I have to say that I’m not a huge crime fan, I’ve read my fare share of books in this field but it’s a genre that doesn’t really excite me, that was until I discovered John Bowie’s first book Untethered (review can be read at the bottom of this post) part one of the Black Viking thriller series. John Bowie writes like a man possessed by the great crime writers of old, but mixed with the brutality of Charles Bukowski and the honesty of Dan Fante. Transference the second book in the series is a cocktail of delight and one that needs to be sipped and savoured, and after reading it, it leaves you punch drunk and stumbling around on your feet – hard hitting and oh so good.
What I really enjoyed about Transference and Bowie as a writer is that he doesn’t paint you a nice picture, he paints with words a sordid underbelly of Manchester (so vivid and gritty are his depictions I could imagine myself right there with our protagonist), he paints it warts and all, seedy and destitute like many of the characters, it’s a rogues gallery of the sick and depraved. But along with this Bowie’s talent as a writer shines through as he perfectly blends hard boiled crime with poetic beauty with prose that is intoxicatingly hard to swallow and conjures a story that is hard to swallow, full of sharp edges, it’s what I imagine swallowing a jagged bottle would be like, and the bottle is the one that has just been used to glass you whilst reading.
If Bukowski wrote hard boiled crime it would be Transference.’ – Ross Jeffery, author of Juniper & Tethered
You see Bowie is doing something new with the crime genre and it’s something that should be celebrated, his work will draw comparisons to a great many fabulous writers, it’s hard not to when the storytelling is so masterful. You have the dirty realism of Bukowski, Fante, and McCarthy; then you have the best of noir writing from Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy and Paul D. Brazill, plus the flair of J.G. Ballard. Bowie’s offerings are hard to swallow, but swallow you must, because this is the rise of what I believe will be a powerhouse in crime writing for years to come.
Transference sees our protagonist John, a writer and self made PI, who is currently on witness protection in Bristol make the journey back to Manchester; where he has been removed from for his own protection. He’s called back like a drunk to the bottle to investigate the strange circumstances that lead to the death of a young man (a suicide swan dive from the top of a high-rise). But Manchester is a rabid dog and its teeth are gnashing and its mouth is foaming for the taste of John’s destruction. What will he uncover, will he make it out alive and what demons will he exorcise whilst embroiled in this waking nightmare he calls life.
Transference is the second book in the Black Viking Thriller series but could also be read as a stand alone book, such is the brilliance of the writing on offer and the deep story that Bowie delivers – and with our protagonist and Bowie’s expert and masterful storytelling we have a series and a protagonist that we can enjoy for many outings to come, I will sure to be first in line when the next book in this groundbreaking series is released!
A masterful series that has all the power of reincarnated greats of the genre – a devastating book full of dirty realism that pulls you into the undertow, try as you might to rise, it will pull you under and into a world that you can’t escape from, an immersive must read!
Transference is published by Bristol Noir and is available to purchase here.
John Bowie grew up on the coast in rural Northumberland, a region steeped with a history of battles, Vikings, wars and struggles. These tales and myths fascinated him as a child, and then as an adult. In the mid to late nineties he studied in Salford enjoying the bands, music, clubs and general urban industrial-ness of Greater Manchester, including the club scene and the infamous Hacienda. He was also there when the IRA bomb went off in 1996.
John’s writing is semi-autobiographical, a dirty realism and crime-noir. Ghostly references to a heritage that includes the Vikings, Scotland, Ireland and the North, flavour the words throughout, often with a dark but humoured edge.
Although inspired partly by 50s pulp hardboiled detective fiction and the beat generation authors and poets, John aims to celebrate his female characters from his real life through his writing, whilst retaining the hard drinking, cynical honesty and accessible writing style of these genres.
John lives in Bristol with his wife and daughter, where he has been since the late nineties. He is a professional designer, artist and writer as well as a proud husband, father, brother and son.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
Review of book one – Untethered is available here.
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