JJ Stoner

VEHICLES FOR THE VIOLENT . . . By Frank Westworth (part 2)


Stoner is a practical spook. He drives a big van. The best van. A VW Transporter. The roads are packed with them. Look around you. Try a test. Spot a Transporter next time you’re having a coffee in your favourite shop. Observe it parked nearby. Check out its identifying features – it will have some, most likely a panel on the side advertising the business of its owner. Go grab another coffee the next day and observe all the other VW vans parked nearby. Yesterday’s van is unlikely to be there … unless the sign has changed of course. This is a common way of running surveillance. Stoner knows that. Less easy using an Aston Martin, however. Furthermore, you can brew up, crash out, or do Bad Things in the back of a VW while keeping an eye on the opposition. You try that in your Aston, Mr Bond.

A great thing about the Transporter, and one of the reasons Stoner runs a small fleet of them – he also operates a mostly bogus business, the Transportation Station, offering a delivery service – is that it’s decently easy to up-engine them. Take a seriously horny motor from another VW and slot it in. Visit Cornwall in the summertime and you’ll see lots of these. Slow … they are not. Invisible among the streetlife … they can be.


And they’re great for carrying things. This should be no surprise. Stoner often uses his for carting a smaller motorcycle around with him. Motorcycles can reach parts other vehicles cannot, of course. Drive Transporter, park it up, extract the Harley-Davidson (not the great big one; the little MT350 – look it up), go do the dirty, return, park motorcycle inside van, leave quietly and invisibly. Anyone looking for a man on a motorcycle will never spot a dull guy trolling along in a nondescript VW Transporter.

Which makes me wonder exactly how many of the very many Transporters on the roads are being driven by guys on clandestine missions. Hmmm…

You can visit the Transportation Station in Six Strings, a JJ Stoner quick thriller, which is published on 22 February 2018.

In a former life, JJ Stoner was a hard-faced military man. Now, discreetly and deniably, he resolves sticky situations for the British authorities. So when the Drug Squad can’t convict a particularly unpleasant pusher, Stoner is tasked with permanently solving the problem. But before he can deploy his very particular skill set, an old acquaintance steps out of the shadows and delivers disconcerting intelligence…

Six StringsSix Strings is a quick thriller, an hour’s intrigue and entertainment. It features characters from the JJ Stoner / Killing Sisters series. You don’t need to have read any of the other stories in the series: you can start right here if you like.

‘You want me to kill someone.’
Stoner plainly had a grasp of both the gravity and the subtlety of the situation. ‘There’s no need to rattle on so much. Killing people is what I do.’
He paused.
‘But only if he orders me to…’

As well as a complete, stand-alone short story, ‘Six Strings’ includes an excerpt from ‘The Corruption Of Chastity’.

There’s also a behind-the-scenes blog from author Frank Westworth, who shares more secrets from Stoner’s shady existence.

Please note that ‘Six Strings’ is intended for an adult audience and contains explicit violence.

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VEHICLES FOR THE VIOLENT …by Frank Westworth (part 1)

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Six StringsJJ Stoner – the musician, motorcyclist and murderer – returns in a new quick thriller this week. Like any competent contract killer, Stoner needs to relocate rapidly but blend in unobtrusively. In ‘Six Strings’, he uses two wheels and more to confound his enemies. Author Frank Westworth (who freely admits to being a fellow motorcyclist and a musician, but keeps quiet about any other similarities with his fictional creation) explains about Stoner’s transports of delight…

James Bond. Bentley or Aston Martin? Tough choice, huh? We can only sympathise. When I first sat down to write an actual full-length thriller, all I knew about Stoner, the central character, was that he rides a motorcycle. Of course he does. It’s best to write about what you know, otherwise your own ignorance becomes bliss for someone else, as The Reader always enjoys pointing out the idiocies, the inaccuracies, the foolishnesses. Best not to make them.

So I knew he rode a motorcycle. A big one, a black one, a very loud one, one with the proud British name ‘Norton’ in gold on its gleaming black tank. I have one of those, you know. Surprised?

While waiting for the nice man in the nice yellow van to come and cart the Norton and its hapless rider back home, again, I pondered upon exactly why ace-guitarist, top gunner JJ Stoner would ride a motorcycle which was less than 100 percent reliable and not entirely faster than a speeding bullet (well…). He wouldn’t.

HarleyThe rider wears a helmet – great head protection, that’s why the law compels them. He wears a face mask, great precaution against suicidal 100mph wasps, and a perfect disguise. He wears leather, and body armour tough enough to slow a small calibre handgun round to the point where it hurts, but is unlikely to be fatal. All of that in full view of anyone who might be looking.

Except that they aren’t. Looking. Looking at him. They’re looking at the motorcycle, the Harley-Davidson, and they hate it. And they despise the rider. Maybe they did see Wild Angels on Netflix. Biker theory has it that they’re just jealous. Envy is a proud thing.

Bikes carve through traffic. They can do great getaways. And you can just lose them in a crowd – a crowd of other bikes, of course. All those shades-wearing, beardy guys in their dirty leathers – they look the same, right? Right.

So our hero gets in quick, gets dirty, then gets out quick on a motorcycle. This happens a lot; read the news, endless crime gets committed on motorcycles, usually small ones, small ones stolen for the purpose and abandoned after the bag has been snatched, the Uzi emptied into the crowd, then they’re gone. Unfindable.

But… motorcycles are vulnerable. Never be fooled by the movies where our hero ditches the motorcycle into the side of a truck, car, wall, whatever, then gets up, shrugs and carries on doing whatever he was doing before. That doesn’t happen. Think great pain, bones poking through leathers, teeth dislodged and very many abrasions. A road is not a race track. There are no run-off areas.


So Stoner also needed a car. More comedy sets in here. Why would any spook or similarly sly soul choose to drive a car like an Aston Martin? Parading your personal vanities is really not what spooking is about – unless the whole point is to make yourself wildly visible, of course. And in any case, although a super-powerful motor is great for chasing and/or running away, unless the great getaway takes place on a deserted highway late at night there are always other happy families ambling merrily along, innocently getting in the way. So … ditch that idea


You can read more from Frank Westworth on Fully Booked by following the links below.





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Stoner044Jean-Jacques ‘JJ’ Stoner is a stone cold killer. His creator, Frank Westworth gives us a first glimpse of him as an army sergeant serving in Iraq. One of his squad has just been fatally wounded by a knife thrown by one of a group of Iraqis who:

“….. plainly considered that the knife’s flight was the result of heavenly intervention and that they were all witnesses to a miraculous act, rather than a clever murderous attempt.”

The sergeant quietly but forcefully demands information:

“His words produced only more theatrical incomprehension. Five sets of open palms were paraded before the sergeant; all of them as innocent as the other, was the suggestion. A single shot interrupted the stage grief; one of the Iraqis sagged from seated to fallen, his dark blood draining from his exploded head into the sands of his native home. The sergeant held his smoking handgun in plain view, spread his arms wide to express his regret, his masculine sorrow.”

Sergeant Stoner assassinates the remaining Iraqis with neither hesitation nor sentiment. Shortly after, he is recruited by a government official we come to know as The Hard Man. Stoner’s new job is to use sharp blades and blunt instruments to discreetly resolve difficult situations for the British government. If Stoner has a gruesome talent for taking life, he also has a paradoxical skill which requires sensitivity, a delicate touch and an awareness of the human soul and its emotional depths; he is a gifted guitarist. In one of Westworth’s short stories, First Contract, Stoner uses his musical ear to imitate a Belfast accent when in a pub full of staunch Republicans:

“Beaming broadly, Stoner took a seat with the band. His lady companion ….. watched with some surprise as Stoner changed the tuning on the borrowed acoustic guitar, acknowledged a generous introduction from the leader of the band, then launched into a medley of furious Provo protest songs, familiar to all in that Catholic bar, all with their choruses to share.”

In the short story Two Wrongs Stoner is in America and we are introduced to a character who appears regularly in the Stoner stories, the navy SEAL known as Stretch. He and Stoner are in a bar, tangling with an agent from the FBI. Stoner, though, always has time for music:

“ Stoner finished his Bud, smacked his lips, and moved smoothly through the quietened attentive crowd to the stage, where he picked up the borrowed Fender Telecaster, smacked it a little to confirm the inaccuracy of its tuning, and launched into a spontaneous version of Johnny B. Goode set to a strange rolling rockabilly rhythm which found Stretch running, actually running from the restrooms to the stage in what proved to be a successful attempt to save the song from the amused Englishman’s attempt to publicly destroy such an important icon of American history.”

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Westworth’s skill as a writer of quirky thrillers is shown to best effect in his Killing Sisters trilogy. In A Last Act of Charity (2014), The Corruption of Chastity (2015) and The Redemption of Charm (2017) Stoner encounters three sisters who are just as deadly and homicidal as he is. We also learn that in his downtime, when he is not despatching people who are being an embarrassment to HM Government, he is running a jazz and blues club called The Blue Cube. The closest thing that Stoner has to a girlfriend is a diminutive bass player called Bili who plays in the house band from which Stoner is often conspicuously absent due to his murderous day job.

“Bili swung her big red Rickenbacker bass into what might have been a comfortable playing position, and all three looked to far stage left, where Amanda rolled her eyes, took a deep breath and surprised them all by blasting from her shiny tenor saxophone the opening stanza of Baker Street, one of the most recognisable lumps of sax music of all time.”

Westworth realIt doesn’t take a genius to work out that Westworth (right) is deeply immersed in the lore and legend of pop music as well as knowing his guitars. The Killing Sisters books are scattered with references – some subtle, but others more obvious – to great songs and singers. Later in The Redemption of Charm, Stoner renews his acquaintance with his favourite guitar:

“His old Fender guitar sat easily in his lap as he tuned, fingered a few chords, tuned again, hummed a few verses, tuned some more, strangely restless. The guitar felt odd … polished maybe. The strings were certainly new enough, although of the correct weight for his taste. He replaced it in its case, wandered around and discovered another case, standing by the closed piano, this one containing an acoustic guitar, a fine blonde Gibson model unfamiliar to him.”

 Stoner is gloomy, and overcome with melancholy, states of mind with which he is unfamiliar, and strange moods sit heavy on his shoulders:

“He played a finger-picked instrumental tune he half remembered from the days before his playing focused entirely on electric solid-bodied guitars. A famous tune by Davey Graham dedicated to some woman called Anji. Unbidden and unwelcome somehow, his memory unearthed a series of images of women to whom he’d dedicated the song down the years.”

 You can follow the blue links to the Amazon pages for Westworth’s novels, and on Fully Booked we have a detailed review of The Redemption of Charm, and an entertaining piece by the author on how to kill people, again borrowing from the title of a classic song – Killing Me Softly.

Next up in our musical journey is the story of a gifted singer-songwriter whose career has been shattered by depression and stage fright, and the sombre tale of a band whose obsession with the Dakota Building and the death of John Lennon takes them to a very dark place.

the first movement in this composition.

THE REDEMPTION OF CHARM … Between the covers

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This is the final part of Frank Westworth’s startling Killing Sisters trilogy, in which JJ Stoner – a black ops ex-SAS type – pits his wits against the physical wiles and mental agility of three violent sisters, known as Charm, Chastity and Charity. Readers new to the series are warned not to expect a hero they are likely to fall in love with any time soon. Stoner lives – unencumbered by the burden of empathy – in an existentialist world of which he is the deep dark blue centre.

“He simply appeared to lack both curiosity – which was famously fatal to felines – and appeared also to be wondrously capable of detaching himself from everything unimportant to him.”

charm frontHe has killed at the bidding of his masters, who are shadowy government types, but now things have changed. Stoner has been stitched up, people close to him have been badly hurt, and he has retreated from the his former world. He is shattered, mentally and physically.

Exactly what is Stoner’s world? In physical terms, it consists of a love for Harley Davidson motorcycles, a serious coffee addiction, and a passion for blues guitar. He still owns the Blue Cube, a jazz and blues nightspot, keeps many of the tools of his trade in a former workshop tucked away in an anonymous industrial estate, and has among his acquaintances many strange and shadowy people, including the enigmatic pair Menace and Mallis, who orchestrate violence in the smoky limbo which exists between the authorities and others who seek only subversion. Then, of course, we have the sisters.

Charity has died. She was not killed in the line of dubious professional duty, but from a particularly virulent cancer, although her actual death was at the hands of her sister, by way of a mercy killing. The two remaining sisters are polar opposites in looks and demeanour. Chastity is a blonde hardbody with a ripped physique and a penchant for violent – and sometimes bloody – sex. Charm, while equally amoral, sexually voracious and manipulative as her surviving sister, has the outward appearance and manner of an attractive middle class suburban housewife.

The plot is jarringly simple. It is a variation on the trope whereby a retired special operative comes back from his rural retreat to do one final job. This is by no means a criticism because the book is a long highway of intense dialogue and character, with rest areas offering wild violence and inventive eroticism. The final job in this case is the hunting down of an almost mythical Irish killer called Blesses, who served her apprenticeship in The Troubles.

“She has a way with her eyes – I can’t tell you how it works – because I don’t understand it – but it was brilliant as a way of getting information from reluctant Provos. She didn’t need to screw them, thus revealing to us how crap was the UK’s honey-trap technique, but somehow made them want to talk to her about … well … everything. I mean that. Everything. Anything.”

We learn that it is her manipulation of people’s minds and bodies which has led to Stoner’s retirement, before which he was forced to watch a video showing his girlfriend being first raped and then – literally – gutted.

 I have to declare an interest here. In terms of motorcycles, I never advanced beyond an inoffensive Honda back in the 1970s, but I do love JJ Stoner’s passion for guitars, and his creator’s lovely name-dropping of snatches of 1960s pop lyrics. There’s even a series of chapter headings all taken from one of the great songs – She’s Not There. You aren’t that old? That’s no crime, but take a listen, while you ignore the awful miming. Click on the image to watch the video.


The novel is both stylish and stylised. The dialogue is mannered and full of whip smart responses and put-downs. Despite the immediate plot being simple, the backstory has more than just a drizzling of Twin Peaks about it. If we think we know what is going on, then we probably don’t, but we come to expect appearances by random enigmatic characters who must be significant, but we are never quite sure why.

Westworth realLike its two predecessors, The Redemption of Charm is immensely entertaining and another bravura performance from Frank Westworth (right), who shares his creation’s love of Harleys and fine guitars. We are led to believe that a love of killing and a knowledge of inventive ways to use an SAS dagger are skills that, to date, divide the two men.

Frank Westworth wrote an entertaining piece for Fully Booked, in which he outlined his favourite – theoretical – ways of killing people.  Follow the link to read Killing Me Softly.

A Last Act of Charity was published in September 2014, details here.

The Corruption of Chastity was published in September 2015, details here.

The Redemption of Charm is out now, details here.

All three books are published by Book Guild Publishing.





THE POSTMAN DELIVERS … Oswald & Westworth


The Postman Delivers…except that he didn’t, quite. My regular chap is resigned to regular and frequent booky parcels, and always leaves them by the servants’ entrance if he can’t make me hear, or I am somewhere away on my rambling ancestral estate. But regular chap is on holiday, so replacement chap took yesterday’s books back to the sorting office, from where I had to collect them. The little red ticket from the postie wasn’t enough to prove my identity, neither was my haughty, “Don’t you know who I used to be..?” So, I had to show them the scandalously unflattering photo on my driving licence, the one where I look like one of Bertie Wooster’s less intelligent friends. But, eventually, the books were collected, and they were well worth the effort.

back-cover007First out of its protective wrapper was the latest from one of my favourite British writers, Frank Westworth. He has created a noirish world of grimy London music venues, peopled with frequently freakish characters and misfits, all of whom live out the heartbreaking three-chord trick of the Blues in their real lives. Presiding over the mayhem is a moody and reclusive investigator, cum killer, cum doer-of-dirty-deeds for the British establishment. His name is JJ Stoner, and as well as bending his guitar strings into shivering blue notes, he has an uneasy and unique relationship with three weird sisters. Note the absence of capitals, as these ladies are not the cauldron-stirring crones of The Scottish Play, but three violent and devious sexual predators. We have met Charity and Chastity in the first two books of the trilogy, but as Westworth wraps the series up, he introduces us to Charm.

troc2What happens in the book? I can do no better than to quote a line from the best motorbike song ever written. Like the biker outlaw James in Richard Thompson’s awesome Vincent Black Lightning 1952, JJ is “running out of road …running out of breath,” Stoner is surrounded by brutal enemies on all sides, and all the old acquaintances from whom he might expect a favour or three are walking by on the other side. This is one book which will certainly not end up in a charity shop or casually passed on to friends, because mine came with a personal touch. You folks are definitely not going to lay hands on my copy, and I’m afraid you will have to wait until the end of next month for yours. In the meantime, you can check out a mischievous and beautifully written piece by Frank Westworth in our features section, and watch this space for my full review of The Redemption of Charm.


Having punched the air (in a elderly gentleman kind of way) at receiving the new Frank Westworth, I then joyfully repeated the gesture when I found that my second parcel contained the new novel by James Oswald. Apart from having one of the more interesting ( bonesand demanding) day jobs of current authors, Oswald has achieved what might have seemed to be an impossible task. He has created a engaging and totally believable Scottish copper who, over the space of six previous novels, has sharp-elbowed his way in the room crowded with such characters as John Rebus and Logan McRea.

Oswald’s Edinburgh Detective is Tony McLean, and Written In Bones has McLean once again up to his elbows in a sinister and mysterious murder. A body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, and the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

McLean has to decide whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message. His work is made more complex by the fact that the dead man was a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who has reinvented himself as a philanthropist. McLean’s investigation takes him back to Edinburgh’s haunted past, and through its underworld. He is forced to rub shoulders with some of the city’s most dangerous people and, in extreme contrast, folk who are among the most vulnerable on the capital’s streets.

Oswald’s day job? He farms on 350 acres in Fife, and when he is not delivering lambs or tending his pedigree Highland cattle, he writes best-selling crime novels such as this one, which is published by Penguin, and is out now.



THE POSTMAN DELIVERS …Stokes and Westworth

stokes015Today’s delivery of two contrasting packets looked intriguing. One was large and weighty, while the other was much slimmer. When I opened the envelopes and looked at the books the differences couldn’t have been greater. One book, Blackmail, is actually written by a retired Judge, and the Nottingham Post tells us:

“The 68-year-old resident judge at Nottingham Crown Court once had a rapist expose himself to him in the dock, and was assaulted by a defendant during a trial in Leicester. He has also been sworn at countless times by unhappy crooks and their families.”

So, Michael Stokes has clearly faced down a generation or two of hardened criminals, and now he has put his experience to good use with his first novel, and you won’t be surprised to hear that the story features a judge who is presiding over a high profile criminal trial. When his wife and son are kidnapped, the ransom is a simple one. Rule against the prosecution of gangster Michael Doyle, or you will never see your family again. Blackmail is published by Matador/Troubador and is out now.

westworth016If you check the graphic at the top of this feature, it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot which is the retired judge, and which is Frank Westworth, a novelist whose twin passions are powerful motorbikes and playing blues guitar. Frank wrote us an excellent feature a while back called Killing Me Softly – A Guide To Murder, and you can click the link to read it.

Now Frank has published, via Murder, Mayhem and More – or M3 – a collection of stories involving his distinctly unusual covert operator, JJ Stoner. A fellow writer has warned us to expect “Guns, girls, guitars and gruesome violence,” so lovers of  Noir with a distinctly English flavour may well want to grab this slick and stylish volume. Me? I’ve got a signed copy, so I am feeling rather smug. The book will be available on 14th November, and here’s where to buy it.


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