Wednesday, 1 December 2010


This is an unexpected surprise, even for me.

A post from a crazy interview by Cameron Ashley and Jimmy Callaway. What more could you ask for?

It arrived this morning and I didn't have the patience to wait.

Tis a long, beautiful and crazy thing and I'm going to put part one up today. Parts two and three will follow on the next two Wednesdays we stumble into.

And it's just occured to me, if these guys were to fuse into one person, they might be called Cam Callaway. Sound familiar? Minnie the Moocher? Never mind.

Before I let them loose, I wanted to publicise MiCrow, the bewitching and disturbed daughter of Full Of Crow. It's full of great work (writing and art) so it looks incredible. Worth checking out if I may say so myself (I have a piece in there based on psychological experiments). Go see.

And here we go. Hold on to your wallets and purses y'all.



The following was recorded somewhere between San Francisco and San Diego on October 17th, 2010, the last day of Bouchercon.

Jimmy Callaway: So, Cameron Ashley, all the way up from Australia, how is America treating you thus far?

Cameron Ashley: America is treating me wonderfully, thank you, Jimmy. I'm having an excellent time, although my brain is a bit fuzzy from a week of...pounding back beers.

JC: Yup. Well, we were talking before about the difference between Australia and America as far as crime fiction goes, so I want you to talk about that some, 'cause from what you're telling me, I get the impression that it's not as deep a scene as it is over here. So why do you think that is?

CA: Ahhh, well the obvious answers are things like smaller markets, smaller readership, but there's a lot of stuff that also ties into that. I don't know...the scene in Melbourne is obviously much smaller...

JC: Would you say that even though it's a smaller market and a smaller readership, but would you say that the readership over there is as passionate, as into it as the American...

CA: No.

JC: Really?

CA: No. No. I mean, you can''s completely different. The scene, such as it is, is pretty much co-opted by the capital L Literature set and it has a kind of stuffy air of pretension about it...and, this is all going to sound just horribly pessimistic, but I don't think there is a market, there is no market. And part of the problem in trying to work out what we're doing for Crime Factory, particularly since Liam and I are in's a difficult thing. We don't know what we're doing. We don't know how to market, we don't know how to publicise it, we don't know how to do it. And part of me just wants to give up on it, to not bother about Australia anymore. You know. And our famous authors, guys like Peter Temple and Gary Disher, they just live away from the cities. You know, Gary Disher lives in this little coastal town basically and just belts out his books...not that that's a bad thing, but...Temple refused his Ned Kelly nomination this year. He’s like, “Yeah, what am I gonna do with another one? Give it to somebody else.”

JC: You could say that it's a shame that those guys don't get the attention that they deserve, but at the same time that could be said about any of us, you know, from the biggest crime writer, to us down here on the lowest rung...but don't you think, to put a more optimistic spin on it, that since that nobody's paying any attention to it, you can do whatever the fuck you want. The fact that you guys have not given up, and are doing it, you're making that market. Crime Factory's great, I dunno how we did without it. Having Crimespree is awesome and Plots with Guns and all the ezines, and I don't know what we'd do without them either, but over here anyway, we're not like Oh no, another one of these zines, it's really...already, in just a year?

CA: Yeah.

JC: ...made such a huge splash and certainly it's frustrating to not get maybe an immediate reaction from your country-mates, but really I think you guys are the market, and you're doing it...

CA: Yeah, well, we're trying to do it...

JC: No, you are doing it. It's being done. I would argue that it's a process but it's being done.

CA: Yeah. I...dunno.

JC: Since when do I gotta be the voice of optimism?

CA: Well, yeah, this is the thing. It's hard not to be a bit pessimistic about it. It's a tricky thing to do. And we're all, Keith, Liam and I, we're just amazed at the response that we've had, and how cool everyone has been about it. It's shocking, it really is shocking. It's just a constant surprise.

JC: Well, that's a good attitude to have but at the same time, you guys really should be giving yourselves the credit you're due because it's great stuff. I think that the scene, in both countries and over the world, Crime Factory become a barometer against which to judge things and we can trust you guys as you're known in circles even before CF started, we're familiar with your that enough dick-sucking for you in one hit?

CA: Yeah, that was pretty good. I'm quite happy with that.


CA: I want to talk about punk rock.

JC: Oh, that sounds like a great idea. I haven't talked about punk rock for the last fifteen minutes, let's do that!


CA: Punk rock and the fiction that you write. You sing in a punk band (Slab City). You write stories that are, well, we're all I suppose involved in fiction that could be called transgressive, to slap a label on it, your characters are still very human. What I'm curious about is what kind of a cross-over there is between your two crafts.

JC: Oh, I'd say there's a lot of cross-over, but I don't know that it's really obvious. I mean it seems obvious to me. you mean like cross-over appeal, or just...

CA: Ahhh, yeah, I worded that kinda badly. Not cross-over appeal, I mean more in terms of you actually crafting this stuff. Is there any kind of, process-wise, a kind of...

JC: Absolutely. The way I write song lyrics and the way I write short stories is very similar, it's mostly a burst and then a trickle and there's a lot of practice involved and you have to do it for a while before you're comfortable, you know, before you're able to bang these things out, but I think that there's definitely a punk rock ethos to pretty much everything I do. When I discovered punk rock at sixteen, it was a complete eye-opener, as it is for most people around that age, to this terrific art world where you could do whatever you want, because nobody cares, it's not marketable on any mainstream level and so it's a very freeing thing, and there's the scene and a certain camaraderie because you're into the same bands and I find it to be very much the same thing with the crime writing scene, so there's no end to the parallels. But to get back to what you were asking me, I think punk rock formed who I am today more so than even comics, which I was always super-into, or movies, which I was always super-into, the idea that you can do whatever you want to do – and to do it well, not half-ass it just because you're small potatoes, as long as you're performing to your utmost, that's really all that matters. And that will shine through. It's frustrating, like you're saying, but it comes through and people feel it and as it's defined me as a person, it's also defined me as a writer – I couldn't do without it. I can't imagine what kind of a person or a writer I would be if I hadn't found the Dead Kennedy's when I was sixteen years old.

CA: Right. Yeah, see that's interesting and I think it was Ken Bruen who said something – and I can't remember exactly where it was, it may have been in one of the Jack Taylor books, maybe, but he said something about how crime writers are the new rock stars. What do you think of that?

JC: Yeah, I think that's absolutely true, hanging out at Bouchercon like we just were and hanging out with these massive personalities, like Seth Harwood and Kieran Shea...

CA: Hilarious guys...

JC: Hilarious guys and just...big dudes, physically they're all a buncha high-pockets, but these real...they're true characters. And Christa Faust are you kidding me? She's like our Wendy O'Williams. And yeah, crime and punk, there's a kind of angry undercurrent to it, a real frustration with society and punks and criminals have been synonymous in a lot of people's minds. The phrase “punk” comes from prison slang, I mean you can't get much closer to crime writing than that, so yeah, I agree with that. And yeah, I one day hope to headline as my own crime writing rock star...ahh, to dream. Yeah, and that's why it’s weird to me when you say that in Australia it's this kind of stodgy literary thing...

CA: It drives me mad.

JC: I can't imagine that it wouldn't! But don't you think that that sort of old guard, their time is up, their time is ticking on that...

CA: Yeah, well, yeah, I mean their time is up, but so is the publishing industry to a certain extent. And there just does not seem to be, certainly I'm not aware of it, there does not seem to be any kind of concerted push to try and find any new ground with genre writers. Whenever Liam and I think up stuff, it always happens when we're at the pub. Kung-Fu Factory came up at the pub, and one of the other things we were talking about one day is, we were actually tempted to see if we could start up an Australian-only flash fiction site, but 1. We don't have the time, and 2. It would be Liam and me, and Andrew Nette and maybe we could get Dave Honeybone to fucken write...something, but there would just be no content, I can't imagine how I could try and generate the content. It's a difficult thing, cause I'm sure they're fucken out there, you know, but it's just too hard to find them. I've got no idea how to do it. So if anyone out there has any ideas, or if you in Australia want to do it, please, please, fucken drop me a line, cause, you know, it's killing me.


JC: Well, if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself and, again, I've seen the market because you are the market and that market is growing every day.

CA: Hopefully, yeah.

JC: Not to harp too much on the America/Australia thing, but one other conversation we had was about the difference in gun laws and how the different gun cultures in either country shape the crime culture.

CA: Ahhh. Oh wow. I think that...I might even disagree with this when I read it, but just off the top of my head, that in a weird kind of way, it's almost scarier if there's a gun in an Australian book. It's even more illicit and underground and nasty, I think. I mean, of course we have a gun culture, it would be stupid to suggest otherwise, but in saying that, it's perhaps, hopefully it can be a little bit more unexpected from a narrative point of view.

JC: Yeah, see I don't think we really have that option. To come from that perspective, even as a reader would be exciting. I'm never gonna be able to feel that way Oooh, a gun! Nah. Oh, a gun. It's standard.

CA: Yeah, and that's not to suggest that they are NOT standard in Aussie crime, but it feels, like I said, more illicit...let's just say that it would be far more surprising to me to be held up at gunpoint at home than here. So, I don't know, it just seems more dangerous to me in a weird way. But at the same time...I have no idea why your gun laws are the way they are, but I just think it's madness. Every time there's a really, really awful event like a spree killing or something, I just watch the news and kind of shake my head and go well, when are guys gonna learn? It boggles my mind. And it’s just so sad...

JC: Well, then how do things get done in the underworld over there without the access to guns?

CA: Look, it would be naive to say that we don't have a gun problem. Perhaps it's just better to say we don't have a shooting problem. Comparatively speaking.

JC: Hmm. I think personally, that as an American, my feeling has been that our gun culture comes from taming the Wild West, you couldn't live without one. So it became so ingrained in the country's unconscious, for lack of a better word, that you needed to have one, and of course it’s translated into all sorts of Freudian shit and you know, it's like having two cocks, if one of your cocks could kill somebody, to quote a wiser man than I, but it also continues mostly because it's a more impersonal way to kill somebody. The vast amount of murders in this country are by gun and from a distance. If you have to stab somebody, you have to get up in there and watch them die, but you shoot a guy from down the street, it's a lot more impersonal, to see that as a way that we can distance ourselves – saying we as Americans, not that I've ever obviously ever actually done any of this shit – but it's a more effective, less personal way of getting rid of somebody. And I don't understand it any more than you do. Gun legislation could be a lot stronger, but I'm not out there pushing for it to be stronger, maybe because I've never known anybody to be shot and killed. I see guns, not everyday life, but I've been at parties where someone had a gun and it's scary, but it's a scary that you get used to. I don't know. It's like surviving in the jungle. Not that I could survive in the jungle.

CA: Not without a gun. You need a gun.


CA: Let's get it back to writing and a rather obvious and rather boring question, but it's a question I don't think I've ever asked you – favourite writers.

And if you want to find out who those favourite writers might be, guess what, you'll just have to get back here next week.

I'll also be publicising a couple of projects that these boys have on the back burner waiting to over-boil into our lives. Erupt might have been a better word. You choose when you find out.

Till next week...


  1. This is great stuff. Better than that Kerouac any day!

  2. Blogged this. Made me laugh, if anyone is a larger than life personality, it's Jimmy.

  3. Many chuckles and insights in this interview.

  4. That was really interesting. Those two are characters and it's a great thing they are onto. Loved the punk rock comparisons too. Thanks for posting this!

  5. "Bursting then trickling and needs a lot of practice" Dammit Callaway it's not always about sex. And Cam, I wonder why it is, is the way it is in Oz. We know Ellroy is huge in 'Roo Land so, to me, your view of the apathy of the scene came as a bit of a surprise. Keep going. What you're saying is pretty interesting and neither of you have headlocked anyone yet. So let's see what happens next shall we?