Thursday, June 24, 2010

Second Review: Matt Hilton's Slash & Burn

Slash & Burn Review

Joe's back and he's got another problem to fix. Slash and Burn, the third in the fast paced series of Joe Hunter books. A man that knows how to kick ass since joining the army at the age of 16 before moving on to the 'Throw yourself out of planes' regiment and at 20 getting drafted into the experimental coalition-counterterrorism team which had the code name 'Arrowsake'

Since 2004 he's been a free-lance security consultant.


Everyone knows about the author and how he got to where he is now. So when I asked him some questions, the same ones that I posed to Gregory Miller, he was good enough to answer them. We'll get them out of the way before I tell you all what I think of the book.

1: When you were a kid were you the first to climb to the top of the tree(or lampost depending on how urban you were) or did you stand back egging the clown on that would?

I was 'the sensible one of the group', but that all depends on your perspective. When I was a kid I used to knock about with one of my older brothers who was a bit of a harum-scarum type. You'd often find me saying things like, 'No...please don't set fire to the corn field!' and such like. Invariably he would, then when I was trying to put it out, I was the one that got captured. Great days! We often laugh about things like that now, and my brother says I was his misplaced conscience.

Maybe I was a boring fart as a kid...I dunno. But I loathed people causing damage and pasting grafitti around and would often try to stop them. Maybe that was the vigilante in me...or maybe I just thought I'd problems to fix. Then again, it was maybe just the Arthur Fonzerelli in me. I was heavily into the rock'n'roll/Rockabilly scene of the eighties, and doing stuff like that was 'uncool'. Heeeey!

2: Did you ever get stung by a bee at school, and if so, did you go to the nurse and request a plaster?

Nah! In those less than politically-correct days, if you did stuff like that you'd have been called a 'bummer' and ostrasized by your mates. You took your knocks and then cried about them when you were hiding in your bedroom later.
I remember once when I was about nine years old, I had seen Master Po, the blind kung fu guy, snatching a fly out of the air and thought I'd have a go. Only the fly I snatched turned out to be a wasp and stung my plam about half-a-dozen times. I remember my mam lathering me with a bicarbonate of soda poultice, and then watching a programme about bears fishing for salmon on a black and white portable TV in a caravan. God, I haven't thought about that for years. I feel real nostalgic now.

3: At school did you bring a packed lunch or risk food poisoning...if you brought your own was a carton of Um Bongo in it?

Um Bongo? No...they only drink that in the Congo, don't they? I was one of the poor kids. One of five brothers all at school at much the same time. I got 'free school dinners'. It was very embarrassing. You had to line up outside the head's office, then go in and be handed these copper discs. You traded the copper discs for items on the menu, with your rich mates sneering over your shoulder while sipping at cartons of Um Bongo. Three discs could get you three scoops of chips. There was no Jamie Oliver fighting our cause back then, so you went for the stodgiest thing you could find to fill you up.

4: Were you ever a cub, or a scout?

Neither. I did go to Sunday school. Albeit it was only for the three Sunday's leading up to the annual Christmas party; you had to go then to get your tickets, so it was a case of needs must. I remember the organiser-guy pulling me and my older harum-scarum brother to one side afterwards and saying, "I know you only come for the party...don't bother coming again next year." Very Christian. Here's a funny story that happened just after that. As we left the party full of cake and jelly and clutching our cheap toy from some fat alcoholic dressed as Santa, my next door neighbour challenged me and my brother to a race. He obviously wasn't as stuffed as we were, because he took off like a rocket, right into the main road just as a double-decker bus was coming...
He went right under the front bumper, the bus braked like crazy and he popped up at the back and kept on running, totally unhurt. Mind you, when we got home and told our mam, she did the neighbourly thing and told his mam. He got a real hiding, poor sod!
His legacy is that there's now a zebra crossing where he went under that bus.

5: Where did your dad try and hide his porn?

There was no porn in our house...very puritanical. My parents were very old-fashioned in their attitudes. Makes me wonder how I managed to get four brothers...ha ha! No, seriously, porn was taboo. So were things like playing cards or gambling of any sort. We were raised to be moral and dignified. The closest a gland-controlled teenager got to in our house was the lingerie section of the Littlewoods catalogue...or trying to see what the model looked like through the semi-opaque shower curtain in the bathroom section. I was a bit sheltered, I guess. You could count the porn movies I've seen on the fingers of one hand (fnar fnar).

We used to live near to a print factory called the 'Web Offset'. Half the kids in our neighbourhood used to break through the wire fence in the compound and nick copies of 'Roy Of The Rovers' or 'The Beezer'. Sometimes you got real lucky and found a 'Penthouse' or two lying around...but I think they belonged to the security guard. I remember him chasing me and about three mates for a mile along the River Eden, and he wasn't doing that for no minimum wage.

Going back to your original question about hiding places. We lived in a council house, and in the bedroom walls they had these air vents with drop down hatches. I remember hiding stuff in there. The only problem was, if you weren't careful, your treasures would slip down into the cavity wall. An uncle's war medals went that way, amongst other heirlooms. I recently returned to my old neighbourhood and my childhood home has been demolished. I wonder if the medals were ever found by the construction crew? Every kid in 'The Raffles' - that's the name of my old neighbourhood - used the old air hole hidey-place in their houses. To think there could be lost antiquities jammed in cavity walls'd be enough to bring Inidiana Jones back out of retirement.


Before I get started a couple of things to mention. It's a thriller, it's supposed to be a wild ride, some escapism into a world where people are willing to do whatever it takes. Proper book reviews have praised the Joe Hunter books across the world, but you'll always get a couple of naysayers with a soap box. One Amazon reviewer in particular slated Judgement and Wrath and scored it poorly. The same reviewer returned and did the same for Slash & Burn. My original thought was, why buy another if the other was so shit? Then I clicked on the persons other reviews. Tadaa, 5 stars for every Lee Child 'Jack Reacher' book. It reminded me of the Twilight fans that will hate any other book with a vampire in because Stephanie Meyer invented them, same with Werewolves.

I read the Reacher books as well, the only thing they've got in common is that both Jack and Joe are good at fucking shit up. Other reviews have said about Hunter getting beaten up, knifed and shot and still getting to the end of the book. Firstly it would be a bit poo if he died on page 47. But more importantly, if you ever watch any of the special forces documentaries on Discovery etc and listen to their accounts of being shot and still managing to hold a post or continue on with the mission because they had to you'd start believing what these trained soldiers are capable of. And as for the remarks about a lack of morals and his ability to go around shooting bad guys. Watch the same documentaries on the SAS sorting out hi-jackers etc. They've been trained to get the job done. One SAS bloke said, "Threw in the stun grenade, they were confused then they saw the end of my gun and that was the last thing they'd remember" The bloke was so calm and unemotional as he said it, it's just all part of the job, and his reasoning hadn't changed in the years since he had left the forces.

*Backflips off his own soapbox*

S&B starts off with Joe just wanting to take it easy after the last batch of problems that needed sorted. He can't have everything as Kate, the sister of an old member of Arrosake pitches up wanting his help. Her sisters gone missing up in the Appalachians. Even if he didn't feel obliged to help because he knew their late brother he'd still step up to the crease. So with his trusted SIG Sauer P226 he throws a few things into a bag and off they go to Kentucky. I won't go into any more of the story, as there's some twists and turns and it'd spoil it.

What I will say is this. You can tell that it's book 3 in the series. Matt Hilton has become incredibly comfortable with the character and has probably become like a close friend. As with the others he shows his humurous side, more so when he mate Rink gets into the picture and the banter begins. There are a lot of things that you notice, one is that Matt Hilton must have worn out three or four Google Earths getting everything so precise. Then there's the vast array of weaponry and vehicles, he's done his research good and proper as you read it and wonder if he's taken a few of them out for a spin. The baddies in this one are more down to earth, I say down to earth, they're just as fucked up as ever, but not in the way the last two baddies have been exotic. I admit one thing, when reading and meeting the Bolan Twins I did for a moment think of Bebop and Rocksteady, but homocidal psychotic versions. He's also coming out of his shell with screwing with your emotions as well. In the other books there was always a feeling of danger. But in this one there were a couple of times he made me feel uneasy(which is pretty good going), which then heightens the story because you're actually bothered about the characters.

The only thing I will complain about in this one is that he has lowered the violence and the body count. Guess he can't please all the people all the time.

You can buy Slash & Burn at Amazon

If you're a Brit - here

If you're a yank - You'll have to wait until until it's released - August

Find out more about the author here

Next review is Chris Ewan's Good Thief's Guide Series.


  1. Loved the questions, Lee.
    And the answers, Matt (took me back, too).
    As for the review: no nonsense, just like the book itself.
    Good stuff, chaps.

  2. Yes, thanks to Lee for an enjoyable interview - had me chuckling as I recalled my ne'er-do-well youth all over again - and for a cool and well thought out review of Slash and Burn.

  3., Matt - a 'Raffles' kid comes good! (yes, I know all about 'The Raffles' - you weren't in Shady Grove Road by any chance...?)

    Bit by bit with each interview we get to see more of your character and the motivtion for joe Hunter and what he stands for.

    Thanks, Lee, for interviewing the guv'nor - and for a really good review!

  4. Raffles Ave, Tommy Ave, Marks Ave, Coalfell Ave - I got around a bit. I never made it to Shady Grove, but my parents did after I left home, so I still qualify as a 'true blood Raffelite'.

  5. your folks originated from across the Border (and you too, I think) - does that make you Pre-Raffelites? (that accounts for your artistic leanings, then..... ;-p)

    Sorry, Lee, for hijacking your thread.... ;-)

  6. It's perfectly okay Sue H, it don't cost me nuffink for you pair to have a natter.

  7. Lee! You've changed your pic!

    What IS that?

    (Me poor old eyes can't mek it owt ;-) )

  8. That's a picture of when my head cracked open and my brain grew wings and took flight.

    I swapped pics because I'm just too good looking and was fretting it might detract from people taking my writing seriously.

    Swapped over to an eye candy pic again.

  9. That was great Lee. Really probing questions..."where did your dad stash the porn?" Hahahaha!! Great!

    A top interview and excellent review, mate.

    As for your eye candy, why are you using a photo of Frankie Boyle? :-)

  10. Dave, I get that a lot, not that I mind, we share the same twisted sense of humour I guess, his autobigraphy, 'My Shit Life So Far' the picture part in that I use as a family album.

  11. Oh shit, look what you've done, he's gonna use that quote put tampered a little bit when he showcases his art Bob Ross style, 'No such things as mistakes, just happy little accidents, lets put a tree right there."

    He'll alter your quote to say, "Pre-Rafael"

  12. Well, Lee - if the writing goes West, he could always earn a bob ot two with his art work, I suppose! Not that I've seen any of it, of course. Never mind 'Pre-Rafael' - it might be 'Pre-Rolf' (as in "Can you tell what it is yet?")

  13. Nice Q & A's and very entertaining. Seems like growing up in the England wasn't much different that the U.S. Hunter seems like a way cool character. I'm amazed at the people who read fiction and then complain about certain things. I find, especially when firearms and police are involved, the harshest critics are the ones who practically have a phD in those subjects and look for stuff to pick out.

    Love the reference to "The Fonze" and Rockabilly, The Stray Cats were one of my fav's.

    When work was scarce in my Dad's union, me and my bro's had the school lunch progam, food stamps etc...And I'm a better human being for that when I look back.

    Never read any Reacher, but will be giving Hunter a try.

  14. Thanks Sean,
    I hope they don't disappoint.

    The Stray Cats. One of my favourite 80's bands. Brian Setzer went on to great things with his orchestra, and I had the pleasure of going to see him in Glasgow a few years ago. The guy's an awesome guitarist.

    Hey, Lee, it was through watching Bob Ross that I got into painting. It's the 'happy little accidents' that make the painting worthwhile and unique. There are quite a few of them in mine ;-)
    as well as a big tree.

    And the story is true, by the way. I placed some paintings in an art shop in Carlisle and my 'waterfall' was nicked. Also, the shop shut, the owner did a bunk and took the others with him. Do you reckon that qualifies them as being pretty good?

  15. My mother was too proud to ask for free lunches. We were told to say that we had a big breakfast if asked why we weren't having lunch. We'd look forward to getting home where me and my brother would share a bowl of soup, no spoon, only a straw as mum was saving the veg for dad's supper. You kids don't know you're born. Free dinners, luxury, pure bloody luxury.

  16. I should learn to stop lying like that, gets me in trouble. Said to the missus that when we were growing up we were dirt poor, mum and dad sometimes shared a cup of soup so me and my brother could have egg and chips. She bloody said it to me mum who was not impressed. She's learnt to take everything with a pinch of salt(ooerr) after grassing on me to my folks over a remark I made. She loves history and reading about world war 2 etc. I mentioned that my great-great grandfather died at Auschwitz, she was so upset as she asked what happened and I replied 'He fell from his guard tower.' She still married me. But incase anyone gets a grump, my great grandad never worked in any death camps, in fact he got the Victoria Cross.

  17. ....with an imagination like that, Lee, no wonder you're a writer!

    But, now I look back on life, truthfully there were times when we were were quite hard-up, (certainly compared to the OH's background!) - but as kids we never realised it! We never got the 'big' things that other kids took for granted and Christmas presents mostly included new clothes (which we needed anyway ) but we never went to bed hungry.

    We amused ourselves with role-playing games (cops & robbers, cowboys & injuns, ....occasionally Drs & Nurses!!). Then of course, reading played a big part in my life. The library was free and full of exciting books: thrills and adventures to get lost in, fantasy worlds to exlore....and all for the price of the shoe-leather it cost to walk round the corner clutching my returning books and look forward to what I might find on the shelves.

    Never dreamed I'd end up working there! (yup, new building but on the same site)

  18. Great stuff. Most chucklesome indeed. And Lee, I like the new look blog- the black makes you look thinner...