Review: Big City Blues

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They’re coming fast and furious from Paul D. Brazill: it’s another cracking Near to the Knuckle novella from Mr B, the hardest working man in Brit Grit. This is #9 in the series and like the others a rip-snorter of mayhem and it’s got plenty of humour.

Big City Blues ranges across Europe and over to the colonies, or at least New York, which is a world of its own. Brazill always like a sprawling jumble of wild threads which he slowly knits together over the course of the unpredictable events and connections. Even his Seatown stories make the small burg feel complex. It’s not like wild coincidences either; it’s more like Six Degrees of Separation — or in this case, maybe only three degrees.

There’s a joyful abundance that teeters on the baroque: old cons, old cops, young geezers, unpredictable collisions of desire and convenience, and always sudden bone-crunching violence lurking around the next corner. Some of the jokes my grandfather would know but with a twist that makes them new again, and so many original observations that had me laughing out loud with surprise. And don’t tell anybody but hiding in between the laughs, the grimaces, the double crossing and the name dropping, you’ll find heart-searing observations about the walking wounded and some prose that will knock your socks off:

The night had draped itself over the city, and the moon bit into the sky. He stopped on the neon-soaked street to breathe in the sultry air. He could smell the lust, the sin and the decay.

A shard of sunlight sliced through the blinds, picking out specks of dust that floated in the air. An old electric kettle boiled in another room. A refrigerator hummed. A dishwasher chugged dully. A mangy black and white car strolled across the newly polished bar before curling up on a wooden bar stool and going to sleep.

Check it out; you’ll see why I’m such a fan. Buy it here or US here.

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.

Enter to Win SATAN’S SORORITY

Satans Sorority Promo Image SLJ

 

This Halloween pledge Sigma Tau Nu! Never mind black cats — you don’t want once of these sisters to cross your path. Sexy, violent and a little bit mad, this racy crime novella is for adults only!

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Satan’s Sorority. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/98596c22807400fd NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Oct 25, 2016 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

Pledging Sigma Tau Nu

Review: Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

One for the music fans amongst you: you may know Hand’s work from the Cass Neary stories (if you don’t know them yet, waste no time diving into Generation Loss and then jump into Available Dark and Hard Light). While Cass brings a punk sensibility to the rebel photographer’s life, this novella explores the harder edge of alternative folk music in the sixties. Wylding Hall is of course the place where the mystery happens and the narrative unfolds like one of those Behind the Music docos.

Blurb:

After the tragic and mysterious death of one of their founding members, the young musicians in a British acid-folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with its own dark secrets. There they record the classic album that will make their reputation but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers (including a psychic, a photographer, and the band s manager) meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell his or her own version of what happened during that summer but whose story is the true one? And what really happened to Julian Blake?

Like all of Hand’s books, it cracks right along with indelible images, told through the different voices of the band members and the others who become entwined in the tale. The mystery of what has really happened to Julian deepens as the ‘eye witnesses’ of course don’t agree — and don’t see the same things. There’s a familiarity with the music world that will satisfy fans (showing Hand’s encyclopedic knowledge of the field with such touchstones as Brian Jones’ The Pipes of Pan in Joujouka), a touch of the supernatural (or is there?) and a lot of emotions boiling under the surface of a tight-knit group, as you would expect. All of which makes for great fun.

Some snippets:

On folk songs: ‘It’s a kind of time machine, really, the way you can trace a song from whoever’s singing it now back through the years—Dylan or Johnny Cash, Joanna Newsom or Vashti Bunyan—on through all those nameless folk who kept it alive a thousand years ago’

‘He reminded me of Syd Barrett. Oh god, I thought, another fucking acid casualty.’

“Burna thyn haer yn flamme Tiss wrennas fedyr and thyn hatte blod.”

‘As soon as he opened his mouth and began to sing, the room fell quiet. Not just quiet: dead silent. I’ve never seen anything like it. Like a freeze-frame in a movie. Nobody spoke, nobody moved. Nobody breathed. I know I didn’t, not for half a minute. It sounded as though he were whispering the song into your ear.’

‘Truth is, often Lesley got the fuzzy end of the lollypop. Didn’t get enough credit for the songs she wrote or the arrangements she came up with, didn’t get credit for how much of our live performances she carried.’

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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!

Win a copy of SATAN’S SORORITY!

Pledging Sigma Tau NuI am giving away a prize package of ONE print copy of SATAN’S SORORITY plus one “I’m pledging Sigma Tau Nu” promo badge and a couple of little surprises to some lucky winner here at the blog on Halloween (Saturday, 31 October 2015).

Enter to win by posting here (or on my Facebook page) with your name and the declaration: “I’m pledging Sigma Tau Nu!” The winner will be chosen by random. Be sure to include your email or I’ll choose the person via random lottery.

Deadline: noon (GMT) on Halloween.

Big thanks to Lys Guillorn for making the swanky badges.

Listen to a snippet of the novella read by Darren Sant of Near 2 the Knuckle. They’re going to have a big Halloween extravaganza that includes my story ‘Masquerade’ that’s a kind of prequel to Satan’s Sorority.

Cover Reveal: Satan’s Sorority

Behold the luminosity! Out October 13th from Number Thirteen Press, it’s Satan’s Sorority. Those devilish girls of Sigma Tau Nu — there’s simply nothing they won’t do!

“Forbidden books? Necromantic rites? Queer Sorority girls? I’m pledging Sigma Tau Nu!” — Carol Borden, Evil Overlord of The Cultural Gutter

“Seemingly sweet sorority sisters serve up sexy satanic surprises.” — S. L. Johnson

“I want to join Satan’s Sorority.” – Julie Beman, Professional Pollyanna & member of Chica Non Grata

Number 13