Review: Cold London Blues

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COLD LONDON BLUES
Paul D. Brazill
Caffeine Nights Press

I know: you’ll be shocked to hear that I loved this. I’ve been champing the bit waiting for this book to drop because there are few writers who genuinely entertain as much as Brazill. And this is no exception.

If you’ve read Guns of Brixton, you’ll recognise some of the folks here. The tune has changed from the Clash to the inimitable Vic Godard and this offers the chance to slip in a little — dare I say it? — poetry between the mayhem. There’s a confidence here that allows some audacity. The first line: ‘The morning that Father Tim Cook killed Aldo Calvino the air tasted like lead and the sky was gun-metal grey.’ Mood and mayhem plonk down on a bar stool next to you. You’re not going anywhere until you find out how it all shakes out.

As always it’s laugh out loud funny between bouts of wincingly painful chaos brought on by characters who are as unlikely as they are vivid: gangsters who are feeling their age, hitmen who miss, hoods who want to go straight, and an actor so far up his own arse he thinks he’s god — or maybe just Batman.

I love the expansion of the Brazill world: both the London stories and the Seatown tales feed into the history of Cold London Blues. You don’t need to have read all his other books but it helps. There’s a mad world of lowlifes, cops and random walk-ons — no innocents though. Everyone has their demons — but they’ve got music too.

And I love the idea of the Roman Dalton P.I. series: TV people, make it so!

Some quotes (I’ll try not to post everything): just go buy it now.

A face so lived-in squatters wouldn’t stay there, as his old gran would have said.

Tim wasn’t sure when it was that domestic drudgery like cooking and gardening had become elevated to the level of the works of Beethoven and Chaucer but it was another sign of what was wrong with the modern world, the country.

‘Consistency is the city hobgoblin of little minds.’

‘If you gaze into the abyss’ said Marty, with a lop-sided smirk. ‘The abyss also gazes … and sometimes winks at you and blows you a kiss.’

The winter night bit like a savage beast.

A murder of crows scattered and sliced across the white moon, as the purr of an approaching Mercedes grew to a roar.

‘I blame America for it … well, I blame America for everything …The United States of America is a cancer. A poisonous virus that has fatally infected its host’…‘They say you shouldn’t make your home on an Indian burial ground but when you think about it, the whole of the United States is a bleedin Indian burial ground. Think about it.’

Marty hated high places. He got vertigo in thick socks.

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.

Review: Guns of Brixton

gunsofbrixtonGUNS OF BRIXTON
Paul. D. Brazill
Byker Books
July 2013

Blurb:

When the simple task of collecting a briefcase from a Northern courier in his London lock-up results in a dead Geordie gangster there’s only one thing that Kenny Rogan can do…dress up in drag and rob a jewellers with ‘Big’ Jim and hope everything turns out okay!

From the pen of Paul D Brazill comes a whole host of larger-than-life characters, a sharp plot and the kind of humour you wouldn’t let your granny read…but don’t just take our word for it.

Review:

I was a big fan of the short story this novella sprang from — it may have been one of the first things I read by Brazill, though at this point is difficult to tell as I pretty much read everything Mr B publishes. What can I say? He makes me laugh. And wince at the same time: there’s a lot of blackly comic moments that involve some outlandish violence and horror. Along the way Brazil name checks a plethora of pop culture riffs, everything from cheesy pop songs to well-trod bad jokes and weird-but-true trivia about the Old Smoke. At heart it’s an interlace of heists-gone-wrong with unexpected twists that prove satisfying.

You may want a score card to keep track of the widening cast of characters, but it’s a helluva ride through some fascinating locations with memorable creations who feel implausibly vivid. Gratuitous Bobby Goldsboro, but that’s life.