Category Archives: Gareth Spark

Grab Exiles: An Outsider Anthology for only 99p/ 99c!

exiles artizan
Exiles

To celebrate the latest ALIBI  noir festival in Slovenia, EXILES: AN OUTSIDER ANTHOLOGY is currently only 99c / 99p!

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.

Advertisements

The Best Of Brit Grit 2016

marwick's reckoningWell, 10 of the best, anyway. There were a few other Brit Grit gems I also read in 2016 that I really enjoyed. If I had to pick one book to personify The Best Of Brit Grit this year, it would probably be Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark. However, in no particular order, here are 10 of the best …

Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark

Marwick is a broken man. Broken but not shattered. Marwick is a violent London gangster, an enforcer who has moved to Spain for a quieter life and who is eventually embroiled in drug smuggling, murder and more.

Published by Near To The Knuckle, Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark is fantastic. Like a Brit Grit Graham Greene it’s full of doomed romanticism, longing and shocking violence.

Beautifully, vividly  and powerfully written Marwick’s Reckoning is very highly recommended indeed.

thin iceThin Ice by Quentin Bates

A small-time criminal and his sidekick decide to rob a big-shot drug dealer. But things quickly go pear-shaped when their getaway driver doesn’t turn up. After kidnapping a mother and daughter, things spiral even further out of control.

Quentin Bates’ Thin Ice brilliantly blends a fast-moving crime caper worthy of Elmore Leonard with a perfectly paced police procedural. Great characters and tight plotting abound.

Thin Ice really is marvelous, and is very highly recommended.

after you dieAfter You Die by Eva Dolan

DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are back for a third outing in Eva Dolan‘s marvelous After You Die.

The mother of a disabled child is stabbed to death and the child is left to starve.  Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit are called in to investigate the murder and in the process DI Zigic and DS Ferreira uncover a lot of dirty secrets in a seemingly close-knit community.

Once again, Dolan paints a realistic and uncomfortable picture of the darker sides of British life but with After You Die the pacing is even tighter than in her previous books and she has produced a gripping, contemporary murder mystery that is highly recommended.

APRIL SKIES coverApril Skies by Ian Ayris

In ’90s London, John Sissons – the protagonist of Ian Ayris‘ brilliant debut Abide With Me– is out of the slammer and trying to get by, working at a market stall. When he loses his job, he gets a job at a door factory and his luck starts to change. But is it for the better?

Ian Ayris’ April Skies is marvelous. Full of realistic, well-drawn characters, great dialogue, sharp twists and turns,  and with a strong sense of place and time. Nerve-wracking and heart-breaking, tense and touching – April Skies is a Brit Grit classic.

the death of 3 coloursThe Death Of Three Colours by Jason Michel

Jonah H. Williams is cyber- crook, a wheeler and dealer on the dark web. He awakes from a typically heavy boozing session to find that his precious crucifix has been stolen by the previous night’s pick-up. And things spiral on down from then on as we encounter  Bill – a bent ex-copper, drug smugglers, AK-47s, Ukrainian bikers, suicide, paranoia, betrayal, lust, love, loyalty, friendship, romance, nihilism, more paranoia, The Second Law Of Thermodynamics, Santa Muerte – Our Lady Of Last Resorts, an owl, and a cat called Vlad The Bastard. And then there’s Milton …

Jason Michel’s The Death of Three Colours is just great. It’s a richly written, gripping, noir-tinged crime thriller that is full of lyricism, flights of dark fancy and cruel humour. His best book yet.

the shallowsThe Shallows by Nigel Bird

When naval  Lieutenant Bradley Heap goes AWOL with his wife and son, he stumbles into drug dealing, people smuggling and murder.

Nigel Bird’s The Shallows is a tightly written and well-paced crime thriller that is full of well-drawn, realistic characters.

Tense and involving, The Shallows is great stuff!

for-all-is-vanityFor All Is Vanity by Robert Cowan

Jack is a nice, normal guy with a nice, normal family who records the events of  his day to day life in a diary. Then tragedy strikes and Jack’s life spirals violently out of control.

Robert Cowan’s For All Is Vanity is a gem. Heartbreaking, funny and violent, For All Is Vanity is a gripping look at what happens when a good man who loses it all.

Highly recommended.

dark-heart-heavy-soulDark Heart, Heavy Soul by Keith Nixon

Konstantin Boryakov is back!

In Dark Heart, Heavy Soul, the former KGB anti-hero is reluctantly dragged into taking part in a heist which soon spirals out of his control.

Keith Nixon’s Dark Heart, Heavy Soul is the best Konstantin Boryakov novel yet. Nixon smoothly blends high-octane thrills with gritty crime fiction. Dark Heart, Heavy Soul is packed full of tension, action, humour, great characters, sharp dialogue and a hell of a lot of warmth too.

An absolute belter!

summoning-the-deadSummoning The Dead by Tony Black

The mummified corpse of a young child is found in barrel that had been buried in a field years before. DI Bob Valentine digs deep to unearth’ corruption, cover-ups and murder.

Tony Black’s Summoning The Dead is an atmospheric, engrossing, lyrical and  sometimes harrowing police procedural that packs a powerful emotional punch.

The characters are well drawn and believable, the plot is involving,  the pace is whip-crack and the result is eminently satisfying.

Fantastic stuff.

the dead can't talkThe Dead Can’t Talk by Nick Quantrill

Power, corruption and lies would be a suitable sub-heading for Nick Quantrill’s hard-hitting crime novels. In The Dead Can’t Talk, as in his cracking Joe Geraghty trilogy, Quantrill tells the story of a criminal investigation which digs below the city of Hull’s surface to reveal a dirty underbelly.

The Dead Can’t Talk introduces us to two new protagonists – cop Anna Stone and ex- soldier Luke Carver. They are brought together to look into a murder, and an apparent suicide but all is not as it seems, of course.

Quantrill again gives us a perfectly paced criminal investigation but the tension is greater and the twist and turns are tighter this time. The characters are all typically well drawn, most notably the city of Hull itself. This is a novel of deceptive breadth and scope.

The Dead Can’t Talk is the start of what is sure to be another great social-realist crime fiction series from Nick Quantrill. Highly recommended.

Recommended Read: Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark

marwick's reckoningMarwick is a broken man. Broken but not shattered. Marwick is a violent London gangster, an enforcer who has moved to Spain for a quieter life and who is eventually embroiled in drug smuggling, murder and more.

Published by Near To The Knuckle, Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark is fantastic. Like a Brit Grit Graham Greene it’s full of doomed romanticism, longing and shocking violence.

Beautifully, vividly  and powerfully written Marwick’s Reckoning is very highly recommended indeed.

Short, Sharp Interview: Gareth Spark.

marwick's reckoningPDB: Can you pitch Marwick’s Reckoning in 25 words or less?

A British gangster in Spain contends with Romanian mobsters, an ex-lover and his former employers, as he searches for the truth behind a friend’s murder.

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

I’ve been reading a lot of Harry Crews lately; fantastic writer.  I admire the way he seems to absolutely be sure of himself and his place in the world. We don’t seem to have that so much, this generation; identity seems fractured by the greater complexity of this world we have. I’d like that certainty, and to be able to write like that. I’ve also been re-watching Sky TV’s FORTITUDE. The writing and characters and the overarching mystery are so well drawn and profound, and the setting so instantly compelling that it makes me seethe with envy. Wish I’d written that.

PDB: Which books do you think would make great films or TV series?

I’d like to see Brian Panowich’s BULL MOUNTAIN make some kind of appearance on TV, Sam Hawken’s Camaro books also would make for a compelling TV serial. I’ve just read Benjamin Myers BEASTINGS, and that would make for a cracking film.  Justin Hill’s SHIELDWALL too; that would be fantastic given a HBO sized budget.

PDB: Who are the great British writers?

I’d have to go with Graham Greene, for his vision and technique. Arthur Machen, one of the greatest. M.R. James, for his powerful storytelling and the way he evoked the dark side of the British countryside. Algernon Blackwood. Malcolm Lowry for UNDER THE VOLCANO. Alan Moore, whose JERUSALEM I’m waiting for with feverish glee. Writing today? Off the top of my head, Ramsey Campbell, Mark Morris, Benjamin Myers, China Mieville, Ian Rankin, Richard Godwin and about a thousand others I could name had I the time.

PDB: Your writing is very visual. Which childhood images have you retained?

I grew up in a very beautiful part of the world, and that beauty can be dramatic; winter storms, the sea like a dirty mirror, moorland black beneath clouds the colour of old coins, murky forests that hide ruined castles (that last one’s legitimate too, not just my waxing poetic, google Old Mulgrave castle). That all has seeped into my writing, sure, but being a complicated sort of person the things that affect me more are along the lines of graffiti stained concrete, rusted abandoned cars, broken wire fences and barbed wire filled with torn plastic fluttering like prayer flags. Dust and industrial spaces at the edge of town. That’s what I remember. Those liminal spaces and the summer burning over asphalt roads…Orion’s belt above a play park with broken swings and a twilight so deep and palpable it washes over you like a river…an abandoned railway bridge that was always pale and sepulchral against air the colour of faded till receipts. The blue smoke from my Gran’s cigarettes drifting upwards to a yellow ceiling in light falling through a lace curtain. The river Esk, murky as Builder’s tea after a week of rain, lapping at greasy fishing trawlers. It all stays with you, makes you the writer you are destined to be, the only one you could have ever been.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

I’ve been working on a novel for the past *coughs* so many years. Too many years really, when I see how productive other writers can be. There’s a lot of hustling out there, I just want to get it right, make sure the book’s saying what I want it to, while creating something dramatically interesting; making sure the characters aren’t just stock types or ciphers, but actual people as best as I’m able. It’s also set during the 1940’s, which has called for a bit o’ research. I like to get things as accurate as I can, historically. Hope it’ll be worth the work.

In the meantime, I have some short stories coming out soon on a couple of my favourite short fiction websites, some poems over at In Between Hangovers and I have a novella outlined for when I have the time to write it. Having a day job and 7 children commands a lot of one’s time and I’m grateful to whatever munificent deity allows me the time to write.

PDB: Anything else?

Support the small presses, that’s where the quality is, and leave reviews wherever you can for writer’s whose work you appreciate.

Bio: Gareth Spark is from Whitby, Yorkshire. His short fiction and poetry has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Line Zero, Out of the Gutter, Near to the knuckle and Deepwater Literary Review, among others. He is the author of Snake Farm and Marwick’s Reckoning.

Short, Sharp Interview: Gareth Spark

PDB: What’s going on now?

Right now I’m suffering that mixture of dread and delight that comes when you publish anything, and which seems so much more severe when that something is a collection of stories you’ve worked on for a number of years. 

SNAKE FARM, is a book into which I’ve invested a lot of imaginative capital and energy for a long damn time. It’s a post-modern tribute to the outlaw life, an examination of violence and, above all, a collection of gritty stories. The book begins with tales set in the old American west, at the very dawn of that idea of the desperado as hero, and continues through tales of war and crime and heartache to a penultimate tale set in a post-apocalyptic world, before heading right back to the Wild West.

PDB: How did you research this book?

The title (as well as being pinched from a kickass Ray Wylie Hubbard song) comes from those places where they keep these poisonous critters and use their venom to create an anti-venom, a cure, and I liked the idea of the book as a metaphorical snake farm. The historical stories were researched pretty hard to provide some kind of accuracy, but the vast majority occur in the here and now and take place in areas I know pretty well, either in the UK or Spain.

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

Somebody once asked Picasso which of his paintings was his favourite and he replied, “The next one.” I’d have to echo that sentiment.

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


At the moment, I’m pretty into JUSTIFIED. I’m re-watching all 6 seasons, beginning to end. (Thank you SKY TV!) The books I’m digging right now are EVERYTHING RAVAGED, EVERYTHING BURNED by Wells Tower and THE ANIMALS by Christian Kiefer. I’m also looking forward to Aidan Thorn’s upcoming second collection. That guy can write.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

I personally think the answer to the kind of cultural vanilla gloop that comes with globalisation and social media hegemony is with the particular and the local, and I try to make my writing a true representation of the places I know well, excepting the historical stories, and I research those with no small industry.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

Hardly ever, and that’s the truth. A history of miserable “Author’s profile” pics means I never google my name either. That way madness lies.

PDB: What’s next?

I’m editing a 50K Novella called GUTTER WOLVES, which is a gangster thriller set on the Costa del crime and I’ve just finished a screenplay called JERICHO ROSE about a Gulf War vet/recluse who finds a kidnapped girl. I’m also writing a new novel, a noir called WINTER FIRES. That’s still in the 1st draft though.

57377-sparkyBio: Gareth Spark writes dark fiction from and about the moors and rust belts of the North East where grudges are savoured, shotguns are cheap and people get by in the economic meltdown any way they can.

His work has appeared at Near 2 The Knuckle, Out Of The Gutter, Line Zero, Shotgun Honey, and many more journals/zines. Gareth Spark was born in the middle of a blizzard on New Year’s day, 1979. He grew up in Whitby and published his first book, a collection of poetry called “At The Breakwater” at age 22.
He has since published two further collections “Ramraid” (Skrev Press) and “Rain in a dry land” (Mudfog) as well as the crime thriller, “Black Rain” (Skrev Press, 2004) and the collection of short stories “Snake Farm” (2015). He reviews fiction and poetry for various on-line journals.
(This interview first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online)

Out Now! Maybe I Should Just Shoot You In The Face

Maybe I Should Just Shoot You In The Facezelmer is very cool new collection of short stories from Zelmer Pulp, containing photographs by Mark Krajnak, new stories by Brian Panowich, Ryan Sayles, Chris Leek, Chuck Regan (who also did the cover), Gareth Spark, Isaac Kirkman and Benoit Lelievre, with an introduction from me.

A Man Of Sophisticated Tastes in 12 Mad Men

12 mad men

My yarn A MAN OF SOPHISTICATED TASTES kicks off this innovative anthology edited by Ryan Bracha.

The phenomenally talented writers involved in this innovative and ambitious project are:

Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir) Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets) Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist) Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero) Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, Apostle Rising) Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear) Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow) Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum) Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey) Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters) Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy) And narrated by Ryan Bracha (Paul Carter is a Dead Man, Strangers are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet)

The Blurb: At St. David’s asylum for the criminally insane there are twelve residents. They call us that. Not inmates. We all have a favourite colour. A favourite member of staff. A favourite method of receiving torture for the purposes of science. We all have our reasons for being here. Our stories. Our tales. Why don’t you come and hear them? Twelve Mad Men is a groundbreaking literary collaboration. A novel which has a series of stories woven into the narrative, and featuring the finest independent authors from across the globe. The number one best selling author of Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet and Paul Carter is a Dead Man, Ryan Bracha, voices the narrator as he embarks upon his first shift as a night guard at St. David’s, and as he meets the residents there, it soon becomes apparent that there’s something very wrong in the water..

Exiles Guest Blog: A simpler Evil: how I came to write ‘The Solomon Sea’ by Gareth Spark

Exiles cover preview (1)The initial inspiration for ‘The Solomon Sea’ came after reading an article on the Bre-X mining fraud of the late 90’s, one of the greatest mining scandals of all time. Bre-X, a Canadian company, bought a site in Indonesia, in 1993 and in October 1995 announced significant amounts of gold had been discovered, sending its stock price soaring. Originally, a penny stock, its stock price reached a peak of $200+ on the Exchange with a total capitalization of over $6 billion. The company collapsed and its shares became worthless after the discovery that most of the gold samples were fraudulent; indeed, it was further discovered that some of the gold samples, in fact, derived from shaved pieces of old jewellery.

The fraud began to unravel rapidly when Bre-X geologist Michael de Guzman died by falling from a helicopter in Indonesia. Police discovered his corpse days later in the jungle, mostly eaten by animals, and ascertained his identity via dental records, though there has been some speculation as to whether he faked his own death or no. It was a terrible scandal, the fallout from which reverberated for decades. The details are still somewhat shadowy, but it struck me as a great background to a tale of corruption and greed played out against ruined environments and sour lagoons; the kind of places where Conrad brought his characters to their doom. I am interested, as a writer, in what I call the final lapse; that vertiginous point of spiralling responsibility and destruction after which nothing can ever survive the same. In my stories I always, (and sometimes, I hope, successfully) attempt to describe that dagger point moment; Othello with his hands around Desdemona’s throat, Lord Jim before he leaps from the sinking Patna, Dr. Jekyll, the test tube bubbling before him just before he drinks.

Which brings me to my own fictional island of Matong, and the characters Dr. Ross and Edward Teach, an Englishman with a murky past (named for the pirate, naturally). Inspired by revenge perhaps, but certainly by greed, they perpetrate a similar vast fraud and conspire to disappear after faking their own deaths. Ross, an essentially good man, conscience heavy with the memory of communities he has helped destroy, alienated from his family by the nature of the work, finds Teach’s all-devouring Will seductive. It allows him to orchestrate a kind of revenge at a remove, shoving the responsibility onto Teach and his simpler breed of evil. He follows into an exile from his world, from his goodness. Indeed, one could say, from his own soul.

The theme is an old one, perhaps the oldest; how easily a man can lose himself.

 Bio: Gareth Spark is a writer from the Northeast of England. He is author of Rain in a dry land (Mudfog Press) and you can read his work online at Shotgun Honey, The Big Adios, Near to the Knuckle and Out of the Gutter, among others.

Exiles: An Outsider Anthology  is OUT NOW from Blackwitch Press.

Short, Sharp Interview: Gareth Spark

sparky1PDB: What the hell is Where The Horses Died?

GS: “Where The Horses Died” is a country noir novella of around 50K words I have been working on for a few months. It’s about a feud between two families, the Staffords and the Cliffords, that has spanned generations and reaches its climax when Jackson Stafford is released from prison, terminally ill and aching for revenge. Events escalate ans others, including a young lawman, are drawn into the bloodshed. It’s about revenge, the furies, old testament morality, forgiveness and corruption.

The title refers to the incident that started the bad blood, and I like the horse as symbol for a vanished world and a kind of innocence too. I’m 80% done with it, then I’ll see if there are any takers for a brutal, symbolist murder ballad of a tale.

PDB: How long have you been writing noir fiction?

GS: I’ve written fiction you could term noir, for a long time, I guess. There’s always been something about human frailty that’s attracted me. The rise and fall of a tragedy is something I’ve found more profound and poetic than any other mode, and the femme fatale has always owned a piece of my heart, in fiction and, unfortunately, life. It’s taken years to find a voice I could call my own, but I like to think I’m getting to a point where I can tell the stories I want to in my own way.

PDB: Your writing in very cinematic, which films float your boat?

GS: The movies I love are, as you can guess, the ones that chime best with my aesthetic. So, you have Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Josey Wales; Miller’s Crossing, The Third Man, Chinatown (if only for that killer ending); Indian Runner; No Country For Old Men and Lawless. Amores Perros and Casablanca are films I return to over and over, Casablanca above all.

PDB: Is the north of England a good place for a writer of dark fiction to live?

GS: The north of England is an excellent place for a writer of dark fiction to live: with its discarded pit villages, industrial wastelands, economic hardships and decaying social structures, an abandoned working class and rising crime rates, it’s a close approximation of some of the bleaker American literary landscapes. In the relative affluence of the south, the rural hinterland has become a refuge for metropolitan escapees and city commuters. A village down there can be lousy with money, WI jam-making contests, and all the things the average bloke pictures when you say ‘English countryside’. I’m interested in what they don’t picture. Plus, in Whitby, we have such a great history of the chthonic and gothic strains of English culture, from houses built on the site of a Viking massacre, to medieval revenants stalking the cobbled streets, to Dracula and Lewis Carroll and Arthur Machen, even through to the Goth weekends, that the atmosphere tends to dilute anything but the darker side of the national character. Whitby is Mecca for the night-side of the imagination, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2013?

GS: I’m working on the novella, naturally, and am 60K words into a novel called Fosse Grim, that draws more from the ‘Horror’ side of the ol’ imagination. I’d call it a Supernoirtural novel if Ian Rogers hadn’t already coined the term. There are a few stories on the go, but mainly it’s getting the longer form stuff done at the moment. Also, there’s my Spanish set crime thriller, The Devil’s Waiting, due out from  Zetabella Press, but that might not be until the New Year.

 PDB: Where can people find out more about your writing?

GS: There are links to a ton of my work over at garethspark.blogspot.com, an excerpt from the novella over at http://katharinehepcat.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/guest-fiction-gareth-spark/ and a handful of my stories over at the excellent Near to the Knuckle, a site everyone seriously interested in Brit Grit should check out…http://www.close2thebone.co.uk/wp/?cat=107

Gareth Spark is down Brit Grit Alley

SparkyGareth Spark writes dark fiction from and about the moors and rustbelts of the North East where grudges are savoured, shotguns are cheap and people get by in the economic meltdown any way they can. His work has appeared at Near 2 The Knuckle, Out Of The Gutter, Line Zero and Shotgun Honey.

And he’s my latest Guest Columnist at Out Of The Gutter’s Brit Grit Alley.

Pop over here and see what he has to say about Brit Grit.