Guest Blog: The Ringer by Tony Black

ringer_pbk (2)Traditional publishing runs on rails, most of the time.

One of the strongest assumptions I faced when trying to become published, and stay published, was that a protagonist must be sympathetic. By that, it’s meant, that the reader must identify with and basically like the protagonist. It’s one of the publishing gatekeepers’ toughest padlocks, try rattling it and see how secure it is.

I did. And got nowhere.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I got to make Gus Dury about as close to an unpleasant pain in the arse as you can get, and, Rob Brennan isn’t exactly all sunshine and roses. But, there’s a world of difference between having a few flaws and being downright unsympathetic. Even Hannibal the Cannibal had a connoisseur’s taste in wine and an erudite hinterland to make him more, well, human.

But being a gruff Scot, brought up on protagonists like Irvine Welsh’s hardcase Begbie andWilliam McIlvanney‘s meat and potatoes man, Laidlaw made me wince at the niceties of some protagonists’ sympathetic antics. Why, I wondered, could Begbie throw a pint glass over his shoulder, slicing a young girl’s face to shreds in the process, and still be a fascinating character to follow?

I was lucky enough to ask Welsh if he’d ever been told to tone down his protagonists, to make them more sympathetic, and got a quick reply: ‘No.’

I mean, who’s going to tell a writer of Welsh’s standard that his characters are not nice enough. The idea is laughable.

I later posed the same question to William McIlvanney and got a curious look in reply that seemed to suggest he found the concept of a sympathetic character repellent, before he answered bluntly: ‘No. Never.’

There you go then, I wasn’t alone in having little or no sympathy with sympathetic characters. Much as I understand the logic of commercial publishing’s drive for universally acceptable protagonists, it’s not the only logic on offer in this debate.

If a sympathetic character can carry a story, keep a reader turning the pages to the end in order to see if the good guy beats the bad guy, or the boy gets the girl, then the opposite can be true. An entirely unsympathetic character can also hook a reader to the last page to see if they get their comeuppance for bad deeds.

And so The Ringer was born. Or more precisely, my unsympathetic protagonist, Stauner. I didn’t begin with a list of unwholesome traits to give him, or a tangle of thorny situations to put him in, my aim was only to show his story, from his point of view, with no holds barred.

I know if I’d submitted my book to a traditional publisher Stauner would be a turnoff. The days of publishers taking chances are long gone (even Welsh admits Trainspotting would never be published now). I’d be asked to tone him down, to make him nicer, insert a few scenes where he metaphorically helps old ladies across the road. But that would ruin him, and the book.

The only way to tell Stauner’s story, the only way to expose him to the reader, was warts and all. And so that’s what I did. He may not be a nice guy, you may not want to hang with him, go for a beer, but that doesn’t stop you being swept up in his train-wreck of a tale.

The Ringer is available as eBook and paperback from Amazon UK and Amazon USA now. 

Bio: Tony Black has also written three crime fiction series, a number of crime novellas and a collection of short stories. His next crime title is Artefacts of the Dead.

For more information, and the latest news visit his website at: http://www.tonyblack.net or his blog: http://www.pulppusher.blogspot.com

This post first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online’s Brit Grit Alley)

Recommended Read: Night and the City by Gerald Kersh

night-and-the-cityGerald Kersh’s  brilliant 1938 novel Night and the City is ‘a book I wish I’d written’, Rich and darkly beautiful. Cruel and funny. There’s a tidy introduction from John King in this edition, too.

The blurb: Harry Fabian is a ponce, a Flash Harry in an expensive suit, a cockney wide boy who adopts American tones and talks big, yet will never make it to the top. He operates in the Soho of the 1930s, a metropolitan tangle of dodgy geezers, prostitutes, spivs and strong-arm men. Twice filmed, Night and the City is a seminal low-life novel, which presents a vivid glimpse of a lost London. It also marks the return of a lost London author, Gerald Kersh, a maverick character whose life was as colourful as those of his most flamboyant creations. This new edition includes an introduction by John King.

Short, Sharp Interview: Mike Miner

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PDB: Can you pitch THE IMMORTAL GAME in 25 words or less?

A private detective is hired to find a missing boy and gets caught up in a mob war in the North End of Boston.

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

I’m usually stuck in the past on most things, but here’s some recent stuff:

Music – First Aid Kit, Lydia Loveless, White Denim.

Books – I read Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog recently and it blew me away. The Hard Way by William Hastings is a great little collection of essays. Pike by Ben Whitmer, Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod, Volt by Alan Heathcock. These are just the most recent. I’ve been on a good streak lately.

Films – I’m definitely stuck in the past with movies. Give me a black and white Bogie and Bacall or Cagney movie every night of the week. I’ll settle for Peckinpah or Tarantino. Watched the original Getaway with McQueen and McGraw the other night. Still great.

Television – This year was all about True Detective and Hannibal. I suspect next year won’t be much different.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

Not for this writer. I get angry if the writing’s bad. I get jealous if the writing’s good. Like a magician, I always want to know how a good writer performs his tricks.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

I spent some time in LA as a studio exec for 20th Century Fox. It is a really collaborative undertaking and I came to the realization that I don’t work well with others, creatively speaking.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Very little goes into the first draft. Julia Glass once told me, do as little as you can because it will distract you from the point of the story. The first few books I wrote came largely out of my own experiences so not much was needed. I recently completed a manuscript that deals with war veterans and I did do quite a bit of research for that one.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

So far almost everything I’ve published has somehow come out of a social media connection. And it certainly helps sell books.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2014?

It’s been a good year. A collection of linked stories, Everything She Knows was released. A story in Thuglit 12. After The Immortal Game, I have a novel, Prodigal Sons slated for November/December from All Due Respect Books.

Miner - P Sons Headshot (2)Bio: Mike Miner lives and writes in Connecticut.  He is the author of Prodigal Sons (All Due Respect Books), The Immortal Game (Gutter Books) and Everything She Knows (SolsticeLit Books). His stories can be found in the anthologies, Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT and Pulp Ink 2 as well as in places like Thuglit, Beat To a Pulp, All Due Respect, Burnt Bridge, Narrative, PANK, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey and others.

A Case Of Noir Around The World

Originally posted on PAUL D. BRAZILL:

a case of black

The blurb: In snow smothered Warsaw, Luke Case, a boozy English hack with a dark secret, starts a dangerous affair with a gangster’s wife. Case escapes to the sweltering Spanish heat where he meets a colourful cast of characters, including a mysterious torch singer and a former East End villain with a criminal business proposition. In stormy Toulouse, he encounters a blast from the past that is positively seismic which forces him to return to England and confront his past.

a case of burke

A Case Of Noir is a strong shot of international noir from Paul D. Brazill. Published by Lite Editions and available as an eBook and in paperback.  And the book has gone global-

a case of Brazill

a case of sparrow

it’s been spotted in the US, the UK, France and Poland and in the hands of the likes of Tony Black, Jason Michel, Mark Hammonds, George Beck,  Richard Sanderson, K A Laity, Ronnie Burke et…

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Recommended Read: Layla by Nina de la Mer

Layla by Nina de la Mer is a gripping and gritty slice of London noir on a par with Hamilton’s Hangover Square or Kersh’s Night and the City but with a lot more heart. I loved it. layla-by-nina-de-la-mer.jpg-w193h300

Here’s the blurb: ‘Introducing an unforgettable heroine for our times, Nina de la Mer’s bold and unflinching novel captures the mood of an urban generation, seduced by celebrity and fuelled by drink, drugs and pornography. Arriving in London, Hayleigh finds work as lap dancer ‘Layla’, intent on earning enough cash to make a fresh start. She has the wit, the looks and skilful moves, exploiting men before they can exploit her. But over the course of a chaotic week she must make the biggest decision of her life and fight for the one thing she truly wants. This is a brilliant and moving novel, imaginatively powerful and authentically conceived. Thirty years after the resounding success of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, and written in a similarly intense second-person narrative, Layla speaks for a new generation.’

Guest Blog: SEEKING THAT VALIDATION OF A ‘YES’: THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION… by COL BURY

By now people will know that, after years of trying, I’ve finally bagged a deal for my debut novel, MY KIND OF JUSTICE. It’s been a bumpy old journey, one where I often thought I’d missed the bus. Obviously, it’s clear I certainly haven’t ‘arrived’ yet. I’ve just got on the bus, that’s all, and who knows it could stall or even break down!

Paul’s invited me to write about the road to publication, so here we go…

When I was a spotty teen I read horror and crime and fantasised about actually having a stab myself, since I’d somehow snagged English ‘O’ Level a year early at school so was dead good at proper England innit. Old pal, Dave Barber and I used to share crappy short stories with each other and so the bug began. In my early twenties I briefly embarked on a writers’ correspondence course (no internet then) and the tutor gave words of encouragement that spurred me on, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to write (or how to) nor how the industry really worked, so I set out to learn how all the cogs fit together and to discover my ‘voice’ therein.

Children’s stories were rejected, short story entries into many, many comps fell flat and the crime writing I’d gravitated toward – it seemed to choose me, since I’d been surrounded by it growing up around Manchester – was always on my mind, even though it was a constant struggle. Procrastination (reading tens of ‘How to’ writing books), disorganisation, full-time work (always) and then marriage and two children, prevented progress as a writer, but the drive and ambition bubbled within. The naysayers played their part as per fuckin’ usual (don’t listen to those negative buggers who are only happy when they’re miserable), hence when I hit the brick wall of 41,000 words (oddly, twice) on my first attempts at crime novels, I let life take over, though still dreamed and tinkered with writing. And I read, a lot, mainly crime.

Until, in 2008, I became friends with Matt Hilton via a mutual work colleague. Bizarrely, I was reading aloud about his huge success re’ his Joe Hunter thrillers deal and my line manager said, “Matty? Matty? No way!”… and phoned him (125 miles away in Carlisle) to congratulate him, then passed the phone to me… “Er, hello…” I said nervously. And the rest is history. We became firm friends, and when Matt started the ezine Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers in 2009 I became his co-editor and it exploded and became the catalyst to take my writing, confidence-wise, up a notch or three. Seeing my own work on the site (six shorts published by Matt before I began the editing role) was a welcome taster to how a ‘real author’ must feel, and the positive and constructive feedback from readers (yes, real people who read, actually read my writing and liked it!) spurred me on. I then felt confident enough to submit shorts to other ezines, like Chris Grant’s A Twist Of Noir, among others, and they liked my work enough to publish it. New readers , contacts and many good friends were found.

Editing stories from all over the world, from writers at varying degrees of competency, from questionable to top notch, then offering feedback, is a helluva way of analysing structure, style and what works and what doesn’t within a short story. I did this for nearly five years and, although it did consume us (Matt, Lily Childs, Lee Hughes, Dave Barber) in the end, it was an invaluable apprenticeship. It was also a thrill to publish writers’ first stories and some have consequently flourished big time! The site won awards, but, alas, was impacting on our own writing time and family life so something had to give.

Alongside this, because of shifts, I couldn’t get to a writers’ circle physically, so joined Writers News Talkback forum where I lurked for a while until chatting at leisure with a vast array of writers. Again, many friends (too many to name here) and contacts were made, and I learned a helluva lot about the business.

I started reviewing the odd book, interviewing fellow writers on my blog, and going to more book launches and writing festivals (including Harrogate, hic!) to get a feel for the whole scene, and that was possibly the most useful aspect of the ongoing apprenticeship; a thousand conversations (many drunken) about writing and the industry, plus rubbing shoulders with great writers and drinking up their wisdom. Also, at these events you meet readers, publishers and agents, so attending’s a no brainer if you want to ‘get on’.

Back to the ezines… in 2010 New York agent, Nat Sobel had scoured short story sites and approached a bunch of writers, including little old me. To cut a long story short, I rewrote a crime novel umpteen times (once, from scratch after 50,000+ ditched words!) until it was ‘ready’ to send out to publishers. I went through that process of waiting months for the responses to come in and that is stressful, I’ll tell yer! It seems writers (self-published authors apart, maybe) are always waiting anxiously for news, good or bad, and even the best tell me that’s one of the worst aspects of the process.

Anyway, the novel Nat Sobel squeezed out of me did the rounds of the big hitters, got close with one or two and to quote Nat: “We could paper the walls with glorious rejections, but no one offered.” One publisher asked me to change the location from Manchester as they already had an author writing similar stuff there, but Manchester’s what I know, so we declined. A point about timing here: that ‘similar’ author they had, left for another publisher not long after. Dammit!

Despite no deal the positive feedback was encouraging and I wrote another crime novel with a supernatural twist to help it stand out from the crowd. It didn’t. After going through the process again, the rejections poured in and, with several friends winning books deals and some having success in self-publishing, I felt like I’d not only missed the bus but had been driven the opposite way and left in the wilderness. I flirted with depression and self-pity and stopped writing for a while, as things fizzled out with Nat, albeit amicably, despite him poo-pooing a few pitched ideas for other prospective novels. I learned a helluva lot from Nat and will be forever grateful. However, the fact remained that I’d lost my rudder and was up Shit Creek, but after an extensive search I found a paddle and began to steadily find the right course.

Confidence grew gradually as I won flash fiction comps and my short stories were published in numerous anthologies, including the last three MAMMOTH BOOKS OF BEST BRITISH CRIME. I spoke to lots of people about self-publishing and read all about it. My short story collections, MANCHESTER 6 and THE COPS OF MANCHESTER had done pretty well on Amazon, but they were just for exposure and a novel was a different animal. The thing that stopped me from self-publishing, despite intense frustration, was that I deeply needed that validation of a ‘Yes’. For the record, I think the S/P option is another great way of finding a readership and I may well partake in the future, but not just yet.

I entered my novels into comps and won diddlysquat. I re-read them, gleaned feedback from trusted friends, rewrote them. Then I decided to sub to two carefully selected ‘smaller’ publishers I knew quite a bit about. And waited… a-bloody-gain!

One said, “No,” and the other, CAFFEINE NIGHTS said, “Yes!”

Validation, at last! But beware… now the fear of failure has been replaced by the fear of success. *gulps*

So, I’ve finally got my bus ticket and we’ll see where it takes me. I’m expecting more bumps along the road, but I’ve buckled-up to enjoy the ride! ;-)

Thanks to all who supported and encouraged me throughout, and thanks to Paul for having me…er, so to speak.

(This post first appeared at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE)

Recommended Read: Supergirls by Mav Skye

SupergirlsCoverx600Mav Skye‘s brilliant debut, Supergirls, is like a high-octane, fluorescent mix of Switchblade Sisters and Wild at Heart. And more!

The blurb: Sisters Jenn and May have finally found their golden ticket out of the slums. Pervy sugar daddy, Frederick Bells, promises to be an easy score with a big payoff—millions are hidden within his mansion.

The plan is simple: tie up the pig, steal his cash, and skip town.

But fate has a different plan, including a villain with a wicked imagination. The sisters resort to playing their childhood game SUPERGIRLS to battle their fears in Bell’s den of horrors.

Will the SUPERGIRLS find their prize or will their heads join the pile behind the black cellar door?

Recommended Reads: Hard-Boiled Witch by K. A . Laity

With her terrific  new short story series, Hard-Boiled Witch, K A Laity – authohard-boiled witchr of the cracking White Rabbit - once again mixes crime fiction, the supernatural and smart writing to come up with a lethal cocktail. Marvelous .

The Blurbs: Book 1: Hocus-Pocus You’re Dead. Hecate Sidlaw eats punks like you for breakfast — at least that’s what her familiar Henry claims. When someone needs a protection spell or a nasty hex, they knock on her door. Hecate can handle most magical problems, but what happens when a new crime kingpin gets a magic man of their own?

Book 2: Toil and Trouble. Hecate Sidlaw finds herself caught between a wannabe witch and one of the oldest hereditary powers in the land. When she and her familiar Henry end up as seconds in a magical duel, will anyone be left standing at the end of the shootout? Enter the dark streets and weird magic of HARD-BOILED WITCH and your life will never be quite the same. This is the second episode in the short story series.

Book 3:  Charms O’erthrown. Hecate Sidlaw finds herself in a wild storm of shady folks all looking for a priceless artifact that’s gone missing. With all the double dealing and surprising murders, it’s a wonder she and Henry can find out what’s really going on — and what this precious treasure could be. An ancient alchemical text may hold the answers if only Hecate and Henry can live long enough to get to the library!

Short, Sharp Interview: Richard Godwin

PDB: What is Noir City?

It is different to my other works. The premise was to write a series based on a central character, Paris Tongue, but set in different cities. The publisher then asked me to turn it into a novel.

Here is the publisher’s synopsis.

Dangerous, blond Gigolo, Paris Tongue, uses his looks to seduce beautiful and wealthy women and introduce them to the Secret Hour, that hidden time when they can escape their lives. Using his inheritance to travel, he penetrates the erotic essence of different cities, from London, to Paris, Rome, Madrid and Dusseldorf. But his sexual escapades begin to catch up with him. When he sleeps with the wife of a Mafia Boss he is hunted across Europe by hit men. He manages to evade his assassins, until they find him in Spain. But by then he has understood the deeper philosophy of Eros at the villa owned by the illegitimate granddaughter of Georges Bataille, and he sees them off. He is, after all, the bastard child of a killer, who knows how to survive. In Germany he meets Anja from Croatia, the first woman he wants to settle down with, and he realises he inhabits the Noir City, that place of intoxicated night and endless seductions.

PDB: How do the different locations influence the stories?

Enormously. The publisher wanted different takes on European capitals, and Paris Tongue travels through London, Paris, Milan, Madrid and finally Dusseldorf before jetting off to Split. He seduces many women and enjoys arousing their relationship to their culture. The sexual content is allied to the cultural idea of each city and its erotic self. Finally he realises he is part of the endless, erotic Noir City.

PDB: Can you tell us something about the publisher Atlantis/ Lite Editions?

I was approached by them for a story. That was the first Paris Tongue story. They published it under their imprint Lite Editions. They are publishing a number of European authors in a variety of genres.

PDB: A few of your books have been/ are being translated. Can you tell us about them?

Apostle Rising, has been translated into Hungarian by Alexandra, the biggest publisher in Hungary, and is selling really well. It is also now being translated into Italian by Atlantis, and Slovenian by Artizan Press. Mr. Glamour is being translated into Italian and French by the hot new publisher MeMe. They are also translating my next novel, Confessions Of A Hit Man into Italian and French.

PDB: What’s next on the agenda?

Confessions Of A Hit Man is out next month in paperback with MeMe.

PDB: Anything else you want to tell us?

I have two more novels out there under consideration.

 

Bio: Richard Godwin is the author of critically acclaimed novels Apostle Rising, Mr. Glamour, One Lost Summer, Noir City andConfessions Of A Hit Man. He is also a published poet and a produced playwright. His stories have been published in over 34 anthologies, among them his anthology of stories, Piquant: Tales Of The Mustard Man. Godwin was born in London and obtained a BA and MA in English and American Literature from King’s College London, where he also lectured. You can find out more about him at his websitewww.richardgodwin.net , where you can also read his Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse, his highly popular and unusual interviews with other authors.
(This interview first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online)

Out now! Shadows and Light: To Benefit Women’s Aid

Shadows and Light is 37 stories from authors around the world. Coming together to aid the key UK charity Women’s Aid. Stories from some of the best in indie publishing around the world today, as well as a couple of big names. The tales within range from horror, noir, crime to a bit of Sci Fi and romance thrown in, all for your entertainment while helping make a difference and furthering the awareness of domestic abuse.  shad-1

SHADOWS & LIGHT
A Ballard Tale
Andrew Scorah

Placebo
ANDREW VACHSS

The Battered Wife
Graham Masterton

QUITS.
SEUMAS GALLACHER

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
DAVID EDGERLEY GATES

Daylight.
Kevin Holton

THE SAME OLD STORY
by Keith Dixon

WILLIAMS OF THE YARD
IN THE FOXBOROUGH CASE
By Andrew Peters

The Deaths of Andrea Ford
By
David Monk

Across the River
A Story by Samuel Dickens

THE DARE
By
Juliet B Madison

THE OTHER WIFE
~ By Absolutely*Kate

The Last Girl on Earth.
K.A. Hambly

The Summer of Penny Walsh
By Frank Sonderborg

Finding The Phoenix
By
Caitlin O’Connor

Black-Eyed Susan
By Thomas Pluck

The Blues Detective
The Affair of the Precious Packages
Andrew Peters

All Mine
By George Beck

Ruby Pendant
By Melissa Dougherty

Emily’s Valentine
Gerry McCullough

Killing in the Name of
Aidan Thorn

The Princess
The Fox & The Crow
William Rose

The Scent of Pancakes
By Tina Bausinger

The Man Behind the Curtain
By
Paul D Brazill

Doreen’s Tomorrows
by Gay Ingram

East Meets West
By
Jane Morris

THE VISIT

by Dana Wright

Heaven’s Scar
By
Caitlin O’Connor

Jane Unbound
By Kerry E.B. Black

Ellie
By Marie Bishop

LITTLE BROTHER
By
Cath Bore

Almost Christmas
by
Rayna L. Stiner

Floorboard Hoofbeats
By
Cass McMain

AN IRISH STORY
By
Roderick Craig Low

Accounts Payable
By
Hector Duarte Jr.

Through Two Unblackened Eyes
Linda Bonney Olin