Monday 26 November 2012

The Next Big Thing - Nigel Bird

I'm on a chain-gang.  The bracelets are killing me and I'm parched.

Never mind, it's what you get if you agree to be tagged in a never-ending book-blog string and it's what you get when you have good friends to tag you.

My tag came from Daniel O'Shea over at his blog Going Ballistic.  He's done a great interview over there and now it's my turn to give the questions a try.

At the end of the piece, I'll link to the folk I've tagged so you can find out about their great stuff as soon as they've been roped in, branded and put theirs up.

Thanks to Dan for the tag.  Now, here goes:

1 What is the working title of your next book?

Because I've only just put out Mr Suit (US), I'm going to refer to that as my 'next book' because I've not had time to think of a new story yet. 

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I was moved by the court-cases here in the UK by people with great physical difficulties who wanted to have the right to die – a man with locked-in syndrome was so incapacitated that he couldn’t take his own life and his close family couldn’t end things without being charged with murder.  It seemed crazy and I wanted to write a serious novel on the subject. 

As research, I read The Diving Bell And The Butterfly and also a brilliant novel called Senseless (by Stona Fitch).  They were so good, I needed to find another approach, hence Mr Suit.

3 What genre does your book fall under?

Screwball noir.

4   What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’d have a man with locked-in syndrome for the role of Archie just to get it right. His wife might be Joan Crawford and Mr Suit would be Broderick Crawford (I figure that’s OK because them being dead already doesn’t make the prospect of the film being made any less likely). 

Ritchie, Tarantino and Capra can collaborate on production and direction.

5)   What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When a plan for a gangland euthanasia party goes wrong, someone’s bound to end up sleeping with the fishes.

6)   Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

 It’s self-published as an e-book and a paperback. 

7)   How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Though it’s only a novella, I spent a long time on the first draft.  A good couple of months fine tuning. 

Unusually for me, when it came to the edit I ended up adding words rather than taking them away to try and give this one a slightly different feel than my usual work. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s a pretty crazy plot with a zesty pace and a fair dose of adult content.  For that, I reckon I’m blaming Anthony Neil Smith, Allan Guthrie, Matthew McBride, Douglas Lindsay, Charlie Williams and Donna Moore. 

9   Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See question 1.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

It’s unpredictable – I doubt the twists can be fathomed in advance of coming across them.

It features the slowest getaway vehicle in the history of crime fiction.

There’s a little sex to add some spice it that’s your boat.

The humour runs through it from start to finish, so if you’re a fan of dark comedy it might well be for you.

Now for my first tag. 

Drum roll.  I mean McDroll.  She's funny and Scottish (you might have guessed), she's lovely (which you possibly know) and she writes great stories (should you not know that, maybe it's time to find out). 

Off you pop.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Questions, Questions and Tony Black.

Next Tuesday, 27th November, Tony Black will be appearing at my local library in Dunbar (7:30 - 9:00 pm).

I feel very honoured to have been asked by Tony to host part of the event as an interviewer and hope that I can add some flavour to the evening. 

The guy's got a rich back list to dig in to and he's putting things out on a regular basis. 

He works on Pulp Pusher and keeps us entertained with his posting.  He has the Di Brennan series, the Gus Durie series, Doug Michie has made a recent appearance in The Storm Without and there's the Blasted Heath release RIP Robbie Silva.

It's a large surface to scratch.

I do have ideas of what to ask and I know that Tony's charm and knowledge will make the evening really lively and informative for any who attend.

Thing is, I want to do a good job for the guy.  With that in mind, I wonder if you have any particular questions that you think I should ask.  Maybe about characters or writing style.  I wouldn't be seeking the kind of obvious things that folk ask after a reading, but something that's very specific or might be revealing of something of interest to the writer interested in developing their craft.

You might also leave a few ideas of what not to ask.  Maybe you know something that's better left uncovered or maybe you've presented many events yourself and have your own pet-hates.

Either way, I'd be delighted to hear from you in the comments and will pick any good ones to use on Tuesday.

Many thanks for your help.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

One Man's Opinion: LIGHT by M JOHN HARRISON

Light (US) is a little different from my usual read, but it came to me highly recommended by a trusted friend and so I went for it.

Essentially, it’s the science-fiction aspect of the book that is my uncharted territory, not that I needed to have worried.  M John Harrison has produced a work that is highly engaging throughout and suffuses high drama and tension into an intricate plot that is populated by tremendous characters.

The story is told in three strands which occasionally overlap and eventually come together.

There’s Michael Kearney, a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough of immense proportions.  He’s an Oxbridge graduate who’s a bit of a loafer and who relies upon his partner to do most of the research in the messy lab.  He’s obsessed by a creature called the Shrander which appears to be chasing him.  He also has a rather interesting relationship with women – mostly he kills them as a sacrifice to keep him safe, but he never quite manages to get round to ditching his ex-wife.  There’s a wonderful moment when, after a few days in bed together, Kearney decides he need to work and says goodbye to that ex-wife.  “I knew you’d go out again,” she tells him.  In that phrase I think you get to see some of the author’s talent.  It encapsulates so much about their relationship and her character (and indeed that moment that many lovers may experience when they’ve wrapped themselves in a perfectly safe bubble for a while).  Lovely and heartbreaking and apparently simply crafted.

The next strand of the story follows a burned-out space pilot who is addicted to spending time in ‘The Tanks’.  When inside the tank, the world is one of imagination and dreams.  It’s full of an amniotic fluid that bathes the subject and keeps them alive.  When the money in the machine runs out, the subject is prepared for release with tranquilisers and hormones to help with the withdrawal as reality kicks back in.  Ed Chianese loves the tanks.  Unfortunately, not everyone loves Ed.  He’s being chased by the imposing, frightening and heartless Cray sisters who are prepared to pretty much anything to get the guy.  Ed’s only chance is to fight them and run and from the point of his flight, his world becomes an exciting and eventful place to be.

The third aspect of the story is about a human who has been through a process of becoming a space-craft.  She’s part consciousness, part machine.  She’s on a mission to get her existence sorted out.  Unbeknown to her, the man she turns to for help (Uncle Zip) ends up setting her up so that he can follow her and reach his own goal and this is an engrossing journey in itself.

I need to admit that some of the aspects of the imagination had me bamboozled – the nature of travel, the K-Tract, the morphing and genetic interference and such.  Luckily, though, I don’t think that spoiled my enjoyment at all.
There are bizarre sex scenes, there's crazy fashion, there's shape-shifing and there's a gentle sense of parody from time-to-time.
The plot is driven by the needs and desires of the characters.  The settings are wonderfully described.  The questions posed are challenging and fun to consider and the image of the future seems to be neither welcoming of frightening, more just the way things turn out.

Well worth the investment of time and money this one.  Check it out.  It's just been brought out on kindle, too.

Saturday 17 November 2012

One Man's Opinion: ANIMAL KINGDOM

You have a pretty good idea of where you are within the first minutes of Animal Kingdom.

The credits appear over images of an armed robbery and the story opens with a young man sitting next to an unconscious lady.  Deal Or No Deal’s on the box and it looks like a normal day in a boring life.  Normal, that is, until the paramedics turn up and set to work on the woman who had OD’d on heroine.

The young man is Joshua Cody.  He calls his estranged grandmother to ask for help with the funeral arrangements and ends up moving in with her. 

Joshua’s mother kept him away from his extended family in the hope that he wouldn’t get mixed up in their crime syndicate of robbery and drug pushing.  Now that he’s in the arms of his Grandmother, Smurf, things don’t look good.

Smurf is a matriarchal lune.  She has 4 crazy sons, 3 living at home and the craziest of them all, Pope, who’s in hiding. For the set-up, think Cody Jarrett in White Heat, here; it’s unlikely that the choice of name for the Animal Kingdom family is purely accidental.

The Cody family is in trouble because the lawless drug enforcers in police uniform are watching their every move in a bid to find Pope.

The film is stark.  It’s often static and claustrophobic.  The characters are brutally real and easy to get to know.  There are no bells and whistles to distract from the story’s tension and uncomfortable quality.  The performances are superb and the whole piece fits together like apple, sugar and pastry.  Pope would have fitted well in to Blue Velvet and the main character Josh is played in a deadpan way that suggests the actor James Frecheville is going places (if he hasn’t already).

There’s no doubt that this is one to watch.

I’d also like to appeal to fans of Australian cinema to point me in the direction of more similar movies should there be many of them around.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Mr Suit

MR SUIT (US) is as ugly or as beautiful as a pug, depending on your feelings on the breed.

He's a hard man and he's top of the pile.  He also likes to appear at his best and has a wonderful taste in clothing.

Since the accidental shooting of one of his men, ARCHIE, he's been paying for restpite care and for hospital bills that continually prick at his conscience - Archie's been a victim of Locked-In Syndrome ever since.

When Archie's wife, LIZA, approaches Mr Suit to ask for an act of kindness that will release Archie from the prison that is his body, it seems like a win-win situation.

As with many things real and imagined, it's a tangled web they end up weaving. 

If you come and negotiate the web you'll find out about bluff and double-bluff, hidden treasure, a modern-day Billy the Kid, the slowest getaway in the history of crime, a little about Kentish Town noir and about how messed up a family can really be.

It's a romp, a farce and a crime piece all wrapped into one novella.

I'd recommend it to the house.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Good Grief

It’s two weeks since my mum died.

As you can probably imagine, life’s gone in to a tailspin of sorts.  With things moving up and down and round and round at such a rate of change, it’s been very difficult to get any sense of perspective at all.

The first week was all about my immediate family.  Looking after Dad and trying to keep the arrangements on track.  It all led up to the funeral and the sense of relief that it brought in ways I was surprised by.

Week two has been very different. 

I’m in the house alone during the day, feeling a little insecure about the world outside of my doors and the people who live there.  I’m experiencing an odd kind of exhaustion that means I need to go to bed when the need arises.  Not that I’m sleeping all day – I just can’t.

One of the things that’s helped has been writing-related activities.  I’ve managed to fill the emptiness that I feel, at least until the children come home from school, with creativity.

THE SHADOWS OF DEATH (US) was my first reflexive move. 

Hard to say why I needed to put it out there as a collection.

First of all, I had a story (the opener) which I felt needed to be read.  I’m very proud of it and the way it should impact upon a reader.  It’s a tale from the concentration camps of Poland that caused quite some movement within me when I penned it.

Next, I took a photograph on a visit to the church where Mum’s funeral took place.  There are some examples of stained glass that had been smashed and refitted at the time of the reformation.  Using it as a cover for something was a strong push.

The final thing, I think, was a need to make a marker for myself to remember this time.  For many years I wrote poems to capture moments; they acted like photos do for others.  I felt a collection would give me a constant reminder of the pain, which suits me well.

Other than the opening stories, there are a couple of other strong pieces ; I say that with reasonable confidence as they’ve appeared in some mighty collections. 

There are also a couple of oddities.  One about guilt, one about a couple of American police in 1970, one inspired by Godot and another about a shopping receipt.  I have no idea of their value to anyone else, but at this time they’ve offered me a great service.

I hope it works, though I don’t really mind if it doesn’t. 

There may be purists out there who feel only the best should ever go out.  For now I’ll turn a deaf ear to them as I’m not listening to anything by my heart. 

I’ve also completed a first draft of a novella I began before the summer.  I had 6000 words already and have finished it by adding another 5000 or so.  I’ve been lucky to have feedback on it from my steady pals at Crimeficwriters and I’m ready to redraft.

I’d like to thank all those friends in the writing world who’ve offered support and condolences and I hope I can repay in kind some day.

I’d also like to thank writing for being such an ever-present entity in my life.

Till soon.