When did you begin writing, Jason? Did you begin by writing short stories?
I started writing in the late 1990s, but only to see if I could. I didn’t write anything that a
publisher would touch but the two books did teach me to finish something and to recognise what did and didn’t work.
I’d never thought of writing short stories until I became serious about writing in the early 2010s when I discovered the classic sites of Flash Fiction Offensive, who were the first to publish something I wrote, Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, and more.
Any favorite crime authors?
My favourite crime author is James Ellroy, and that’s just for The Black Dahlia and American Tabloid. I’m into Walter Mosley, Paul D. Brazill, Keith Nixon, Tom Leins, Kate Laity, Ian Rankin, Ray Banks, and lately, Matt Phillips, Paul Heatley, Jake Hinkson, Tess Makovesky, and Thomas Pluck.
I need to read more Aidan Thorn and get involved in Nikki Dolson, Beau Johnson, and Angel Luis Colón.
Could you tell us about writing your novel City of Forts? It is a coming-of-age story as well as a crime novel?
City of Forts is both coming of age story and crime novel. Four kids discover a body in the basement of an abandoned house in an uninhabited development on the edge of a disused, decaying factory. This place is their escape from the town they live in and they don’t want anybody finding out about a body that will bring the outside world into their oasis.
They all have their problems. Ricky’s mum works two jobs to make ends meet because his dad has gone west and seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth. So Ricky has to look after his younger brother, and he hates it – does his best to hide the kid in their home while his mom works so he can go out and live his life.
Bixby is homeless. He’s escaped foster care and has no intention of going back, but it means living in the abandoned houses as social services narrow their search for him
Lizzie has to contend with a useless dad in mourning for a dead son, with a vicious girlfriend and a drug habit. Lizzie’s looking beyond the town and her teenage years to a life with broader horizons. Tanais just wants friends after being dragged round the country by her parents. She makes a friend in Bixby, but he turns on her when he finds out what Tanais’ dad does. The body they found is not some nobody. A gangster Ricky calls Tarantula Man searches for him, and he’ll kill whoever’s in his way to find his whereabouts. The kids need an ally. Maybe rich man, Mr Vale, will help them out. Maybe Floyd, the greasy wanderer who seems to know everything they’re doing. It all barrels along to a bloody end.
So yes, it’s coming of age, but there’s violence, death, betrayal, and sweaty palms that go along with it.
Are there any crime films that you like? Any film noir?
I’m behind on a lot of films. I want to see the old Cagney gangster films. I need to see The Kill List. Tons to catch up on. There’s the obvious I like: The Godfather parts 1 and 2, Goodfellas, Casino, Mean Streets, Heat, and so on. My favourite film noir is The Last Seduction, starring Linda Fiorentino. What a twisted bit of work that is. Fiorentino should have been huge on the back of this. Where did she go? I enjoyed Blue Ruin.
And, I know Ellroy dropped some abuse on it recently, but LA Confidential is a great piece of film noir, and Russel Crowe’s best performance in any movie
What makes a good crime novel?
A great crime novel induces a feeling of dread. The best ones are those which, when you’ve got your head on a pillow and you’re half-knackered, make you sit right up and lose your breath for a second or ten. It doesn’t always need a mystery. Matt Phillips’ Know Me from Smoke and Countdown both let you sense what’s going to happen, but he builds a fear for the characters he’s drawn so well that your palms become clammy and you want to look away – but you can’t.
Same with Jake Hinkson’s The Posthumous Man. Starts off innocuous, but by the end you’re in full-on “Noooooooo” mode.
What will your next book be about, Jason?
Barlow Vine just killed a man – his lover’s lover. Now he’s heading from Spain back to his
hometown to escape his actions in the vain hope they won’t catch up with him. Never Go Back is a wild ride featuring nurses, strange kids in Edwardian garb, one blinding headache, and dead-eyed killers who want to use him for their own ends. It’s a cold, murderous homecoming – and he’ll need the luck of every bastard to survive it all.
The book is out in November, published by Close to the Bone
Could you tell us about the short story collection, Bullets, Teeth, & Fists. How is writing a short crime story different than writing a full length novel?
The first Bullets, Teeth, & Fists is where I really learned to write. I published all the stories as a way to get my newly minted blog on the road and showcase what I could do. The first one is a mix of crime, thriller, paranormal, and slice of life. My favourite story in there is Bring it on Down, about a shy kid who finds his personality but goes off the rails along with his new-found confidence. A short story is a sugar rush. I often write them when a spark hits. I get it down there and then, if I can. If I’m in the middle of something I’ll take a note so I don’t forget. But it can take a day, sometimes more, and you’re done. You leave it alone for a week, come back, iron out the typos and plot/character missteps, and you can move on. They scratch an itch and explode a
However, there’s nothing more satisfying than writing a full-length novel, knowing you can do it, getting into the weeds and coming out the other side with a full length beard, shattered, and in need of a wild act to celebrate the achievement.
Then I go back to writing a few short stories to make sure I can still write – because I wonder, after I’ve done longer work, if I still have it in me. Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 2 is a little darker and bigger, and includes a couple of novelettes. Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 3 is out in early 2020, with one of my favourite shorts I’ve ever done.