Tuesday 22 December 2015

Dancing With Myself: DAVID JAGGERS interviews DAVID JAGGERS

What was the impetus for writing this collection of short stories?
For the last couple of years, I have been toying with the idea for a collection of stories that could be read as stand-alone fiction, but were interconnected in a way that reveals a whole narrative world. Down in the Devil Hole (US) is my attempt at that.

How would you describe the kind of characters that populate this collection?
Well, these folks are rural southerners and rough around the edges for sure. Some could be considered white trash criminals, but I would like to think that there are some honest, salt of the earth types sprinkled in for good measure.

What message if any would you hope the reader takes away from this work?
Provided that it is written well enough to pull the reader in and get them involved, I would hope that they find their own meaning. My own take away is that there is darkness just under the surface in any town or burg you travel through, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find some twisted shit.

What is your writing process like?
Imagine a medieval torture device…no just kidding, I don’t put myself under much pressure to write. When the ideas come, I put them down in a rough form and polish from there. If they don’t come, I do something else for a while. I’m a lazy writer I guess. When I do get a viable idea, I would say I spend the most amount of time trying to find the voice for the piece. Once that is established, the rest is pretty straight forward. Finding the tone and voice is the hardest part for me.

Why write crime fiction?
I am fascinated with the concept of choice and how it affects our lives. Through crime fiction, I can explore how bad choices lead to catastrophic consequences in people’s lives. I can watch a poor bastard come unraveled and spiral into self-destruction from the comfort of my desk chair. That kind of thing is fun to me. I’m a sick puppy.

Who are your literary heroes?
There are so many. The top two would be Jim Thompson for his ability to craft cold blooded killers out of seemingly ordinary people, and Elmore Leonard because his dialogue leaps off the page. There is a long list of indie writers who inform and inspire my work and I won’t take the time to list them all here, but a few standouts would be Todd Robinson for his use of humor, that guy is funny. Angel Colon for his unique, colorful characters and Paul Brazill for the pacing and witty banter he injects into his dialogue. Again there are so many, and I find it very exciting that the genre has so many talented voices that are still up and coming and ready to take it to the next level.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Faves of Fifteen (Overseas)

Last week I put together a short list of my favourite UK reads this year. You can find them over here if you’re interested.

Now it’s time to turn my attention to the overseas picks. As it happens, they’re all American. I did journey to Canada, Sweden and France, but those reads didn’t make my cut. What I think it shows me is that I need to broaden my choice of material next year and see where that takes me.

I noticed something else about my reading habits in 2015. I’m becoming a lot less patient with books I’m not enjoying. A substantial number of stories were cast aside for one reason or another. I mention this only to highlight how good the books below are. Not only did I make it to the end, I also loved them.

Anyway, in no particular order, I’d like to draw your attention to the following in case you’re hoping to add a little more quality to your To Be Read pile.

First off, Worm (US) by Anthony Neil Smith.

My thoughts back in February?

‘This isn’t a novel that shines a torch on the wonders of humanity. Rather it looks down into the chaos of life and the extremities of existence and refuses to shirk away from the darker crevices. Smith pushes the characters hard and their flaws are ruthlessly exposed. 

He [Smith] deals with a huge scope and a complex plot and yet always keeps control. The dialogue is well delivered and the book is densely populated by brilliant phrases that speak volumes in few words. Add to that the constant surge of the characters and the story-line (even the back story moves forwards) and there’s one page-turning novel that will satisfy the appetite of many a crime reader.’  

It’s excellent stuff, believe me. Just don’t pick it up if you’re a timid soul.

Next, Redbone (US) by Matt Philips.

It’s not Redbone’s day. A series of events force him to look at the world in a different way. There are a multitude of injustices to deal with and he’s the man who’s going to step up to the plate (on the cover you can see that baseball bat in his hand as he does so).

What makes this book work so well for me is the way Redbone accepts his situation. He knows what he has to do and why and that’s enough for him. He’s been a victim long enough and it’s time to take a stand. Even when those close to him try to warn him off his course and even when the world finally seems to give him a break, he sticks to it all the way and make sure he works things through to the very end. What he has to do is too important to think of himself only – it’s not just those who’ve offended him that he’s taking on, it’s the whole system.

Prodigal Sons (US) by Mike Miner is something special. It has a dreamlike feel in parts. The world often becomes translucent as Miner paints it for us.

‘I’d cite the finale as a mark of the author’s quality. So many of the possible endings that I’d predicted would have been a poor fit and I was worried that Miner had painted himself into a corner by creating such a wonderful story in the build up. I should have had more confidence. What happens at the close is sublime. The consequences are more profound than I’d imagined and I was moved to the point of tears by its gentle power.

Miner also pulled off my favourite opening chapter of the year in the book Hurt Hawks in case you want to check that one out.

The Free (US) is another gem from Willy Vlautin and it will remind all of you here in the UK that we should all be grateful for our National Health Service.

‘I read it in small bites because I wanted to savour each section and as I came to the end, didn't really want to finish. It's a complex tale that builds up through the telling of a number of simple stories.

I was also delighted by my visits to visit some older books.

I read a couple by Ed McBain, both of them featuring the Deaf Man (US). They’re terrific and McBain is on the list for next year.

That Was Then, This Is Now by SE Hinton also knocked me for six. I’m not in the habit of re-reading books, but this is one I was happy to return to and will pull it down from my shelf again one day if I can. 

Tuesday 8 December 2015


‘Nostalgia's not what it used to be.’
Paul D Brazill has a new release from Number Thirteen Press. The author and publisher have some things in common:  they have both become a feature of my reading; they’re both engaging and enjoyable; and they both exist in the darker shades of the literary palette.
In the opening chapter of Kill Me Quick (US), Mark Hammond is a bass player. By the end of it, his playing days are over on account of his hand being smashed by thugs.
He returns to his home in Seatown, a place in decline that comes to life at night with its seedy monster of a club scene that’s populated by grotesques. 
Mark indulges himself to excess and tries his best to drink the bars dry. As you might imagine, it’s not long before he’s tangled up in murder and mayhem. He discovers the body of the leader of a local biker gang and things spiral out of control.
The story winds tight as Hammond’s life unravels. There are encounters with mobsters, drug-dealers, bikers, lap-dancers, right-wing nutters and an annoying American tourist to enjoy. Brazill uses his trademark wordplay and humour to add extra layers to the experience and manages to draw out laughs from the most uncomfortable situations.  
There’s also a vast soundtrack to accompany the tale. If I were to select a song to sum up this novella, Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll would be my pick and, if they’re elements you enjoy in your noir, this is the book for you. 
I'm going to get in early with my suggestion for the sequel. I see an alcoholic doctor repairing Hammond and maybe knocking off a few old-folk for their money. I propose the title Kill Me Quack. I hope that tickles Mr B's fancy.
Another thing writer and publisher have in common, by the way, is that they're both worthy of your support. Both have pulled more than their fair share of the load withing the crime-writing community. This one will be released on the 13th, but is available now for pre-order for the enticing cost of 99p ($1.50 in the US). Why not give them the Christmas treat they deserve and send this one on it's way up the charts? It's a win-win.
Terrific fun.