First Contract is a standalone short story that introduces JJ Stoner, the anti-hero of a series of novels yet to come. It’s intelligently written, with excellent characterisation, sharp wit and punchy back-n-forth dialogue. The author makes no apologies for Stoner’s pragmatic attitude towards the elimination of his targets, and the result is an solid well thought through action thriller, intelligently handled. A good taster for what is to come. Looking forward to the full-length novels.
Review by Ian Sutherland, author of Invasion of Privacy
First off, I have to say that this is not my genre of choice. I don’t particularly care for war stories, espionage, or even mystery. However, I do like good writing, and First Contract has plenty of that. The dialogue is snappy, the characters are sharply developed, and the plot moves effortlessly forward. Once I started reading, the pages turned quickly and willingly.
I know nothing about military operations, but the details certainly felt authentic. Westworth didn’t cram every paragraph with soldierly lingo like some writers in this genre do. There was just enough to let you know that Westworth has done his research but not so much that it disrupted the flow of the narrative.
The plot was fun but also gritty. One could easily see this being adapted into a screenplay. I wasn’t completely sure about JJ Stoner’s motivations, but this appears to be just a taste of a much longer series, and I expect Westworth will tell the reader everything in due time. Altogether a surprisingly enjoyable read.
Review by Dale Bridges, author of Justice, Inc
Immersing and involving: Frank Westworth ventures beyond his comfort zone and does he do it in style!
The story gets going with an extremely violent scene, but it’s not gratuitous or excessive. It’s written to be blunt and matter of fact, and it reveals a lot about the central character.
It’s only a quick read, not a full-length book, but it is a complete story which introduces some really interesting characters. You end up wanting to know more about what happens to JJ Stoner and his new life in the shadows.
It’s very sophisticated story-telling, written in a mature style, and targeted for a mature audience
Review by A Camilleri, Amazon Hall of Fame & Top Ten reviewer
JJ Stoner is ex-military and a hired gun. This is his first killing contract and he goes about it in a professional, ruthless and unemotional manner. There is a dark humour in the story and it will be interesting to see how the character of Stoner develops in Frank Westworth’ s complete novel.
Review by Kate
Opening in an Iraqi desert, our first meeting with JJ Stoner does nothing for the man’s chances of being nominated for any awards for unbridled compassion or for turning the other cheek. The almost staccato delivery, as we are introduced to his own way of dealing with those that he has issues with, prepares the reader for the unconventional job interview and our first meeting with his new boss, ‘the Hard Man’, that follows.
Little is said, but much is conveyed to give the reader some kind of idea of what may be in store, but what does follow is both unexpected and unrepentant at the same time. The rules, such as they are, have been outlined. Hero? Antihero? Who can tell for sure? But whichever Stoner is, be thankful that he seems to be on the side of the men in white hats… for now at least.
In the limited space of this short story, time is somehow found for characters to be drawn and for a tale to unfold. It’s a tale that comes complete with the unexpected twist that tells us even more about this protagonist who appears to be so terrifyingly single minded, but whom I suspect will prove to be nothing of the sort.
Even within the constraints of the short story format, the small details are all in place that allow the locations to feel real and the action to be believable, no matter how unexpected they might be.
I’m sure that we’re going to see a lot more of JJ Stoner who, as decent fair minded civilised people, we shouldn’t really like and admire, but who we will still be behind, all the way, as he takes care of the dirty work that needs to be done by someone.
I look forward to the forthcoming full length novel and the subsequent books in the series. Did somebody mention TV?
Review by Chris Graham
The characters are well drawn, the prose excellent and the story line intriguing. JJ Stoner is someone you will either love or hate but you cannot help being drawn into his story. Roll on September when we will get a full length novel to enjoy – excellent work
Review by Richard Cerrig
A brilliant read, along the lines of Jack Reacher. I look forward to the full novel.
Review by Mrs J M Flynn
The style of the JJ Stoner short story, First Contract, will be shockingly unfamiliar to the legions of FW fans as it skips from the middle east to Eire and from military to mercenary, albeit with a hint of government approval.
Stoner’s transition from soldier to contract killer does not go smoothly yet, as the body count mounts, he abandons creativity in favour of a direct approach to satisfy his new employer.
The short story does exactly what it should; it is enjoyable and easily read but leaves you curious and impatient for the next instalment.
Review by Ian Woolley
I was fascinated to read this one. As well as setting the scene for a new series, it gives us a credible introduction to JJ Stoner, establishes characters to whom we can relate and feel empathy. Yet this is by no means just a primer, it is self-contained and uses the short story format to great effect to establish characters to whom we can not only relate but also feel empathy (perhaps even shock / revulsion at times, so we probably wouldn’t invite them to dinner!) I am definitely intrigued enough to see how this develops, that I intend to read the first novel in the series when it comes out.
Review by Simon Buck
‘First Contract’ is the author’s taster for his new trilogy. The protagonist, JJ Stoner, is ex-special forces, an emotionless, efficient killer – and yet I immediately related to him favourably – a sign of good character development on the part of the author. The novelette has a terse, spare style and winds the reader in – definitely a page-turner.
If the new trilogy maintains this promise I can see Frank’s novels becoming very popular. Move over Ian Fleming, JJ Stoner could replace James Bond.