PDB: Can you pitch your latest book in 25 words?
BJ: Nope. Not enough space. If I had more space, maybe. But even then, maybe not. Hate. The book is about hate. How we can use it better.
PDB: Which music, book, films or television do you wish you had written?
BJ: Oh man, there are tons. Silence of the Lambs. Seven. Lost. Breaking Bad. Up to season 7 of the X-files. The episode where Buffy’s mom dies. As for books: everything by Thomas Harris excluding Hannibal Rising. The Long Walk by King. The Jaunt. The raft. Music? Wheat Kings by The Tragically Hip, our very own Canadian treasure.
PDB: Which books do you think would make great films or TV series?
BJ: I want to say the Dark Tower, but as it seems that particular ship might have somewhat sailed.
PDB: Who are the great British Writers?
BJ: PDB, naturally.
PDB: What’s on the cards?
BJ: I have a few shorts in the pipe, some coming soon. Bishop Rider has been poking his head up too, just headlining a new finished piece titled Old Ghosts. It’s companion story to a yarn called Shift Work, where I once and for all debunk his reasons for retirement. It might include dismemberment.
PDB: Anything else?
BJ: Big thanks to you, Paul. For offering this platform and for supporting me in the past. If memory serves, you were one of the first who started sharing my work when I first got on to Facebook. I want you to know I appreciate that, Paul. I always have.
BIO: Beau Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Shotgun Honey, Spelk, HST, and/or the Molotov Cocktail. A collection of Beau’s, A Better Kind Of Hate, is published by Down and Out Books.
Paul has graciously invited me to post an essay about my latest work Three Hours Past Midnight, a novel from Crime Wave Press, set in my hometown, Philadelphia, Pa. In the first few pages the narrator and his partner burglarize the home of a wealthy, jailed Philadelphia politician. It features the un-named protagonist from an earlier story of mine, “Mister Wonderful.”
I typically have a framework in mind before I start to put words on a page, a beginning, middle and end. “Mister Wonderful” began for me as a scene, a dilemma – a man coming to, strapped in the driver’s seat of a car that has come to rest upside down in a shallow, icy streambed. He’s got a broken collarbone and he hears a siren go by on the roadway above him. I worked out who he was and why he was there as that story progressed. Afterward, I found myself still curious about him. For a long time, also, I’d had a vague story idea about the burglary of a certain private home in Philadelphia, a mansion near Center City, that many here mistakenly think belongs to a real-life, notorious, long-time state senator. I liked the idea of a crew breaking into the house and stealing something from him. As the fiction writer Eryk Pruitt says, some people in this world just need to be robbed. I couldn’t get started until I had the right players. After “Mister Wonderful” I knew I had just the guy.
If anything matters to this character, it is his rational approach to problems. He prides himself on his professionalism. So, in Three Hours Past Midnight, when things go bad – his partner murdered and the money gone – he has a choice: tackle the problem or give up and go home. He decides that worse than losing the money, the resulting damage to his reputation among other professionals would be intolerable.
This character is fun for me to write. I like him because he’s smart and resourceful, but also very human. He makes mistakes. He’s shadowy, even to me. I’ve never given him a name. I know what he’s like physically – average height, medium build – but facially, I haven’t a clue. I’m not sure how old he is. I can only see his silhouette, if that makes sense.
I do know a lot about him. He lives in the moment – he won’t celebrate a victory or agonize over a setback – he just keeps going. He’s smart and quick. He’s not a hard guy – he could probably hold his own if necessary, but he wouldn’t want to have to – there’s no money in it. He’d rather settle things with a conversation.
The characters who know him probably consider him fair but dangerous. Most others probably don’t notice him – he’s sort of forgettable. This is a guy who people underestimate. Every so often, a stranger – maybe a civilian, maybe a cop – somehow recognizes him for what he is.
I get bored reading stories that feature a superman or know-it-all. Worse is the hero’s best friend who is the toughest guy in the world. It seems these poor guys only exist to get the hero out of trouble.
This novel is also a sort of echo of my novella Happy Hour, an earlier work about a young grifter who has unwittingly stolen forty thousand dollars from dangerous men. It’s a story of a man on the run through the nighttime streets of Philadelphia, told from the point of view of the pursued.
Three Hours Past Midnight is the hunter’s story. What had appeared to be a simple, straightforward piece of work quickly turns complicated. Along the way, he runs into politics, corruption and organized crime, which in a way are all the same thing. He leaves a lot of wreckage. The end isn’t what he expected.
I’m working on another piece featuring my nameless protagonist, sort of a follow-up to the first short story, and I’m still figuring out who this guy is. He’ll be meeting new people and doing new things, and with a little luck it will be fresh.
Help restore the damaged archival print of Alex Rockwell’s 1992 indie Sundance winner IN THE SOUP before it’s lost forever.
1992 Sundance winner and cult classic In the Soup is in danger of disappearing forever.
In The Soup is an acclaimed independent feature comedy by director Alexandre Rockwell. In rich black and white, it’s the story of an aspiring young New York filmmaker (Steve Buscemi) in the throes of his creative struggle, his beautiful neighbor and muse (Jennifer Beals), and a lovable con man (Seymour Cassel), chasing their dreams in quintessential 1990s NYC amidst a cast of oddball characters played by Stanley Tucci, Sam Rockwell, Will Patton, Jim Jarmusch, Debi Mazar, Carol Kane, and others.
Upon its release in 1992, it won the grand jury prize at Sundance competing against films like Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino) and Gas, Food, Lodging (Alison Anders), and proceded to play some of the most prestigious festivals worldwide throughout that year, including Venice, Toronto, and the New York Film Festival.
It came out to critical acclaim: In the words of reviewers from the New York Times, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Time and more, it is “hilarious,” “irresistible,” “furiously clever,” “a magical and touching comic romance about movies and crime,” “a dryly funny film of exceptional visual beauty” and “a droll, self-conscious fable with an unexpected heart of gold.” Basically, people loved it.
As of last year, there was only one fine-grain, black-and-white master archival print left, and unfortunately, while being screened at a cinema in Los Angeles, this precious but aging, fragile print was accidentally damaged during projection to the extent that moments of the first and fifth reel were virtually shredded.
Over at Amazon.com, she says:
This is Paul D Brazill at his best; the humour is just tongue in cheek but the descriptive prose is perfection. It is so atmospheric it appeals to all the senses; I swear that there was one moment when I could even smell the cigarette smoke curling into the air of the bar (that I looked around the room for some evidence of it). This is a Roman Dalton anthology which begins with the Brazill ‘Drunk on the Moon’, a zombie/werewolf collection. If you read any of this book, you must read the first especially if you are a writer, a would-be writer or a ‘wish I was’ a writer – here is the first lesson. Had me totally intrigued just from the exquisite prose, the story is merely incidental. His dedication, however, to women with red lipstick is as cameo as Hitchcock’s appearance in his own films, if you read enough of his books you’ll know what I mean. Excellent! Pat McDonald British Crime Author.
Jasmine Doyle and her friends are messing about in a pub after hours when one of them throws a dart which hits Jasmine in the eye. Her gangster dad Neil is soon out for revenge, calling in old stalwart Graeme to track down the perpetrator of the crime.
Paul Heatley’s Eye For An Eye is a brilliant and brutal novella with a fantastically drawn cast of characters. The father-son relationship between Graeme and his reluctant sidekick Tracksuit Tony is particularly marvellous and the book is as touching as it is violent. Very highly recommended. More Please!
They say that all small boys are influenced by their big brother’s music collection, and while that may well be true of me, I was also influenced by my family’s taste in other forms of entertainment. Luckily I grew up in a time when television and radio weren’t as youth focused as they are now and I could enjoy the same shows as my parents and siblings, such as Will Hay, Ealing Comedies and Tony Hancock. During the miners’ strikes in the ‘70s there were power cuts. Which meant no telly. Reading comics by candle light and listening to an old transistor radio. Radio 2, usually, since my parents were of that age group. The Navy Lark, Round The Horne and, of course, Hancock.
Tony Hancock – the easiest comedian for charades – and I share the same birthday, May 12th. Whether or not we share the same death day remains to be seen, of course, and let’s just hope we can put that little fact-finding mission on hold for a while, eh?
One of the UK’s major television and radio stars throughout the 1950s and early ‘60s, British actor and comedian Tony Hancock killed himself on 25 June 1968. He overdosed on booze and pills and left a suicide note that said:
‘Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times’
Indeed, Hancock’s eponymous character on radio, on television, and in film, regularly tried his hand at countless activities and endeavours that invariably failed.
One episode – The Bedsitter – teeters dangerously on the precipice of bleak existentialism. The Bedsitter is a one-room set, one-man-show, where Hancock endlessly flips through a Bertrand Russell tome trying to find meaning in life, but fails, of course.
In the most famous episode of his television show The Blood Donor, ‘the lad himself’ proudly donates a pint of his particularly rare blood only to end the episode by cutting himself so badly on a breadknife that he needs a transfusion of his own blood. The recording of the television version of The Blood Donor proved to be problematic as Hancock had recently been involved in a car accident and suffered from concussion so that he had to read his lines from autocue.
After the American failure of his film debut The Rebel, Hancock broke with his long time writing team of Galton and Simpson, who were responsible for most of the great writing in Hancock’s shows, as well as ditching his long-term agent, the splendidly named Beryl Vertue. This pretty much led to his career decline.
Disappointment was always breathing at the back of Hancock’s neck, it seemed.
Hancock, and other character actors, are regularly in my mind when I’m creating characters. Quigley, the hit man in my yarn The Bucket List, was partly inspired by the image of Tony Hancock stalking the streets with a gun.
Hancock could be said to be the perfect noir comedian, in fact. I’ve said before that crime fiction is about bringing order to chaos and noir is about bringing chaos to order, and Tony Hancock’s comedy is pure noir. A natural loser. When I started writing I wanted to write small, odd stories about small, odd people – like Hancock.
Like his fictional incarnation, Hancock was prone to introspection, a concoction of egotism and self-doubt which he bared when he was interviewed in the BBCs Face To Face programme in the early 1960s.
Spike Milligan said of Hancock that he was a ‘Very difficult man to get on with. He used to drink excessively. You felt sorry for him. He ended up on his own. I thought, he’s got rid of everybody else, he’s going to get rid of himself and he did.’
As Tony Hancock said: ‘Stone me, what a life!’
(This first appeared at Tom Leins’ blog as part of his Under The Influence series)