Category Archives: Out Of The Gutter

#FRIDAY FLASH: HE’LL HAVE TO GO.

Frankie fidgets on the wobbly bar-stool.  Takes a swig of Guinness, then a sip of Jack Daniels. Grimaces. Shuffles his shoulders. Feels a joint crack. Sighs.

‘Me and my big mouth, eh? Another case of foot in mouth disease,’ he says.

He chuckles to himself.  Takes a pork scratching from a half empty bag. Stuffs it in his mouth and crunches.

‘Well, we’ve all been there, Frankie,’ says Big Pat, the barman.

Sweat soaks his white nylon shirt. ‘We’ve let our tempers get the better of us, and that.’

Pat picks up a remote control and switches on a plasma screen television that is hung askew on the back wall. He flicks channels until he finds an old James Bond film. A Duran Duran song suddenly blasts out. Pat grimaces.

‘Bugger that for a game of soldiers,’ he says.

He quickly turns off the sound and puts in a Jim Reeves CD.

Frankie catches a glimpse of himself in the dusty Johnny Walker mirror that hangs behind the bar. He brushes dandruff from a shoulder. Messes with his dyed black hair.

It’s late evening and The Blue Anchor’s only other customer is an saggy old man that is sat at a table in the corner nursing a half of bitter. He’s playing Sudoku and squinting in the wan light.

‘Look at that old fucker?’ says Pat, pointing at the television screen. ‘He’s still getting away with it. Jammy twat. ’

Frankie looks up and sees Roger Moore in a romantic clinch with a much younger woman.

‘Still, I don’t mind getting old so much,’ says Pat. ‘Beats the alternative, eh?’

He chuckles.

Frankie goes grim.

Pat leans over the bar and looks Frankie in the eyes.

‘So, have you told Wolf yet?’ he says.

Frankie avoids Pat’s glare. He looks up at the television.

‘Well, not as such …’ says Frankie.

‘Yeah?’

‘Well, not at all.’

‘Best get it out of the way, if I was you. You know what he’s like … remember Harjit?’

Frankie knocks back his whisky.

‘I most certainly do remember Harjit Singh. The grass. If I remember correctly, Wolf nailed Harjit’s turban to his head, inspired by a documentary he’d seen about Vlad The Impaler. To make his point even clearer, Wolf decapitated Harjit and put his head on one of the spikes outside Singh’s Essex home for his missus to see when she got up,’ says Frankie.

He forces a grin.

‘He never does things by halves, does Wolf,’ he says.

‘Well, then,’ says Pat. ‘So …’

Pat’s mobile buzzes. He glances at it and heads outside the pub to answer it.

He listens, nods and sighs. Sighs and nods. He goes back behind the bar,

‘Yeah but, you know, me and Wolf, go way back. We’ve got history,’ says Frankie.

‘Yeah, but history repeats,’ says Pat. ‘Like a Poundshop pork pie.’

He smacks Frankie on the back of the head with a baseball bat. Frankie collapses to the floor.

Pat leans under the bar and pulls out a machete. Hopes that Wolf remembers to bring the bleach with him this time.

(c) Paul D. Brazill

(This yarn first appeared at The Flash Fiction Offensive.)

Richard Godwin is down Brit Grit Alley

buffalo-and-sour-mashOver at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE, there’s a great guest BRIT GRIT ALLEY column from crime writer RICHARD GODWIN where he talks about publishing:

‘Publishing really is in a state of flux, with the rise and rise of Amazon and it still seems many publishers do not know what they are doing and behave with a lack of the kind of professionalism and regard for Artists that you would expect given the fact that without the author without the novelist there would be no publisher, a fact that seems all to easily to have been forgotten.

Read the rest HERE.

Friday Flashes

Cold Blooded Moon

Jason poured himself another glass of Burgundy and tried to flush Jenna from his thoughts. The bloated, red moon glared at him from the claret coloured sky as he headed towards oblivion like dirty dishwater down a plughole.

And then, the sea of sleep enfolded him.

Dark dreams and worse memories lapped at the shore of his slumber until he awoke, drowning in crimson. Slices of sunlight cut through the blinds and slashed across his eyes, stinging like a knife blade.

Outside, seagulls screeched and cackled through the roaring wind as Jason closed his eyes and dissolved back into the night, resolving to never again drink red wine in bed.

The end.

The Man From Esperanto

So, you’re in Warsaw’s Esperanto district hiding from an obscenely large, bullet-headed man wielding a baseball bat. In a pizza oven. 

And, to paraphrase the singer David Byrne, you might ask yourself –how the fuck did I get here?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once described London as being a ‘great cesspool into which the flotsam and jetsam of life are inevitably drawn’ and the same might reasonably be said of the world of TEFL teaching. A Teacher Of English as a Foreign Language can usually be described as either flotsam – perhaps a fresh faced young thing taking a break from University – or jetsam – the middle aged man with the inevitable drinking problem and enough skeletons in his closet to keep a palaeontologist happy for months.

And, I’ll make no bones about it, I fit rather snugly into the latter category.

Hence, me, three months earlier, hungover, in the back of a deodorant soaked taxi as it hurtled – like the Starship Enterprise on Warp Factor nine- down Warsaw’s John Paul 2nd Avenue, through the constellation of neon signs that marked out the sex shops, 24 hour pubs and kebab shops.

‘When the Pope died the whole street was lined with candles in tribute ,’ said the taxi driver, looking almost tearful.

‘Uh huh,’ I replied, as I fought back the acrid bile that burned my throat.

Before I’d come to Warsaw, I’d heard stories about ‘The Night Drivers’-amphetamine pumped young men who, each midnight, tied fishing wire around their necks, and the cars brakes, and then raced from one end of the city to the next. When I saw the cut marks on the taxi driver’s neck and his red, red eyes. I didn’t exactly have the Colgate ring of confidence.

I was relieved, then, when, minutes later, we pulled up outside The Palace of Culture and Science, Joe Stalin’s unwanted Neoclassical gift to the people of Warsaw.

I fished a handful of notes from my pocket and stuffed them into the driver’s hand before running to the toilets to puke.

‘Out with the old, in with the new,’ said a well-spoken, sandblasted voice from the next cubicle. ‘We are all in the gutter but some of us a looking at it through the bottom of a rather nice glass of gin and tonic, eh?’

‘The thing is, some people absolutely loath the place,’ said Sean Bradley, gesturing around The Palace’s Kafe Kulturalna. ‘The locals call it the Russian Wedding Cake. And, indeed, that’s what it looks like; a wedding cake plonked in the middle of the road.’ Sean was a drunk, dapper, nicotine stained example of jetsam who supplemented his teaching by chess hustling. He was one of the few expats who actually liked his chosen country of exile since most just complained about everything being so – foreign. Me? It was as good a place as any.

‘It’s an old song isn’t it?’ said Konrad AKA flotsam, a shiny, happy Canadian of Polish extraction, in Warsaw to find his roots. Aided and abetted by his family’s money, of course.

‘Maybe…’

‘I’m sure it is. Someone left a cake out in the road,’ he sang.

I really wasn’t too sure if he was joking or not. Konrad was either as bright as a two watt bulb or a major piss taker. I just ignored him and took in the Kafe’s interior before we invariably passed the pint of no return.

I met her on a Monday and although my heart didn’t exactly stand still it certainly skipped a beat or two. Tall and with long black hair she flew into the bar like a murder of crows, swathed in scarves and wearing a long black raincoat which flapped in the breeze behind her.

‘Ding dong,’ I said a la Leslie Phillips.

‘Oh. That’s Daria. Better watch out for her,’ said Sean. ‘She’s married to Bronek Malinowski. You know him?’

I shook my head.

‘The second-hand clothes Baron,’ said Konrad.

‘Who and what?’ I said.

‘He’s a low level gangster who has Poles collect donated clothes left outside charity shops overnight in, say, London or Dublin and ship them back to Poland to sell. You can get some damn good schmutter, actually,’ said Sean, pointing to the Hugo Boss label in his jacket.

‘The only crime is getting caught,’ I said, shrugging.

‘Yes, but if a butterfly beats its wings in the forest a one handed man claps and a tree falls down.’ said Konrad.

I ignored him and tried to catch Daria’s eye. ‘No, really, she’s trouble,’ said Sean.

I walked over. ‘Would you like a drink?’ I said.

She turned and tried to focus on me, as if she were looking at a magic eye painting. She shook her head. ‘Best not,’ she said, with a fake sounding transatlantic accent. ‘I should hit the sack. I’ve hit the bottle enough for one night.’ Standing close, she looked me up and down, like was deciding on whether or not to buy a second-hand car.

‘You’ll do,’ she said dragging me out of the bar by my tie.

Someone or other once remarked that the reason that something became a cliché was because it was true. Certainly, getting caught in bed with a married woman by her musclebound husband was a cliché straight out of ‘Confessions Of A Plummer’s Mate.’ Unfortunately for me, however, it was also true.

The brainwave of escaping into to the kitchens of a nearby pizza restaurant and hiding in one of the ovens was, I would imagine, a one off. But in retrospect, originality, it probably wasn’t one of my better ideas.

So, the oven door slams and you’re sure you can smell gas and now you might reasonably ask yourself – how the fuck do I get out of here? And the probable answer is – you don’t.

The end.

Right In The Kisser

The old camera had been in a box for decades, the pictures never developed, and now with the prints in his hand his blood ran cold from looking at the images that came from it.

The photo – showing it’s all too familiar cast of characters – was a blast from Quentin’s past that was positively seismic.

Looking at the photo, it was like being in Dallas again. The motorcade was an uncoiled python creeping down the boulevard. The rich kid with the 5000 watt smile was waiving to the great unwashed like a Roman Emperor or a Messiah. His wife stood beside him and there was Quentin – crouched over on a grassy knoll, a high powered rifle in his hands.

Quentin’s arthritic hand shook as he stuffed the photo in a file with the others; the hypocritical hippy rock star outside the hotel in New York; the spoilt blond princess being hounded by a pack of baying paparazzi in France. They were all his work.

He’d hoped to retire and leave it all to the bad dreams but today he needed to do one last job.

This time it was personal.

Quentin slowly walked into the bedroom, the rifle behind his back.

‘Darling. It’s time for your shot,’ he said.

The end.

Life’s A Gas

Nicky Marshall was a mousy man with mousy hair –so mousy, in fact, he was repeatedly banned from the local pet shop for fear of perturbing the cats. He had barely been scuffed by the wear and tear of life – living each soporific day shielded from the world, not unlike John Travolta in the ‘Boy In the Plastic Bubble’ – until, one chilly Autumn, as the cloak of night draped itself over the city, and the moon bit into the sky like a fang, Nicky had one of those moments that are usually described as pivotal

He’d been driving back from a stamp collectors convention, feeling very pleased with himself about the talk that he’d given, entitled ‘Philately Will Get You Somewhere,’ when he saw a woman hitchhiking beneath a blinking street lamp. Her silhouette appeared and disappeared like warm breath on a cold window pane. To Nicky- who was so unlucky in love that he was thinking of becoming a professional card sharp – she was like a long limbed drink of water calling out to a thirsty man.

He opened the door; she seemed to ooze into the car like mercury. She was the whitest thing he’s ever seen.

’My name’s Nicky,’ he said. ‘I’m a palaeontologist. I’ll make no bones about it! What’s your name?’

’Nikki,’ she said.

’And what do you do?’ he said.

’I eat people,’

Nicky was coming into the city centre and as he hurtled through the constellation of neon signs and streetlamps, he started to feel weak and cold.

‘I eat souls,’ said the woman. ‘Those that have wasted their life. Failed to live and taste its fruit.’

Nicky was feeling weaker and colder. And he heard a sound, a shrill high pitched thing that chilled him more and more. She was singing

He felt his life draining away and there was nothing he could do unless…

Struggling, he accelerated the car, driving at full until he crashed into shop window.

The adrenalin rush was greater than anything he’s ever felt before and the woman’s singing seemed to fade, the car getting warmer until everything faded to black.

There was the sound of a woman’s voice. Nicky opened his eyes and his heart did a Buddy Rich drum roll when he saw a woman in white next to his bed.

‘So, you’re awake, Mr Marshall,’ said the nurse. ‘You’ve had a nasty accident and a bit of a shock so take it easy for …’

Nicky almost leapt from the bed and dressed in seconds.

’I’ve had enough of taking it easy,’ he said. ‘I’m off to the pub for a triple brandy and then … I’m going to Morocco. It’s good to be alive!’

As Nicky rushed into the street, still high on life, he didn’t notice the double decker bus that ended his last rapturous moments on earth.

The end.

All yarns © Paul D. Brazill.

Guest Blog: Number Thirteen Press – The End? by Christopher Black

number 13 pressSo that’s it, then. Thirteen crime novellas from thirteen authors in thirteen months. Richard Godwin’s Ersatz World was the last, and Number Thirteen Press is finished.

Only, not quite. Of course there’s still the admin and the accounting and the marketing. The boring bits I’m not very good at anyway. But the publishing part is finished and it’s been one hell of a ride. Didn’t quite manage thirteen consecutive months, which I knew was an ambitious target, but had a damn good go and it’s been seat-of-the-pants stuff all along – a seemingly endless chain of literary panic. And it was fun. Lots of fun, and I got to work with thirteen fantastic authors (who were dragged deep into the panic and all responded brilliantly) and publish thirteen books that I genuinely believe in. At the start I had to choose the limits I would set in the submissions guide, and I decided to leave it as open as possible. The result was books of real variety, showcasing genuine talent across a spectrum of crime fiction that is broader than I could have imagined.

Would I do anything different, starting again? Of course I would. I went in with some design experience and some editing experience and made everything else up on the spot, so of course I made mistakes and had to work even harder as a result. Some things could have been better. But I don’t regret any of it, either. If I was starting now it would be easier for the experience, but if I waited for experience I would never have started. I jumped in to see if I could swim. Well, I ain’t drowned yet.

And that’s bring us to the real poser, the question that seemingly everyone wants the answer to: what next for Number Thirteen? Is there more? kill me quick cover

If I knew, I’d tell you. First things first, and first I’m taking a break. My own writing has taken a back seat for too long. But in the future? The publishing took up far more of my time than I could have guessed, so it’s hard to promise that sort of commitment. It certainly doesn’t pay well. A friend in the business once told me that small press publishing is about the 1 in 10: the one success that allows you to publish the other nine, and so far he’s been proved just about right (although we are batting above average). And anyway, there are more publishers filling that hole. I really believe in novellas and short novels (under 60k words) as the perfect crime/hardboiled/noir length: think They Shoot Horses Don’t They? and James M Cain. In fact, The Postman Always Rings Twice probably wouldn’t be published today, too short. When I first had the idea, there were crime short stories and flash fiction online, and crime novels that I often found 10 or 20,000 words too long, but only a couple of small presses who would consider that in between length – the novella to short novel, perfect for the contemporary ebook equivalent of the old paperback originals and an era when publishing had more ideals than business sense. Enough space to really develop the story, but shorter than demanded by the economics of legacy publishing. Short, sharp and tight, with depth but no wasted words and no padding. A lot of people really bought into the project: initial readers, reviewers, the thirteen authors, of course; but also others who weren’t connected, simply because they loved the books, the format, and the idea. But now more and more small presses are stepping in to the gap. Does the world need another Thirteen?

Then again, it really has been fun. So maybe…

But at the moment I just don’t know. A break, finish a novel or two, catch up on my own reading and viewing. And in the future, another set of 13? Or a different publishing model? Or with a partner? Or…?

I guess in six months or so we’ll see how much I miss the buzz of putting out some of the most original, intriguing, exciting and just damn brilliant crime fiction around. For the moment, excuse me while I sit back, look over those covers, re-read a few favourite chapters and enjoy what is, before I decide on what might be.

And when I’ve rested up, I might just do it all over again. Put me down for definitely, maybe.

NUMBER THIRTEEN PRESS IS HERE.

This post first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online.

A Story For Sunday: Never One To Do Things By Half by Beau Johnson

 

SNAPSHOTS AT THE FLASH FICTION OFFENSIVE‘He knows he’s fucked the moment I ask if it should be Agent Brand I call him now, or would it be better if we still went with Hank.  I tell him I can’t do Ryan though, a name I just couldn’t comprehend when I looked at his face.’

Read the rest here at The Flash Fiction Offensive.

 

Chris Black is down Brit Grit Alley

number 13 pressNumber Thirteen Press publisher Chris Black is down Brit Grit Alley:

Number Thirteen Press – The End? 

So that’s it, then. Thirteen crime novellas from thirteen authors in thirteen months. Richard Godwin’s Ersatz World was the last, and Number Thirteen Press is finished.

Only, not quite.’

Read the rest here.

I’m Flashing Down Brit Grit Alley

1 1 1 1  a a a a a brit grit sidebar

In my latest Brit Grit Alley column, I’ve posted one of my earliest flash fiction yarns:

The Sharpest Tools In The Box by Paul D. Brazill

“It’s friggin obvious, Browny”, said Kenny.

Kenny Cokehead was waving his arms around like a windmill. In his hands he had
a couple of CDs that he’d found in the glove compartment of Mikey The Mechanic’s
BMW: Hot Stuff by Donna Summer and the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

“It stands to reason, don’t it? Look at this stuff. Clear as day. He’s an arse bandit, dinner masher …”

I zoned out. Kenny Cokehead was was really living up to his nickname; he was snotty nosed and talking ten to the dozen. Me, I was trying my hardest to concentrate on manipulating the BMW round Seatown’s darkened side streets.

This was proving to be a bit of a problem. For one thing, the car was a left hand drive – which looked very cool this side of the pond but made it pretty difficult to maneuver
– and another factor was that we didn’t want anyone to see us, so we were driving
without using the headlights.

Since most of the streetlights had been smashed out around here-and most of the terraced houses have been boarded up- I was doing about as well as Stevie Wonder.

The situation wasn’t exactly helped by the fact that my full bladder felt ready to burst. And then there was Kenny who, like most cokeheads, had got a degree in stating the friggin obvious. And repeating it ad infinitum.’

Read the rest at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE.

Recommended Read: Bomb! by Les Edgerton

Bomb!2Super-smart sociopath Reader Kincaid thinks he’s worked out how to commit the perfect crime but during the set-up he kills a retired cop’s brother.

Les Edgerton’s Bomb! twists and turns as tight as a corkscrew.

With the flavor of Elmore Leonard at his peak, Bomb! is a sumptuous crime fiction feast. Rich in characterization, plot, dialogue and with a great sense of place.

Les Edgerton’s Bomb! is a crime fiction classic and well  done to Gutter Books for publishing it.

And anyone interested in the writing/ publishing game would be well advised NOT to skip the introduction.

Guest Blog: Life and the City by David Siddall

- (3)Liverpool: one of the world’s great cities, second city of the empire, and gateway to America. What is it about Liverpool that gets under the skin and into the blood?

I am not a native. My home town lies twenty miles to the south. A quiet town and a semi-rural existence. So when I moved over two decades ago, it was akin to moving across the world. The humour, the banter, the pace of life was different. Took me a while to find my place. Did I adopt Liverpool or did it adopt me? I don’t know. But I do remember the moment when the Landlady of the local pub called an adopted Scouser. It was a proud moment. That night I stood just that little bit taller at the bar

And that’s it. If they like you you’re in; if they don’t, they’re not afraid to tell you.

To most first time visitors Liverpool is about two things: football and the Beatles. But there is so much more; the docks and buildings lining the waterfront were granted, World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2004. World capital of pop is perhaps, more open to debate. But certainly since becoming European capital of culture in 2008, there has been a steady increase in tourism seeing the city through new eyes.

But it’s the people who make Liverpool what it is. Independent, enterprising, anti-authoritarian, and standing up to be counted is hardwired into a Scousers DNA. A Scouser doesn’t like being ripped off. A Scouser won’t stand idly by and let those in authority pat them on the head. A Scouser knows what’s right and wrong.

And once the call is made, a Scouser is like a dog with a bone. They won’t let go. Ever.

What other city would campaign so long and hard for justice at Hillsborough? And after so much talk by fans throughout England complaining at the increase in football ticket prices, it was the mass walkout at Liverpool FC that resulted in a rethink by the owners.

Liverpool – first again.

Maybe it was this same spirit that saw Liverpool at the epicentre of drug dealing in the 80s. These were desperate days of mass unemployment and poverty, of the Toxteth riots and Yozza Hughes’, “Gizza’ job.” For many the only way out was sport or criminality. With links to South America and the continent, these gangs developed into cartels with huge distribution networks. Men at the top end became extremely rich. Curtis ‘Cocky’ Warren, even managed to make the Sunday Times Rich List!

Independent, enterprising, anti-authoritarian, and waving two fingers at the establishment. That’s Liverpool.

It’s this attitude and mind-set I’ve tried to encapsulate in my collection, Breaking Even.

Breaking Even consists of a novella and six short tales, most of which revolve in and around the city. The novella and title story, Breaking Even, features, ‘Chance’ a typical, happy-go-lucky Liverpudlian, who being, to quote a Scouse phrase, ‘down on the bones of his arse’, agrees to smuggle drugs from the Caribbean. Needless to say things don’t go according to plan.

‘Chance’, through circumstance beyond his control, finds himself in a situation that can end in only one of two ways. Shit or bust. As the story develops he is drawn deeper and deeper into the mire with only his wits and a gun for salvation.

Mixing it with the protagonist are a disparate bunch of characters that fill the criteria of a noir piece: a femme fatale, a psychopathic villain, a bagman who maybe, isn’t quite the villain he seems, and a partner who for good or evil, pushes ‘Chance’ on.

The genesis of this tale was the arrest of a local man, a disabled pensioner, caught with a good deal of cocaine strapped to his body boarding a plane from Antigua. This guy is not your typical villain, not someone to take on criminal enterprise or the role of drug mule lightly. Yet here he was, caught red-handed and looking at a ten stretch in a roach infested West Indian nick.

What made him do it?

Maybe the prospect of an ‘easy’ ten grand appealed? Maybe at seventy plus he liked the idea of excitement? Maybe, (to quote Bob Dylan), he had nothing left to lose?

Shit or bust.

But the idea sowed a kernel. How does an ordinary man reconcile himself to committing such a reckless act and live with the consequences if it all goes wrong? The story that developed followed from the, ‘What if’, principle.

Of the other tales, four are Liverpool related. Gangsters at the end of nefarious careers, good ideas gone bad; characters at the beginning or end of a cycle of events are the essence. And to these men, maybe the only way out is…

You get the picture?

At this point you may get the impression Liverpool is a crime ridden, dangerous city. It’s not. But like any big city, not everything is rosy in the garden. Drugs and crime go hand in hand. Poverty still exists and the policy of austerity by Westminster forces the Council to cut and cut again

In fact Liverpool is a vibrant cosmopolitan city very different to those dark days of the 80s. To experience a Friday or Saturday night is one of life’s great experiences. Don’t believe me? just see Rough Guide’s top 50 ‘Things to do before you die’, bucket list. Liverpool’s nightlife is sandwiched between Petra and The Great Wall of China at number 3. (Still think they should have mentioned a Mad Monday though).

Liverpool will survive. Always has, always will. She’ll be there till the end of time , sniffing out what’s good and bad in society. And if she doesn’t like what she sees, have no hesitation saying, ‘Thanks but no thanks’. Then she’ll turn away, and stick two fingers up at the rest of the world.

David Siddall is the author of A MAN ALONE, BREAKING EVEN and MORE!
This post appeared previously  at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE.