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.

Recommended Read: This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith

This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith is the story of David Kelsey, a scientist whose obsession with Annabel – an ex-lover – spirals wildly and violently out of control. In the late ‘70s it was made into a French film starring Gerard Depardieu and Miou Miou but it is perhaps more fitting that it was adapted as an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, renamed ‘Annabel’ and starring a well-cast Dean Stockwell. 
sweet sicknessIndeed, Hitch and Highsmith are inextricably linked in my mind since, like most people, I first became familiar with her work through Hitchcock’s adaptation of ‘Strangers On A Train.’And there is even a very, very ‘Vertigo-esque’ look to this striking-looking Pan books edition, eh? One which I used to own once upon a time, before my own life spiraled off in a different direction. A cover that reflects the contents of the book very well, too, as well as looking more than somewhat cool. You can check out John Grant’s review of ‘Annabel’ here.

Recommended Read: The Father by Tom O. Keenan

The Father, Tom O. Keenan‘s debut novel, is an odd hybrid of the police procedural, noir, Brit Grit, black comedy and political thriller.the father 2

Set in an almost futuristic, dystopian Glasgow, The Father‘s protagonist Sean Rooney is a messed up alcoholic shrink who is dragged into a murder investigation by his ex-wife, DCI Kaminski. Broody and contrarian, Rooney is the sort of person who would cut off his face to spite his nose and makes Tony Black‘s Gus Dury look like Dr Phil.

The twist to this particular noir tale, though, is that Rooney has a voice in his head, who acts as a sort of stroppy Greek chorus and even narrates the tale. Indeed, the running dialogues between Rooney and, well, Rooney give a lot of the humour to a twisty crime story which very quickly spirals into am high-octane and over-the-top thriller.

The mixture of  introspective noir and action movie is a tricky balancing act but one that Tom O. Keenan pulls-off and makes The Father a very interesting read indeed.

Short, Sharp interview: Lynn Kostoff

Words to Die For FINAL 101-a copyPDB: What’s going on?

My novel, Words to Die For, will be released April 15, 2015 from New Pulp Press. It felt like Nathanael West was looking over my shoulder while I wrote this one.

I’m also working on a draft of a new novel entitled The Head Start. Its protagonist is a female probation officer whose professional and personal life become dangerously tangled.

PDB: How did you research Words to Die For?

I did quite a bit of research for Words to Die For because of the intersection of the subjects in the plot line: autism, public relation agencies, food poisoning outbreaks, the self-help movement, poultry processing, and the Iran Contra scandal. Research was a mix of online sources, print, and interviews.

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

That’s kind of like asking which of your children you love the best. I like each novel for a different reason: A Choice of Nightmares for its protagonist; The Long Fall for style; Late Rain for the intersection of setting and character; Words to Die For for its cultural scope and range.

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

Music: Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, The Cramps, Replacements, REM, Johnny Cash, Mazzy Star, Van Morrison, Patsy Cline, Patti Smith, Warren Zevon, Billie Holiday, and early Stones and Beatles.

Films: Chinatown; Cutter’s Way; True Confessions; Night Moves; Killing of a Chinese Bookie; Fargo; Repo Man; Mean Streets, Wild Bunch, Hud, Bad Lieutenant; Out of the Past; Ace in the Hole; Get Carter (the original with Michael Caine).

Books: Heart of Darkness; The Great Gatsby; Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts and Day of the Locust; Oedipus; Death of a Salesman; The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins; Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

I see setting as important as and often functioning as a character in itself. I’ve set novels in Miami, Florida, Phoenix, Arizona, a fictional coastal boom town in South Carolina, and a fictional Midwestern rust belt city.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

Once a year on my birthday.

PDB: What’s next?

I’m researching, outlining, and sketching characters and scenes for a novel entitled The Length of Days. I see it using multiple points of view and ensemble protagonists. If I can make it work, I’d like to take Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and the Book of Ecclesiastes and use them as a basis for a crime novel.

Lynn KostoffBio: Lynn Kostoff is a Professor of English and the Nellie Cooke Sparrow Writer-in-Residence at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. His other highly praised crime novels include A Choice of Nightmares (available from New Pulp Press), The Long Fall, and Late Rain. He has also taught at the University of Alabama, Indiana State University, and Bowling Green State University in Ohio where he received his MFA in fiction. His website is at www.lynnkostoff.com

Words to Die For by Lynn Kostoff

The Story: The year is 1986 and fall is declining into winter in a small Midwest city where ten-year-old Tina Brackett languishes in a coma caused by tainted fast food chicken produced by the Happy Farms Co.  Raymond Locke, operative for the high-flying public relations firm that represents Happy Farms, is damage control central.  But tragedy begets opportunity, and everyone is angling for a game-changing piece of the action surrounding Tina’s impending death.  Among the players in this Darwinian battle for survival are the District Attorney looking at a possible murder charge, a reporter working on the story of his career, a high-minded crusader against corporate greed and malfeasance, and Tina’s enigmatic single parent, Ken Brackett.  Pitted against these sordid foes, Raymond Locke is trying to save his job and his marriage, crumbling beneath the weight of caring for an autistic son.  A noir journey into the heartland of America and the American psyche, Words to Die For evokes a shadowy, Mad Men-like world were the truth is less important than the spin.

The Tut is at Tales To Terrify

tales-to-terrify-vol-1-large-adMy yarn THE TUT is currently over at the horror podcast TALES TO TERRIFY.

Tales To Terrify 168 Dunham Brazill Hemphill

The full line-up is:

Coming Up:
Good Evening: 00:37
T. Fox Dunham’s The Missing Ingredient: 02:22
Paul D Brazill’s The Tut: 11:56
JC Hemphill’s Cheating the Shroud: 19:38
Pleasant Dreams: 33:06

Check it out!

Short, Sharp Interview: Tom O. Keenan

the father 2PDB: What’s going on now? Writing book two in the Sean Rooney series that needs to be with the publisher later this year. Fatherland is about a gothic and dystopian Glasgow, a place of risk and adventure, where crime families rule and where Sean Rooney has new challenges.

PDB: How did you research this book (The Father)? Living in Glasgow and having a knowledge of the subject helped, but I also shamelessly exploit the Internet.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of? This one.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme? It’s a Wonderful Life or Local Hero; Crime and Punishment or Ulysses; Raglin Road; Mrs Brown’s Boys.

PDB: Is location important to your writing? Indeed, Glasgow is a great location: gothic and on the edge, where anything can happen.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings? Never!

PDB: What’s next? Book Three.

tokBio: Born and bred in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, 12 miles south of Glasgow. I left school at 15 with no qualifications and went straight into an apprenticeship in the new television repair trade. I had a television repair shop in Hamilton for eight years and then went to college to become a social worker in mental health, which I am to this day. I became an independent social worker in 2001, forming a business in mental health law. I live in the West End of Glasgow having spent seven years in Tarbet at Loch Lomond. I have been writing as long as I can remember but only ever as a hobby. As a young boy I always wanted to be creating something, whether it was poetry, songs, drawings or stories. Later I became a bit more serious, writing plays and attending workshops and writing novels. www.tom-odgen-keenan.co.uk

A Story For Sunday: JUST A MATTER OF TIME BY B. R. STATEHAM

a-killing-kissB. R. Stateham‘s Smitty is back at PULP METAL MAGAZINE.

‘ We walked out of the neon glare of the hospital’s front door and sank into the gloom of the hot still night like unwanted nightmares. Neither of us felt like talking. Behind us, in Intensive Care Unit, was a friend of ours struggling to find the strength for his next breath. Adizzying array of tubes and electronic devices were plugged into his body. Bright screens for monitors filled the soft light of his hospital room with the note of every breath, every heartbeat, every electronic pulse zapping through his cranium. Except the screen for the brain scan was flat lined.

Two bullets in the chest did that to you. Turned you into a zombie. A zombie kept alive by machines.

As far as the doctors would say . . . which they wouldn’t, but you could see it in their eyes . . . Patrolman Darnell Goodland was gone. The odds of pulling out of this one, after all the blood loss, wasn’t looking good. He was alive . . . yes.’

Read the rest here.

And get more Smitty here

Out Now! The Gumshoe, and Other Brit Grit Yarns by Paul D. Brazill

the gumshoe and other brit grit yarns.

I’m tidying up Blackwitch Press at the moment and have put together a collection that includes The Gumshoe and a few other waifs and strays. The older books ‘Gumshoe’ and ‘Snapshots’ are no longer available although there are a few paperbacks floating around, it seems.

The Gumshoe, and Other Brit Grit Yarns is a collection of gritty, violent and blackly comic short stories and flash fiction from Paul D. Brazill, author of Guns Of Brixton.

Contents

The Gumshoe

The Beginning Of The End.

Life On Mars?

Scopey’s Choice

Snapshots

Seeing Blue

Thicker Than Blood

Anger Management

Seven Minutes To Midnight

Catch As Catch Can

The Hit Man & Her

The Sharpest Tools In The Box

Gareth And Fiona Go Abroad

A Big Payoff

Killing Mr Cornflakes

In The (Reservoir) Dog House

Published by Blackwitch Press with a great cover by Marcin Drzewiecki – Ilustrator

Available in paperback here or as an eBook from here, and here.