David Nolan’s I Swear I Was There – Sex Pistols, Manchester and the Gig that Changed the World is a hell of a yarn that ostensibly tells the story of the Sex Pistols’ impact on the Manchester music scene in the mid-1970s.
It focuses on three events – the Sex Pistols‘ first gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4 June 1976, their second showing at the same venue one month later, and their first televison appearance on Granada TV‘s So It Goes.
I Swear I was There is a cracking read for anyone interested in the music and culture of the time and like all cracking yarns it’s choc a block full of great chatacters- Tony Wilson, Jordan Mooney, Howard Trafford, John The Postman, Slaughter and The Dogs and many more. Great stuff!
Nothing surprises us anymore. Populism and fake news “prove” the world we knew will collapse any time. Migrants are not trying to escape heartless business models conceived by greedy arms dealers, they’re here to steal our jobs, rape our women and cut our heads off. Gay people lurk around every corner and threaten to infect our children who’ll also become homosexual. Right now, lizards are taking over the planet. And, yeah, the Earth is flat…
That’s what you can find out in the most reliable sources of social media. But here and there you can still find people who search for answers in literature. Answers about real life. Answers about people you’d never want to meet, but you empathize with anyway. About people who jeopardize everything to reach their goals, although you can tell from the start they’re not going to reach them. About people like … you and me.
So, another Alibi is over, another bunch of awesome people, not to talk about food and drink and what stories came out at the end.
This year we were kind of Balkan-themed: Johnny Shaw was in Croatia when we first talked about Alibi in January, Anamaria Ionescu is from Romania, and Marko Popovič & Robert Perišić, well we share the country that doesn’t exist anymore. And we represent Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia in the BalkaNoir anthology published by Greek publisher Kastaniotis Editions.
For me, Alibi means having an alibi for three days of shameless eating and drinking … And writing, of course, the third day means reading what you wrote in front of an audience. Check it out.
Again a group of fine people got together ― I’m not sure whether I have such luck in picking just the right people or is just every crime and noir writer a wonderful person?
Again some fine stories came out of the mix of hard work, earthly pleasures and mutual inspiration. Find them here.
In two years, a very special thing is going to happen: all the writers will get together again and celebrate the Alibi Anthology, where all the stories from 2015 to 2019 are published together.
PS: If you’re at Frankfurt Book Fair, visit the panel on Balkan Noir where I’m one of the speakers.
PDB: What’s going on?
I’m just recovering from the shock of my first novel being published. I still struggle saying the N Word… novel. It sounds so weird. Author is quite utilitarian but novelist still sounds suspect to me. This is the bit where I plug the book, right? It’s called Black Moss and it’s set in Manchester in 1990 during the Strangeways prison riot. It’s very sweary and unpleasant. It’s not knowing, there are no winks to the audience. It’s just unpleasant.
PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?
Yes. I like noise. I spent most of my working life in newsrooms with clattering typewriters, three TVs on and people screaming at each other. So yes, always music helps fill the silence: bit of punk, bit of electronica, bit of power pop, bit of reggae. Nearly all my previous books are music-related (I Swear I Was There, Tony Wilson, Damon Albarn) so I have an endless capacity for music.
PDB: What makes you laugh?
My daughter is 15 and she’s very funny. She calls me chief. Or Dave. Neither of which I like. Actually, she’s not funny, she’s annoying.
PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?
Being teetotal. Like me. And then being very smug about it. Like me.
PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
The far north of Scotland. Which is where I’m planning to move in a couple of years. I’d prefer to live on an island on a loch on an island that is impossible to get to, but I suspect I won’t manage to sell that idea to my wife (who’s Scottish). So a nice seaside village is more likely.
PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?
Nope. I’ve led a charmed life. Honestly, if I died tomorrow I’d be happy with what I’ve done.
PDB: What’s on the cards?
I’m doing quite a few radio interviews this week about the book. It’s set in a radio station, so that’ll be a bit weird. They’ll ask me if the characters are based on real people. I’ll say no. Which will be a lie.
PDB: Anything else?
Yes. Buy my book and I promise I’ll write another one.
Bio: David Nolan is a multi award-winning author, television producer and crime reporter. He has written a dozen books including Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, the true story of the largest historic abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police.
He presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary based on the book called The Abuse Trial. It won both the Rose D’Or and the New York International radio awards in 2016.
Officers involved in the case helped David with the police procedures featured in Black Moss, particularly the way the system deals with missing children.
Well, I’ve certainly lifted plenty of story and book titles from songs over the years. Small Time Crimes, my new collection, has more than a few yarns with titles nicked from songs I like.
I suspect most people would think that the title Chelsea Girls was pilfered from the 1967 Andy Warhol film and perhaps, indirectly, that’s true. It is, in fact, named after art rockers Simple Minds’ second single. I liked their first single, ‘Life In A Day and ‘Chelsea Girls’ too. I saw them live around the same time -1979 – at Middlesbrough Rock Garden and always associate the gig with beer and marmite.
In The Devil’s Name
The shadow of the shadow of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band hangs over this yarn. SAHB recorded a song about the Scottish witch Isobel Goudie and the pub in the story is called The Swampsnake. SAHB were one of my favourite bands in pre-punk times.
Life After Life
‘Lord Let us pray for life after life,’ sang Sniffin’ Glue founder Mark Perry in a cod reggae song. It was actually one of my least favourite of their singles but I bought it at the time and still like it.
New Dawn Fades
In rain soaked Leeds in September 1979, I saw Joy Division as part of the Leeds Futurama Festival- along with The Fall, Public Image and many more top turns. And JD made an impression for sure. Their first album Unknown Pleasures certainly did. This was before synthesisers softened their sound. They were still hard edged as well as mournful. They still had punk energy.
Band On The Run
Wings were ‘the band The Beatle’s COULD have been’ according to Alan Partridge. I certainly liked them more than The Fab Four as a kid. The cover of Band On The Run was well talked about at school in 1973, spotting the celebrities, most of whom are probably dead now.
The Friend Catcher
Before Nick Cave turned into the Goth Billy Joel, he was in The Birthday Party, an essential band that mashed up The Stooges with Pere Ubu and more. The Friend Catcher is a spooky ditty that always reminded me of The Child Catcher in Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang.
I suspect Willy Nelson sounded old and nostalgic even when he was a child and this is for sure a fitting title for a story about growing old.
Right Place, Wrong Time
This LP was always in the 50p section of the second-hand record shop where I worked but it was years later when I actually listened to it. See what I did then?
Sheila Take A Bow
Morrissey’s tribute to Shelagh Delaney, writer of A Taste Of Honey, Charlie Bubbles and more. Mozza pilfered many of her lines for his songs over the years of course, so it was the least he could do, really. From a time when The Smiths were more than just a soppy student band.
Small Town Creed
The Kane Gang, a bunch of working class lads from the north east of England in love with the sound of Detroit. Back in the ‘80s they had a couple of big hits in the UK but are mostly forgotten these days, sadly.
One of The Jam’s best tunes with a typically great bass line.
Life On Mars
My older brother Eric gave me Bowie’s Hunky Dory in the early ‘70s and I remember not being able to make head nor tail of the lyrics but bloody well trying! It’s all about our insignificant little lives, isn’t it?
Train In Vain
I saw The Clash in 1978 when the front doors were literally pulled off Middlesboro Town Hall. This song is smooth sounding aim at the American charts but it still has its appeal. They were always a conventional rock band, after all.
Seven Minutes To Midnight
Melodrama from Pete Wylie, the only one of The Crucial Three that I could bare to have a pint with. All sound a fury signifying quite a lot.
Flash fiction is sharp and spikey, as were The Fall, and as is this song from my favourite Fall period.
Getting Away With It
The Smiths meets New Order meets … The Pet Shop Boys? Much ridiculed at the time, I think, it was a top 20 hit in the UK and still stands up. And don’t we all like to think we’re getting away with it?
I made a You Tube playlist here
(This post first appeared at Toe Six Press)
PRE-ORDER NOW! Available 09/28/2018.
DEADLINES: A TRIBUTE TO WILLIAM E. WALLACE edited by Chris Rhatigan and Ron Earl Phillips — Published by Shotgun Honey, an imprint of Down & Out Books (September 2018)
• Trade Paperback — $16.95 (includes FREE digital formats!)
• eBook Formats — $6.99
The download link for the ebook (as a .zip file; use WinZip or iZip to open) will be included in the customer receipt when the order is completed on or just prior to the publication date.
Also available from the following retailers …
Deadlines is a tribute anthology dedicated to the memory of writer and crime fiction enthusiast, William E. Wallace. A career journalist, Wallace got a first-hand look at the darker side of humanity working at various papers in California before settling at the San Francisco Chronicle. Upon retiring, Wallace engaged fully into the crime fiction community connecting with writers and readers not only to promote his own writing, but to promote other writers he enjoyed.
It is through William E. Wallace’s career and his stories that the contributors to this anthology take inspiration. These stories are presented with appreciation to his unselfish contribution to our community and our publications.
All proceeds of this publication will be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in the name of William E. Wallace.
Learn more about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at cbldf.org.
And read William E. Wallace’s blog at PulpHackConfessions.com.
Thank you to those who contributed their time and stories: Preston Lang, Jen Conley, Joe Clifford, Will Viharo, Paul D. Brazill, Patricia Abbott, Rob Pierce, Sean Craven, Eric Beetner, Sarah M. Chen, Nick Kolakowski, S.W. Lauden, Scott Adlerberg, Gary Phillips, Renee Asher Pickup, Eryk Pruitt, Todd Morr, Travis Richardson, Anonymous-9, Sean Lynch, Alec Cizak, Greg Barth, C. Mack Lewis.
A joint publication of Shotgun Honey and All Due Respect.
‘The sky above the Dirty Lemon is the colour of diseased lungs. Fat clouds swirl above the pub, and the bronchial sky erupts as I push through the double-doors – bullets of rain thudding into the wheelchair ramp behind me.’
The first paragraph of Slug Bait – Tom Leins’ latest Paignton Noir Mystery – is a belter. It’s vivid, lurid, lewd, crude, and it sets the scene for the rest of the book perfectly. In Slug Bait, Poundshop PI Joe Rey is entangled with amusement arcade entrepreneur Ray Coody and he’s soon dragged even deeper in the mire, as usual.
As always, Tom Leins pushes the Brit Grit volume up to 11 and, as always, he does it with great aplomb.
Jackson Stobbart is given the unenviable task of taking care of Newcastle gangster Danny Hoy’s cash-stash. When Jackson’s girlfriend does a runner with the money, he sets off to track her down and get it back – before the psychopathic Hoy finds out he’s been ripped off. The Runner is another short, sharp knockout from the talented Paul Heatley. Also includes the cracking short story The Straightener.
On Saturday 22 September, I took part in the Festiwalu Literatury Wielorzecze in the town of Elbląg here in Poland. Nick Sweeney and I were interviewed by Arco Van Ieperen. Radek Obuchowski translated. Here is a version of that interview that I thought some of you might enjoy.
Why did you choose the genre of Crime Fiction for your novels and short stories?
Well, maybe the genre chose me? I started writing regularly in 2008, after discovering online flash fiction sites – most of which were crime fiction focused. A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, Beat to A Pulp. That said, it’s also an area of writing I’ve always enjoyed. Crime fiction covers a multitude of fictional sins and – outside the mainstream – allows for odd character studies – from Jim Thompson to Patricia Highsmith to Damon Runyon and more.
What are the difficulties in getting short stories and novels published nowadays? It is different from, say, twenty years ago in your opinion? Do you think it’s easier to get published in a major language such as English than in a less popular language like Polish?
I’d never even considered writing – well, never finished anything – in the good old bad old days of publishing, but my scattershot attempts at storytelling conveniently coincided with the rebirth of indie publishing – most of which is in English. It looks like it’s even harder to get published by the Big 6 these days. Publishing is a business, after all. And business doesn’t like risk. If you write in Polish, you’re only going to get published in Poland in the beginning. But the success of Scandi Noir shows that it’s possible to do well when translated into English. I’m not sure why Polish writers haven’t cracked that market, to be honest.
Humour is an important element in your novels and short stories – what is the function of humour in your work?
I write about people. People in extreme situations. People at odds with life, their frailty. As Charlie Chaplin said. “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”
You mainly write short stories and novellas. A Case of Noir, although it has the same protagonist throughout the book, reads like a series of short stories. Do you prefer shorter forms of fiction to longer novels, or is it only a question of time before you write a longer work?
I started writing via Six Sentences- tell a story in six sentences – and the stories got longer, so a novel is probably on the horizon. A Case Of Noir is indeed a series of short stories that I did for a now defunct Italian publisher but they’re stitched together with a rusty needle and a loose thread.
In an interview with David Nemeth you said that you “have already written more than most people need.” Do you think the crime fiction market is saturated or and does that discourage you from writing more, or do you give in to the constant need to write more?
I was joking- a bit- in that I’m well aware that my stuff has little chance of mainstream success. You’d think that the crime fiction market would already be saturated but reports of its death have clearly been exaggerated. I’ll keep plodding on doing my own thing, whatever.
Your work is readily recognisable as British fiction, regarding vocabulary, slang and subject matter. What makes British fiction different from its American counterpart in your opinion?
Maybe our sense of absurdity. It’s something we relish in many ways. American’s are sometimes chastised for lacking irony but I think it’s just that they can be painfully sincere.
I’ve read that you played the bass in a number of bands in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Your work is filled with references to music, musicians and lyrics. How important is music for you and what role does it play in your fiction?
It’s probably because I’m too idle to stretch to far outside the parameters of my own experience. But life always has a soundtrack, doesn’t it?
I know it’s a tedious question as I’ve been asked myself hundreds of times but: Why Poland?
Unlike Groucho Marx, I’ll join any club that will have me as a member! After I finished my TEFL course, I applied for lots of jobs in lots of places and a school in Poland were on of the first to answer. It seemed churlish to say no.
Has living abroad affected your writing in any way? Is it easier to write about your home country from a distance?
For sure it’s a view askew. Discombobulation is its own reward.
I truly enjoyed your novel Last Year’s Man, which of course is this year’s book. Could you tell us something about the story and how it came about, without providing too many spoilers, of course?
The big influence was the British comedian Tony Hancock, and also Takeshi Kitano. A sense of resignation to time moving on. An existential shrug of saying – ‘Stone Me, What A Life!’ And the fool’s errand of nostalgia.
Alcohol and drugs play a significant role in your work. Characters are often drunk or hungover, or drinking to stop being hungover. Do you think it reflects the crime scene and/or the ex-pats scene, or is it more of a Marlowian mood setting that you aim for, a wink to the noir from the forties and fifties?
Well, it’s never a great stretch! For sure the shadow of those tropes is cast, but it’s more about writing about people I know and situations I’ve known or know of. And most heavy drinkers are hopelessly deluded. Unholy fools. Which is great for absurdist noir fiction. As I’ve said before, crime fiction is about bringing order to chaos and noir is about bringing chaos to order. So ….