CLIP: The Gumshoe by Paul D. Brazill

In the beginning was the sound. The light came later.the gumshoe and other brit grit yarns.

               The sound was a horrifying wail that skewered its way deep into my unconscious brain until I awoke sharply – drowning in sweat, my heart smashing through my ribcage, my head about to burst.

               Some twat, somewhere, was playing a U2 song over and over again, and all was far from friggin quiet on New Year’s Day, I can tell you.

               I squeezed my eyes open and squinted until I saw the familiar sight of a fraying Mott The Hoople poster peeling from fuzzy, red-flock wallpaper. I was lying on a brown tweed sofa and tangled up in a tartan blanket that had seen better days. And nights.

               I was home.

               The air in the room was warm and soupy and I felt a wave of nausea pass over me. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and counted to ten. The dry heaves kicked in around six. A beat. I peeled my eyes open again. The aquarium bubbled and gurgled, bathing the room in a sickly green light. Sickly and yet soothing. I reminded myself that I really had to put some tropical fish in there, one day.

               I edged onto my side and awkwardly kicked the blanket to the floor. I was fully clothed. My armpits were soaking. My fake Armani shirt was soggy. A sickly smell permeated my pores. The least said about my trousers the better.

               Beside me was a sticky coffee table that was cluttered with the remnants of the previous night’s drinking. I picked up an open can of Stella Artois and shook it. It was more than half full. A result, then.

               I slowly sipped its warm, flat contents until I started to get a glow on, like one of the kids in the old porridge adverts. Booze: central heating for drunks.

               Bonzo, The Ledge, and their musically illiterate pals continued to strangle a cat in the flat next door and I knew that I was going to have to make a move soon, before my head went all Scanners. I finished the lager, edged myself up to a sitting position and picked up my glasses from the coffee table. One of the lenses was scratched but they weren’t broken. Another result.

               The blinking, digital clock-radio that was plonked on top of the television set said that it was 3.15 but then, these days, it always did. Ever since I’d thrown it against the wall during a particularly grating late night phone-in show. In the real dark night of the soul, there was always some twat talking bollocks at three o’clock in the morning.

You can grab THE GUMSHOE, AND OTHER BRIT GRIT YARNS here as an eBook and here as a paperback.

Short, Sharp Interview: John B Bliss

PDB: What’s going on now?

Loads! Really excited about The Murder Boys reaching new audiences so looking forward to promoting that. And I’m murderboys amazonwriting a sequel to TMB too. It’s got a working title of Essential Oil and picks up the hero of TMB, Richard Turner, five years later; he’s a motorcycle courier getting involved left wing radicalism in 1980s London. It kind of asks the question: how much of the wrong thing can you do for the right reasons?

PDB: How did you research this book?

The idea for The Murder Boys came out of personal experience – although I certainly never got involved in a killing and went on the run like Richard and his best mate Ali do. But a lot of the characters and situations are kind of composites of people and situations I got involved in growing up in Oxford in the late 70s and early 80s. I had to do a bit of research for the climax of the novel – Richard ends up fighting his nemesis and the whole thing takes place while an episode of Top of the Pops is playing in the background. The songs and order are completely accurate. I even set it up as a playlist to write to!

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

Well it’s got to be The Murder Boys: it feels great to get a first novel under your belt. But I’ve got high hopes for the next book too. I always though writing a book was like swimming across a lake – you don’t think you can do it and when you’re out there you don’t know if you can make it; but once you have you kind of understand the process and where you are in it. Which basically means: keep writing!

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?

Oh tricky. Because it depends on my mood and stuff but here goes … Polanski’s Chinatown; Irving Welsh, Trainspotting; Ian Dury and the Blockheads – hit me with your rhythm stick; The Sopranos. How’s that?

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

Of course. Time and place is like another character and permits the characters to behave as they do.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

Got a feeling that’s going to be a big part of my future…

PDB: What’s next? Well I want to get Essential Oil finished by the end of the summer and start thinking about book three too. I’ve got a couple of great ideas…

Bio: John B Bliss grew up in Oxford in the 70s and 80s. He was drawn to unusual characters and counter culture. The perverse thing about the evil of Thatcherism, he says, wBlissas that it made people rebel; there was actually loads of creativity that came out of the anger and ennui generated by the marginalisation of society. John worked in a few dead end jobs before studying media at the University of Sussex; he has worked extensively in television and scripted a number of short films and full length screenplays. Turning to prose fiction has brought some awards for his short stories and now the publication of his first novel, The Murder Boys. John lives in Brighton and is married with two children.

A Story For Sunday: A Red Lipstick by Cormac Brown

‘Gold, black, green and purple spots. When they are part of an Impressionist painting, they are beautiful, but Lara’s skin is not a canvas by Monet. No, in the dingy light of the diner bathroom, her arms and legs look like they’ve been touched by the brush of DeSade or Torquemada. She winces, not at her reflection, but at the pain in her sore jaw and the tenderness in her lips.’

A blast from the past at the late, great A TWIST OF NOIR.

Cormac Brown at A TWIST OF NOIR Check out A RED LIPSTICK BY CORMAC BROWN and check out the rest of the site.

Recommended Read: Third Person: A JJ Stoner short story by Frank Westworth

third personFrank Westworth’s JJ Stoner is an ex-soldier, a hit man, a blues musician, a biker.

In THIRD PERSON, Stoner’s friend Bernadette realizes she is being tailed through the rainy Irish streets and decides to take action.

THIRD PERSON, is a very enjoyable, funny and violent hard-boiled thriller, full of twists and turns. that works well as an introduction to Westworth’s ‘Killing Sisters‘ novels.

A Story For Sunday: Just Like Dillinger by Bill Baber

locked and loaded‘Don’t ask.  Don’t, because I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that killing two junkies in a Tucson alley for the cash they had just gotten from cashing some paltry government check wasn’t worth the needle ride it might cost us. Jimmy and me must have been stupid. It was the kind of thing that always happened when we took a couple of downs mixed with a forty or two.’

Read the rest here at the well-smashing SHOTGUN HONEY.

Route 66 And All That is Reviewed at Dark Musings

rogueThe ROGUE anthology is reviewed by Anthony Watson at DARK MUSINGS.

Here’s what he has to say about my yarn:

‘There’s politics too – though in a subtle, tangential way and even some humour – though of the darkest variety. The latter is most evident in Paul D Brazill’s Route 66 and All That which introduces an entertaining set of hapless criminals and contains some zinging one-liners.’

Check out the rest of the review here.

James A. Newman Reviews A Case Of Noir

a case of Beck‘Paul D. Brazill’s world here is one of peroxide Berliner blondes wearing PVC raincoats with blood red lipstick smeared across their lips.  Barbarous gangsters and shyster scam artists, drunken literary agents and pop producers shelter in cities ruined by war and Vodka, drenched by decadence, spent of hope, driven by desire.’

Read the rest of the top crime writer’s review here.

Recommended Read: The Hard Cold Shoulder by L A Sykes

la sykesPitkin, an insomniac, punch-drunk ex-cop haunted by the past, receives a phone call from a small-time criminal that sends him spiraling deep into Manchester’s sordid underbelly.

LA Sykes’ The Hard Cold Shoulder is a brutal Brit Grit/ noir. A hard-boiled, urban western laced with sharp social commentary.

A shot of the hard stuff.

Guest Blog: OVER THE SHOULDER by Lynn Kostoff

Words to Die For FINAL 101-a copyMost of the time when someone’s looking over your shoulder, you feel uncomfortable, then insulted, and eventually angry.

Most but not necessarily all of the time.

There are exceptions.

In the early stages of a novel, I spend a lot of time (probably too much) taking notes, sketching, outlining, and dwelling on what ifs and if thens.

But at some point, usually the first line and opening paragraph of the first draft, I start thinking about who’s looking over my shoulder.

It changes from novel to novel.

For A Choice of Nightmares, my first, it was Fitzgerald and Conrad.

The Great Gatsby and Heart of Darkness have always been important—and intimidating—books for me, and when I started drafting A Choice of Nightmares, I used them as benchmarks for what a work of fiction could be. The novels embodied everything at that time I admired and aspired to.

But aspired is the operative term here.

I never once believed I was or would ever be in the same room with Fitzgerald and Conrad, but having them looking over my shoulder kept me pushing against the limits of whatever skills I had or hoped to have as a writer.

They kept me honest. They made me work.

When I started doing final editing on the fourth draft of the novel, I saw what I’d been trying to do without ever realizing it. Both Great Gatsby and Heart of Darkness are structured as frame narratives, and in Choice of Nightmares, I collapsed those frames. There is no Nick Carraway to explain and justify Gatsby’s actions and character. There is no unnamed narrator to filter Marlow’s version of events on his trip upriver to meet Kurtz. My protagonist, Robert Staples, was a Gatsby-like character who did not end up dead in a swimming pool but instead got the girl of his dreams, a Daisy who in turn promptly took him to the Heart of American Darkness in the late 1980’s where cocaine rather than ivory ruled.

The writers looking over my shoulder change from novel to novel. Their positions can change too. Some help get things started and then disappear. Others pop up in the middle or step in at the end.

The new novel, Words To Die For, takes place in 1986. My goal was to write a crime novel that captured some truths about the American character at a particular tipping point in the culture: the Reagan Years. In many respects, we’re still living in the long shadow of those years.

Nathanael West was looking over my shoulder throughout each draft. I had always admired the scope and focus he brought to bear on America in Miss Lonelyhearts and Day of the Locust.

Lynn KostoffMy protagonist, Raymond Locke, in Words To Die For is a Miss Lonelyhearts of sorts. He’s a public relations executive who skips doling out advice and instead fixes and erases the problems his clients bring to him, but by the novel’s close, he, like West’s Tod Hackett in Locust, is a witness to the costs of those fixes for himself and the culture.

Along the way to the final draft and capturing the character of Raymond Locke’s nemesis, Ken Brackett, Flannery O’Connor and Sherwood Anderson stopped by to remind me of the truths that nest in the Grotesque.

I’m grateful for a lifetime of reading and to the writers who end up looking over my shoulder while I work.

In the face of all their talent, I know they definitely keep me humbled and determined to push myself harder with each new project.