Review: Ersatz World by Richard Godwin


Ersatz World
Richard Godwin
Number 13 Press

There’s a reason people refer to Godwin as The Dark Lord. He loves to explore the depth of depravity in the modern world. This novella from our shared publisher Number 13 Press might be a little lighter on gore than some of his more brutal books but it makes up for it with paranoia and sexuality. There’s the blackest of black humour here too, especially in the names like protagonist Samuel Verso (the medieval terminology for the sides of a sheet of parchment are recto and verso).

Verso is a publisher and the nexus of a web of problems. His best selling author has disappeared, his partner demands they move into ebooks, his wife is so far beyond anorexia that she lusts for having her limbs removed — and he suspects that he’s being followed, but by whom?

Everybody has a fetish: for his wife Phyllis it was ‘something inside her that was trying to emerge into day…she could only find when the cutting began’; for his partner Belinda it was the desire to see desire in every person she met; for Samuel it is books. Part of the reason he resists the move to ebooks is not only his growing paranoia about code taking over the world but a genuine desire for the book itself. His lover Maxine feeds this fetish: ‘She read from the novel and Samuel recalled publishing it. He could smell the print rising from her hand as he fondled her breasts.’ As she tells him later, ‘I read to you to turn you into a man.’

But even Maxine cannot save Samuel from his growing fears that somehow Fontana Rate, ‘the ever elusive bestseller who despised commercial fiction’ and the men who are following him — maybe? Is it all a delusion? As he asks at one point, ‘Is this some elaborate plan to make me realise my resistance to e-books is old fashioned?’ Or are the serial killers, government agents and tutu-ed libertines real? There are a lot of twists and turns along the way and you’ll find yourself reading faster and faster to figure out what happens. But you’ll probably guess wrong.

Check out all the 13ers at Number 13 Press — it’s Friday the 13th after all!

Review: Kill Me Quick

KILL ME QUICK!
Paul D. Brazill
Number 13 Press

We’re all lying in the gutter, but some of us are staring at the spaces between the stars…

Seatown may not have a lot going for it – apart from the Roy Orbison lookalikes and Super Seventies Special every Thursday night, of course – but it is at least the place Mark Hammonds calls home. And after a decade away, it’s the place he returns to when he has nowhere else to go.

From dead bikers to dodgy drug deals, from one downbeat bar to the next, from strippers to gangsters and back again: the luckless former musician bounces from one misdeed to the next along with a litany of old acquaintances, almost as though he never left. And if only he can shake off everybody who wants to kill, maim or otherwise hurt him, maybe he could even think about staying.

After all, there’s no place like home, eh?

I got a pre-release ARC of this book, but that doesn’t affect my review because you already know that I’m a sucker for Brazill’s stories and their perfect mix of mordant humour and crazy crime shenanigans. I’m glad to see a return to Seatown, one of my favourite locations. The seedy seaside town has seen better days, but things keep hopping for the wild whirl of criminals, lowlifes, lawless looters and even musicians there.

This novella is a crazy crime jukebox that takes in everything from crooners to croakers without missing a beat. The soundtrack of  Seatown touches on its once great era then follows as it slips down to the end of its rope, lurching last drunken dance at your cousin’s wedding.

Bass player Mark Hammonds starts off in a bad place — thugs crushing his playing hand — then things get much worse as the story belts along. They also get more crazy. Pubs, clubs, hotels and caravans: around every corner lurk more problems for the luckless bassist. Like a lot of Brazill’s down-on-their-luck characters, you find yourself rooting for him despite his self-destructive plunges into disaster, but you’re not too sure he can survive.

Get it. If you have anything like a sense of humour and a heart as black as the inside of a body bag, you’ll love it. Besides, best corpse disposal trick ever (pity it’s only once a year).

Some bon mots:

‘It was glittery enough to host a glam rock revival and the loud ’80s pop they played was so cheesy you could use it to top a pizza.’

‘A red-faced man in a shiny supermarket suit shuffled beside him, nodding like one of those toy dogs everyone’s dad used to have in the back of their cars in the ’70s.’

‘Specks of dust floated in the shard of sunlight that sliced through the broken slat and spotlit a pool of blood at Mark Hammonds’ feet.’

‘There was a flash of lightning, a crack of thunder, and a storm gouged the sky open, battering them with rain.’

Out Now: Wrong Crowd by Richard Godwin

WRONG CROWD by Richard Godwin

Claude meets Maxine knee-deep in the Caribbean and knows he’d do anything to make her his: anything. But keeping her means raising the stakes: cash, guns, gangsters and a return to his bad old habits. Will there be enough of him left to keep her by the time he’s through? Godwin makes Wrong Crowd lethally sexy—which makes this story just right.

Out Now: Neon Boneyard

The hits just keep on coming — out now and FREE for 48 hours, more adventures from your favourite werewolf PI: The Neon Boneyard.

Neon Boneyard

‘In the neon-soaked, blood-spattered hell-hole they call The City, Roman Dalton struggles to fight the forces of darkness, even when he becomes a creature of the night. Werewolves, vampires, zombies: they’re all just amateurs when it come to the real menace who haunts the streets. Let Brazill take you on a grim dark journey to hell and back. Bring lots of whisky: it’s a rough ride.’ K A Laity, author of White Rabbit.

Sounds for a Saturday: Grotesque read by Darren Sant

Near 2 the Knuckle & Gritfiction honcho Darren Sant reads my Fall-inspired tale of mayhem, Grotesque. Check out his new line of audio recordings.

Rogue: Paul D. Brazill

Today’s Rogue is Mr B, the godfather of Brit Grit, Paul D. Brazill: readers of this blog will already be familiar with the mastermind behind Roman Dalton, Gumshoe and of course Exiles. It won’t surprise anyone that he’s a Rogue, too…

Who’s your Rogue?

Diggsy in ‘Route 66 And All That’ is a small-town postman who occasionally dips his toes into the dirty and shallow waters of small-time crime.

What crime would you really want to get away with?

I’ve always thought that ‘crimes against humanity’ would sound impressive on a rap sheet. Better to be hung for a herd of sheep etc


What author can’t you do without?

Askey. Sorry, what was that, I’m a bit mutton …


What movie best captures the criminal life?

Wild Bill: Former tough guy Bill returns home to his dreary flat in a London tower block, after 11 years in the nick, only to find out that his wife has done a runner to Spain, leaving their two young sons to fend for themselves. Writer Danny King, director Dexter Fletcher and a collection of great performances turn what could have been merely grim social realism into a splendid, funny and moving film.

Are you a criminal mastermind or just a mild-mannered dreamer?

A criminally minded dreamer.

Find Brazill across all media:

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Buy it at Amazon US or UK.

Free: The Liberator by Paul D. Brazill

Blurb:

The Liberator is short, sharp story that kicks off a new noir/ horror serial from Paul D. Brazill, creator of Roman Dalton – Werewolf PI.  A priest tracks down his kidnapped sister and finds her trapped in a nest of evil. Van Helsing meets The Punisher in a hard-boiled noir/ horror.

Review:

Like black pudding, it don’t get much blacker. If you’re accustomed to Brazill’s off-kilter humour lightening the mood between grisly bonecracks, you won’t find much of it here. This little gem is hard as diamond and goes relentlessly for the throat. The seedy London that lives in so much of his work appears here as in stark black ink. The tale speeds along like a noir nightmare with just a touch of the supernatural. Bitter and black as a vampire’s heart.

Part of the Xmas freebies from Blackwitch Press: get them all before the deal is done.

 

Interview with Paul D. Brazill: Guns of Brixton

There are, broadly speaking, two types of drinkers. There is the man whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by numb maggots; who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants…. The other type of drinker has imagination, vision. Even when most pleasantly jingled he walks straight and naturally, never staggers nor falls, and knows just where he is and what he is doing. It is not his body but his brain that is drunken.
~Jack London

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Paul D. Brazill has a wicked sense of humour and a bunch of gritty stories that make you wince even while you’re laughing. His stories follow the lot of broken-down last-chance guys, tough dames and would-be swindlers who might be just a little too clever for their own good to last long. However promising things might be at the start, it’s all bound to go pear-shaped before the day’s over. A Case of Noir gave us Luke Case, a down-at-the-heel wanderer who allows events to take him whither they will, yet he always seems to float to the top of the wreckage with an ease that surprises even him. Gumshoe details the career of would-be shamus Peter Ord, who drinks his days away in a northern seaport and occasionally manages to solves cases — mostly by sidestepping the carnage when everything goes haywire. Roman Dalton, Werewolf P.I. is just what it says on the tin: wild adventures with a gritty investigator who has to deal with the forces of evil (living and undead) while keeping one eye on the waxing moon. Sometimes I suspect Brazill has captured characters that escaped from some unwritten Tom Waits’ song. Once you step into his worlds, you won’t want to leave.

I interviewed Brazill on the occasion of his new release Guns of Brixton, out this week from Caffeine Nights.

Jack London wrote, “A good joke will sell quicker than a good poem, and, measured in sweat and blood, will bring better remuneration.” Is that why your books are always funny?

It’s a nice thought but my books sell like cold cakes, so maybe not many people find them funny. Everything’s funny, though, isn’t it?

GOB cropWell, only if you’re paying attention, and a lot of folks are letting debts slide. Tell us about your latest release:

Guns Of Brixton, is a short, sharp slice of PUNK FICTION published by Caffeine Nights Publications.

Here’s the blurb:

‘A foul-mouthed, violently comic crime caper, full of gaudy characters and dialogue sharp enough to shave with.’

When London gangster Mad Tony Cook gives aging thugs Big Jim and Kenny Rogan the simple task of collecting a briefcase from northern courier Half-Pint Harry he doesn’t suspect that the courier will end up dead in his lock-up, or that Kenny and Big Jim will then dress up in drag to rob a jeweler’s shop and lose the coveted briefcase. A fast-moving, wild, and hilarious search for the missing briefcase quickly ensues, with fatal consequences. 

Has Brixton become too genteel?

Oh, I haven’t been to Brixton for donkey’s years. I used to go quite a bit – especially to The Ritzy cinema and the bars on Coldharbour Lane — just as it was becoming gentrified and arty-farty and I certainly preferred it that way …

You’re always recommending terrific music. What role does music play in your writing? Do all writers secretly wish to be rock stars?

I suspect a lot of writers secretly wish to be musical journalists when that was a cool thing to be, like the bloke in High Fidelity.

I’d certainly like to be a songwriter, though a lot of the singers I’d like to write for– like Dusty Springfield — are dead. I will write a musical one day, though.

I’d be first in line to get tickets to that. Do you believe in tortured artists?

There are quite a few who deserve to be tortured — no names, no pack drill.

Is Brit Grit the new British Invasion and if so, which band would you be?

Freddie & The Dreamers. Punk Fiction is the new thing, though. And I’m The Rezillos.

I stand corrected. The Rezillos rock. Saw them in Dundee a few months back. I know you’re a fan of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. If you were to get your portrait painted would it be real or surreal?

It’s all in the eye of the beerholder.

If you could be Batman for a day would you tackle crime in Gotham City or just swan about in your fine costume?

I’d just get pissed in Wayne Manor, probably.

I bet he’s got a stellar liquor cabinet. What’s coming up next for you?

I’m tidying up the follow up to Guns Of Brixton, it’s called Holidays In The Sun. More PUNK FICTION. The Neon Boneyard should be out over the next few months — it takes place in The City and features Roman Dalton-Werewolf PI and his crew. I’ve a story in the next issue of All Due Respect magazine called ‘The Last Laugh’ and Spinetingler Magazine will be publishing a yarn called ‘The Postman Cometh’. Oh, and I might write a follow up to A Case Of Noir.

You’re a busy man. Write faster, I want something new to read. Thanks for taking the time today, Mr B.

Friday’s Forgotten Books: The Crust on its Uppers

Derek Raymond is generally acknowledged as the godfather of Brit Grit, based on his ruthlessly dark novels like I was Dora Suarez, but there’s a sheer delight in this earlier work that doesn’t seem to get the same love, maybe because it’s not as hard-boiled. Admittedly, the narrative is a bit elliptical. The central dodgy heist doesn’t really get going until late in the novel.

But the chief difficulty for readers both contemporary and modern is probably what I like best about it: the language.

I love how they call each other ‘morrie’ and I love the wealth of rhyming slang and sly jokes that fill its pages. Wonderful bits like:

“…those two gaffs have more ears stuck around the walls than a Cocteau film”

“Only one thing to do about all that slag–there’s a brick there, so I pick it up and hurl. Bang through the window. No slag hit, but all smothered in glass, and that followed by two fireballs flung with the master’s hand and lo! sylphidewise one falls with a dying fall flop almost on to a bird’s espresso-bongo hairdo.”

“It was nice the way she said cash like a civilised girl and not the reddies or something; though she was in the morrie world she was somehow not quite of it, which made me fonder of her than almost anything else–when I say Christice was loyal I mean she had values of some kind, though daughter to pompoons.”

“Pushing our way through now against the va-et-vient, Marchmare and I gain this haven, to be rewarded at once by the sight of Messrs. Copewood and Cream, purveyors of shooters, etc., to the trade, who, with their followers, queen it from a table near the bar, where they feed steak to a snarling hound and rack their ganglia over the race-page of the linens. A quick butchers shows up Old Bill three-handed, also a particularly nasty female grass–and if looks were acid baths the two she collects from us would reduce her to gristle quicker than Mrs. Durand-Deacon.”

“‘You Englishmen,’ said Herr Wurter. ‘You are all the same. Wherever you are you behave as if you were at home and your word was law.'”

Sure, it’s not for everybody, but it’s a real treat if you love a real wild spin in somebody else’s garrulous mind. And if you get lost, my edition anyway had a glossary so you could find that ‘vera’ means ‘gin’ and ‘slags’ (not quite in the current sense) mean the opposite of ‘morries’ who are all right.

“I wonder what it is we must deplore that turned us into morries evermore?”

See all the forgotten books over at Patti Abbot’s blog Evan Lewis’ blog.