Tuesday 29 November 2011

Language Is POWER

Language is power. 

A lecturer said that to me many years ago when I was training to be a teacher.

How right he was.

I'm a Support For Learning teacher in a school with an interesting catchment.  I spend my time trying to help the children I work with take small steps in which ever direction they need to go.  My time is spent in a great variety of ways, but the most common theme is literacy. 

For those who struggle, the impact can by huge.  Just look at the statistics from prisons relating to dyslexia and literacy difficulties to see just how tremendously negative the impact can be upon an individual.  Low self-esteem can lead to poor behaviour and, if you're unlucky, to a spiral of decline.

I'm jaded now.  Almost twenty-five years in the job and I'm feeling every one of them.

Even so, I still believe in the need for people like me to help out the strugglers of this world.

To my mind, consistency of approach from adults and a range of experieces with reading and writing are the key.  This often implies that one-to-one teaching and learning is best, followed closely behind by small group learning.  Problem is, these things cost money.

I can't say I know the details of the charities to which the money from 'Off The Record' will be going to, but I applaud their efforts and their attitude.

Which is enough reason to shell out a few quid in itself.

Another reason is the list of contributors.  It's top class, so go see.

You're lucky that you can read this.  That you can read the anthology without too much difficulty.  Which is why that opening statement rings true.  Literacy enables access to jobs, information, communication, imagination, opinion, movement from one place to another, instructions, financial arrangements, personal arrangements and the like.  Imagine not being able to negotiate these things with ease.  It must be like being in a country where you can't speak or read the language.  Very tough indeed.

You're also lucky that I'm not extending this piece to further ranting.  It would seem better to let the book talk for itself.  

Thanks for the support.

Monday 28 November 2011

Dancing With Myself: CHRIS REDDING interviews CHRIS REDDING

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was ten and got to read a story in front of class. When I finished, I knew in their eyes, for one moment, I wasn’t that socially awkward kid. It was a powerful moment.

2. How long have you been writing?

Since I was ten, but for publication only for 13 years.

3. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Seat of my pants. Watching my writing process is like watching Bode Miller ski. He’s probably going to make it down the hill in a fast time, but it won’t be pretty. That’s me!

4. What do you know now that you are published that you didn’t know pre-published that you wish you knew?

How much promotion there would be. It takes a lot of time.

5. How many rejections have you received?

Over 100.

6. What was the best writing advice anyone gave you?

This is advice for whomever has a dream. Do one thing every day to get closer to that dream.

7. Why did you pick the publisher that ultimately published your book?

They were open for submissions and a writer in my first writer’s group was really happy with them.

8. If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?

What would you like me to write next?  Don't get me wrong; I have plenty of ideas.  I just don't know which to choose.

9. Tell me one thing about yourself that very few people know?

That I actually have feelings. Sometimes I don’t think people realize that.

10. If you have a day job, what is it? I teach CPR and I run the CPR training center for my boss.

Author Bio: Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog and three rabbits. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism and a minor in English. When she isn’t writing and doing workshops, she works part time for her local hospital.

Book Blurb Blonde Demolition:

Mallory Sage lives in a small, idyllic town where nothing ever happens. Just the kind of life she has always wanted. No one, not even her fellow volunteer firefighters, knows about her past life as an agent for Homeland Security.

Former partner and lover, Trey McCrane, comes back into Mallory's life. He believes they made a great team once, and that they can do so again. Besides, they don't have much choice. Paul Stanley, a twisted killer and their old nemesis, is back.

Framed for a bombing and drawn together by necessity, Mallory and Trey go on the run and must learn to trust each other again―if they hope to survive. But Mallory has been hiding another secret, one that could destroy their relationship. And time is running out.

Other books by Chris Redding

Corpse Whisperer

The Drinking Game

Confessions: Volume One


A View to a Kilt

On the Web:

Saturday 26 November 2011

1000 Maniacs

There must be 1000 maniacs out there.  1000 at the very least.  Yesterday, Dirty Old Town (and other stories) sold it's 1000th copy as an e-book. 

Just imagine.

Not only that, there have been some 200 free downloads, another 50 or so sent out for review and to friends and then there's the tree book as produced by Kuboa and Pablo D'Stair.

I'm so thrilled I don't have the words to explain.  500 was my dream target, so I'm on Cloud 9 (between Cloud 8 and Cloud 10).

For those with work that's in an early stage of release, this should offer hope that you can make it.

The secret?  There isn't one, but there may be lots. 

There's the work itself - I hope that's played it's part.  There's the effort and persistence in the face of bleakness as well as sunshine.  There's the generosity of friends and colleagues.  There have been the reviewers and bloggers and Tweeters and Facebook-posters and those who've passed on word and probably Amazon deserves a fair share, too.

I need to (and want to) thank all the people who have helped this along in any way.  You may or may not know, but my mood is ridiculously impacted upon by the way my stories are selling (and I know that is really unhealthy and sad), so thanks to all for blowing hard when the grey clouds have massed above my head.

Other good news is that Into Thin Air popped back into the Waterstones Top Ten short stories chart, so my smile hardly fits on my face.

The Yang to the Yin is that Smoke is sinking like a stone and With Love And Squalor has been sluggish out of the blocks.  Hey, that's life, and my smile stays huge.

Drawing a line under the ME comments for a while, there's plenty of other good news to share on this Thanksgiving week.

Paul D Brazill, a class act, has a new collection out entitled 13 Shots Of Noir.  It's out by Untreed Reads who have done a really good job with their titles, and the cover is dynamite.  I've not read it yet, but with Paul's talent, I have no doubt that it's amazingly good.

The Devil All The Time came through my letter-box this week.  I've not opened it, yet, but I've stroked the cover a lot to get the full value from the excellent cover and I'm saving it for Christmas reading to make sure I have a fab holiday.  I can't wait.  I wondered about getting the Kindle copy, but some books need to be on your shelf - this is definitely one of them.

Another star out their, rising in Venus and with all the character of Mars, is Ian Ayris.  His novel will be published in Spring next year by Caffeine Nights.  Follow the link and you'll be able to download the opening chapter as a taster.  I'm not going to do that - it will make me far too desperate to read on, so I'm just buying on release.  If you saw his mind-blower in Pulp Ink (and have any cells left), you'll know just what I'm talking about.

And Ron Brown has re-released Mayhem.  I was honoured to be asked to write an intro and hope that I did him justice. 

If you saw Benoit here yesterday (go do if you didn't), you'll have seen some healthy plugs for great collections.  He highlighted Beat To A Pulp and Lost Children among other things.

The people behind those deserve a mention, so:

Cash Laramie etc is essential reading.

Kick It Again should be checked out.

the story, 'Candle' over at Grift is one of my top 5 this year.

Also needing a hug (she may not need one, but I'd like to give it), Absolutely Kate over At The Bijou who has devoted November to noir (and did a tremendous job of it too).

And a word for the guys at Snubnose for doing such a great job.

Happy weekend to you all and big thanks to all you maniacs and heathens out there.


Friday 25 November 2011

Dancing With Me-self: BENOIT LELIEVRE interviews BENOIT LELIEVRE

So, who the fuck are you?

Oh. Is that the part where I'm suppose to introduce myself and say I'm a writer?


How about no? How about you find better questions. Everybody knows I'm a writer. Everbody that does this self-interview thingie ARE writers. Give me something to work with, man.

All right. All right. Calm down.

It's always the same fucking story with you. You want me to go through the same channels than everybody else and I end up sucking or being average at best. Aren't you tired of this bullshit?

Yes, I am. But it's you that likes to play this passive-aggressive I'm-lovable-and-witty-and-I-hate-you game. You know what, fuck you too.

Here we go again.


*sigh* Yes, I'm a writer.

How so? What qualifies you to say you're a writer? Do you have to subscribe to a club? Do you have a hat that says “I'm a writer”?

Wow, a good question. I published a few short stories. Four so far, in reputable underground publications. I know I have one more coming up this Fall, but I'm shopping several more also. My latest is called BURNING, in the latest edition of Pulp Metal. In it, I launch my new recurring character Lowell Sweeney.

I don't know, I'm a writer because I'm active, I guess. I spent time writing and submitting to magazines and learning as I go. I was tired to be this “I'm-writing-a-novel” guy who didn't have anything to show for himself. I'm writing, I'm doing the best I can. I get my name out there.

Any smug bastard with a good pen can publish a few short stories, though. It looks good on a resume and in house parties. Really, how do you know you're a writer and not one of those fakes you hate?

I don't know, all right? I guess I'll never know, because I'm the worst judge for myself. The need to write, it's not something I can explain very well. It's like, I see something that inspires me and I will heard voices, see faces, develop around that thing.

For example, Lowell Sweeney came to me while watching
BREAKING BAD. I saw Walter White and I saw a walking dead man, who sold his soul the day he learned his fate was almost sealed. Then, he became a thousand times the man he should have been, but at a terrible cost. Lowell was born out of that rotting beauty. I don't know if this makes sense or not?

No. Who's Lowell Sweeney exactly?

He's my character. I have several stories written about him already. He's a blue-chipper policeman who never really failed at anything until the day dirty cops catch him red handed with some coke. Turned out he had a big coke problem he thought he had under control.

They're starting to blackmail him about that and they make him do odd enforcer jobs, until one day where they call him up to do something he refuses. But he does it anyway and his life spins upside down. That's it. I can't say more without spoiling anything. You read the stories anyway.
I did. When are they coming out?

BURNING came out this month. I have another one called DROWNING, which is almost done. The rest are simmering in between drafts. They should come out gradually in 2012. I have four written.

All right, so what are your plans for 2012, except for the stories?

The novel is on the ice. I don't believe in that project anymore. I'm thinking maybe I'll try my luck with a novella. I have this story I've been working on called GODSPEED ON THE DEVIL'S THUNDER, which is pretty dark and messed up. I think I could go up to 20 000 words with this. Other than that. I don't know yet.

Why do you think readers should read you, and not the others?

Why would they have to read only me? I read a hundred different writers a year. My stories are dark and sad, but it's only for a certain mood, you know. Literature is a “the-more-the-merrier” type of situation, no?

What I meant was why readers should spend their money on YOUR books?

Shut up.

All right, who else do you suggest they spend their money on?

I see your fucking game, man. You want me to name some writers to put me on the spot. Like I have some favorites. Fuck you, I'm not doing that.

Oh come on, man. There are so many writers in underground crime fiction, you must have a few favorites. Just aesthetically speaking.

Just aesthetically, promise?


I think Frank Bill is the next big thing. By that, I mean Hemingway big. I mean will-be-studied-in-high-school-or-in-college big. He has the stories, the unique handle on language, the hard nosed attitude, even the style. He's not my favorite, but he's up there and I think he will get rich from writing.

Other than that, I really like Matthew C. Funk's stories. He has that demented criminal character named Parnell. He might be the only character who ever scared me right off the page. That guy is SERIOUS. He will butcher your wife if you steal a dollar and a half from him. I think he's Matthew's ticket to glory, but I might be the only one to think that.

I'm not gonna name any more, because it's going to create tension and I will be tempted to smack your fucking face.

Calm down, man. That bourbon is driving you mad. Let's take it from another angle. Who are your favorite writers then?

Dennis Lehane is the guy that pushed me to write. I mean, not personally but his novels had a profound effect on me. Especially MYSTIC RIVER and DARKNESS, TAKE MY HAND. Other than that, I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Rollins and Haruki Murakami a lot.

Aren't you forgetting someone?

Yes, Anthony Neil Smith. I really love his novels. They came to mean a lot to me, especially CHOKE ON YOUR LIES and the Billy Lafitte ones. It's funny because we talk on Twitter and he seems to think I'm a loon because of that, but I don't care. As long as he keeps writing, his stories will make me happy and encourage me to write some more.

Anything else you want to say?

Yes, buy The Lost Children Anthology. It`s cheap and it`s been put together by Thomas Pluck and Fiona Johnson, that are two wonderful writers of their own. The benefits from the anthology will be given to PROTECT and Children First, so it`s a good cause and I have a story in it, titled UNDER THE GAZE OF SATURN.
Buy Beat To A Pulp: Hardboiled also, because I`m in it and I`m very proud to be. It put some writers on the mat before. And read BURNING in Pulp Metal Magazine and leave me comments. I`m a sucker for those.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Dancing With Myself: KEITH GILMAN interviews KEITH GILMAN

Keith Gilman is a writer and a cop. Here's the rest of the story.
1. Tell me what I need to know. And I don't want to hear your life story.

MY BROTHER'S KEEPER is a detective novel set in Philadelphia, about a down-and-out, ex-Philly cop trying to put to rest the ghosts that still haunt him from his days on the street. A woman from his past returns. His old partner is killed. There's a psycho-sexual murderer loose on the streets of Philadelphia. Death is everywhere and he's learned to live with it, until it ends up on his doorstep.

2. You really a cop? Anything else I need to know?

I've been a police officer in the Philadelphia area for close to twenty years and my writing reflects that experience on many levels. I believe that cops have important stories to tell, stories that need to be told and deserve a strong voice. My Brother's Keeper is the second book in my detective series. The publisher is Severn House. My debut novel, Father's Day, won the Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel Award and is now available in paperback. I also have had numerous short stories published in a variety of crime fiction magazines both on the web and in print. Most recently, my story Devil's Pocket, featured in the anthology Philadelphia Noir from Akashic Books, was nominated for a Macavity Award

3. You're a cop. So what?

Readers want to know what cops know. And what cops know best is Death. They've grown accustomed to its face. They've come to recognize it in all its forms. They know it for what it is, without the glamour or the superstition. They can often see it coming. They've seen its aftermath. They've boiled it down to its most common denominators. It is the thing they are most qualified to talk about and write about. 

There's a story I heard once, of a rookie cop still in the police academy, who asks a question of one of his instructors, a grizzled, old, veteran homicide detective. He wants to know how to be sure someone is dead, how to recognize it. He already knows the physical characteristics. If there's no breathing and no pulse, the person is technically dead. But is there something else he should be looking for?

The grizzled cop says only this, "Dead is dead, son. You'll know it when you see it." It didn't really answer his question but it was an answer that said something about the grizzled old cop, about where he's coming from. In My Brother's Keeper, we get to view the world through the eyes of that cop, who's seen it all and done it all. He walks the walk and he talks the talk and he pulls back the curtain on the dark stage of humanity and its crimes.

4. What can I get from you that I can't get in the morning paper?

My writing style is consistently atmospheric, gritty, lyrical and haunting. The narrative contains stark imagery, strong noir elements, multiple layers of meaning and psychological depth. The setting of My Brother's Keeper is the urban landscape of Philadelphia, and there we delve not just into the soul of a city, but into the soul of a man.

My Brother's Keeper is not just another American crime novel. It's the story of a cop, what makes him tick, what he dreams about at night, his loves and his fears, the way he navigates both the dark streets of Philadelphia and the dark corners of his own conscience. It's the story of how one man balances his role as detective, father, friend, story-teller and finder of truth. It's the story of how one man survives.

5. I didn't know cops were so deep.

Is that a question?

6. You're the writer and the cop. You tell me.

Crime fiction can be more than gun fights, car chases and raunchy sex. It can address the most fundamental questions men have always asked themselves. It can show men in the throes of moral dilemma, making life and death decisions. It's more than a story well-told. It's a story with vision and insight and characters that come to life. Pure realism is relatively easy to replicate. But poetic realism needs to be molded as a lump of clay into a sculpture, it needs to be drawn as a painting might. It is not only a mirror held up to the world. And though it is our eyes that gaze into that mirror, the reflection is different for each of us. And that's the wonder of literature--it relates both individually and universally. It is both a singular vision and collective one.

I'd like to think that in My Brother's Keeper you'll find vision and depth and poetry, as well as a harsh realism and moments of extreme violence that remind the reader that this is a story of pain and death as well as redemption.

7. You want the last word. You got it.

I'll leave you with a few lines from the book. At the end of Chapter sixteen, our hero Lou Klein is talking with Brian Haggerty's mother. Haggerty inherited a popular nightclub in Philadelphia from his gangster father. He's a suspect in the murder of Lou's old friend and partner at the Philadelphia Police Department. The end of the conversation gives us a glimpse of Lou's character.

“You don’t seem to have a very high opinion of me, Mrs. Haggerty.”
“I have no opinion. You remind me of someone, though. Your nose isn’t small but it’s straight. Your parents must have been an attractive couple.”
“My parents are dead.”
“Both of them?”
“My mother was murdered in her house in Overbrook Park. She’d been there a week before they found her.”
“For heaven’s sake. How often did you check on her?”
“Not often enough, apparently. Not as often as your son checks on you, I’m sure. He probably checks your pulse at night while you’re sleeping.”
“I suppose you think I deserve that. Maybe I do. And your father, he was a cop, like you.”
“No, nothing like me. But yes, he was a cop and he was killed in the line of duty a long time ago.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. The badge meant everything to him. He died doing what he loved.”
“And how about you?”
“If I cared that much, I might still be wearing it.”
“Oh, that’s right. You’re a private investigator. Why aren’t you still on the force? Or is that the one thing you don’t want to talk about?”
“Let’s just say there’s no love lost between me and the Philadelphia Police Department.”
Lou opened the door and stepped out onto the front porch. The breeze whistled through the trees and he waited for it to pass and then went to the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. Eleanor Haggerty leaned into the doorway.
“You don’t like me very much, I’m afraid. Don’t bother to answer. I know what you’ll say. You’ll be polite and smile and tell me it’s not like that at all. You’ll say that it’s not that you don’t like me, it’s that we don’t understand each other. You’d patronize me, wouldn’t you, Mr. Klein?”
“I might.”
“It’s ok. Because I stopped caring what people thought of me a long time ago. They all have their own reasons for hating me and they all believe they’re justified. They think I have money and connections and I can get away with murder. So, it’s ok to hate me. But the truth is, they need someone to hate.”
“Maybe you hate them as much as they hate you. Have you ever thought about that?”
“Maybe you’re right. Then I’m no different than they are. I’m just held to higher standard. As a former cop, you must know how that feels.”
“Good night, Mrs. Haggerty.”
Lou started down the front porch steps.
“Now I know who you remind me of. That statue, in Rome I think it is. The statue of David. That’s it. King David. All strong and serious but with a certain weakness too.”
“I guess I should be flattered.”
“Don’t be. For all his greatness, he had his flaws. An eye for the women. One he couldn’t control. It was his Achilles heel, Mr. Klein.”

Tuesday 22 November 2011

With Love And Squalor

This time last week I had no thoughts about a third collection.  It was probably the furthest thing from my mind.

On Wednesday, I went over to the Blasted Heath page to see what the e-book cover sale was all about and couldn't help but take a punt.

I had a cover then, and decided that I could actually use it well.

Collecting the stories was the easy part.  I'd been looking forward to sharing them with a broader audience and am really looking forward to some feedback.

The title was another matter.  In the end, I went for With Love And Squalor.  I've been smitten by the works of Salinger since I began to enjoy reading and love his title choices.  Not only that, but it seems to sum up the way I write.  There's always love in there somewhere, even if it's just coming from me.  And there's almost always squalor in some form.  Perfect, then.

The cover here was designed by JT Lindroos.  I'd like to thank him for the opportunity and for the kindness and easy going way in which he took it all.  I think you'll agree, he's pretty damn good at what he does.  If you didn't see yesterday's post, I'd urge you to follow the links to see just what he has done.  Amazing.

Anyway, the info on the collection goes like this:

When ‘An Arm And A Leg’ was published by Crimespree Magazine in January 2010, we were to witness Nigel Bird’s debut as a crime-writer.  Soon afterwards, the story was chosen by Maxim Jakubowski for the Mammoth Best British Crime Stories 8.

Since then, Bird has been the winner of the Watery Grave Invitational competition, won the Things I’d Rather Be Doing fairytale crime competition and been nominated for the Best Story Online  in the Spinetingler awards for 2011.

With Love And Squalor’ is his 3rd collection of stories.  In it, we see the range of his talents, a spread of individual pieces which combine to provide readers with a powerful and emotional experience that they aren’t likely to forget in a hurry.

Among praise for Nigel Bird’s work includes:
Nigel Bird is one of our most skilful and insightful short story writers’ Heath Lowrance
‘The real deal.”  Les Edgerton
‘A rare talent.’ Allan Guthrie
‘Really good.’ Ian Rankin
‘What an excellent storyteller Bird is.’ McDroll
‘I’ve enjoyed Bird’s short fiction for years.’ Thomas Pluck
Yeah, Smoke by Nigel Bird, is everything a good story should be.’ Sabrina Ogden
‘Ever since I first read Dirty Old Town by Nigel I have been a fan of his short stories.’ Darren Sant
‘A definition of noir itself’ Lifelongdagger
‘Complex characters, a well-constructed story and very fine writing.’ Chris Rhatigan
‘Your eyes and your heart are filled with one single shining jewel called, Hope.’ AJ Hayes
‘Exciting up-and-coming talent.’ Maxim Jakubowski
You can get this for 99c in the US, 86p in the UK and (if you're still not tempted) free from Smashwords over the next couple of days using the discount code HK57G.
Thanks all for the time.
Now go read stuff.

Monday 21 November 2011


JT Lindroos interviewed by Billy Idle

So what makes you think you're so special?


I mean, you ran a couple of publishing imprints into the ground and then ran away with your tail between your legs to do, boo-hoo, cover 'art'?

Well we did publish…

Yeah, I know, you published the first novels by Al Guthrie, Dave Zeltserman, Duane Swierczynski, Donna Moore and a bunch of bigwigs like Willeford and Sallis -- whooptedoo. Guthrie did most of the work for you anyway, didn't he?

Well, yeah, absolutely, he was…

HA! I knew it! So the only thing you did was -- and I'm stretching the definition of 'did' here -- acquire that brilliant book of Guthrie's and slapped some computer art on the cover, right?

I did some...

HA! Key word some. Confession time: I'm going to get every last drop of truth out of you if it kills me. So, now you've inveigled your way into doing cover art for Blasted Heath and Down & Out Books and some other people who should know better…

OK, listen…

No, you listen! I know what you do. You're doing with covers exactly what you did with Guthrie's book. You take someone else's work and drop some junk on top and then charge big bucks for this, right?

I'm really cheap…

I bet you are, you bastard. I notice you're undercutting every honest, hardworking graphic artist out there trying to make a living by selling your own leftover garbage for $10 on twitter!? Are you kidding me? You should be ashamed of yourself!

No, it's a bit more…

Complicated? I bet it is. How dare you...

Listen, you little…

NO! YOU listen, you LITTLE WEIRDO! I'm telling YOU that I'VE had enough of your goddamn nonsense. I'm telling YOU that… w.. w... w-what's that? Now wait. Nononono. There's no need. Please put that down…. Honest, I'm just…. this is all in good fun… listen, hey, come on. This is all streaming live to the internet, just
pleazzzzzzzzzbbbbbbbbbbbbbbrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggg .

JT Lindroos bio:

JT was born in Finland in 1971, moved to the US in 2000. Married. Used to run Wit's End Publishing and Point Blank Press with his lovely wife Kathleen.

Still occasionally did publishing, like Charles Willeford poetry for Kindle and most recently published SCI-FI SAVANT by Emmy-nominee and Rondo winner Glenn Erickson, but was mostly an eBook cover designer through 2011.

Wrote reviews on comics, pop culture and forteana for Bookgasm. Designed awards, trophies and lobby installations for a living. Watched art house films and monster movies for fun. After the disappearance of Mr. Idle, whereabouts unknown.
rarely blogging at: http://jtlindroos.tumblr.com/
occasionally twittering at: http://twitter.com/jtlindroos
Kathleen's blog: http://kat330.tumblr.com/

Friday 18 November 2011

5 Deaths In Barney Thomson Novels

When Nigel opened up his blog to all us Blasted Heathens, he suggested that I write a Top Five of Barney Thomson haircuts. I thought about it for a while, and ultimately decided that a list of murders might be more entertaining. It's not necessarily a top 5; just any old 5…

#5 The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson

Barney kills Wullie with a pair of scissors. It's not brutal, it's not dynamic, it's neither nasty nor psychotic. However, it's the first death in what will become a long line to plague Barney, although few will be so hands on.

Wullie slips and falls towards Barney. Barney tries to catch him, but doesn't have time to get rid of the scissors in his hands. The scissors plunge into Wullie's stomach. There is blood. Wullie dies.

Wullie slumped heavily into Barney and his outstretched hands. Neatly, exactly, with medical precision, the scissors entered through Wullie’s stomach and jagged up under his rib cage. He rested in Barney’s arms for a few seconds, then pulled back to look at him, an expression of stupefied surprise on his face. He lurched back, blood pouring from the wound, the scissors embedded in his stomach.

In truth, it's pretty damn unrealistic. If I had the book over again, I'd have Barney accidentally kill Wullie in a completely different way. When I wrote the film script there was an equally unrealistic death involving a mouse and a toaster. Shame that never got made…

#4 A Prayer For Barney Thomson

I had this idea to have my serial killer peel the skin from someone's leg and then strangle them with the skin. I asked a paramedic if this was possible or whether the skin would snap. She said she thought the skin would probably not be strong enough, and suggested that instead the killer could ram the skin down the victim's throat. I went with that, although I didn't actually describe the murder, just the aftermath.

Detective Sergeant Ferguson approached. Looking sombre for once, but only because he hadn’t eaten anything in ten hours. They were aware of his approach; only Mulholland bothered to take it in.

‘You’re in luck,’ said Ferguson.

Mulholland raised an eyebrow. ‘You mean she’s not dead?’

‘Better than that. Her parents are dead, so you don’t have to tell the mother.’

#3 The Haunting of Barney Thomson

The killer in this book takes care of most of his victims by decapitating them with an axe. Some of the deaths are described – scenes which I must confess to writing without doing any significant research – while some we just learn through the aftermath. My favourite is the one where old man Koppen is murdered; his body is left sitting on the sofa, his decapitated head placed on top of the television, after which blood runs down the screen and congeals, while hard core pornography plays on a continuous loop on the TV. I'm not sure how hard core pornography – or indeed drama of any kind – would play on a continuous loop on one's TV set, but let's not let that stand in the way of an absurdly grotesque scene.

Semester removed his rubber gloves with a satisfying smack, placed them in the makeshift forensic bin, closed his bag, and wandered over to stand beside Frankenstein, who had watched over him for the previous forty minutes. The two men stared at each other, Semester shrugged.

‘He’s definitely dead,’ he said.

Frankenstein laughed. Semester turned and looked over the crime scene.

‘Too early to say the cause of death.’

Frankenstein laughed again.

‘You’re a sick bastard.’

‘Thanks. Died a while ago. At least fourteen hours, maybe twenty. I’ll let you know. Either way, it’s probably too late to stick the head back on. I mean, they can do amazing things these days, but this…’

#2 The King Was In His Counting House

I think I just like this one because when you're standing at a urinal, minding your own business, assuming you're alone in a toilet and taking a pee, you're really not expecting someone to drop out of the ceiling and knife you in the head.

Trudger stood at the urinal. Had the toilet to himself, which you might think was fortuitous for his killer, but actually it was fortuitous for the others who’d decided not to use the toilet at that time, as his killer would’ve taken out any sundry volunteers to the slaughter. Trudger took his pish, let’s not go into too much detail here. Gave the whole thing a shake, was about to tuck everything back inside his big purple pants, when the Ride of the Valkyries descended from on high. Having suspended herself between cobwebbed pipes and the corners of the ceiling, she released her hold, transferred the knife from her teeth to her hand, and buried it to the hilt into the top of Trudger’s head, as she free fell on top of him.

#1 The Final Cut

This one scores a big fat zero on the possibility of actually happening scale. Man and woman sitting at dinner, he's flirting like mad, she's tolerating him. Finally she leads him to believe that he's going to get somewhere and he leans across to grab her head and kiss her. She takes it for a moment, then bites him. He pulls back smiling, and…

She lifted her empty wine glass and held it up to show him, as if offering it for a toast. He looked at her quizzically, assuming she had some weird sexual thing in mind. But when she moved it was with speed and grace, an almost balletic quality to the motion.

She brought the wine glass down on the edge of the table, so that the cup snapped off with a loud crack at the top of the stem and spiralled into the air, then in the same flowing movement she brought the stem up and plunged it into his right eye, through the ball and deep into the socket, forcing it in the full six inches, so that the base of the glass rested up against his face.

The initial spurt of blood was arrested by the bottom of the glass, so that as Fitzgerald pitched forward, his head thudding noisily on the table, the blood squirmed uneasily from underneath the glass and began to spread across the white table cloth, which had up until now only been despoiled by a smidge of blette.

Then she caught the cup on its downward spiral.

Really, you're going to have a hell of a job snapping that stem off without smashing the glass, but why let that get in the way of a murder that feels beautifully cinematic in its execution.

[here's hoping, Doug]


And by the way, they're at it again over at Blasted Heath.  Today they're giving away other people's stuff and it's Nik Corpon (superb, really).  What the hell are you waiting for - get over!

There are, of course, plenty more deaths and murders in the series, these were just five to come to mind. Perhaps one day there will be a 5 More Deaths In Barney Thomson Novels.

Thursday 17 November 2011


In life, it’s tangled webs we weave. In small towns, those webs are likely to become infinitely more tangled.

Unfortunately for the Morgan brothers, this complication isn’t something they’ve considered when they decide to move out to The Point of the title.

In their defence, moving there makes sense in the context that the local hard man and hippy-thug (Mad Mike) has given Paul a week to get out of Belfast. Even though Mickey smokes a lot of gear, when it comes to retribution he’s about as laid back as Mike Tyson on speed.

To get them started, the brothers have to rob a few houses to build up a stash of cash.

Paul and Brian don ski-masks for their work. During one of their crimes, we see that Paul is a quick thinker and a man with a slick tongue who’s likely to talk himself out of any situation; by contrast, Brian, is seen to have a conscience that might be described as a half-baked, murky grey.

Once their stash is collected, all they need is transport. Paul, in one of his twisted moments, decides to take the van from the hippy - after all, they’re leaving the city and there’s no way they’ll be caught. How little he knows his new enemy.

When they get to The Point, the differences between Paul and Brian lead them into different lives. Paul has his mind set on getting involved with the local mobster and climbing to the top of the criminal tree. Brian meets a girl and decides it’s about time he settled down. The thing is his girl’s a real firecracker; her psychopath points outscore Brian and Paul together.

The story unfolds from there as we watch webs weave around the boys like executioner’s rope.

Gerard Brennan’s novella, The Point, is a wonderful example of setting off at pace and then maintaining momentum right to the end.

His writing style has no frills. He delivers the story without any obvious tricks or hidden doors. What you see is what you get.

What you get is a cast of characters who are so wonderfully defined and so brilliantly conceived that it’s a wonder adventure finding out what they’re going to do next.

Brennan writes about human responses to situations with accuracy and frankness.

Then there’s the plot. It really hums along. Each chapter complicates the lives of the protagonists a little further. Turns the screw a notch. More importantly, he brings everyone together so that everyone stumbles into everyone else’s business like they’re toppling dominoes.

I thought long and hard about whether to mention Bateman as my best attempt at giving you a mark for Brennan’s territory. Clearly I’ve failed. But that’s OK. The humour, intensity and sure pleasure of the read are reminiscent of the Bateman I’ve read and, as such, if you’ve enjoyed ‘I Predict A Riot’ and the like, this one’s definitely for you.

If you’re like me and you really love the cover, you can judge the pages within by what you see in that image (great job, Pulp Press).

Mr Brennan, I urge you to go forth and multiply (in the book sense). Please.

The Point is available at the bargain price of £1.14.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Dancing With Myself: KYLE MACRAE (Blasted Heathen) interviews KYLE MACRAE (Blasted Heathen)

Blasted Heath, like their name suggests, seems to have a scorched-earth policy. 

It wasn't enough for them to give out their entire launch output for nothing during their first week.  Now they're selling it all at the bargain price of 99p/99c - it's a one week offer, so I'd pop over to their site to pick up another slice of good fortune if I were you.

There's also the chance to pick up their new release for free if you go and like their Facebook page. 

How they're ever going to make real money with that kind of generosity is beyond me, but here's hoping.

KYLE: So, Smudge, just how insane do you have to be to launch a publishing business these days?

SMUDGE: Beyond bonkers, Kyle. Thanks for asking. But Al Guthrie told me it's easy to make lots of money in publishing.

KYLE: Really?

SMUDGE: No. But it's all his fault.

KYLE: How so?

SMUDGE: Well, I'd spent the past three years working on social media strategies with clients through my business, Blether Media. Back in February I was trying to figure out how to help authors use social channels for publicity and promotion, not least because I was writing my own novel and knew I'd have to do it myself one day. I was already aware of Al as a literary agent but when I saw the success he was having with his own self-publishing experiment – 50,000+ sales to date – I knew he was the hombre to hook.

KYLE: How did you meet?

SMUDGE: I stalked him.

KYLE: Uh huh.

SMUDGE: No, really. He didn't stand a chance. I camped out in Portobello, bugged his house, hacked his PC, drugged his latte, made a secret ally of his dog, and rewired his brain while he slept. He finally took the hint that I might be worth talking to, which led to a chat, a coffee and an exchange of ideas. It could have ended there…

But it didn't. Lots more coffee, many more ideas, and we finally figured that a full-service digital publishing business was the way to go. At which point, it was me on the hook. There was no going back. Damn his enthusiasm!

KYLE: What qualifies you for this? What do you know about publishing?

SMUDGE: Considerably more than I did six months ago! But that's fine. It's kinda cool being an outsider. No preconceptions and the freedom to look at a business model and say: well, that's fucked, let's try something different. Al was already doing that as an industry insider.

Meanwhile, one really useful experiment for me was asking a bunch of willing writers what they thought about digital opportunities. This was over at www.AudaciousAuthor.com and I think it's still worth a browse (though like everything else it's currently on hold).

The key thing is that we're working with our authors. It's a partnership. That's the deal. And they have been to a man (and will be to a woman, soon) terrific at kick-starting Blasted Heath. It's a combined effort and will continue so. We're also enormously appreciative of all the goodwill towards what we're doing, mainly from Al's existing network. That kind of support is invaluable.  

KYLE: So how easy is it to set up a digital publishing business, Smudge? You just throw up a website, yeah? Sign up a few writers and screw them on their rights? Punt a few ePubs into the ether and see what happens?

SMUDGE: Ha! Setting up ANY business is always a challenge. At the logistical level alone, it takes months of preparation and graft. Meetings with bankers and accountants, endless form-filling, all the techie ecommerce stuff – that’s when your commitment is truly tested. Well, that and throwing your own money at the project; that's fairly testing too.

But beyond the logistics, we knew three things for sure: we had a phenomenal pool of talent available to us (just look at the brilliant authors we have onboard), we had ideas we believed in, and we had the drive to JFDI. So JFDI we did.

There's no question that the publishing industry is changing, and change is always the place to be. Preferably at the pointy end. I like the pointy end. Or the cutting edge. Always have. Even when it hurts.

KYLE: Pretty straightforward, then.

SMUDGE: Piece of piss. Truth is, you need to be prepared to set aside virtually everything else to get something like this off the ground. That was a relatively easy call for me. On the personal level, the first few months of this year were shit. Meltdown City. Not pretty, not pretty at all. To bounce back, I needed a new focus, a new project, a new business. So I climbed Mont Ventoux on my bike in July – a personal milestone, having bottled it in 2005 when I was younger (obv) and fitter – and threw myself into Blasted Heath. It meant downing tools at Blether Media and essentially living off my wife's goodwill, but that's the risk you take with a start-up.

KYLE: Is it risky?

SMUDGE: You shitting me? It's ALL risk. But I'm loving it. Nothing I'd rather be doing than working with writers and trying to do something exciting in publishing. We're only a few days into the live business and now the hard work really begins. This is a business, not a hobby. We're determined to make it work. Luckily, we're also determined to have fun. So screw the risk.

KYLE: What else are you up to?

SMUDGE: Not much. I'm working on the digital campaign for Bloody Scotland, an exciting new crime fiction festival in Stirling next September, and finally getting back to thinking about maybe planning to find the time to do some of my own writing. Elsewise it's Blasted Heath around the clock. 

KYLE: On that note, rumour has it that Mr Guthrie hasn't written a whole helluva lot these past few months, what with setting up Blasted Heath and all. How do you feel about disrupting the literary output of one of Scotland's finest writers?

SMUDGE: Not fussed. Like I said, it's all his fault.


Monday 14 November 2011

Dancing By Myself: GARY CARSON interviews GARY CARSON

Tell us about your childhood.

I don't remember much about the night I was born. There was a lot of glop and squawling, then I sort of squeezed out and plopped on the table like a damp cauliflower and somebody gave me a slap. Later, I spent a lot of time crawling around, blubbering and eating crayons, and I think I fell off the top of a bunk bed, but it's all kind of foggy. One of my earliest clear memories goes back to grade school. I was standing in the hall with my lunchbox and plastic Stegosaur when some kid walked up to me, leaned down and said "Kid, you've got a head as round as a basketball." And it was true.

What happened after that?

A bunch of idiotic bullshit. When I look back at it now, I have to wonder if I'm really as smart as my hordes of imaginary fans tell me I am.

When did you start writing?

In the third grade. My first story was called "The Tiger Man Strikes Again" and I still have it. The first sentence reads "Once in the deep heart of Africa there lived a tiger who always wanted to go to the city." This brilliant opening is followed by two pages of bloody mayhem.

Do you consider yourself a literary writer?

I write deep literature. Can't you tell? There's no way I would defile my pure artistic spirit by writing mass-market thrillers and selling out for mere cash by shamelessly plugging my fantastically entertaining paranoid-conspiracy technothriller, Phase Four, now on sale (cheap) through Blasted Heath and Amazon.

What are your political views?

I watched the video of Saddam Hussein being executed and it really made me think. It made me think: Is there nothing on the internet I wouldn't masturbate to?

You stole that despicable joke from Frankie Boyle.

No, I didn't.

What are you working on now?

I just "finished" an apocalyptic disaster thriller called Machine. It's going to need more work, but I'm hoping it will pass muster with the extremely demanding powers that be and maybe come out next year. And I'm currently working on a juicy thriller called "Monster Story." Going back to my roots, I guess.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

What do you mean "us?" You're me. What do you think this is? Fight Club?

 Gary Carson is the author of Phase Four, published by Blasted Heath.