Issue One of the Close To The Bone Magazine is out NOW!
Longcroft on Lockdown
The Longcroft Housing Estate, Yorkshire, England.
These were scary times. A global pandemic has changed the world as we know it albeit temporarily. As the world held its collective breath unprecedented events were unfolding on the Longcroft estate.
North Longcroft Estate – Police Control Room
An assortment of coppers of varying ages, ranks and sexes shuffled restlessly on their seats waiting for the Sarge to get his papers in order and begin the late shift briefing. All were sat the government dictated two metres apart. This, of course, led to the usual childish behaviour you’d expect from any group under stress. Giggling and the throwing of notes to one another. The Sarge conscious of the restlessness of his captive audience launched into his briefing.
“Thanks for your attention ladies and gentlemen.” he coughed, then laughed.
“It’s alright I haven’t got this fucking virus. Damn tree pollen is playing havoc with my tubes.”
There was a half-hearted laugh. The Sarge was to comedy what Piers Morgan was to diplomacy.
Sensing he hadn’t engaged his troops he ploughed on regardless.
“Okay, there’s something big going down on the estate. It’s been quiet generally until now. All of the usual scrotes are playing nice on lock down or breaking into garages, cars and sheds. But they’re scared of the virus same as the rest of us so the low level scum bags are not currently a worry. Oh, and if any of them say they’ve got the virus and threaten to spit on you then you have my personal permission to ram your baton up their arse.”
This time there were genuine laughs. Nothing united a force more than twatting the enemy.
“An informant has let us know that all the top level scum bags in the area are meeting up. They’re planning something and it’s BIG. We have no idea where the meeting is or what the hell they are discussing but keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t take any unnecessary risks but find out what you can.”
He was losing them, they were muttering and speculating amongst themselves. Time to conclude.
“Okay, stay safe out there and go get ’em. Dismissed.”
“Oi! Soft lad, get your fucking arse over here!” yelled Davey in a loud whisper.
Rich looked up from the patio door handle he was yanking on.
“This shed is unlocked” stage whispered Davey.
Rich gave up, low crouched then ran over to Davey at the shed. He cursed as he caught his leg on a terracotta potted plant. Hopping for a moment on one foot.
“Quiet you twat. You’ll wake people up.”
Rich winced in pain, “Sorry! It’s so dark” he whispered.
“People tend to see if you try robbing them in the daytime you muppet.”
They were in the garden of a house on the very edge of the estate, where the houses were bigger, and it was just that little bit more affluent. Richer pickings in other words.
“This door is unlocked, let’s see what’s in here.” said Davey.
They crept carefully over the threshold, neither of them could see a thing. Davey reached into his pocket and took out his LED torch.
“Pull the door closed, just in case the light carries.” Said Davey
Rich did as he was asked and with a creak the little remaining light from outside was slowly extinguished. It was pitch black.
Davey clicked on his torch and swept it across the shed. He quickly clicked it off again.
“What the…” he said.
“Did I just…” said Rich.
Davey clicked on his torch again to see if what he’d seen was still there. This time he did a slow sweep. Rows and rows of shelves of creepy china dolls stared at them. They were exquisitely painted with rosy cheeks but their eyes were dark pools of evilness and they stared down at them with malevolence unknown to man.
However, the back wall of the shed is what made them both gasp in fear. A long row of brutal looking dildos. In order of size. Some with spikes. Some wrapped in barbed wire. Some as large as golf clubs.
“Oh-my-fucking-God” was Rich’s eloquent response.
“Dude, I don’t think god has anything to do with the contents of this shed, look.” replied Davey.
He swept the torch over a corner and saw several secure hooks containing sturdy looking studded bondage gear and several leather gimp masks.
There was a loud bang from the nearby house. They looked at each other and ran for their
Somewhere on the east side of the Longcroft Estate in a small closed down community centre and tonight there was a flurry of nervous activity. The estate is roughly split up into several powerful gangs, centres of power. All of whom would be present at this most unusual meeting.
The first to enter was the dreadlocked figure of Drexel. Originally from West Indian but his parents had moved to the estate when he was just two years old. Drexel was six foot three of pure muscle and aggression. His dreadlocks cultivated over years hung three quarters of the way down his back. His well muscled arms bulged free in his bodybuilders vest top. Drexel was your man for drugs on the estate. If you needed a high you came to one of his network of dealers. Going anywhere else for your high on the estate was worse for health than the drugs themselves. Drexel took his seat at the table on a tiny plastic chair designed only for an old ladies bottom.
Next to enter was Chuck “Knuckles” Van Cleef. He was the Longcroft’s gangster. Protection rackets, girls, clubs they were his thing. No one knew how he’d gotten his peculiarly American name but every one was sure they didn’t want to be on the other end of his knuckles. He stood at just under five foot six but was almost as wide as he was tall. His hands were like hams, huge and menacing and his knuckles stood out even amongst the meaty flesh of his hands. Hence his nickname.
There was only one Biker gang on the estate that for reasons known only to themselves were called The Found. Their fifteen members all wore a uniform of denim jackets and green bandanas with The Found in fancy scroll on the back. Since they were almost all male they cultivated ZZ Top style beards, with varying degrees of success. Except Rosy their only female member, but you’d have to look twice to establish that. They were not a criminal gang per se but if you crossed one of them vengence was sure to be swift and merciless. Their leader Ted O’Malley was a skinny guy but if you crossed him you’d see just what a skinny elbow could do to your face.
All of these leaders were sat glaring at each other, trash talking and nervously waiting for the real power in the estate to arrive. Outside their various hard men were all in separate groups waiting for it to kick off so they could have a good scrap.
Finally, ten minutes later than the agreed meeting time the door creaked open and the ominous shuffle and tap tap of several canes and zimmer frames were heard. The most powerful group on the estate had arrived. The Longcroft East Bingo Club. There was a scrape of chairs as all of the estates hardest men rushed to stand and show their respect. These ladies controlled the estate by fear and information. If you crossed them they didn’t forgive and they didn’t forget. They had access to a source of information and gossip more powerful than any internet server. The weekly bingo meetings.
If you dared to cross them the information was shared among the network. Your card (like a bingo card) was marked for good. The first time you slipped up they’d have you. Any one of dozens of pairs of curtain twitching eyes was watching your every move. A phone call would be made. It could be the taxman. It could the DWP. It could be a rival drug dealer. Underestimate them at your peril.
Vera, their natural leader and most vicious with an elbow, quickest with a dabber and most merciless with a cutting remark was the first to speak.
“Good evening gentleman.”
She made no apology for being late and settled heavily down on the seat at the head of the table. She was flanked by her two closest cronies, mad Margo and dotty Dotty.
“Before we begin,” said Margo, “I’d just like to inform Mr O’Malley that one of his bikers nearly ran over my nephew last week. Sort it out quickly or we’ll be forced to give Mr Van Cleef the photographs of one of your lads and his wife.”
Chuck leapt to his feet in anger and glared at O’Malley who looked bewildered and terrified all at the same time. Before things could get out of hand. Vera shook her grey haired head.
“Not now gentlemen. We have business to deal with.”
And with her true demonstration of power over they began their meeting.
So it was decided with some raising of voices, threats, anger and some chess grandmaster moves by Vera that the meanest, toughest, nastiest tribes on the Longcroft Estate would use their networks to ensure that no one went too hungry, everyone had toilet rolls and that everyone would get their medication. They would look after the vulnerable and the needy until lock down was over. They would help each other in a way they never had before for the mutual good and no knee caps needed to be broken for a while.
The moment it was lifted…the gloves would be off and it’d be back to settling old scores and making money. For now peace and co-operation would be the order of the day, signed and sealed by Vera.
The Sarge kicked off his boots and went into the living room to kiss his wife.
“Hi love. How was your day?” She enquired.
“Not too bad. There is something big going down but the streets are quiet for now. It’s eerie really.”
“How are your officers coping?”
“They’re as clueless as ever.” He chuckled.
“Oh well, at least they have you to guide them.”
He smiled at her lovingly and patted the little pug that was sat on her lap.
“They do indeed. Listen it’s been a long day. I need to unwind. I’m going to spend some time in the shed.”
She smiled and nodded, “You do that I’ll catch up with the soaps. You’ll have to show me what you do in that shed one of these days you’re so secretive.”
He smiled, “Oh I will. Don’t worry about that.”
Darren Sant was born in 1970 and raised in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire which is in the United Kingdom. He moved to Hull in East Yorkshire in 2001.
Darren’s stories have appeared in various online publications such as The Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Metal, Thrillers Killers N Chillers, The Killing Pandemic, Flash Jab Fiction and Shotgun Honey.
Darren’s creation The Longcroft Estate is the setting for a number of his stories. A collection of the first three of these tales is was published by Close To The Bone in February 2012.
TELEVISION: The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Narcos, Fargo, True Detective Season 1, Ozark, Breaking Bad, Deadwood…
BOOKS: Everything by Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Arthur Nersesian, Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, Thom Jones, Fredric Brown, Graham Greene, Tim O’Brien, Richard Matheson, Richard Brautighan, Billy Childish, The CTTB Authors…
FILMS: Goodfellas, Casino, Donnie Brasco, Reservoir Dogs, Godfather Trilogy, The Departed, The Shining, Edward Scissorhands, Groundhog Day, Beetlejuice, Raging Bull, Legends of The Fall, The Drop, Leon, The English Patient…
MUSIC: Sam Cooke, The Ink Spots, Sam and Dave, The Chi-Lites, Roberta Flack, Billie Holiday, Al Green, The Smashing Pumpkins, Cypress Hill, Notorious BIG, Van Morrison, Nirvana, All 1950s/1960’s Soul…
PLACES: Okinawa, London, Hanoi, Kefalonia, Saipan, Hong Kong, Myanmar, New York City, Los Angeles…
FOOD: All Okinawan food, Pancakes, Full English Breakfast, Pie…
DRINK: Coffee. Beer. Whisky. Pepsi…
ART: Everything by Billy Childish and Edward Hopper.
“Find what you love and let it kill you.” Charles Bukowski.
BIO: Stephen J. Golds was born in London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. Glamour Girl Gone his debut novel will be released by Close to The Bone Press January 29th, 2021.
When did you begin writing, Paul?
I’ve been writing stories since I was very young – any scrap of paper I could find I’d scribble a story on, usually about existing characters In was aware of, like the X-Men or whatever other cartoon I’d been watching. In high school I wrote a lot of horror, then after that I tried to write what I guess you would describe as ‘literature’. Nothing really seemed to click until I tried my hand at crime fiction, about eight or nine years ago, and I’ve been getting steadily published since then, starting with my short story ‘Red Eyed Richard’ in issue three of Thuglit.
Any favourite crime authors?
My top three are Jim Thompson, Chester Himes, and James Ellroy, probably on the basis that these are the three crime writers I read first. I’ve imitated the style of Jim Thompson most of all, I think, and Chester Himes‘ influence is most apparent in my Eye For An Eye books. I haven’t tried to ape Ellroy yet, but I’ve got plans… Others include Richard Stark, James M Cain, Alan Parks, Matt Wesolowski, Attica Locke, Joe Lansdale, Marietta Miles, Nikki Dolson, Tom Leins, Shawn Cosby, Hector Acosta, Will Viharo, Daniel Vlasaty, Rob Pierce, Beau Johnson, and Gabino Iglesias, among many others.
What is the scene like in the U.K. with crime/noir writing?
I think it’s healthy. There are people like Tom Leins, Aidan Thorn, Paul D Brazill, and Tess Makovesky, to name a few, who are all flying the flag and making a name for themselves. I’m not sure whereabouts I fit in it, personally. Sure I’m British and I’ve set some stuff here in the north east where I live, but I made the decision to set a lot of my stuff in America. When I come to write a story I always think about first which setting will suit it best, and the US tends to win out, and that’s based on my interests and influences. I read and watch (television and movies) mostly American, and so I think that’s the voice that flows strongest through my writing. The two I have coming out this June, however, are both England-set. Cutthroat takes place in Newcastle, in the 70s, with a little bit of Northumberland and Scotland in it too, and Just Like Jesus is set in Northumberland, predominantly in Amble, the town I grew up in. One thing I always enjoy writing, and switching up between the two settings, is dialogue. It’s fun to write the snappy, one-liner style of Americans, and it’s just as fun to write the colloquialisms of Geordies in the north east of England.
What makes a good crime/suspense story?
For me, I like them to be dark. I’m not averse to some humour – Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen spring to mind – but I like my crime to be of the noir variety and to be exactly as described: pitch black. That’s one of the reasons most of the authors I listed above work primarily in the indies, as that’s where the darkest, most brutal stuff is. Of course, I also want them to have some great characters and some real stakes that they’re working towards. This is what I try to inject into my own writing, and what I’m looking for in other people’s.
Are there any crime/noir film’s that you like?
Drive instantly springs to mind. Blue Velvet, Scorsese gangster movies, Killing Them Softly, Touch Of Evil, Niagara, In A Lonely Place, The Big Sleep, Kiss Me Deadly, Chinatown, Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, Nightcrawler, Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Hell Or High Water, Stoker, Stormy Monday, Payroll, A Prophet, Killer Joe, City Of God, A Bittersweet Life, Sin Nombre, Heat, Wild At Heart, Fresh, Brick, Dead Presidents, Reservoir Dogs, Blood Simple – there’s a lot, I could probably go on. Also, like a lot of people, I really enjoyed Uncut Gems recently.
Paul, could you tell us about writing “Guillotine”? It is full of twist and turns, and often surprises the reader. How do you handle dialogue and pacing?
Guillotine started life as a short story a few years before I actually decided to take the characters I had and insert them into a novella. I felt like I had too much content for a short story, it needed to be something longer, so I basically fleshed out and added background to the scenes I’d already written, then extended the ending. All the stuff with Lou-Lou, especially the second half of the story, was brand new. The pacing for it came as I wrote it, as if usually the case. I’ll start writing something and get a feel for how fast it’s going to move – whether it’s going to be a little more paced and thoughtful, or if it’s going to be breakneck, like Guillotine is.
Dialogue is one of my favourite parts of writing – it not THE favourite. It keeps the story moving, it reveals the characters, their drives, how they act and react. I’m a big fan of George V Higgins and how he tells the bulk of his stories in dialogue. I started using this approach (though maybe not to the same extreme) when I came to write Fatboy, or rather the second draft of Fatboy. When I read through the first draft I found the dialogue was good, but I disliked the exposition. So I focussed more on my strengths.
Could you tell us about the trilogy “The Motel whore”, “The vampire” and “The Boy”? They feature recurring characters and a dark, gloomy atmosphere is created. How do you create this dark world for the reader?
The Motel Whore series was something I wrote very early on. I think it was an effort to get a lot of dark ideas out of my system, and it grew to include The Vampire and The Boy when I started getting the ideas on how to incorporate them into the world of the original story and utilise pre-existing characters. The three tales are quite possibly some of my darkest stuff, not necessarily in terms of violence, but certainly in the way that these characters suffer and the kind of lives they lead. They all in some way rotate around the town’s motel, and the eponymous prostitute that lives there. The printed collection of these tales also includes two new short stories, The Painter and The Shoot.
Could you tell us about writing your latest “Bad Bastards”? What inspired you to write this one?
I’m always looking to write a concise piece of noir, stuff like what Jim Thompson and James M Cain did, with distraught lovers and jealous men and a hitman, so sometimes I’ll write an opening and create some characters without any real idea of where things are going. I did that with the first few chapters of Bad Bastards. It starts almost as a kind of exercise, just to see what I can come up with and where I can go with it. So I had this opening, and I thought it was pretty strong, but then I had to take a seat back and decide what came next – which is when I created the Bad Bastards Motorcycle Club. The original working title of it was Trailer Park Hitman, obviously based round the character of Harvey and his young girlfriend Cherry, but that was literally just a working title. Once I had the motorcycle club’s name I knew that had to become the title. The motorcycle club themselves are kind of background, save for a few characters, but I have plans to make them more central going forward, so let’s hope that comes to fruition.
What will your next book be about?
I’ve got two books coming out this year, both in June. First is Cutthroat, which will be released by All Due Respect. It’s set in Newcastle in 1978 and the best way I can describe it is Get Carter as written by a Geordie Richard Stark. Rob Pierce has edited it and he seemed to like it.
A week after that comes Just Like Jesus, coming out with Close To The Bone (who released my Eye For An Eye books) and this tells the story of two young drug dealers on the Northumbrian coast. They spend their summer days driving round, selling drugs, and hooking up with girls, but petty jealousies and a dangerous boss threaten to destroy everything in their idyllic existence. The front cover is done and I’ve posted it on all my social media if people want to check it out, and the pre-order will probably be available soon (maybe by the time this interview is published) so keep an eye out for that.
The way the blood feels on my fingers
I forget how long
It’s been sometimes, Darling.
The last time
I saw you
you fled into an empty night
screaming at me you were going to throw yourself
from the top of an apartment building.
We had both laughed but
our laughs were different then,
weren’t they, Darling?
The time we argued,
I can’t remember what about now,
you gave yourself to the traffic
and I’d gone after you,
the horns blaring and
the lights screaming,
flashes in the night.
Following you into that damp darkness, Darling.
And yes, there were all the times
you shared yourself with others,
and smiled with lips like Babylon.
Little deceits grown grotesque.
And I took you
I always took you
I remember the way your hair
felt underneath my fingertips,
but tonight I’m running
my fingers over
these ripened tight scars
that you left behind when you left here.
Jagged glass lovers,
That we were, Darling.
You were married when I met you,
I was married when I met you.
We both lied together
we lay together.
But things have a habit of ending
the way they started
don’t they, Darling?
I forget how long
It’s been sometimes.
The coffee doesn’t taste the way it did
The mug has a chip on its lip
and the music that flows from the old speakers
leaks stilted down the wood paneled walls.
The black and white
photographs are still hanging there
but I sit here alone now.
I heard you’d got engaged.
I drink from the mug,
the tip of my tongue
touches the rough porcelain.
The coffee doesn’t taste the way it did.
I’ll stand up, unknown, uninvited and unloved.
I’ll pay and I’ll leave.
I’ll not come back here again
A cold Sunday
I sit in darkness and I wonder,
Where has all of the poetry gone?
Or was it ever here?
Am I the aging pug,
punch drunk, punched out, out punched,
gassed and tired already?
Already thirty six and on the abyss
of a meaningless divorce and the
meaningless unemployment line.
The poetry beaten out of me, like
a heart I’d never really had
I wait for the sound of a bell
to mark the end of the round,
but it never comes
there’s only the night
and the cold
on the ropes always.
Stephen J. Golds was born in the U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. Glamour Girl Gone, his debut novel, will be released by Close to The Bone Press on January 29th, 2021
When did you begin writing, Mark?
I was about 10 years old. It was after seeing the Twilight Zone for the first time.
Any favorite authors?
Ray Bradbury stands out as my fav. I’m also a huge Ross Macdonald, Ed Mcbain, Rod Serling, Robert E. Howard.
Could you tell us about writing “Mr. Zero“, Mark? What inspired you to write?
Its book 1 of my Barry London series. London is a fixer for the mob. He’s sent to his hometown to help out a crooked cop and find out who torched a nightclub.
I’d been reading a lot of crime books. Especially the Parker series by Donald E Westlake. And a lot of old 70s film and tv shows. Initially London is the mafia’s private detective.
How did you create the Barry London character?
Barry London is the name of someone who was a security person at a job I had. I joked with a co worker that he really worked for the mob.
What makes a good suspense/crime novel?
Boy that’s a question im not educated enough to answer. I just fashion my stories on what my idols wrote.
What drew you to suspense/crime writing?
The writers I mentioned. A lot of culture from the past inspires me. Sometimes news items. Sometimes conversations with people.
A lot of movies and TV drew me to the genre. Rockford Files def had an impact. Plus my mom was really into mysteries. My brother got me into Ross Macdonald and Ed McBain. I loved the Lovejoy series from the British. And when I started writing again, Paul D Brazill and T Fox Dunham had a big impact on me as well.
Could you tell us about writing “Mean Business“? How did you see this story?
I wanted to do a series of short stories about Barry London. Flesh out his world. Have Mr. Choaladi send London to diff places. In the story Mean Business I knew I wanted London to meet hillbillies and tangle with snakes. Luckily those stories appeared in an anthology a time for violence. Switchblade mag, Punk Noir, nd a few other places.
Are there any film noir/crime film’s that you like?
Oh there’s so many! L.A. Confidential, Angel Heart, Marlowe, too many to list. I love all the old Black and white films. Paul Thomas Anderson has a few, but I really like Inherent Vice. Coen Brothers, David Lynch.
Can we talk about “Witch for Hire” which has an occult theme? Is this a subject that interested you?
Well, I’ve written more horror than crime. So writing about a witch who is a detective seems natural. Its the first real novel I attempted and it took a year and a half to write. I love the cover Cameron Hampton painted for me. Funny, I thought that book would have more purchases because it has a female protagonist. And occult story. Evelina Giles and her Reporter friend and her assistant Mungo solve a string of murders tied to a town in Virginia that disappeared during a flood. A lot of plot twists I cant give away.
John Wisniewski: Could you tell us about writing your latest book “With Her Fists”? What inspired you to write?
Henry Roi: It began as a character driven story. I wanted a protagonist with the same abilities I possess, though enhanced, far more talented but not so over the top that they aren’t believable. What’s more impressive than a guy that can box, do tattoos and mechanic work? A girl that can. And do it better than any guy.
As the other characters were fleshed out it became more plot driven. After a year of work, hand writing this on 700 pages, multiple drafts, it was typed up and ready to go. I was looking for some hit-me-between-the-eyes feedback, so I asked a few well-read, tough critics to give their opinions and was told it’s a winner.
During this time I was studying the craft and couldn’t shut off the flow of story ideas. The only way to disconnect my thoughts was to jot them down. Man, I had notes everywhere, scraps of forms, manilla folders – whatever was nearby when the madness struck was vandalized by my illegible scrawl.
John: Any favorite noir authors?
Henry: Definitely. I’ve worked for Crime Wave Press since 2015. We have some top shelf works of noir there, several of which I had the pleasure of proofreading. “Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties” by Andy Rausch is the most entertaining collection of noir I’ve read.
John: What makes a good crime/noir novel, Henry?
Henry: For me, a good crime thriller has an anti-hero with a conscience. A criminal that is possibly an asshole and unlikable and yet relatable – and then he/she does something heroic and selfless and the excitement is worth cheering.
Noir novels? I prefer those to be tales of really horrific things happening to ordinary, good people. Slippery psychopaths, unlikely villains. Grandmas or children committing murder that makes me curse with a smile.
John: Are there any film noir classics that you like?
Henry: I’m 38. I’ve never been into classic noir films. The only black and white films I like are the first Bruce Lee movies.
John: Was it difficult to write your first novel?
Henry: My first book was a collection of short crime stories. By then, about 12 years ago, I had read hundreds of novels and dog-eared a Webster’s, so I was arrogant enough to say, Hey, I can write a book. And did. And the writing was complete shit. But the stories were entertaining enough for the few that read them to enjoy them. Made me keep going, made me want to know what was tumbling around in the minds of pros when they wrote best-sellers. I went through several years of studying fiction for dummies-type books, discovered how ignorant I was, and then worked almost daily for another year on With Her Fists. Most days I sat down to write, I had no idea what I would do. When the pen hits the paper, somewhere in my head a little neuronal middle finger sticks up, then grabs its pen and throws down.
I put my characters in very difficult situations. Then worse ones. Then deadly, impossible ones, without knowing how they would get out until they had to. Their difficulties were fun puzzles to solve.
The only thing that was difficult for me that I recall was a sore middle knuckle. Not from overuse of sign language. From writing for hours every day. The tendon would work over the knuckle, inflamed, but I couldn’t stop, had to get the ideas out, into the story.
John: Was is the experience like being the PR Manager of Close to the Bone?
Henry: The Close to the Bone team works for Pop Tarts and produces some very brilliant books, clean edited flash and shorts, and love it. No one is interested in the cold side of the business – the money – and everyone goes out of their way to help authors get their works out there, pro quality, no drama. Problems are rare. We point and laugh at each other and get cool shit done.
Most of the work I do is finding reviewers. I meet talented people, give advice on marketing or PR basics, find them interviews on blogs or podcasts, the occasional guest article slot, and circulate the content we create on social media – a lovely place where more people point and laugh and get cool shit done.
John: Do you identify with your main character?
Clarice “Shocker” Ares was a law abiding professional that was wrongfully imprisoned, forced to be a criminal so she could get justice and reunite her family. I wasn’t forced to be a criminal. I love speeding without wearing a seatbelt. I download pirated movies. Those things would make Clarice look down her nose at me. While we share the same skill sets, we are very different people.
John: What will your next book be about?
Possibly a memoir about how I became a PR Manger, about the conditions I live in, the business I’m growing and the guys I’m hiring to work with me. The last few years have been intense.
About the Author
Henry Roi was born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and still finds his inspiration in its places and people.
As a GED tutor and fitness instructor, working both face to face and online, he is an advocate of adult education in all its forms. His many campaigning and personal interests include tattoo art, prison reform and automotive mechanics.
He currently works in publishing, as an editor and publicist. He particularly focuses on promoting talented indie writers – arranging reviews, delivering media campaigns, and running blog tours.
If you’re not lucky enough to catch him fishing round the Biloxi Lighthouse or teaching boxing in your local gym, he can usually be found on Twitter or Facebook @HenryRoiPR.
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.
“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?”
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.”
“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 wouldn’t fucking know…”
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.
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.
Indie publisher CLOSE TO THE BONE has made a handfull of their eBooks available for ONLY 99c/99p.