Category Archives: Tony Black

Guest Blog: Bay Of Martyrs by Matt Neal

bay of martyrs coverA good trick in songwriting is to start with the title first. Come up with a great name for your song and you’re well on your way – a good title can not only sum up the central ideas and themes of the song, but it can also give you a rhythm, suggest a melody or hint at a musical style.

I think Tony Black had the title for Bay of Martyrs before he had the plot – he’d seen the cove on the Great Ocean Road during his days as a journo in Warrnambool, and filed it away as a possible name for a novel. Just like with a song, the title suggested key elements. There’s a coastal setting, and people are being martyred for causes (they just don’t know it). As a title, Bay of Martyrs also has a noir-ish feel, despite it being a lovely place to visit, especially at this time of year.

It also helped set up the plot. If nothing else, it’s a good place for a body to wash up, at least in a crime novel (in real life there’s no such thing as a good place for a body to wash up, is there?). There’s your first chapter, but as all writers know, a first chapter is just that, and there are about 40 or so more you’ve got to figure out after numero uno.

The other thing Tony and I liked about the title was it gave us a good template for a crime series – we’ll name each one after a place in south-west Victoria in Australia. That’s where I live, and where Tony and I worked together at a newspaper back in the early 2000s. Tony always figured the region was ripe for a crime novel or three, so when we set to work in late 2015 to co-write a book, the pieces were already there in the back of his mind.

The question everyone asks me is how do you write a novel with someone on the other side of the world? The short answer is Google Docs. It allowed Tony (in Scotland) and I (in Australia) to be accessing and editing the same document at the same time. As I was writing the first draft, Tony was following a few chapters back, tweaking my words to create the second draft. The cool (or maybe creepy) thing was I could watch him editing my work. I don’t know if he knew I was watching, but sometimes after I finished a three-hour late-night stint of writing, I would see him log on and I would follow his cursor around for a while. Almost everything he changed made sense, so it was a great learning experience to metaphorically lean over his shoulder and see him at work.

A few people have asked me if any of Bay of Martyrs is taken from my real experiences as a journalist. I have seen a dead body on a beach down here before, but it was very different to the opening chapter. The second chapter, in which our hero Clay Moloney has a run in with a cop that doesn’t like him, well, I’ve definitely had that happen to me. The plot for Bay of Martyrs needed a bad cop obfuscating things, but I was loathe to make all the cops bad because I have some good friends on the force. So for every bad Frank Anderson there is a good Eddie Boulton.

The idea of good and bad really intrigued me while writing Bay of Martyrs. Our hero takes drugs, fraternises with drug dealers, and is somewhat sympathetic to one of the killers. I wanted to make sure there were some grey areas. Not everyone who takes drugs or sells drugs is bad, and sometimes people kill with good intentions. These are facts, but it also helped us (hopefully) steer away from caricatures.

I have to confess I haven’t read a lot of crime or noir – aside from Tony Black’s work, the only crime/noir I’ve read is by Raymond Chandler or Carl Hiaasen – but this was probably a strength. Tony handled that side of things, ensuring the plot was full of the requisite level of corruption and killings, with a few prostitutes and drug dealers thrown in for good measure, and decorating the prose with the right amount of noirish flourish. I tried not to think of it as a specific genre piece, but rather looked at it as though it was a movie, and took care of what I saw as the cinematic elements. I made sure there were enough action set pieces, in particular that our hero got beaten up enough times to keep it interesting, and made sure the dialogue hummed along.

If anyone asks me which bits I wrote and which bits Tony wrote, the short answer is that I wrote the bits in between the quotation marks and Tony wrote the rest. Or, rather, that’s the pithy half-true response that sounds good in interviews.

untitled-43Bio:  Australian journalist, film reviewer, musician, songwriter, and international author Matt Neal was born and raised in south-west Victoria. He’s been writing for The Warrnambool Standard for 15 years, is a prize-winning songwriter and a film reviewer for Australia’s ABC Radio. His first book Bay Of Martyrs – a crime thriller set in south-west Victoria – has been co-written with Scottish “tartan noir” novelist Tony Black. A sequel is due out in 2018.

Short, Sharp Interview: Matt Neal

bay of martyrs coverPDB: Can you pitch BAY OF MARTYRS in 25 words or less? 

A sexy, funny thriller set along south-eastern Australia’s Shipwreck Coast. Someone called it the Aussie True Detective. I won’t argue.

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

The entire oeuvres of XTC and The Beatles, The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Muppet Movie and the first 12 or so seasons of The Simpsons.

PDB: Which of your books do you think would make good films or TV series?

I’ve only written (co-written actually) one book, Bay of Martyrs, so that one. But I have written a screenplay which is a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit which I am desperate to get made (I’m not even kidding).

 PDB: Who are your favourite writers?

Aside from my co-writer Tony Black, who I am forever indebted to, my two favourite writers are Hunter S Thompson and Terry Pratchett, may they both rest in peace.

PDB: What’s your favourite joke?

Donald Trump is President of the United States of America.

PDB: What’s your favourite song?

Today, I think it’s Television’s Marquee Moon. Yesterday it was XTC’s Books Are Burning. Tomorrow it will probably be Ween’s If You Could Save Yourself, You’d Save Us All.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

I’m balls deep on the sequel to Bay of Martyrs, which is currently titled The Cutting -named after another local landmark in my little patch of Australia.

untitled-43.jpg

PDB: Anything else?

Did you know the outro to Hey Jude is longer than the rest of the song?

Bio:  Australian journalist, film reviewer, musician, songwriter, and international author Matt Neal was born and raised in south-west Victoria. He’s been writing for The Warrnambool Standard for 15 years, is a prize-winning songwriter and a film reviewer for Australia’s ABC Radio. His first book Bay Of Martyrs – a crime thriller set in south-west Victoria – has been co-written with Scottish “tartan noir” novelist Tony Black. A sequel is due out in 2018.

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: Summoning The Dead by Tony Black

summoning-the-deadThe 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.

Tony Black Reviews Cold London Blues

cold lodon blues kateOver at his PULP PUSHER blog, top crime writer  Tony Black says:

‘ Brazill is a writer I’ve followed for a few years now. He writes about the kind of edgy, street scrapper that I go for. His stories move like a crack whore on roller skates too – that’s fast and in directions you don’t tend to see coming. 

COLD LONDON BLUES is no exception. It opens with perhaps the best first-par I’ve read all year. The first par is a novel’s storefront, if it doesn’t draw you in, the writer’s failed. I’m not going to recount it here, buy the book ffs! But let’s just say it gets out the blocks like Usain Bolt.
The pace never falters from there. A stream of London lowlives come and go, each illuminating their own share of the darkness. There’s wisecracks, soundtracks and spades of humour.’
Read the rest HERE.

I’m Carrying On with Tony Black

carry on lollies

Over at his regular column for The Highland Times, Tony Black talks about recent plans to reboot the Carry On film series.

And I stick my neb in too! Here’s a clip:

Paul D. Brazill grew up in Hartlepool and is a self-confessed Carry On fan. He’s also the author of a number of books, including his most recent, The Last Laugh, and currently in production is Carry On Croaking. Brazill has even based a couple of his fictional characters on Carry On actors Sid James and Bernard Breslaw.

If there’s anyone you’d expect to be looking forward to a new Carry On film, it’s Brazill, but he’s not; far from it.

“I think it was very much a product of its time,” he said.

“It was the end of the era of seaside postcards. A celebration of absurdity and the grotesque. Things are cleaner these days and people are more delicate.

“It’s best to keep it in its world of pent up sexual frustration and class war.

“I think one of the reasons that it worked was because the actors were just that—actors. Not comedians.”

Read the rest here.

Recommended Read: The Last Tiger by Tony Black

thelasttiger1Maybe it’s not the sort of book you would expect from someone best known for crime fiction but Tony Black‘s The Last Tiger is certainly just as tightly put together as his crime novels. A really lovely and rich story of childhood and being a stranger in a strange land.

Here’s the skinny:

‘Subject to a bidding war among several publishers in 2013, The Last Tiger is a remarkable book. Black has incorporated his page-turning crime style into a literary story that has much to tell us about alienation, persecution, loss, and the bonds of family. Set in the stark, sweeping landscape of Tasmania, this is a literary thriller from one of the UK’s finest authors.’

“An authentic yet unique voice, Tony Black shows why he is leading the pack…Atmospherically driven, the taut and sparse prose. Powerful.” – NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS

“A beautiful powerful tale to move the hardest heart.’ – THE SUN

Guest Blog: The Ringer by Tony Black

ringer_pbk (2)Traditional publishing runs on rails, most of the time.

One of the strongest assumptions I faced when trying to become published, and stay published, was that a protagonist must be sympathetic. By that, it’s meant, that the reader must identify with and basically like the protagonist. It’s one of the publishing gatekeepers’ toughest padlocks, try rattling it and see how secure it is.

I did. And got nowhere.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I got to make Gus Dury about as close to an unpleasant pain in the arse as you can get, and, Rob Brennan isn’t exactly all sunshine and roses. But, there’s a world of difference between having a few flaws and being downright unsympathetic. Even Hannibal the Cannibal had a connoisseur’s taste in wine and an erudite hinterland to make him more, well, human.

But being a gruff Scot, brought up on protagonists like Irvine Welsh’s hardcase Begbie andWilliam McIlvanney‘s meat and potatoes man, Laidlaw made me wince at the niceties of some protagonists’ sympathetic antics. Why, I wondered, could Begbie throw a pint glass over his shoulder, slicing a young girl’s face to shreds in the process, and still be a fascinating character to follow?

I was lucky enough to ask Welsh if he’d ever been told to tone down his protagonists, to make them more sympathetic, and got a quick reply: ‘No.’

I mean, who’s going to tell a writer of Welsh’s standard that his characters are not nice enough. The idea is laughable.

I later posed the same question to William McIlvanney and got a curious look in reply that seemed to suggest he found the concept of a sympathetic character repellent, before he answered bluntly: ‘No. Never.’

There you go then, I wasn’t alone in having little or no sympathy with sympathetic characters. Much as I understand the logic of commercial publishing’s drive for universally acceptable protagonists, it’s not the only logic on offer in this debate.

If a sympathetic character can carry a story, keep a reader turning the pages to the end in order to see if the good guy beats the bad guy, or the boy gets the girl, then the opposite can be true. An entirely unsympathetic character can also hook a reader to the last page to see if they get their comeuppance for bad deeds.

And so The Ringer was born. Or more precisely, my unsympathetic protagonist, Stauner. I didn’t begin with a list of unwholesome traits to give him, or a tangle of thorny situations to put him in, my aim was only to show his story, from his point of view, with no holds barred.

I know if I’d submitted my book to a traditional publisher Stauner would be a turnoff. The days of publishers taking chances are long gone (even Welsh admits Trainspotting would never be published now). I’d be asked to tone him down, to make him nicer, insert a few scenes where he metaphorically helps old ladies across the road. But that would ruin him, and the book.

The only way to tell Stauner’s story, the only way to expose him to the reader, was warts and all. And so that’s what I did. He may not be a nice guy, you may not want to hang with him, go for a beer, but that doesn’t stop you being swept up in his train-wreck of a tale.

The Ringer is available as eBook and paperback from Amazon UK and Amazon USA now. 

Bio: Tony Black has also written three crime fiction series, a number of crime novellas and a collection of short stories. His next crime title is Artefacts of the Dead.

For more information, and the latest news visit his website at: http://www.tonyblack.net or his blog: http://www.pulppusher.blogspot.com

This post first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online’s Brit Grit Alley)

Short, Sharp Interview: Tony Black

the ringerPDB: Can you pitch your latest book in 25 words or less?

A nasty little revenge tragedy/heist novella set among the very low lifes of Glasgow called THE RINGER.

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

I’m becoming quite a fan of the Edinburgh outfit The Stagger Rats, they have a CD out called Scorpio Leisure, named after a knock-shop on Easter Rd – those crazy kids.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

A very bad one maybe.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

None at all. It was a hard enough schlep learning to write books.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

It varies enormously and depends on the story. Sometimes it’s all research, others none at all.

tonePDB; How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

I suppose the jury’s out on how useful it is, everybody seems to be shouting but nobody seems to be listening. I wouldn’t miss any of it if it disappeared tomorrow.

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?

A new Doug Michie novel called The Inglorious Dead; a new crime series character novel called Artefacts of the Dead and a non-crime novel called The Last Tiger. There might be the odd short here and there too.

Bio: Tony Black was described by Irvine Welsh as his “favourite British crime writer”. He is the author of 2 series’ of crime novels and also the recently published HIS FATHER’S SON, which Lisa Jewell called “soulful and stunningly written”. In 2014 he will release a Tasmanian-set novel called THE LAST TIGER. For more information, and the latest news visit his website at: http://www.tonyblack.net or his blog: http://www.pulppusher.blogspot.com

Top Tips: Recommended Reads

the crooked beat 2Tony Black – The Lost Generation

Four sharp slices of life that underline Tony Black’s strong storytelling skills. The Lost Generation is the dreamlike tale of an ex-pat in Paris; Take It Outside is the raw story of an ex-con coping with life outside prison; First Day In The Job is an ‘angry young man’ story of kicking against the pricks and To Cool For School is a lowlife tragi-comedy. A handful of gems.

Gerard Brennan – Wee Danny

Gerard Brennan has followed up the splendid Brit grit novel Wee Rockets with a tough and tender coming-of-age novella that focuses on one of the aforementioned book’s most likeable characters. Wee Danny is a touching, very funny and realistic study of loyalty and friendship and I can’t wait for the next chapter in Danny’s life.

A D Garrett – Everyone Lies.

A.D. Garrett is the pseudonym for crime writer Margaret Murphy and forensics expert Professor David Barclay’s writing collaboration. This is their first novel and good stuff it is, too.

DCI Kate Simms and Professor Nick Fennimore have a history. They were both involved in a controversial failed investigation into the disappearance of Fennimore’s wife and daughter. Simms was subsequently pushed back down to the bottom of the career ladder and Fennimore retreated to the womb of work.

But Simms, on her way back up the ladder at last, needs Fennimore’s help with the case that involves a string everyone-lies-200pxof dead drug addicts. They are soon embroiled in gritty and hard hitting investigation of crime and corruption, vice and murder, which cuts through all strata of society.

Everyone Lies is a tense and engrossing mixture of social realism and fast-paced thriller which is sure to be the start of an interesting and very enjoyable series.

Nick Quantrill – The Crooked Beat

P I Joe Geraghty steps up to help out his brother who is in dire financial straits. However, Joe is soon under the radar of Hull’s underworld and subsequently digs up some of the city’s dark secrets. This is the third of Nick Quantrill’s Joe Geraghty novels and the best yet with perfect pacing and a great sense of place and history. Not a bum note in the whole book.

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green – Paul O’Brien.

Epic and intimate. Intense and involving. Paul O’Brien’s follow up to Blood Red Turns Dollar Green is even more streamlined and even faster moving than its cracking predecessor. Loose ends from the first book are tied up and new ones opened up. This is a major piece of crime fiction storytelling that breathlessly moves from character to character and backwards and forwards in time. It really would make a great TV series along the lines of Boardwalk Empire or The Sopranos and I can’t wait for part three.