Monday 31 December 2018

No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister @GillianMAuthor @PenguinUKBooks #NoFurtherQuestions

The police say she's guilty.
She insists she's innocent.
She's your sister.
You love her.
You trust her.
But they say she killed the person you care about most.

No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister was published by Penguin in paperback on 4 October 2018. My thanks to the author and the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This is the author's third book, I've read all three of her books now and have been a fan from day one. This one is her best, the others are great, but there's such a depth to the writing within No Further Questions and the plot is unlike anything that I've read before; this author has certainly dealt with a subject matter that could be considered fairly controversial and it was brave of her, but she's done with with finesse and skill.

The central theme to No Further Questions is a court case. Becky is accused of the murder of eight-week old Layla. Becky was the baby's nanny; trusted to care for her whilst her parents were working. Little Layla was discovered in her cot one morning. Blue and cold and no longer alive. Initially, Layla's death was assumed to be a cot death, until the results of the post mortem were received. This was not a natural death; Layla had been smothered to death.

Becky was Layla's aunt. The baby's mother Martha is her sister. As sisters they are very different, yet they were so close before this happened. Martha was happily married, she'd just set up a charity; working with refugee children in Kos. Becky was a single mother to eleven-year old Xander, her marriage had broken up, she hated her job. When Martha suggested that she should care for Layla, she was delighted to accept the offer. However, Layla was a bad sleeper and the her constant crying would try the patience of a saint.

Gillian McAllister excels in creating relationships. Her insight into the sibling relationship between Becky and Martha is remarkable, and at no time did I doubt or question how Martha could continue to love and support her sister, despite what she'd been accused of. It's clear from the detailed court scenes that the author has not only done a huge amount of research, but that she's drawn on her own experience as a lawyer.  The structure of the novel is clever, and the reader is introduced to all of the supporting characters, as well as those on the edge that are called as witnesses in the case.

I'll admit that I had worked out what happened to Layla before the big reveal. However, this didn't spoil my enjoyment of this deliciously written and intricate story at all. I may have worked out what happened, but the author's wonderfully sensitive handling of the story almost brought me to tears towards the end. She has such a skill, her writing is so skilled and emotionally charged.

What a fabulous novel. Compelling and utterly heartfelt. Highly recommended.

Gillian McAllister has been writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated with an English degree and lives in Birmingham.

Her debut novel Everything But The Truth was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Anything You Do Say followed in January 2018 and was both a kindle and paperback bestseller. No Further Questions was published in autumn 2018. 

You can find her on Twitter @GillianMAuthor

The Thing About Clare by Imogen Clark @imogenclark @AmazonPub @ed_pr #TheThingAboutClare

A dying wish. A devastating secret. Should the truth really stay buried?
The four Bliss siblings have a loving but complicated bond, but when their mother, Dorothy, dies seemingly without a will, this relationship is put to the test. As the mourning siblings try to make sense of the situation, one of them is caught with a secret: before she died, Dorothy entrusted her favourite daughter with her will and a letter—and told her to destroy them both.
Of course it was Anna their mother turned to for this mission. Miriam, the eldest, is far too sensible; Sebastian, the baby, too sensitive; and Clare, the middle child, has always been too rebellious to rely on, and long ago cut herself out of her siblings’ lives.
But what Anna finds in the documents could change everything. Do the other siblings not deserve to know what it is about them that their mother was so desperate to hide? And if it is revealed, will the Bliss family ever be the same again?

The Thing About Clare by Imogen Clark was published in paperback on 1 November by Lake Union / Amazon Publishing. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I do love a story about families and Imogen Clare has written an extremely readable and enjoyable novel in The Thing About Clare; concentrating on four siblings and their parents.

The story begins in 2015, at the funeral of Dorothy, the mother of Anna, Miriam, Clare and Sebastian. Anna has always been the most favoured child; the youngest daughter, the one who was sent out to play rather than be expected to pull her weight with chores. However, Anna now has a heavy burden to bear. Before she died, Dorothy told her to take her Will and a letter addressed to Clare and destroy them, and to tell nobody else.

Of course, like most of us, Anna felt unable to do this and is now privy to long kept secrets that could tear the whole family apart. What should she do?

Imogen Clark takes her readers back to the 1960s when Dorothy is a new mother, coping almost single-handedly with fractious baby Miriam as her husband Frank goes out to work. I especially loved these glimpses back in time where we were able to watch the family grow with each new birth, and see how Dorothy changed as a woman, and a mother.

The author cleverly and carefully moves back and forth to the present day, with viewpoints from each family member, enabling the reader to learn so much more about each character.

The Thing About Clare is a beautifully constructed, intelligently written story of family and secrets. I especially loved the 1970s setting; with memories of punk rock and the Silver Jubilee wonderfully portrayed.

An excellent story about families and how they make us what we are and what we will become.

Written with precision and skill, The Thing About Clare is a novel that I found difficult to put down and would recommend highly.

Bestselling author Imogen Clark writes contemporary women’s fiction about the secrets that hide at the heart of the families that she creates. She lives in Yorkshire with her husband and children (who hopefully have no such secrets to tell!)

Imogen’s first book POSTCARDS FROM A STRANGER reached the top of the Amazon Kindle Charts in both the UK and Australia. H

Imogen initially qualified as a lawyer but after leaving her legal career behind to care for her four children, she returned to her first love - books. She went back to University, studying part-time whilst the children were at school and graduated with a BA in English Literature with First Class Honours.

Imogen’s great love is travel and she is always planning her next adventure. If you’d like to connect then please visit her website at where you can also download a FREE heartwarming short story, The Bucket List, when you subscribe to her email list. 

Imogen can also be found on Facebook and Twitter @imogenclark

Sunday 30 December 2018

Four Feet Under: Thirty untold stories of homelessness in London by Tamsen Courteney @TamsenC_Writer @unbounders #FourFeetUnder

Tamsen Courtenay spent two months speaking to people who live on London’s streets, the homeless and the destitute – people who feel they are invisible. With a camera and a cheap audio recorder, she listened as they chronicled their extraordinary lives, now being lived four feet below most Londoners, and she set about documenting their stories, which are transcribed in this book along with intimate photographic portraits.

A builder, a soldier, a transgender woman, a child and an elderly couple are among those who describe the events that brought them to the lives they lead now. They speak of childhoods, careers and relationships; their strengths and weaknesses, dreams and regrets; all with humour and a startling honesty.

Tamsen’s observations and remarkable experiences are threaded throughout. The astonishing people she met changed her for ever, as they became her heroes, people she grew to respect. You don’t have to go far to find these homegrown exiles: they’re at the bottom of your road. Have you ever wondered how they got there?

Four Feet Under: Thirty Untold Stories of Homelessness in London by Tamsen Courteney was published in hardback by Unbound on 23 August 2018.
I discovered this book via Social Media, I saw the author talking about it and was intrigued and purchased a copy straight away.

This is a book that is very difficult to read; not because it is badly written, or because the subject matter is uninteresting, no far from it. It is full of human stories; stories that are so emotional, so raw and so downright unfair in this day and age. It's a book that took me a long time to read. I would read one chapter and then have to put it down, to go away, to think about what I'd read.

The book evoked those feelings in me every time I picked it up, but I also felt a sense of guilt and shame for feeling like that. Here are people who are living on the street, with no home, no warm and comfortable beds, sometimes no food for days. They are often the subject of violence and abuse ... from people like me .... people who are fortunate enough to be able to go home at the end of the night and climb into a clean, warm bed, in the knowledge that they will wake in the morning and be able to make themselves a cup of tea and a slice of toast.

Tamsen Courtney's stories do make me feel guilty. Even though I donate regularly to homeless charities, I give money to people sitting in doorways and often buy them food and a hot drink. I do my best to acknowledge them, to smile and show an interest, yet I still feel guilty .... I think that we should all feel a little shame that human beings are forced to sleep outside, in the coldest of winter nights and that they are not safe there.

I so admire this author. She got off her arse and she did something. She hasn't changed the lives of the people that she spoke to; they are still homeless, still hungry, still dirty. However, she gave them her time. She often put herself in danger whilst speaking with them. She treated them as equals, she gave them the opportunity to speak honestly about their situation. She never doubted them, or patronised them. She gave them their voice.

The common theme in all of these interviews is that becoming homeless could happen to any of us. You will hear from people who had responsible jobs, who were married, who owned houses; who were just like most of us.  However, it doesn't take much for things to change and reading these narratives really does bring it home to the reader, just how simple it can be to go from being a home owner to being the owner of nothing except the clothes on your back and a sheet of cardboard.

There are desperately sad stories here, and sadly, the saddest stories were usually those told by women. Not only do they have to put up with the cold and the hunger and the dirt, but for most of them, they have to deal with predatory males; with sexual abuse, even rape. It's heartbreaking and disgusting.

This is one of the most powerful books that I've read for many years. The people featured really affected me. I felt humbled by their stories, and sad, and angry. I admire the author so much, she's put together a collection of human stories so very well. It's a testament to her writing and journalist skills.

Tamsen's first book Four Feet Under is a collection of first hand accounts from homeless people in London:who they are and how they survive. As a photographer her work is accompanied by intimate and moving images. 

Her website is

Find her on Twitter @TamsenC_Writer

She loves music that makes her cry and people that make her laugh. She worries about the fate of the world, is astonishingly accident-prone and totally useless in the kitchen. She is a magnet for sick animals.

She lives most of the time, with her husband, in rural Italy where her region was struck by a long series of earthquakes - read about all that, here:

Before beginning her new career as a 'Modern-Day Chronicler' Tamsen worked as an investigative journalist for prestigious television current affairs programs in Britain: BBC 'Panorama' and C4 'Dispatches'. It was here she became drawn to exploring the darker sides of life and those that are often hidden from view.

She is planning to start on her second book in spring 2019.

Thursday 27 December 2018

The Rumour by Lesley Kara @LesleyKara @TransworldBooks #TheRumour @alisonbarrow

When single mum Jane shares a rumour at the school gates – desperate to ingratiate herself with the clique of mothers at her son’s new school – there is no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea. 

Sally McGowan was just ten when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death over 47 years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives amongst them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Jane go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

Jane is going to rue the day she ever said a word . . .

The Rumour by Lesley Kara is published in hardback by Bantam Press / Transworld on 27 December 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I was very lucky and very honoured to read a very early, pre-publication proof of The Rumour back in June of this year.  I don't read digitally so carefully printed out my PDF copy, put it in a folder and read it on a train journey to London. It was a good job that my train terminated in London because I hardly lifted my head from the book during the whole journey. I was hooked from page one, right through to the totally unexpected ending that had me gasping out loud.

Children who kill; child murderers ... the subject of a dark and uneasy fascination for many of us. This novel centres around Sally McGowan who stabbed to death a small boy when she was aged just ten years old. The crime happened almost fifty years ago and Sally was in prison for many years. It's a well known fact that she is now free, living under an assumed identity, with no photographs of her as an adult.

Jane is a single mother, recently moved to a small seaside town and when she hears the rumour that Sally McGovern is living in the same town, she doesn't hesitate to repeat what she's heard at the school gates.

Jane's words create chaos and mayhem in the small community and this author very cleverly examines how one piece of unconfirmed gossip can change lives. All of a sudden, Jane is invited into the circle of the school-gate mum and the babysitting club. For Jane, this is the acceptance that she craved, and a way to ensure that her small son will also be accepted by his peers. However, Jane's new standing in the community also causes fear and grief and regret for her.

Lesley Kara skilfully examines small town mentality and does it so very very well. As the rumour gathers speed and increases in intensity, every single person falls under suspicion. I certainly had my suspects, although this clever author throws some impressive curve balls along the way, catching me and the people in the story unawares, many times.

The Rumour is written with skill and precision; testing the reader throughout. It is a compelling and intelligent take on human nature, the power of gossip and the hidden family secrets that can shatter lives and create turmoil. And .... oh my goodness, that final paragraph! Pure genius.

Author photo credit: Christian Davies Photography.
Lesley Kara is an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course. 

She lives on the North Essex coast. 

The Rumour is her first novel. 

Website :
Instagram : @lesleykarawriter
Twitter @LesleyKara
Author Page on Facebook

Monday 24 December 2018

After He Died by Michael J Malone @michaeljmalone1 @OrendaBooks #AfterHeDied #TeamOrenda

You need to know who your husband really was…

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…

When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.

Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…

After He Died by Michael J Malone was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 20 September 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I am in awe of Michael Malone's writing talent. Each one of his books have been excellent, and each one is so very different. After He Died is a combination of psychological thriller and domestic noir and is absolutely gripping.

Paula Gadd's husband Thomas is dead, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was not quite fifty years old and they'd been married for thirty years. The marriage was strong but had been difficult at times. They struggled for money in the early years and were then rocked by the tragic death of their son Christopher who was killed by a hit and run driver.

Paula is stricken with grief, she can hardly believe that she won't see Thomas again, and although his brothers are supportive, she feels alone and bereft. The story opens at the funeral where a stranger thrusts a note into Paula's hand and whispers the words 'You need to know who your husband really was ...'

What an incredibly compelling and intriguing start to a novel! The reader is completely sucked in from herein and stays by Paula's side as she tries her best to come to terms with the knowledge that Thomas had been hiding so much from her.

This author shows such remarkable skill as he explores the effects of grief and betrayal on Paula whilst building up the tension for the reader at the same time. Paula is strong willed and intelligent but also vulnerable and trusting; she's a complicated character who the reader can't always understand but will always back.

There's a grittiness within this story that at times can be uncomfortable; the author shows the dark underbelly of the Glasgow streets, introducing characters who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Malone's strong sense of social justice shines through in his writing and as someone who has spent a career in the voluntary sector, working with the most disadvantaged people, it was refreshing to see such an insight into how ordinary people can hit rock bottom.

I absolutely raced through After He Died in one day. It is a tense and riveting story and everything I assumed at the beginning of the story was completely overturned by the end.  This is writing of the very highest level; intelligent and memorable.
Taut, chilling and completely absorbing.

Michael J. Malone was born and brought up in the heart of Burns' country, just a stone's throw from the great man's cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult, maybe.

He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Don't ask.

BLOOD TEARS, his debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge:Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers and when it was published he added a "J" to his name to differentiate it from the work of his talented U.S. namesake.

He is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website 

He can be found on twitter - @michaelJmalone1

Friday 21 December 2018

The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts @aclarkplatts @BloomsburyRaven @Ros_Ellis @BloomsburyBooks #TheFlowerGirls

The Flower Girls. Laurel and Primrose.
One convicted of murder, the other given a new identity.
Now, nineteen years later, another child has gone missing.
And the Flower Girls are about to hit the headlines all over again...

The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts is published by Bloomsbury Raven in hardback and ebook on 24 January 2019. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

There is absolutely no doubt that The Flower Girls is a dark and often uncomfortable read. However, it is also utterly compelling and this author has created a story that will shock the reader whilst taking them on a twisty journey through the minds of those who have committed a terrible act.

Chapter One delivers with a bang. It's 1997 and ten-year-old Laurel and her six-year-old sister Primrose (known as Rosie) are playing in the local park. It's the things that are left unsaid that are the darkest, as the sisters lead toddler Kirstie away down the canal path. The reader knows that something terrible will happen.

Fast forward nineteen years later and Rosie is now known as Hazel. She, her boyfriend and his teenage daughter are staying in a hotel in Devon when Georgie, the five-year-old daughter of fellow guests disappears.  It's a dark and stormy night and putting together a search party is difficult. Meanwhile all of the hotel guests must stay and be interviewed by the investigating police officers.

Hazel has created a new life and new identity for herself. At age six, we couldn't be held accountable for baby Kirstie's murder, but ten-year-old Laurel has spent the last nineteen years in jail, abandonded by her family and constantly applying for parole.

The disappearance of Georgie thrusts the story of the Flower Girls right back into public awareness as Hazel's identity is uncovered and Laurel embarks on yet another application for release.

What follows is a tense and quite chilling look at past crimes, current beliefs and a determination to uncover the truth. Alice Clark-Platts excels in creating strong and believable female characters. Both Laurel and Hazel are chillingly realistic and the supporting cast are excellently portrayed; especially Hillier, the policewoman and Joanna; Kirstie's aunt who has dedicated her life to unravelling miscarriages of justice. Whilst there are male characters within the story, these were not as strong as the women.

I have no doubt that some readers will struggle with the subject matter of  The Flower Girls; child murder and child murderers are such a taboo and shocking subject but this author has dealt with this darkest and troublesome of plot lines with an expert ease. The tension mounts as each chapter unfold and the reader will constantly question the characters, and indeed themselves.

The Flower Girls is a deeply disturbing thriller that is many layered; dealing with the most brutal of crimes in a smart and sophisticated way. It's an intelligent thriller and I was genuinely gripped.

Alice Clark-Platts is a former human rights lawyer who worked at the UN International Criminal Tribunal in connection with the Rwandan genocide and on cases involving Winnie Mandela and Snoop Dogg.
She is the author of the police procedurals Bitter Fruits and The Taken, the latter of which was shortlisted for the Best Police Procedural in the Dead Good Reader Awards 2017.
Her work was included in Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written by Women,  selected by Sophie Hannah

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @aclarkplatts
Find her Author page on Facebook

Thursday 20 December 2018

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley @lucyfoleytweets @emiliechambs @fictionpubteam #TheHuntingParty

Bristling with tension, bitter rivalries, and toxic friendships, get ready for the most hotly-anticipated thriller of 2019.
In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.
The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider
The victim.
Not an accident – a murder among friends.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley is published by Harper Collins on 24 January 2018.  I was delighted to receive a pre-publication proof copy from the publisher that HAS MY NAME ON THE COVER!!

The Hunting Party is a departure from Lucy Foley's usual genre of historical fiction. I've read her earlier books and enjoyed them so was intrigued to see how she would handle a crime thriller.

She has nailed it! I was absolutely gripped by this chilling and very cleverly written tale. This author has created a cast of characters that will scare the socks off you, and will certainly make you look at your oldest friends in a different light!

It's a traditional tale of the locked-in house. Set in the remote Scottish Highlands at New Year. This group of friends have known each other since their university days, with the exception of a couple of new partners. The New Year's break has become something of a tradition for them; their opportunity to get away from their stressful lives, let their hair down and catch up with the gossip.

However, things are not going to turn out quite as expected and the reader learns on page one that one of the party is dead. Murdered.
This very clever author keeps the identity of the victim a secret throughout the story, whilst introducing each of the characters in their own voices. Giving each of them a chapter at a time, so that the reader can learn more about them, and also learn things that the others in the group are unaware of.

At the beginning, it felt as though there were too many characters and I struggled to identify each one for a while. However, the author's skill in creating a unique voice for each one soon put paid to that and as the novel progresses, the reader can easily identify each speaker. We are not only allowed into the world of the guests at the hotel, we are also introduced to the three staff members. These are some of the most intriguing and mysterious characters in the story.

Foley's sense of place is exquisitely done. The unrelenting snow in the Highlands, the blocked roads and isolation add such a depth to the story; there's something eerie and frightening about being holed up in a strange house, with nowhere to go, and knowing that there's a killer amongst the guests.

This is an excellent, spooky and really quite thrilling story that is impeccably paced with characters who are realistic and at times, really not nice.
I loved it and would recommend it highly.

Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time.

The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

She has taken part in literary festivals across the country including Greenwich, Chichester, Isle of Wight and Wilderness Festival.

Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @lucyfoleytweets

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Today South London, Tomorrow South London by Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison @deserterblog @Unbound_Digital #TodaySouthLondon

Today South London, Tomorrow South London
South London-based blog, Deserter, is an alt guide to living and loafing in the wonky wonderland south of the river. Its authors, under their noms de plume Dulwich Raider and Dirty South, record off-beat days out and urban adventures featuring pubs, cemeteries, galleries, hospitals and pubs again, often in the company of their volatile dealer, Half-life, and the much nicer Roxy.
Part guide, part travelogue, this book is a collection of these tales with the addition of lots of new material that their publisher absolutely insisted upon. South London, that maligned wasteland where cabbies once feared to drive, can no longer be ignored. The South is risen!

Today South London, Tomorrow South London by Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison was published by Unbound on 25 October 2018.

As part of the Random Things Tours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to share an extract from the book:

On The Horses by Dulwich Raider
"Like all the best traditions, no one can remember for sure how or when it started. It’s not like any of us are particularly drawn to horse racing as a sport. We’re more drawn, I suspect, to the idea of a day spent gambling and guzzling in the company of like-minded skivers. No one can accuse us of not chasing the party. Anyway, every year we earmark a day of the Cheltenham Festival on which to abscond from mere existence, get the train going the other way, and spend an afternoon in a seaside town getting rich and soaked in Guinness.
This year, though, we had other considerations.
‘What about the book?’ I said to Dirty South, when he floated the idea of a day on the Kent Riviera.
‘What book?’ 
‘The book we’re supposed to be writing.’
‘We can’t let it interfere with our instincts,’ he said, ‘Our beliefs.’
Nevertheless, in order to safeguard the future of literature we elected to spend the day in London instead of overnighting in the provinces. Also, we figured if we did it in London, we could include it in the book – this very tome that you are reading now, instead of doing something useful. It would double as research. Such are the mind processes of the profoundly lazy.
We picked Nunhead for the day, led there by its clutch of Irish pubs, a safe bet for Cheltenham Festival action. And in order to ensure we started with a decent pint, we were to assemble at the Old Nun’s Head. But first, I took the opportunity to drop into my barber in East Dulwich, on the other side of the Rye.
‘Alright, Raider?’ he said. ‘Do you want a beer?’
‘I might as well, Pudsy,’ I said. ‘It’s not going to make much difference, the amount I’m going to drink today.’ Pudsy’s real name is Sean. Really, if you’re a barber, why not keep the name Sean?
‘What do you want done?’ he asked, as I climbed into the chair.
‘Oh, take the lot off,’ I said. ‘Turn me into one of your magazine men.’
A chap put his head round the door.
‘Do you take cards?’ he asked.
‘Christmas cards and birthday cards only,’ said Pudsy.
‘OK, never mind, thanks anyway,’ said the man, and left. I asked Pudsy why he’d not mentioned the nearby cashpoint.
‘I can’t be bothered, Raider,’ he said. ‘I’m only here to get out of the house. I’m trying to read a book at the moment and people keep coming in wanting a fucking haircut.’ I love my barber.
‘Got any tips?’ I asked him. 
‘Any names to do with drink,’ he said. ‘I once won a monkey on a horse called Another Rum. A guy was taking bets and I thought he was asking what I want to drink.’

Old Nun’s Head

Dirty South was already installed when I arrived at the Old Nun’s Head, the Racing Postspread out before him.
‘New barnet?’ he said as I sat down. ‘What do they call that, lesbian seagull?’ 
‘You’ve got to keep people on their toes,’ I said. ‘Keep switching it up, yeah? Keep moving forward, like a Bowie or a Gaga.’
‘I’m pretty sure David Bowie had more than two haircuts a year,’ he said.
At the bar, a helpful and knowledgeable young woman talked me through the beer offerings before recommending a delicious pint from the last barrel of a seasonal Truman ale. Then she put the racing on. All round top quality service.
This year Roxy had taken the afternoon off work to join us and she arrived, breathless and excited.
‘I’ve put five pounds on Saxo Jack!’ she declared. ‘When it wins I get a thousand pounds! What’s happened to your hair?’
‘He’s being David Bowie,’ said Dirty South.
‘Fat white duke?’ said Roxy. ‘Put that in your book, innit? Have you finished it yet? Am I in it?’
‘Not any more,’ I said.
‘I suppose Half-pint is in it?’ she said with a curl of her lip. This was Roxy’s pet name for Half-life, after he once made the egregious error of getting her a half pint on a rare round. She wasn’t impressed. ‘Where is he, anyway?’ 
‘On his way. Allegedly.’
The first race began, with Roxy cross because the horses hadn’t started in a straight line. But she soon got into the spirit of it, providing her own running commentary: ‘I can’t understand a word he’s saying.’ ‘What colour is my guy?’ ‘I’ve forgotten his name!’ ‘It looks like horses with tiny men on their backs, in a mad sort of way.’ ‘Bloody hell, how long is it going to go on for? I’m dying for a pee.’ ‘Did I win?’
Roxy didn’t win, but Dirty South landed a 9-1 winner and our day was off to a flyer.

Man of Kent

We bade farewell to our lovely barmaid and headed over to the Man of Kent for race two, only to be disappointed. There was no big screen, as in previous years, and hardly any punters. Pudsy had told me that landlords Vinny and Sandra were selling up, so perhaps that explained it.
I told the guys about Pudsy’s betting strategy and Roxy and I duly put money on Saint Calvados. But Dirty South liked the look of the favourite in the paddock and ploughed his own furrow.
Ploughing a furrow might have been a more useful endeavour for Saint Calvados, who finished fourth in a five-horse race, while the favourite, Footpad, romped home to give the Dirty One two out of two.

Pyrotechnists Arms
At first I was disappointed at our next stop, the Pyrotechnists Arms, too, as there was no sign of the free rolls I’d experienced during Cheltenhams gone by. For me, Cheltenham is all about free rolls. But what the Pyro did have was a fine collection of regulars. And by fine, I mean pissed. Completely canned at 2pm, just like you should be on a Cheltenham day.
Dirty South got stuck with Jokeman, pleased to have someone new to regale with old jokes. I avoided eye contact and went to the bar. Roxy got sandwiched between a wild-eyed octogenarian and a white patois-speaking dude in a dressing gown. Meanwhile, I was warmly welcomed by a swaying man with rheumy eyes and the softest hands I’ve ever shaken.
‘Thank you so much for coming,’ he said, quite sincerely. ‘It means so much to all of us. Can I give you a hug?’
My betting strategy in the third race was quite straightforward: ask Dirty what he was on, and then bet on the same.
‘Coo Star Sivola in this one,’ he said.
‘She sounds hot.’ 
‘A HILF,’ he agreed.
We were all on our feet as Coo Star Sivola just held on to come in at 5-1.
‘Lunch is on you!’ said Roxy to Dirty South, and I couldn’t have agreed more.
‘It will be my pleasure,’ said Dirty.
Outside, on Nunhead Green, the sun was trying to come out. 
‘How did you get on with Pontoon Eyes?’ I asked Roxy, as she fashioned a three-skinner.
‘Pontoon Eyes?’
‘One twists, the other sticks.’
‘Don’t be mean,’ she said. My huggy chum from the Pyro ambled over to join us but the offer of spliff was declined.
‘No, no. That stuff kills your brain cells,’ he said. ‘Not like getting drunk, that just hurts your liver. And you’ve got two of them.’
Ordinarily, Nunhead’s brilliant micropub, the Beer Shop, would have been high on our list of priorities, but it didn’t open until later in the day. I was gazing over longingly at it when I spotted a horse was being ridden down the road, like it was the 1920s.
‘There’s yours in the next race, Rox,’ I said.
‘Erm… Is that who I think it is?’ said Dirty South.
‘O. M. Fucking. G.’ I said, as I made out the telltale figure of Half-life bestride the beast. And was that a cowboy hat?
‘This book of yours is writing itself,’ said Roxy, as Half-life rode over to greet us.
‘What the absolute fuck?’ said Dirty South.
‘Anyone got an apple?’ said Half-life. ‘I’m starving.’"

"The ultimate reprobates’ handbook to God’s own side of the river - your liver may never be the same again... Wonderful." - Jenny Eclair 
“Of all the books about South London since 1947 this has to be the best.” - Jay Rayner 
“If a man is tired of London he should read this book.” - Bruce Dessau (London Evening Standard, Beyond The Joke) 
“Deserter’s panoply of wastrels throw up the odd genuine revelation... [an] historical, cultural or psychogeographical treasure. They may not mean to educate, but they do.” - Ned Boulting, broadcaster and author 
Andrew Grumbridge​ said: “The support of our readers has ensured the publication of this book - they are real heroes of this story. Although they didn’t have to stay in all summer writing the ruddy thing, did they? So, think about that for a bit, yeah?“ 
Vincent Raison​ said: “By sharing these tales of bunking off early and drifting through the city on perfect unplanned pub crawls, I feel I have finally made my contribution to society, though I admit, it’s hardly Children In Need.”

Founded in 2014 by Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison, Deserter - an online guide to messing about summed up by their motto, Shirk, rest & play - quickly became essential reading for thousands of South Londoners looking to get more out of life by doing less. 
Soon, along with its various social media channels, Deserter had its own beer, Deserter IPA, created with Southey Brewing, Penge and available again across South London from November 1st. 
Legendary social nights followed and their podcast, Deserter Pubcast, was named 7th Most Essential Podcast of 2017 by Esquire. They are still not sure why