Released in the last week, we are pleased to be joining gritty, Scottish crime author Alan Jones (The Cabinetmaker, Blue Wicked) for his latest work of fiction, BLOQ, during his release blog tour! Not only do we have the book info and review for you, but the author has written an exclusive piece for us, whereby a main character from the story is being interviewed by a journalist, also a character from Bloq!
Author: Alan Jones
Genre: Crime drama, thriller
Release date: April 1st, 2016
Released by: Ailsa Publishing
Length: 300 pages
Blurb: A father waits in Glasgow’s Central Station for his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train has pulled in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why. His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.
This is a gritty crime novel with some sexual content.
REVIEW ***** (5* rating)
Bloq is an extremely well-written dark and gritty crime novel, telling the story of a widower whose devoted daughter doesn’t come home for Christmas. The father goes to all lengths in the search for her, with twists and surprises that really do shock and create emotion within the reader.
We start where the reader is succumbed to a fantastic, dark-but-gripping prologue, demonstrating foul play and providing us with the curiosity to find out just who the victim is, and who did it. I love it when books reel you in, straight in at the deep end at the very beginning. In this way, there’s no leaving the story until you get some answers. The author has his claws in you, and you’re hooked!
One cannot help but feel completely devastated for Bill. He is a very likable, gentle character, and not only has he been widowed recently, but now his only daughter, Carol, has gone missing with no explanation. Since she moved down to London for her career as a journalist, Carol always took the time to return to Glasgow, visiting her parents, and now just her father. She would always let him know which train she was ready to catch and he would then meet her at the station. When her train arrives with no sign of Carol, he immediately senses that something is wrong; she hasn’t called or texted him. And so he waits for the next; all the time the reader senses his gut feeling that something is wrong.
As the story begins to unfold, and with little help from the police, Bill tries to follow the only lead he has from one of Carol’s friends. To be able to keep track of his search he spends a great deal of his time in London, whilst still trying to maintain his day job in Glasgow. With luck going completely against him, after a few weeks of working flexi-time, he is encouraged to leave due to the fact that he shuts himself off and thinks only of his daughter’s disappearance.
Many doors close in Bill’s face, leaving very little hope. But, the sheer determination that Bill has is admirable. The reader can truly sense that he will find out what happened if it’s the last thing he does. I found myself tearing up due to the gentle and caring manner the author wrote about Bill’s actions and feelings – as if it was the author himself that had undergone this terrible ordeal. It is delicately and beautifully written in the places it needs to be. A truly outstanding read.
I love how in all of Alan Jones‘ books the main character has a skilful trade that is incorporated somewhere into the story. In this case it is more subtle than his previous work, but as a fan of the author I truly appreciated it.
Alan Jones has gone from strength to strength with each book (The Cabinetmaker, Blue Wicked). And, I can see Bloq being his most popular to date. It will definitely stay with me for a long time to come, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.
A copy of Bloq was provided by the author in return for a fair and honest review.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker
**EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR POST**
To coincide with our blog tour post Alan Jones has kindly provided us with a pastiche of an article written by one of the minor characters in the book, a journalist, about one of the main characters in the book, the owner of the nightclub that gives the book its title – Bloq.
Aleksander Gjebrea – Eastern Bloq Entrepreneur. By Steve Evans The Times, Business section: London Local
I met Aleksander Gjebrea at his up-and-coming nightclub, ‘Bloq‘, a new player in London’s entertainment scene. After hearing good things about the club, bravely located in one of the city’s less fashionable areas, I paid a visit with some friends a week ago. If the evening was anything to go by, the management are pulling out all the stops to attract the cream of London’s clubbers.
While they’re still a way off attracting the A-listers, the club has its fair share of lesser known celebrities and young footballers. And it was busy. Even so, the owner took time to sit down during the evening for a while and chat with our group, and I must say, it would have been hard to imagine a more congenial host. I took advantage of this and asked him if he would be prepared to give me an interview for an article in a series I was writing about young immigrant entrepreneurs who had made their mark on their adopted city, and he kindly agreed.
So, before it opens for the evening’s revelry, we’re sitting in Bloq, drinking coffee and talking about his journey from his first job as a barman after arriving in the UK over ten years ago, to owning a nightclub with multiple zones and a top of the range sound system attracting up and coming DJ’s from all over England.
I asked him first if he’d ever hoped he could have come this far in such a short time. He laughed. “I always knew I would succeed. I would have just kept going until I did. That it happened so soon is just a bonus.” He tells me this in a voice tinted with an accent which is a product of his Albanian origins. I complement him on his English. He smiles and tells me that at first, the accent was detrimental, both in his employment and in social situations, but, the more successful he had become, the more his Albanian tinted speech proved to be an asset, but he stopped short of saying that he deliberately cultivated his accent to appear more charismatic.
He certainly oozed an easy and unaffected charm. A good looking man at 35, he says his single status is largely due to his focus and drive being on the business. He claims to work 18 hour days and, from what I have seen, it would be hard to dispute this.
“When I arrived from Albania, I had three of four jobs in different bars; a day here, a day there, but the owners soon realised that I worked hard and had a good feel for the job. I’d worked in my uncle’s bar back in Vlorë before I left Albania, so I knew the bar trade well. After a few months, I was offered the manager’s job at one of the bars and I increased turnover by £35K in one year. I put the bonus money I’d saved as a deposit on a run-down bar in a not so good area. It was part of a bankruptcy sale and it went very cheap. Within two years I had bought the property next door and expanded out into it. There were lots of students moving into the area and I put in some good audio, hired some decent DJs and did the whole place up as a small club.”
He told me where his first venture was situated, and that his younger brother ran it now. I asked him what had prompted his decision to move on to a new place when he had built up a good business that was doing well for him.
“I knew that I’d taken it as far as it could go. My brother had been over for a few years working for me and I thought of making him the manager, but I decided that he would make a better job of it if he owned it. I know that he’ll pay back the money to me, even though I’ve never asked him for it. It’s in our family make up. So I was happy to hand it over to him. I knew that to achieve my ambition of having a top class club, I needed a bigger venue, in the right location.”
I asked him why he’d chosen Walworth. It wasn’t an obvious place for a top end nightclub.
“It was the building that mattered, and I couldn’t afford one big enough in a more fashionable area. Walworth has good transport connections and is not too far away from central London. This building came up and I knew it was right.”
On the club’s name, he re-told the story I’d heard when I’d visited the club. Originally, he’d intended to call the club Eastern Bloq, a homage to his origins, but the name had been shortened to the more striking Bloq.
We took a break from our interview and he showed me around. The club has four main areas. There’s a sizeable lounge bar with a dance floor; very well decked out with lush seating and a number of tables for diners. The club does a limited menu, but it’s not primarily an eating place. It has a laid back feel to it, and the music is generally smooth, shall we say, and it’s not so loud as to make conversation impossible without shouting. The drinks are priced reasonably for an establishment of this quality, although, for those with too much disposable income, I noticed a few very expensive bottles of wine and some top end spirits on the drinks menu.
A stairway from the main foyer climbs to a terraced seating area overlooking the lounge bar, housing an intimate and quiet corner in the otherwise hectic and noisy venue.
The third area is the main dance zone, and you can tell there’s been a heavy investment in the sound system, and just as importantly, in the sound insulation that allows the music to be as loud as it needs to be without making the rest of the club intolerable. It’s very impressive, as I saw on the night I was there as a clubber, and the lighting was equally attention-grabbing too.
I asked Aleksander how much it had cost him.
Without blinking, he told me the whole place had cost well over three quarters of a million. I’d suspected it might have been more, but he informed me that he could strike a good deal with his contractors! He said that he’d paid off the loans on his previous club within three years and that he’d been able to put a bit of money behind him before he bought the building that he then transformed into Bloq. Despite that, he adds that it will take him a little longer to clear the debt on his latest project.
“I also run an import\export business between the UK and Albania. There’s a demand for British luxury goods because of the more open economy out there, and we bring produce back from Albania that competes very well with its UK equivalents. This, with some property development we’re also involved in, has allowed us to reduce the debt burden significantly, just five years into the life of the club.”
As we returned to the lounge bar, he showed me the VIP room, that is available at an undisclosed fee to those of his clientele who preferred a more private and personal experience, but with access to all the club’s other facilities.
“It’s very popular for birthdays, anniversaries and the like, and we’re finding it increasingly being booked by commercial organisations for corporate entertainment.”
I tackled him about the drug scene, and how it affected the management of the club.
“Being completely honest, it’s nearly impossible to stop it altogether, but our security is second to none, and we pride ourselves on the fact that the club has no serious drug issues.”
Returning to the lounge area, I asked him where he thought he’d be in another five years.
“My ambition is to make Bloq one of the premier late night London Venues by 2017. I would like to think that we can accomplish it at this location, because it’s good for the local area, bringing employment and extra footfall for local businesses. After that, who knows. Paris, Rome, Madrid?”
Having spent a few hours with the man, and being given a glimpse of the small but impressive business empire he has built from nothing in a very short time, it’s hard not to believe him when he says that he can achieve this ambitious target, and it’s even harder to rule out the possibility that it may well happen.