Saturday 23 February 2013

One Man's Opinion: NEDS by PETER MULLAN

Neds – Non Educate Delinquents.

This is a film that looks at a sub-culture that’s rooted in the 1970s and onwards, a sub-culture that reflects in some ways the experiences of the down-trodden youth of poor backgrounds the world over from a much broader spectrum of time.

The main character, John McGill, is a young lad who has an auntie who is a journalist in New York and a father who is an abusive, violent drunk. 

John’s a bright lad with good prospects at school, or at least he would have if his older brother hadn’t already queered his pitch.  It takes a while for him to show his potential and he manages to stay on the rails for his first 3 years in secondary school.

There’s a certain inevitability about the beginning of his decline.  He’s rejected by a middle class family with whom he makes a link and from there gets mixed up with a bad crowd who act like a plughole to his swirling water.

Time’s spent hanging about doing no good.  A little fighting.  Some snogging.  Low level crime.  Vandalism… you can imagine the kind of thing.

The violence escalates and John’s delicately balances psyche is toppled after a series of events that push him over the edge and he’s forced to leave home and shack up in a boiler in one of the local tower-blocks.

There are many things to like about this film.

The setting is wonderfully done.  I loved the feel of the seventies and felt that this was about as close to my memory of the time as any modern attempt to recreate the period.  It may have used some obvious tricks to help create this illusion, but I reckon it’s only the obvious that would work to such good effect.

The violence is tremendously handled.  I wouldn’t usually comment on such things, but it really works.  There’s a matter-of-fact view of some of it (you’re involved in a big fight or watching one, it doesn’t have the frills that you often see on the movie screen, and it’s all hard blows and over in a blur more often than not).   There are a few rumbles between rival gangs.  There’s a humour to some of it that helps and there’s the down-right brutal cold feel of serious events.   Favourite of mine was a short scene where a young lad’s being tortured.  I don’t want to spoil it, but can’t help myself.  A rope has 2 bottles attached to each end and is swung around the victims neck.  The rope tightens and eventually the bottles clatter in to the victim’s head.  And they do it again.  It shouldn’t be funny, but for me it was a comedy moment.

There’s a great sense of place that is created by some fine filming and great acting.  There are some talented characters here and I think we’ll see more of them in the future.

John McGill reminded me of Ray Winstone in Scum.  Hard and deadpan and slightly deranged and with a very strong presence that makes his descent easily believable.

The plot itself works well.  It does it by the numbers at some points and that’s a shame, but mostly I enjoyed the steps from A to Z.

A couple of scenes stood out for me as ones I’d have cut out if I had any sway over it.  One in particular that follows a bout of glue sniffing just took things too far for me. 

All in all, I’d recommend this with some confidence.  Lots to like and plenty of entertainment for your buck.

I’d suggest a double bill with That Sinking Feeling for a compare and contrast session afterwards.

Go and have fun.


Wednesday 20 February 2013

Sleeps With The Fishes

It's been a busy time of late and I've not been online as much as I'd like to have been.

The good news (for me at any rate) is that I've just completed a novella set in my home town.  Finishing a piece can be such a relief and I'm delighted to have made it to the top of this one.  As many of you will know, however, getting to the top is only a breather before tackling the descent into editing et al which is where the harder graft can be.

It's completely different from my general, except that it's similar in style to other pieces.  My intention was to write something for a young adult/adult audience who can stretch to mild sci-fi.  In the end, my own jury's out as to whether my effort's been worthwhile, but there's something in there I like, so fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, Mr Suit, that sharp little novella of mine, has been reviewed over at Crimesquad.  I'm very pleased to see their opinion shared - many thanks to GS.

Here's a snippet:

'The prose is tight rope taut and the plotting first class...All in all ‘Mr Suit’ is a tense and thrilling novella which deserves a place on your bookshelf.'

I'm also here to let you know that I have a giveaway today.  It's called Sleeps With The Fishes and it's a short story in the region of 5k in the wordcount department.  For me it's a piece of dystopian fiction that reminds the reader to maintain a sense of the political world in order to avoid the overly sinister movements (however crazy they may seem) climbing to power. It's available in the US and the UK for free over the next few days.  After that it'll be back to the 75p/99c mark - which is about what it's worth in my opinion.

There's been one review so far by a Top 500 Amazon reviewer in the UK:

"This short story is both atmospheric and claustrophobic. It features a man who has spent 18 months hiding in a basement from the authorities because of an accident of birth. A new government has decreed that people with the wrong birthsigns are to be done away with. I love a story that makes me think, 'What if..?' If it were proved that more criminals had one birth sign than another, would that be a reason for condemning all people born at that time of year? Of course not, but could a cunning politician or two make people believe it?

Nigel Bird's writing is conversational in this short story, but perhaps because of that, it is very direct. The story portrays an uneasy future which made me shudder. We often think, 'That couldn't happen' but we've been wrong before. A very good read."

Another free book worth catching today is by Patrick Quinlan and it's called The Hit (US - UK).  Check it out.

Also to be flagged, there's a new paperback version of the All Due Respect anthology available now and you can pick it up at Amazon via the US or UK links here.  You buy it, you won't regret it for a moment, guaranteed.  I'm very proud to have been included in there.

My muddy paws stretched over to Brit Grit Alley last week to talk about Ripper Street.  It's a piece designed to gather discussion, so if you have an opinion it would great if you'd share it.

I have also been fortunate enough to have been sent an advance copy of Donnybrook by the sublime Frank Bill.  Can't wait to dig in to that one - it'll be available very soon, folks.  Keep those eyes open.

And welcome to the spring.  There are snowdrops in my garden.  Hi snowdrops.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Dancing With Myself: JIM WINTER interviews JIM WINTER


I’ve wanted to put the Keplers together for a while now. Since the third Kepler novel still needs work, I thought this was an opportune time to put all those shorts together.


The first written was “Race Card,” which shows in the rather large cast of characters and complex plot. The first published was “A Walk in the Rain,” which went to Plots With Guns the same week it was written.


I’m partial to both “Roofies” and “Full Moon Boogie.” Both have rather strong female characters. One is a survivor, turning a rough life to her advantage. The other is someone who long ago decided to live life on her own terms after trying to live up to everyone else’s.


“Wring That Neck.” I never really saw Nick functioning in a rural setting before. It was supposed to be something of a parody.


“Flight of the Rat” gave me pause. It went to Judas, whose editor actually saw the plane hit the Pentagon and later learned a friend of his was on that flight. That was written about 2003, and even then, there was a “Too soon” cloud that hung over writing it. I think any other editor would have taken a pass on it.


Bad Religion, the third novel, is in the can, in need of a couple more passes. There’s also a novella called Gyspsy’s Kiss, where Gypsy from “Roofies” decides she wants to leave the sex trade once and for all, but only after she has one last client. I had a sequel to Bad Religion outlined, but haven’t decided if I’ll write it or not.


I’m currently rewriting Holland Bay, which has become that cliché novel a writer is always working on but never finishing. I decided last year to put up or shut up with that one.


I do plan to put the non-Kepler shorts together in a collection called The Compleat Winter, probably late this year or in early 2014.

Jim Winter shows up at work every morning and spends about two hours on Tumbler pretending to write code. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife and stepson.