Simon Says » communiqué 006/April 2017

Simon Says: communiqué 006/April 2017

Hello everyone

Welcome to the April edition of Simon Says, my monthly readers’ group communiqué. It’s good to have you all here.

For me it’s new book time, so let’s not hang about.

The Camera: Order The Book Today

At first, Leathan Wilkey thinks he led the killer to Anaïs.

Leathan had been looking for the owner of a camera that was left in Anaïs’ café. It was a small favor for her—a favor that seems to have led trouble from his past to his friend.

But as he follows the few details about her death of which he is certain, Leathan realizes that the murder wasn’t connected to him, and the search for the camera’s owner wasn’t a favor for Anaïs. When he was looking for the owner of the lost camera, he was, in fact, creating a distraction. And now that Anaïs is dead, Leathan doesn’t understand why he was duped into creating this distraction.

Leathan needs to find the person who wanted him to create a diversion. Maybe this person knows who killed Anaïs—and why.


All Leathan knows for sure is that he will remain tormented until he brings about some sort of justice for Anaïs.

Order The Camera

The Camera is now available to order. It will be published on 9 May 2017 (and if you order it now, will be automatically delivered to your Kindle on 9 May 2017).

Order The Camera on Amazon.

Have You Read The Other Leathan Wilkey Books?

The publication of The Camera—the fourth Leathan Wilkey book (and the third full-length Leathan novel)—gives you a month to get up to date on the first three Leathan novels.


Does daddy care enough?

Read more about Clementina.

Bag Man

Take the bag. Give it to the nasty man. Bring back the kid.

Bag Man is included as part of my free introductory library. Get your copy here.

Diplomatic Baggage

Leathan Wilkey thinks he has been framed for murder by the victim’s father.

Find out more about Diplomatic Baggage.

Review Team

Book reviews help prospective readers understand whether a book might be right for them. And of course, reviews can help the author. To serve those twin aims I’m building up my review team and am throwing open the doors to new members.

If you’d like to help your fellow reader, as well as helping me, I’d be delighted if you would join the team.

If you can help out, then please let me have your name and email address.

But before you sign up, let me try and answer the questions you may have.

How Does This Work?

I give you one of my books—for free—and you contemplate giving me a review.

I choose the word “contemplate” carefully. I hope you will write a review—but I certainly do not require it and I’m absolutely not making any conditions about the review. “Stuff” happens… Life gets in the way… Or you may just hate the book and stop reading.

There’s no obligation to give any rating or to merely offer obliging comments—I want honest reviews to better inform my potential readers.

Where Should I Post My Review?

I want to focus first on Amazon. It’s where most sales come from, so reviews have most effect.

While I want to focus on Amazon, that’s not to ignore other places. If you can post on one of the other major book sites (Apple’s iTunes, Kobo, Google Play Books, or one of the significant bookstores in your location), please jump in.

If you post reviews on Goodreads or Facebook that would be great. If you have your own blog or a YouTube channel where you talk about books, that works too.

In short, I want reviews anywhere and everywhere…but let’s start with Amazon and move out from there.

And of course, you can post your review in more than one place ;–)

Does Amazon Have Anything to Say About This?

They do… And you can read their guidelines here.

You can read the whole thing, but let me draw out the key passage:

Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.

To be clear—Amazon have restrictions about offering other, non-book products for a review. However, they are relaxed about authors/publishers distributing books, provided:

Amazon do have a few other conditions, such as:

Naturally, if you’re posting on another site, you should comply with the terms that apply there.

Can I Review The Camera?

Maybe… Probably… Hopefully…

I’d certainly like to make The Camera the first book for the review team, but at the time of writing, I’m not sure about production timing so I can’t be definitive. But it’s definitely my intention and it’s what I’m working towards.

However, I will also be going over my back catalog (slowly), so you’ll get a chance to review those books in addition to my future publications.

What Sort of Review Do You Want, Simon?

Ha! I see your trick question.

We’re back to that Amazon condition…the one about not attempting to influence the review. All I would suggest is that you write whatever you think will help other readers.

What Do I Need?

First off, you’ll need some sort of ereader (a Kindle, a phone, a tablet, or similar). The books will be distributed electronically using the same system that I use for my introductory library (BookFunnel).

Apart from that, you’ll need some time and you’ll need a place (or places) to post your review.

How Quickly?

How quickly can you read a book and post a review?

Ideally—if you choose to post a review—I’d like to see the reviews as soon as possible. But realistically (life and all that…) if you can get a review up within two to four weeks, I would be delighted.

Do I Have to Buy Any Book I Review?


However, you can, if you want :–)

If you do buy the book on Amazon, your review will be listed as a “verified purchase”.

As a side issue, Amazon limit non-verified purchase reviews (currently, that limit is five a week). If you buy the book you have reviewed, then it will be removed from that five item limit.

Once I’m In, Is There A Way Out?


You stop. Ideally, drop me an email so I can stop sending you new books to review.

I’ve Got More Questions!

Hit the reply button.

The Power of the Dog

I’ve just finished reading The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow. If you haven’t read the book, fix that and read it now.

The book is set against the involvement by the US DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) in the War on Drugs over three decades covering the presidencies of Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (41), and Clinton, with much of the action set along the US/Mexico border.


Stylistically, the book feels more like reportage rather than fiction. To my mind this is a good thing—it makes the whole book feel far more real. If you’ve ever read Frederick Forsyth, the style is similar to his.

To call the novel “a book” might give the wrong impression; each chapter (at least in the earlier part of the book) is more like a separate story with its own cast and narrative arc. The chapters are then strung together to create a coherent account set across time. As the book moves forward, each new episode brings one or two characters from a previous situation, moving them into a new context with the consequences of decisions and actions from previous years being understood and illustrated.

The Heart of the Story

The Power of the Dog looks at corruption and short-term political expediency coupled with pragmatism, all in the name of an uncertain end and political deniability.

At the heart of the story is a basic contradiction: the US government was in a war against drugs and yet it contracted-out the implementation of US foreign policy to narco traffickers and helped funnel drug money to fund activities which Congress wouldn’t fund.

And perhaps the ultimate irony was that US policy worked to push up the price of drugs, thereby increasing the profits for the narco traffickers making the continued trade that more worthwhile.

The Threads

There are Italian and Irish mobsters in New York, DEA agents (many of whom were Vietnam vets, many with connections to the CIA), and Mexican drug lords (who in some cases are also Mexican law enforcement officials).

In Mexico, widespread use of defoliants sanctioned by the DEA stops poppy growth. The reaction of the drug dealers is to move from selling locally produced brown heroin to trafficking cocaine produced in countries to the south.

In an attempt to broaden their businesses, the cartels seek political influence—in other words, they bribe and intimidate. It’s not difficult—the cartels have more money than the government and they can reach anyone, including politicians, as the murder of a presidential candidate illustrates.

As the cartels seek influence, there’s a bloody war between them which is good for the war on drugs, but bad for the Mexican population. Many citizens are killed either as collateral damage or if they are the family of someone suspected of damaging a cartel.

The Mexican government is largely powerless to act. First, there is the corruption—within the elected officials and at all ranks of law enforcement. Second, the government has no money—the only significant sources of funds (beyond tax) that the Mexican government can draw on come from the US and the Vatican which is looking for influence and to reinstate its position within the country.

The story then weaves in the funding the Contras in their battle against the Sandinista regime and the broader US fight against the rise of communism in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. With the fear that Mexico would collapse and fall to communism the country was propped by a combination of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and narco profits.

In Columbia FARC guerrillas are trading cocaine for arms—arms procured from China by the Mexican drug traffickers. The US reaction is to use defoliants to prevent the growth of cocoa plants, a practice previously adopted in Mexico to stop poppy growth.

But the defoliants were used without restraint and without consideration for the consequences. Not only were the poppies and cocoa plants killed, but so too were the food crops. And through spraying from too high, spraying over a wider area than expected, and spraying with a too concentrated mixture, many people were sprayed leading to illness—in particular childhood cancer.

With barren land and no other way to sustain a living, residents then had no option but to work for the narcos.


There is violence throughout the book. Some violence is quite extreme. But narco traffickers are savage, so downplaying the risks and the consequences would have reduced the story.

A central thread of the action is driven by a reaction to violence—in this case, the torture and death of a DEA agent.

It rather is case of no violence, no story, so if you’re very sqeamish, maybe look elsewhere.

Look Elsewhere, But You’ll Be Missing Out…

I’ve sought to give a flavor of the book, and I do realize my comments are somewhat fractured, but please don’t let that put you off.

Read a chapter or two for yourself and make up your own mind. If you ignore this book, you’ll be missing out—it’s a great read.

One Track Mind

I’ll be back in a month. Until then I hope you’ll find a moment or two to check out The Camera.

All the best