A Story For Saturday: Everyday People by Paul D. Brazill

13-shots2.jpgBrendan Burke was a creature of narrow habit and come rain or come shine, come hell or high water; he always ate meat on Fridays, even though, around the time of his seventieth birthday, it had begun to play havoc with his digestion.

“Rebellion,” said Brendan to Tony Amerigo. “Rebellion against the shackles of my Catholic upbringing.”

“Power to the people,” said Tony, raising a clenched fist.

Tony had been a butcher since leaving school, as were his father and grandfather, but business hadn’t been so good since the influx of supermarkets selling cut-price cuts of meat. Curmudgeons like Brendan were a godsend for Tony.

Brendan put the meat in his checked shopping bag and headed off.

“Post office next?” said Tony.

“As per usual,” said Brendan. The social kept trying to convince him to have his pension paid into the bank but Brendan dug his heels in, stuck to his guns. He hated banks and enjoyed his trips to the post office, the centre of the local tittle-tattle. “And then I’m off to the naval club, though I still don’t know if I’m an inny or an outty.”

He chuckled to himself and was still chuckling when a lime-coloured scooter jumped a light and knocked him arse over tit.

***

“Jesus, don’t send for her!” said Brendan.

Skye, the feather-light social worker that hovered over him – looking like a delicate flower next to the mountain of a man – had suggested phoning his daughter, Sue, in London and getting her to come and take care of him for a while. He’d barely been in the hospital a week, discharging himself after complaining about missing two drinking sessions at the club.

“She’s worse than her bloody mother was for fussin’ and fannying around,” said Brendan.

“Well, you do need a carer, Mr. B,” said Skye.

Brendan shook his head as he looked at her. She was sparkling and fresh, from somewhere down south – home counties, maybe. How could she possibly have a clue about anything?

“Do you know anyone?” she asked.

Brendan just stared at her nose stud with disgust.

***

Barry Sweet had ducked into his flat as soon as he saw the social worker enter the building. He’d seen her before in the record shop where he hung around. She’d bought a Janis Ian CD and had tried to made conversation about it but it wasn’t exactly his cup of cocoa. Neither was small talk.

Barry was a bit of a mouse who kept himself to himself, although it would have surprised most people to know that he loved to listen to Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins and Funkadelic. These were what blew his skirt up. Along with taxidermy – his flat was cluttered with pigeons, rats, even a leathery black bat – collecting funk on vinyl was the centre of his life.

When Brendan moved into the flat opposite, Barry was a bit worried that the old man would complain about the noise, but after talking to him a couple of times he relaxed. Brendan was as deaf as a post.

He was listening to Sly Stone and changing into his Asda uniform when he heard the scream and the bang. He stuck his head out of the door and saw that Brendan’s door was open. And then he heard coughing, choking.

“Are you alright, Mr. Burke?” he said. No reply.

He went to Burke’s door and knocked.

“Mr. Burke?” said Barry, louder this time. He went into the flat and saw Brendan doubled over and red-faced. Barry ran towards him.

“Are you alright?”

Brendan looked up with tears in his eyes. Tears of laughter.

“Sorry … sorry, Sweety,” said Brendan. Barry blushed. He hated that nickname.

“Couldn’t resist.” He wheezed. “I just wanted her to piss off, so …” He coughed. “So I grabbed her knockers. The stuck-up little cow soon scarpered then.”

“So you’re okay,” said a blushing Barry.

“Aye,” said Brendan. “Do us a favour and pass us that bottle of vodka from the mantelpiece and get two glasses from the kitchenette.”

Barry wasn’t much of a drinker but he thought he needed to calm down before heading off to work.

He poured the drinks.

“A toast,” said Brendan. “Na zdrowia, as Polish Andy used to say. To your health.”

Brendan downed the vodka in one and Barry did the same but it burned like molten lava.

***

After a week or two it was decided that Barry would be Brendan’s carer. He’d do the shopping, cash his pension and pop in now and again to keep an eye on him.

Barry started to like drinking with Brendan and the carer’s allowance that he received meant that he could give up his job at Asda. In fact, all was tickety boo until November.

***

Tony Amerigo’s voice was like a dripping tap to Barry, and the woman at the post office was even worse. Still, he endured and managed to pop in to the record shop before lunchtime to buy Parliament’s “Up for the Down Stroke.”

“Pricey stuff this,” said John, the owner of the shop. “Been saving up your pennies, Sweety?”

Barry ignored him and headed back home.

***

“The post office was packed again,” said Barry to Brendan as he put the shopping bags on the orange plastic Formica table.

Brendan said nothing, of course. He’d said nothing since he’d broken his neck falling out of the bath on Bonfire Night. Barry still liked these evenings, though. Steak, vodka and a bit of Bootsy playing in the background. He glanced over at Brendan’s massive frame as he unpacked the rest of the shopping and thought that he really should have bought some more formaldehyde.

The End.

EVERYDAY PEOPLE first appeared online at THRILLERS, KILLERS N CHILLERS and is included in 13 SHOTS OF NOIR.

Short, Sharp Interview: Alex Segura

SCFrontCover (2)PDB: Can you pitch SILENT CITY in 25 words or less?

Washed-up journalist hits bottom while searching for a missing woman – a quest that drags him into the depths of the Miami underworld.

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

 I’ve been listening to a lot of The Handsome Family, the band that did the theme for HBO’s True Detective, a show I watched pretty obsessively.

Also on the TV side, I’ve been really keen on FX’s The Americans, the new Mad Men and House of Cards.

More music: Neko Case’s latest record, Steve Earle, Avett Brothers, Waxahatchee, The Be Good Tanyas, Low, the new Dean Wareham and the new Jason Isbell album.

Movies: Loved Grand Budapest Hotel.

Books: Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet, Night Film by Marisha Pessl, Tampa by Alissa Nutting, With or Without You by Domenica Ruta, Onion Street by Reed Farrel Coleman, Double Down by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, Blessed are the Dead by Kristi Belcamino, Lost Girls by Robert Kolker and on the comic book side, Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, Afterlife with Archiy by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla and Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

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

I think so. You should analyze prose in the way you’d like your work to be analyzed. I think once you’re published and you interact with authors and the publishing business, you attach personality into your experience with these books, but you need to leave that at the door when you sit and read something. I do think it gets harder, though, to be completely objective. But that should always be the goal.

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

Sure, I’d love to write for film or TV. When not writing novels, I’ve written for comic books, which is a much more visual medium akin to writing a screenplay. A completely different way of writing that is more like putting a puzzle together. It works out another part of your brain.

PDB: How much research goes into each book? alexauthor (2)

It depends on the book. I always start out with the germ of an idea – like, “I want this story to really test Pete in this way,” and I know some of the broad beats I want to hit. Then I start to outline and pepper in other details. Usually that then dictates what research is needed.

I like to research real cases and crimes so the ones I present in my world read genuinely and are based in reality. It’s a challenge, but also part of the fun of writing. I also try really hard to be accurate in my descriptions of Miami. Even though I was born there, lots of things have changed in the last eight years, so the more time I spend away from Miami, the more I need to research to be accurate and true.

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

I like it for networking purposes and also to keep fans informed of what’s going on. It’s a great tool to connect with fellow writers, fans and the publishing industry. It does not, however, help me write and can be a huge distraction. So, it’s a double edged sword. It’s very easy to fall into a trap where that’s all you do and the next thing you know, you’ve written nothing new in a while!

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?

A few short stories, revising and finishing up my second novel, Down the Darkest Street, and hopefully finishing a draft of my third Pete Fernandez book, Dangerous Ends. I have a few comic book projects that I can’t announce yet as well.

Bio: Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. He is the author of the Miami noir novel SILENT CITY from Codorus Press and the best-selling and critically acclaimed ARCHIE MEETS KISS storyline and graphic novel, among others. He lives in New York with his wife and two cats. He is a Miami native.

 

Short, Sharp Interview: Javier Márquez Sánchez

lethal-as-a-charlie-parker-solo (2)PDB: Can you pitch Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo in 25 words or less?

JMS: Sin City, Hollywood stars, the Mafia. A dramatic event. A conspiracy to hide it. In the middle of it all, Eddie Bennett, a ‘problem solver’.

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

JMS:

Music – The last Guy Clark album, My Favourite Picture of You.

Books – Blake Bailey’s Cheever: A Life (a John Cheever biography).

Television - True Detective.

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

JMS: Sure! I love reading. It’s a pleasure for me. If you got a good book in your hands, you just enjoy it, and don’t work on it. At least that’s the way I do it.

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

JMS: I wrote the script for several documentaries some years ago and I would like to write for films. I have some ideas in my mind.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

JMS: That’s one of the best moments. I love to investigate every detail of the story, documenting the time, politics, cars, fashion, weapons, drinks… Everything! I think the more real the details of a story are, the more real the story will seem.

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

JMS: I think they are important because they provide a great opportunity to get in touch with readers and other writers. In addition, meeting new people is always interesting. Who knows what we can discover or learn thanks to these new friends.

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?Javier_Marquez_02 (1)

JMS: A new novel I’ve just finished. This time we go from Las Vegas to Mexico, to the border. I’m also working on two new stories; an international political thriller and a noir story from my hometown, Seville.

Bio: Javier Márquez Sánchez (born in Seville, Spain in 1978) is Editor in Chief of the Spanish edition of Forbes. He has been Editor in Chief of the Spanish edition of Esquire Magazine and Deputy Director of Cambio16, and has written several novels, short stories collections and non-fiction books on film and music. Sometimes he plays music with his two bands, Rock & Books and The Last Drink.

Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo, out now from 280 Steps, is his first novel being translated into English.

 

Short, Sharp Interview : Jonathan Woods

Phone Call Final Cover high res (2)PDB: Can you pitch Phone Call from Hell & Other Tales of the Damned in 25 words or less?

Some of the most twisted stuff I’ve ever written.  My stories will take you places you’ve never been before.  Yup: sex, violence and dark humor.

 

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

Music-wise I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff: The Smiths, Cream, Neil Young.  Then I got hung up on this Latino band from Miami called Locos Por Juana after I saw them play at the Green Parrot here in Key West.  And I really like a country song from the Derailers called  “Bar Exam” because I used to be a lawyer in a former life.  And because there’s a really sexy woman in the music video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyMP6lkz7Co

 

Movies.  I love movies.  And in Key West we have a fabulous four screen art house called The Tropic Cinema.  What I liked recently: The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy.  About as dark and sexy as you can get.  Great McCarthy dialogue.  The Italian film A Great Beauty is this trippy tale of wasted lives in Roma.  Fantastic Felliniesque faces.  Beautiful cinematography.  How the past haunts us.  I also loved The Wolf of Wall Street.  A rush of a movie, totally over the top!  Finally, I have to mention the feel wonderful documentary about backup singers called Twenty Feet from Stardom.  After seeing it, you’ll boogie your way across the lobby and right down the street.

I don’t watch much TV.

Books: I’ve been re-reading a lot of old titles.  To Have and Have Not has one of the great opening scenes, a shoot out outside a bodega in 1940s Havana.  The book goes down hill from  there.  The last 100 pages of the novel should never have been written.  But read the first 64.  I really enjoyed Thomas McGuane’s Ninety-Two in the Shade the second time around.  Laugh out loud funny.  He kind of choked on the ending.  And I’ve been slowly re-reading Raymond Chandler.  A fucking genius!!!  Sabbaths Theater by Philip Roth is wild and crazy, with lots of wild and crazy sex.  Couldn’t put it down.  Oh, and the short stories of Thom Jones and Barry Hannah and Brad Watson.  I read these guys over and over.  And Jon Bassoff’s Corrosion.  Haunting.  And I just started re-reading the Duffy novels by Dan Kavanagh.  Very twisted, very funny.

 

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

I’m not sure what an objective reader is or why you would want to be one.  Some books grab you by the cojones and you can’t put them down.  Some books poop out somewhere in the middle, like a beer that’s gone flat.  And some you thrown across the room after reading the first page, venting with a primal scream.  Life is too short.  There’s no point in reading books that don’t give you an instant hard-on.

 

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

I’m glad you asked that question.  I’ve had the most amazing luck in connecting with a super talented Key West filmmaker named Quincy Perkins.  This Spring we decided to collaborate in bringing to the silver screen a short noir film based on my crime short story “Swingers Anonymous.”  Quincy directed from a script by yours truly.  We raised twelve grand on Kickstarter to cover the initial production and shot all the footage over five days in mid-March.  Now it’s being edited and special effects and the sound track added.  We need to raise another eight grand or so to cover postproduction.  We’ll be sending Swingers Anonymous, the movie, out to the film festivals.  It was an amazing collaborative effort.  We got a super cool writeup in the Miami Herald (front page of the Sunday Tropical Life arts and culture section for April 6) about making the movie.  Here’s the link: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/05/4042159/the-making-of-the-film-noir-swingers.html

Fyi, the story “Swingers Anonymous” first appeared in the short crime fiction anthology Dallas Noir from Akashic Books.  It is included in my new collection Phone Call from Hell & Other Tales of the Damned

 

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

A little bit here.  A little bit there.  I do my research as I go along when I come to a point in a story that needs authenticity.  The internet is very helpful.  I write mostly contemporary crime fiction, so it’s mostly in my head, these alternate lives I live vicariously.

 

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

I promote my work on Facebook and stay connected with people that way.  And I have a website that collects reviews and shit about my books.  I think it’s pretty important to put yourself out there.  No one else is going to do it.  It’s all one big clusterfuck.  So I try to enjoy it.

 

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?

Well, of course, finishing up the film Swingers Anonymous and submitting it to festivals.  And doing a little touring with the new book, Phone Call from HellI’ve got some launch events here in Key West in April and May.  And I’m working on gigs in NYC and Texas, where I used to live.  And in late October there’s Noircon 2014 up in Philadelphia.  Always a great time!

I recently completed a road trip crime novel called Kiss the Devil Good Night.  I need to get that in the queue for publication, probably by New Pulp Press.  And I’m working on a new story about feral hog hunting down in Texas.

That about sums it up.

Bio: Jonathan Woods holds degrees from McGill University, New England School of Law and New York University School of Law.   For many years he practiced law with a multi-national high-tech company before turning to writing full time.

Jonathan studied writing at Southern Methodist University and at Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Zoetrope: All-Story and Sirenland Writers’Conferences.  His early stories appeared in 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika, Plots with Guns and other web-based literary magazines.

His first book, Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem, won a 2011 Spinetingler Award for Best Crime Short Story Collection and was featured at the 2010 Texas Book Festival.  His novel A Death in Mexico was named one of the 5 top debut crime novels of 2012 by BookPeople Bookstore in Austin, TX.

In 2012 The Studios of Key West awarded Jonathan an artist’s studio space where many of the stories in Phone Call from Hell & Other Tales of the Damned were written.  A new road trip crime novel, Kiss the Devil Good Night, is forthcoming.

Formerly of Dallas, Texas, Jonathan resides in Key West, Florida with his spouse, the artist Dahlia Woods (www.dahliawoodsgallery.com), and a shih tzu named Miss Pinky.  When not writing, he hangs out in various nefarious Key West bars or travels the globe, most recently to Portugal, Mexico and Asia.  His website is at: www.southernnoir.com

Short, Sharp Interview: John Mantooth

storm_lg (2)

PDB: Can you pitch THE YEAR OF THE STORM in 25 words or less?  

(I’m terrible at these things) If you like your horror with a healthy dose of mystery, Southern-fried grittiness, and some narrative experimentalism, give THE YEAR OF THE STORM a shot.

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

Like everybody I know, TRUE DETECTIVE took over my life for a couple of months.  As far as books, I’m loving Claire Vaye Watkins’ collection, BATTLEBORN.  Some great short stories in there.  Also dug Jeff Vandermeer’s novel ANNIHILATION.  And I was lucky enough to read and advance copy of Paul Tremblay’s new novel, A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS, which I totally loved.

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

I don’t see why not.

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

Maybe for television.  My work seems to be sort of episodic, so that might be a decent fit.  One day.  Right now, I’m all about fiction.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?  

I tend to write what I know, so not a lot.  I do research as needed.  My current project–a novel based very loosely around Chief Tuskaloosa and his encounters with Hernando de Soto–has made me do a good bit more than usual.

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

Not very useful at all, actually.  In fact, I sometimes wonder if they aren’t detrimental.  Sure, you probably pick up a few readers along the way, but at what cost?  Think of all the time wasted surfing Facebook and Twitter when you could be writing or reading. But still, I persist.

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?

Hopefully getting TUSKALOOSA finished and published.  I have a novella project that I can’t really say much about.  If it works out, it’ll be with a really cool publisher.

Bio: John Mantooth is a Stoker-nominated author whose short stories have been recognized in numerous year’s best anthologies. His short fiction has been published in Fantasy Magazine, Crime Factory, Thuglit, and the Stoker winning anthology, Haunted Legends (Tor, 2010), among others. His collection, Shoebox Train Wreck was published in 2012 (Chizine), followed by his first novel, The Year of the Storm in 2013 (Berkley). Find him at http://jpmantooth.blogspot.com and on Twitter at @busfulloflosers.

A Story For Saturday: Seeing Blue by Paul D. Brazill

Snapshots First, it all turns red. And then it goes black for a very long time. After that, everything is a searing white. Until I see Blue.

Then everything hurts. Everything.

Blue reaches into a rusty tool box. Takes out a hammer. Snorts some Charlie from the window ledge. Pops a duck egg. And walks towards me.

Black, again.

***

Now, the room is a muddy brown. Early evening or late morning. An old transistor radio on the mantelpiece leaks out hits of the ‘80s. Jason and Kylie. Kajagoogoo. Johnny Hates Jazz.

I can make out Blue Dobson’s massive frame in the corner of the room. He is naked. His jigsaw of tattoos exposed. His long red hair tied back in a ponytail.

He’s doing press ups. And repeating a mantra, “Fuckemall, Fuck em all, Fuckemall, Fuck em all.”

And then I start to panic. I try to drag myself free from the rocking chair but I’m still strapped in. A pool of piss below me, splashed with blood. I scream but my jaw is broken and the movement hurts so much that once again it all fades to black.

***

Some people never do learn from their mistakes. And I suppose I’m one of those people.

Just over a year ago, Natalie, my girlfriend, got a job as a receptionist at the Health Centre. After a few drinks she liked to unburden herself. Tell me all the sob stories she heard all day. It was the old dears she usually felt the most sorry for. Living alone. Abandoned by their family.

I usually zoned out; I never had a thing for other people’s problems. But when she mentioned that Mrs Barker had just died, I had an idea. Later that night, I sneaked into Mrs Barker’s house and looked for whatever loot I could find. I got a decent wad of cash and jewellery, too.

I paid more attention to Natalie after that.

But about a fortnight ago, I was almost caught by a neighbour who’d stopped crying crocodile tears and obviously had the same idea as me. I saw him rummaging under the bed, fat arse in the air. I scarpered pretty sharpish.

So, I thought I’d leave it a bit.

And then Natalie mentioned that Mrs Dobson had snuffed it. She was the grandmother of Blue Dobson, who had once committed a string of post office robberies and killed three people while he was on the run. Blue was eventually caught and given two life sentences but the loot from the robberies was never recovered. This seemed like a window of opportunity well worth jumping through.

I wasn’t to know that Blue had escaped from prison when he’d been notified of his beloved Nan’s death. That he’d go back to her home.

***

Sunlight peeks through the lace curtains. Blue is in the corner of the room, gurgling, puking, grasping his heart with his baseball mitt of a hand. After some time, he stops moving. As the day becomes brighter, it becomes clear that he’s croaked. Brown bread.

Heart attack, maybe. Overdose. Whatever.

I wriggle around enough to topple the rocking chair over. It hurts. It hurts so much that I black out again. When I come to, I struggle free from the shattered chair. Crawl over to Blue. And the suitcase full of money. My jaw hurts as I grin. I untie my ankles. Get to my feet.

The sun has risen over the tower blocks. The day is bright. The skies are blue. And the copper on the balcony, pointing a gun at me, smiles.

The End.

SEEING BLUE first appeared online at Heath Lowrance’s Psycho Noir blog and is included in SNAPSHOTS.

 

Death Can’t Take A Joke by Anya Lipska: Excerpt.

Death Can't Take A Joke PB 2.inddOne of my favourite crime fiction novels of 2012 was Anya Lipska‘s debut WHERE THE DEVIL CAN’T GO, which introduced the characters of  Janusz Kiszka- a fixer/ unofficial private eye in London’s Polish community- and rookie cop D C Natalie Kershaw.

You can read what I had to say about WHERE THE DEVIL CAN’T GO here.

Well, Kiszka and Kershaw are back in Anya Lipska’s latest  crime thriller DEATH CAN’T TAKE A JOKE, which is available as a paperback, eBook and audio-book.

And you can read an extract here:

In this scene, private eye Janusz Kiszka is at his murdered friend’s house when he sees a mystery woman leaving flowers outside in tribute…

Janusz gazed out of the bay window that framed the tiny front garden and flower-strewn wall like a tableau. Through the half-closed slats of the blinds a young woman came into view, slowing to a halt in front of the wall. She stooped to lay something, and he saw her lips moving, as though in silent prayer. There was something about her that caught his attention. It wasn’t just that, even half-obscured, she was strikingly beautiful; it was the powerful impression that the sadness on her face and in the slope of her shoulders seemed more profound – more personal – than might be expected from a neighbour or casual acquaintance of the dead man.

‘Basia,’ he growled in an undertone. ‘Do you recognise that girl?’

Basia frowned out through the blinds, shook her head. Outside, the girl bent her head in a respectful gesture, crossed herself twice, and turned to leave.

Driven by some instinct he couldn’t explain, Janusz leapt up from the sofa and, telling Basia that he’d phone to check on Marika later, let himself out of the front door. The girl had nestled a new bouquet among the other offerings, but her expensive-looking hand-tied bunch of cream calla lilies and vivid blue hyacinths stood out from the surrounding cellophane-sheafed blooms. After checking that there was no accompanying note or card, he scanned up and down the street. Empty. Crossing to the other side of the road, he was rewarded by the sight of the girl’s slender figure a hundred metres away, walking towards the centre of Walthamstow.

Gradually, he closed the gap to around fifty metres. By a stroke of luck, a young guy carrying an architect’s portfolio case had emerged from a garden gate ahead of him so that if the girl happened to glance behind she’d be unlikely to spot Janusz. From the glimpses he got he could see that, even allowing for the vertiginous heels, she was tall for a woman, her graceful stride reminiscent of a catwalk model’s.

The girl passed the churchyard that marked the seventeenth-century heart of Walthamstow Village, where the breeze threw a handful of yellow leaves in her wake like confetti, but she didn’t take the tiny passageway that led down to the tube as Janusz had half expected, heading instead for Hoe Street. Once she was enveloped by its pavement throng he was able to get closer, taking in details such as the discreetly expensive look of the bag slung over the girl’s shoulder and the way her dark blonde hair shone like honey in the morning light.

Then a black Land Rover Discovery surged out of the stream of barely moving traffic with a throaty growl and came to a stop, two wheels up on the pavement, ahead of the girl. The driver, a youngish man with a number two crew cut, wearing a black leather jacket, jumped out and went over to her. When she shook her head and carried on, he walked alongside her, talking into her ear. A few seconds later, she tried to break away but he put a staying hand on her upper arm, a gesture at once intimate, yet controlling. She didn’t shake it off, instead slowing to a halt. From the angle of his head it was clear the guy was cajoling her.

Janusz could make out a densely inked tattoo on the back of the guy’s hand, which disappeared beneath the cuffs of his jacket, and emerged above the collar. A snake, he realised – its open jaws spread across his knuckles, the tip of its tail coiling up behind his ear. The girl’s head was bent now, submissive. After a moment or two, she gave an almost imperceptible shrug, and allowed herself to be ushered to the car.

She climbed into the back seat where Janusz glimpsed the outline of another passenger – a man – before the Land Rover slid back into the traffic. He cursed softly: with no black cabs cruising for fares this far east, he had no way of following them. But twenty seconds later, just beyond a Polish sklep where Janusz sometimes bought rye bread flour, the Land Rover threw a sudden left turn that made its tyres shriek.

Janusz doubled his stride towards the turnoff. When he reached the corner it was just as he remembered: the road was a dead-end, and the big black car had pulled up not twenty metres away, its engine murmuring. He stopped, and pulling out his mobile, pretended to be taking a call. Through the rear window of the car, seated next to the girl, he could see a wide-shouldered, bullet-headed man. Judging by his angrily working profile and her bowed head, she was getting a tirade of abuse. Even from this distance the man gave off the unmistakable aura of power and menace. When he appeared to fall silent for a moment, the girl turned and said something. A swift blur of movement and the girl’s head ricocheted off the side window. Janusz clenched his fists: the fucker had hit her! Only a conscious act of self-control stopped him sprinting to the car and dragging the skurwiel out to administer a lesson in the proper treatment of women. A half-second later, the kerbside door flew open and he pushed the girl out onto the pavement. The door slammed, the car performed a screeching U-turn, mounting the opposite pavement in the process, and sped off back to Hoe Street.

Janusz could restrain himself no longer: he jogged over to where the girl half-sat, half-sprawled on the kerb, her long legs folded beneath her like a fawn. She looked up at him, a dazed look in her greenish eyes, before accepting his arm and getting to her feet. Her movements were calm and dignified, but he noticed how badly her hands were shaking as she attempted to button her coat.

He retrieved one of her high-heeled shoes from the gutter and, once he was sure she was steady on her feet, stepped back. The last thing she needed right now was a man crowding her personal space.

‘Can I do anything?’ he asked. ‘I got the number plate – if you wanted to get the police involved, I mean?’

She touched the side of her head – the bastard had clearly hit her where the bruise wouldn’t show – and met his eyes with a look that mixed resignation with wary gratitude.

‘Thank you,’ she said finally, her dry half-smile telling him that the police weren’t really an option. ‘It is kind of you. But really, is not a problem.’ Her voice was attractively husky, with an Eastern European lilt – that much he was sure of – but not entirely Polish. If he had to lay money on it he’d say she hailed from further east, one of the countries bordering Russia, perhaps.

As she dusted the pavement grit from her palms his eyes lingered on her fine, long-boned fingers. Then he remembered why he had followed her in the first place: to find out her connection to Jim and why she would leave a bunch of expensive flowers in his memory. He was tempted for a moment to broach it with her there and then, but some instinct told him that a blunt enquiry would scare her off.

‘Allow me to give you my card, all the same,’ he said, proffering it with a little old-fashioned bow. It gave nothing away beyond his name and number and offered his only hope of future contact with the girl. ‘In case you change your mind – or should ever find yourself in need of assistance.’

She took the card, the wariness in her eyes giving way to a cautious warmth.

‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘A girl never knows when she might need a little assistance.’ And pocketing it, she turned, as graceful as a ballet dancer, and started to walk away.

‘May I know your name?’ Janusz asked to her departing back.

For a moment he thought she wasn’t going to answer, but then, without breaking step, she threw a single word over her shoulder.

‘Varenka!’

Short, Sharp Interview: Anya Lipska

ANYA LIPSKA’S WEBSITE IS HERE.

A Story For Saturday: The Return Of The Tingler by Paul D. Brazill

SHOTGUN HONEY - SMOKING!As the bright spring afternoon melted into evening, Dr Shearing’s office grew darker and so did Lee Madison’s thoughts.

“13 Ghosts?” said Dr Shearing. He pulled sharply at his shirt cuffs. “I can’t say that I’m familiar with that particular film, or Mr William Castle’s oeuvre as a director, to be honest.”

Lee cringed as Shearing spoke. The psychiatrist whistled when he pronounced the letter‘s’ and the sound almost perforated Lee’s ear drums.

“Oh it was massively popular at the time. There was even a remake a while back,” said Lee. “All flash-trash and CGI, though.”

The egg stain on Dr Shearing’s paisley tie had distracted Lee so much he’d had to turn away to look at the silent television in the corner of the room. Images of corn fields rolled across the screen.

“But The Tingler was his most famous film,” continued Lee. “He set up a gadget in the cinema seats that gave people little electric shocks when The Tingler appeared on the screen,” He turned to Shearing and grinned, beaming.

“A monster that lives on fear, you say? Quite clever actually,” said Dr Shearing, who was sweating even more than usual. “A slightly Freudian shadow cast, eh?”

He took his ballpoint pen and scribbled on a yellow post-it-note that he then stuck inside his worn brown briefcase. He clicked the briefcase closed and looked at Lee.

“So, you said you were about seven when your own particular ‘Tingler’ appeared?”

Lee nodded to himself. Glanced at Shearing.

“I think so. We were on a school day out. I was running down the side of a cliff with a group of other kids when I started to panic. Imagined myself crashing down to the ground below. My head smashed to pieces. And then the panic took control of me. So, I decided to see what would happen if I just let myself fall.”

“And?”

“Everything went black and red. I came to near a swimming pool and a teacher was shouting at me while she bathed my face in chlorine stinking water. I was off school for weeks. Never really got into the habit of going to school after that, to be honest.”

“And The Tingle returned when?”

“Off and on. When I saw the school bus turn the corner, for example. I just wanted to throw myself under it. Or if I saw a sharp knife, I felt the urge to run it across my tongue.”

Shearing repressed a grimace.

“And when did this stop?”

“Well, it didn’t. It got worse when I was a teenager. The Tingler was like a cowl wrapping itself around my head. Smothering my brain. My thoughts.”

“And nothing could stop it? Ease it?”

“Well, I suppose, sex took the edge off for a while. But that didn’t last long.”

“So, that is when you started drinking?”

“Yes, the booze helped. And then the drugs.”

“But …”

“Their affects wore off pretty quickly. And then, one night, just after Christmas, I was walking down a path, late at night. It was freezing. I saw an old man shuffling in front of me. Almost slipping over on the ice. In a flash, I realised that I could just kill him. And it wouldn’t matter. No one would know. I could get away with it without a problem. The Tingler almost strangled me.”

“And.”

“And so I picked up a brick, ran up to the man and smashed his head to pieces like a soft boiled egg.”

Shearing gulped. His mouth arid.

“And what happened to The Tingler after that,” said Shearing, looking uncomfortable.

“It was gone for quite a long time after that. But, it was always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Of course, it crept further forward. Until eventually it was at the front of my brain.”

“And now?”

“A singular truth, Doctor. There truly are no consequences.”

Lee swept up a pencil and stabbed it into Dr Shearing’s eye. Again and again. Pushing it up toward his brain.

And The Tingler slipped away from his body like a shadow during night time. Only waiting for the break of dawn.

The End.

THE RETURN OF THE TINGLER first appeared online at SHOTGUN HONEY

Short, Sharp Interview: Preston Lang

the-carrierPDB: Can you pitch THE CARRIER in 25 words or less?

Girl with sultry voice tries to highjack drug courier. Courier plays innocent and girl becomes violent. Things get complicated.

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

I’ve been reading Harry Whittington and Mavis Gallant lately. I don’t think they would have gotten along very well, but they were both professionals.

And listening to a lot of jazz: Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans. And a lot Cuban and Dominican influenced music: Irakere, Fulanito.

As for TV, I finally got to see The Thick of It, so I’m happy about that. We don’t have enough vulgar Scotsmen on TV in the USA.

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

No one is an objective reader.

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

I’ve written plays. Recently I worked on this immersive theatre soft-core orgy project with acrobats and roasted pigs. It’s running in New York City now. I wrote a few monologues about motherhood and drug trafficking.

I’d definitely do film or TV. I’d do a lot of things for money.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

A decent amount. Some is taken from what I’ve done or heard first hand (I guess that counts as research) and a lot comes from books. I’ve also found the internet useful and have recommended the google search engine to several of my friends.

I try to use my great aunt for research purposes, but she just tells me lies and then laughs about it later—no, I never said that.

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

I’ve got a twitter account now. I should use it more.

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?

More books. I’ve got two and half done, and a few ideas all set to go. There’s insurance scams, depraved carnies, and maybe a period piece about jazz musicians. I’ve also got an idea for a series about an amoral Canadian private detective in America; it’s based in large part on my wife.

Bio: I’ve written a number of plays, stories, and articles but The Carrier is my first published novel. I’ve done some investigative work for a newspaper, and a few other jobs that have been very useful in learning the craft of crime fiction. I’ve also worked as a mathematics instructor, a census taker, a furniture mover, and a lounge pianist.

A Story For Saturday: Silver Lady by Paul D. Brazill

PULPLOGOThere was a storm building inside Ray’s skull. Waiting to break. And it was all because he hadn’t seen her for over a week now. Twenty-seven days and seventeen hours, to be precise. And he was starting to wonder if he’d imagined her. Created some kind of wish fulfilment figure. His stomach cramped.

It wouldn’t have been the first time that his imagination had set him off on a wild goose chase, after all. Sent him racing and stumbling headfirst into a collision with cold, cruel reality. Made him look a fool.

But just after midnight, at the exact moment he turned on the car’s ignition, the night sky was gutted with a crack of thunder, a flash of lighting and a cleansing rain.

He looked up and there she was. Shimmering in the silver glow of the street light that was in front of the sex shop on the corner of Langdon Street and Spender Grove.

And she was … resplendent. Yes. That was the word. That really was what she was. Resplendent.

As she had been the first time he’d gazed upon her.

***

It was late October when Ray had decided to stop going to his night class. It was the dark evenings that had put him off at first, there were too many animals crawling the streets at night these days. Filth everywhere.

Although he knew deep down that wasn’t the only reason he’d stopped attending the course. He hadn’t been making a great deal of progress – French never felt as natural to him as German or Latin – and he knew that he’d never actually go to France, anyway, so there was no real point continuing.

At the end of the month he’d called into the College of Further Education and paid for the rest of the course, it was the decent thing to do after all, and money wasn’t a problem for him. He shook hands with the tutor and headed off home, once again feeling that something was missing in his life.

The winter night bit like a beast as he headed off to the bus stop, avoiding the begging trick-or-treaters in their identical Halloween costumes. Ray loathed this time of year.

His doctor had once said that he suffered from SAD: Seasonal Adjustment Disorder and that he should go away to somewhere sunny, since he had lots of free time these days. But even the thought of travel was an abomination to Ray, who had only left Seatown once in all his thirty-five years. That was a trip to London to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. And that was an unpleasant experience that he certainly didn’t want to repeat.

They say bad luck comes in threes and Ray certainly had his share that night, and he really couldn’t count how many things went wrong. The 94 bus at Warden Green left early and, despite racing towards it, it didn’t stop. But it did splash through a puddle as it drove past him, soaking his brown corduroy trousers . And then it started to rain. Pour. He leaned against a kebab shop doorway catching his breath. His chest burning. The smell of sizzling animal flesh making him heave.

He decided to take a short cut through a nearby alleyway and was soaked through by the time he got to the end, which came out directly on Barclay Common. A couple of cars, their headlamps dipped, cruised past, the drivers examining the girls – and boys – that worked there. Ray kept his head down, ignoring their beckoning calls. Whenever he walked past the common it produced the usual cocktail of feelings – disgust, guilt, shame, embarrassment, resentment. And desire.

He gave a cursive glance at the prostitutes, seeing the usual shaking anorexics or overweight grannies. But then there was a sort of fizzing, popping sound, and a lamp post came to life. And there, underneath that flickering streetlamp was a vision.

Tall, blonde. Wearing a shining silver dress and boots. Looking completely alien to her grimy surroundings. More than human. An angel. And she smiled at him.

***

After that, his days, and nights were haunted by the Silver Lady. His dreams more so. And even during his waking hours, little pin pricks at the back of his mind made him turn sharply, expecting to see her.

At times he did see her, too. Just out of reach, At the edge of his vision. If he squinted, she was at the end of the street. Or a mannequin in a shop window. Sometimes, when he blinked, he saw her in the darkness.

Her voice, though he had never heard it, called to him. Sang along with the sound his alarm made as it dragged him by his greasy hair from his fitful sleep.

So, tonight he’d plucked up his courage and borrowed his Uncle Ricky’s car and headed off to cruise Barclay Common.

The night hadn’t started well. Uncle Ricky’s car had been specially adapted to suit his disabilities – Ray wasn’t completely sure what they were – and it was a pain to manoeuvre. And Ray wasn’t exactly the most experienced driver, although he’d passed his test some fifteen years before.

So, he’d stalled about a hundred times and panicked that he might be spotted on Barclay Common by someone he knew. He drove around until darkness fell and waited. He waited all night, and, as he was about to head off home at last, she appeared. There she was. As clear as day. He squinted to see her more clearly.

She was mouthing something. The red lips so clear against her alabaster skin. It was hard to work out exactly what she’d said at first but later he was he was sure it was: save me. Of course it was. And Ray knew he would.

***

That night he’d had the thickest, most vivid dream of all. She’d crept into his bed and she’d begged him to save her. To set her free. She’d called him My Ray of Hope. My Ray of Light. And he had made love to her. But this time was nothing like that horrible night in London. This time had been so special that he had awoken in tears. Tears of bliss.

He knew then that he was a caterpillar waiting for the right moment to transform into a butterfly for his Silver Lady.

***

Then she was gone again. As winter bled into spring. there was no sign of her. He drove to Barclay Common so many times that the prostitutes had started to recognise him. A couple of the pimps had even approached him one night, to say or do Lord knows what, but seeing his dog collar they had stepped back.

After that, some of them called out “Hello Preacher” when they saw him, though most of them ignored him. And he them. But there was still no sign of the Silver Lady. They had taken her. These animals. And he knew, as the storm clouds gathered, that he must take their lives in revenge.

***

The glow from the burning car was warm. Comforting. The screams of the burning prostitutes and pimps calming. The storm had broken. Was over. He felt sated, wet at his crotch.

Ray had filled the car with as much flammable material as possible and sent it into the pack of vermin that lined Barclay Common. He’d thrown a Molotov cocktail and the blast had ripped the sky open.

With an aching heart, he walked toward the street light where his Silver Lady had stood. As he got closer, he felt a stomach cramp as he saw the sex shop’s demolished facade. He rushed forward and burnt his hands as he gripped the metal shutters that had been ripped open by the blast. He smashed at the glass that was already shattered to reveal the twisted, torn form of an alabaster mannequin, its silver mini skirt ripped to reveal her burning flesh. The blood red lips. The blank, dead eyes.

And Ray laughed. He laughed so much that it melded into the sound of the police cars and ambulances that drew close. And the storm that had returned.

The End.

SILVER LADY first appeared over at PULP METAL MAGAZINE

Eileen Wharton Is Down Brit Grit Alley

Bio: Eileen Wharton is a mother, a writer and a teacher. She lives on a council estate and has a phobia of tinned tuna.

You can find her on Facebook at EileenWharton-writer or Twitter @Wharton Eileen.

Her first novel is called SHIT HAPPENS and is published by Byker Books and available on Amazon. It’s cheap as chips. She is not, no matter what the rumours say.

And she is my latest guest columnist down Out Of The Gutter Online’s BRIT GRIT ALLEY.

Short, Sharp Interview: Gary Anderson

PDB: Can you pitch THE GWOUSZ AFFAIR in 25 words or less?

Apparently not. How about 28?

When the head of a developed heifer surfaces in the nation’s capital, P.I. Cornelius Planke must wade into the depths of a perilous underworld to find her killer.

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

Bebop Jazz always floats my boat. Eric Dolphy, Lee Morgan, Diz. Lately, I’ve taken a shining to Brad Mehldau. I love the way he takes pop music and twists it into this recognizable but almost not menagerie of sound. Also, as far as boat floating goes, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, and the Bad Plus always do it, too.

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

No, sir. But let me qualify that by saying I don’t think anyone is an objective reader. I hate to bring Husserl into it, but he says “. . . we can only know what we experience.” In the case of reading, we all see reality through different lenses. These lenses color everything that we perceive, including constructs of the mind and imagination. Some might call this baggage. Whatever. As a writer, my understanding of writing is one of the lenses that color my perceptions. So, like most readers, I often stop to admire a beautifully articulate line, but I may also stop to admire a wonderfully intricate and realized plot. Or a fully developed character. This all begs the question, why even try for objectivity?

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

In a word, no. That’s a whole other animal, as far as I’m concerned—one that I know very little about.

GAnderson2 (2)PDB: How much research goes into each book?

I like research. Most of the research I do before sitting down to begin a novel is simply background research. This gets me in the right headspace, I guess. But the actual nuts and bolts of research are all done as I’m writing. The main reason for this is I don’t always know where the plot will take me. For The Gwousz Affair, for example, I had to do a bit of research on enemas. I didn’t know before I started writing the book that I would need to become an armchair expert on what goes into giving a good and meaningful enema. Just never crossed my mind until it came up in the book.

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

To be honest, I’m still learning how to best use social media. I’m not by nature a self-promoter. But in these self-publishing times, you simply have to be. You have to be willing to put it out there a bit, you know. Hopefully, people understand this and don’t react with too much vehemence to another tweet about my “goddamn book about cows!”

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?

I’m revising a book about a man who suddenly and quite inexplicably begins to lactate. I finished the first draft some years ago and have found an interested publisher. But it will need a few rewrites. Aside from that, the sequel to The Gwousz Affair is on my to-do list. Things are percolating as we speak.

Bio: Gary Anderson was born and raised on the prairies of southern Alberta, Canada. Upon taking an advance degree in English Literature, he moved to Korea, where he worked in educational publishing. After a ten year stay in Korea, Gary returned to the West. He now lives and writes in Central New Jersey. His latest novel, The Gwousz Affair is published by Crime Wave Press. You can visit him at http://andegw.wix.com/ganderson_write  or follow him on Twitter at @GAnderson_Write.

Guest Blog: The Man with the Golden Mind by Tom Vater

TheManWithTheGoldenMind-144dpi (2)From 1965 to 1973, the CIA ran its largest covert operation to date in Laos, a small landlocked Southeast Asian country neighboring China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. During this time, the American secret service trained a secret army of montagnards (ethnic minorities) to fight the Laotian communists. The secret heart of this operation was an airport called Long Cheng, deep in the Laotian jungles. From here, the US flew aid and ammunition, troops and drugs around the country. For some years, Long Cheng was the country’s second largest city and the world’s busiest airport, though few people knew of its existence. As the war in Vietnam was being lost in the late 1960s, the US Air Force took over from the CIA mission and bombed the country back into the stone-age. Up to half a million people perished in the bombing, which was heavier than all the tonnage dropped during World War 2.

I first heard of Long Cheng in 2000 when I traveled across the Plain of Jars, a vast highland in northeastern Laos covered in bomb craters and unexploded ordnance, with my wife, photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat and my brother, film maker Marc Eberle. Here, entire villages were built from US war scrap and people lost lives and limbs to buried bombs at an alarming rate, 25 years after the war had ended. We were told that no journalists had been to the secret airport since the end of the war in 1975. We were hooked on the story of “The Most Secret Place on Earth”.

It took some five years to make the feature documentary about Long Cheng’s rise and fall and the story of the CIA’s covert war in Laos. During the research for the film, which my brother directed and for which we wrote the screenplay together, we met CIA case officers and burocrats, Air America pilots, Thai mercenaries, academics, the Hmong (montagnard) general who ran the CIA’s secret army and the whistleblower who uncovered the secret of the US bombing of Laos. We visited archives in the US and trawled through 1000s of photos, films and documents, returned to Laos and criss-crossed Thailand to interview countless people who played a part in the secret war.

The film was released in 2008, has shown at many film festivals and has been on TV in some thirty countries. The ABC Australia TV version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8cIki7awN8) is on youtube. My long involvement with this exquisite slice of secret 20th century history gave me the historical background for The Man with the Golden Mind .

The second Detective Maier Mystery (following last year’s The Cambodian Book of the Dead ) finds the former war correspondent turned PI in Laos, trying to solve the 25 year old murder of a former East German cultural attaché whose daughter, his client, has been kidnapped from under his nose in Hamburg. Maier soon realizes that there’s more to the murder than old politics – gold and a top secret file crammed with Cold War secrets come into play. It is the creator of this file though, a man called Weltmeister, a former US assassin no one has seen in a quarter century, who is the target of a search by the US government, montagnards, the Vietnamese secret service, a young journalist called Kanitha and of course, the detective. The trail leads deep into the Laotian jungles to a tattoo cult and a Vietnamese prison, across the Plain of Jars and finally to America’s most secret base, Long Cheng. I don’t want to provide any spoilers but it gets very personal for Maier this time around.

The Man with the Golden Mind is a more straightforward book than The Cambodian Book of the Dead which had genocide as its central theme, dictating a rather somber tone on the narrative.

The follow-up is lighter, the history is more digestible, though still very much n the dark side of human affairs, and the characters tom vaterare just as larger than life as in the first Maier Mystery. The novel is a reflection on how secret wars are thought as well as a meditation on family relationships. And least I forget, there are assassinations, mock executions, salacious sex, high quality drugs, sacred tattoos, serious combat and an appearance by the most infamous of US foreign secretaries to keep even the most jaded reader from slipping away.

 Bio: Tom Vater is a writer and publisher working predominantly in Asia. He is the co-owner of Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based English language crime fiction imprint. He has published two novels, The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, currently available in English and Spanish, and The Cambodian Book of the Dead, released by Crime Wave Press in Asia and  world wide in July 1013 by Exhibit A. His third novel, The Man with the Golden Mind, will be out with Exhibit A in 2014.

Tom has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The South China Morning Post, Marie Claire, Geographical, Penthouse and other publications. He has published several non-fiction books, including the highly acclaimed Sacred Skin (with his wife, photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat) and the more recent Burmese Light with photographer Hans Kemp.

Tom is the co-author of several documentary screenplays, most notably The Most Secret Place on Earth, a feature on the CIA’s covert war in 1960s Laos. In his spare time, Tom travels and plays punk rock.