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The Deadline Murders: Ron Morgans

January 7, 2010

HENRIETTA FOX is a paparazzo. A wild, flame-haired girl in biker’s boots and leathers with an Irish temper. She rides a Yamaha on the streets of London stalking celebrities for the tabloid gossip pages. When a Chinese military plane explodes in a fireball before her camera, life for Henrietta Fox gets dangerous!

Five reporters across Europe have been murdered, each with their exotic, lop-eared Sumxu cats. Animals considered extinct for 300 years. Only Henrietta Fox knows why – and that knowledge could kill her. To survive she must pursue a madman across China with partner CASS FARRADAY, a six foot three ex-Repton public schoolboy turned tabloid reporter.

Only they can prevent an Armageddon assault on Britain’s Air Traffic Control. Fail and half a million lives will be lost.

http://www.ronmorgans.com/

Some self-published books are dreadful; a few are fabulous; and a few come so very close to being really good that I want to grab their authors by the lapels and shout words like “typesetting!” at them, as loudly as I can.

If Ron Morgans lived near me, he’d be getting the shouty treatment right now.

With The Deadline Murders Mr Morgans has written an engaging, competent murder mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed: but he’s let his book down by allowing some very basic errors to scatter themselves all over its pages. He’s used hyphens where dashes should appear; I spotted a few extraneous commas; and his page numbering is all over the place: his front matter pages are numbered 1 to 8 and then begin all over again with page 1 when his story starts (it’s convention to use a different numbering style for front matter if you want it numbered separately from the main text otherwise you end up with more than one page 4, which is confusing and can cause problems when referencing the text); and on a personal note, I found the paragraph indents far too deep. These are problems which a good copy editor—or even a good typesetter—could have fixed for him, and it’s a shame to see them on the pages of this otherwise competent book.

Such problems are minor, though, and as ever, my main focus is on the writing. I have a few issues with some of the grammar (for example, in the back cover copy quoted above it is implied that Henrietta’s leathers have an Irish temper); and there were a few problems with the text which only Mr. Morgans can fix: I realise that this is a thriller, and not a literary novel: I expect it to rely on the standards of the thriller genre. But in this novel some of those standards have been over-used to the point where they’ve become stereotyped. The two main characters were stereotypical in both their characterisation and their differences to one another: Henrietta Fox is a biker-girl photographer with red hair and a temper; Cass Farraday is ex-public school and wears suits from Saville Row. While they’re lively as characters go, I wanted them both to have more depth and subtlety and I think that a writer of Mr Morgans’ talent could have achieved this without too much trouble, even allowing for the limitations posed by the genre’s conventions. As it is, the interplay between his two main characters at times strays into Gene Hunt’s territory: on several occasions I felt like I was visiting the provincial 1980s (which was my favourite decade, though, so no great hardship there). Despite these little niggles it’s obvious to me that Ron Morgans is a capable, confident writer who, with a little more guidance and revision, could have brought this book up to a significantly higher standard.

I’ll happily admit that my genre-of-choice is literary fiction, which isn’t what Ron has written here: but I’m not trying to drag him over to the literary dark side. I just get the feeling that while this book is good, he is capable of much more. He has sailed through some of the things that others find most difficult—finishing a whole novel, creating distinct and lively characters, and constructing a plausible world for them to live in—who hasn’t done quite so well with the easier stuff. I think that Ron Morgans is a writer to watch who, with persistence and dedication, might well go on to bigger things, and I’m thrilled to have been sent a self-published book which shows such potential. By the time I reached page twenty-seven I had abandoned my scorecard: I read The Deadline Murders right through to the end and I’m pleased to be able to recommend it to you, albeit with just a few very minor reservations.

Edited to add: my good friend Sally Zigmond has also reviewed this book, and you can read her opinion of it here.

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