I don’t know what it was, but there it goes again.
Get it on your local Amazon for nowt all this week (just change .com to whatever your region is): a twisty-turny noir tale of dishonour among thieves in a small city.
Two stories just out this month, both inspired by my travels in Slovenia. ‘These Toys Are For Tough Boys’ was the title Renato Bratkovič gave me as I was treated with great food, Lasko Noir and Alibi wine at Bar Grega and Gora pod lipo. Want a story from me? Fly me to an alpine location and give me good stuff to eat and drink. Boom! 6K story in a day.
‘Somewhere in Slovenia’ over at Near to the Knuckle looks at the potential problems of being unilingual in post-Brexit EU. Footie fans beware 😉 heh. Also a song by Slovenia’s premiere punk band, Res Nullius.
Too Many Crooks
Paul D. Brazill
Near to the Knuckle Novella #7
I’m pretty much an easy mark when it comes to Mr B, as you’re doubtless already aware if you’ve read my enthusiastic reviews for his other publications. But I love writers I can count on (see also Liz Hand, the Abbotts, Tess Makovesky and some others I could name but why inflate all those egos?).
Too Many Crooks hits some of the familiar territory: colourful low lifes spread across Europe from Britain to Poland and points in between, salty language, implausible schemes and cataclysmic coincidences. It also has callbacks to other tales he’s written (fun if you know them, interesting hooks if you don’t).
But there’s something more in the wild kinetic machinations: dare I say a touch of the poetic? A lot of mad laugh out loud moments — the Mad Jaffa Cake Eater, a pruney face was so lived in squatters wouldn’t stay there, a Slippery Pole — and a whole bunch of references to classic punk tunes and venerable comedies, not to mention Fall lyrics.
You’d expect no less than offhand Carry On lines and knowing music choices for every mood. There’s a lot more, too:
He was also the world’s leading authority on the Klingon language, apparently and used speaking in Klingon as part of his radical therapy. Hattie had told him she wasn’t interested and had never seen Star Wars and he’d glared at her.
“If you haven’t made a fool of yourself at least once in your life, you haven’t lived,” said Anna.
“Oh, well, if that’s true, I’ve lived more lives than a cat, then,” said McGuffin.
He watched Leslie leave the café and put up her umbrella, which flapped in the wind like a black crow.
He was hungover from a bad dream, or maybe a bad life.
The old grandfather clock had just struck thirteen.
Obviously I could go on and on. Just the audacity of naming a primary character McGuffin (snort!). Get it. You need the laughs. Because all orange clowns should be fictional.
Hey, it’s the Duke of Brit Grit, that Paul D. Brazill! So what’s this new book of yours out this weekend?
Too Many Crooks is my latest Brit Grit novella and is published by Near To The Knuckle. It’s set in England and Poland. It’s a mix of pulp, farce and the grotesque. No change there, then. Though there is a bit of romance in this one …
The blurb says:
Too Many Crooks is a blackly comic Brit Grit romp from the author of Guns Of Brixton and Kill Me Quick!
When high-class fence Leslie Hawkins meets Peter Rhatigan in a sleazy London pub, he offers her the chance to get her hands on the Totenkopfring, a legendary piece of World War Two memorabilia. However, after a violent encounter with a member of a biker gang, things soon spiral wildly and dangerously out of control. Meanwhile in Poland, Dr Anna Nowak finds an amnesiac Englishman half-dead in the snow…
Too Many Crooks by Paul D, Brazill is a fast-moving and action-packed cocktail of bodies, bullets and death-black comedy.
How many crooks is too many? Is there a scientific basis for this claim?
Well there is a veritable cornucopia of crooks in Too Many Crooks. There are gangsters, a jewel thief, a biker gang, a mental neo-nazi politician. In fact there are pretty much only crooks! How they all collide is part of the fun, of course.
Are there more pop song references in this book or comedy classics?
Well the shadows of the Carry On films and Ealing Comedies hang heavy over the book, as per usual, and there are lots of top tunes from the likes of Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, and The Flys.
Should readers begin at the beginning and read all the way through or can they jump about from tale to tale?
Well, it’s a novella, so there’s only one story so it’s best to start at the beginning or it may not make sense. It may not anyway, of course!
Are there really large American themed bars in Warsaw? What on earth for?
There are indeed though not as many as there are overpriced Irish pubs. A Polish pub was once spotted …
What’s next from your prolific pen?
My novella A Case Of Noir will be re-published by Near To The Knuckle in March and there should be another novella out a bit after that. And I have a story in the debut issue of Switchblade Magazine.
Pre-order TOO MANY CROOKS! here.
Paul D. Brazill‘s books include The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, Too Many Crooks, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. His blog is here.
Two films I caught recently in a fit of end-of-term madness (when I ought to have been grading) were both adapted from novels. As I’m thinking of adapting a couple of my things into scripts, I’ve been musing on the technique involved.
Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is a twisty-turny tale that from the start tells you that things are not what they seem. Sook-Hee, daughter of a family of thieves has been hired by a con man masquerading as ‘Count Fujiwara’ to work for Lady Hideko, the heir of huge fortune, kept more or less prisoner by her uncle, the creepy Kouzuki. The plan is for Sook-Hee to use her intimate position to sway the twitchy lady to romance with the fake count, but to her surprise, Sook-Hee begins to feel first protective of her lady and then unexpectedly to feel something much stronger.
I thought I’d had a plot twist spoiled for me but there was so much more going on that I was captivated the whole way by the layers exposed. Yes, Park’s male gaze leers at the lesbian sex a little too obviously, but Kim Tae-ri and Kim Min-hee are so magnificent and joyful that they are magnetic. It made me want to go read Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith which ought to be the point. And to see the film again. Gorgeous. Dark.
Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals has been repeatedly called noir, so let me tell you: it’s not noir though it traffics in some of its trappings. It shocks at the start with indelible images that offer a great litmus test: I’ve heard people call them disgusting. I thought they were mesmerising and beautiful. However, since the movie begins by telling us how jaded Susan (Amy Adams) is about crap art, I guess we’re supposed to hate it. The ‘art is horrible’ subtext is completely undone by Ford making everything look beautiful and sad. I actually found a new appreciation for works like Koons’ balloon dog (was that the one recently broken?) which suddenly looked like a fragile attempt to hold onto a childhood happiness, or Hirst’s Saint Sebastian which, relegated to a stairwell in the tony gallery, gave me a sudden stab of sadness for its hidden pain.
I’m not going to be able to write about this without SPOILERS, so don’t look if you’re planning to see it. Sad Susan is sad; smarmy Armie Hammer is clearly so over her from the first moment he appears and is completely uninterested in her distress that you wonder why it takes her so long to catch on to his affair. There’s distracting stunt casting of Michael Sheen as half of the Holt power couple, with Andrea Riseborough as the other half, perpetuating the myth that women aren’t really interested in sex (just the women who are willing to marry wealthy gay men, Mr Ford) because they’re BEST FRIENDS! ‘You never really had that,’ Alessia tells poor Susan.
Then she gets her ex’s galley of his novel that he’s finally finished after twenty years (wow) and she begins reading it and is totally captivated, flashing back of course to why she left him and her mother Laura Linney predicting it. Maybe the best thing in the film, Laura Linney with gigantic Texas hair (as Angela says, the higher the hair, the closer to god): it made me immediately wish that 1) she had more to do in this film and 2) that there could be a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Linney and Adams because it would be magnificent.
Because of course the ex, Jake Gyllenhaal, is a weak man. And like all weak men in recent years, he dreams of being an uncaring raping, murdering psychopath because that’s strong, I guess. The novel within the movie that Susan is riveted to and disturbed by is really the kind of ‘literary crime novel’ Guy in Your MFA would write. Gyllenhaal’s character says something to the effect of ‘all writers write themselves’ at which I nearly shouted at the screen, ‘But the good ones disguise that rather well.’ His novelist doesn’t. The novel-within-the-film has him play the role of the protagonist as well. He has a wife and daughter who are only there to be killed and raped to provide him with a crisis and pretty, well placed corpses on a photo op ready sofa.
Because that’s what violent mad killers do. Town & country horror films have made much of the wild locals going after city folk at least since Texas Chainsaw Massacre or maybe Spider Baby or before. I think what has made people overlook the clichéd form of the tale is Michael Shannon, giving incredible life to the clichéd cop-with-nothing-to-lose and Aaron Taylor-Johnson channeling Tom Hardy into the clichéd amoral killer. Both work hard to bring some freshness to tired tropes.
But tired they are. Some belated attempt to make this a crisis of faith with the sudden importance of clutched crosses at the end, the ‘horror’ of the break-up having something to do with the abortion Susan had at some point with smarmy Armie and her emerging from the hospital at the exact moment when Gyllenhaal appears horrified (apparently there’s only one place to get the procedure in the whole metropolitan area. I was confused because after reading of the mother and daughter’s demise in the novel, Susan calls her daughter to make sure she’s alright. She is of course filmed sensuously naked in the same pose as the daughter in the novel. And never mentioned again.
So Susan robbed him of a child is supposed to be the thing for which he needs REVENGE (which of course I hear in K-K-K-Ken’s voice), but she had a child? Was it with smarmy Armie? Is that why he kills her in the novel too? Perhaps. I like the REVENGE painting, explained by stunt-cast Jenna Malone as something Susan bought months ago.
I do like the punch in the gut ending. Several people around me vocally did not. But it totally fits the childishness of the character who would write this novel. So, yeah, not interested in reading the source novel. But I didn’t hate the film: it was rather interesting but not in the ways I suspect it was meant to be.
As Aunty Fox says:
Our first crime themed anthology featuring crime, fantasy, horror, humour and baked goods. It’s basically just like one of our events.
10 stories, by ten authors, all with a crime at their heart, some of them with biscuits. Whether that is the stories or the authors I leave to you.
Elf Prefix by Graham Wynd
Between Love and Hat by Jay Eales
Ghost Signals by James Bennett
No Mercy by K.D. Kinchen
That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles by Penny Jones
Feeding the Fish by Carol Borden
Mermaids in Cape Town by Mame Diene
Patron by E.J. Davies
The Price of a Biscuit by Kate Coe
The Princess, The Pekingese and the Ivory Box by R.A. Kennedy