Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bon Anniversaire

It's a year to the day that 'Dirty Old Town (and other stories)' went live on Amazon.

Like my children, it's difficult to imagine my life without the collection in it.  Whatever happens from here on in, I think it will remain my favourite of all simply because of what it involved at the time.

I should have learned a lot during the process.  Maybe I have.  Time will tell.

I've certainly realised that writing and the world of books, stories and publication is where I want to spend my 'working life', even though the path has had it's fair share of jagged glass and impure objects to negotiate.

Bare fact - the book has sold 1,327 copies to date.  That's over 3 (3.63) per day.  Imagine that for a short story collection, probably inconceivable before ebooks.  There have been giveaways and tree-book sales, too, making it even more incredible from where I'm sitting. 

It wouldn't have done so well without the help of so many.  Thanks for the reviews, purchases, patience, retweets, links, spreading of the word and all the encouragement along the way.

Sure, at an income of about 20p per copy I'm not rich in money terms and that dream of long writing days remains in the clouds, but I feel very much enriched as an author and as a human being because of this journey.

Last thing, and this may make no sense at all, I realised when searching out a birthday picture that I see Dirty Old Town very much as a girl.  A female book.  Maybe it's the Nigella referrence in the press the other day.  Who knew?  So do your books have different genders?  Let me know.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

One Man's Opinion - THE BITCH by LES EDGERTON

In baseball it’s 3 strikes and you’re out, for ex-con, Jake, 3 strikes and he’s in.  For life.  And ain’t that The Bitch?

Jake’s been inside.  Twice.  One more conviction and he’s going away for good. 

Fortunately for Jake, he’s sick of prison life and has decided to go straight.

He’s been to college to better himself and has even built a reputation as a hair-stylist that’s good enough for him to set up his own salon.   I love this incongruity – big, bad Jake with his blood-stained hands chopping away at a perm.

And he’s met a woman too.  Paris.  Beautiful, sexy, smart and about to have Jake’s baby.   Looks like he’s hit the jackpot, no?

Thing is, Jake doesn’t know his stories.  Paris was the guy who did it for Troy.  A name like that and maybe he should have sensed that his bed-of-roses might be full of thorns.

‘It all began with a phone call.’

The first thorn appears in the form of Walker Joy, one-time cellmate and saviour. 

Walker’s in big trouble.  He owes big money to big crooks.  One job will see him safe.  All he needs is a break in man.

Of course, Jake’s not having any of it.  He knows which side his bread is buttered.

Problem is Walker has a few aces up his sleeve and Jake knows he’s screwed.  It’s enough to drive an alcoholic to drink.  Really.

From there on in the story unfolds.  Jake is reeled in like a prize-fish on the end of the line, all the while knowing that he’s  got a hook right up his ass.  He’s not a bad bloke, you see.  Or at least his heart’s in the right place.  Circumstance has him by the short-and-curlies and no matter how he examines the angles, he’s lined up for the corner pocket.

At every point of the story where a ray of hope appears, the world conspires against him and as every chapter comes to a close, the need to read on grows stronger.

It’s a well-told tale.  I found it hard not to feel for Jake.  If it were a film or a play, it would be the kind that would have you shouting out for him to get the hell out of there.  ‘He’s behind yer!’  and  ‘He’s still behind yer!’

On the whole, the plot is very much in the present and is all the more uncomfortable for that.  It’s punctuated by prison stories and tales from Jake’s past that should possibly have made me think less of the man; instead it had the opposite effect.

Well paced, engaging and very entertaining, it’s like one of the small diamonds in the collection Jake is aiming to steal.

The ending is perfectly weighted.  Sits on top of the story like the bowler hat on a dapper gent, a hat that needs to be doffed every time Les Edgerton approaches. 

Well done, sir.

Friday, 27 January 2012


Have you had your broth today?  If not, you should definitely go and get some.  #broth is short for Brilliant Reads On The Heath and it should definitely be added to your favourites.  It's another great innovation from Blasted Heath.

Today's interview is with the lovable and talented authors, Jack Bates.  Not only is he talented, but he has generosity in spades.  Give him some love as he tells us about Grimm Tales.

1. How did you squeeze in with all these other talented writers?

Dude, I don't know. I read Patti Abbott's blog and respond to her posts. About a year ago Chris Rhatigan invited me to join Crime Fiction Writers after he reviewed my Derringer nominated story, Broken Down on the Bonneville Flats. Nigel here drops me a line every now and then so I'm sure I heard of it that way. Also, I've worked with Jay Hartman at Untreed Reads on a couple of anthologies. The community is tight. We all share information.
2. Let's talk about the story. Where did the idea come from? Were you familiar with the folktale?

Once I heard about the challenge, I went looking for one I had never heard. The internet is an amazing tool. I searched 'rare Grimm tales' and there it was. Even had a really cool drawing of a young guy flying over some exotic city.

3. And it sparked your imagination?

You know the cliche about people who ask writers where they get their ideas from? I have no problem doing adaptations. When I was writing screenplays, I used to find stories and practice with turning them into movies. As soon as I read The Flying Trunk, everything started to come into place. I dig writing about Detroit. It's so foreign to so many people even here in Michigan. There is an event down by Wayne State University in the city called The Dally in the Alley. It's a party of hipsters, college students, and whoever else shows up. I saw some pictures a friend posted and everything kind of gelled from there.
4. What's been your favorite part of the experience?

Ken Bruen calling my story a gem in the foreward. Ken, if you read this, a beer on me at Bouchercon Cleveland.
5. What's next?

I've got projects all over the place but what I'm really hoping for is the opportunity to publish the old fashion way. I've always wanted to be a hack, a paperback writer. I'm kind of there. What do they call people who are prolific electronically?

And that Ken Bruen recommendation is thoroughly deserved.  Why not go and see if you agree with him? 

Thanks Captain.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dancing With Myself: STUART AYRIS interviews STUART AYRIS

For anyone who buys from LULU, or would like to, there's a free postage offer just now if you buy from them.  I've missed out on a number of issues of the excellent Needle Magazine (of noir), edited by the talented Steve Weddle, because of the prohibitive overseas posting rates.  Use the code WHOASHIPPINGUK305 and ask for ground shipping and you won't have to pay for delivery.  Go get those Needles.

Most excellent.

I was delighted to see that Matthew McBride has now had 'Frank Sinatra In A Blender' bought by New Pulp Press.  Seems like a marriage made in heaven to me.

There's still time to vote for your favourite at Spinetingler's Best Novella shortlist.  Course, I'm hoping 'Smoke' comes out on top, but seeing the competition I feel like a winner just being there.  I think you should at least see what the books in the list are as it will give you some great reading for a good while.

Another chance to vote can be found at Out Of Bullets Throw The Gun where the brave Pablo D'Stair has taken on a mob of talented Flash Fiction writers.  So far there have been 175 downloads of each, so there should be 175 votes to come by the end of the month.  Pablo also has some free novellas out there for you at Smashwords.  Go check them out if you're at a loose end.

I have also set myself a new challenge.  It's a tricky one.  I'm aiming to stop myself from buying any more books until April Fool's Day.

In the last month I've been sent my 6 novels by Vintage for winning their review competition, picked up 4 new Needles yesterday, a couple of Pablo's novellas, downloaded Crime-Factory, novella's from the Spinetingler list, a kindleful of free books and great-deal books, been sent review copies and some gifts.  If I keep up at that rate, I'll just not get to read and enjoy what I have.  I'll let you know if I crack.

And now it's time for today's dance.  You'll find a cracking review of Tollesbury Time Forever over at Darren Sant's blog in case you want to check it out.  It looks excellent (and it's another of my recent purchases).

Please welcome Stuart Ayris.

“So Stuart, what do you do from day to day other than write?”
I’ve been a psychiatric nurse for the last fourteen years but I’m currently working from home as I’m awaiting a knee operation.

“How did you do your knee?”
My niece?

“No. Your knee.”
Oh, too much football and cricket over the years, too much falling down subways and too many people pointing at me instead of catching me.

“So tell us about your novel, Tollesbury Time Forever.”
Well it’s about a man called Simon Gregory, a Beatles-obsessed alcoholic with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a love of cricket. The novel follows him as he attempts to be reunited with the son he abandoned twenty-two years ago. It’s set in Tollesbury, where I live, and took about three years to write.

“How long is it?”

“And the book?”
Just over 74,000 words.

“How would you describe your writing style?”
I like to think of it as having the descriptive elements of John Steinbeck and the madness of Jack Kerouac. Tollesbury Time Forever, for example has been very highly praised for it’s prose yet also contains four short stories three poems (one of which is three pages long) and a Blues song. But somehow it seems to work!

“Did you try and get Tollesbury Time Forever published in the traditional way before settling for putting on Kindle via Amazon?”
I sent it to a fair few publishers and agents and hardly any replied. Those that did basically sent standard compliment slips saying it wasn’t for them. I’ve received better compliments to be honest. So I had the choice of ditching it or having a punt. I had a punt and it’s turning out the little man may have been right and the big men wrong!

“How have the sales been?”
Well I was very disappointed with Debenhams this year but I thought PC World made a fair effort.

“And the sales of Tollesbury Time Forever?”
Beyond my wildest dreams - I envisaged maybe selling a hundred overall and I reached that in the first two weeks. The sales in the third week have been phenomenal and the book has managed to stay in the top 60 Literary Fiction Bestseller rankings on Amazon for more or less its whole life to date.

“How has Tollesbury Time Forever been received?”
Incredibly well. I always thought, and was led to believe, that it was an acquired taste, a niche book, something that might appeal to perhaps a carbon copy of myself. As it turns out, it’s had over twenty five-star reviews in it’s first three weeks. I just can’t believe it. It is so humbling and very exciting.

“Can you give us maybe a snippet from Tollesbury Time Forever so readers can see a little of your writing style?”
I am a man yet I am a Hen Harrier also. I am a drunkard and a dreamer. I am a Beatles fan and a lover of cricket. I am a husband and I am a father. I am all these things and more. And I am a friend of yours. I am the world’s best friend. Just think of me not as a schizophrenic but as a Hen Harrier only. A Hen Harrier.

For there is no schizophrenia and there is no depression; no bi-polar disorder, personality disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is just life and trying to get through it. That is all. Look past the drugs and past the diagnosis, look deeper than the despair and higher than the highs - and what you have is a soul that needs embracing, a mind that needs cradling and a heart that needs to beat its beat without condemnation.

Some weeks ago, I was at the marshes with just darkness on my mind. I was rushing to the depths. Yet now I float and I rise. The earth is the same yet I see with new eyes. I have learned that the world does not change. All that alters is the way we choose to see it.

I am no more a man than I am a schizophrenic. I live only in Tollesbury Time. And I will live in Tollesbury Time forever.

“Nice. So what are your next steps?”
Unsteady ones. I’ve had three cans of K cider and my knee is knackered.

“Has she been running?”

“Your niece.”
You’re madder than I am. I’d just like to finish my thanking all those people that have downloaded Tollesbury Time Forever and reviewed it. It has seriously meant the world to me.

“So do you have a blog or anything?”
Yep -

“And do you have any final words?”
Just keep frugaling up the frugals people!!

"What does that mean?"
You'll just have to read the book. Tollesbury Time Forever - out now in all good
amazon.co.uk and amazon.com sites!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Dancing With Myself: LINDA RODRIGUEZ interviews LINDA RODRIGUEZ

There's been a big slash in the price of Kuboa titles, so it' s well worth taking a look.  The tree-book version of Dirty Old Town (and other stories) is now only $2.95, which is fantastic.

And don't forget that gem of a collection from Chris Rhatigan, Watch You Drown

Now, over from Minotaur books and dancing with herself, the one-and-only Linda Rodriguez.  A big Sea Minor welcome if you will.

In Linda Rodriguez’s Every Last Secret: A Mystery, half-Cherokee Marquitta “Skeet” Bannion fled a city police force and family entanglements for a Missouri college town as chief of campus police. Now, the on-campus murder of the student newspaper editor puts Skeet on the trail of a killer who will do anything to keep a dangerous secret from being exposed, and everywhere she turns she uncovers hidden sins. Time is running out as Skeet struggles to catch the murderer and prevent more deaths by unraveling every last secret.

Every Last Secret offers that rare and startling thing in the universe of thrillers: a truly fresh voice.”   —Jacquelyn Mitchard, #1 national bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean

“There's a new cop in town and she has smarts, courage, and a good heart. Mystery readers will find a new favorite in Chief Skeet Bannion.”  --Nancy Pickard, author of The Scent of Rain and Lightning

“Murder on a college campus, plenty of bad people, and all kinds of puzzles to solve.  Linda Rodriguez has written a highly enjoyable procedural introducing a rough and tender heroine, Skeet Bannion.”--Kathleen George, author of The Odds and Hideout

1)      So what are you doing in this series of interviews on crime writers? You’re a poet, not a crime writer.

My first crime novel is being published by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books in April 2012. Every Last Secret: A Mystery won the Malice Domestic First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. I’ve finished the sequel and am starting the third novel in the series. Oh, and I have a short story, “The Good Neighbor,” coming out in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, so I think all that makes me a crime writer.

2)      You’ve moved from writing poetry to mysteries. Doesn’t it bother you, coming from literary circles, that you’re writing genre? You’ll never be able to write poetry again now that you’ve strayed, will you?

The short answer to that is no, it doesn’t bother me. This is a question I get asked in person quite a bit. It implies, of course, that genre novels are a lesser form of writing. I don’t believe that. I think many mystery/thriller writers and science fiction/fantasy writers are writing brilliant books with a great love of language, strong characters, and real attention to some of the key societal issues of today. I have a Literary Mystery Novelists series on my blog, www.lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com, that showcases many of these writers in the mystery/thriller field. Also, I still write poetry and will continue to do so, just as I’ll continue to write mystery novels. I’ve never seen it as an either/or situation.

3)      What made you decide to write a book with a campus police chief as the protagonist fighting corrupt administrators to solve a murder on campus that they’d rather have covered up? You did it because of all the news stories lately about campus crimes and cover-ups and violence on campus, didn’t you? Just trying to cash in, right?

Why are you so unpleasant? I actually wrote Every Last Secret over three years ago. Its publication just as campus crimes and campus police are in the news (á la Penn State/Sandusky, the pepper-spraying campus police officer at UC-Davis, and the slain campus police officer at Virginia Tech) is sheer coincidence. I certainly was aware when I started writing of campus crime and violence and the role of campus police after years of working with them on my old university campus where I was an administrator who dealt with sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination complaints.

I wanted to have a heroine who would have a reason for investigating crimes (other than just being nosy) and would be experienced with guns and physical combat without writing an urban police procedural. I knew quite well that most larger colleges have their own police forces consisting of commissioned officers who have gone through police academy and often have years of experience on metropolitan police forces. Thus, Skeet Bannion came to be.

4)      This Brewster, Missouri, town you write about with Chouteau University in Every Last Secret, what town and college are you really writing about? Give us the lowdown on who’s dirty and where the bodies are buried. This is really just a juicy memoir, isn’t it? You’re pulling a James Frey in reverse, right?

Wrong! There are a lot of small towns right around Kansas City, Missouri, where I live. Some are college towns, and some of these small towns have the old-fashioned courthouse square structure (of which I’m a great fan). So I made Brewster a college town and gave it a courthouse square. Some of these towns are right on either the Missouri River or the Kansas (Kaw) River, so I set my town of Brewster right next to the Missouri River, which is one of America’s great rivers. I combined some of the most interesting aspects of these towns for Brewster, and I combined some of the most interesting aspects of colleges and universities in this area for Chouteau University. I spent years as an administrator at a local university, and I didn’t want people thinking Every Last Secret was just a roman á clef and trying to see which character was really who in real life. With a fictional town and university, it’s easier for readers to realize the book is pure imagination.

5)      Traditional mystery, small town—is this one of those cozies? With a cat who detects?

I guess you might call it that, though Skeet is a little harder-edged than your usual cozy heroine. She spent years as a cop with the Kansas City Police Department, much of it in Homicide. And Kansas City is a big murder town with lots of gang violence. Skeet came to this small town looking for a peaceful life, but small towns are really idyllic only on the surface. They have their own tawdry crimes and secret corruption hiding in the depths. Not to mention the spillover from the nearby city.

She does have a cat, Wilma Mankiller, named after the great Cherokee principal chief, a hero of Skeet’s and mine. Wilma, the cat, doesn’t talk or detect or do much of anything except regular cat things, though. There is another cat in the book, Cernunnos, whose owner thinks he spends his days meditating, but Skeet just thinks he spends his days in a stupor from overeating. Sorry, no cat-detecting.

6)      Why do you think mysteries and thrillers have become so popular recently?

Aside from the fact that so many hugely gifted writers are writing some version of crime fiction right now? I mean, you have Louise Penny, Daniel Woodrell, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Robert Crais, Laura Lippman, Kathleen George, Sara Paretsky, Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George, Walter Mosley, Nancy Pickard, James Lee Burke, Deborah Crombie, Val McDermid, Declan Hughes, Michael Connolly, Margaret Maron, Alafair Burke, George Pelecanos, Emma Donoghue, James Ellroy, Ruth Rendell, Steve Hamilton, and the list just goes on and on.

The standard answer, I believe, is the desire to see order restored, and I’m sure that’s right—as far as it goes. I think there’s more to it, though. Mysteries are about the relationships among people and about the impact that violence has on those people and those relationships. Also, the crime fiction field is examining parts of our society and issues within our society that other areas of fiction ignore. Put those factors together with a large number of talented writers, and you have all the makings of a boom.

7)      You write and publish poetry and novels but not a lot of short stories. Why is that?

The short story form comes very hard for me. Usually, the moment I start writing, the characters and situation start to grow, and before I know it, I’ve got something that wants to be a novel. I’m in awe of those who toss off multiple short stories every few months. It’s a form I’m interested in working with more in the future, though.  I love a challenge, and writing good short stories is very challenging.

8)      Everyone knows publishing is going through a huge, messy transition right now. Are e-books going to wipe out paper books? Will self-publishing and Amazon destroy publishing as we know it? On and on ad nauseum.

First, you must look at the real data behind all the headlines and overdramatic hype. E-books are currently only 20% of total publishing sales, and their spectacular rate of growth has slowed.  Will they continue to grow as a portion of all publishing sales? Yes. Will they wipe out the physical book entirely, except for rare collectibles? Anything’s possible, but I don’t see that happening in the next couple of decades.

Every time some new technology comes along, people leap at the chance to shout the end of the book. Radio, movies, television, VCRs, all of these things were supposed to spell the end of the book. Guess what? The book’s still going strong. Paperbacks were supposed to spell the end of the hardcover book. Yet more hardcovers were published last year than were ever published in any year before the paperback book came out. I think the mass-market paperback book may actually be in some real trouble. Perhaps the e-book will completely replace the mass-market paperback. But no, I don’t see the end of the book anywhere in sight. People will always need and want stories, and right now the book (paper or e-) is still the best way to experience and re-experience stories whenever we want them.

9)      You have published award-winning poetry books, an award-winning mystery book, and a cookbook that’s been a steady seller since 2008. Usually, writers tend to specialize. Why don’t you? ADHD? Short span of attention? Is that you just can’t resist shiny objects?

You are cruel. I prefer to say I have a broad range of interests. It’s why I’m never bored.

10)  What are you working on now and for the future? Or will you just be a one-book wonder?

I’ve finished my next book of poetry, Dark Sister, which is based on teachings of my Cherokee grandmother. I have another book of poetry I want to write after that about sociopaths and monsters. So I will be continuing with the poetry alongside the novels.

Every Last Secret is the first of a series, and I’ve finished the second book in that series, Every Broken Trust, so I’ll be writing the Skeet Bannion books for some time, and I’m excited about the overall narrative arc of those books and Skeet’s development within them. I have another mystery series in mind that I’m eager to write, as well. I’d be interested one day in turning my hand to a historical mystery, and I could see myself eventually writing some urban fantasy (but probably not vampires, especially if they sparkle). Then there’s this big, complex novel about the Vietnam War at home and abroad that I’ve long wanted to write. I’m not likely to run out of book projects any time soon.

Thank you so much for having me here on Sea Minor, Nigel. I hope you’ll all visit me at www.LindaRodriguezWrites.blogspot.com and check out Every Last Secret at your local bookstore or Barnes & Noble or at http://www.amazon.com/Every-Last-Secret-Linda-Rodriguez/dp/1250005450.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Chris Rhatigan has been making a big splash in the world of fiction.  He specialises in short fiction and is a real craftsman of the art.

Not only does he put out great work, he's a reviewer and an editor and this puts him at the cutting edge.

What I admire in this collection is two-fold.  First of all, it's lean and stripped of the unnecessary yet remains juicy and plump at the same time.  The stories a rich and the worlds have all the dimensions I could want as a reader.

The second reason is connected with his diversity - the themes, voices, territories and genres are really varied as is the length; he can thrill with a piece of micro-fiction, flash and short without faltering or losing his edge in any of these formats.

It's a really poweful mix you'll find here and I hope that your prepared to jump into its icy waters (for dark and chilled they mainly are) - I guarantee that you'll be woken up with a start and that you'll be diving straight back for more.

Only negative for me is the cover - and that's not the way I judge a book, no way.

Superb and super-cheap.

Take it in the US, the UK of from that other land called Smashwords.  Any which way you can.

I'll do you an offer, too.  Send proof of purchase over via my email and I'll send you a copy of Pulp Ink, the anthology Chris and I worked on together.  I haven't told him that yet, so Mum's the word.

Friday, 20 January 2012


Martin Edwards is a man who is widely respected in the writing world.  He will have a piece in the Mammoth Best British Crime Stories 9 which will can be pre-ordered now (the publication date is less than 2 weeks away now).

Here he gives a valuable list of some of his favourite works:

What is your favourite short story?

‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson

Your favourite Sherlockian story?

‘The Red-Headed League’ by Arthur Conan Doyle

Your favourite classic detective story?

‘The Avenging Chance’ by Anthony Berkeley

Your favourite humorous story?

‘The Murder at the Towers’ by E V Knox

Your favourite ‘impossible crime’ story?

‘The House in Goblin Wood’ by John Dickson Carr

Your favourite American crime short story?

‘Don’t Look Behind You’ by Fredric Brown

Your favourite modern crime short story?

‘The Rio De Janeiro Paper’ by Reginald Hill

Your favourite contemporary short story writer?
William Trevor

Your most successful story?
‘The Bookbinder’s Apprentice’ which won the CWA Dagger
Your favourite of your own stories?

‘Waiting for Godstow’

Your thoughts about ‘Clutter’, which appears in the Mammoth Book?

A dark story that was fun to write

                               Martin Edwards’ latest novel is ‘The Hanging Wood’

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

One Man's Opinion: DEAD MONEY by RAY BANKS

I was absolutely thrilled a couple of days ago to find that Smoke has been short-listed for Spinetingler's 'Best Novella' award and even more thrilled when I saw the company I was keeping in the rest of the list.

The response to the book has been overwhelming, which has come a something of a surprise.  When I sent it over to Trestle Press, I really had no sense of its merits.  Maybe I'd been living too closely to it for too long to be able to find any perspective on it whatsoever.

If you read it and enjoyed it, I'd be honoured if you took the time to pop over and consider voting.

If you haven't read it and would like to, it's not too late to pick up a copy and form an opinion (it might help that if you follow the Trestle Press link here you'll find out how to get a buy-one-get-one-free deal).  Needless to say, that goes for the other books in the list, too.  Votes are being taken until the end of the month.

I'd also like to thank and praise Brian Lindenmuth for setting up this category in the first place.  It would appear that novellas are thriving just now and I'd like to celebrate that fact.  Great work Spinetingler.

Other good news. 

Allan Guthrie's 'Savage Night' is now available in Kindle.  It's going for the paltry sum of 99p in the UK and $1:54 in the US.

Here's a little about it if you don't already know:


"Guthrie's work stands up against the best the genre has to offer. His prose is clinically efficient, his storytelling consummate, his dialogue sparkles and snaps on the page, and his blend of black humour and breathless action is impossible to put down." The Herald

"A black comedy akin to the work of Christopher Brookmyre and Douglas Lindsay... If you have a robust sense of humour, you'll love this." The Observer

"Guthrie twists the plot, chops up the timeframe, and toys with point-of-view… never a dull moment." Booklist

"A masterful exercise in pulp storytelling." The List

"The best noir writer in the country...easily the match for America's finest in the genre." The Scotsman

My tip - buy it.  Then read it.  And weep.

And so to Dead Money by Ray Banks, published by Blasted Heath.

When I first became a teacher I was going to change the world.  I looked around scathingly at my older colleagues with their crumbling enthusiasm and veneer of bitterness.  I vowed to myself that I’d never be like them.  Never.

Nowadays I should be apologising to my younger self.  At the same time, I might like to explain that getting older isn’t what it seems from the perspective of youth.  It does things to you.  What I didn’t understand then is that experience can step in where energy once used to be, making things simply different and only slightly less good for the pupils.

Alan Slater might have been like the young me once, Les Beale being his older colleague.   Les became Alan’s role-model in the techniques of selling double-glazing and then hit the bottle, the gambling tables and the skids in fairly quick succession.

Alan observes Les’s decline from close quarters, though he’s no intention of heading down the plug-hole in the same way as his wayward mate.

Thing is, as Les is a big fellow he has a powerful gravity and it’s impossible for Alan to get out of his orbit.  When a gambling-fix goes wrong and Alan’s called in to clean up the mess, his life really does begin to tumble.  What’s worse for Alan is that rather than being a pale image of the bigoted, arrogant and violent Les, he’s actually got a darker core that easily surpasses that of his master. 

As we follow Alan’s attempts to keep control of his wife, dog, home, drinking problem, job and lover, we witness his satellite falling back to earth.

The book’s set in Manchester.  It’s not the Manchester of Victorian splendour or the sterile Arndale centre, but the dingy world of mill-town terraces and rot.

Mixing the sharply angled panoramas with the down-sides of gambling, booze and the predatory instincts of the salesman, Banks gives a wonderful cocktail of noir sensibilities to be enjoyed.

The scenes, particularly the casino and the pub settings, are wonderfully set.  He doesn’t miss a trick when painting a backdrop, nor does he add unnecessary weight.

The gambling routines are described with relish by Banks, a man who’s worked under the half-lights himself and clearly knows the ropes.

The first person narrative cracks along and as a reader I was completely absorbed in the tale.

To my mind there’s not a nice character in the book.  There’s not a redeeming feature on show, not in the sales team, the gamblers, the police, the students, the women in Alan’s life of the clients.  That makes the way the book remains engrossing all the more of an achievement.

There’s something reminiscent of the black-and-white toughness of the British flicks of the late fifties and early sixties, the Saturday Night and Sunday Morning hues washed over the twenty-first century setting.

Lowry painted a lot in Manchester.  Working scenes of movement and depression.  If he were painting Dead Money, far more of the matchstick men would have been lying on the pavement, throwing up, bleeding or fending off a gang of attackers.

Monday, 16 January 2012



Amazon Kindle Best-Selling and trailblazing author Paul D. Brazill has decided to drop the price of his legendary “Brit Grit Too” to $.99 for one day, Monday, January 16, 2012. If you purchase “Brit Grit Too” Trestle Press will match that with any title up to the full purchase price of $4.99 as part of the BOGO sale.
Just email Paul D. Brazill or find him at his legendary blog- http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/
Or email Trestle Press directly with your proof of purchase-trestlepress@gmail.com
This is what you will find contained within “Brit Grit Too”:
Edited by Paul D Brazill, Brit Grit Too collects 32 of Britain's best up and coming crime fiction writers to aid the charity Children 1st http://www.children1st.org.uk/

The BRIT GRIT mob is coming to kick down your door with hobnailed boots. Kitchen-sink noir; petty-thief-louts; lives of quiet desperation; sharp, blood-stained slices of life; booze-sodden brawls from the bottom of the barrel and comedy that’s as black as it’s bitter—this is BRIT GRIT
Table of Contents.

1. Two Fingers Of Noir by Alan Griffiths

2. Looking For Jamie by Iain Rowan

3. Stones In Me Pocket by Nigel Bird

4. The Catch And The Fall by Luke Block

5. A Long Time Coming by Paul Grzegorzek

6. Loose Ends by Gary Dobb

7. Graduation Day by Malcolm Holt

8. Cry Baby by Victoria Watson

9. The Savage World Of Men by Richard Godwin

10. Hard Boiled Poem (a mystery) by Alan Savage

11. A Dirty Job by Sue Harding

12. Squaring The Circle by Nick Quantrill

13. The Best Days Of My Life by Steven Porter

14. Hanging Stan by Jason Michel

15. The Wrong Place To Die by Nick Triplow

16. Coffin Boy by Nick Mott

17. Meat Is Murder by Colin Graham

18. Adult Education by Graham Smith

19. A Public Service by Col Bury

20. Hero by Pete Sortwell

21. Snapshots by Paul D Brazill

22. Smoked by Luca Veste

23. Geraldine by Andy Rivers

24. A Minimum Of Reason by Nick Boldock

25. Dope On A Rope by Darren Sant

26. A Speck Of Dust by David Barber

27. Hard Times by Ian Ayris

28. Never Ending by Fiona Johnson

29. Faces by Frank Duffy

30. The Plebitarian by Danny Hogan

31. King Edward by Gerard Brennan

32. Brit Grit by Charlie Wade

Spinetingler Award nominee Paul D Brazill has had stories in loads of classy print and electronic magazines and anthologies, such as A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Crime Factory, Dark Valentine, Deadly Treats, Dirty Noir, Needle, Powder Burn Flash, Thrillers, Killers n Chillers, Noir Nation, Pulp Ink, Pulp Pusher, Radgepacket Volumes Four and Five, Shotgun Honey& The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 8.
He writes for Pulp Metal Magazine and Mean Streets.His blog, You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? is here: http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com  
He is the creator of the  horror/noir series, Drunk on the Moon, published by Trestle Press.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Dancing With Myself: DAVID FREED interviews DAVID FREED

At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, you can get a free copy of With Love And Squalor today at Amazon in the UK and the US as well as throughout Europe.

And now, here's something that will definitely be of interest, an interview with a lot of great information.  Take it away Mr David Freed.

How can you ask yourself questions and answer them for public dissemination without coming off as completely egomaniacal and/or wacko?

Brilliant question. You must be a genius! Seriously, though, I don’t really know how to answer that one. This is my first Q&A in which I functioned both as the interviewer and interviewee. I guess the most truthful response is to say that any writer, or anyone who dares to hold his creative work up for public inspection, must maintain a fairly healthy ego. But if you’ve kicked around, and been kicked around for as long as I have, you learn pretty quickly to park the maniacal part of your writer’s id at the door—or else have it shoved down your throat every time some critic savages your work. As my mother used to say, “Egotism is an alphabet of one letter.” Actually, my mother never said that. It’s an old Scottish proverb. I only used it because it makes me sound incredibly intelligent which, of course, I must be, to ask and answer my own questions, right?

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Hardly. I convinced myself for the longest time that I wanted to be both a physician—a heart surgeon, in particular—and a World War II fighter pilot. A dubious GPA my freshman year of college quickly disabused me of the doctor game plan, and I was born long after WWII ended, so the fighter jock thing was out, too--though I did get my pilot’s license in my early 20’s and continue to fly to this day. For what it's worth, I also held out the notion in various phases of my life of being an astronaut, playing in the NFL, and performing with the Beatles. Each ambition was as equally implausible as the next. For whatever reason, I always enjoyed writing and, like so many others of my generation, had this wacky idea that I could Make The World A Better Place, which more or less led me to investigative journalism. I realized, hey, I could be a detective armed not with a ,45, but a notepad. Getting paid to write while defending truth, justice, and the American way, plus seeing my name on the front page. Not a bad way to earn a buck. I later toiled in Hollywood as a screenwriter and, later still, working with the U.S. intelligence community, all of which provided plenty of grist when I ultimately decided to try my hand at writing a novel.

Who were/are the people inspired you?

For better or worse, I’m not a big believer in external inspiration, or role models, for that matter. Creativity, as the old saw goes, is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. When it comes to being a writer, that means you can’t wait for brilliance to strike. All you can do is park your butt in the chair and write. No excuses. Too many folks who aspire to write for a living spend way too much time talking about writing, or pretending to write, hanging out at Starbuck’s, eavesdropping on conversations ostensibly for “research” purposes, and not actually writing. For me, the process of composing creatively only works if I can wall myself off from the rest of the world--just me and my laptop--and focus. My goal when I’m actively engaged in a project is to write 1,000 words a day, no less than five days a week. Some days, I fail miserably when attempting that goal; on other days, when I’m in The Zone, I can double or even triple that number. Those are rare days, to be sure.

Your hero in Flat Spin, Cord Logan, is a private pilot and flight instructor, and the book contains many flight references. What influences led you to incorporate this element in his character?

The Internal Revenue Service. I’m an instrument-rated pilot and own my own airplane. One big problem with owning a plane is how much it costs. One day, the guy who does my taxes assured me that I could deduct at least a portion of my flying expenses if those expenses involved legitimate research, and that research ultimately contributed to my work product. When he told me this, I nearly kissed him! Thus, Cordell Logan was born. My life has not been the same since.

And a follow-up: What is a "Flat Spin"?

A flat spin occurs when an aircraft spirals down, wildly out of control, while remaining essentially horizontal to the ground. There’s relatively little hope of recovery, depending on what kind of plane you’re in. Remember that scene in “The Right Stuff,” when Chuck Yeager (as played by Sam Shepard) nearly makes it into space in a silver F-104 Starfighter, then loses power, fights to regain control while falling to earth, and ultimately has to punch out? That was the flat spin to end all flat spins. Get in one, and you’re basically toast. In the case of my book, Flat Spin, the title serves as a metaphor to explain the sorry state of my hero’s life when we first meet him.

What books are on your nightstand? Who are your favorite authors and genres?

I’m pretty eclectic in my reading tastes. Nonfiction-wise, I particularly love biographies and military histories. As far as fiction goes, I just finished David Benoiff’s City of Thieves—a great book, if you haven’t read it—and am about to embark on Shavetail by Thomas Cobb, who wrote Crazy Heart (another great book). I love Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Hemingway, though the latter, not as much as I once did. When it comes to modern literature, you can’t beat James Salter, in my opinion. On my best day, I could not write one-tenth as well as he does. Among authors of mysteries, I stand in particularly awe of Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Reed Farrell Coleman, Bruce DeSilva (his Rogue Island is fantastic), Denise Hamilton, and Chris Knopf, whose Sam Acquillo/Hampton series is consistently entertaining, and newcomer Len Rosen, whose “All Cry Chaos” is nothing short of brilliant.

To paraphrase Steve Martin, "Hey, Dave, how can you be so freaking funny?" Others who’ve read and enjoyed it say that part of Flat Spin's allure are the sardonic, sometimes over-the-top characters. Is humor an element in all of your writing? Have you ever thought of being a stand-up comic?

Truth be told, I’d rather go to the dentist and get a root canal than stand up in front of a crowd of strangers—unless, of course, they’re willing to buy my book!

Is there a real Mrs. Schmulowitz? Can she come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner?

You mean Cordell Logan’s landlady, a retired PE teacher who loves pro football, cooks a mean brisket, and is the only 80-something who favors Lycra bicycle shorts and fire engine red tank tops? Nope. There is no real Mrs. Schmulowitz, though I have had more than a few relatives and friends upon whom I modeled her.

Your hero, Logan, is a former government assassin-turned-flight instructor who used to be an Air Force fighter pilot. If you had your choice of flying any fighter, which would it be?

The World War II-era P-51 Mustang, hands down, followed, in no particular order: the F-86 Sabre, A-10 Warthog, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the Harrier.

Finally, the question we've all been wondering: Why are there no vampires in "Flat Spin"?

Because--spoiler alert--there are no vampires

Thursday, 12 January 2012

With Love And Squalor Giveaway

It's free today at Amazon UK and US.  This is what you'll get:

An Arm And A Leg

first published in Crimespree Magazine 2010

Also published in Mammoth Best British Crime Stories 8 2011

Fisher Of Men

first published in Voluted Tales Magazine 2011

A Whole Lotta Rosie

first published in the anthology Pulp Ink 2011

Reaching The Summit

first published in Apollo's Lyre 2011

No Pain No Gain

first published at Crime Facory Magazine

Breakfast TV

first published at A Twist Of Noir 2011

put forward for the Pushcart Prize by Christopher Grant


first published at PulpMetal Magazine 2010

and Samples


first published at All Due Resepect 2011

included in the collection Beat On The Brat (and other stories)

Sea Minor

first published in The Reader Magazine 2009

included in the collection Dirty Old Town (and other stories) 2011

Chapter 1 of Smoke, a novella 2011