 3.7. However, there are numerous 5 star reviews absolutely gushing about how good this book is.

Even More Jack Reacher

I will admit it, along with millions of others, I have become addicted to Jack Reacher. I’ve also started reading them almost in order. The first two books were on offer as e-books, but after that I’ve been searching for them in charity shops and second hand bookshops, which can be a bit random as to what you might find. Music Magpie came to the rescue with five Reachers books for ten pounds; can’t go wrong with that (read about the website here). While my last Jack Reacher book review looked at books #7, #10, #11 and #18, I am now reading them almost in order.

Tripwire (Book #3)

Jack Reacher is running out of money. He’s still wandering the country, but for the last few months he has been digging swimming pools in Key West during the day, and working as a doorman at a strip club in the evenings. When a Private Investigator finds him, Reacher pretends that he isn’t who he is, until the PI is found dead. Two ‘goons’ then show up looking for Reacher, who leave alive but with a few bumps and bruises. Reacher then goes on the hunt back to New York to follow the trail of the PI, bumping into the grown up daughter of his former army boss.

The trail leads back to a helicopter pilot, who appeared to be a hero until he suddenly deserted, and what has this to do with a company that has short term financial difficulties.

This was probably about the 8th book in the series that I read, and going back near to the start of the series I noticed a few differences in the style. It almost felt as if this was the first book where Reacher was developing as a character. The first time that he makes mistakes. Books #1 and #2 he comes across as almost super human, and here he shows us that he isn’t infallible, which is a welcome addition.

Running Blind (Book #4)

The author and publisher are keen to stress that the books can be read in any order. I don’t think that is completely true. There is quite a lot of overlap in books #3 and #4, as well as allowing us to see why Reacher became a long term wanderer or ‘hobo’.

Reacher is still in New York, he has a house, a car and a girlfriend. He isn’t sure about the first two, but without them he is likely to lose his girlfriend. One evening, Reacher is enjoying a meal in a new restaurant, when he notices the owner being given a shake down for protection money. Reacher intervenes and sends the hired muscle to the hospital. Reacher is then promptly arrested by the FBI for murder.

A serial killer is on the loose who is killing ex-military. Specifically women who left the army after making official complaints about sexual harassment. Reacher was the military policemen in charge of two of these cases. Under duress he is held by the FBI as an unofficial assistant, although he remains under lock and key. Something doesn’t add up.

Echo Burning (Book #5)

In the sweltering heat in Texas, Reacher has to make a sudden escape when the police come looking for him. Its too early to catch a bus, so his only hope is to hitch a ride before the police catch up with him. He knows that it will be highly unlikely that he’ll find a ride, until an attractive Mexican woman picks him up. She wants him to kill her husband, who is currently in jail on tax evasion charges, but has made a deal to be released early. The woman states that upon his release he will continue beating her as he did before. She has no money and can’t escape without her young daughter.

Reacher obtains a job at the ranch were she lives and is immediately on alert. He is then arrested on spurious charges, but while being driven to the police station a call on the radio comes in saying that the woman has shot her husband dead.

The family that the Mexican woman married into are rich, white and racist. What is the DA hiding? Who are the mysterious killers on the loose? Is the woman lying about her background?

Without Fail (Book #6)

Reacher is hired to kill the vice-president elect. To be more accurate, he is hired as an outside contractor to look at ways that the VP could potentially be murdered. The new head of the secret service is convinced that the recent threats made towards the VP could be coming from inside her organisation. To complicated things she used to work with, and subsequently date, Reacher’s older brother Joe a number of years before he died.

Reacher finds numerous places where the VP is at risk, and along with his former colleague Francis Neagley, they set about aiding the secret service in finding who is trying to kill the VP.

Is the threat from within? Have a number of clues been missed? Why has the VP suddenly been targeted?

All the Jack Reacher books reviewed here are page turners, although the reviews on Goodreads can be quite surprising. There are more than a few 2 or 3 star reviews, many complaining about poor editing or major plot holes and continuity issues. All of the books here have scores slightly above 4 stars, which is fair, as I gave all four of these books 4 stars as well.

What appeals to me? Mostly the books are incredibly easy to read. I often skim pages, knowing that it is unlikely that I’ll miss anything too vital. There is a certain amount of righteous justice prevailing throughout the series. Reacher doesn’t injure or kill anyone who doesn’t deserve it, and while the overall theme in each book might not change, each book is highly entertaining.

What is also interesting is the changes in 1st person and 3rd person narratives. Some Reacher books are fully written from his perspective in 1st person. Other books are totally third person. A couple of books are 1st person for Reacher and 3rd person for other characters. Writing rules would probably state that you shouldn’t mix and match narratives this way.

There are some multi-million selling authors out there that for the life of me can’t understand the appeal (Dan Brown, EL James, etc), but for me Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is a compelling character. I also like that fact that nearly all of the books that I’ve read so far have been bought second hand. I don’t think Lee Child will miss the additional income.

Ormskirk Parkrun

On a day with country-wide heat wave warnings, Ormskirk was a little cloudy, some wind, and perfect running conditions. I was also on my own, as Ormskirk Parkrun is held on Edge Hill University Campus and is dog free. Helen decided to stay at home with Nelly.

I arrived a little early, as is my way, and had a look around the course, which looked fairly straight forward. One small lap and two larger laps, with a loop around the outside of the running track. Toilets were in the sports centre, which was very clean and the staff nice and friendly.

There were a few announcements at the start, a couple of people completing their 50th parkruns, and a woman who was visiting from Australia. I didn’t feel the need to announce that I’d come all the way from Lancaster after that.

I lined up at the start in a position I thought would be OK, only to find myself hemmed in as I struggled to overtake. I definitely need to push my way closer to the front when I’m not running with Nelly. Anyway, I soon found my pace and after almost 1km I overtook an older woman as we completed the first smaller loop. Onto the larger loop and I continued to overtake a few people, and then lap people, including a woman pushing a double buggy with a small boy who wasn’t happy. I then almost missed the turn for the finish.

Amazingly I finished in 13th place overall, and 1st in my age group. 30 seconds behind me the older woman who I had passed early on finished. She was in the 65-69 age group and recorded an age graded result of over 90%. My best result this year is 73%.

Ormskirk was my 138th parkrun, and my 47th different location. I ticked off ‘O’ from the Alphabet challenge, as well as 33rpm of the Record Breakers challenge. It was also my NENDY, with my new NENDY being Cliffe Castle in Keighly.

A Town Called Discovery by RR Haywood

An interesting book, even if the first part of the books feels repetitive, violent and fairly bleak. There are two main characters, a man and a woman. We don’t find out their names for quite a while. The man finds himself falling into the ocean, breaking his legs and drowning. Like a video game, everything resets, and he wakes up falling again, and dies again. He realizes that the only way forward is to survive the fall into the ocean, without breaking his legs. Eventually he manages this, only to find his next challenge is to climb a steep cliff, without any aid. Eventually he survives this to be confronted by attack dogs, followed by a dozen masked men trying to kill him. As I said, the start of the book is very violent and very bleak.

After surviving every challenge, sometimes with the help of the woman, sometimes having to kill her, the man finds himself in what looks to be an ordinary small American town called Discovery. Everyone in the town has passed the same challenges that he did, even apparently the old woman who runs the diner.

The town isn’t real. It is part of an AI computer simulation. The world has ended, and the men and women of the town have been trained via the initial challenges, and are sent on missions back in time to change the course of history, and ultimately ensure the survival of the world.

There are some very funny moments later on in the book, not with standing this, there is a great deal of violence. The book is definitely open to a sequel, although RR Haywood has written a trilogy in a similar vein, with time travelling operatives trying to alter history, but from a different viewpoint.

I gave the book 4 stars, although the average rating on Goodreads is 4.25. RR Haywood has also written a series of books all about the undead rising, which is depicted to be an accurate portrayal of what would actually happen is the dead did become flesh eating zombies. I imagine that I will find that series of books right up my street.

Loughrigg Tarn

We spent the weekend camping at Tarn Foot Farm. It was so good I was tempted to give it a one star review on Trip Advisor so that no one else goes there. The campsite was basic. There were toilets and a tap, and that was all of the facilities. However, it was two minutes walk from Loughrigg Tarn, with its own private ‘beach’.

The Tarn was perfect for swimming. A full loop of the Tarn was just under 1km, and it was warm enough to swim without a wetsuit. We took it in turns as Nelly doesn’t like it when we go swimming, so one of us would look after her.

There was also a footpath direct to Ambleside, which was about two and a half miles. We did the walk on the Sunday morning, had coffee and cake and then walked back, before going for another swim.

It was an absolute perfect weekend away, and even though the campsite was fairly busy on the Friday and Saturday nights, it wasn’t noisy and everyone was friendly. We stayed the Sunday night as well, because Sunday night at a campsite is a wonderful time.

In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we’re going back for another three nights next week.

GPS Error

You might have noticed some GPS drift on your activities in the last few weeks, or even a run that was way off course. It happened to me a few times, as you can see below.

The walk above wasn’t too far off course, but a couple of other activities were far more wrong. This has occurred with fairly new watches from Garmin, Suunto and Polar, and is all to do with the GPS chip made by Sony.

Every few days a file is sent to the various Apps, which is then sent to your watch. This file contains details of where the satellites will be over the next few days, allowing your watch to find GPS reception much quicker. Quite clever when you think about it.

However, this file has been wrong a couple of times, hence why there has been GPS drift. Garmin have assured everyone that the problem is fixed, but you might want to sync your watch with Garmin Connect via your laptop if the issue persists. It also happened about 18 months ago, and Garmin said at the time that the problem was fixed and wouldn’t happen again.