Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Dancing With Myself: NAOMI JOHNSON interviews NAOMI JOHNSON

Before I move to our next interview, I wanted to make a couple of plugs.

The first one is for me. I had the honour of following HILARY DAVIDSON over at A TWIST OF NOIR yesterday. You can go and read 'DRINKING WINE' at the link below:

http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com/2010/08/twist-of-noir-563-nigel-bird.html

There have been another couple of takers for the series. BENJAMIN WHITNER and JOHN WOODS are also going to be involved. If you haven't already read Benjamin's interview with Keith 'TIARA' Rawson at Spinetingler, go and have a look at:

http://www.spinetinglermag.com/2010/08/30/benjamin-whitmer-interview/

And on Thursday I'll be posting up and interview with KATHERINE TOMLINSON from over at Dark Valentine. Saturday it will be the turn of RJ ELLORY and Sunday NICK QUANTRILL.

Now I'll hand over to the lovely Naomi Johnson. She's a great writer, a superb reviewer and I've learned she has a kind, fogiving nature and a big heart. She was instrumental in helping me along big time - when she emailed me to let me know I'd won the 'Watery Grave Invitational' I did cartwheels (really badly) around my house.

A warm welcome please for NAOMI JOHNSON

Ten questions I would want to be asked or wish I'd been asked in the ONE interview I've done:


Q1: Is it true that you haven't tackled writing a crime novel because you're lazy?


A: Damn. You sussed that out, did you?


Q2: Don't you even have an idea for a novel?


A: I do. But what's the point in talking about it if I'm too lazy to write it?


Q3: So then, you write short stories because you're lazy?


A: Kiss my ass. Short stories are hard work, my friend.


Q4: Try this then: What's the best story you've written and why is it so?


A: Unlike published novelists who always claim their favorite book is their most recent one (well, hell, what else can they say when they are flying solo in the marketing skies?), my best story is probably the first one that was published at A Twist of Noir, "The Winter of My Discontent." It's about a youngster who sees his father kill his mother, then figures out what has to be done about dear old dad. I probably put more time and thought into that story than any since. I bet I re-wrote it a dozen times. At one point I sat down with the aim of cutting the word count in half without losing any of the story. That really gave me indigestion, and I just barely managed it. But if that story works it's because I worked at it.


Q5: So you think writing is more a matter of perspiration than inspiration?


A: Inspiration is a will o' the wisp. Perspiration is at your beck and call.


Q6: And what would be the worst story you've released into the wild?


A: I got a flash piece refused, and received some comments on it from the editors of that particular zine. It took several weeks for me to see it, but they were right. It was crap. Of the pubbed stories, the worst is probably a non-crime piece called "Everybody Comes to Rick's," published at Southern Cross Review. The ending still isn't right, and there's one of my "darlings" in it that should have been throttled at birth.


Q7: What are your goals or dreams regarding your writing?


A: Dreams are easy, so I'll take that one first. My dream is to sell more books than James Patterson while winning a dozen Pulitzers in as many years. Dreams, there's just no limit to how ridiculous they can be, eh? But goals are another story. I realized my writing goal recently when a print magazine contracted to pay for one of my stories. That was my goal: get paid for a story in a print pub. New goal: Get a story accepted by one of the major mystery magazines. This new goal will keep me busy for a while, I expect.


Q8: You also do some editing for NEEDLE. Is that something you'd like to do more of?


A: I believe in NEEDLE, I believe in its mission and I trust its founders, Steve Weddle and John Horner. They've been kindness personified to me, and I enjoy contributing my efforts to the cause. But editing as a real job? It should be left to real editors. I'm sure I'd want to be paid more than I'm worth at that task.


Q9: Your bio always indicates you have an unused degree in criminology. Why didn't you ever use it?
A: Because when I finally got the degree, I was already ensconced in a well-paying job at a major pharmaceutical company. I had a career well underway, and I was seduced by the security of a steady paycheck. Well, in those days it was secure. Anyway, I'm a believer in having more education than you'll ever use. I also have a paralegal certification that I've never needed.

Q10: What's wrong/right with crime fiction today?
A: Wrong: Too much reliance by publishers and writers alike on the tried and true, the cheap imitation, the next big thing. Right: The generosity of spirit possessed by Ken Bruen and others, particularly the online community, who support risk takers and trailblazers as well as tolerate hacks and dilettantes like me.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Dancing With Myself: AJ HAYES interviews AJ HAYES



Let's hear it for Aj Hayes:




Hugh Hefner: So tell me Hayes, why are you jumping into Nigel's list so early on?

That's easy. Between Keith Rawson and Jon Jordan every good idea I had about what to write for Mr. Bird got used up right off in the first two self-interviews. I hate it when two cocky, funny, talented inglourious basterds jump into action ahead of me and leave only swamp water and road kill that's past it's use by date for me to dine on idea-wise. Life's hard and then you look into a puddle and see your reflection and realize you're not talented and ugly and momma liked the fat fucking neighbor kid way better than you and--

HH: Jesus Christ! This is one bat shit mother fuc . . . um . . . Ah, tell me AJ, when did you start writing?

I guess on and off since I was about eight or nine. Usual kid stuff: comic book scripts, terrible fantasy stories, lame SF and of course, sex stories featuring the fat fucking neighbor kid (yes she was a girl and yes my momma did have some interesting tendencies) who grew up and turned into this sex kitten cherry bomb goddess who looked right through me like I was a turd in her driveway holding a bracelet I thought was beautiful that had cost me all the money I made from my paper route for a whole summer but I could tell she thought the bracelet was some kind of pig present from a warty, snuffling, pimpled perv of a neighbor boy who was too ugly to live and--

HH: Yes, well, maybe we should move on. When did you get serious about your writing?

Oh man. Yeah. Spring of 95. A guy in a B&N told me about Stephanie Mood's fiction writing class over at Grossmont Community College. I said what the hell and signed up. Stephanie is a genius writing teacher and a super cool, don't give me no shit expert in getting the best out of her students. But that's not the really cool cool part. The cool cool part was that I was the only dumb shit rookie in a class that happened to include these three really kick ass writers. Names were: Jimmy Callaway, Josh Converse and Craig Oliver. They kinda took pity on the poor talentless schmuck (me) and over the course of three or four semesters and lots and lots of late night Sunday bull sessions at a nearby Denny's taught me how to write some stuff that didn't, exactly, suck. Tell ya man, if you gotta start this mug's game we call writing, there ain't no better way and absolutely no better people to hang with. Lucky? you damn betcha I was.
There was a waitress there though that when I saw her, I thought she was the fat chick sex kitten cherry bomb neighbor bitch and I wanted, no, I needed to come across the table, grab her, throw her down in the booth and--

HH: Ah . . . yes . . . you know I think I might have met her a couple of years ago. We were doing a center spread called "Fat Chicks Of The Neighborhoods" and . . .. But this is about you not me. Let's try another question. Who is the best and least known writer you know about?

Piece of cake, man. Josh Converse. Hands down. Writes this sparse, brutal prose that hits so hard and deep you think it's poetry. I mean his stuff is, well, beautiful as blood in the moonlight. Only reason he's not all that well known is he publishes sparingly and doesn't call attention to himself. But, I'm here to tell you, if you see anything with his name on it, jump on it. You'll never be disappointed.
Like momma and that fat cherry bomb slut from next door disappointed me when they run off together and set up shop in a run down trailer park hot bed whore farm down by Nestor in a river bottom that stank of dope and urine and . . . I think I need to go take my meds now Hef. Say, you got any Mad Dog Twenty Twenty?

HH: I think you might be right about those meds. But one more question before you go. Which writers are you reading right now that you think rock?

You kidding me? Look at Nigel's list. Those are just a few of the folks who blow me away. Then there's places like, Twist Of Noir, Title Fights, Yellow Mama, Beat To A Pulp, Out Of The Gutter, Watery Grave, Flash Fiction Offensive and Going Ballistic, where they hang out. I can't name 'em all but every single one of them is fucking awesome. And dammit, most every single one of them is better than me. That, pisses me off. But it sure does give me something to aim at.
And it takes my mind off that blonde sleaze-bucket cherry bomb . . . for a while.
Say, you sure you don't have any Mad Dog on you?




Curious that Aj mentions the poetic insight and language of Josh Converse - Aj himself has a beautiful turn of phrase. You'll find one of his stories at the link below.


Aj, glad you could make it over.



Sunday, 29 August 2010

Dancing With Myself: KEITH RAWSON interviews KEITH RAWSON


 

OK.

Apologies if you've been over to read this having seen that Keith was a worthy number 4 in the Sea Minor Hit Parades.

Due to some kind of technical hitch/blogger incompetence everything went pear shaped (almost literaly if you saw it).

Thankfully, I still have a copy of the original, so here it is.

It's a timely one given that Crime Factory has just put up Issue 6 and it looks bigger and badder than ever.  200 pages for buttons is what it is.  Go buy.

I'd also like to thank Kate Horsley for putting up an interview between Dave White and myself at Crimeculture where we talk about Dirty Old Town and More Sinned Against and a bunch of other stuff.

So here is, still wearing that tiara, the lovely KEITH RAWSON.

Your looks have often been compared to an obese, drug ravaged Brad Pitt or a ragged schizophrenic freight train ridding hobo. Tell me, what do you consider your best feature?
Oh, without question my belly button is my best feature. I’m meticulous when it comes to its cleaning and care. When it comes right down to it I think I spend close to two hours a day waxing and shinning it. I make sure to wear t-shirts 3 sizes too small in order to emphasize it. I’m also particularly fond of decorating it with wash off Pok√©mon tattoos.
There isn’t much known about your personal life, what exactly do you do to make money?




Well, I don’t talk about what I do for a living largely because the cartel’s which employee my services would most likely kidnap me and sell me into a white slavery ring, but I guess for the purpose of this interview I might as well fess up. You know those guys on the side of the road who flip signs around trying to draw your attention to a sandwich shop or new housing complex? Well, I’m proud to say that I’ve been doing this for our local Cash-for-Gold outlet for the past six years. It’s been stressful at times and there have been a lot of road blocks thrown in my way along the road to corporate success. But I’ve persevered and now I’m in charge of four other sign flippers and when my Crimefactory partner, Cameron Ashley, comes to the states this October, I’m going to try convince him to join the team!
What was the one novel that convinced you try your hand at writing crime fiction?

It’s tough to narrow it down to just one book, but I remember sitting on a city bus on the way to work back from a class I was taking at the local community college and I was reading L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy. I’d been reading Ellroy for awhile (By the way, when I first started reading the Demon Dawg I was so blown away by what he was writing and how it was so radically different from anything else I’d been reading that his novels creatively locked me up and actually caused me to stop writing. I know I’m a fucking weird-o) and purposely avoided reading L.A. Confidential. But for some reason or other I picked it up and stuck it my bag as I headed out the door that morning. Anyway, I cracked open after class and I think I read 150 pages by the time I reached work and continued reading through out my shift. By the time the wife came to pick me up at 10 pm, I’d finished reading the entire book and start dabbling at writing crime fiction.


There’s obviously something mentally wrong with you. What was your childhood like?


Well, I started off life as a young, adventurous 20-year-old Serbian boy. I was young, dark, handsome, and the bitches at the local discoth√®que loved my dance moves and worshipped my every move and built shrines to my break dancing skills. These shrines angered God (or maybe he was pissed at my mad skills, who knows?) and he transformed me into a chubby Irish American suburbanite. I miss those days….


Do you believe you’ll ever make a living as a writer?


Oh, without a doubt. I’m sure at any moment a traveling literary agent/publisher will stop by my local Starbucks (where I spend 8-to-10 hours a day stroking my facial hair reflectively) and they’ll see me typing and offer me a 12 book, multi-billion dollar deal and I’ll spend my days being rubbed down by blonde virginal Sciencetologist girls and swimming around in my mountains of cash and gold like Scrooge McDuck….but I’m keeping my options open. My alpaca slaughter house should be up and running any day now. The next big trend in meat and meat products is alpaca, ya know?


Who’s the one current novelist you admire the most? Who do you most try to emulate?
I admire a lot of writers for different reasons, but if I had to narrow it down to one writer and one writer only, I’d have to say Al Guthrie. Recently I’ve been re-reading most of Guthrie’s novels and stories and I’ve been struck by the subtle power of Guthrie’s sentences. Plus, Al’s worn so many different hats in publishing but has yet to be pigeon holed by an industry that seems to love to label people (but isn’t that every industry?)


Print or electronic? Which is better?


You know, I’ve been thinking about going completely retro lately switching over my storytelling to smoke signals and cave paints….seriously, though, if I have one more person ask me that question I’m going to go all monkey and start flinging my poop at them. (and, yes, I’m now covered in my own feces because I asked myself the question.) Reading is reading and how we read has always changed and always will.


What short story writer has impressed you the most recently and why?

Jedidiah Ayres.


Over the last year I think I've read and re-read more of Jed's stories than any other short story writer and the reason I think I keep going back to them is two things:


A) Ayres gets noir right.


In a recent essay for the Huffington Post, well known anthologist and book curmudgeon, Otto Pelzner, defined noir as:


"Noir isn't about private detectives, it's about losers."


And that's exactly who Ayres writes about, losers. They're not exactly bad guys (okay, most of them are pretty fucked up, especially Herbert Wainscott from Ayres novella "the Whole Buffalo" from the debut of issue of Needle Magazine.) they're just not the type of guys you'd want to invite into your house for Sunday dinner out of fear they'd rob you blind or sneak upstairs with your teenage daughter while you had your back turned or both (most likely both)


B) Voice


Isn't this the most important thing in any writer? The problem with crime fiction, though, is as writers we tend to limit ourselves on the content of our stories and novels. The major issue with this is that so many stories start to read the same after awhile and blend into one big blood streaked mess of guns, thieves, hitmen, and scumbags. With Ayres, he utilizes these devices but doesn’t spread a layer of gloss over them to make them seem more romantic, they’re men and women who live in trailer parks, work at strip clubs and are absolutely marginal just as most criminal are in real life.


Chris F. Holm and Jimmy Callaway rank a close second and third for me, too. Great writers.


Who’s the one writer you’d like to meet face-to-face?
Well, since I’ve already met Ellroy and Lansdale, I’d have to say it’s a tie between Daniel Woodrell and Victor Gischler. But the restraining order Victor has out against me prohibits me from coming within 100 miles of him, so I guess Daniel Woodrell.
And my last question, in your bio on your blog, you mention you’re married. How the hell did that happen you plug ugly troll?

Let’s just say that my wife Alicia likes “projects” and is persistent to the point of obsession and she’s been obsessed with “fixing” me for nearly 14 years.



and as I commented first time round, a standing O for Keith Raaaaawwwwwwwssssssson  .....ccchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...


















































Saturday, 28 August 2010

Dancing With Myself: JON JORDAN interviews JON JORDAN



A fanfare if you will. Blaze the trumpets, toot those horns. We're about to begin the series 'Dancing With Myself'.

Fitting, I think, that we kick off with a selfless dude, a man who boosted my confidence and raised my profile by taking me on for Crimespree Magazine. And if that helped me, think of how many others who've put their feet in his hands for a bunk-up.

Here's Jon Jordan (aka Crimepspree Jon) interviewing Jon Jordan (aka Crimespree Jon). He starts with a firecracker question - what would you expect?

Who the Hell are you and just what is it you do and why should we care?

I publish Crimespree Magazine with my wife, we cover crime fiction on screen and in print. We've even covered it in music and on stage. So if you dig crime fiction you should probably send me a check so I can send you the magazine. I'm also involved with Bouchercon, helping in the past and this year and running it next year with David Thompson of Busted Flush and McKenna Jordan of Murder by The Book. See also Murder and Mayhem in Muskego.

Why do you do this?

We want to let people know about books and DVDs they might overlook. We love this genre and want to do what we can in our own small way to help it prosper. There is so much out there we want to make sure our favorites don't get passed over.

How much caffeine do you actually take in each day?

3-4 pots of coffee and 3-4 energy drinks is average. And no, I don't sleep much and I prefer it that way. I'll sleep when I'm dead.

What's the best part of running Crimespree?

I love hearing from readers when we turn them on to new authors and they go and get all the books. I also love hearing from authors when they see coverage and it makes them happy. Having people tell us they bought something they might not have normally picked up means what we want to do is actually working.

Ebook or print?

Don't get me started. I prefer print. But I also believe that the future is a combination of the two working together, not one or the other. E books are a PART of the future, but not the whole future of publishing.

Favorite movies? (We know better than to ask about favorite authors)

I love The Godfather 1&2, Buckaroo Banzai, The Great Escape, LA Confidential, lots of noir.

New author to watch for?

Hilary Davidson (http://www.hilarydavidson.com/ ) I predict good things. Her first novel is great. I also really like Stephen Jay Schwartz.

Trends or topics you are sick of?

Lots. I'm tired of every book being labeled a thriller, I don't want any more books with the word Templar, and I am REALLY sick of people writing about the death of print and publishing just to get people to a blog or website.

You read a lot of comics in addition to novels. Why?

I think some of the best crime fiction today is in comics. Scalped, 100 Bullets, the Vertigo Crime Line. I also like a lot of other comics and they are a nice quick read between novels. One of my favorites is Beast of Burden (Now out in hardcover!)


What's coming up in Crimespree?

Denise Mina on the next one, Don Winslow is coming to the cover, JA Konrath and Blake Crouch, after that, we'll see what grabs us.

http://www.crimespreemag.com/

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Interviews With A Twist Of Noir


I'm just kick-starting a little series that I hope will interest many of you.

The concept is easy enough. I'm asking people who inhabit the world of stories and publishing to set themselves the ten questions they wished they were asked when interviewed.

They'll answer the questions themselves and I'm hoping we'll get a new insight into the way they operate and what they're about.

I'm hoping that by relieving them of the shackles of unexpected or predictable questioning, they'll be able to go to town and publicise work that's out there or is in the pipeline or the brand of toothpaste they use, who knows?

I got the idea from something Allan Guthrie did when he launched 'Two Way Split' in the UK. He asked himself some fab stuff and the answers were fantastic.

Here's hoping we can do the same here.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Death By Killing


I spend a lot of time reading stories, whether as novels or shorts. I'm still not up to e-readers, so those I choose are either on the page or online.

I love short work. It's very distinct from its longer relations the novella and novel. There's a lot to get in and only a limited amount of space to work with. A good piece will hang around with you for days.

It's as if, by concentrating everything into the one movement, a writer is able to deliver a knockout blow by saving all their energy as they avoid throwing jabs, hooks and feints. There's some dancing around the ring, may be a low blow here or there, possible a hold or two, but you can't have too much of anything - all needs balance and focus.

As a writer, I'm completely aware of some of the differences.

It might be that for me a short story is the form in which I work best. A novel (I'm over half way through one as I write here) is a very different proposition. My mind struggles to hold in all the detail and all the characters, not forgetting that the characters don't always react in the way that I thought they might when I started.

Thanks to gifted and commited editors out there, you can see my work in a range of places. It might be that the same will never be said of my novel, so there's another difference.

Over at the blog 'Death By Killing' Chris Rhatigan is doing something new.

He's set up a site entirely devoted to the short form. He's going to review individual stories and offer more general opinions on the art.

Normally it's collections that get this level of attention, so it's a brilliant concept.

As writers we'll be able to get a chance to see why things work or don't.

As readers we'll be directed to places and to authors we might otherwise have missed.

For me Chris is offering the short story the respect it deserves. It's a vindication for sites like 'A Twist Of Noir', 'Beat To A Pulp' and 'Pulp Metal', a shot in the arm for 'Crimespree', 'Needle', 'Crimefactory' and their kin.

I'm also impressed by Chris' ability to give a rounded opinion. You get an overview of a story, a sense of where it stands in terms of the author's portfolio and an opinion of strenths and weaknesses that comes from an informed postition.

If you're anything like me and like the art of short fiction, add his blog to your favourites right away. You'll find it at:


http://death-by-killing.blogspot.com/


A lethal injection of short crime fiction indeed, and a very welcome one.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Needles, Pins and Jakubowski




Having spent a good deal of time sewing labels in the uniforms of my two girls, return to school imminent, I have a very highly developed understanding of why Needle is such a great title for a magazine.


It's lethal. The number of times I drew blood at the ends of my fingers or pricked my arms and legs unexpectedly, you wouldn't believe. Sharp, painful, crisp with a neat entry under the skin, I reckon all these things can be applied to Issue 2.


I put my order in last week as soon as it was available. Now I have to impatiently wait for it to find its way across the Atlantic.


Just like my sewing, I expect the ultimate experience to be hugely rewarding. Very much unlike my efforts, it will be full of craft and perfectly formed stories.


The line-up looks like this:

Ray Banks
Nolan Knight
John Stickney
Frank Bill
Julie Summerell
Nigel Bird
Sarah Weinman
Allan Leverone
Chris F. Holm
David Cranmer
Stephen Blackmoore
Mike Sheeter

Course I'm proud to be part of it. Pleased as punch. I'm amongst royalty here. You can get a copy via Lulu at:

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/needle-mag-summer-issue-2010/12192654?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/3

I you're in the States, I believe typing in FREESHIP as a voucher code will get you discount. If you're in the UK, I'm afraid the postage seems high - given the low cost of a book of such high quality content, I'd recommend you go ahead anyway. There aren't many collections from the UK that are going to even come close.

One that will, however, is the 'Best British Crime Stories', practically an institution.


"The must-have annual anthology for every crime fiction fan – the year’s top new British short stories selected by leading crime critic Maxim Jakubowski.

This great annual covers the full range of mystery fiction, from noir and hardboiled crime to ingenious puzzles and amateur sleuthing. Packed with top names such as: Ian Rankin (including a new Rebus), Alexander McCall Smith, David Hewson, Christopher Brookmyre, Simon Kernick, A.L. Kennedy, Louise Walsh, Kate Atkinson, Colin Bateman, Stuart McBride and Andrew Taylor.

The full list of contributors is as follows: Sheila Quigley, Nigel Bird, Jay Stringer, Paul D. Brazill, Adrian Magson, Colin Bateman, Gerard Brennan, Matthew J. Elliott, Andrew Taylor, Lin Anderson, Christopher Brookmyre, Ray Banks, Declan Burke, Liza Cody, Simon Kernick, Stuart MacBride, Allan Guthrie, Ian Rankin (two stories, including a new Rebus), Nick Quantrill, Edward Marston, Nicholas Royle, Zoe Sharp, Robert Barnard, Simon Brett, Peter Lovesey, A.L. Kennedy, Roz Southey, Phil Lovesey, David Hewson, Amy Myers, Marilyn Todd, Peter Turnbull, Keith McCarthy, Alexander McCall Smith, Stephen Booth, Denise Mina, Mick Herron, Kate Atkinson and Louise Welsh."


http://www.constablerobinson.com/?section=books&book=the_mammoth_book_of_best_british_crime_8_9781849015677_paperback

You'll have a while to wait if you pre-order, but it'll be worth doing to make sure you don't forget when the time arrives in 2011.

If Needle's line-up is royalty, I'm not sure how to describe this bunch.

I take great pleasure from being amongst such a crew.

Pleasing for me is that even my wife, Isobel (and it's nice to use the word wife here), appreciates the company I'm keeping. Kate Atkinson and Ian Rankin are writers that she herself respects and loves (me too), so I've finally earned the right to be taken seriously (as a writer) by her.

I'm delighted about the whole crowd, but I take particular delight in being in the same book as Allan Guthrie. If you haven't checked out his work, then you really, really should. I'd lend you a copy, but I'm a bit nervous about doing so as 3 Guthrie's of mine are in the hands of friends and family and have been for some time (their liberation could be a crime story by themselves).

It might be that my writing career never reaches a higher level than this, after all it would be hard to top with anything but a major prize or a novel.

Though my dreams were higher my expectations weren't and if this is to be the pinnacle of my writing I'll be absolutely delighted with what I've achieved and cherish it for as long as I have memory.

'Needle' and 'Best British Crime' are so big it gives me altitude sickness just to think about it.

Thanks to Crimespree for first publishing 'An Arm And A Leg' and to 'The Drowning Machine' for choosing me as their 'Watery Grave' winner this year. Thanks also to Steve Weddle and John Hornor over at Needle, to Mr Gurthrie for making sure my story was seen and to Maxim Jakibowski for this and for his service to so many for so long.

And a post script.

If you see this in time and you're in the area, Christopher Brookmyre will be appearing at a free event in the Spiegeltent this evening at 9pm (I think). Have a look for details if you can go.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Do Not Look At The Sun


My mailbox got lots of exercise today. All that clicking and clacking, it was like it had invented a new language.

With a rumour last week that Hard Case Crime was going 'e', I had a small flutter and decided to order a few more of theirs just in case. Now I have them and the covers are everything one might expect from Hard Case - nostalgically pulp.

The new editions are:

The Gutter And The Grave (Ed McBain)

Bust (Ken Bruen and Jason Starr)

Memory (Donald Westlake)

Check them out for yourself at:

http://www.hardcasecrime.com/

Whilst on the subject of Hard Case, it appears that Lawrence Block has lost one of his novels. Really. He's got several in the HCC collection, 'The Girl With The Long Green Heart' is on my 'unread' shelf.

Anyway, it turns out that one of his earlier stories was handed over to an agent and vanished, though it may well have been published in some form or other. If you find it you should let him know. There's a reward on offer, so check his blog at:

http://www.mulhollandbooks.com/2010/08/12/hey-sinner-man-whered-you-go/

Also through my post box, 'City Of Dragons' by Kelli Stanley. Judging by the list of recommendations on the back (and the quality of who's making them) it should be a real cracker of a read. It's next for me after 'The Last Kiss'.

The final envelope to hit the floor this morning was from France.

Inside copies of 2 creations from 'DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN', their titles 'I Found This On The Metro' and 'Notes You Wrote On My Fridge'.

It's a great title for a mag and the concept is even better. The crew over in France leave copies of them on the Metro, in cafes and bars so that people can read them for free (imagine those cheap and nasty news productions we have here, then think of something with heart and creativity at its core).

They've got a really nice website over at:

http://www.donotlookatthesun.com/LatestIssue.html

What you'll find at the website is a colourful and warm edition that contains some little gems.

My favourite in issue 3 is a concrete poem set out in the form of a skyline. Simple yet lovely.


Copies are available for 3 Euros and that included worldwide publication.


My thought is that the online copy currently looks better than the paper one. It's easy to understand why given that it's freely available if you're in France. What I hope might happen in the future, and what I think the intention of the producers is, is that copies will be distributed around the world on the same free basis. If you can help them out (and especially if you have access to free photocopying) check out their site and see what you can do - the principle is a great one. I also hope that the production values might be stepped up in the longer term as the content is worthy of that.


I believe the next effort will include park benches as locations for distribution. What a smashing idea.


Can't blame them for walking before running and I think they deserve some support for their effort and their collective talents.


'spread the words'

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Creative Writing


To toth fariy. I am very sad that you didant giv me a pound coin last nigte so plees will you giv me £1 in retern. love Nancy xxxx

Dear Nancy.

Very sorry to disappoint you yesterday. You see, I’m just learning how to be a tooth fairy and I just keep getting it wrong.

They are making a film about me, so go and watch it if you can.

Anyway, I looked everywhere for your tooth and couldn’t find it. My boss told me she knew you’d lost it or she wouldn’t have sent me there in the first place, so I should have left the money anyway.

She sent me back tonight and here I am.

She also said that I need to leave double the rate. You’ll get £2 instead of £1 this time because we’re so sorry.

If you see me tonight, please don’t tell anyone or I’ll just get into trouble.
Yours sincerely,

The Tooth Fairy

Friday, 6 August 2010

Sea Minor's 5 Great Crime Novels


Over at Spinetingler, the following question was asked:

If you could give someone 5 crime novels that for you represent everything great about the genre, what would they be?

What a great question. Simple and straight to the point.

Brian Lindenmuth has compiled the answers that were received. You can find them for yourselves at:

http://www.spinetinglermag.com/2010/08/06/five-great-crime-novels/


The question might be simple, but finding an answer most certainly isn't.


I've been thinking about how I could answer.

I decided to spread things around a little - period, place, style.
I'm not going to give explanations but might say that a list put together tomorrow might be slightly different.

Here goes:


Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Clockers by Richard Price

The Night Gardner by George Pelecanos

Double Indemnity by James M Cain


I'd like to think that whoever I gave the books to, they'd find something there to suit and I have to confess that I've changed it 3 times already. Still, it'll be up in two minutes and I'll stick by it.


You will not agree with this list, of course. How could you?


But if you think it's easy, go over to Spinetingler and put your neck on the block. See how easy you find it.


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Quack Quack


I went to the zoo yesterday.


At the Animal Antics session, I was reminded about the twit twoo thing. It takes two birds to twit twoo. The female twits and it's the male that twoos.


I needed to think of a way of remember them. For the females I decided it's what they might be saying to their male friends and partners (Twit!). The males, the wolf whistle (whit woo) was all I could come up with. Use it if you need.


Then I thought about my tweeting. How it's impacted on my life.


I've come a long way in my writing over the last nine months. I know I'm getting better at it and have a better sense of what I'm about.


It's difficult to know what it comes down to, but I'm delighted by what's happened in such a short period of time.


At least part of it is down to Twitter.


It's been a lot of fun tweeting, following people and getting to know them over time.


Before I seet up my account, I thought it was a nonsense to be entertained by folk anouncing what they had for breakfast, dinner and tea. I wasn't going to waste my time on such crazy shit - that could be left to the young ones and the technologically savvy.


First I saw of it was when I decided I could be the world's first Twitter poet. Imagine how it could take off, I thought. Checked it out. Typed in poetry. I was about ten-thousand poets too late with the idea, then forgot all about it.


Around about Easter time, a friend and colleague suggested Twitter was a great way to keep up with develpments in education as lots of the guff was easily and quickly filtered. We get so much by way of directives, promotional material, tips etc that it's it would be a full time job to keep up with it all. Twitter, she assured me, was a good way to keep up with the general and avoiding the detail unless it seemed interesting.


I set myself up after a short introduction.


Picked the name 'amouseandaman'. No idea where it came from, it just popped into my head. Above all I was happy with it as I thought it would allow me to pass comment on the world in anonimity.


It didn't, but as it turns out I don't care about that.


I started with educational sites, then quickly realised that I had very little interest in them.


Just as an experiment, I typed in Allan Guthrie. Et Voila. There he was.


Magic.


Tried a few other writers.


Looked into what they followed and followed some along with them (often the choices were fairly random, but I wanted to go after a few.


It's opened up the world in a way I didn't think possible.


I'd like to think I've made Twitter buddies, people I've never met but like to hear from (not directly, just their general chewing the fat in haiku brevity). Even missed them when I was away.


I also discovered things I had no idea about. A community of writers and readers who love books and stories.


I'd always thought of their world as cutthroat and protectionist, but the Twitter experience shows otherwise.


I've found links to advice, reviews for books, tips on films, to events and to who might be worth a look online. There have been links to competitions, to magazines and sites asking for submissions, to short exercises and long reads.


I've been to blogs that are of high quality and of interest to me that I wouldn't have found in a month of Sunadys and followed their links too. It really is a web.


My web is mainly to do with reading and writing. I'll leave the arithmetic to somebody else.


Twitter has given me loads of encouragement.


But Twitter is just a machine. An engine. A form of communitation.


What I really must do is thank those who sit down and type, whatever they're typing about.


Those that I follow are really good at it.


It's follow Friday tomorrow. Consider this my entry. Check who I'm following and go to them all. They're all good people (or sometimes bad people with good tweets). Give them a chance you've got nothing to lose.
And if reading and writing aren't your bag, or if it's not the noir/crime thing that gets you going, make a web of your own. Spread your word and hear the words of others.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

That Dress

It should be framed by waterfalls that dress
a gentle flow from hair to salmon pink
the cooling flutter of a summer’s afternoon
of eating strawberries in long grass, no shoes,
no socks, just sharing sips and juicy drips,
red rivers slip down chins.

That hem was born to twist
from side to side in Twenties bars,

a tall
dark stranger,

spats and combs,
a little something for the weekend

stashed,
admiring from the shadows
by the wall.

It is the Riviera, Camelot,

the Cotton Club,

a hotel room at lunchtime
dropping to the floor to form
the crumpled lipstick ‘O’

from which you step.

It is the queen of dresses, most divine
brings out the devils and the angel
for a look, and may I say,
it barely

does you justice.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

My Bilko Week


This week has been something of a Bilko week for me.

In case you haven't seen the Bilko episode in question, gambler and sharp Ernie Bilko has a run of astonishing luck for a day. Unfortunately he only realises a matter of minutes before midnight that everything he has done has gone his way. He decides to put on a bet in a race on the other side of the world (as I might falsely remember) and the horse is fantastic. It runs out of its skin until midnight. As the second hand crosses the 12, Bilko's day comes to an end; so does the energy of his horse. Needless to say he doesn't win and the day finishes as so many others have done.

My week's been similar in many respects. If it weren't for the fact that I chose to give up gambling after a few visits to Gamblers' Anonymous (bless them for what they do), I'd go out now and bet on whatever I could. There are four hours of my lucky week left and I might not ever have to work again.

Problem is, I can't do that to myself. That was the problem. Once I'd discovered that you could bet on practically anything (even tried synchronised swimming once) at any time now the world is connected by computers, I was sunk.

It doesn't matter. My week has been immense.

I guess it started when I bought my daughter a raffle ticket at a 'Surfers Against Sewage' fundraiser. The ticket was drawn, the prize was a tee-shirt of adult size and I now have something cool and current in my wardrobe.

It didn't stop there.

On Monday I was contacted by Maxim Jakubowski. That was a buzz in itself. Even better, he wanted to include my story 'An Arm And A Leg' in the next 'Best British Crime Stories' anthology. There wasn't anything to think about. It's a dream come true.

You can find a copy of the previous collection at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mammoth-Book-Best-British-Crime/dp/1845299256/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280689449&sr=8-1

When you see the names on the cover you might realise why I nearly fell off my chair when I got the message. Thanks Maxim.

I'd also like to thank Jen, Jon and Ruth Jordan over at Crimespree. If they hadn't picked the story up in the first place, it would probably still be little more than a file on my computer. Check them out at:

http://www.crimespreemag.com/

Monday evening I had a nice bit of news too. A short piece of mine was posted by 'Dark Valentine'. It's a very short piece written from the point of view of a peacock. I had fun writing it and it's lovely to see it up. 'Valentine' are going to be big, I reckon, so watch them grow. Check out the story at:

http://darkvalentine.net/index.php/2010/07/another-point-of-view/

The next lovely thing? I think it was a book through the post.

I had a story accepted by 'Dark Static'. I first found out about there submissions call from Paul Brazill. He works tirelessly as a writer, but also as a writer's writer, by which I mean he's always posting useful information in a very unselfish way. He's got a link here under Brazill. Go pay him a visit - he lives in Poland, might well need a bit of company every now and then.

You can find a copy of 'Caught By Darkness' over at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Caught-Darkness-Anthology-Dark-Tales/dp/1617060054/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280690057&sr=8-1

Its cover, by the way, is really striking.

Later on in the week news arrived the Crimefactory had once again posted an issue. You'd think that from the speed of turn around that the quality would suffer. No way.

I'd just finished the previous one that goes out with a fantastic bang, Naomi Johnson pulling out all the stops. Her last lines are brilliant. Go look for yourself.

The list of writers in Crimefactory 4 could blow you away as powefully as any shotgun, I reckon.

Standing out for me were the names of Allan Guthrie and Scott Wolven.

The Guthrie is the opening of his next book 'Blood Will Out'. If the first chapter is anything to go by it's going to be an object lesson to us all in how to write a crime novel. It's fast and you can feel it accerating away from you from the beginning. Brilliant, but then what else would you expect from Mr G? Can't wait.

Here's the link:

http://www.crimefactoryzine.com/main/HOME.html

There were also a couple of Al's covers on show earlier this week. They're for online versions of a couple of his shorter pieces.

Bye Bye Baby is fabulous. So's the cover:

http://twitpic.com/29rmpq/full

Killing Mum's cover looks like this:

http://twitpic.com/2a2g0g

Just when I was thinking things couldn't get better, another email arrived.

This one was from Christopher over at A Twist Of Noir.

Some sites I really want to be part of. ATON is one of them. New stories appear on a practically daily basis. The quality of the ones I've read (and I must confess to being a beginner here) is superb. And it's all available to you for free - imagine. I've even read pieces there that were written way back when the hard-boiled thing was just kicking out with legs covered in puppy fat.

My story's at:

http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com/2010/07/twist-of-noir-522-nigel-bird.html


If you make it that far, I urge to to take a look around. I promise you'll like what you see.


I won't be able to repeat a week like that again, I'm sure, but I'll be trying. Thing is, I'm settling back to the novel so there won't be time for the distraction of short pieces for a while (or at least that's was the plan until something my eldest said to me today got me thiking).


Still, I've got Needle to look forward to and later on Dark Valentine. Can't be bad.


My reading this week has been the bollix. Ken Bruen has had me royally entertained.


'Once Were Cops' is a fast paced read with a group of dark characters and their inner voices. Thing is, though the main voice is from a twisted egomaniac, there's something about him I couldn't help liking - an openess and sense of humour I suppose. And I wasn't even expecting the twist, let alone trying to work it out.


The other, a collaboration piece with Jason Starr, 'The M.A.X' follows a number of self-deluded individuals as their lives mingle and overlap. There's Angela, hard nosed criminal looking for the easy life that's always eluded her, conman Sebby and the M.A.X of the title who, through a series of misunderstandings, ends up being the daddy of the prison he's in when he should be the plankton. It's highly engaging, hard and hillarious.


As I said, it's been one hell of a week. I know I should go and buy a lottery ticket, but hey, rules is rules.


Instead I'm going to settle down for the second episode of Sherlock Holmes. Fab.