Friday, 29 July 2011

Beat On The Brat - Back To Black

People sometimes wonder about me as a writer.  Wonder why my tales are so dark.  So sad.  So lacking in hope.

I can’t answer them as to why they turn out in such a way, but I do know that terrible things happen.

As I put this collection together, my mind is still yet to settle from the terrible events in Norway this weekend as well as the tragic death of the amazingly talented Amy Winehouse.

Here we have mass murder on a terrific scale on the one hand, and an example of a human being who’s fragility has been bashed by life one too many times on the other.

My stories are dark.  I make no apology for that.  Maybe it’s the way I contain sadness.

In spite of the weekend’s events, I remain optimistic. 

Norway’s carnage took place at a gathering of young people who must have been full of life when they got together.  Such gatherings will continue, regardless of what’s happened.  Maybe they’ll be bigger.  Spread across nations.  Allow for gentle, unselfish thoughts.  Here’s hoping.

And Miss Winehouse.  Sure, there was pain, but the mere fact that she was able to record so much material smacks to me of positive energy, an ‘in-spite-of’ act if you will. 

So here’s my second collection.

It’s full of difficult material, it’s true.  The mere fact that it’s out here for you demonstrates my own positive energies.

I hope you enjoy it, hope you remember that my world of writing is an expression of life, hope you leave this work ready to perform acts of kindness for those around you as you’ll well know by the end of this some of the consequences of letting things slip.

Anyway, here are 9 more pieces from the shadows.

The lead story, Beat On The Brat, was the winner of the prestigious Watery Grave Invitational competition of 2010.  It went on to be published in the highly-regarded Needle Magazine and was nominated for Spinetingler’s ‘Best Story Online’ earlier this year. 

In 2010, his success in 2010’s Watery Grave Invitation was followed by a 5th place story entitled ‘Too Much Too Young’.  The story appears here as ‘Back In Black’ as a dedication to the wonderful Miss Winehouse.

Hoodwinked was published at All Due Respect; Mind Your Step at MiCrow; Snow Angel at Not From Here Are You and Sugar And Spice at A Twist Of Noir.

There's also some poetry in there (?!?) and the final story is to lighten the mood a little where you'll notice my tongue in my cheek.

Amazingly, there's already been a review up at Criminal Thoughts (interview here next week) and I was interviewed yesterday about what I'm up to at the moment at Byker Books.  They describe me as 'a cult author' and I can't help wondering whether they simply got one of the letters wrong.

You can pick up copies of Beat On The Brat from Amazon here if you're in:

the UK (£1.71)

or the US ($2.99)

or at Smashwords for ($2.99)

Thanks to everyone for their support.  It really couldn't have happened without you.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Dancing With Myself: HEYWOOD GOULD interviews HEYWOOD GOULD

Before I get to today's interview, I'd like to pick up on a Tweet by Master Block.  He's onto a good thing here.  Are you?
LawrenceBlock Lawrence Block

Why are you doing this interview?
To promote my new book The Serial Killer’s Daughter.
Why should people buy your book?
To generate enough sales so I can publish another one. And maybe get a movie deal.
Let me rephrase the question: with so many books available why should people buy Serial Killer’s Daughter?
Because if won’t do me any good if they buy somebody else’s book, yo…
Okay. What’s special about Serial Killer’s Daughter?
It’s a sexy, suspenseful thriller that will keep you guessing at every turn, while providing a life affirming, redemptive, poetic exploration of man’s place in the universe.
I raise my profile in the market place.  I e mail a hundred publishers and accept the least insulting advance. My next book drops stillborn from the press with no advertising and no book tour unless I pay for one myself. I  drive hours to a signing attended by an old lady on a walker who thought she was coming for Mary Higgins Clark and a homeless guy who eats all the cupcakes. A producer  calls, full of extravagant praise, although he’s only skimmed the three page “coverage” written by his assistant who read the book after being stood up by a Match. com date. I give him a free option for twenty years or the term of my natural life, whichever comes first.
That doesn’t sound so great..
It is for me and for the people around me. Consider the alternative. The book bombs. No publishers, no producers. I sit in the dark in my underwear, muttering imprecations. I become a burden on family and friends. Vast sums are spent on pharmaceuticals…
If your book doesn’t sell will you be able to muster the energy to write another one?
Oh sure. Writing is a compulsion, not a profession. I’ve been doing it since I was six and will continue until the day I die. I’m just lucky I can make a living at it. But repeated failure will cause me to doubt myself. Have I dried up?  Has age taken its toll?  I’ll write and rewrite, first the same page, then the same sentence, the same word. I’ll be attacked by punctuation anxiety. They’ll rush in to find me rolling on the floor screaming. “A comma…You idiot, it’s a semi-colon…No, goddamit, a comma…”
How about a brief biographical sketch.
I only recall fragments and images from my childhood.
At the end of long dark hallway in my grandmother’s apartment in the Bronx a monster lurks waiting to eat me. My aunt’s false teeth are in a jelly jar on the bathroom sink. A memorial candle for my grandfather flickers in the kitchen. I see his ghost’s shadow flitting along the walls. A kid in a sandbox is raising a toy shovel and hitting me in the head. I open the bedroom closet and find my mother, hiding among the coats, sobbing…
My adolescence is devoted to basketball and self-abuse; the sport changes to baseball during the summer. As I get older I diversify my self-abuse to include, alcohol, drugs, pathetic attempts at seduction, frustration at not being able to write a simple short story like Chekhov…
Thank you,  I think we’re okay on biography. Can you give us a brief synopsis of SerialKiller’s Daughter?
I’ll let Peter Vogel, the protagonist describe the book. After all, he lived through it, not me…Take it away, Peter

It’s a thriller wrapped up in a mystery. But it’s really a love story.
Covering all bases?
 I’m trying to break into the cosy market.
Yes, except for the sex scenes.
Can you describe the book in one word?
It’s a warning.
About what?
About getting what you wish for---you pay plenty and you’re always disappointed.
About trying to save someone’s life---you won’t and the bad guys will come after you as well.
About committing murder—it easier than it seems.
About criminals—they never feel guilty.
About cops—if they see a guy with a beautiful woman they want to throw him in jail.
About the world---it’s an unjust, capricious place. Stay indoors as much as possible.
That’s pretty bleak.
Really? I think it’s positively Buddhist. Once you cleanse yourself of all passion, ambition and illusion, you can begin to find peace…only if you have abandoned all hope…
Okay, I get it. Let’s talk about your career.
My career has been a series of lucky encounters. A guy I met in Greenwich Village told me they needed copy boys at the NY Post. A man from IBM came into my office by mistake, then mistook me for someone else and hired me as a consultant. A woman I talked to on a bus was an editor at a paperback publishing house. A guy I played poker with was a producer for the TV show NYPD. An agent I knew had two partners  looking for someone to write a cheap  script about two cops in the South Bronx. A friend’s upstairs neighbor worked with Bill Devane who needed a rewrite for a movie called Rolling Thunder.
Didn’t talent have anything to do with it?
If you factor talent into the equation how do you explain the no-talent bums who are doing so much better than you?
Okay, so it’s all coincidence and luck and who you know. Does that mean there are geniuses out there whose work has never been discovered?
And never will be.
Well, that’s encouraging.
Oh it is.  You see it’s so much easier to accept failure when you see life as a series of random collisions…
Thank you. I think we’re covered on the zen fatalism. You were involved in some pretty glamorous Hollywood projects. That must have been fun.
Oh yeah, laughs galore.. On Fort Apache the Bronx I was called a racist and chased down the street. Then, sued by a cop who said I stole his script. Then somebody posted a slanderous Wikiipedia piece about the movie.

Everybody loves Cocktail now, but it was slammed so badly by the critics that I took to my bed for three days. I still meet people who say, “how could you destroy your own novel?” And I say, “what do you want me to do, send the fucking check back?”
One Good Cop was…
I think I get your drift. What’s your new book about?
A bitter writer  wreaking horrific vengeance on people who exploited him…
Is it autobiographical?
You buying?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Dancing With Myself: NICHOLAS KORPON interviews NICHOLAS KORPON

So, you’re from Baltimore.


Is it really like The Wire?



Top to bottom, yes. It’s as nice as they show and as rough as they show. But I don’t live in the rough parts. I did see my old apartment in a few episodes. That was cool.

You get that question a lot?


You said StayGo_d was a love letter to Baltimore. Why’d you do that?

I tried to get out of Baltimore for a few years. When I finally did, I’d been living in Europe for less than a month and was massively homesick. My girlfriend (now wife) talked me out of spending two months of rent on a plane ticket to come visit. Instead, I wrote a book about my friends.

Your friends are really like that?

More or less. Christian is actually the one who gets me in trouble, most of the time.

Are their names the same?

Some I changed because they popped up in other stories. Some are the same. Some are pissed because I made them a junkie. A round or two will make it better.

What’s up with the _ in StayGo_d?

Trying to be too clever.

What’s that mean?

Gotta buy the book, Stay God, to find out, don’t ya?

What about Old Ghosts?

I was obsessed with Californication when I wrote that. It was homage, of sorts. And named after a line of old Vision skateboards I liked.

Why do you give away so much of your writing for free?

Because no one wants to buy it?

I’m just saying, that’s kind of counter-intuitive, yeah?

Maybe if people like the free stuff, they’ll actually drop a couple bills on my books.

That’s not a very safe bet, though.

If I wanted to get rich, I wouldn’t write books. I’ve been broke for a long time, so as long as I get to write stories for the couple people who want to read them, I’m set.

So, why noir?

Fuck Garrison Keillor.

What does Garrison Keillor have to do with anything?

Sorry, though you said Guy Noir.

No, why noir?

Black goes with everything.

I mean, why write it?

It gets me chicks and makes me look dangerous. Well, maybe not.

You’re not dangerous?

I’m a skinny, black-framed white boy who teaches freshman comp.


But I’m married, so it doesn’t get me chicks either.

Didn’t it get you one, then?

She likes Ben Tanzer’s books better than mine.



Anyone ever tell you you’re a son of a bitch?


What’re you doing now?

Watching The Breakfast Club with the missus and the wee baby. I forgot how much I love this movie. John Hughes was touched by the hand of God.

I mean, what are you working on? What do you have coming out?

A lot of stuff I’m excited about, if I can be so narcissistic. A novella in August called By the Nails of the Warpriest. Some stories in Crime Factory, Black Heart Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Dirty Noir, Surreal South ’11, Speedloader, Warmed&Bound. Trying to sell one novel and writing another. More importantly, figuring out how to be a dad, which is by far the hardest and coolest thing I’ve ever done.

Any last words?

Read Daniel Woodrell, then go write.

Sea Minor would like to point out that, should you need further info on the book, there's a solid review over at Spinetingler for you to check out (solid and very positive).

Saturday, 23 July 2011


If you saw Lawrence Block’s comments over at Do Some Damage yesterday, you’ll understand me when I say that Moses McGuire is a man with ‘inclusions’. Lots of inclusions.

Moses is the bouncer at a pole-dancing club. He’s big, strong, professional, the butt of the dancers’ jokes and maybe takes his job a little too seriously at times.

When we meet him in ‘Out There Bad’, he’s having a bad day at the office. The girls are laying bets on who can persuade him to sleep with him and it’s all quiet on the Western Front.

It’s different out on the parking lot. Seeing one of the girls in the car of a rich boy and performing acts that go beyond a shiggle round a pole, Moses steps in. The rich kid has more money than sense. Talks back to Moses. Moses gets rid of some of his pent up anger by beating him into the dust. It costs him his job and starts things ticking over in his mind about the activities of the Russian girls.

When he meets another Russian, Anya, and falls off his wobbly wagon, things become interesting.

It sets in motion a series of events that mean any readers will need to fasten their seat belts and prepare for a lot of bumpy terrain.

The Russian girls are holed up in some hostel from hell and Moses decides to free Anya from them.

Believe it or not, the Russians don’t like it. Worse, they’re powerful gangsters who it would normally take an army to shake down.

Our man may be an ex-soldier, but he’s not one to trust many others. He teams up with his one man force, enlists the help of a journalist and sets off to free Anya’s sister from a life on the game.

It will help, later on, that his newest Ally is to be one of the biggest killers of Russians since Stalin. Mikayla reminded me a little of Lisbeth Salander (Millenium trilogy), although instead of a taser gun, this lady has a razor with which she slashes necks with ease. With her one breast and scarred face and a gripe against the pimps who’ve stolen so many of her nation’s beautiful women, she’s on a mission of revenge. She also carries round a pack of Tarot cards, but there’s only ever one future for the men she encounters.

From early on, this book explodes into action. Stallings moves us on at a cracking pace and I’m pretty sure this one has got the lot. Sex, sleaze, car-chases, hand-to-hand, drugs, an arsenal of weapons, gangsters, assassins and booze.

It’s quite something that during all of this fiery action the characters and their motivations can be so well-understood, which is where I thing the author’s skill can be clearly seen. I cared a great deal for all these guys, which made it so much more addictive as a ride because there was never any way all of them were going to get out of there alive.

Don’t read this if you like sedate stories, hate violence or want to get yourself an early night.

If none of the above, read when you can.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Dancing With Myself: MITZI SZERETO interviews MITZI SZERETO

1. Why Jane Austen? And why Pride and Prejudice?

Why not Jane Austen and why not Pride and Prejudice? It’s one of the greatest social satires ever written. Austen created some wonderful and amusing characters; there’s just so much fodder on offer to take it even further. And take it further is precisely what I did with Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts. I took great care to remain true to Austen’s voice and language, as it was important for me to maintain the illusion of her having conceivably written the book. Having said that, if people are expecting just another sexed-up rehash of P&P, they’ll be very surprised by my version. Oh, I won’t lie: there’s plenty of sex to be found, but what I’ve done is essentially take things over the top in a very unique and fun way as was done with the Zombies versions (only I didn’t include any zombies!). The twists of plot and scenarios I’ve created are as quirky and outrageous and rude and raunchy as anything you’re likely to find anywhere. Sprinkle in a dash of Carry-On and Benny Hill for added flavour and you get the picture. I guarantee you’ll have a rollicking good time!

2. Do you think Jane Austen would approve of what you’ve done with her novel?

I think she’d love it! She had a wicked sense of humour, not to mention a wicked sense of innuendo, which is obvious to anyone who’s even remotely familiar with Pride and Prejudice. You can’t tell me that the characters of Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins weren’t intended to be comedic, or that the character of Lydia Bennet wasn’t intended to be a representation of a budding sex siren. Austen might not have been explicit in representing the sexual hijinks of her characters, but the implication is there, nonetheless. I just ratcheted things up to the next level. I likewise answer a lot of unanswered questions, such as why Mr. Bennet spends so much time in his library, and why Lady Catherine de Bourgh was so insistent Mr. Collins find a wife as quickly as possible. The entire cast is present in Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts – no one is sacrosanct, not even Hill, the Bennet family’s housekeeper. As for the handsome Mr. Darcy, not to worry; he’s present and accounted for in great measure. That’s why the catch phrase for the book is “The Classic That Goes All the Way!”

3. Do you have any other books scheduled to come out?

As it happens, yes. My new anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe will be out in autumn 2011, just in time for Halloween. It’s an original collection of paranormal erotic romance stories that draws on the rich Gothic literary tradition of such authors as Bram Stoker, the Brontë sisters, Edgar Allan Poe, and more contemporary names such as Anne Rice. It’s chock full of atmosphere and mood, not to mention plenty of steam and eroticism. It features a wide range of authors, all of whom are very fine wordsmiths. Hey, even I’m in there! In fact, my own story took its inspiration from Ian Somerhalder, who plays Damon in the television series The Vampire Diaries. I’m very excited about this title (and likewise about Ian, but that’s for another day). I’ve wanted to put this project together for quite some time. The market for the paranormal genre is quite hot, obviously, but that’s not what prompted me to do this book. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Gothic novel and paranormal themes (both in literature and film), and thought it was about time I took a hand to it myself. I expect the book to appeal to a wide audience of readers.

4. Do you feel being known as an “erotic writer” has helped or hindered your writing career?

To be honest, it’s done both. Obviously being associated with erotic writing and erotic literature generates interest in me as a writer and a personality – and that’s a good thing. The downside is that writers in the genre run the risk of not being taken seriously once that label is attached to them, especially when the general attitude (including that of critics) toward a supposed “erotic work” is often dismissive. This is hypocrisy to the highest degree, especially when you see the sexually explicit content on offer being heralded as legitimate literature simply because it’s categorised as “general fiction” or “mainstream fiction” or even “literary fiction.” A lot of my work transcends what we typically see in the erotica genre (ie books geared to charge up your sex life or for use as masturbatory tools); unfortunately, some potential readers who might be interested in my work opt to give it a miss because they assume it’ll be just another one-handed read with little else to recommend it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I don’t read erotica,” and I say to them, “Well, read me and then tell me if it’s what you expected.” I’m pleased to tell you they’re always surprised, and surprised in a good way. My solo short story collection In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales is an example of this, as is my anthology Dying For It: Tales of Sex and Death. Neither of these titles is typical erotica fare, so the potential is definitely there for a much wider audience, particularly those who don’t usually buy erotica.

5. You’re often quoted for saying that you believe the label “erotica” should be done away with. Can you explain more about this?

Well, taking into consideration what I’ve already said, in a nutshell, it creates a ghetto. I don’t think this serves writers who are serious about their craft. I realise it’s expedient to stick a label onto someone’s work, and I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to get away from this cookie-cutter method of shorthand that’s been forced on us by the publishing industry and booksellers. Sure, many authors are quite happy to have the label attached, but speaking for myself, when I get a comment from someone indicating that he or she assumes I write stories that merely function as a sex aid, I find that highly offensive, not to mention disparaging of my work. Fortunately, I don’t get these comments often – at least not by people who have actually bothered to check out what it is I do. Add to this the assumption that you aren’t capable of writing anything else, when in reality, speaking for myself again, I’ve already written in other areas, as have many other authors who have erotic works published. Need I mention Anne Rice? Her Sleeping Beauty novels are as explicit and hardcore as it gets, yet no one would dare say she’s some hack who can’t write anything but sex. To further demonstrate the hypocrisy of this labelling business, take Jilly Cooper, an author honoured by the Queen for her contribution to British literature. A lot of her work contains content that’s as rude as or even ruder than some of the stuff you’ll find in so-called erotic works. But by having that “erotica” label attached to those of us who work in the genre, well… you can bet your knickers we won’t be hearing from HRH any time soon.

6. So what’s this Mitzi TV thing about?
Mitzi TV is an online video channel I started up that focuses on the quirky side of London. I’m really big on quirky. I don’t even have to make any effort to do quirky – it just happens. It features me going on various adventures in and around the city – from a crazy pub sing-along and a teddy bear festival to prowling the streets in search of jellied eel and covering a vintage car show, where I got the chance to interview Tiff Needell and Jimmy Choo, of all people! I even got into some Morris dancing with a bunch of tech geeks, not to mention hanging out with a crew of Harley Davidson riders (one of whom gave me a ride). It was all good fun, and I hope the episodes reflect that. Nothing was scripted – I just went with the flow and let things happen. As a result, I’ve now been labelled as a comedian, which I guess is yet another label to add to my many labels.

7. What about your blog, Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog? Is this a writer’s blog?
Well, I do sometimes blog about writing and publishing, but I blog about all kinds of things. In a way it’s like Mitzi TV – you just never know what’s going to happen! I don’t think Errant Ramblings fits into any traditional blog category, but then, I don’t fit into any traditional category either, so what would you expect? I’ve blogged about subjects ranging from social media, British public transport, life in London and missing vacuum cleaners, to my travel adventures, hanging out with my famous bear (Teddy Tedaloo), and teaching my erotic writing workshops. My blogs are quite lengthy as blog posts generally go, and really more a series of personal essays, which is the main reason why I don’t blog that often. As expected, the content is usually quirky and humourous. It’s read quite widely around the world, and seems to be popular in China at the moment. Perhaps I should blog about dim sum to keep the punters happy.

8. You’re an American living in Britain. Do you find British culture challenging or strange?

I am, indeed, an American living in Britain. Though it’s probably more accurate to say that I’m also a Brit living in Britain, since I have British nationality too. I’m wondering if I should conquer any other countries while I’m at it, or maybe just call it a day. As for British culture being challenging, not especially so. I’m an eccentric, and have been since childhood – and there’s enough eccentricity here to make me feel at home. To be honest, I sometimes find American culture more challenging!

9. What’s next for Mitzi Szereto?
Oh, I’m always up to something. Book-wise, I’m writing a very quirky crime novel that might even turn into a series, if things go well. I’m also working on a paranormal romance novel with another author, which is unusual for me, as I’m not one for collaborations. I never divulge the details of works in progress, as I’ve learned how cut-throat this business can be. Other than that, I continue to blog at Errant Ramblings and do the occasional appearances at literary festivals or what have you. Plus I’m always busy with my social networking, since I need to live up to this “Queen of Facebook” moniker that seems to have been stuck on me. There you go, another label! I’ll also be doing a bit travelling this year, quite possibly spending more time in America. The grass definitely doesn’t grow beneath my feet.

10. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Other than asking everyone to buy my books, not really!


Author, blogger (Errant Ramblings), and Mitzi TV creator/presenter Mitzi Szereto writes and edits erotic and multi-genre fiction and non-fiction. Her published books include Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts; In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales; Getting Even: Revenge Stories; Dying for It: Tales of Sex & Death; Wicked: Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers; The New Black Lace Book of Women’s Sexual Fantasies; Silk Sheets; and the Erotic Travel Tales anthologies. Mitzi is a pioneer of the erotic writing workshop in the UK and Europe, teaching them from the Cheltenham Festival of Literature to the Greek islands. She’s also lectured in creative writing at several British universities. She’s been featured in publications ranging from the Sunday Telegraph, Independent, Times, Observer, Toronto Star, Company Magazine, Dare Magazine, Family Circle, and Writing Magazine, to Bravo UK Television, Telecinco TV 5 (Madrid), Newstalk Ireland, FM4 ORF (Vienna), and BBC Radio. Her work as an anthology editor has earned her the American Society of Authors and Writers’ Meritorious Achievement Award. Her anthology Erotic Travel Tales 2 is the first anthology of erotica to feature a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Author website:

Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog:

Mitzi TV:

Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts website:

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


This morning I was in France, this evening the UK.  It was great to be away and now it's good to be back. 

We almost didn't make it to the plane, making it the latest in a series of traditions I hope my family can break next year.

At Nantes station, standing in front of the driver of the bus to the airport, it turned out we were 40 cents short of the 28 Euro required.  We could have left one of the children behind or could have let the bus go, sorted out the cash flow situation and caught the next (jeopardising all chances of reaching the flight on time).  In the end we didn't have to do either.  A man, cool looking Camus lookalike in a pair of shades, stepped forward and passed a Euro to the driver.  She smiled, we smiled and so did the man. 

It was a small act of random kindness, the type of thing that keeps my faith in people spinning.  I know I spend a lot of my writing time with my head in dark clouds and, indeed, that a lot of my general time is spent with medication as my umbrella, but the things that really give me a kick are the nice touches that often don't get talked about.

I'd like to thank that man for what he did even if the chances of him seeing this are as remote as those of me picking up the Booker. He did a great thing.  Let's all go out and do great things, folks, bring a few smiles to the folk around you today.

De rien, he said.  If I'd been quick enough I'd have given him a heartfelt 'au contraire'.

Anyway, it was a great break.  Thanks Ali, Fab et famille for your hospitality and friendship.

One of the things that made my holiday such fun was my reading material. 

One Too Many Blows To The Head has been on my must read pile for a while and I finally got around to it while we were away.

As far as I'm concerned, Eric and JB have offered enough kindness to the world in this one book to clear their slate for the rest of this year and the next.

Their book is sublime.

Set in the boxing world of 1939/40 it follows the lives of two characters, Ray Ward and Detective Dean Fokoli.  They take alternate chapters to give their first-person accounts of what happened after the slaying of Ray's brother Rex in the ring.

Essentially Rex has been set up and Ray needs to get revenge.  Fokoli is the man charged with the responsibility of cleaning up the mess to avoid a war between the mobs of Chicago and Kansas City.

Their lives that have strong parallels, though for now they seem to be working in reverse order.  Ray has spent his whole life on the boxing scene and has always tried to be as good as he could; it's only with the death of his brother that he releases the demons he's kept buried.  Fokoli, on the other hand, has spent his working life on the take, a cop in the pockets of the mob; it's only in recently that he has seen the light and has turned his back on corruption and back-handers.

Not that it really matters which way these guys try to go, for it seems inevitable that they're both completely on the skids whatever happens.

It's a simple idea, I suppose, but it's so brilliantly written that every page is a joy.  I had the need to race through the plot and yet to savour the language and the atmosphere created at one and the same time.  Somehow I think I was able to do both.

I rate it so highly because it picks many of my soft spots and exploits them with sucker punches.

The two main guys are tough men.  Macho guys who can fell a sturdy opponent with a solid blow or a well-placed knee.  Their lives are messed up, their loyalties strong (if sometimes misplaced), they speak in quips and lurk in shadows. 

They're supported by a list of characters who play their parts perfectly.  Seedy landlords, drunken bums, prostitutes, victims, bartenders, cops and robbers all bring an array of shades to the piece.

It has one of the best atmospheres and scenes that I've come across in a good while.  In my head it was all black and white like the films of the time.  I could smell the rings and the gyms, I kid you not, had a sense of the racial tensions and segregation, felt the blows as they came in, understood the need to start the day with a shot of the hard stuff.  I was with them every step of the way and loved the journey they took me on.

Strung throughout, like pearls on a string, are the boxing tips of Ray's father (all the philosophies Ray has seem to come from boxing):

'Pop always told us that if you get into a fight outside the ring, you don't want to play it for the decision.  You hit that guy until he goes down and you hit him so he'll stay down.  Only thing worse than a guy who is pissed off to come at you in the first place is a guy who's doubly pissed because now you hit him.'

and sharp lines:

'There was a dead plant in a pot by the window.  I figured it for a suicide.'


'Memory lane is a dangerous street to walk down.'

and they use objects to tell a story with a simply turned phrase:

'I banged on the window with my wedding ring.  It was still good for something.'

The book's a collaboration between two people who haven't actually met.  How they produced something so seamless is impossible to tell.  I looked for the joins and couldn't spot a single one. What I know they managed was to cut out any waste and perfected their use of words as they worked.  If collaboration is this good, then I'm going to try getting in touch with some of my hidden personalities to see what we can come up with.

It's a book that might well have turned out as a painting-by numbers exercise; instead these guys have produced a masterpiece. 

An absolute gem.

One Too Many Blows To The Head is available as a Kindle book.