All Blackwitch Press eBooks are now 77p/ 99c !

A Song For Saturday: In Germany Before The War by Randy Newman

For many years, Randy Newman meant very little to me although he had always been in my peripheral vision.

I knew Alan Price’s version of ‘Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear’ from when I was a kid and I was aware of ‘Short People’ but he was someone on the horizon; a writer of novelty songs. Of no interest to someone who grew up on glam rock and punk, then.

However, at some point in the eighties, during one of my longest periods of unemployment, I borrowed Nina Simone’s ‘Baltimore’ from the public library thinking that her voice could transform shit into shinola no matter what the song was. It was a ragged and occasionally brilliant album but the, (Newman penned), song ‘Baltimore’ impressed.

Some time after that, I visited the town’s premier second-hand record shop ‘The Other Record Shop’ where Newman’s ‘Little Criminals’ was always in the fifty pence section. The cover didn’t appeal but I bought it anyway.

A classic album, of course, but the strongest impact was from this one song. Lush strings, plaintive piano,  an aching nostalgic feeling. I loved it though I played it without really listening. So, I played it again. And listened.

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store

In nineteen hundred thirty-four

In Düsseldorf …’

Lovely sepia images. Snapshots and memories of somewhere that you’ve never been.

And more:

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea ..’

A sad, sense of yearning. But then something changes :

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

Reflected in his glasses

As he watches her…’

The nostalgic melody starts to seem sinister. The lovely strings are like malignant clouds spreading across the sky. The river seems dark and dangerous .The plaintive piano seems to be stalking.

No, you think. It can’t be.

But then:

We lie beneath the autumn sky

My little golden girl and I

And she lies very still’

And you know it IS.

It chilled me more than any song had before. And maybe even since.

In Germany Before The War, it turns out, was inspired by the classic 1931 Fritz Lang film M, which featured Peter Lorre as a serial child killer.

This in turn was inspired by Peter Kürten who was known as the Düsseldorf Ripper, the Vampire of Düsseldorf or the Monster of Düsseldorf and was executed in July 1931 after confessing to nine murders.

Here are the lyrics:

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store

In nineteen hundred thirty-four

In Düsseldorf

And every night at fine-o-nine

He’d cross the park down to the Rhine

And he’d sit there by the shore

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

Reflected in his glasses

As he watches her

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

We lie beneath the autumn sky

My little golden girl and I

And she lies very still

This post first appeared at Jedidiah Ayres’ Hardboiled Wonderland as part of his NARRATIVE MUSIC series.

Coming Soon: Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay

french bookAnother Paris Homicide Mystery in Bookstores on September 23

Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay

Just how far would you go for your loved ones? It’s Christmas in Paris and Chief of Police Nico Sirsky is back, in love and rearing to go, when he’s handed an odd case. He and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil?

“Procedural fans will appreciate the fresh take.” –Booklist

“For readers who enjoy a low-key approach with detailed descriptions, Molay is just the ticket.” – Publishers Weekly

“A highly entertaining and intellectually stimulating read… unreservedly recommended.” –Thinking about Books

 CSI Paris, anyone? A new Paris Homicide Mystery is out #goodread

Looking for a good read set in #France? “Procedural fans will appreciate the fresh take.”

Love #France? Love #mysteries? “Molay is just the ticket.” Start reading it:

“A highly entertaining and intellectually stimulating read… unreservedly recommended.” Read it now:

“This series just gets better as Sirsky continues to grow and evolve. Highly recommended.” #bookreview

Here’s some reader love about a new mystery novel set in Paris: “The first book in the series was one of my top ten reads of 2013 and this book will most likely be among the outstanding mysteries on my list for 2014.” Check it out here:

Love Paris? Love mysteries? Here’s another Paris Homicide Mystery by Frédérique Molay, from Le French Book. Don’t miss it. Start reading it here:  

Shelfie of the Week #3


I’m Tess Makovesky’s shelfie of the week!

Originally posted on Tess Makovesky:

And now… the king of Brit-grit himself, Paul D Brazill!

shelfie 2

True to form, Paul calls this shelf of his own ‘crimes’ (against literature? surely not!) “getting away with it”.  You can find more of Paul’s criminal output, including such gems as ‘A Case of Noir’ and ‘Roman Dalton – Werewolf PI’ over at his blog of Brit-grit and International Noir.  I would say ‘happy reading’ but I’m not sure happy is quite the right word!

View original

I’m interviewed by Fiona Mcvie

a case of lisa‘Name Paul D. Brazill

Age 52
Where are you from
Hartlepool, England.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc.
I left school at 16. Played bass in a couple of post-punk bands. Worked in a second-hand record shop. I live in Poland teaching business English. Have a 16 month old son.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Guns Of Brixton will be out in the next few months from Caffeine Nights Publishing. It’s a bawdy, crime fiction romp set in London.’


Read the rest here.

Recommended Read: Spiral Out by u.v.ray

spiral outU.v ray‘s brilliant uber-noir Spiral Out opens up with Mark Karzoso on the phone to his father, asking for his help to dispose of a body, and before you know it  we’re sharply hauled into Karzoso’s deliriously nihilistic world of misogyny, misanthropy, drugs, booze, bad men and women. Spiral Out is a like a whip-crack. A short and painfully sharp shock to the system. A kick in the eye with a stiletto heel. 

Spiral Out is limited to only 200 copies so you’d best grab it asap from here, or here.

Out Now: Od Lune pijan / Drunk On The Moon

drunk on the moon SloveneRoman Dalton is an average booze-guzzling PI. But only until the moon is full … Then he’s everything but average. And now he speaks Slovene!

Od Lune pijan / Drunk On The Moon 

Paul D. Brazill , Renato Bratkovič

My original Roman Dalton – Werewolf PI yarn has now been translated by Slovenian noir writer Renato Bratkovič 

And you can get it here as an Artizan double – in both languages.

Available at all other Amazon’s, too.

Crime Fiction – Here and There and Again

crime gdansk2Back In 2012 I had the real pleasure of being at special guest at Crime Fiction – Here and There, Now and Then, an academic conference at the University Of Gdansk which was organised by Agnieszka Sienkiewicz-Charlish, M.A. and Urszula Elias, M.A. The Academic Advisor was Prof. David Malcolm, who has a story in Exiles: An Outsider Anthology.

Being an academic conference, a lot of it was way over my head but it was a very interesting and fun experience to be sure.

And they’ve done it again. I’ll be a guest along with K A Laity, Dr Rachel Franks and others:

Crime Fiction – Here and There and Again

11-13 September 2014

2nd International Postgraduate Conference

Department of English Language Cultures and Literatures, English Institute, Faculty of Languages of the University of Gdańsk
and the State School of Higher Professional Education in Elbląg


Advisory Board and Executive Committee

Call for Papers    [DOC] [PDF] – CLOSED

Conference Fee

Conference Venue

Honorary Patrons



Registration – CLOSED


2012 Conference

GdanskFind out more about the conferences and the people involved here.

And check out the Facebook page.


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: or his blog:

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