FREE: Smallbany #noir tale

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.

Ends Friday!

Copped It @ A Twist of Noir

My little tale of a heist gone wrong is over at the brand-spanking-new A Twist of Noir. We’re all glad to see ATON back sharing stories — and surprise, I’m following on the heels of Mr B, who’s got a fine little black diamond, ‘Things I Used to Like’ (and he gets to be #007, too). You won’t be surprised to find ‘Copped It’ is another title stolen from The Fall. I can’t help being inspired: originality is overrated anyway 😉 besides, you might catch a few other references in the tale.

Thanks, Chris!

Review: Too Many Crooks by Paul D. Brazill

too-many-crooksToo 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.

FFB: People Who Knock on the Door by Patricia Highsmith

9780349004976-usI started reading this on a transatlantic flight thinking I would be able to nod off get a little sleep. But it’s Highsmith, so of course I finally had to force myself to close the book so I could sleep a little. As Sarah Hilary’s astute introduction spells it out, ‘Her great skill was to make us, dear readers, complicit….Highsmith, let’s face it, is addictive.’

I’m not sure there’s a ‘typical’ Highsmith, but this one’s definitely an outlier. For one thing the protagonist is a high school kid. Written in the midst of the rise of the so-called Moral Majority in the Reagan years, her contempt is palpable for the grubby little hypocrites who trumpet ‘morality’ whilst using religion as a club to batter down any dissent.

But it doesn’t at once seem like a ‘crime’ novel. After a while I stopped waiting for something ‘criminal’ to happen and just settled in to the life of Arthur Alderman (oh, what a name) in a seemingly idyllic Midwestern town where everyone is a specifically odd reality and the sinister march of darkness creeps through the niceness everyone desperately struggles to maintain.

That unease: that’s Highsmith. That’s the art I struggle to put a finger on. How easily, how pervasively she develops it. I need to study her more closely. It feels effortless, but it’s got to be so carefully built. Into the maelstrom of religious tension, abortion controversies, money matters and always intimations of ‘morality’ that slowly drive a wedge into the ‘perfect’ family.

You always knew they were not perfect. But when it all explodes, it’s still a shock.

Her racism is much more on show here. Highsmith makes it a part of the small town outlook, a nodding us vs them mentality. The mindset that Arthur struggles against, both with his father’s closing mind after his ‘born again’ moment and with the ‘why not just settle’ message he gets from almost everyone else.

He comes to a conclusion, a philosophy that seems to finally bring him peace:

Take life as it comes. Enjoy and be grateful. Not grateful to God, but to luck and chance. Tread carefully, speak carefully, hang onto what you’ve got. Be polite to what you’ve got.

Of course that’s when, as they say, all hell breaks loose. Of course, this is Highsmith country.

Discover your new reads at Patti’s round up of overlooked tomes.

 

Interview: Paul D. Brazill

too-many-crooksHey, 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.

TOA/V: Hunted (1952)

This taut little thriller starts off going pell-mell and never really stops. The script by Jack Whittingham hasn’t got an ounce of fat and barely slows enough to breathe. Of course you expect Dirk Bogarde to turn in a compelling performance, but the real surprise for most folks is child star (later historian of art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford) Jon Whiteley. It’s he who kicks things off, tearing through the streets and nearly getting run over by a Watney’s Red Barrel wagon, all the while trailing his teddy bear.

When little Robbie runs into Bogarde’s Chris Lloyd in an abandoned warehouse near the river with a dead body, it easy to assume the worst will happen. Like many films of its time, the rubble from the war gives the cityscape a suitably noir seediness as they both seek to elude the authorities and unravel the events that made them run.

We’re so accustomed to Spielberg’s cloying sentimentality: it’s so refreshing to see a child actor who’s not the least bit self-conscious and to enjoy a story that is touching without ever giving in to sentiment. The harsh journey north from London all the way to Scotland bonds them together in rough and unexpected ways.

Classic director Charles Crichton (if you don’t know him, remedy that at once) makes the most of the spare dialogue and his actors’ faces. The folk song and fairy tale scene alone would be enough to feel proud of for a whole career.

Check out all the overlooked gems at Todd’s blog.

FFB: Build My Gallows High

buildmygallowshigh-illusbyharrybarton-1BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH
Geoffrey Homes (1946)

Probably best known as the text for Out of the Past, the classic noir film with Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas (and how much better a title is the book than that?), this novel written under a pseudonym by screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring, who also worked on the script for Invasion of the Body Snatchers and dozens of others, has much less cultural currency than the film it led to (I’d forgotten Against All Odds was a remake: I just cringe automatically on hearing in my head the Phil Collins theme song).

It’s a tight little book that feels very much like an adapted screenplay. There’s no wasted words in this slim volume though it fleshes out the backstory of the novel quite a bit more. The action pretty much hurls through the events non-stop. Nonetheless Homes/Mainwaring offers some moments worth lingering over, throwing in scraps of poetry (‘When I am dead and over me bright April shakes down her rain-drenched hair’) and some description that offers a bit of poetry of its own:

Lloyd Eels was a tall man who hadn’t come off the assembly line.Somebody had found some spare parts lying around and had put them together carelessly, not bothering to get the bolts tight so that they seemed almost ready to come apart. He had black, sad eyes and a black mustache like an untrimmed hedge. No amount of combing would help his shock of hair.

‘You’re getting fat,’ Red said. ‘It doesn’t become you.’
‘You come up here to tell me that?’
‘No, I hate to see a man let himself go. They’ll get you back in shape in Alcatraz.’
‘Always the jester,’ Whit said acidly.
‘But the cap is getting pretty shabby and the bells lose their merry tinkle.’

Jim Caldwell’s eyes saw nothing in the drab domestic scene to wonder at, nothing to make him consider even momentarily the thought that people got old and people took each other for granted and presently there was no magic in the world. Jesus, she was beautiful standing under the hard, white light, her head tilted a little, her cheeks flushed, her dark eyes full of stars.

See all the overlooked books over at Patti’s blog.