Category Archives: P I

Short, Sharp Interview: John Bowie

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PDB: What’s going on?

 

JB: Reading, drinking, being a silly father, reading more, being a trying husband, and… drinking more. Oh, and scribbling and writing — for my sanity and madness; all in perfect balance. Teetering on life’s beautiful edge that’s fueled by all the pre-mentioned that put me there in the first place.

 

PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?

 

JB: I’ve had a permanent soundtrack running in my head as long as I remember.

 

Some tracks are constant; however I do get pests for the day: Russ Abbott’s – ‘Atmosphere’, R Kelly – ‘I believe I Can Fly’, or for some weird-ass reason Richard Blackwood’s – ‘1234 Getin’ with a wicked’ – You’re all welcome by the way!

 

The constants have accompanied me down the aisle, both in my head and literally played at the time (‘I Wanna Be Adored’ – The Stone Roses). And before taking a leap, needing strength; balls out (‘Force of Nature’ – Oasis). I blame Rhys Ifans and the film ‘Love Honour and Obey’ for this.

 

Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’ is my creative comfort blanket or on-hold music. It’s where my head goes when I block everything else out. This will come clear in my next book: Transference. All four in the coming tetralogy have intentional, multi-layered, single title Joy Division type titles like this.

 

PDB: What makes you laugh?

 

JB: Often it’s the things that shouldn’t that do. And the things that should… just don’t.

 

I frequently don’t realise my reaction and my wife picks me up on it. I often can’t explain the cause of a smile, giggle or involuntary snort that I didn’t realise I was doing, because when I think about it it’s often just plain wrong, absurd or weird. I write some of these down and into stories to distance myself in a way – disowning the filth, dark, weird and absurd. Until next time.

 

PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?

 

JB: Holy-fuck-a-saurus – the Holy Grail – if only!!!

 

An antidote to that pig that ‘shat in our heads’… ‘a bastard behind the eyes’. Sorry, shameless ‘Withnail & I’ Quotes. I was so surprised to learn the best acted drunk (Withnail) was played by a non-drinker (Richard E. Grant). Maybe that’s a clue to the answer though – don’t touch it! Or, if you do, don’t stop and ‘go all the way’ (Bukowski).

 

I have studied this matter in some detail though and as the years pass the hangovers intensify, and with it so does the need for a cure. So, I’ll share what I’ve gathered so far:

 

Pre-age 20: the ‘hangover’ doesn’t exist.

Early 20s: a Marlboro and a shit is enough to keep going on (after a midday rise).

Late 20s: a strong coffee, Marlboro and shit (after an early afternoon rise).

Early 30s: cider… ‘ice in the cider’.

Late 30s: cider with ice again. But now a nap is required before yet more cider – cycle is to be repeated as required.

Now: milk thistle (600mg min), N.A.C (N-Acetyl-Cysteine 600mg), vitamin C (500mg min) before starting first drink and another dose repeated before the last drink and bed.

In the future: I’m pretty sure a full-on transfusion, drip and head transplant is going to be required mixed with most of the above.

 

PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

 

JB: I’ve been lucky; travelled and visited a lot of places. Pulau Tiga, Pangkor Laut, Gozo, Krakow, Cambodia, Vietnam all stick in the memory. Manchester, Porlock Weir, Edinburgh, Dublin and Newcastle are in my blood, heart and soul though —  Bristol seems to be a smorgasbord of all them — I love it. I’ve discovered I need to be near the water or I feel wrong (and not in a good way). Maybe a Viking thing…

 

PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

 

JB: No, I don’t.

 

I did drink a bucket (maybe 2,3,4…) in Cambodia after visiting Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields. Also fired a colt .45 as an ex Khmer Rouge soldier let the safety off his own pistol as he held a ‘reassuring’ hand on my shoulder. Later that night, after the buckets, we found ourselves in a Cambodian club. Westerners weren’t allowed on the dance floor all at once so we had to take it in turns. Between the rehearsed local Karaoke, dancers, troops, public announcements and fashion parades –  I got up alone and the stony-faced locals circled, with another armed guard watching on at my bucket fueled cross between ‘the robot’, Rab C. Nesbit and Ian Curtis.

 

I ticked a lot off what I could’ve put on a bucket list that trip, and on others since.

 

The thing is… If I had written a list, it wouldn’t have kept up with what was going on. Life’s a bit like that. Convince yourself to aim for sweet and you could miss the pleasure of the sour. And your taste changes anyway the more, or less, you do.

 

PDB: What’s on the cards?

 

JB: Researching and writing the second in the Black Viking P.I. series: Transference. It’s set in Manchester so I’m revisiting it physically and, in the head, to test if it matches memory: the smell, sights… the sounds of it all — I’m savouring it! It’s nice to revisit the idea of the Hacienda again too. It and Factory Records were so fundamental to my creative journey then and now. The next books could be a homage to the city and them —  doubt it’ll feel like that to read though.

 

PDB: Anything else?

 

JB: I’m currently pondering my first person, present tense style with jumps to the past to give context. Is it in-fact poetic, lyrical, immediate and … right? Or, is it restrictive and switching some readers off… and are they maybe the ones that should be?

 

Wait…

 

‘Another?’

‘Yes.’

‘… with ice?’

Bye x

John BowieBio: John Bowie grew up on the coast in rural Northumberland, a region steeped with a history of battles, Vikings, wars and struggles. These tales and myths fascinated him as a child, and then as an adult. In the mid to late nineties he studied in Salford enjoying the bands, music, clubs and general urban industrial-ness of Greater Manchester, including the club scene and the infamous Hacienda. He was also there when the IRA bomb went off in 1996.

Recommended Read: Spalding’s Groove by Richard Prosch

Spalding’s Groove contains two short stories that act as a kind of side order to Richard Spalding's GrooveProsch‘s cracking debut crime novel Answer Death.

The first story is Spalding’s Groove which kicks off when a has-been TV star comes into Dan Spalding’s shop to sell some records.

The second story is Cinderalla Makes Good and tells the tale of a man whose brother has died in a car accident. Both stories are very well- written and great fun.

Tasty!

Recommended Read: Down To No Good by Earl Javorsky

down to no good.In Earl Javorsky‘s first Charlie Miner novel – Down Solo– the private eye discovered that he’d been killed but – for reasons unknown to him –  had come back to life. In Down To No Good, Charlie attempts to come to terms with this situation, as well as deal with the various other problems in his life.

Charlie also agrees to help Dave Putnam- his booze soaked Homicide Detective pal- investigate a flamboyant psychic who had helped the Los Angeles police in the past.

Down To No Good is a fast-moving and funny crime fiction thriller that is full of great characters and sharp satirical asides. The supernatural elements don’t detracting from this cracking yarn but give it a distinctive flavour all of it’s own.

If you enjoyed Down Solo then you’ll certainly love Down To No Good. Highly recommended.

The Gumshoe and The Neon Boneyard for 99p!

I’ve recently remixed and rebooted a couple of my eBooks and they’re currently available for 99p!

THE GUMSHOE: THE PETER ORD YARNS gumshoe new

A booze addled private eye stumbles and tumbles through a small town in the North East of England in this blackly comic Brit Grit short story collection.

CONTENTS:

GUMSHOE BLUES
THE LADY AND THE GIMP
WHO KILLED SKIPPY?
SHIFT WORK
MR KISS AND TELL
THE NIGHTWATCHMAN

the neon boneyardTHE NEON BONEYARD: A ROMAN DALTON YARN

The Neon Boneyard is a pulpy noir/ horror short story featuring Paul D. Brazill’s creation Roman Dalton – Werewolf PI. The werewolf PI and his oddball cohorts are caught up in a gang war that also embroils Mr Hyde, Frankenstein’s monster and Sherlock Holmes.

You can grab them from Amazon. com, Amazon.co.uk, or any other Amazon you fancy.

Crime Uncovered: Private Investigator

crime uncoveredI’m very pleased to contribute an interview with the splendid Nick Quantrill to the latest in the Crime Uncovered series.

Here the skinny:

‘The private investigator is one of the most enduring characters within crime fiction. From Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade— the hard-boiled loner trawling the mean streets—to Agatha Christie’s Captain Hastings—the genteel companion in greener surrounds—the P. I. has taken on any number of guises. In Crime Uncovered: Private Investigator, editors Alistair Rolls and Rachel Franks dive deep into crime literature and culture, challenging many of the assumptions we make about the hardy P. I.

Assembling a cast of notable crime fiction experts, including Stephen Knight and Carolyn Beasley, the book covers characters from the whole world of international noir—Giorgio Scerbanenco’s Duca Lambert, Léo Malet’s Nestor Burma, and many more. Including essays on the genealogy and emergence of the protagonist in nineteenth-century fiction; interviews with crime writers Leigh Redhead, Nick Quantrill, and Fernando Lalana; and analyses of the transatlantic exchanges that helped to develop public perception of a literary icon, Crime Uncovered: Private Investigator will redefine what we think we know about the figure of the P. I.

Rolls and Franks have engaged here the tension between the popular and scholarly that is inherent in any critical examination of a literary type, along the way unraveling the mystery of the alluring, enigmatic private investigator. Crime Uncovered: Private Investigator will be a handy companion for any crime fiction fan.’

Get it HERE!

 

Recommended Read: Small Change by Andrez Bergen

small changeWhen hardboiled private eye Roy Scherer inherits an unwanted side-kick, in the nerdy form of Suzie Miller, they soon embark on a series of wild, way out and weird adventures.

Andrez Bergen’s Small Change is an interconnected collection of short stories and vignettes that  smartly mixes up Raymond Chandler with Jim Jarmusch and Scooby Doo.

Small Change is sharp, witty and a hell of a lot of fun.

Recommended Read: The Man In The Window by Dana King

the man in the windowPrivate Eye Nick Forte is hired by obnoxious musician Marshal Burton to follow Burton’s equally obnoxious  wife. What should be a mundane divorce case spirals out of control when Burton is killed.

Dana King’s The Man In The Window is a joy. Gripping and touching, The Man In The Window is a cracking yarn full of great dialogue and vivid, colorful, well-drawn characters ( especially Zoltan!)

Highly recommended.

A Song For Saturday: Johnny Staccato Theme by Elmer Bernstein

johnny staccJohnny Staccato, played by John Cassavetes, is a jazz pianist/private detective. The setting for many episodes is aGreenwich Village jazz club belonging to his friend, Waldo, played by Eduardo Ciannelli. The show featured many musicians, such as Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, Red Mitchell, Red Norvo, and Johnny Williams. (Ironically, given the show’s New York setting, all of these men were closely identified with the West Coast jazz scene, as the show was filmed largely in Los Angeles.) Elmer Bernsteincomposed both of the main theme tunes used and Stanley Wilson was music supervisor. Cassavetes also directed five episodes.

Guest Blog: My Special Needs Baby’s Long and Roundabout Road to Publication by Gary Anderson

I’m going start by making what might be a startling admission: I came to noir late. The Gwousz Affair is my first attempt at what might be if not partially classified as noir, then at least clearly influenced by it. In fact, I didn’t read Hammet or Chandler until a few years ago. I didn’t even watch Out of the Past and In a Lonely Place until well after my college years. Yet, I’ve recently come to realize that noir has always been with me, looming somewhere in the background, hiding in the shadows of my subconscious with a cigarette crushed between its teeth. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, my present publisher, Tom Vater over at Crime Wave Press, tweeted about a Huffington Post article by Otto Penzler, himself a noir editor, publisher, and aficionado. The byline was “Noir fiction is about losers, not private eyes.” And that pretty much sums up the article. According to Penzler, noir does not necessarily rest squarely on the shoulders of the Sam Spades or Philip Marlowes that have come to epitomize the mystery/noir genre. As Penzler rightly contends, noir fiction is peopled by down-on-their-luck, skeptical-that-life-will-ever-be-better-than-a-double-shot-of-rot-gut losers—miscreants so depraved and so full of self-loathing that even if they did catch a break, they’d somehow manage to turn it around into a colossal personal deficit of one sort or another. Yep, losers. Big-time losers.

Needless to say, the article was an eye opener for me. By Penzler’s criteria, most of what I’ve written up to this point in my writing career is at least noirish. Even the earliest manuscripts still hidden in my desk drawers have lead characters who might rightly be called losers—losers trying to make good under bad circumstances. In retrospect, this revelation, if it can be called that, is not really a surprising one. My own reading tastes have always leaned toward those kinds of lone wolf losers. Not surprisingly, then,  I’ve always had a fondness for private dicks—arguably, the quintessential lone wolf losers of literature. I love the way they talk. The way they drink. The way they kiss dames hard. The way they hate to fight but don’t mind knocking a man down with a hard right to the gut if they have to (and somehow make us believe it was for his own good). I love the way their own bleak outlooks, their untrusting natures, their hard exteriors hold them back, keep them down, make them losers for life. I love the way it’s always on their own terms—life, that is. Life is always on their own terms. That’s like something right out of a Greek tragedy, or at least, it should be.

So, all of this long and (I’m sure) frustratingly unfocused preamble leads me to my present point: I’ve actually written something truly noir. Okay noirish. Sci-fi noirish to be exact. I mean, Cornelius Planke is a hard-drinking, down-on-his luck P.I. He’s even got an ex-wife to prove it. Granted, he lives in the near future, in a world governed by highly intelligent bovines. That’s where the sci-fi/dystopian part comes in. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Rewind five years. I picked up The Maltese Falcon, a book that had been buried in my bookshelf for at least two decades, and read it from cover to cover. Then The Long Goodbye. Then Double Indemnity. And so on, and so on. At some point during that period I knew I was going to write something with a hardboiled P.I. as its central character.

But I guess I’ve never been one to do anything straight up. It’s my curse or my blessing—I don’t know which. Even my earlier so called literary work routinely strays off into the unliterary now and then. More often than not, actually. So when I sat down to write my latest novel, and I felt the tug and taunt of stranger times and future possibilities, I gave into the unholy urge and let my writerly self go there. The result was The Gwousz Affair. A genre-bender, which may be the nicest possible way to put it. But now, having this odd and admittedly hard-to-characterize work in my sweaty little palms, I had to find someone to publish it. Call it a premonition, but I suspected I may have some trouble. However, just as the thought of not finding a publisher would ever stop me from writing a book, the thought of not finding a publisher would never stop me from trying to find one. And so it began—my search for a home for The Gwousz Affair.

I didn’t even bother with agents. Okay, I tried one or two that were known to deal in noir. More of a formality than anything else, really.  As expected, they politely declined. So I went it alone and waded into the world of indie houses, not that it was an entirely unfamiliar world. I’d done it before, but never in genre fiction. My hopes were still quite high as I’ve known and know indie publishers, and they’re generally much more open to works that don’t fit nicely into this category or that than the big six publishers (to whom such works are anathema). But as it turned out, the indie publishers weren’t as open as I’d hoped. Most of them wanted only hardboiled, straight-up crime/mystery. In the words of one publisher, The Gwousz Affair was “simply too far afield” for him to publish. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how anything in literature could be too far afield to publish.

GAnderson2 (2)Nevertheless, I persevered. It was about this time that I came across Crime Wave Press. I liked the feel of their website, loved their logo, and thought their titles and covers looked and sounded great. There was something pulpy about the press that really appealed to me.  And as luck would have it—they’d only recently opened up submissions to international authors. As far as I was concerned, it was a done deal. This was the place for my dalliance with genre-benders, my special-needs baby. Of course, I had to convince Tom Vater and Hans Kemp of that.  As luck would have it, they were amenable to the idea. They liked the novel and wanted to publish it, despite the fact that by their own admission they’d never published anything quite like it before.  And that’s fine with me. In fact, that’s great with me. I trust their instincts. And mine, too, for that matter. So I guess now we wait and see if it catches on, The Gwousz Affair.  But one thing is certain—and years of writing experience have taught me this—I’m not waiting around too long. Because there’s a sequel to write. And like your cranky, always-hung-over creative writing teacher always told you, it aint gonna write itself. True that.

Bio: Gary Anderson was born and raised on the prairies of southern Alberta, Canada. Upon taking an advance degree in English Literature, he moved to Korea, where he worked in educational publishing. After a ten year stay in Korea, Gary returned to the West. He now lives and writes in Central New Jersey.

Get Ben Solomon’s The Hard-Boiled Detective FREE!

Get Your Hard-Boiled Fix for Free !

THBD

How’s about getting a whole year’s worth of detective fiction for free? For a limited time, Ben Solomon‘s promoting “The Hard-Boiled Detective” series by offering free subscriptions. Fans of Paul D. Brazill and “You Would Say That, Wouldn’t You?” can receive three stories of old-school, detective fiction every month for zip, zilch, squat. An entire year’s worth for free. All you have to do is subscribe with this special discount code:

pdbbw13.

To subscribe now, visit this link: http://thehardboileddetective.com/subscribe.php

For more info, shoot to the homepage.

Unlike Roosevelt and taxes, this offer won’t last forever, so take advantage now. And be sure to spread the word!

Guest Blog: The Hard-Boiled Detective Interview by Ben Solomon

THBD 001 Cover-1Have you ever planned a murder? I ply the art three times a month for my series, “The Hard-Boiled Detective.” I have to admit that this is an odd slant on the publishing racket: retro, private eye fiction on a subscription basis. After seven months and 21 adventures, word is finally, slowly, starting to break. Then in steps Paul D. Brazill, esquire, graciously suggesting I pen a guest blog.

You don’t double-hitch at that kind of generosity. I immediately propped a vanity mirror next to the laptop and conducted the following interview with myself. Sure.

The Hard-Boiled Detective” is some kind of series?

Sure. Doesn’t everybody have a series these days? Tag it, “old-school, detective fiction.” Three short stories come out every month.  Subscribers download tales in the format of their choice: epub, mobi or PDF.

Three? You’re really going to crank out three pieces every month?

That’s what everybody asks. I’ve been doing it since the site launched last February. Three yarns a month come rain or come shine. I guess I’m just crazy that way.

So who is “The Hard-Boiled Detective?” What’s his name, etc?

I won’t tell you his name. One’s as good as another.

Or the city that serves as his beat. You’ll figure it out, all right.

His time? It’s any period you like. Call it 1929, 1939, 1959.

A man of mystery?

Nix. Nothing like that. I wanted to create a throwback, see?

Narrative forms are always evolving. Like the flattening of the narrative arc in the cinema under the influence of new wave directors. (That played real esoteric-like, didn’t it?). How books and television immerse adventure stories in more and more soap opera subplot. I longed to get away from that and return to a simpler form.

So I modeled the series partly on the idea of classic television. I chose to avoid contemporary times, opting instead to create an undefined period piece. “The Hard-Boiled Detective” is basic, a romanticized valentine to the genre.

Isn’t that sweet?

I hope it doesn’t come across too sweet. That would gum up the format. I merely allow the hero’s actions and observations to do his talking. I’ve never developed his personal life. There’s no melodrama on that level.

So there is a format?

Sure there is. And it’s kind of funny. The last thing I want is to bog down the form in any heavy sense of realism, but something odd struck me when I began writing. You start out with the movies, then read Hammett and Chandler, add in Spillane, and then those countless detective shows on television—victims are everywhere. They’re dropping like flies. By the hundreds. Probably by the thousands. So it struck me: all these gumshoes must spend half of their professional lives at the local station house giving accounts to the bulls. That lightbulb established the format: each story of “The Hard-Boiled Detective” is told by our gumshoe hero as a statement to the police. Naturally, he likes spinning a colorful yarn.

So the characters and stories never develop, one to the next?

Not per se. I do attempt to reward regular readers, but each plot stands on its own—you can start with story number 11 without reading 1–10. Jump around as much as you want, even. It’s really as simple as old TV comedies. Every episode is self-contained. The idea’s to craft the P.I. and his tales as timeless. As timeless as a code of honor. As timeless as man’s corruption and sin.

You sure reference television a lot.

I don’t mean to. My first influences were Hollywood, all the way. Cagney and the Brothers Warner. Bogart. Raft. The entire Warner gangster cycle. Feels like I was weaned on ’em. And comic books and cartoon strips. Of course my generation claims ABC, CBS and NBC as surrogate parents. And then there’s books.

Detective-wise, Hammett came first for me. But it was Spillane that moved me towards this series. Spillane provided a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he inspired me to hit the keyboard; on the other hand, his later works made me long for the earlier tales before modern times and political correctness mucked up the proceedings. Call it a knee-jerk reaction, sure, but that was my take.

BSolomon4Of course, no set of masters is complete without mentioning Chandler. Aces. Simply aces. There’s no simile like a Chandlerism. It makes me think of that “Unfaithfully Yours” line by Preston Sturges: “You handle Handel like nobody handles Handel.” Sure.

So who do you go for, Hammett or Chandler?

Really? You’re going to throw that one at me? Okay. It’s means nothing, but for me? I prefer Chandler. I’ll also take Keaton over Chaplin, Astaire ver Kelly, and paper over plastic. Satisfied?

So when will we see “The Hard-Boiled Detective” on the little screen?

Probably around the same time I get my first book deal and “The Ed Sullivan Show” comes back to prime time. Sure.

But I’ve got some thoughts on that, just the same. A fella can dream, can’t he? See, I’ve got two ideas for the TV series. And they’re plenty radical.

First of all, we make it a half hour. Can you picture that? A 30-minute detective show? It’s just not done, but man, would it clip along! Leave ’em wanting more—there’s a motto for you.

Uh huh.

The second idea—this one is a pip. We’ve got an unnamed sleuth working the mean streets of an unnamed burg, right? In a sense, he’s unidentified, right? So we cast a different actor to play him in every episode.

So the detective is actually a guest star every week?

You got it.

Uh huh.

What the hell? After all, it’s my fantasy. It’s the stuff that guest blogs are made of.

## END ##

The Hard-Boiled Detective is here.

Guest Blog: Paris Noir by Seth Lynch

salazar-cover11My book, Salazar, is a PI novel set in Paris, 1930. I’ve been living with Salazar for years now – through many drafts and character transformations. The supporting cast tended to come and go, occasionally changing sex and frequently changing names, but Salazar managed to hang in there. The original murder investigation was dropped, along with the original client, and a new client arrived with a missing person case. Gradually the story took a more solid form and the re-writes were about improving the pace, tinkering with the plot, and cutting out the bits I’d put in because I thought they were witty.  You may have worked out from this that I’m not a plotter.

Once the format of the story solidified I found myself thinking more and more about the case itself. I’d cycle home from work cursing the rain and wondering how Salazar would go about finding Gustave Marty. Then, when I had a path for him to take, I’d think up ways to make that path difficult. After all, this wasn’t a missing man but a man who had deliberately done a runner. So, what might such a man, with money to spare, do if he wanted to disappear? What could he do to stop someone finding him and how far would he go? Might he leave traps? He might but he couldn’t just scatter bear traps on streets of Paris. So what sort of traps could he leave and how would they be triggered?

Then there were the gangsters. What would Salazar do when he came across them? Would there be gunplay, a knife fight, a chase through the tunnels of the Métro or cocktails all round and a game of whist? And in the world of gangsters and PIs there has to be room for a few romantic encounters. What men or women from the Parisian night would try to take advantage of our weary investigator? A few of my note books are filled with scribbled out scenarios and situations for Salazar to work through. Some of them were out right rubbish and others couldn’t be made to fit the story. Most of these scenarios died before they were born many more were culled before they could walk. Only a couple saw it all the way through to the published version.

Eventually the searching has to come to an end and Salazar must come face-to-face with Monsieur  Gustave Marty himself. Who was this man, Marty, and why did Marie Thérèse Poncelet want him found? Would he be holed up in an old mountain refuge with a six litre jug of absinthe in one hand and an World War I rifle slung over his shoulder? Would he be down on the Riviera rubbing shoulders with gigolos, con artists and the British nobility? And once he was found how should I wrap up the story? And after all that, what then for Salazar?

Salazar’s been hanging out with me for some time now, if you pop over to Amazon he can hang out with you for a while. I’m sure you’ll enjoy each other’s company. But before you invite him over make sure you have a chess set and a bottle of cognac at the ready and, I must warn you, Salazar will be smoking reefers at your breakfast table.

Seth Lynch blogs here.