The Alpha Wolves


The On-Book Club (US) - The Alpha Wolves by John Righten is the third part of The Lochran Trilogy , a series of violent crime thrillers. Adrestia Brooks ("Raven") and her father Kyle Kincaid ("Delafury") command a band of criminals called The Alpha Wolves, who are trying to seize control of organised crime across the United States. They brutally murder Commander Newcomb, the newly appointed head of Scotland Yard, in private quarters on an overland train. Meanwhile, their arch-enemies Lochran, Kirsten and their daughter Lenka are being hidden away in a building annexed to the New York Metropolitan Museum. But the Alpha Wolves will stop at nothing to track them down...

I enjoyed Righten's writing style, simple sentences like other good action-oriented crime fiction. His descriptive passages are strong, such as the following description of Stuzzicadente ("Toothpick"), the Mafia Don of Hell's Kitchen in New York City: "With his ghoulish appearance, he looked like he had died with his eyes open." A little later, Righten adds: "...the pallid features of Stuzzicadente remained fixed, making it appear that rigor mortis had set in." This sort of smart themed description really brings characters to life.

The ending is powerful and a little different to what I expected, which is refreshing. (September 2018)

Self-Publishing Review (US) - Assassins, political intrigue and brutal violence abound in The Alpha Wolves, the final installment of The Lochran Trilogy, a series of gripping historical thrillers by John Righten.

Lochran “Lock” Ryan has some very dangerous information: he knows who was behind the attempt on Sir Winston Churchill’s life. Now he and Kirsten Brett, Churchill’s former emissary and the mother of his child, are hiding out in New York, a city that Lock knows well. They are being hunted by Delafury, a psychopathic giant who Interpol has dubbed a “one-man execution squad,” and his equally deranged daughter, known in the criminal underworld as Raven.

Raven has resurrected the Alpha Wolves – its recruits killing with blood-thirsty zeal on her command. Together with her father and her Alpha Wolves, they are on Lock and Kirsten’s trail. Delafury has sworn to kill Lock and those close to him and will stop at nothing until all are dead. So far, father and daughter have left a trail of broken and mutilated bodies in their wake as they hunt for their quarry, and Lock will do everything in his power to keep his family safe…

History, action and political intrigue are, without doubt, the backbone of The Alpha Wolves. Righten has taken events and actual figures from history in the form of Sir Winston Churchill and has created an explosive story based on an attempt on his life – a story that ultimately includes the Americans, Russians, and the Nazis. It’s not an easy feat to blur the lines between history and fiction yet Righten manages to pull this off exceedingly well. Cameos by the entertainer and activist, Josephine Baker, as well as illustrious name dropping in the form of Princess Grace of Monaco, also add to the historical relevance.

While these historical elements are certainly the backbone of The Alpha Wolves, it’s also important to give some of the focal characters in the book their due. Lochran Ryan, Righten’s main protagonist, is as tough as they come – comfortable with squeezing the life out of an opponent with his bare hands as he is tenderly cradling his daughter in his arms. Delafury and his daughter, Raven, on the other hand, are the ultimate killing machines. Sadistic and narcissistic psychopaths, both enjoy inflicting torture simply because they can – a point effectively conveyed in the first chapter of the book. Righten is expert at constructing characters who are both realistic and larger than life – feeling more like characters from a thriller than history, but intriguingly woven together with historical characters who have mythic qualities themselves, lending the book an overall realism.

The Alpha Wolves is a solid package of action and intrigue, and a fine conclusion to The Lochran Trilogy, which is a stellar read from start to finish for lovers of historical thrillers. (September 2018)

The Last Rogue

Self-Publishing Review (US). The Last Rogue is the second book in the Lochran Trilogy by John Righten. It is a political thriller.

The novel begins on January 9, 1965, in London. It picks up where the first novel left off. Delafury is on the loose and Katalina was murdered. Additionally, the Scotland Yard was very recently bombed, and Lochran Ryan has been arrested. While Merchant seems to have it out for Lock, a viscount known as Foxy sticks up for Lock’s integrity. After all, Lock has saved many children from horrendous circumstances. His track record speaks to the strength of his character, though some still insist that Lock is behind the attempt to assassinate Winston Churchill. Lock is released from prison shortly thereafter and reunited with Kirsten, the woman whom he loves, and his mother Lenka. As the characters try to piece together the unresolved mysteries from the first book (such as the death of Commander Macleod and the identity of his daughter), secrets are uncovered, diversions and false leads are realized, and Lock learns about the elite organization that has sought to destroy Churchill. Furthermore, readers learn more about the drug-related activities of the Alpha Wolves who were thought to have been disbanded long ago, and the Raven, a powerful and intimidating woman known to be a master manipulator.

This book is intended for adult readers. It contains foul language and sometimes gory violence. On the flip side of this, there are also many heartfelt moments, mainly due to Lock’s relationships with Lenka and Kirsten. There is also plenty of humor, such as when Lenka responds to Lock in the following way: “You’re definitely loved up! People always use cliches when their brain is disengaged.” The novel includes some flashbacks, including when Lenka originally contacted Churchill to warn him and when Lenka was teaching Lock how to fight at the orphanage in 1947. Dialogue is one of the author’s many strengths. One of my favorite examples is when the assassin Kerrigan tells Lock: “...a normal existence is not for us. That is why you seek trouble. Women, children, the infirm, you see it as your patronising mission to protect those in danger, a respectable cloak of morality under which you can exercise your violent nature.”

This is the type of story where the characters really shouldn’t trust anyone. There is not just one prime antagonist, as several criminals and organizations are woven into the plot. Even so, I greatly enjoyed the banter that Lock has with Lenka, Kirsten, and Foxy; I also liked, in general, how the characters were able to read each other or at least try to. Lenka has impressive deductive reasoning skills, as she explains detail by detail why it had to have been a woman that killed Katalina. Lenka has a bold personality. She curses a lot and doesn’t shy away from inappropriate or suggestive comments. It is interesting to notice the personality differences between Lenka and her sister Marisa. Lock has a refreshingly quick wit and sharp sense of humor. Seeing more of their family dynamic in this sequel was definitely a highlight for me. (December 2017)

Churchill’s Assassin

Self-Publishing Review (US) - Churchill’s Assassin is a riveting political thriller by John Righten that asks, Why try to assassinate a dying man?

It’s New Year’s Eve, 1964. Lochran Ryan, a young man fresh off a ferry from Ireland, hands the customs official a telephone number and demands that he calls the number as it’s a matter of national security. The official reluctantly places the call, only to find that it’s answered by Winston Churchill’s personal secretary who quickly orchestrates Ryan’s audience with Churchill. However, when Ryan finally enters the gravely ill statesman’s room, a sniper tries to kill Churchill. Ryan intends to find out and will stop at nothing until he has all the answers…

Righten’s protagonist, Lochran Ryan, is a cross between James Bond and Robin Hood. He’s a “hit man for hire” who has no compunction about using deadly violence to achieve his goals, yet he’s also a character to root for. Due the strength of characterization and plotting, the story reels you in immediately. Although Ryan and Churchill make for strange bedfellows, the concept nevertheless works brilliantly.

The narrative is solid with the tension rarely easing up. Churchill’s Assassin is a fine mixture of historical detail, thrilling action, and detailed characterization, making for a riveting spin on one of the world’s greatest statesman that will have readers eager to pick up the next book in the series. (October 2016)

Churchill's Rogue

Bookbag Review (UK) - Sean Ryan grew up in Ireland during the 20th century's first quarter and so understands death and loss. He learnt to defend what he felt right during his time as a bodyguard for Michael Collins. Therefore when Winston Churchill called upon his services in 1937 to bring a mother and child out of Germany, Ryan doesn't say no. However Ryan soon discovers this is no easy escort duty. The mother and child in question are for some reason being hunted by an elite German force led by Cerberus, a code name for a sadist incarnate. On the plus side, Ryan soon discovers he's not alone. There are more like him across Europe; those with pasts that forged them into violent defenders of the vulnerable in an increasingly dangerous world. These are the Rogues and, this time, Ryan needs their help.

This is British author John Righten's debut novel following the first instalment of his non-fiction autobiography Benevolence of Rogues which brought to the fore some of the real life 'Rogues' he's met during a multi-faceted life spent in some very dangerous places. John isn't someone who has just had an exciting, precariously balanced life; he also has a talent for transferring such existences to the page. Anyone doubting this should certainly read Churchill's Rogues – and hold onto your seats!

To be fair, the novel has a bit of a false start. At the beginning the scene is set as Churchill meets Ryan in the former's office to discuss the Irishman's mission. This is a scene that's nothing like the rest of the story. In this short opener the discussion feels a little stilted in places and historical fact feels as though it's been shoe-horned in. However this is a passing moment compared to the rest of the novel, so short it doesn't affect the perfect rating and so passing that it's soon forgotten in a flurry of tense, bloody brilliance.

Once Ryan leaves Churchill the historical facts are added in a more subtle way, providing fascinating insight into a Germany in which Hitler has swept himself to power and the atrocities in the name of 'racial cleansing' are being introduced with increasing intensity. Churchill's involvement is interesting as, in an era when the UK and US were dithering as to whether the Nazis should be fought or be expeditiously befriended, the future Prime Minister was a lone voice of almost prophetic warning.

Although there are other factual characters appearing (e.g. Himmler and the Fuhrer himself) the most compelling are the fictionalised. Sean Ryan is almost a 1930s Irish Jack Reacher and yet, as much as I love Lee Child's work (and I do love it!), John Righten adds rugged, scream-curdling realism and a pace that would render Jack Reacher an asthmatic wreck.

Speaking of scream-curdling brings us to the most wonderful baddie in the Earl Grey drinking Cerberus. His real name – Major Krak - may give rise to a smirk or two but we don't laugh for long. He enjoys torture and, to give him credit, he's certainly got an imagination for it.

Indeed, earlier I described the novel as 'bloody' and for a good reason; it's definitely not a story for the delicate. However, the intensity of violence isn't for gratification. It reminds us that in the real world shootings and explosions don't just produce a tidy red dot on victims' bodies; death can be a messy business!

The other thing we notice is that this is doesn’t suffer from that usual first in series malady, set-up-lull. As we follow the pasts and presents of Australian, Russian, American and British Rogues we back-track them through other conflicts like the Spanish Civil War and the Russian Revolution.

The more we come to know them, the more we can't help loving them while also realising why it's best not to get close to anyone in this line of work. We're at the mercy of an author who will kill at will (in literary terms) but having started on the emotional roller coaster, I don't want to the series to end. Bring on The Gathering Storm – I'm braced and more than ready! (October 2016)

Self-Publishing Review (US) - "A riveting political thriller. Due the strength of characterization and plotting, the story reels you in immediately. Although Ryan and Churchill make for strange bedfellows, the concept nevertheless works brilliantly. Churchill’s Assassin is a fine mixture of historical detail, thrilling action, and detailed characterization, making for a riveting spin on one of the world’s greatest statesman that will have readers eager to pick up the next book in the series.” (November 2016)

Benevolence of Rogues

Kirkus Independent (US) - “Debut memoirist Righten describes his working-class childhood and erstwhile young adulthood amid a motley crew of relatives and friends in Ireland and England. Righten’s memoir will remind readers of a drunken evening in a pub spent listening to tales of a sordid and colorful life. He takes turns as a rollicking fighter, pub denizen and gambler before, eventually, becoming a humanitarian. With a sly, ironic voice, Righten avoids sentimentalizing his life by undercutting every harsh observation with humor; ever the “Fenian bastard,” Righten has a gift for rendering the eccentricities of his friends and relatives in a comedic way. Wacky travel anecdotes and scenes of brawls, workplace shenanigans, and football matches gone awry are lively and engrossing. However, this is not a memoir for the straight-laced, politically correct or fainthearted: Massive quantities of alcohol are consumed, many teeth are knocked out, and sarcasm is in generous supply. Righten’s life philosophy, represented in the title, plays a large part in the narrative. He believes that even the most unlikely of rogues has a moral compass and is capable of unexpected acts of kindness. Of course, the author employs a uniquely flexible definition of good, which may include violence against cheating husbands and abusive fathers. But readers will find it difficult to disagree with the thrust of Righten’s arguments in the second half of this memoir, which focuses on the author’s career as a humanitarian worker in Bosnia and Latin America. His run-in with a sociopathic mercenary is particularly chilling, as are his descriptions of delivering medicine to hospitals filled with traumatized, needy children during the Bosnian War. Righten’s own near-death experiences will convince readers that the author is one of the benevolent scoundrels he so admires. A roguishly charming memoir."(December 2012)

Hampstead & Highgate Express Arts Review (UK) - Aid worker’s missions find unlikely support from prison forgers, gangster’s henchmen and sympathetic police… John Righten has been in the wrong place at the right time since the 1980s. Then, he was in Romania, delivering medical supplies to orphans suffering from Aids. Subsequently he was in Bosnia in the 90s, sneaking in medical supplies and in South America – Brazil, Chile and Peru – during the 2000s. Righten is now back and has put together his experiences in his autobiography, The Benevolence of Rogues.” (August 2012)