Recommended Read: Rat Pack Confidential by Shawn Levy

Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey & the Last Great Showbiz Party’

The Rat Pack were formerly known as the Clan, until they turned up at a Noel Coward gig in Las Vegas looking so rough that Lauren Bacall said they looked “like a goddamn rat pack”.

The Rat Pack were, of course, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.

Levy’s exhilarating spiked cocktail kicks off in Las Vegas in January 1960 when Sinatra summons a group of friends there to make a movie. It was a time when Frank and his Pack pretty much owned the world of showbiz and defined what stardom was all about.

In Rat Pack Confidential we go on a bar crawl with stars,starlets, mobsters, corrupt politicos – even the President of the United States is a major player and far from saintly. It’s a booze up that turns into a monster hangover after just four adrenalin, ego and drink pumped years.

But it’s not just a biography of five famous men. It’s a biography of Vegas – its neon rat-pack-confidentialbrightness casting sordid shadows, its murky corners – and of an era; an era burning out.

Most biographies- especially showbiz biographies- are as flat as week old champagne but Levy’s prose sparkles and fizzes and is damn well intoxicating. He pulls no punches in showing the Rat Pack’s unpleasant sides – the picture he paints shows their spiritual impotence as much as their cultural importance .

I reread this book last year, a decade since I’d last read it, and I loved it just as much on the second reading.

Ring a ding ding!

Short, Sharp Interview: Nick Quantrill

To be published by Caffeine Nights, late 2009.

March sees the publication of Hull writer Nick Quantrill’s long awaited first novel ‘Broken Dreams’.

Here’ s the buzz:

Joe Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull.

Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death in her bed, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry.

And here’s the interview:

PDB) Pitch me Broken Dreams in 25 words or less

NQ: ‘Broken Dreams’ is the story of a forgotten city’s past, present and maybe its future. With added murder and corruption, of course.

PDB) Where did the idea for the story come from?

NQ: I’ve always written stories set in my home city of Hull, so ‘Broken Dreams’ was kind of inevitable. Until the mid-1970s, the city was a thriving fishing port which employed huge numbers of people. When government policy changed, countless people’s work was ripped away from them with little or no compensation. Worse, it demoralised the city and in truth it’s never really got back on its feet. With ‘Broken Dreams’, I wanted to explore what happens to people in those circumstances, how it still ripples down the line in the 21st century. Once I got that, the optimist in me started to think about the regeneration and opportunity it brings. It didn’t last long though, and I started to see the potential for a crime story in there, and it quickly fell into place. It’s not something, so far as I can see, which has really been tackled by other writers in the city, so this is my way of trying to readdress the balance a little. Not that I’m expecting a thank-you from the local tourist office for my efforts…

PDB) Why a PI story?

NQ: I’d messed around with a police character for a while in an unpublished novel and some short stories. I was really lucky to have decent access to a couple of local detectives but it never quite seemed to gel right. At best, I was second-guessing how a policeman thinks and feels. I had to change it and the PI seemed the obvious choice. I could still write about the same kind of issues but without the worry of getting it ‘right’. One thing I did carry over was the decision to make Joe Geraghty, my lead character in ‘Broken Dreams’, ‘normal’. The thing which had really struck me when meeting the local police detectives was how regular they were. They weren’t superhuman. They were just ordinary guys trying their best to do extraordinary jobs. And that was something I wanted to bring to the story, whilst still letting Joe mix it up a bit when needed.

PDB) Would you consider yourself a political writer?

NQ: No, not at all. I think what fuels ‘Broken Dreams’ is anger rather than politics. In truth, I can’t claim to know an awful lot about the politics behind the decisions which impacted on Hull, and the North of England, so severely. Furthermore, as a writer, I’m not hugely bothered. My interest is more in the consequences and the effects of these decisions, rather than their causes. The novel I’m currently working on is about a missing musician, so it’s definitely a change in that respect.

PDB) Is the North of England a good place to set a crime novel?

NQ: Too right it is! The North of England is often portrayed as a grey, dark and wet place but it’s an area of huge contrasts. For a crime writer, it’s got it all. Some areas of the North have been decimated through death of industrial work, yet other areas attract huge investment. You’ve got important cities like Manchester and Leeds, yet you’ve got glorious rural spaces like the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District on your doorstep. I’ve visited some great places around the world over the last few years with my wife, but there’s nowhere like home.

PDB) Which writers blow your skirt up?

NQ: I’m a big crime reader, though I read widely within the genre. If I had to pick a few favourites, George Pelecanos would be pretty much at the top of the list. I love the way he can pick apart seemingly innocuous events and characters, yet be no less interesting for it. Equally, Graham Hurley writes a first-rate UK police procedural which never resorts to serial killers or policemen needing to flout the rules to get their man. They both seem to be able to make the everyday exciting. Ray Banks is my favourite ‘lesser known’ writer. I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but his Cal Innes novels have taken the PI novel into new and interesting places. I can’t wait to see what he produces next. I love some of the big hitters, too. Say what you like about Lee Child, but he knows how to make you turn a page and Michael Connelly is able to consistently produce intelligent blockbusters. Away from crime, I tip my hat to John Steinbeck. I’m a huge fan of all his work and I think you can detect his traits in the work of people like Pelecanos.

PDB) What’s next?

NQ: I’m chipping away at the next Joe Geraghty novel, provisionally entitled ‘The Late Greats’. I’ve broken the back of it, so hopefully I’ll have something worthwhile by the summer. Working with Caffeine Nights has been great, so hopefully it’s a relationship which will continue. I’ll worry about that side of things later this year. Hopefully, I’ll also find the time to write some new short stories, but other than that, I’ll be promoting ‘Broken Dreams’ to the best of my ability. I’m well aware of how many great writers there are out on the Internet snapping away at my heels, so to be given this chance is fantastic. I want to make sure I take advantage of any opportunity it brings. Rest assured, I’ll be giving it my best shot.

Broken Dreams will be published by Caffeine Nights in March 2010.

Nick’s Website – Hull Crime Scene – is here



Hartlepool Headland is haunted. Everyone knows that. My brother Brian even discussed the matter on television after experiencing a haunting in…a pub. Ahem.

The pub in question is The Cosmopolitan Hotel and it is now part of a Ghost Tour.

The tour’s official website talks about the tunnel beneath the pub:

‘The Tunnel area has now been blocked off with a door as staff are too terrified to venture near it. Its got a wicked reputation since activity started back in the 70’s, at least this is on the record. All starting after alterations and the cellars were renovated. Worked stopped and its half finished as workmen refused to carry on near the tunnels.’

Scary? It was for my brother whose boss spotted the TV interview and wondered what he was doing in the pub in the afternoon instead of working!


Jason Michel’s PULP METAL MAGAZINE has a TON of new material this month.

FICTION: Frank Duffy, Danny Hogan, John Donald Carlucci, Evan Fleischer and Jason Henry McCormick.

MUSIC: Visual Noise By J. J. Anselmi

CELLULOID: The film Charlie Bubbles by ME

NON FICTION: Ticket To Ride – A True Story By Robert Crisman, David Zeltserman Interview by ME.

Richard Sanderson- The Post Punk Peter Hamill by ME.

And, of course, theres lots of juicy stuff in the archives.

So get on over there:

Over 18’s only, though!


If, like me, your a fan of FULL OF CROW magazine and it’s myriad offshoots (BLINK INK,
etc) then you’ll be pleased to know that their Don of Dons Lynne Alexander has now set up a fantastic looking blog.

This will make it a lot easier for the likes of me to keep track of their comings and goings.

One piece of news is The Full Of Crow Poetry Hour:

Full Of Crow Poetry Hour: Full Of Crow Poetry Hour on BTR. (link) (Advance Sign Up, Poetry Readings With Featured Poets) Open to all poets, all are welcome! This hour- long show still uses the call in format on Blog Talk Radio, but poets should sign up before the show starts for a time slot. Each poet will have about five minutes. Please contact Lynn Alexander (host) with the number you will be calling from so you can be identified in the call queue. You will also get an estimated time to call in to reduce the wait time.Sign up for alerts, show tools, and more here.

Full Of Crow Poetry Hour. Weekly, Sunday evenings at 10:00 p.m. Contact: Lynn Alexander, host.

Pop over and have a gander, eh?

Win a Signed ‘First Edition’ Hardback copy of SLASH AND BURN

Matt Hilton’s Dead Men’s Dust was one the most enjoyable books I read last year and I’m looking forward to the follow up JUDGEMENT AND WRATH.

Well, I see that Mr. Prolific has already finished number three of the JOE HUNTER books!

SLASH AND BURN goes on sale in April and Matt is hosting a short story competition where you can Win a Signed ‘First Edition’ Hardback copy of SLASH AND BURN

Pop over to MATT HILTON THRILLS for the details.

The Circle Of Friends Awards

That nice Helen Ginger at the blog Straight From Hel was

kind enough to give a a Circle Of Friends Award.

And so, I’ll also give this award to a few of my online cronies.


2. Sandra Seamans

3. Alan Griffiths

4. Michael J Solender

5. Lee Hughes

The ‘rules’ are that THEY have to pass it on to five of their pals.

So- as McCloud used to say- There’ Y’go!

The Post Punk Peter Hammill – Richard Sanderson

In his introduction to his very good Postpunksampler 2, the legendary Julian Cope says tells this story:

‘In 1979, a smart, cool-looking guy called Richard Sanderson came backstage after a (Teardrop Explodes) Middlesborough show and gave me a bedroom recording of his quartet Drop. In his manner, style and quiet confidence, Richard was the Peter Hammill of Post-Punk; anguished, lean and nobly Norman. I loved every song on the tape and played it to Bill Drummond and Dave Balfe (of Zoo Records) , who rejected it outright for being too much like ‘The Teardrops and the Fall’.

So, who was the ‘Peter Hammill of Post-Punk’?

His bio says this: Richard Sanderson was born in 1960. He is originally from Middlesbrough in the North East of England, but has lived in London for 24 years.

After a background in punk and post-punk groups he shifted into experimental music. Playing electronics, toys and squeezebox, he has recorded and performed with many left-field musicians. He was a director of London Musicians Collective for 10 years, and ran several clubs promoting experimental and improvised music such as “The Club Room”, “Baggage Reclaim”, “Western Civilisation” and “Scaledown”.

In 2005 he joined Blackheath Morris Men as a dancer. In July 2005, together with Neil Denny, Richard created the ‘rationalist’ radio show Little Atoms.

In 2009 he left the world of paid employment in the music business, and scaled down his other activities to look after his two young children. He has been married to Ruth for 15 years.

And what of Richard’s legendary band Drop?

Richard says: ‘Drop coalesced out of my first punk band, The Silencers, and by the end of 1978, the steady line-up was-

Richard Sanderson – Vocals/Guitar Neil Jones- Keyboards Chris Oberon – Bass Andy Kiss – Drums

Listen to the music that Julian Cope raved about HERE

I’ve know Richard Sanderson for over thirty years. I first met him in a pub in Stockton when he was in DROP and I’ve been a friend and fan since then. I was even in a couple of bands with Richard- Halcyon Days and Oceans 11.

Richard has now also released an MP3 compilation of some of his songs from 1978 -2009. One of the songs is Oceans 11‘s ‘I Guess I’m Sentimental’ which was one of their better tunes. There’s also some other cracking stuff there including Drop’s French Windows which was covered by Julian Cope’s brother’s band. Click HERE for the track listing and download details at Richard’s blog BAGGAGE RECLAIM.

There’s more to The Weird & Not Very Frightening World Of Richard Sanderson than this but it’ll get you started.



AT THE BIJOU is the brainchild of Absolutely-Kate Pilarcik.

Kate is a distinctive writer well known to anyone who has wandered over to SIX SENTENCES. She is also the the mastermind behind Harbinger*33 the forthcoming anthology featuring writers and artists such as Eric Beetner, Jodi MacArtur and even me.

AT THE BIJOU features writing from the Harbinger* 33 crew and MORE!

Right now you can find a NOIR*ARAMA double DOUBLE bill featuring stories from

Anthony Venutolo, Absolutely*Kate, Kevin Michaels & me.

(My story IN THE DOGHOUSE is the only story that I’ve written in ‘American’ BTW.’)

There’s a lot of top writing AT THE BIJOU and links to some of the writers’ other work.
So pop into the Bijou, you’re sure to find something you’ll like here: