Guest Blog: Three Hours Past Midnight by Tony Knighton

3 hours past midnightPaul 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.

crime wave pressI 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.tk-bw

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.

Thanks, Paul.

 

 

Guest Blog: Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties by Andy Rausch

IMG_0620I’ve been asked to write a guest piece about my new crime novella collection Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties. So here goes… The anthology contains three very different kinds of crime tales written with three very different writing styles.

The genesis of the first story, Easy-Peezy, came from my considering penning a Western story. Once I realized that many of the bank robbing outlaws from the Old West were still alive, albeit quite elderly, at the time guys like John Dillinger and Machine Gun Kelly were robbing banks in the 1930s, the idea for the story became instantly apparent to me. I thought, what if a band of aged Western outlaws got together and started robbing banks during this same time period? That could be fun. And away I went…

There isn’t much beyond that to share about Easy-Peezy. It’s the most straightforward story in this collection. I had fun writing it and imagining these scenarios in which decrepit old men wielded pistols and robbed banks. It was also fun writing in iconic figures like Dillinger and Melvin Purvis. Hopefully readers will enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing it.

The second story, Riding Shotgun, was a riff on John Cassavetes’ 1976 film The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Like that film (and later Nick of Time, 1995), the idea was that criminal figures would coerce a common man to commit an assassination for them. But I sought to improve upon that old chestnut by upping the ante and also taking the tale to what I had always seen as its inevitable conclusion, thus making it a tale of revenge. In this way it’s sort of like two stories rolled into one. It’s sort of a mash-up (in terms of attitude and theme) of Chinese Bookie and the 1977 AIP film Rolling Thunder, which I consider the greatest revenge film ever made. So imagine my shock and awe when Rolling Thunder co-writer Heywood Gould ultimately praised the novella as being “relentless… Addictive… The kind of nightmare you don’t want to wake up from.” Pretty cool, huh? I’ve still got goosebumps from that.

Another bit of trivia readers might find interesting about Riding Shotgun is that it was written as a bit of an experiment; I sought to write something truly pulpy that basically pared everything down and cuts out anything that absolutely did not need to be present to make the story work. It’s a gritty, bare-bones story that gets right to the heart of things with as little exposition as possible. In the end, I think the experiment worked. Riding Shotgun is one of the things I am the most proud of at this point in my career.

The third story, $crilla, was an absolute blast to write. It was another experiment of sorts. I wondered what you might get if you combined the sharp dialogue of Elmore Leonard, the racial objectivity and inclusiveness of Quentin Tarantino, and the world of hip-hop music. I don’t claim to be as talented as those two writers, but they are my biggest influences (and in its way, the same can be said of hip-hop music). They are quite simply the reasons I write the kinds of stories I write.

I toyed with the idea of this story for a long time before actually putting pen to paper. The idea was that a fledgling rap group would lose their recording deal and end up turning to crime in order to finance their extravagant lifestyle. I suppose the idea occurred to me after the hip-hop act C.E.B. got arrested for bank robbery and murder in 1996. But I tweaked that idea a bit, thinking it might be interesting if the rap group kidnapped a record company mogul and held him for ransom instead.

I was pleasantly surprised when Elmore Leonard’s son, novelist Peter Leonard, praised the novella and actually compared my work to that of his father. Of course that was by design—the writing style I utilized here was a direct homage to Leonard. (And for the record, I do not write anywhere near as well as Leonard did. Nobody does.) $crilla was most directly influenced by Leonard’s Road Dogs, which opened my eyes to just how much emphasis can be placed on dialogue. Although most Leonard novels feature very little exposition in contrast to most other authors this side of George V. Higgins, Road Dogs seemed to have the least. And it was still very effective. This is how Road Dogs ultimately became the spiritual father of $crillariding shotgun

Each of these novellas was written at a different time in my life, and each represents something completely different to me. I was overjoyed when Crime Wave Press decided to publish this collection. I was going through a rough patch during this period, having just gone through a painful divorce and then spending a month in a coma. The publication of this anthology was one of the first (of hopefully many) steps towards rediscovering my place in both my life and writing career.

So that, my friends, is the story behind Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties.

 

 

Short, Sharp Interview: Benedict J Jones

devilsbrewforprPDB: Can you pitch THE DEVIL’S BREW in 25 words or less?

Urban noir meets rural horror; dog fights, horse mutilation, private eyes, country cults – dark secrets and danger lurk behind every hedge!

 PDB: Which music, books, films, songs or television shows do you wish you had written?

Well, I always say I’d prefer to write my own stuff BUT if I had written The Damnation Game (Clive Barker), Red Dragon (Thomas Harris), or The Friends of Eddie Coyle (George V Higgins) I’d be pretty chuffed with myself. Likewise if I had written the TV shows True Detective, The Shadow Line, or Edge of Darkness (original BBC series rather than Hollywood remake).

PDB: Which of your books do you think would make good films or TV series?

It would have to be the Charlie Bars stories and books. I think they would lend themselves well to a down and grimy adaptation. After seeing the recent success of Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor books being adapted to the small screen it has made me believe that we might be seeing a resurgence of real noir on the TV. The only problem would be deciding who could play Charlie!

 PDB: Who are your favourite writers?

It is always difficult to distil it down to a few names but I’ll give it a go; Jim Thompson, Chester Himes, Umberto Eco, Clive Barker, Ken Bruen, Adam Nevill, and Donald Ray Pollack.

PDB: What’s your favourite joke?

I think jokes are becoming something of a lost art – I remember when my dad would come home from work on a night with a new joke, or someone would tell one at school, it this digital era we seem to have lost that somewhere.

My favourite would have to be about the monkey being interviewed after the coach crash – I’ve seen it written down but it’s funnier with the visuals. If you haven’t heard (and seen) it you should…

PDB: What’s your favourite song?

That’s nearly as difficult as the favourite writers! Right now I’ll go for; Slick Rick’s “I own America Pt II”, Nas’ “Halftime”, and Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World”.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

Well, the new novel “The Devil’s Brew” is dropping now so I’m looking forward to seeing what people, especially those who enjoyed “Pennies for Charon” and “Skewered”, will make of this one.

It seems for the past few years I’ve mainly been caught up in my longer works so I‘ve been giving some much needed attention to various pieces of short fiction that should be coming out.

I have recently finished a further Charlie Bars novel and I am also working on a pair of longer works that combine WW2 and horror (with a healthy dose of noir).

ben jones PDB: Anything else?

Just a big “thank you!” to you, Paul – cheers.

Bio: Benedict J Jones lives in London. He writes crime, horror and western fiction. He has had over thirty short stories published as well as the collections “Skewered; And other London cruelties” and “Ride the Dark Country”, the novellas “Slaughter Beach” and “Mulligan’s Idol”, as well as the novels “Pennies for Charon” and “The Devil’s Brew” both featuring his ex-con turned private eye Charlie “Bars” Constantinou.

Short, Sharp Interview: Elka Ray

 

saigon-darkPDB: Can you pitch SAIGON DARK in 25 words or less?

A grieving mom makes a grim choice, then struggles to hide her secret. When she’s found out, disaster ensues. Will her family survive?

 PDB: Which music, books, films, songs or television shows do you wish you had written?

I wish I’d written Scott Smith’s utterly compelling psychological thriller “A Simple Plan”.

As well as writing adult fiction, I write and illustrate kids’ books. Anyone who’s been forced to read a lame kids’ book over and over again knows how torturous it can be. Books like “Room on the Broom” that are funny and have perfect rhythm are gold: “I am a frog, as clean as can be. Is there room on the broom for a frog like me?”

PDB: Which of your books do you think would make good films or TV series?

My new book, Saigon Dark, was turned into a screenplay. Whether anything will come of it remains to be seen, but it would make a good scary suspense movie.

 PDB: Who are your favourite writers?

The UK has a crop of stunningly smart current female crime writers: Tana French, Belinda Bauer, Denise Mina.

PDB: What’s your favourite song?

While I love a good tune, it’s the lyrics that stay with me:

There are places I remember all my life

Though some have changed

Some forever, not for better

Some have gone and some remain

(The Beatles, In My Life)

or

“I been bluffin’ with my muffin…”

(Lady Gaga, Poker Face)

PDB: What’s your favourite joke?

Perfect timing, as the festive season looms:

fav-joke-elka-ray

PDB: What’s on the cards?

elkaMy short story collection, “What You Don’t Know: Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia, came out last summer and got a good response. More dark short stories keep creeping into my head.

Bio: Elka Ray is a Canadian/UK author and illustrator who lives in Central Vietnam. When she’s not reading, writing or drawing, she’s in the ocean. www.elkaray.com

 

Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Vater

tmgmcoverPDB: Can you pitch The Man with the Golden Mind in 25 words or less?

The Man with the Golden Mind is a detective thriller set against the backdrop of the CIA’s covert war in Laos in the 1960s.

.PDB: Which music, books, films, songs or television shows do you wish you had written?

Any old shit that made millions, really. Then it would be easier to carry on exactly as I am doing now, writing bleak, noirish tales of human frailty.

PDB: Which of your books do you think would make good films or TV series?

The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, The Detective Maier mysteries.

 PDB: Who are your favourite writers?

Joseph Conrad, Mikhail Bulgakov, Raymond Chandler, Graham Greene, Peter Matthiessen, Patricia Highsmith, Chester Himes, David Goodis, Jim Thompson, William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Charles Bukowski, John D. MacDonald, Ross MacDonald, JG Ballard, Harry Crews, Katherine Dunn, Massimo Carlotto, Philip Kerr, Michel Houellebecq.

PDB: What’s your favourite joke?

There was this penguin that was breathing through its arse. One day it sat down and died.

PDB: What’s your favourite song?

Oh dear. Kick out the Jams, Motherfuckers.

tom vaterPDB: What’s on the cards?

Just finished writing The Monsoon Ghost Image, the third Detective Maier novel, which is set in Thailand, and send my German private eye on the search for the world’s most wanted photograph which is said to reveal the darkest side of the US’ war on terror.

 PDB: Anything else?

My publishing house Crime Wave Press has four new, utterly gripping titles out in November. Pretty chuffed about that.

Bio: Tom Vater is a writer, publisher and journalist based in Asia. He is the author of three novels, including The Cambodian Book of the Dead and The Man with the Golden Mind, both featuring former war correspondent turned detective Maier solving heinous crimes in Southeast Asia. He is also the co-owner of Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based imprint that has published some thirty crime novels to date.

www.tomvater.com

What Goes On? Vater, Bird, Tomlinson, Miles.

TCBDcoverfinalsmaTom Vater

I’ve just republished THE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, the first in the Detective Maier Mystery series, with Crime Wave Press (www.crimewavepress.com) as a Kindle. The second book THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN MIND will be out soon as well.

After the demise of Exhibit A Books, the original home of the Maier series, the rights of the two books reverted back to me, so Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based imprint I part own, was a natural platform to republish the books with.

THE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD follows  German Detective Maier as he travels to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s ramshackle capital, to find the heir to a Hamburg coffee empire.

As soon as the private eye and former war reporter arrives in Cambodia, his search for the young coffee magnate leads into the darkest corners of the country’s history and back in time, through the communist revolution to the White Spider, a Nazi war criminal who hides amongst the detritus of another nation’s collapse and reigns over an ancient Khmer temple deep in the jungles of Cambodia.
Maier, captured and imprisoned, is forced into the worst job of his life – he is to write the biography of the White Spider, a tale of mass murder that reaches from the Cambodian Killing Fields back to Europe’s concentration camps – or die.

In the second Maier Mystery, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN MIND, Julia Rendel asks Maier to investigate the twenty-five year old murder of her father, an East German cultural attache who was killed near a fabled CIA airbase in central Laos in 1976. But before the detective can set off, his client is kidnapped right out of his arms. Maier follows Julia’s trail to the Laotian capital Vientiane, where he learns different parties, including his missing client are searching for a legendary CIA file crammed with Cold War secrets. But the real prize is the file’s author, a man codenamed Weltmeister, a former US and Vietnamese spy and assassin no one has seen for a quarter century.

I’ve just finished a first draft of a third Maier Mystery, THE MONSOON GHOST IMAGE which is set in Thailand.  I’m very happy to bring this Southeast Asian trilogy to a close with a big bang. Maier 3 is set in 2003 and revolves around the CIA renditions program in the wake of 9/11. Maier is sent to Bangkok to find a famous German war photographer who died in a boating accident but surfaces, very much alive, months later in the Thai capital. Turns out the photographer snapped a frame that everyone wants to get their hands on – the CIA, Maier and a third mysterious party who has put a price of 2 million dollars on the elusive photo.

So I will be editing for the next couple of months.  I really enjoyed writing this one. The character has become familiar and Thailand was a natural choice for the book’s main location, after Laos and Cambodia. As with the first two books in the series, I had a solid historical backdrop on which to build my story and the time I spent with Thailand’s sea gypsies in the late 90s served as rich material for part of the story. It’s been mad fun.

Bio: Tom Vater is a writer working predominantly in Asia and the co-owner of Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based English language crime fiction imprint.
He has published three crime novels, The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, The Cambodian Book of the Dead, The Man with the Golden Mind.

In twenty years as a free lance journalist, he has worked for The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Geographical, Penthouse and countless other publications.  He has published several non-fiction books, including the highly acclaimed Sacred Skin and he is 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.

Website: www.tomvater.com

THE CAMBODIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD:

http://www.amazon.com/Cambodian-Book-Dead-Tom-Vater-ebook/dp/B008GDT8QU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456420016&sr=8-1&keywords=the+cambodian+book+of+the+dead

12767826_10154076935386614_1135455332_oNigel Bird

One of the strange things about writing is that it happens in a solitary space. It’s not like building a house where you can watch the foundations being dug, the walls go up and the roof go on.

I say this because on the surface it may appear that I’ve done little over the last year or two. I can confirm that, though my graceful self has been gliding away on the smooth surface of the pond, I’ve been kicking my legs like crazy beneath the water.

I recently put out my new novel, The Shallows (US). In a nutshell, it tells the story of a sailor who goes AWOL and quickly lands his family in a whole heap of trouble. It’s a noir love story with undertones of a police procedural. I hope it touches on a few contemporary issues and some aspects of life that are universal and ever-present.  This is new territory for me in some ways, but I hope that the strength of the story and the characters will have readers hooked until the very end. It was a lot of fun to write and I hope that it will be equally fun for you guys.

I also have a string of books in the hands of Blasted Heath to continue the Southsiders series. Book two, Jailhouse Rock, shouldn’t be long and three and four should appear later in the year.

My current work is out of my comfort zone. It’s the reworking of a short story of mine that I’m hoping will become a rather exciting New Adult Paranormal Romance of sorts. Suffice to say, I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing with this one, but it’s been one hell of an experience trying.

Other than that, I’m juggling my life as a teacher and father as best as I can.

Nigel Bird is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short story collections including Dirty Old Town, In Loco Parentis and Smoke.

l a nocturne collection (2)Katherine Tomlinson

After living in Los Angeles for decades, I moved to a small town in the Pacific Northwest last year. My new home is a beautiful place with urban waterfalls and haunted cemeteries and a genuine sense of community. To meet people, I started a mystery lovers’ book club that’s hosted by Village Bookstore, a great indie store that is very supportive of local writers as well as readers, and of the community in general. Dogs are welcome to come into the store with their owners, and there’s a little coffee place upstairs that looks out over the Bay, one of the best views in the city.

Ironically, I’d no sooner left Los Angeles than I started getting movie and TV work. I co-wrote a television pilot that’s going to shoot in Berlin, working with Icelandic playwright Jon Atli Jonasson and a group of Icelandic, German, and American producers. I did a quick (uncredited) rewrite of a fantasy movie and then, responding to a CraigsList ad, I ended up writing a science fiction movie called One Under the Sun. the movie, directed by Vincent Tran, has an international cast and is in post-production now. The filmmakers are shopping it to the film markets now, which is really exciting.

I’m not writing quite as many short stories as I used to because I’m trying to get longer works out there. I am writing noir-tinged stories about Hollywood for a website called “Hollywood Dementia” that’s run by legendary blogger Nikki Finke. During the 2007 writer’s strike, Nikki Finke was the Writers Guild’s best friend, and just about the only reliable source of information about what was going on. I’m thrilled to be one of the writers on the site because she’s got huge names—Eric Idle, Michael Tolkin—contributing.

Increasingly, I’m writing a lot of fantasy and science fiction and romance under my pseudonym “Kat Parrish.” (Parrish is my middle name so I’m not making a secret identity out of it.) The fantasy romance is what’s selling best for me at the moment, and I’ve become enamored of the idea of rewriting fairy tales with a modern spin. My first novelette in that series, Fashionista, was published at Christmas; it’s a retelling of Cindrella. Hunter’s Kiss, a retelling of Snow White, will be out next month, as will two more fantasy novellas, Starcasterand Tears of Idrissa.

Other than the writing, I hope to do more traveling this year. I went to Tucson for the Gem & Mineral Show there—like Comic Con for jewelry makers—and will be going to Portland for the Rose City Convention. I also hope to visit Iceland this summer when those cheap fares to Europe kick in.  What’s up with you?

Bio: Katherine Tomlinson was born in Washington DC and has lived in seven different states and two different foreign countries (so far). A former reporter who prefers making things up, she writes crime and horror fiction under her own name; fantasy, romance, and science fiction under the name “Kat Parrish.” Her short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and her story “Water Sports” was a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. A collection of her urban fantasy stories, L.A. Nocturne Collection, was published in February.

route12bigMarietta Miles 

Thanks to Mike Monson, Chris Rhatigan and Rob Pierce my debut book, Route 12, is now available. Route 12 is actually two novellas. One is set in 1970s Appalachia. It’s the story of a broken, angry, young man, and the vengeance he brings to a small town in the chilly, isolated mountains. The second novella is Blood and Sin and follows a lonely pregnant teen, a charismatic preacher, and a woman who is much more than she appears. With brutal, tragic consequences, their paths converge in a small white church deep in rural Carolina.

“Whether it is meant to be or not, Route 12 is poignantly, compellingly important.”– Greg Barth, Selena. Kind words from an incredible writer.

April 26 I will be hosting Authors on the Air, Dames of the Dark podcast. The show will feature established female writers as well as up and comers in the dark and dangerous genres. Laura Benedict, author of The Bliss House Series featuring the newest Cold Alone, will be joining ua. As will Jessica Hillier of Freak, The Butcher, and Wonderland fame. Nancy Cole Silverman, of the Carol Childs Mystery series, will be on hand as well. Nicky Murphy will join us to read her punch to the gut story, Daddy’s Girl. My special co-host will be Michelle Turlock Isler. Often called Godmother by authors of the crime, mystery and noir worlds she is an expert on all things thrilling. Gonna be fun. April 26, 9:00pm

Bio: Marietta Miles has published stories with Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive, Yellow Mama and Revolt Daily. She has been included in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing and Horrified Press. Please visit www.mariettamiles.blogspot.com  or Facebook for more stories and further information. Her first novel will be available in spring 2016 through All Due Respect Books. Born in Alabama, raised in Louisiana, she currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two children.

 

Guest Blog: Kolkata as a location for crime fiction by Kalyan Lahiri

Darj14Kolkata, or erstwhile Calcutta, the capital city of West Bengal, once the centre of the British Empire, has a very rich tradition of Bengali crime fiction. It could perhaps be described as the centre of Indian crime fiction.

The tradition of Bengali crime fiction in Kolkata began as early as 1892 with the creation of the series ‘Darogar Daptar’ (The Police Inspector’s Office) by Priyonath Mukhopadhyay, a retired policeman. Soon after came Panchkori De’s foreign sleuths in a Kolkata setting and Dinendra Kumar Roy’s very popular English detective in Kolkata, Robert Blake.  Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta, a UK trained doctor, who had met Agatha Christie once, created another very popular detective, the stylish and rational Kiriti Roy.

But the genre really gained widespread popularity with the creation of Byomkesh Bakshi, by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyaya. Essentially a native of Kolkata, most of his exploits too were based in the city. Sharadindu’s Byomkesh stories, spanning as it did a turbulent period of Kolkata’s and India’s history, from 1932 to 1970, – the Second World War, the freedom movement, independence and partition – had an underlying, veiled commentary on Kolkata’s social and political milieu of the times, though never obtrusive. And though his themes were often very adult, his detective led a very ordinary middle-class life. Byomkesh stories have been made, and are still being made, into television serials and films in both Bengali and Hindi. The earliest was ‘Chiriakhana’ (The Zoo), directed by Satyajit Ray and starring Bengal’s then matinee idol, Uttam Kumar, as Byomkesh.

During the sixties there was a rash of penny dreadfuls, the most popular being Swapankumar’s creation of Dipak Roy and his sidekick Ratanlal. These were more in the style of noir crime thrillers, but based in Kolkata.

In 1965 Satyajit Ray created his fictional detective, Feluda. Though written as children’s stories, Feluda, or Prodosh Chandra Mitter, through the thirty five stories written between ’65 and ‘95, occupies a very large part of the Bengali psyche and is synonymous with detective fiction in Bengali. Feluda lived in Kolkata, as did Ray, and the city figured largely in most of the stories. Ray made two of the stories into films: ‘Sonar Kella’ (The Golden Fortress) and ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ (The Elephant God). He made short films of some of the other stories and now his son, Sandip Ray, has been making Feluda films.

kolkataconundrumBengal has a very rich tradition of literary fiction and it speaks volumes about the popularity of the detective fiction genre that most established authors also tried their hand at detective fiction.

Yet, at the Kolkata Literary Meet in 2014, panellists at a seminar on detective fiction rued that no new detective stories have been written in the last twenty years. Films were still being made based on Feluda or Byomkesh stories. But in today’s world of the internet and mobile phones these stories were stretching credulity too far. So, perhaps, ‘The Kolkata Conundrum’ is finally a step in the right direction and Orko Deb will join the pantheon of Kiriti Roy, Robert Blake, Byomkesh and Feluda.

Short, Sharp Interview: Kalyan Lahiri

kolkataconundrumPDB: What’s going on now?
KL: Working on the next Orko Deb mystery. It’s also based in Kolkata and a lot of authentic old Kolkata is there. Of course there are murders and other crimes too. I am about one third through.
PDB: How did you research The Kolkata Conundrum?
KL: ‘The Kolkata Conundrum’ needed a lot of hard thinking to create the plot. The research was mostly checking up facts on the internet.
PDB: Of which of your publications are you most proud?
KL: This is my first published novel. In fact my first published work of fiction. And I am very proud of it.
PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?
KL: Favourite film: Satyajit Ray’s second ‘Feluda’ thriller, ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ (re-titled ‘The Elephant God’).
Favourite book:Mark Twain’s ‘Huckleberry Finn’
Favourite song : Many really; it’s easier to mention the artistes like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Beatles, a lot of Bengali songs of the sixties and seventies.
Favourite Television programme: Seinfeld
PDB: Is location important to your writing?
KL: Although some of the locales in ‘The Kolkata Conundrum‘ are given fictitious names, they are actually places I know or maybe a mix of places I know. The setting is the city of Kolkata, its suburbs and a bit of rural Bengal. I have always believed crime fiction is an important vehicle of social commentary and thus the locale is often a ‘character’ by itself and therefore extremely important.  For the next novel I am actually revisiting familiar places to create the flavour of the location.
PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?
Darj14KL: Ha ha! Let’s give it a little more time.
PDB: What’s next?
KL: The next Orko Deb mystery, as I mentioned. And maybe followed by a set of Orko Deb short stories.

Bio: Kalyan Lahiri is from Kolkata. Having served his time in the banking world he has metamorphosed into a crime thriller writer. He likes to play tennis and bridge. And he is well on his way to becoming a senior citizen. He is now working on the next Orko Deb mystery.

Guest Blog: Crime Fiction and Philadelphia by Tony Knighton

HappyHourcoversmPhiladelphia is a funny place.  It’s a huge international city, a major communication and transportation hub, home to first-rate colleges and universities, major league sports teams, and magnificent buildings – high-rise corporate headquarters, stadiums and arenas, fabulous entertainment venues, and museums.

It’s also Mayberry, small town America.  Many Philadelphians live and die in their neighborhood, never leaving town – except for weekends “down the shore,” and maybe a stint in the military.  Some old-school Philadelphia Catholics still refer to parts of the city by church parish.  Cops identify the neighborhood by police district; firemen by the engine company local.

We’re unique.  We’ve got food that you can’t get anywhere else: Tastykakes, cheesesteaks, hoagies (other guys imitate us, but the original’s still the greatest!); The Mummers Parade (don’t ask.  It would take too long to explain, and you wouldn’t believe it, anyway); and a local accent that must be heard to be fully appreciated (unlike our neighbors farther up the Northeast Corridor, Philadelphians can handle the letter “R”).

The city informs my writing.  I’ve lived here for most of my life, and worked for the city as a firefighter for thirty years.  I’ve worked every neighborhood, ridden the streets, run the alleys.

Firemen see people on the worst day of their lives.  Crucial to my fiction, I have seen the results of bad intentions.  I’m often struck by the pathetic nature of real crime.  Arson is the leading cause of fire deaths, but neither cold-blooded professionals nor depraved lunatics are responsible for most arson fires.  Most are set by someone angry with a neighbor, or jealous of their boyfriend, or they turn out to be set by people that want a little insurance money to remodel their kitchens with.  Theft is much the same.  Most burglars steal from people they know.  Most stick-up men rob convenience stores.

Like politics, all crime is small town crime, no matter how spectacular it may sound.  We have in Philadelphia a twenty-year Congressman who is currently under indictment.  The man is alleged to have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own campaign funds.   This is one of the most powerful men in the country, and he will probably go to prison.  He stole the money to buy a car, and to go on vacation, and other things like that.

tk-bwThese crimes might sound funny if they weren’t so sad.  Philadelphia’s most notorious murder is of a policeman, Officer Daniel Faulkner, in 1981.  More than thirty years later, his murder continues to make international news.  It started with a traffic stop.  Danny was twenty-five years old.

Life in Philadelphia inspires the theme that I most like to explore in my stories: how one small action – a fistfight, a losing bet, or a stolen overcoat – can touch so many lives.

 Tony Knighton, 8/13/15

Short, Sharp Interview: Nick Wilgus

ccPDB: What’s going on now?

Right now I’m preparing for the release of the fourth Father Ananda mystery, THE CURIOUS CORPSE. The publisher, Crime Wave Press, is also preparing an omnibus edition of the first three books, which I’m looking forward to.

THE CURIOUS CORPSE finds Father Ananda matching wits with the Russian mafia after a Russian woman is murdered at his temple. One of the things that I enjoyed about writing this book was watching Ananda’s sidekick, Jak, begin to grow up. Jak is beginning to realize that life has dealt him a rather harsh hand, and he doesn’t always take it very gracefully. He is also knee deep in his rebellious teenage years, which causes problems of its own.

I’ve always felt that the Father Ananda books weren’t just about Ananda, but Ananda and Jak, and their relationship. They’re a team. They’re a good team. But they’re both a bit wounded in their own ways.

Another element in THE CURIOUS CORPSE is the sad fact that Buddhist monks sometimes get up to genuinely unholy business. We like to put our spiritual figures up on pedestals, whether they deserve it or not. It can be painful to realize they are actually just as human as we are.

PDB: How did you research this book?

I’ve always found the best way to research is to simply pay attention. Listen to the way people talk. Listen to what they talk about. Read the newspapers, see what the issues are, what people are concerned about. You have to be a people watcher. You can research the details—how crimes are committed, how death occurs, what certain injuries do the body, and so on. But much of crime fiction is about motivation and why people do what they do. If you get the motivation right, you can carry the reader along. And the only way to really get at that motivation is to pay attention to people and write about them as they are, and not simply as you imagine them to be.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

There are two books that I’m very proud of. The first was MINDFULNESS AND MURDER. I had long been a fan of characters like Father Brown and wanted to do a murder mystery featuring a Buddhist monk. Somehow all of the elements came together in an amazing way with M&M.

I’m also very proud of a book I wrote called SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, about a gay single father whose deaf son helps him find a boyfriend. It became a bestseller and really struck a chord with a lot of readers.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?

Oddly enough, ‘Salem’s Lot has always been my favorite movie. It was a very 1970s sort of movie that was both loved and loathed. I liked the atmospherics, the way a small town was portrayed—all the connections, the relationships—and how quickly chaos ensues when things go wrong.

I think it’s impossible to have a favorite book. I would have to claim anything that Dickens wrote. I can’t get enough of Dickens.

Currently, my favorite television show is The Walking Dead. For some reason, Americans are obsessed with apocalyptic, end of the world scenarios. It’s an interesting exercise, trying to figure out how to survive when society collapses. Why we’re obsessed with the end of the world, I couldn’t tell you…

PDB: Is location important to your writing?
It’s very important. The location should be like a character all to itself since you are interacting with it constantly. I want to know how it feels to be in that location—what it smells like, what it looks like, what the people are like, what the food is like, what makes it different from other locations.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?
Not very often, to be honest. As a writer, I don’t have much control over rankings and reviews and how folks respond.

I’m very old school: I write the best book I can and hope readers will realize that and help spread the word.

PDB: What’s next?

Right now, I’m working on a semi-autobiographical tale called RAISE it UP. It’s about what happens when you grow up in a crazy right wing religious environment with the people around you convinced they were living in the End Times. I’m putting a lot of my own experiences into it, things that went on during the 1970s – the Cold War, the constant threat of nuclear bombs falling out of the sky, the fear, the paranoia, the crazy talk about the Antichrist and the end of the world, conspiracy theories, plus all the violence in American society at that time–serial killers, the Hillside Strangler, Manson, Jonestown. All of this is seen through the eyes of a gay teen who loves Barry Manilow and disco and just wants to live a normal life, a kid who is basically the epitome of everything his family and society despises.

I also have a couple of books that will be released over the next year. The third book in the Sugar Tree series, GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAINS, will be out early next year. It tells the story of Wiley and his partner as they adopt two children. The other book is called DEADWORLD: THIS IS HOW IT ENDS, which is about a couple of young friends coping with an apocalypse that includes zombies, UFOs, freak storms and a whole lot more.

Bio: Nick Wilgus sold his first short story to The Horror Show Magazine at the age of seventeen, and has been writing ever since.

Wilgus is the author of the Father Ananda murder-mystery series: MINDFULNESS AND MURDER, SISTER SUICIDE, KILLER KARMA and THE CURIOUS CORPSE. He also wrote the script for the award-winning film SOP MAI NGEAP, based on MINDFULNESS AND MURDER, nominated for Best Screenplay (2012) by the Thai Film Association.

He is also the author of SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, GET YOUR SHINE ON and several other novels.

After spending almost two decades in Bangkok, he now lives in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Recommended Read: Skewered: And Other London Cruelties by Benedict J. Jones

skeweredIn Skewered, the first story in this cracking collection, we are introduced to Charlie Bars who is fresh out of prison and unhappily working in his uncle’s kebab shop.

When Charlie is given the chance to make some fast money he jumps at it but things quickly become, well,  skewered.

Charlie Bars also appears in the following story, Real Estate, which is also a belter.

Another favorite story is the marvelous supernaturally tinged Hungry Is The Dark. But everyone is a gem.

Skewered: And Other London Cruelties is tightly written with strong, realistic characters and a great sense of place.

Classic Brit Grit crime fiction.

Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Larsen

Into the FirePDB: What’s going on now?

My novel INTO THE FIRE is being released by Crime Wave Press later this month. It’s about a screenwriter who uses a real life incident to introduce his latest femme fatale. Bad idea it turns out. Right now I’m working on a baby boom memoir. I started BOOM a few years back as an exercise in memory and at 1500 pages I find my memory is pretty good. Getting it published might prove problematic. Getting it read, for that matter.

PDB: How did you research this book?

I lived in the Pennsport section of South Philadelphia for ten years, then Lambertvile NJ for fifteen. Both figure prominently in INTO THE FIRE. My characters are based on people I know in both places. At 25 years I think I have it covered.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

In 2004 my short story “Lids” was featured in Best American Mystery Stories between a Stephen King and a Joyce Carol Oates. But I’m most proud of my novels. FLAWED – a fake kidnapping/art theft romp and INTO THE FIRE – payback is a bitch (named Karen Finley).

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?

I love this question. My favorite movie is Member of the Wedding. Julie Harris just kills me. Favorite book? Where to begin? City of Thieves by David Benoitt has to rank. Anything by Richard Price or Alice Munro. My favorite tune is Blues In by Art Pepper. And, of course, The Wire was the best thing that ever happened to television.

ThomasLarsenB&W

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

It’s huge. I grew up in the suburbs so living in South Philadelphia was a revelation. I’d never experienced the feeling of community that comes with a row house neighborhood. Mine, at least. I couldn’t help but write about it. We moved away 20 years ago but all our neighbors are still on the block. I live in Delaware now but we’re moving back to Pennsport as soon as we sell the house.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

I didn’t know you could.

PDB: What’s Next?

Next is trying to get all 80 of my short stories published. I’m halfway there.

Guest Blog: Cowgirl X” amid the temples Jame DiBiasio

The soul, if not necessarily the body, of my new thriller, “Cowgirl X”, is in Cambodia. CowgirlXfinalcover

I can tell you exactly when I first visited the country: mid April 1998. My memory is buttressed by the fact that Pol Pot died while I was there, on the 15th, although I only learned of this after I had returned to my home in Hong Kong.

Siem Reap, out where the ruins of Angkor lie, remained Khmer Rouge territory when the dregs of that murderous cult were pushed out by the Vietnamese in the 1980s. They retreated to the west of the country where they maintained a private army and control over local resources, such as timber and gemstone mines. But their most effective defense against the Vietnamese-backed regime (led by a former Khmer Rouge lieutenant, Hun Sen) was a thick carpet of landmines laid by Pol Pot and his decrepit retinue.

Angkor reemerged as a tourist destination in the early 1990s, as UN-backed elections brought a measure of stability and foreign cash to the land. By the time of my first visit, the main temple areas were already being administered by the central government, and the road that connected town to the airport boasted the first gaudy hotels for mass tourism.

But visitors had yet to arrive en masse in the late 1990s. The monuments were fairly busy but not overcrowded and I stayed in the home of a local family that rented a room to me for about US$5 a night. I remember that teak-scented room, with a simple mattress and a thunderingly powerful ceiling fan that rendered air conditioning unnecessary, despite it being the hottest month of the year.

It was also the Cambodian new year, and I got to participate in the local celebrations. The family crowded its ancestral spirit house with plenty of offerings: oranges, cans of Coca-Cola and cigarettes. In the evening, a moving crowd came by the house. These were farmers from the villages outside of town, come to receive gifts of money in return for playing music, singing songs and playfully spraying water. This was nothing like the aggressive water fights you get in Thailand. Instead, the night felt like what it actually was: a marking of the harvest among farmers and townspeople, a little street festival in which the handful of foreign backpackers were welcome to participate.

I paid a man $7 a day to take me around the monuments on the back of his motorbike. Angkor Wat and its bas-reliefs seemed too big and imposing to digest. I rather liked Ta Prohm – the temple overrun by the jungle – and the quiet, rambling Preah Khan, which was built at the same time, by Angkor’s first Buddhist king.

The highlight, however, was an early morning trip to Banteay Srei, which involved a 45 minute ride on the back of my man’s motorbike. I had to catch a late-morning flight that day so time was short, and my driver had agreed to a final, and very early, excursion.

We set out on a clear morning. Close to the destination we were stopped at a military checkpoint, which consisted of a couple of armed soldiers hanging out by a cluster of farmhouses raised on stilts.

Pol Pot lay 125 kilometres to the north, by the Thai border, gasping his last. Banteay Srei had only recently been opened to tourists. Even within the parkland covering the main set of Angkor temples, it was dangerous to stray off the paths lest you cross a landmine; out here, apparently, the threat was even more real. These soldiers were federales, not Khmer Rouge, and they told my driver that Banteay Srei would not open until 8am.

This was a problem. I didn’t have the luxury of waiting. My driver disappeared into a thatched building with the soldier in charge, leaving me to sit on a bench by the roadside. Soldiers sat beside me on either side. One of them touched my hiking shoes. Another touched my wristwatch.

I was relieved to see my guide return. He explained with an apologetic air that it would be advisable to contribute a little something to the squad. I asked how much. I think it was the equivalent of another $7. That seemed like a better alternative to the ideas the other soldiers appeared to be entertaining.

The upside to bribing my way into Banteay Srei was that it really was closed to visitors until 8am. I approached the sunlit entrance with increasing giddiness. It was about 7.40am. For the next 20 minutes, this place was all mine.

Banteay Srei, also known as the “Citadel of Women”, is one of Angkor’s greatest delights. After a few days of scaling great and imposing monuments, this delicate, human-sized treasure was a welcome change. The stone sculpture here is probably the best among all of the Angkor temples, and it is decorated with wonderful statuary and bas-reliefs hewn from pinkish rock.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this is also the temple that André Malraux raided in 1923: this French adventurer, the future Minister of Culture under De Gaulle, was arrested for trying to smuggle out bas-reliefs and the heads of statues. His novel La Voie royale, “The Way of the Kings”, which is sort of a “Heart of Darkness” for the French, is loosely based on that experience.

Although in the 1990s Angkor wasn’t as crowded as it is today, it had still felt full, so having 20 minutes of absolute loneliness at this gem of a site was an amazing privilege. I knew it at the time, and that knowledge made my time there bittersweet, as I was both aware of my luck and conscious that I could not bottle or preserve that moment. When 8am rolled around and the second tourist arrived, it was time for me to go.

The elixir of this experience has worked its magic on me for a long time. Cambodia is a sad, broken country, burdened by one of the worst histories in the world, and yet it weaves spells on the people who visit. I am not that familiar with the place. I’ve only been back two times, as a tourist doing nothing out of the ordinary. But I had wanted to capture a little of that mix of charm, danger and drama in my writing.

My first project was a non-fiction history, “The Story of Angkor”, which was published in 2013 by Silkworm Books. But I wasn’t quite done. My research had delivered plenty of intriguing nuggets that, with a little imagination, deserved to be exploited in fiction. In particular I had long wanted to make an adventure story out of the idea of these swords used by early kings to supernatural effect, which are mentioned in stone inscriptions.

Meanwhile it was time to write another novel. I wanted to bring back Val Benson, the ex-Tokyo bar hostess at the center of “Gaijin Cowgirl”. One strain of the sequel would involve a Japanese porn starlet who had gone missing in Los Angeles, a story that tied back, rather circuitously, to the original book. But I wanted to do something with Angkor too, so I interwove it into this emerging narrative. The opening chapter of “Cowgirl X” ends with Val receiving a mysterious, anonymous gift: the hilt of a decrepit, antique sword. The novel builds to a climax that takes her to Angkor Wat.

 

Bio@ Jame DiBiasio’s latest book, “Cowgirl X”, is now available at Amazon.com. You can also visit his blog at http://asiahacks.com and his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jamedibiasio.author.

 

Short, Sharp Interview: Jame DiBiasio

CowgirlXfinalcoverPDB: What’s going on now?

JD: First, Paul, thank you for including me in your Short & Sharp series. I enjoy reading it, and if you’d ever like to guest-post at my blog, Asia Hacks, the floor is yours. What’s going on now…Cowgirl X is out from publisher Crime Wave Press. It’s a sequel to my debut thriller, Gaijin Cowgirl, and picks up the story of Val Benson, former Tokyo bar hostess turned treasure hunter. She has to track down a runaway Japanese porn starlet, chasing her from LA to Angkor Wat.

PDB: How did you research this book?

JD: The porn-industry element has made this everybody’s favourite question. Imagination, mate, imagination. (There actually is no pornography in the book.) The Angkor stuff I drew from my having written a non-fiction book about its history, The Story of Angkor, which was published by Silkworm Books. Other aspects of the story, such as a World War 2 scene at Guadalcanal, required a bit of reading.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

JD: Cowgirl X was probably the hardest to write. I had never done a sequel. Sequels throw up all sorts of problems, and Cowgirl X required intensive restructuring. I’m proud of how it’s turned out, and if people have a fraction of the fun reading it that I had creating it, I’ve done my job.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/book/song/television programme?

JD: I loved “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Charlize Theron would make a great Val!

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

JD: Yes. Like you, I’m an expatriate, and I think there’s something about living abroad that makes you want to share your experiences in the form of storytelling. Of course, throwing in a few action scenes atop Bangkok skyscrapers and Cambodian temples is 100% authentic. I also enjoyed portraying Los Angeles, the home of noir fiction – I even managed to pay homage to Raymond Chandler.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon ratings?

JD: And here I thought we were having a nice friendly conversation.
PDB: What’s next?

JD: For the time being I want to promote Cowgirl X. I have another thriller in the works that should see daylight next year, and I’ve completed a manuscript for another non-fiction book, this time about the ancient temple city of Bagan, in Myanmar. I’m starting to think about Val Benson’s next move; I can’t say when, but she’ll be back.