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.
‘Once our beer was frothy but now its frothy coffee…’ – Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be by Lionel Bart
In 1959, the great Lionel Bart turned Frank Norman’s London set play ‘Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be’ into a musical comedy about ‘low-life characters in the 1950s, including spivs, prostitutes, teddy-boys and corrupt policemen’. This was a time of great change in post-war London – what with the ‘birth of the teenager’ and the Swinging Sixties looming on the horizon – and not everyone copes well with change, of course.
London is changing again, too, though not necessarily for the better. Online, I see a litany of news stories about classic cinemas being converted into apartments for the super-rich and the destruction Tin Pan Alley – the home of British rock n roll. Indeed, the Soho of Bar Italia, Ronnie Scott’s, Norman and Jeff in The Coach and Horses, or Francis Bacon and Derek Raymond in The French House seems long dead or dying.
Ironically, the 50s coffee bars so disparaged in ‘Fings’ are now lamented as they are replaced with over-priced, homogenised sandwich bars and ‘frothy coffee’ seems decidedly risqué.
My books Guns Of Brixton, Cold London Blues, and A Rainy Night In Soho are violently comic tales of London low-life, occasionally rubbing shoulder with the high-life. All three books focus on the Cook family – ageing London gangsters who aren’t adapting to change too well. All they have left is the shitty weather.
Here’s a clip from COLD LONDON BLUES :
‘Father Tim … looked out across the London skyline. The inky-black night had melted into a grubby-grey January morning. The city was waking now and the windows of the other granite tower blocks outside were starting to light up.
A cold wind, as sharp as a razor blade, sliced through him and Father Tim fastened his leather biker’s jacket as tightly as possible. Dark, malignant clouds crawled ominously across the sky.
‘Pissin’ miserable weather,’ he muttered to himself. ‘Pissin’ miserable country.’
He took a crushed packet of Marlborough cigarettes from the back pocket of his Levis, fished inside with shaking fingers.
On the opposite balcony, a tall man with long black hair took breadcrumbs from a plastic bag and threw them in the air. Black birds darted down from telephone lines where they had been lined up like notes on sheet music. The birds flew towards the tall man, landing on his balcony and sometimes on him. His raucous, joyous laughter brought an unfamiliar smile to Father Tim’s face.
On the street below, he could see a branch of a small general dealer with a bright green logo above the door, as well as an old bicycle factory that had recently been converted into a Wetherspoons pub, and a stretch of hip bars, including Noola’s Saloon, its green neon sign flickering intermittently.
The street bustled with the drunken debris of the previous night’s New Year’s Eve parties. The still-pissed and the newly hungover mingled. A massive skinhead in a leopard skin coat walked up to Noola’s Saloon and pressed a door bell. The door opened emitting a screech of escaping metallic music as he slipped inside. Iggy and The Stooges’ ‘Search and Destroy.’ A sense of longing enveloped Father Tim. A feeling of time passing like grains of sand through his fingers.
Father Tim felt his rheumatism bite as he inhaled his first cigarette of the day. His chest felt heavy. If ever there was time to get the hell out of London it was probably now. The quack had told him to piss off to Spain, or somewhere as sunny, for a bit, for his health’s sake. It wasn’t a bad idea, either. He could even stay at his sister-in-law’s gaff in Andalucía if he wanted. But he knew he wouldn’t stay away for long. London was in his bones. His blood. His lungs. For better or for worse.’
(This post first appeared at Tess Makovesky’s blog.)
DARK MINDS is:
‘A collection of short stories from some of your favourite authors
You think you know darkness? Think again.
Bloodhound Books presents Dark Minds – a collection of stories by authors who have come together to produce an anthology that will lure, tantalise and shock its readers.
What took place By the Water?
What goes on behind A Stranger’s Eyes?
And what is so special about Slow Roast Pork?
From master authors such as Lisa Hall, Steven Dunne, Louise Jensen and Anita Waller, readers can expect a one hell of a ride…
All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to Hospice UK and Sophie’s Appeal.
Dark Minds is a collection of 40 crime and thriller short stories from authors including; Louise Jensen, L.J. Ross, Lisa Hall, Steven Dunne, Betsy Reavley, M.A. Comley, Alex Walters and Anita Waller plus many more.’
And it includes my yarn ‘Life After Life.’
I asked a bunch of Brit Grit writers about their favourite Christmas book, film and song, and this is what they said:
Well my favourite Christmas book has to be John Updike and Edward Gorey’s ‘The Twelve Terrors of Christmas.’ Film has to be Lon Chaney as The Wolfman. I love old horrors especially at Christmas! And song has to be ‘Fairytale of New York’ as I adore The Pogues and Kirsty! (I remember when they were called Pogue Mahone! Kiss my arse in Gaelic!)
I’m going to be really tedious and say ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.‘ Still gets to me every time. Music-wise, Jona Lewie and ‘Stop The Cavalry’. Christmas book? That’s a difficult one, I never much liked Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’ and don’t really recall others specifically about that time of year as I would probably have avoided them like the proverbial. So can I have a play instead? For which I nominate Steven Berkoff’s one-man short play ‘Harry’s Christmas‘. Devastating.
The book has to ‘A Christmas Carol,’ obvious I know but it’s the only actual Christmas book I can remember reading! I know when I see other choices I’ll kick myself (so if you have any suggestions, let me know) For film I’d have to go with ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, although ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ comes a close second. And song – there are so many – but ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ has the right blend of sweetness and melancholy for me.
Book I can’t really look beyond Dickens with ‘A Christmas Carol’, though you can’t beat a winter’s evening in the warmth with a book from a favourite author. Film Being a cynical and hardboiled crime writer is fine for 364 days of the year, but the remaining day has to be reserved to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Song, all of Kate Rusby’s “While Mortals Sleep” is great and the use of a brass band gives it that distinctive Yorkshire feel that warms me.
Book – ‘The Grinch who Stole Christmas’ by Dr Seuss Film – ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’. Song – ‘White Wine in the Sun’ by Tim Minchin
“The Spy Who Came For Christmas” by David Morrell, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Silent Night” by Bing Crosby
Favourite book –‘The Mystery Of The Invisible Dog’ (it takes place between Christmas and New Year. Favourite film – either ‘Scrooged’ or ‘Die Hard’. Favourite song – ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ by Slade.
Book: ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Film: ‘Die Hard.’ Song: ‘Feed The World.’
‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ – I can’t count how many times I’ve seen it – ‘White Christmas.’
‘The Long Shadow’ by Celia Fremlin. ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ (Cary Grant, David Niven).’The World of Winter’ by Bing Crosby
Here we go: Christmas Book – ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charlie Dickens, Christmas Film – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Christmas Song – ‘White Christmas’ – SLF.
Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Deep Throat’, Frank Zappa’s ‘Bobby Brown.’
Okay, right now, off the top of my head: my favourites are Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Bad Santa’, and The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’.
Book/ story – ‘A Christmas Carol’, Film – gotta be a Bond, not traditional, of course, but the nostalgia of a Christmas evening Bond flick, Song – I would say Slade then again, I have a tradition of listening to Frank Sinatra at Christmas.
Um…’Little Women’, ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’, and oh, everyday a different answer so….Darlene Love, ‘Christmas Baby Please Come Home’. Best Xmas LP ‘A John Waters Xmas’.
‘The Little Matchgirl’ by HC Anderson for book, or ‘Mog’s Christmas’. The best and most underrated Christmas film ever is ‘Scrooged’. Song has to be ‘Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M’. Tune.
Oh easy, Charles Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’, ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ – Elvis Presley and film would have to be ‘Home Alone’.
‘Run Run Rudolph’ by Chuck Berry, ‘Diner’ (Barry Levinson) and ‘The Christmas Star’ (it’s a short story, so I hope that counts) by Mina Lewiton.
Can’t think of an Xmas book but ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Fairytale of New York.’
My favourite book is ‘Sausagey Santa’ by Carlton Mellick III, song is ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade, but film is a toss up between ‘The Santa Clause,’ ‘Elf,’ and Ron Howard’s ‘The Grinch’ – I like the garishly colourful and OTT ones!
I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas on the planet. I quite like some of the old traditions, but hate the modern, consumer-driven, hyped-to-hell-and-back, be-perfect-or-else-you’ve-failed version, which tends to bring me out in a severe case of Bah Humbug. So my choices of reading, watching and listening matter over the festive period tend to reflect this.
Favourite Christmas song: there’s a special mention for Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ which brings back happy memories of school Christmas parties. But the winner, hands down, is ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty McCall. Any Christmas song that includes lyrics like You scumbag, you maggot, You lousy old faggot gets my vote every time, and the harmonies (even with lead singer Shane McGowan apparently on such a massive bender he could barely stand up during recording) are amazing.
Favourite Christmas movie: I can’t really handle all those mushy-gushy sanctimonious ‘isn’t family wonderful’ type movies that you’re supposed to like at Christmas. But Home Alone won me over the first time I saw it. It has just the right blend of mischief, quirkiness, and sheer evil joy, from parents forgetting one of their own children, to Macauley Culkin’s 8 year old dreaming up ever nastier ways to keep the burglars out of the family home. Great fun!
Favourite Christmas book: this one really had me stumped. I wasn’t sure if there were any specific Christmas books, and when I googled, I’d never read most of them and wasn’t keen on the rest. However, my favourite as a kid was probably ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C S Lewis for the sheer magic and inventiveness of the story. Although these days, I probably have more sympathy with the Wicked Witch than I ought to. Imagine: always winter but never Christmas. I can think of worse things…!
HAVE A BRIT GRIT CHRISTMAS!
Over at Tess Makovesky‘s blog, she has a regular spot where writers talk about their book’s setting.
I’m over there this week talking about London:
‘In 1959, the great Lionel Bart turned Frank Norman’s London set play ‘Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be’ into a musical comedy about ‘low-life characters in the 1950s, including spivs, prostitutes, teddy-boys and corrupt policemen’. This was a time of great change in post-war London – what with the ‘birth of the teenager’ and the Swinging Sixties looming on the horizon – and not everyone copes well with change, of course.’
I’m pretty damned pleased that my yarn ‘Life after Life‘ will be included in Bloodhound Books‘ forthcoming Dark Minds anthology.
The charity anthology is edited by Betsy Reavley and the full cast list is as follows:
Dark Minds Charity Anthology by Bloodhound Books
1. Ten Green Bottles — B A Morton
2. London’s Crawling — Emma Pullar
3. The Shoes Maketh The Man — Louise Jensen
4. Never tell a Lie — Tara Lyons
5. A Christmas Killing — Richard T Burke
6. By the Water — Betsy Reavley
7. A Cup Of Cold Coffee And A Slice Of Life — Tony R. Cox
8. Slow Roast Pork — S.E.Lynes
9. A Lawful Killing — Ross Greenwood
10. Sticky Fingers — JT Lawrence
11. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger — Ron Nicholson
12. The Wages Of Sin — Lisa Hall
13. Hidden — KA Richardson
14. The Sydney Dahlia — A.J.Sendall
15. Pop Dead – The Pension Papers — Pete Adams
16. The Sins of Muriel McGarry — A.S.King
17. The Shepherd’s Bothy — L J Ross
18. Life After Life — Paul D Brazil
19. The Smallest Acorn — April Taylor
20. An Onion — Joel Hames
21. I’ve Gone — Anita Waller
22. The Bridge — Simon Maltman
23. The Moth In The Jar — Jim Ody
24. Jimmy Jimmy — Steven Dunne
25. Be Careful What You Wish For — Peter Best
26. My Own Eggsecutioner — Tess Makovesky
27. One Last Job — Alex Walters
28. A Stranger’s Eyes — Paul Gitsham
29. Dangerous Actions — M.A.Comley
30. Captive — Stephen Edger
31. Left Behind — Nick Jackson
32. Horror — Roz White
33. Mary and Joseph — David Evans
34. Love You To Death — Lucy V Hay
35. Fastball — Alex Shaw
36. The Retreat — Jane E. James
37. Out of Retirement — Mark L. Fowler
38. Don’t go to Marsh Town, Johnny Ray! — Charlie Flowers & Hannah Haq
39. Everything Comes — B.A. Steadman
Publication is expected in early December and there will also be an audio-book version!
When Brian Warren first tells his probation officer Jo Jackson about finding a body, she doesn’t believe him but as she digs deeper into his story she uncovers a chilling and grisly truth.
A serial killer and six unconnected victims are trapped in a web of violence in Tess Makovesky‘s cracking debut Raise The Blade, a brutal slice of Brit Grit crime fiction.
Over at Goodreads, Tess Makovesky reviews The Last Laugh and says:
‘Sheer joy from beginning to end. It takes rare skill to throw together sleazy settings, hopeless characters and some really dark story-lines and turn the mixture into sheer unadulterated fun, but Paul Brazill manages with ease.’
Read the rest here.
The clue’s in the title on this one. The story was inspired by a news report, sometime last year, from America. A man had disappeared several years earlier and had eventually been declared dead by his relatives and/or the authorities. Then he turned up again, alive and well, but the sting in the tale was that he couldn’t be declared alive again because of some obscure, historic state law. In that particular state, if you’re ‘dead’ for more than three years, you’re dead. Period. End of. No resurrection allowed.
I found that fascinating. Not just for the facts themselves (although they’re weird enough in themselves) but in what it meant for that man, and his family. Could he even live in modern America with no identity? Could he pay his bills, get a job, drive a car, get a passport to go abroad, all with paperwork officially stamped ‘deceased’? Would he have to start over, rather like someone on the witness protection programme, and become someone entirely new? Needless to say, the news reports didn’t go into that much detail, so I still have no idea.
It doesn’t matter, because ‘Dead Man Walking‘ doesn’t follow the above story to the letter, anyway. As with most of my stuff, the initial inspiration soon changes into something else, usually darker, often with an even more vicious sting in the tail. That’s what happened here. I took the original idea and chucked it around for a while, watching it bounce off walls and change shape, until this story was born. In my version, Johnny is a thug with a penchant for violent robberies – and the perfect alibi. Because, as he says, you can’t be done for murder if you’re dead. Trouble is, his plans all go tits up. Nothing’s ever quite that easy; nothing ever works out quite the way you expect it to. Just ask that American chap!