A powerful Noir short story collection edited by the Bukowski of Noir, Paul D. Brazill. Exiles features 26 outsiders-themed stories by some of the greatest crime and noir writers, K. A. Laity, Chris Rhatigan, Steven Porter, Patti Abbott, Ryan Sayles, Gareth Spark, Pamila Payne, Paul D. Brazill, Jason Michel, Carrie Clevenger, David Malcolm, Nick Sweeney, Sonia Kilvington, Rob Brunet, James A. Newman, Tess Makovesky, Chris Leek, McDroll, Renato Bratkovič, Walter Conley, Marietta Miles, Aidan Thorn, Benjamin Sobieck, Graham Wynd, Richard Godwin, Colin Graham, and an introduction by Heath Lowrance.
PDB: What’s going on?
Right now, it’s 3am and I’m wide awake because I’m in the USA and I’m shite at travelling and time differences. But I guess I should also tell you about the release of my new linked story collection, Tales from the Underbelly. It’s a sort of British Pulp Fiction, as a bunch of characters all in someway linked to a couple of crime bosses, Tony Ricco and Jimmy O’Keefe, go about their lives and have to deal with the consequences of being involved with the criminal underbelly. There are a stories of all different lengths here, from flash fiction to novella, hopefully there’s something for all lovers of crime fiction, murders, corruption, dodgy coppers, colourful characters and occasionally some humour.
PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?
Always. Much of my writing is inspired by music, as the title of my first novella, When the Music’s Over suggests. I always used to have the radio on, BBC 6Music or Radio X, but I can’t stand the chat while I work. These days I tend to go with some sort of live performance on YouTube, I’ve been reliving a lot of MTv unplugged sets, things like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. My friend Stu has also got me back into the blues recently so I’ve been streaming a lot of blues mixes on YouTube too.
PDB: What makes you laugh?
When people full over. That’s horrible right? But I can’t help myself, when I see someone go down I’m uncontrollable. I blame Fools and Horses and that bar scene, I was taught by that, at a very early age, that falling over is funny
PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?
10 years ago I’d have said exercise. These days I’m good for nothing for a few days after a proper session, I just have to ride it out, sofa, sugary tea and a film I’ve seen a thousand times before
PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
San Francisco, incredible place. There’s something for everyone there. That said I’d miss going to Southampton home matches.
PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?
No, I’m 37, I don’t think people my age do. But thinking about it now I’ve done many of the things that I guess would be on it, there are a few bands I haven’t seen I’d like to, but I’ve seen most of the ones I love. I want more tattoos, I want to get fitter again, I want to write more books, I want to see Southampton FC not just in a cup final but win one, I want to keep travelling to different places… So it’s more a continuation of things than a must do list
PDB: What’s on the cards?
I haven’t written an original word in 2017, but I’ve still been working on the writing. On new years eve 2016 I typed ‘the end’ on my novella, Rival Sons (another music inspired title, inspired by the band of the same name). I’ve spent free moments this year editing and polishing that trying to get it ready for publication. I had my editor and publisher for When the Music’s Over, Chris Black, at Number 13 Press give it the once over and it’s looking good. I’ve knocked together a synopsis and pitched it around a few indie publishers and I’ll see what comes of it, I’ve had a couple of nibbles asking to see the full manuscript so you never know, but I ain’t holding my breath
PDB: Anything else?
No, I think I’ve taken up enough of your time, Paul. Thanks for the interview, always a pleasure dealing with you Mr Brazill
Bio: Aidan Thorn is from Southampton England. You can find his short fiction and poetry in numerous collections and widely across the Web. He has three books with his name on the cover and is the curator and editor of the charity anthology Paladins.
Aidan Thorn’s Tales From The Underbelly is a collection of hard-hitting, interconnected crime stories, and is pure Brit Grit. The collection kicks off with a fistful of short, sharp jabs of flash fiction and ends with a couple of longer pieces which really show Thorn’s strengths.
A Sporting Chance is the story of a local football star who returns to his home town after a stint in the Premier League and has a fateful encounter with local gangster Tony Ricco. The final story, Worst Laid Plans, is a knockout punch telling the tale of a group of young lads whose lives soon spiral out of control after a night out. Worst Laid Plans is an absolute belter of a tale, full of dark humour, sharp twists and turns and great characters.
If you enjoyed Thorn’s cracking novella When the Music’s Over then you should most certainly grab a copy of Tales From The Underbelly.
Life has been good to me, I can write that today as I sit here healthy. Eleven years ago I didn’t feel so lucky, it was maybe a week before Christmas 2004 when I found a lump on my right bollock (I can say bollock, it’s fine, I’m a gritty crime writer – ask anyone). I went to the doctor and within days I was at the hospital, by New Years Eve 2004 I was back at home one bollock lighter and a cancer patient. Whilst all that was going on for me, a Tsunami had hit Thailand. It barely registered with me – in fact it’s fair to say that at the time I couldn’t give even half a fuck. Looking back I feel terrible to think I was that self-involved. All those lives lost and destroyed and all I gave a shit about was what was happening to me – not cool.
I just didn’t get it, why me? I was in the gym every night and when I wasn’t I was running, I ate healthy and I didn’t take the piss with my drinking. I have to admit I went pretty dark for a while – again I’m not proud. The thing is I actually was one of the lucky ones, they caught it early and apart from the mild inconvenience of regular blood tests, scans, X-Rays and hospital appointments I didn’t really suffer at all. Well, unless you count not being able to shit for about two weeks because it was too painful!
So, why am I telling you all this (and when I say all I mean the three or four people that bothered to click through from a Facebook or Twitter link I’ve posted)… Well, as I said earlier I’m a writer and through that I’ve had the privilege of meeting some incredible people, mostly through social media. I’ve been lucky to have been published by great people like Darren Sant and Craig Douglas at Near to the Knuckle, Ron Earl Phillips and the teams at Shotgun Honey and The Big Adios, David Barber on his ‘Thrills’ sites, Tom Pitts and Joe Clifford at Out of the Gutter, Gary Duncan at Spelk, Wednesday Lee Friday at the Horror Within… I’ve been in books published by the Near to the Knuckle boys, Andy Rivers at Byker Books, Paul D. Brazill and Andrew Scorah… And all the time these guys have been publishing me I’ve been meeting great people that they’ve also published… There’s a great and supportive community of writers that work together and help each other out. One of the people I met through this network is a wonderful lady called Henrietta Furchetnicht, herself not a writer, but her husbandCraig is – and a bloody good one at that. For a while they shared a Facebook account and so we became friends, and I’m so glad we did. See Henri is battling Multiple Myeloma a nasty fuck of a cancer that no one deserves, but definitely not a gem like Henri. And yet, Henri faces this bastard with bravery, wit, intelligence, and verve and a great many of us writer types have observed from afar as she’s gone through her treatment. Yes, there have been struggles and we’ve seen them and many have willed her on, but what I’ve seen most is a woman who loves life and is determined to live it. She makes me look back at the 25 year old me that got pissy because he lost a bollock and feel ashamed. If I could go back and speak to that guy I’d hold Henrietta Furchtenicht’s Facebook timeline in front of him and I’d say “Look you moppy little shite, that’s how you deal with this shit!”
I’ve been so inspired by Henri’s story (I’m not calling it a journey, this ain’t the fucking X Factor!) that I just felt I wanted to do something. And what better thing to do than to get a bunch of great writers together, writers I love and friends of Henri’s and Craig’s, and put out a charity anthology in support of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. So I approached a few writers and I couldn’t believe the response. The initial plan was to have around 10 substantial short stories in the book. I approached around 20 writers, expecting a bunch of knock backs and then I was going to approach another 10 or 20… I couldn’t believe it when within hours of the first batch of emails, nearly everyone had said yes. So, please if you’re a writer and you weren’t asked to contribute, it’s really not because I didn’t want you, it’s just because I was overwhelmed before I’d even taken a serious look at it. And the reason for the great response – well every one of them wanted to do something for Henri, as soon as I’d said it was for her, they were in.
So, Paladins was born a fitting name that means a warrior that is fully devoted to kindness and ridding the universe of evil. Mark Wilson came up with the name, and he also designed the stunning artwork that you can see here. Craig Douglas has also been a huge supporter, by offering his excellent formatting services for the book. And then we come to our authors, every one of them a star, top talent and generous of spirit. You might not think it to read their work, but these guys have big caring hearts and deserve your attention, so thank you, Christopher Davis, Gareth Spark, Craig Furchtenicht, David Jaggers, Bill Baber, Ryan Bracha, Jason Beech, Graham Wynd, Cal Marcius, Darren Sant, Linda Angle, Matt Mattila, Gabriel Valjan, Keith Nixon, Robert Cowan.
The stories in this collection all feature someone in need or someone helping someone else. Every story is told with passion, there’s a lot of bad language and horrible situations but fuck it, that’s life and these tales deal with the darker moments of it – and they’re great.
Paladins is available as an ebook and the paperback is out nowhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Paladins-Keith-Nixon-ebook/dp/B01C8B7E7K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456858749&sr=1-1&keywords=Paladins
(This post first appeared at Out of The Gutter Online.)
Talking about the Paladins anthology.
PDB: What’s the SP on Urban Decay?
Urban Decay is a book I’m very proud of. It’s a bunch of short stories, that are about more than just crime, it’s about people. It is largely a crime collection, but I hope people take more from it than that, at the heart of every story are characters that I want people to see and understand, even if they don’t agree with what they do. It’s been out a few months now and I’ve been thrilled with the reaction I’ve been getting to it, particularly from other writers, it’s been picking up some great reviews already.
PDB: You’ve just joined the Thirteeners. What’s the story there?
Seeing the cover for When the Music’s Over was a surreal moment for me. This is a book that I started writing around five years ago. It started life as a 75K word novel but I didn’t think it was working. I loved the story but it felt bloated and overwritten. Last year I started following Number 13 Press on Twitter and I picked up a few of their books. I was so impressed with what I was reading I had to try and write something for them. I remembered When the Music’s Over and thought maybe it was something I could turn into a novella. I spent a month or two re-reading it all and sharpening it up and then sent it off to Number 13… And today it’s available to buy.
As far as the story, it’s old fashion noir set in the modern day. I’ve taken a character who’s best days were years ago and forced him back into the criminal world he once stepped through with ease to investigate the murder of his former employer’s son.
PDB: How much research was involved in the books?
When the Music’s Over took a fair amount of research, just to get the setting right, in terms of location and time. There’s a section of the book that goes back to the early 90’s and I really enjoyed retreading that time, particularly the music. I was a huge fan of the grunge scene as a kid and as I wrote that part of the book I spent a lot of time listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains etc…
PDB: Which crime writers do you enjoy?
I enjoy many more than I have time to read these days. George Pelecanos will always top my list and I’m a huge fan of Block, Lehane, Leonard, Connelly, Billingham. I’ve also discovered a number of talented indie writers since I started writing myself, Darren Sant, Chris Leek, Gareth Spark, Tom Pitts, B.R. Stateham, Grant Nichol and many more have all impressed me massively with their work… And, you’re not so bad yourself Paul!
PDB: Do you read outside the genre?
Yes, I read all sorts of books. I read a lot of biographies, mostly about musicians. I really don’t care what the genre of book is, I just want to read a really good book. I do tend to read mostly crime, but I’ve read everything from Harry Potter to Harry Bosch, from Charles Dickens to Danny King.
PDB: What else is on the cards?
I’ve got another novella I’m writing at the moment, it’s sort of finished but I’m just going over it and making sure it’s in good shape before I decide what to do with it. I also have a few short stories written since Urban Decay so I reckon there will be a third short story collection at some point. I’ve written a 10K short that I’m not sure how to publish, what I’d really like to do is find a publisher that would take it on with a bunch of my friends also writing 10K shorts, a sort of ‘Aidan Thorn introduces…’ collection to showcase some of the great writers that I’ve got to know. Finally, I’ve started a novel, and when I say I’ve started I mean it’s about 1,000 words at the moment so it’ll be a while before that one rears its head
Gower murders Birmingham drug-dealer Harry Weir and goes on the run.
Retired enforcer Wynn McDonald is reluctantly sent to track down Gower.
What ensues is a lethal cocktail of hardboiled crime fiction as well as a touching study of regret and disappointment. The action is brutal, the characters are vividly drawn, the pacing is gripping.
Aidan Thorn’s When The Music’s Over is a powerful slice of Brit Grit crime fiction that is highly recommended.
Aidan Thorn’s Criminal Thoughts contains eleven short, sharp slices of Brit Grit crime fiction.
There is plenty of humour as well as hard boiled realism in these cleverly interconnecting stories.
The best are the trio that kick off with the cracking After Hours, which I can really see being developed into a belter of a novel.
Thorn is one to watch, for sure.
Now? Now I’ve just signed a contract with GritFiction Ltd (Better known to most of you as Darren Sant and Craig Douglas the brains behind Near to the Knuckle) to publish my second short story collection, Urban Decay. And, I could not be happier about it! We’ve been discussing it for about a week and it’s been really hard keeping it under wraps but now the news is out I want to shout it from the rooftops. I’ll be the first author, other than the men themselves, have anything published by this new venture and so it’s a great honour (and a little bit daunting) that they picked me. And, when I say they picked me they really did… I always send my work to Darren when, he’s a safe pair of eyes and a writer I have so much time for so it’s good to get his opinion on what I’m doing. I sent him Urban Decay for the once over, it went quiet for a while and then out of the blue he emailed me asking if I’d be interested in being their first author – an absolute honour for me. Near to the Knuckle is an important mag for me, it’s been so supportive so being part of this now means the world to me – I don’t want to go on here about it, but I’ll certainly be saying more about it on my site over the coming days.
PDB: How did you research this book?
This book is a collection of short stories, I’ve written a number this year, but I wanted to theme his so have only included stories that I think talk to the title, Urban Decay. I’m not sure researching is the right word for what I do when I write a short, it tends to be that I’m inspired by something or hit by an idea and I have to start writing. That said, I rarely know everything about the subjects I’m writing and so my internet search history over the past year includes, luxury watchmakers (I’m sure Daz and Craig will be buying me one as part of my signing on fee!), boxing glove weights, work related stress symptoms etc…
I’ll be most proud of this one when it’s out!
But before that it has to be my story in Gloves Off the first Near to the Knuckle Anthology. I was the first person to have a story confirmed for that particular collection and it’s a great collection of truly talented people, having my name on that list of talent really made me feel like I’d achieved something when I saw the line up.
PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?
Film – Tough one and it changes regularly with my mood. I love a super-hero movie, Superman is a favourite, I love a good crime story, obviously, and so I’m a big fan of the likes of Goodfellas, Casino, Carlito’s Way, Get Carter etc… But if I really think about it I think I’d have to say Rocky. I know that the sequels have sort of blackened the name (although I actually really enjoy them) but it’s a great film, well written, there’s grit there’s love and it’s not afraid to give you an ending you weren’t expecting (Spoiler alert for anyone who’s been under a stone for 40 years) because Rocky loses.
Book – The Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos. The greatest writer living today, Pelecanos writes big stories about little lives and this book is a bit of an epic by his standards, just brilliant
Song – Again, difficult to pick just one but let’s go with People Get Ready by Curtis Mayfield… Just too cool.
TV – Dexter, The Sopranos, Ray Donovan, Entourage, Californication are all up there but at the moment I can’t look further than Peaky Blinders, now that’s Brit Grit
PDB: Is location important to your writing?
As a rule, no. I write short stories I don’t have the words to tell you about the locations. I have a little rule (that I occasionally break) unless someone’s head is about to get smashed into a wall or a table I don’t need a description of the wall or the table. That said, I do occasionally use location as a character in a book. I’m writing something at the moment that’s set in Las Vegas and part of setting it in Vegas is because the character of Las Vegas is important to the story.
PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?
Daily, on the hour, every hour for the rest of my life…
PDB: What’s next?
I’ve got to finish off Urban Decay, or I’ll have Darren and Craig on my back and you don’t want to tussle with them, I’ve read their stuff they scare me! I also have a story I’m working on for another project that I’m really excited to be have been asked to be a part of. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say too much about it, but all I will say is that I’m excited by the names being linked with it and hope I can write something that is up to muster
Bio: Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic left from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than bad R ‘n’ B and sinking ships. His short fiction has appeared in the Byker Books Radgepacket series, the Near to the Knuckle Anthology: Gloves Off, Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, The Big Adios Western Digest and Shadows & Light as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Near to the Knuckle, Pulp Metal Magazine, Shotgun Honey and Spelk Fiction. His first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts is available on Amazon now and his second collection will be published by GritFiction in 2015
When I saw the suggestion that contributors to Exiles do a piece talking about what inspired them to write the story that we’ve contributed to the anthology I have to say I wasn’t keen. I can rarely recall what it is that inspires me to write. I always think I just write stuff that comes into my head down, sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t. Sometimes I’ll hear a sentence and think, that’d be a great title for a story. Sometimes I’ll wake up with an idea in my head that I just have to get on the page – those of you that have read my work (thank you, both) probably won’t envy my dreams!
So, having enough to say about what inspired me to write ‘Taking out the Trash’ to create an article was going to be no easy task. I figured I’d give the request a swerve, keep my head down and hope none of my fellow contributors noticed I wasn’t pulling my weight.
So what changed my mind? Well to some extent I’m being selfish. You see, I’m going through an extreme dry spell. I finished my last, no let’s be optimistic and say latest, short story in February and have barely written a word since. I have two novellas in progress that I can’t bring myself to do more than re-read the parts that are already written and tinker around the edges with minor edits. I’m lacking inspiration!
And so that got me thinking about what inspires me to write, in the vain hope that it might flick the light on again. Turns out it’s more than just a thought that unconsciously arrives in my head and just has to land on the page. I went all the way back to my first published short story, Fingered. That one was easy, when I was at college a few of us formed a band, and when I say formed a band we did what I think most people that form a band do, we came up with a name for the band and spent our rehearsal time jamming Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ The name that band was given, 3 Fingered Louie. If I’d have spent as much time focusing on the band as I did coming up with a backstory for this Louie character I’d have been a pretty solid musician… So, when I came to write ‘Fingered’ I wrote what I knew – a character I’d created 10 years before.
I’ve been through all of my short stories trying to work out where they came from, I’ll tell you about a couple. I have a little horror story over at Thrills, Kills and Chaos called, The Guest, that’s inspired by a photo from my parents wedding. As my parents make their way from the church there’s an old women stood beside a grave stone. You shouldn’t notice her past my mother’s beautiful white dress and the beaming smiles on the newlyweds faces, but the eye is strangely drawn to her, something isn’t right. The thing is, she isn’t standing at all, she’s floating next to the gravestone, she doesn’t even have legs on which to stand – neither of my parents can tell me who she is.
Another of my tales, Last Orders, (another TKnC tale) was inspired by sitting in doors on a rainy Sunday and seeing a re-run of the turgid Britain’s Got Talent from the previous evening – I knew that programme had to be good for something! I won’t go through the rest of my stories, one, because I don’t want to put too many spoilers out there for those of you that want to rush off and buy my short story collection, Criminal Thoughts (hint!) and two, because this is supposed to be about, Taking out the Trash.
So paragraph five and finally I get to the point of the article, bloody hell I can ramble on for a short story writer! I’d love to tell you that the story behind Taking out the Trash was profound and interesting, but it’s really not (that’s probably why I chucked that story about The Guest in there, it’s a pretty cool one, right?). It all started in the garden and ended with a crime of my own – one so pitiful I’ll lose any credibility I might have built up as a gritty crime write. I’d been cutting back a lot of bushes and removing even more weeds. There was so much waste I filled the car with it. It was a Sunday, late afternoon and I was heading for the local dump. When I arrived at the dump I found it to be closed. There was no way I was unloading all of that shit at my house again so a criminal thought (product placement alert!) entered my mind. My previous house had been near the woods and people were always dumping crap up there, much to my disgust, but now I had a car full of garden waste and my morals were far less important to me than my immediate problem. I drove up to those woods and I emptied all five sacks of waste right below the sign that told me fly-tipping was prohibited and could result in a hefty fine and perhaps even imprisonment. In my defence everything I dumped that day was entirely natural, but I still wasn’t impressed with myself. It played on my mind that I’d done something I really wasn’t happy with. ‘I’m not a crook’, well unless you count nicking a ‘shoplifters will be prosecuted’ sign for a laugh when I was 16, I just write about them. I decided to make something good from my misdemeanour and write a story about a proper fly-tipping crime, I guess I wanted to make myself feel better… What I did was nothing compared to the mess that Eddie from Taking out the Trash finds himself in.
My original aim for Taking out the Trash was to have it run at 700 words about submit it to Shotgun Honey, I love that site and could never make anything work at their tight word limit. I couldn’t make Taking out the Trash work at that limit either, but there is another story up there now, Waste Disposal, a complete reworking of the original idea that does work. Taking out the Trash was my first go at the story for Shotgun Honey, but when I saw that it wasn’t going to fit within their limits I just ploughed on and figured I’d find a home for it somewhere. Thankfully that home is Paul D Brazill’s Exiles Anthology, a great honour. So, that little trip to the woods to get rid of the garden waste resulted in not one but two stories… Who knew pruning a few bushes would end that way… Perhaps I should head out to the garden again today and see if more inspiration strikes.
Bio: Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic left from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than bad R ‘n’ B and sinking ships. His short fiction has appeared in the Byker Books’ Radgepacket series and the Near to the Knuckle Anthology: Gloves off, as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Shotgun Honey and Near to the Knuckle. He released his first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts in December 2013.
Exiles: An Outsider Anthology is OUT NOW from Blackwitch Press.