All Due Respect e-Zine is BACK!

All Due Respect, Chris Rhatigan, Crime Fiction, David Nemeth, Flash Fiction, Indie, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

All Due Respect is one of the best and hippest indie noir publishers around. And it started out as an online e-zine back in 2010.

The first pblished story was Methamphetamin and a Shotgun by Alec Cizak. Over the years they published stories from writers as diverse as Tom Pitts, Eric Beetner, and the late AJ Hayes. The e-zine closed in 2013 with Easy Money by Lonni Lees.

Well, All Due Respect’s e-zine is BACK – edited by Chris Rhatigan and David Nemeth – and it kicks off the new era with a story from the uber-prolific Stephen D. Rogers. Check out Mad Dogs here and have a dig into that back catalogue while you’re over there!

adr zine

Recommended Read: Tommy Shakes by Rob Pierce

All Due Respect, Blue Collar Noir, Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Humour, Indie, Paul D. Brazill, Punk Noir Magazine, Recommended Reads, Rob Pierce

Former heroin addict Tommy Shakes is a perennial screw up. He’s an habitual criminal with a long-suffering wife, a young son, and dog called Rommel. He’s also a heavy-duty booze hound looking for a heist that will pay enough for him to get back into his wife’s good books.  He gets his chance when he meets a man called Smallwood but things run far from smoothly. Rob Pierce’s Tommy Shakes is a visceral and funny  blend of lowlife crime fiction and tragicomedy. Think of a lethal cocktail of Charles Bukowski and Eddie Bunker and you’re halfway there.  Highly recommended.

tommy shakes

The Tut by Paul D. Brazill

#Noirvember, All Due Respect, Brit Grit, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Paul D. Brazill, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

After enduring forty-five years of a marriage that was, at best, like wading through treacle, Oliver Beacock Robinson eventually had enough and smothered his wife with the beige corduroy cushion that he’d accidentally burned with a cigarette two fraught days before.

Oliver had been, for most of his life, a temperate man and he had survived the sexless marriage – its colourless cuisine and half-hearted holidays – with a stoicism that bordered on indifference. But his patience had been stretched to the breaking point by Gloria’s constant disapproval of almost everything he did.

And then there was the “tut.”

The tut invariably accompanied Gloria’s scowl whenever Oliver poured himself an evening drink or smoked a cigarette. She would tut loudly if he spilled the salt. Or swore. Or stayed up late to watch the snooker. The tut, tut, tut was like the rattle of a machine gun that seemed to echo through their West London home from dusk till dawn until he reached the end of his tether.

Wrapping his wife’s body in the fluffy white bedroom rug, Oliver supposed that he should have felt guilty, depressed or scared – but he didn’t. Far from it. In fact, he felt as free and as light as a multi-coloured helium balloon that had been set adrift to float above a brightly lit fun fair.

Oliver fastened the rug with gaffer tape and dragged the corpse down the steps to the basement. As the head bounced from every step, it made a sound not unlike a tut and he had to fight the urge to say sorry.

He’d done enough apologising.

***

Oliver poured himself a whisky – at eight o’clock in the morning! – and it tasted better than any whisky he had ever tasted before. Looking around his antiseptic home, the sofa still wrapped in the plastic coating that it came in, he smiled.

Savouring the silence, he resisted the temptation to clean Gloria’s puke from the scarred cushion that had been the catalyst of her death. Taking a Marlboro full strength from the secret supply that was hidden in a hollowed-out hardback copy of Jaws – Gloria didn’t approve of fiction and would never have found the stash there – he proceeded to burn holes in every cushion in the house.

And then he started on the sofa.

Oliver’s brief burst of pyromania was interrupted when he thought he heard a tut, tut, tut from the hallway. His heart seemed to skip a beat or two, but then he gave a relieved laugh when it was just the sound of the letter box, flapping in the wind.

***

Disposal of Gloria’s body proved much easier than Oliver would have expected. On a bright Sunday morning in April he hauled Gloria’s corpse into the back of his car, keeping an eye out for nosy neighbours, and drove towards Jed Bramble’s rundown farm, and the village of Innersmouth.

Jed was an old school friend and fellow Territorial Army member whom Oliver occasionally used to meet for a sly drink in the Innersmouth Arms’ smoky, pokey snug. He was also a phenomenal lush. The plan was to get him comatose and then feed Gloria’s body to his pigs. Oliver knew the farm was on its last legs, along with most of the livestock, so he felt sure that the poor emaciated creatures would be more than happy to tuck in to Gloria’s cadaver.

Perched on the passenger seat Oliver had a Sainsbury’s bag stuffed with six bottles of Grant’s Whisky. Just in case, he had a bottle of diazepam in his pocket, which he’d used to drug Gloria.

Just outside Innersmouth it started to rain. Tut, tut went the rain on the windscreen. At first it was only a shower but then it fell down in sheets. Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut.

Oliver switched on the windscreen wipers but every swish seemed to be replaced by a tut. He opened up a bottle of whisky and drank until the rain resumed sounding like rain.

Outside the dilapidated farmhouse, Jed stood with a rifle over his arm, looking more than a little weather-beaten himself. His straggly hair was long and greasy and his red eyes lit up like Xmas tree lights when he saw Oliver’s booze.

***

The cold Monday morning air tasted like tin to Oliver as, hungover and wheezing, he pulled Gloria’s body from the car and dumped it in the big sty. The starving wretches took to their meal with relish. Watching, Oliver vomited, but he didn’t try to stop the proceedings.

Back at the farmhouse Jed was still slumped over the kitchen table, snoring heavily. Oliver collapsed into a battered armchair and started to sweat and shake. He’d decided to stay with Jed for a few days, keeping him safely inebriated until Gloria’s remains were completely consumed. But as the days grew dark the tut returned.

The tick tock of Jed’s grandfather clock, for instance, was replaced by a tut, tut. The drip, drip, drip of the leaking tap kept him awake at night and became a tut, tut, tut. The postman’s bright and breezy rat-a-tat-tat on the front door seemed to pull the fillings right from his teeth. He turned on the radio but even Bob Dylan was tut, tut, tutting on heaven’s door.

***

The usually bustling Innersmouth High Street was almost deserted now. The majority of the local people were cowering indoors – in shops, pubs, fast food joints. Oliver walked down the street with Jed’s rifle over his shoulder. No matter how many people he shot he still couldn’t seem to escape the sound of Gloria’s disapprobation.

Tut went the gun when he shot the postman.

Tut, tut when he pressed the trigger and blew Harry the milkman’s brains out.

Tut, tut, tut when he blasted fat PC Thompson to smithereens as he attempted to escape by climbing over the infant school wall.

Oliver heard the sirens of approaching police cars in the distance and realised there was only one thing left to do.

Pushing the gun into his mouth he squeezed the trigger.

The last sound that he heard was a resounding TUT!

The End.

CHECK OUT PAUL D. BRAZILL’S BOOKS HERE IF YOU FANCY.

 

PhotoFunia-1590227713

MARSH BARTON FINK By Tom Leins

All Due Respect, Brit Grit, Close To The Bone, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories, Tom Leins

Marsh Barton Industrial Estate, Exeter, Devon.

Silvio Foxx is a tall, uneasy looking man. He watches me cautiously from across the buckled concrete floor of his warehouse, an unlit high-tar cigarette dangling from his plump, girlish lips.

“Mr Rey?”

“That’s what my probation officer calls me…”

He grunts, unimpressed with my humour, or my prison haircut – or both.

He beckons me towards him with a crooked finger.

“I suppose you had better come in.”

***

Covering more than a square mile, Marsh Barton is the largest trading estate in Exeter. It is home to the cattle market, the abattoir and more second-hand car dealerships than you can shake a dick at. It’s also home to hundreds of enterprises that are harder to classify: companies with flimsy business models and flimsier morals. Housed in obscure, half-rotted buildings where local entrepreneurs can thrive – away from prying eyes.

Foxx is wearing a black pleather jacket and smells of dehydrated urine. His rat-grey hair hangs limp over his forehead, and I think I can see lice in it.

He flicks the light switch with a theatrical flourish. Dust motes swirl in the air.

“Do you remember your first pornographic magazine, young man?”

I nod.

Pale skin, mouths aghast, chubby fingers foraging in bushy pubic hair.

It was dog-eared and half-buried in the thin stretch of woodland behind the children’s home where I spent my formative years.

I scan the walls of his office. There are framed first issues of some of his titles: ‘Bronco’. ‘Fairmont’. ‘Futura’. ‘Transit’. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of suburban pornography, but I haven’t heard of any of these magazines. They sound more like hatchbacks than fucking wank-mags.

He gestures to a magazine called ‘The Gentleman’s Handshake’. It looks soiled and ancient – like him.

“My father gave me this on my 13th birthday. It was a different era, Mr Rey. I’d likely be incarcerated if I attempted to give it to a 13-year-old boy nowadays, but I found it very… instructional.”

I lower myself into a frayed velvet armchair and a cloud of musty grime rises around me.

Foxx coughs away the dust and points to a creased looking VHS cover in a greasy clip-frame. The movie is entitled ‘Orgasm Addict’.

“This is Shelley. She was working behind the counter in a chain store when I discovered her.”

He beams proudly.

“Well, if you want me to rediscover her, it will cost you £100 a day, mate – plus expenses.”

He nods earnestly.

“And if I don’t find her within seven days, she’s probably dead.”

Foxx grins lasciviously, his decayed-looking facial features creasing in half.

“I admire your flair for the dramatic, Mr Rey.”

I grunt.

“All part of the fucking service.”

***

20 minutes later.

Willeys Athletic & Sports Club, Water Lane.

I don’t know Exeter well, but I do know Bobby Burnthouse. Until recently, we lived on the same cellblock at HMP Channings Wood. When you eat three beige meals a day at the same table you develop an appreciation for a man’s strengths and weaknesses.

Strength? Impressive constitution for stodge. Weakness? Folds like a Trago Mills lawn chair at the first threat of violence.

His hangdog expression drops even further when he sees me – eyes fixed on his half-drunk pint.

“What the fuck do you want, Rey?”

“A few beers and a few laughs with my old mate Bobby.”

He glances around the bar at his derelict drinking buddies, and then hisses at me:

“Fuck off, Rey. You’re about as funny as a collapsed lung. If you’re not gone in ten seconds me and the boys will kick the shit out of you.”

I chuckle to myself. Bobby’s punches are weaker than my fucking jokes.

I roll up my right trouser leg, revealing the rubber-grip handle of the pig-knife in my boot.

“Ok, how about you convince me that I was right to stop the Tapeworm from hacking out your fucking windpipe.”

The small, hot room suddenly feels smaller and hotter. Bobby nods – fat tears in his bloodshot eyes.

“What do you really want?”

“A local tour-guide.”

***

One hour later.

Sidwell Street, Exeter.

Sidwell Street is awash with ruined men. Men with hate in their eyes and blades in their pockets. Short lives and blunt knives.

Greasy junkies congregate outside the Polish delicatessen, buying £1 cans of 9% Karpackie to kill time before their next dose of methadone. Bobby keeps his eyes on the cracked paving slabs as we pick our way through the throng and cross the road.

Last year Garry Gluten was arrested on this very street with a bloody shovel and a bloodier lump hammer. The police never discovered the body, but they discovered 14 photocopied pictures of Shelley Peters sellotaped to the ceiling above his semen-streaked single bed. Obscure details like that are hard to dislodge – like a particularly virulent venereal disease.

Gary Gluten, I recall, was a second cousin of Bobby’s. When the other lags found out they beat him with pillowcases full of tinned foodstuffs and lashed him with the leads from their electric kettles.

Bobby leads me to his cousin’s first-floor flat and hits the buzzer, whispering into the mouthpiece, too quiet for me to hear. He won’t fuck me over though – not now I know where he drinks.

The external door clicks open and he fidgets on the spot – reminding me of a small child who is about to piss himself.

I nod and he scampers away like a stomped rat.

***

The flat smells of blood and excrement – or bloody excrement. It’s hard to tell the difference in the heat of the moment.

There is very little life in Shelley’s eyes when I find her. For all I know there’s very little life in mine, either.

There is absolutely no fucking life in Gluten’s eyes when I bludgeon him with my Poundland claw hammer.

Shelley’s anatomy spasms as his cranial blood coats her bubble perm. I drag her out from underneath his slack, lumpen body and wrap her in the viscera-streaked candlewick bedspread.

She gazes at me, curiously.

“Everyone likes a happy ending, right?”

I shrug.

“I wouldn’t fucking know…”

THE END

Biography:

Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK.

He is the author of the Paignton Noir mysteries SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET, SPINE FARM, SLUG BAIT and BONEYARD DOGS and the short story collections MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES and REPETITION KILLS YOU.

DIRTY BULLION – a collaboration with Benedict J. Jones, author of the Charlie Bars series – was published in August 2019 and THE GOOD BOOK, a collection of wrestling noir, will be published by All Due Respect in December 2019.

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

MARSH BARTON FINK - TOM LEINS (1)

Matt Phillips’ Countdown by Jack Bantry

All Due Respect, Down and Out Books., Jack Bantry, Matt Phillips, Punk Noir Magazine, Recommended Reads

countdown cover

I’ve been a big fan of Matt Phillips since I first read THREE KINDS OF FOOL and his novella, BAD LUCK CITY. I’d go as far as saying they’re two of the best noir books I’ve read in recent years, and COUNTDOWN is right up there. Cannabis sales have been decriminalised in California, but it’s not that simple. If a cannabis selling “business” put their money in the bank and it (possibly in the future) is deemed as criminal activity, then the cash could be seized, leading to the “business” losing their huge haul of cash. This has resulted in rumours of money laundering and private security firms collecting bag loads of cash. You can imagine lock-ups full of the green stuff. The money isn’t protected by the banks or the cops, so someone is eventually gonna come up with the idea of stealing the money. Step up Matt Phillips with his loaded shotgun in the trunk of his car.

Green-fingered Jessie has a knack for horticulture. She can grow some top grade weed, which she sells in her (off the grid) cannabis shop, with business partner, LaDon. She has the hots for Glanson, a Iraq Vet who works private security, collecting the cannabis cash and storing it in a unit. Then there’s Glanson’s ex-army buddy, Echo. The bad guy! You get the gist?

Matt Phillips sets it up nicely. He gathers a group of characters. Some you instantly like, others, you know are gonna do bad things. Phillips might care for his characters, but he isn’t too sentimental when it comes to keeping them alive. There’s some good twists and I was kept guessing on the outcome right to the end. If, like me, you’re already a fan of Phillips, then you aren’t gonna want to miss COUNTDOWN. If you’ve never read anything by him before and you like your crime hardboiled then do yourself a favour and pick up this book (and have a damn good time). (Jack Bantry)

John Wisniewski interviews Tom Leins

All Due Respect, Brit Grit, Close To The Bone, Down and Out Books., Interviews, John Wisniewski, Punk Noir Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Tom Leins

How did you begin writing, Tom? I believe you were a film critic before you started writing books?

I started writing fiction in around 2002 – half a lifetime ago – and my first ever short story, ‘The Box’, was included in an anthology by a UK publisher called Skrev the following year. I notched up a bunch of publications in small-scale British literary magazines over the next five years, and switched to writing crime fiction in 2006-2007, when my reading tastes shifted.

I have managed to make a living from putting words on a page since about 2006 – agony uncle, film critic, telecoms journalist – but I don’t think I’ll be paying the bills with my fiction any time soon! Watching and reviewing films for a living was fun while it lasted, but a job that combined DVDs and print media already feels like something from a bygone era…!

I took a break from fiction between 2011 and 2014, but I haven’t really looked back since. Last year I published two short story collections: Meat Bubbles & Other Stories (Close To The Bone) and Repetition Kills You (All Due Respect), and I have two more books on the way this year: Boneyard Dogs (Close To The Bone) and The Good Book (All Due Respect).

I’m really proud of all of these books, but the stuff I’m working on at the moment is even better: darker, nastier, funnier. I can’t wait to share it with people!

Any favorite pulp authors?

To be completely honest, there is a gaping hole in my traditional pulp fiction reading list.  I’ve got a box in my loft full of unread Hammett, Chandler, Spillane, MacDonald etc, and while I’m sure I’ll get around to reading them one day, they are fighting for attention with a lot of new content.

I think publishers such as All Due Respect, Close To The Bone and Shotgun Honey are the ones delivering the pulp fiction goods nowadays. They all specialise in short, violent books with a solid emotional core. I also gravitate towards the kind of writers who publish multiple books each year, as that kind of work ethic appeals to me, and stays true to the old-fashioned pulp sensibility. There are too many great writers to namecheck here, but pulp enthusiasts should definitely make a beeline towards those publishers.

Your books, like “Slug Bait” sometimes contain horror elements. Do you like horror and mystery writing, as well as crime/pulp?

Yes, very true! In recent years my raw, undiluted approach to crime fiction has started to blur at the edges: the story titles have got more visceral, the antagonists more ghoulish, the imagery more horrific and the sense of foreboding more pronounced. I find a lot of contemporary crime fiction – especially at the mainstream end of the scale – too bland for comfort, so I’m doing my best to redress the balance!

This whole ‘Paignton Noir’ world that I have strived to create over the last decade or so is highly stylised, and I like to use that to my advantage. There were some notable supernatural elements in both of my short story collections – Meat Bubbles & Other Stories and Repetition Kills You – but these sporadic incidents are viewed with the same sense of hardboiled cynicism as Joe Rey views the rest of his cases, and hopefully they don’t drag unsuspecting readers too far out of the narrative.

I have no idea whether my genre-blurring tactics are too horrific for crime fans or too tame for horror fans, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I’ve also got some grisly new material up my sleeve which plunges deeper into horror territory than ever before. Watch this space!

As far as horror fiction goes, it represents a pretty minor component of my overall reading experience, and I watch far more horror movies than I do read horror books – something I should definitely rectify. That said, I always appreciate it when writers manage to successfully fuse crime and horror to create something new and warped. That always piques my interest!

What have the reviews been like for your books? How do reviewers describe your writing?

The reviews have been pretty good so far. I’m always delighted when anyone takes the time to write about something I created – and other people’s interpretations of my work are endlessly fascinating! A lot of people enjoyed my debut e-book, Skull Meat – which is pretty extreme in places – and those endorsements gave me a lot of confidence, and made me realise that I didn’t have to tone down my vision.

When a reader really connects with a book it’s an unbeatable feeling. That said, I’m disappointed that Repetition Kills You – my literary jigsaw puzzle – sank without a trace, as I’m really proud of that book: concept, content, everything. Not every book is going to find an audience, but I was looking forward to see what people made of it. (I’m working on an appropriately brutal sequel, so hopefully that will give the first book a much-needed boost!)

Reviews are also a useful supply of feedback, and I try to respond to any points that reviewers touch on in my subsequent books. Readers expect a series character to evolve, and any question marks over Joe Rey’s persona are really useful to me.

Words like brutal, gritty and violent are pretty commonplace in the reviews – all of which are highly appropriate!

Could we talk more about “Repetition Kills You”? How was this book different than your others?

Repetition Kills You comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. The reader has to join the dots and choose their own beginning and ending. The alphabetical angle was inspired by an old J.G. Ballard story from the 1960s, but the ruptured narrative owes as much to Quentin Tarantino’s movies Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

Repetition Kills You was actually the first book I completed, and everything else I have written has slotted in around it. Because of that, I think that it works well as an opener for the uninitiated, but it works even better if people read the books in the ‘official’ order!

It’s a self-contained book, but I’m enjoying the task of joining the dots and exploring the events that precede Repetition Kills You. The book also digs into certain aspects of Joe Rey’s past, and introduces a few key characters who figure heavily in the sequels. I like trilogies, and this book is the first of three interlinked books. Make no mistake, Rey is about to enter a world of pain in the next book, and it all goes downhill from there…

Anyway, I think that anyone who enjoyed Skull Meat, or Slug Bait, or Meat Bubbles will enjoy it as much, if not more, but the non-linear A-Z concept must be a little bit too jarring for readers, which is a real shame!

Bio: Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK.  He is the author of the Paignton Noir novelettes SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET, SLUG BAIT and SPINE FARM and the short story collections MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Close To The Bone, June 2018) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect, September 2018).

A Ticket To The Boneyard - Tom Leins Boneyard Dogs feature 2

 

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER: MARIETTA MILES

All Due Respect, Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Marietta Miles, New Musical Express, Portait Of The Artist As A Consumer, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing

TELEVISION – Zombies. I love zombies. The Walking Dead. Fear the Walking Dead. Both shows are very different from when they first began. I admit I am not as obsessive as I used to be, but I still watch and look forward to the episodes.

American Horror Story, though I haven’t watched an episode since Roanoke Island. I need to catch up. Game of Thrones. Going to miss that show. It was spectacular. I liked The Strain and The Returned, the French version. I have not seen the American remake. It’s safe to say I like anything spooky and atmospheric. Horror.

Right now, I’m watching a lot of anime. I like the horror sub-genre there, as well. Tokyo Ghoul is my favourite.

BOOKS – I have a mixed bag of favourite books. I think it’s easier to discuss my favourite writers. Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House or We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Flannery O’Connor and The Violent Bear It Away. Joyce Carol Oates and Kate Chopin. Plus, Stephen King, Joe Lansdale, and Joe Hill. Ramsey Campbell. Adam Nevill, The Ritual was brilliant. Richard Matheson.

When I was younger, I consumed science-fiction. A love of crime fiction came later for me, in my late twenties. James Ellroy and his L.A. Quartet was an inspiring thrill. From there it was a deep dive into more and more writers. The genre-defying Cormac McCarthy. Elmore Leonard.

FILMS – The movie I am most looking forward to this summer is The Dead Don’t Die. Bill Murray and Adam Driver. Sounds like it is going to be amazing.

Movies are funny things these days. Because of streaming services, favourite movies might be several years old. For instance, I just got around to showing my girls Train to Busan. It may be from 2016, but it’s a new household favourite.

MUSIC – I have music that I write to, which is for background and atmosphere. Soundtracks are good. Depending upon what I’m working on it can be the music from Dexter or Call of Duty.

My playlist is crazy random and I can usually find something I like no matter who is in charge of the tunes. I do listen to what my kids listen to a lot. Boy Pablo. Billie Eilish. Beach Fossils.

TRAVEL – I’ve been pretty lucky and have travelled a bit. London. Paris. Amsterdam. Chicago and Atlanta. Miami. Lived in NYC and Los Angeles. Washington D.C. Baltimore. Hawaii.

I’d like to visit Italy and Japan. I could spend weeks in both countries.

FOOD – Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Cal-Mex. Enchiladas, tostadas, burritos. Quesadillas. Tacos of all makes, but particularly tacos al pastor, with bits of pineapple and a nice red salsa. Barbacoa. Guacamole.

DRINK – Coffee and sweet tea. Water in between. Nice and simple.

ART – Another area where I am really all over the place. I think the art that I gravitate towards is influenced by where I’m at in life. After high school I was fond of the French Impressionists. Years later, when I lived in the East Village, I fancied Mondrian. Recently I’ve regained an interest in folk art from Mexico and the southern U.S.

BIO: Marietta Miles’s short stories and flash can be found in Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive, Yellow Mama, Hardboiled Wonderland, Shotgun Honey and Revolt Daily. Her stories have been included in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing, Out of the Gutter, and Horrified Press. She is rotating host for Noir on the Radio, Dames in the Dark. Her first book, Route 12, was released February of 2016. She followed up Route 12 with May in 2018. Her latest novel, After the Storm, is due in September 2019. Born in Alabama, raised in Louisiana, she currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two children.

marietta miles

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER: NIGEL BIRD

All Due Respect, Brit Grit, Down and Out Books., New Musical Express, Nigel Bird, Portait Of The Artist As A Consumer, Punk Noir Magazine, True Brit Grit

TELEVISION

I’m not sure what it is, but I’m still trapped in a time-warping loop that takes me back to a different age. My devices are filled with episodes of Columbo, Van Der Valk and Frazier and I can safely say I’m an addict. It might be that life feels stressful a lot of the time, so I need something familiar and comforting when I turn on the box. They’re all great, mind, and I’m amazed at how many stars and legends have appeared in Columbo on one side of the camera or the other.

I’m also a bit predictable when it comes to contemporary work. Killing Eve had me purring until a slight drop off at the end of series one. Fleabag, on the other hand, is just about as good as it gets and I would happily be sucked into their universe whenever they wanted me.

The big police shows often leave me cold. To me, they seem so contrived and even when they hook me in, I wish I’d left them alone.

I also get to see a fair bit of kids TV. Millie In Between (now defunct) is where my kids are at and I love sitting with them as they work through nostalgias of their own.

And the 63up documentary – top class.

Whatever it is, if it’s longer than half an hour, I’m unlikely to see it all in the one sitting.

BOOKS

Now I realise that I’m stuck in another loop. McBain and Simenon more often than not. Pelecanos and Winslow. I’d read more Willy Vlautin if he’d write more quickly. Getting a buzz from Duane Swierczynski. Delighted by whatever All Due Respect put out.

FILMS

When I get to the cinema, it’s with my family. Mary Poppins Returns was a good stab at a sequel. Favourite recent watch, The Blue Lamp – even better than I remembered – courtesy of channel 81.

The fact I’m struggling to come up with anything makes me a little sad. I’ll need to do something about that.

MUSIC

My favourite music to listen to when I’m writing is jazz. I only discovered this recently (not jazz, but the fact that I like to write with a free-flowing musical background). It helps with the flow of words. It’s a kind of mutual improvisation, I suppose. Again, it’s mostly old, but Giles Peterson keeps me fresh.

TRAVEL

All our travel is with the family, so it’s usually somewhere that isn’t too complicated.

We pop to Holland every year and that chills me out without fail. What a vibe.

Last year, Berlin blew my socks off. We had a lovely week wandering around in German woodland and loved that, but the capital was so vibrant and buzzing that I almost wanted to be a teenager again.

This summer, our holiday’s to France. We’ll be staying with some old friends, some new friends and in a caravan.

I get to the city for an occasional break. Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, London, Preston, Liverpool, Paris…  I love them all. I sometimes wish I was back living in a bigger place, but when I get back to the sea, I remember that the peace and tranquillity outweigh the cultural offerings, though it’s a close run thing.

Other than that, lots of my travel is into the countryside. Walks through valleys, up hills, alongside rivers, into the woods or by the coast, that’s what I’d miss the most if they were to be taken away.

FOOD

Been vegan for three years now. That hasn’t changed my eating habits too much, other than on the desserts front. I crave good cake and do my best to make one on a weekly basis (a cake, not necessarily a good one). And dairy free banana pancakes don’t half sweeten up life when I need a pick-me-up.

DRINK

Soft drinks only. It’s safer that way.

ART

My wife’s just changed jobs and she’s now the head of conservation at the National Galleries of Scotland. I’m pretty jealous of the opportunities she has of getting up close and personal with artworks, but not envious of the stress, pressure and endless workload. Even so, I’m hoping there’ll be some fringe benefits for me.

Our most visited galleries are in Newcastle. The Baltic is terrific. There’s always something amazing and something awful in there, so whatever is on display I leave feeling something, which is why I go in the first place. I’ve also become a regular visitor of the Side Gallery. It has a photography gallery and much of the work feels very political and really digs into those emotions.

Last year, on a Paris trip to meet up with some very old friends (very old as in my age). I braved the queues and went to the Musee D’Orsay and it absolutely blew me away. The building alone would be worth the entrance fee. Throw in some of the most amazing pieces of art and this has to be one of the most beautiful human-made spaces on earth.

THEATRE

Recently, Matilda was an entertaining treat. War Horse made me cry.

 

BIO:  Nigel Bird is the author of several novels, novellas and short story collections, including The Shallows, the Southsiders series, In Loco Parentis, Smoke, Mr Suit and Dirty Old Town.

He is currently an editorial consultant for the publisher All Due Respect books.

He lives on the East Coast of Scotland in Dunbar with his wife and three children.

As well as writing fiction, he has been a teacher for thirty years and has worked in a number of mainstream and special schools.

NIGEL B

The Weather Prophet by Paul D. Brazill

All Due Respect, Crime Fiction, David Mamet, Fiction, Flash Fiction, International Noir, Paul D. Brazill, post punk, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

It had been another one of those seemingly endless days when, like King Midas in reverse, everything I touched turned to shit. True, cold calling was a thankless and futile task at the best of times. In fact, most people in the company hated it but me, well, I just seemed to have a knack for it. A silver tongue. An innate ability to worm my way into people’s affections. To get them to fork out their hard earned cash for something they neither needed nor desired. To sell ice cream to Eskimos, as Foley, my boss, said. But recently, knockback had followed knockback and I’d started to feel as if I was losing my touch. I could see the predatory looks in the eyes of the young Turks who were so eager to take my position as top dog in Premier Properties. Something I was not going to allow happen, for sure.

The working day eventually ground painfully to a halt and I inevitably ended up sitting by myself, drowning my sorrows in a dreary hotel bar, staring out of the window as the autumn rain lashed the deserted car park. Letting my resentment bubble and boil. As was my wont.

“Think there’s a storm on the way?” said Shelley, the pasty-faced barmaid, as she collected the half-empty glasses from the table next to mine. An uproarious group of young women had sat there for a while, knocking back tequila slammers and spewing out dirty jokes. A tiddly hen-party that had called in to shelter from the rain. I’d attempted to start a conversation with the dowdiest but the women had quickly made a hasty exit, of course.

“Do I look like a weatherman?” I said to Shelley, and glared at her. I didn’t need her pity-induced small talk today, that was for sure. The Half-Moon Hotel was a charmless place, catering to travelling salesmen for the most part but it was situated halfway between my office and my apartment and I called in after work most evenings for a drink or two. I occasionally chatted with Shelley, coming on all empathetic as she prattled on about her tedious family. Her monotonous life. On days like this, however, I preferred to get drunk in the company of my own self-loathing, thank you very much.

Shelley flushed and went behind the bar, noisily restocking the fridge with overpriced bottles of beer. Muttering under her breath. Her angelic exterior quickly crumbling. Predictably showing her true colours.

But then, most people were predictable, truth be told. They just couldn’t see outside the limits of their own experience. Couldn’t think outside the box, as Foley, would have said. They had a paucity of imagination.

When most people first clapped eyes on me, for example, their initial reaction was usually one of revulsion, followed quickly, perhaps, by pity. Sometimes hilarity. And maybe I would have been the same as them if I hadn’t been born a hunchback. Maybe I’d have been just as blinkered in my worldview but my disability gave me a unique perspective on life. Gave me an edge, really. A liberating cruelty.

There were many worse things than being a freak, after all. Being ordinary, mediocre, drab were much, much worse. Like Shelley. She was a mousey blonde with a mousey personality. One of life’s perpetual drudges. She did, of occasion, have her uses though and so I thought it best to make my peace with her. I limped over to the bar and gave her a weak smile? The limp? Oh, that was a fake, apart from the hump I was in the best of health but better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb.

“Sorry about being so grumpy, Shelley,” I said, drooling a little. Yeah, that was fake, too. I wiped my mouth with a napkin and put on a sigh.

Shelley beamed a 100 watt grin.

“No problem, Ed, we all have our off-days.”

If the time was right, I would, perhaps, have gone into a long moan-ologue about how every day was an off-day for someone with my… problems but I wasn’t in the mood for a pity party so I just ordered another gin and tonic and then hobbled back to my seat, quickly followed by Shelley, who placed the drink on my table with an exaggerated flourish before heading back behind the bar.

A storm had indeed picked up, the sound of the rainfall mercifully drowning out the Joni Mitchell songs that were leaking out of the sound system. The front door noisily burst open and a group of shiny-happy-people loudly rushed in, eager to get out of the downpour. Two men and two women. Mid-thirties. All nice enough looking and well turned out in clothes that were fashionable but not overtly so. One of them spotted me looking over and turned to his friends. Whispered. They glanced over furtively and smiled uncomfortably. Ordered their drinks and retreated to a table as far away from me as possible.

Any other night, I would have had some sport with them. Maybe shuffled over and tripped so that I fell into their laps, accidently grabbing one of the women’s breasts. But today I had little energy for anything. I picked up my briefcase and took out a paperback book that I’d bought from a second-hand book shop during my lunch break. Sniffed it. Stroked the cover, which depicted some sort of elaborate machine that had been invented purely for the purpose of inflicting pain. I began reading and was submerged in a world of glorious suffering when someone stood over me, coughed and spoke.

“Gorra love that Kafka,” she said in a strong Liverpool accent.

I looked up as she took off her rain hat and let her long black hair fall loose.

“A greatly misunderstood humourist,” I said, straining a smile.

She took the book from my hands, frowned and almost threw it across the table.

“When I was a kid I thought a penal colony was a country full of dicks,” she said. Took off her raincoat and hung it over the back of a chair. “Maybe I was right.”

She pulled out another chair and sat next to me. Straightened her short black dress. Picked up my drink and sipped it.

“Gin makes you sin,” she said. She spat an ice cube back into my glass.

“Do I know you?” I said.

“Well, you do now.”

She held out a perfectly manicured hand. I took it. It was ice cold.

“I’m Roma. Shelley’s sister. She’s told me a lot about you. A lot. “

She winked. I flushed and glared at Shelley who was behind the bar cleaning glasses. She looked uncomfortable and averted her gaze.

“The resemblance is … is …”

“Not biological,” said Roma.

“Ha!”

“We’re both adopted.”

Roma clicked a finger and Shelley rushed over from behind the bar.

“What can I get you?” she said with voice like shattered glass.

“Double Glenfiddich for me and another gin for the Elephant Man,” said Roma.

I flushed with embarrassment, rage and… desire. Roma held my gaze and I felt myself becoming aroused. She slipped a hand under the table and patted my hard penis. Dug her nails in.

“Patience… you repulsive troll… patience.”

I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words. Roma fiddled with an unlit Gitanes Brunes and we sat in silence until Shelley brought the drinks over.

Roma put the cigarette back into its blue packet and sipped her drink.

“Shelley tells me you’re a man of very special needs,” she said.

“I am.”

“Well, I’m certain I can help you satisfy those needs, with the right financial motivation.”

“That’s good to know,” I said, burning up. Skin prickly. Throat arid.

“Sure you can afford it, Quasimodo.”

I gulped.

“I can, I can.”

And I could.

My affliction had been due to some dubious pharmaceuticals my mother had taken during her pregnancy. She had subsequently been awarded a massive compensation payment from the manufacturer which she’d kept in a trust fund for me that I couldn’t access until I reached the age of 24. Now, well into my thirties, despite living quite frugally, I used it from time to time for holidays, and yes, occasional trips to see call girls. I had many special needs after all.

“More booze?” said Roma.

“Oh yes.”

She raised her arm like a flamenco dancer and loudly clicked her fingers three times. Shelley brought another round of drinks over, we drank quickly and then the night dissolved into oblivion.

***

A thunderstorm ripped the night open and dragged me from my sleep. My swampy brain slowly focused on the silhouette of Roma’s naked body as she stood in front of my bedroom window, the tip of her cigarette glowing and disappearing as she sucked on it. A neon sign flickered and flashed outside, lightning flashed and then everything turned pitch black.

“Power cut again,’ I said. ‘I’ll find a candle.”

“Don’t bother,” said Roma.

She leaned over and put out her cigarette on my shoulder. The pain was… delicious.

***

The cold morning air tasted like lead as I wandered from my apartment to my office. It was a short walk but I felt exhausted as I sat at my desk. The morning was like wading through treacle, sipping muddy coffee and trying to concentrate on my work. When lunchtime came around, I walked up to Foley’s office. Knocked.

Foley looked up from his lap top. He was bleary eyed and unshaven but he still kept the good looks that had earned him a highly successful modelling career when he was younger.

“Shit, Ed you look worse than I feel. You been burning the candle at both ends again?”

“Something like that,” I said. “Look, I need to go home and catch up on some sleep. I’m no use to anyone today.”

Foley looked as if he was about to say something about me being useless every day at the moment but he bit his tongue. I know I filled the company’s quota of disabled staff and was pretty much unsackable.

“Do what you need to,” he said and went back to Facebook.

I left the office and headed for The Half-Moon Hotel. I was relieved to see that Shelley wasn’t working and walked up to the bar, forgetting about putting on the fake limp.

“G& T, Ed?” said Alec, the barman, a fading playboy with slicked back hair and the smile of a vampiric shark.

“A bit early for the hard stuff. Just a half of Guinness.”

I was tempted to add ‘and that’s Mr Ross to you’. I hated the way people immediately assumed they were on first name terms with the disabled.

As I sat at the bar and sipped my drink, I stumbled through my foggy memory of the previous night. I certainly didn’t remember drinking a great deal but I really couldn’t remember leaving the hotel bar. Apart one moment of wakefulness the night was a blank.

I started to feel a little better and invariably ordered another drink.

“Is Shelley working later?” I said.

“I doubt it,” said Alec. “She was supposed to be working today but she phoned in sick. First time for everything, I suppose.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh yes. She’s never sick. You know how bubbly she is. Sweet enough to give you diabetes. Still, since The Vamp appeared on the scene …”

“The Vamp? Oh, Roma, her sister?”

I started to get excited just saying Roma’s name.

Alec laughed. Licked his teeth.

“Sister? Well, they certainly didn’t kiss like sisters when I saw them in Le Madame last week.”

Le Madame was an infamous gay nightclub on the edges of the city. Images and words scattershot the sludge that passed as my thoughts. My throat went very dry. I slugged the Guinness but felt like choking.

“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” said Alec.

“I’m the fucking ghost,” I said.

I rushed back to my apartment, sweat oozing through my pores. Ignored the lift and ran upstairs. A click and I opened the door into the darkened room. The heat and the smell of sex smothered me.

I switched on the light. The place had been trashed, of course. My Laptop was gone along with a couple of watches and some other pieces of jewellery that could be described as being valuable. They’d even taken my phones. I knew that my credit cards had been taken before I opened the drawer to my desk but I looked anyway.

I was shaking as I went to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and took a bottle of Finlandia vodka from the freezer. Poured a more liberal amount into a dirty glass, drank it down in one but couldn’t wash away the thought that Roma- and presumably Shelley- had somehow got my bank account’s pin number from me. Wondered how much cash they could withdraw in one day. Could they take it all?

I knew that I should get in touch with the bank and the police and try to sort out the mess but knowing wasn’t the same as doing. As the song said, ‘between thought and expression lies a lifetime’. Or something like that.

I poured myself another drink. Sipped it slowly as I walked out onto the balcony and waited for the storm to break.

The end.

Paul D. Brazills books include Last Year’s Man, A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick. He was born in England and lives in Poland.

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2 From Jake Hinkson by Paul D. Brazill

Albert Camus, All Due Respect, Blue Collar Noir, Crime Fiction, Euro Noir, France, International Noir, Italy, Jake Hinkson, Jim Thompson, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

jake hinkson 2

THE DEEPENING SHADE

An alcoholic cop, a Jesus freak, a pregnant homeless teenager, a stripper, a cop in debt to a gangster, and the manager of a fast food joint who is in the wrong place at the wrong time are all  part of the rich and varied cast of characters in The Deepening Shade, Jake Hinkson’s superlative short story collection.

The writing is vivid, lyric and brutal. The stories are powerful and involving. The characters are human, all too human.

Every story in this collection is a gem but standouts for me were Makers And Coke, Night Terrors, The Serpent Box and Our Violence.

The Deepening Shade

HELL ON CHURCH STREET

Paul is a troublemaker. A rough and ready kind of guy, he loses his job in a Mississippi plastics factory after getting into a fight with the Foreman.

So, he hits the road and ends up in Texaco. Running low on cash, he decides to rob a fat man and steal his car. But things don’t go to plan.
The fat man introduces himself as Geoffrey Webb and he tells the harrowing story of his time as a youth minister at a small Baptist church in Arkansas and his seemingly inevitable descent into something painfully close to a literal hell as his life spirals out of control and ever downward.
Hell On Church Street  is Jake Hinkson’s impressively confident debut novel and it is simply magnificent.
An incredibly dark but richly hued blend of Jim Thompson‘s brand of noir and Camus’ The Fall, Hell On Church Street is both gripping and chilling. Beautifully written, perfectly paced and full of harsh insights into the innate duplicity (and self-duplicity) of human beings. Absolutely brilliant.
Hell On Church Street is currently out of print in English but hopefully this will be rectified soon. However, it is, along with more of Jake Hinkson‘s books, available in Italian and  French
Hell On Chirch Street in French