Tag Archives: harm’s way

What’s on your ebook?

26 Jun


ALAN ANNAND: Six mystery-thrillers, a story collection, and a book of astrological essays. 

Mayhem in Montreal: the setting of crime novels

11 May

altitude-street-viewI lived in Montreal for over 25 years. Between the biker wars, clashes between police and First Nations militants, and business-as-usual with the Mafia and their kind, local newspapers never lacked material for crime stories. Crime was so fascinating that for a period there were a number of tabloids, Allo Police and others, that provided details the major dailies wouldn’t divulge.

Montreal is a vibrant North American city with a European ambiance. The downtown area is thoroughly modern, and dense with restaurants, boutiques, dance clubs and strip clubs. Nearby is Vieux Montreal, the old port with its 17th century architecture and financial district. In the East End are the factories, docks, teamsters and bikers. Montreal North and the area around Jean-Talon market is Mafia turf. West of downtown lies English-speaking Westmount and Notre-Dame-de-Grace, where an Irish crew called The West End Gang imported billions worth of cocaine in the 80s.

Aside from the West End Gang, NDG was a great place to live. But within a week of my moving into the ‘hood, someone entered a restaurant on the next block, shot a guy in a booth and exited through the kitchen, ditching his gun in a pot of stew. A settling of accounts, the papers said. But ever since then, when I thought of murder, I thought of that restaurant on my street. This wasn’t a crime once removed by newspaper account; this was a place I walked by every day. Proximity and familiarity gave its reality a greater weight.

building-graffitiIndeed, every novel must stand on at least three legs: plot, character and setting. Since people cannot act in a void, every writer must stake out his territory: this is where the action is. At the least, this gives him some firm ground to stand on. At best, the city itself becomes a character in the novel.

I’ve set two of my crime novels in Montreal, against the advice of well-meaning fellow writers who suggested I might enjoy a larger audience if I set my book in an American city. That might be true, but I was less interested in the audience than my heroes, and I knew they belonged in Montreal.

thumb_HWHarm’s Way is a hard-boiled mystery thriller. Lee Harms, a former homicide cop turned private eye, is divorced, a part-time dad to an adolescent daughter, and his on-and-off girlfriend is an astrologer. When he accepts a case to find a rich man’s wayward daughter, his search spans the city: Westmount mansions, downtown massage parlors, dance clubs on the Main, artists’ studios, gritty East End walkups. Following Harms’ quest, the reader gets a running tour of Montreal by day and night. Eventually he widens his search to Laval and a drug dealer’s mansion on the river, where he finds the object of his search…

When Harm’s Way was first published many years ago, a number of reviews at the time expressed disappointment that I hadn’t adequately captured the spirit of Montreal. Undertaking a total rewrite a few years back, I revisited several locales, absorbed their atmosphere, and fed it back into the re-released novel. Seems like it paid off. Many subsequent reviews remarked on how well I portrayed the various facets of the city.

winter-parkHarm’s Way was set in summertime Montreal, when the sticky heat can ignite passions, road rage and homicide. But as musician Gilles Vigneault once said about Quebec, “L’hiver, c’est mon pays.” It’s as plain as the ice on your windshield six months of the year: My country is winter.

Al-Quebeca is a police procedural mystery thriller that takes place in the depths of a bitter Montreal winter. Like the country itself, Sophie Gillette suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, except not just in winter. She’s a homicide detective, smart and tough and on the fast track to somewhere, but she’s been hurt along the way. Her alcoholic father died years ago in a car accident, her only brother recently killed in combat during the drawdown of Canadian forces from Afghanistan. Assigned to investigate a snowstorm hit-and-run, she has no idea it will lead to a terrorist cell in the final stages of a three-pronged attack on politicians, people and vital infrastructure.

thumb_AQAs with the new-and-improved Harm’s Way, I’ve also received some great reviews of Al-Quebeca, specifically regarding my portrayal of Montreal and how much it contributes to illuminating my character and her story. In my mind, the two were so inextricably woven, it was impossible to think of Gillette facing her demons anywhere else but Montreal.

And in the end, that’s a big part of what it’s all about. Whereas both plots and characters are usually completely fabricated, the setting is often the most realistic and down-to-earth element in a novel. Indeed, the more intimately we know our place, the better we can portray it, whether all dressed to up to hit the clubs on Saturday night, or nursing a hangover on Sunday morning.

Je t’aime, Montreal!


HARM’S WAY: This 99-cent book is terrible!

14 Dec

AA & halloween handsAs a writer of mystery suspense, I try to be edgy. For the most part, it’s a juggling act – being the wild man I know myself to be versus the decent guy that my editor (wife) wants me to be.

All of my books cultivate an atmosphere of moral jeopardy, sex and violence. Most of the time, despite my editor, I manage to work in enough action, intrigue, mystery and suspense to keep readers flipping the pages, looking for more jeopardy, sex and violence.

Rarely do I get the kind of off-the-scale reaction I’ve secretly being craving, like this recent review on Barnes & Noble of my mystery/thriller HARM’S WAY:

“This book is terrible! It touched on every low-life, criminal thing in the world. Lying, cheating, stealing, kidnapping, rape, torture, murder, porn, snuff films, drugs, Mafia. I probably missed some, but if it’s bad, it was covered in this book.”

Okay, you had me with low-life.

Finally, someone has seen my inner wild man and damned him with faint praise. Well, maybe not so much praise as outright condemnation. But as some Hollywood agent said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Sadly, the condemnation of HARM’S WAY isn’t universal. Other B&N reviewers haven’t been quite so astute as the one above, and have mistakenly seen this book as an exciting and page-turning romp.

Some of them said: “Get comfortable, you’ll be up all night reading. Once you start you can’t put it down. Exciting, keeps you on the edge of your seat. Fast-paced suspense, interesting, plenty of twists and turns. Highly recommended.”

To date, there’ve been 19 reviews on B&N, averaging 4.5 stars. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong here, because most people are completely missing the point – that I am a low-life crime writer who wants to corrupt readers.


Meanwhile, the crowd at Amazon and Apple are obviously reading the book backwards, because their reviews are also far too complimentary. On Amazon, 20 reviews average 4.0 stars, while at Apple, 46 reviews average 4.5.


One-liners from Amazon: “One of the best reads in a long time. Everything you want in a story: suspense, action, strong characters, sex, romance and a great storyline. All the twists and turns in the plot make it a page-turner you can’t put down. Hot action keeps you on the edge. A great mystery and detective book.



So the jury’s still out. But did I not plan and execute the narration of multiple heinous crimes? Did I not portray men and women in acts of degradation and violence purely for my own gratification? Did I not kill their children – Innocence, Grace and Hope?

Why don’t more readers hate this book? Am I not edgy?

Read HARM’S WAY and cast your vote.

HARM’S WAY by Alan Annand: Top 10 in hard-boiled mystery!

12 Dec

thumb_HWFor the past three months, HARM’S WAY has been in Amazon’s Top Ten category for hard-boiled mystery thrillers.

Originally published by St.Martin’s Press in 1992 , I extensively rewrote this book for re-issue as an ebook in 2011.

Lee Harms, investigator-for-hire, is on the cusp of an on-and-off-again love affair with confidante and astrologer Celeste when fate serves up a witch’s brew of trouble.

Start with a broth of sexual intrigue, toss in a troubled redhead, stir in two kilos of cocaine, dissolve a few pages from a psychiatrist’s notebook, and bring to a boil the fury of a crime family whose son dies in a midnight bacchanal. Money ignites the fire under this cauldron, but sex, violence and the darker forces of human nature keep it bubbling.

As dangerous as it gets, Harms must rely on his own wits to out-maneuver crack-crazed thugs, libidinous porn stars, and a deranged young woman with a troubled past. But when criminals kidnap his own ten-year-old daughter, he plunges into their underworld to rescue her from harm’s way.

Upon its initial release, here were some of the reviews at the time:

“For Canadian writers setting hard-boiled stories in Canada, the closest thing yet to a US-style private eye is Montreal investigator Lee Harms in Harm’s Way by Alan Annand.” ~ Rara-Avis Reviews

Harm’s Way is a solid P.I. thriller, a nastier-than-you’d-expect slab of pornography, cocaine, gangsters, incest, madness, torture and vengeance.” ~ Thrilling Detective

“Energy, superior punch-‘em out sequences, and humor.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“Underneath the New Age trappings, divorced ex-cop Harms is plenty hard-boiled, using fists, guns and sheer wit to escape the many tight spots here.” ~ Publisher’s Weekly

In its latest reincarnation, HARM’S WAY has garnered 20 reviews on Amazon averaging 4.0 stars. http://www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-Alan-Annand-ebook/dp/B005LVXIA2

On Barnes & Noble, there are 18 reviews averaging 4.2 stars. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/harms-way-alan-annand/1106579631

And on Apple iTunes, there are 46 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/harms-way/id471751935

More good news: just in time for Christmas, HARM’S WAY is now priced at only $0.99 for the ebook edition.

And for anyone who still enjoys a physical book (now just $7.65), see Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-Alan-Annand/dp/0986920622


Triple-pack promo of mystery thrillers this week

4 Mar



$0.99 on Amazon www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-ebook/dp/B005LVXIA2

FREE on Smashwords www.smashwords.com/books/view/86740



$2.99 on Amazon www.amazon.com/Hide-in-Plain-Sight-ebook/dp/B0050K1EZA

HALF PRICE this week only on Smashwords



$2.99 on Amazon www.amazon.com/Scorpio-Rising-ebook/dp/B0050IOY6I

HALF PRICE this week only on Smashwords

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