Category Archives: A Twist Of Noir

I have a Twist Of Noir

I’m up at the all-new A TWIST OF NOIR with a little yarn called THINGS I USED TO LIKE.

‘I used to like playing football when I was a kid. Loved it, I did. I could spend hours kicking a ball around a muddy field or up and down a dirty back street. When I got older, I even played in goal for the local pub’s Sunday league team. But I put on weight because of all the beer and pork pies. I liked that bit too much, and it became hard work. A slog. No fun at all.

That was another thing, too. I used to like spending a few nights a week and the odd afternoon down the pub but heartburn, indigestion and ulcers soon put paid to that. Sitting sipping a mineral water when other folk got pissed wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, so I lost interest.  I began to fear I’d lost my capacity for joy, I really did.’

Read the rest here. 

Keep It Simple. Keep It Short.

4 picsI think I’ve always liked singles more than LPs. Preferred the short, sharp burst of a 45 rpm vinyl to 33 and 1/3 rpm of a few decent tunes padded out with fillers. And maybe that’s why I was drawn to flash fiction.

I started off my crime writing ‘career’ – arf – submitting yarns to the late lamented Six Sentences website – short stories in just six sentences. Indeed, my first writing to appear in print was in the 6S volume 2 anthology.

Here’s an example of a 6S yarn:

A Cold Day in Helsinki

The January night had long since waned when Mika blasted Aki’s brains over the snow covered street, producing a more than passable Rorschach test. A murder of crows sliced through the whiteness as the purr of the passing motorcycle grew to a roar, masking the sound of the shotgun. When day eventually melted into night, the moon hung fat and gibbous, the bloodstains now black in the moonlight. Mika draped Aki’s cold, dead skin over his own pallid flesh as, shivering, he breathed in the scent of cheap aftershave, cigarettes and booze. Sour memories trampled over his thoughts with bloodstained feet. Together forever he rasped, as tears filled his bloodshot eyes.

Or:

Snap, Crackle & Pop! 

Snap went Larry’s index finger when Mo bent it back. Crackle went the cigar that Mo slammed into Larry’s face. Pop went the pistol that Mo shoved under Larry’s chin. Snap went the paparazzi when Mo was led into court. Crackle went the electric chair when Mo was sent to meet his maker. Pop went the champagne cork in Curly and Shemp’s hotel room.

And I’ve also enjoyed writing a few other forms of flash and micro fiction too, such as 6word stories a la Ernest Hemingway.

Quentin.

Blah blah. Bang bang. Ha ha.

Or there are stories limited to fifty words for magazines such as Blink Ink.

Old Town, midnight.

The moonlight oozed across the dank cobblestones like quicksilver; creeping between the cracks, crawling into the gutters. Howls sliced the silence. Lara shivered, pulling the fur close to her flesh. Each heartbeat was like the tick of a clock. As the limousine growled into view, heavy footsteps shuffled closer.

And flash fiction in 100 words, which is known as Drabble.

Swamplands

Elvis awoke in a cold, dank sweat, hungover from bourbon and bad dreams. The nightmares had consisted of him being hunted through a swamp by the murderous spectre of Jesse, his stillborn twin. His pounding heartbeat seemed to echo through the mansion. He stumbled into the bathroom, splashed cold water on his face and looked in the mirror, only to be confronted by his own ashen reflection and that of his grinning doppelganger. Jesse tightly wrapped the umbilical cord around Elvis’ throat and pulled it until Elvis breathed no more. The king is dead, long live the king, he muttered.

Indeed, if you feel the urge to take the plunge into writing but just want to test the water, there are plenty of flash fiction sites online. Spelk Fiction, for example,’ limit you to 500 words and Shotgun Honey have a 700 word limit.  And it’s a great way for more experienced writers to practice disciplining their writing too.

So why not get flashing!

This post first appeared over at Debbi Mack’s blog.

#FRIDAY FLASH: EVERYDAY PEOPLE

13 shots2Brendan 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 tartan shopping bag and headed off.
‘Post office, next?’ said Tony.
‘As per usual,’ said Brendan. The social services kept trying to convince him to have his pension paid into the bank but Brendan had 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.

* * *

‘Jeezus, don’t send for her!’ said Brendan. Skye, the featherlight social worker that hovered over him – looking like a delicate flower next to the mountain of a man-  had suggested phoning his daughter, Sue, who lived 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 Sky.
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 off a mouse, who kept himself to himself, although it would have surprised most people to know that he loved to listen 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 listing 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 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 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 carers’ 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 had been like a dripping tap to Barry and the woman at the Post office was even worse. Still, he endured the shopping trip 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 body  as he unpacked the rest of the shopping and thought that he really should have bought some more formaldehyde.

(EVERYDAY PEOPLE first appeared online at A TWIST OF NOIR and is included in my flash fiction collection 13 SHOTS OF NOIR.)

#FRIDAY FLASH: ANGER MANAGEMENT

13 SHOTS OF NOIR BY PAUL D BRAZILLI used to get angry all the time. Especially when I was a teenager. The “difficult years,” doctors used to call it. As if there could ever be any other with a father like mine.

I’d see crimson, burn up like a volcano, rant, rave, spit, scream – the whole deal.

Sometimes I’d even black out and I’d fall through a trapdoor straight down into the deepest well. Darkness all around.

It was after one of those “episodes” that I came to with gigantic hands gripped around my throat, dangling me over the thirteenth-floor balcony of some grimy tower block somewhere in East London. No recollection of getting there.

So that was when I decided to channel my aggression. That’s when I joined The Squad.

First it was just the football; following the team to some hick northern town and screaming abuse at the bumpkins. But that was never enough. I knew there was more. I could smell it; taste it.

And then I met Tubeway, Slammer and Col. The Squad. They were a breakaway group from the mainstream hooligans. They called it “rucking and rolling.” Football hooliganism mixed with mugging. It made sense. This was the nineties and Cool Britannia had no place for the likes of us.

We were the dispossessed, according to Tubeway. He liked to use words like that; flaunt his vocabulary and GCSE in Philosophy. The same Tubeway who used to listen to Hitler’s speeches without understanding a word of German.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that they were tossers – just looking for excuses for being violent. I didn’t need an excuse, though. I knew that I liked to inflict pain; I needed to hurt. It was just a matter of when and who.

Then they introduced me to Mr Bettis – or Sweaty Betty, as he was known behind his back. He was like a giant pink slug. Col said he looked like Jabba the Hutt. I just nodded. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t watch films. I didn’t read books – I could barely read – and I didn’t like music. What I liked was violence. Sweaty paid well. He told us to keep our noses clean. Become respectable. Invisible to the law. He’d contact us once a month with a name and a place. Maybe a picture. And we did what he asked. Sometimes we used Stanley knives. Or blowtorches. Or even guns.

I loved it. I was good. The best. I started to develop a sense of professional pride. I distanced myself from the others. They were a liability. Disasters waiting to happen, I thought. And I was right.

Tubeway had his neck broken by a transvestite in Clapham. Col died of a smack overdose in a piss-stained Wandsworth squat. And Slammer got locked up for life, which I found ironic once I’d learned that word at my adult literacy class.

Oh yes, I studied. Learned to read and write. Learned history – enough to put Tubeway in his place without batting an eyelid. I learned aikido and kung fu. I practiced yoga and I got married. And had kids.

I still worked for Sweaty but the jobs were few and far between; he only used me for the “prime cuts,” as he called them.

Everything seemed so right.

And then it all went pear-shaped as quick as spit disappears on hot pavement.

It’s been fifteen years since I joined The Squad and I suppose it’s taken its toll. I expect that I’m a tad jaded.

Which is why, I suppose, the sounds and the yells of the man strapped to the tree in front of me have no impact on me. Don’t even ruffle a feather.

The golf course is empty; it’s dusk and like in the film Alien – yes, I started watching films, too – no one can hear him scream.

Time to continue the interview.

***

It always rains in the dreams. Always. Pours down in sheets. But in reality it was a burning, brandy-brimmed, summer morning.

In the dreams, there are no kids, either. Just a sinister, grinning man who looks like my father, wearing a long black coat and carrying a carving knife.

And when I wake up, I feel released. Free. But then the cold light of day hits me between the eyes. Because there was no man in black. No pounding rain. Just two kids who got in the way of a hail of bullets. My own kids.

It all went black for a long time after that. Until I woke up drowning in sweat, booze, piss and tears. Stinking of shame, guilt and self-loathing.

And then it never went black again. It was an endless cold white.

I’ve heard it said that eighteen months of sleep deprivation can drive you crazy. Well, I was mad after that anyway.

So now there’s a dead man in front of me, dangling from a tree, in an exclusive golf course, in the fresh morning dew. A slug of a man who looks like Jabba the Hutt. And he’s given me the name of the man who ordered the hit. The hit that resulted in the death of my kids.

Oh, I know. It’s just an excuse. A way of avoiding culpability. Just a reason to inflict pain. A reason to hurt. And to kill. And to keep on killing.

The End.

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

( Anger Management is included in 13 Shots Of Noir. Published by Untreed Reads.)

A Story For Sunday: A Twist Of Noir by Eric Beetner

Cormac Brown at A TWIST OF NOIRChristopher Grant‘s late great A Twist Of Noir was one of the first places to publish my yarns, and was the home to writing from all sorts of top crime crime writers. Including Eric Beetner who went all capricious when he came up with this:

‘Keith and Jake were two of the sorriest excuses for criminals you ever saw. Individually they couldn’t find their own asses with a flashlight and a map but together there was something about the yin and yang of the two opposites that held them together and made them a team.’

Read the rest HERE.

A Story For Sunday: A Red Lipstick by Cormac Brown

‘Gold, black, green and purple spots. When they are part of an Impressionist painting, they are beautiful, but Lara’s skin is not a canvas by Monet. No, in the dingy light of the diner bathroom, her arms and legs look like they’ve been touched by the brush of DeSade or Torquemada. She winces, not at her reflection, but at the pain in her sore jaw and the tenderness in her lips.’

A blast from the past at the late, great A TWIST OF NOIR.

Cormac Brown at A TWIST OF NOIR Check out A RED LIPSTICK BY CORMAC BROWN and check out the rest of the site.