John Wisniewski interviews Dominic Adler

41+WWTnmZPL._SY346_How did your career of being a law enforcement officer aid you in your writing, Dominic?

We all have a hinterland, and mine was 25 years in the Metropolitan Police. London’s a genuine metropolis and I rubbed shoulders with some incredible characters, a gift for any writer. For example, my first novel, ‘The Ninth Circle’ was partly-inspired by a stint working on the Alexander Litvinenko murder investigation. One of the lines in the book comes from a Russian I came across (“where’s the only place you find free cheese? In a mousetrap”). As a thriller writer, it’s not a bad primer; the police taught me how to handle firearms, drive fast cars, follow someone without them knowing – sexy stuff which I wasn’t remotely gifted at. I was happier talking to people, which I like to think is a more important skill for a detective.

I think my old job had a technical impact on how I approach my writing too – I would prepare intelligence reports, statements and requests for stuff like surveillance or financial investigations or forensic support. It helped develop an eye for detail, structure and working to deadlines. And the UK police five-part statement model is a solid way of presenting a story. I’ve used it to clarify scenes, writing the same incident from different points-of-view. As a writing exercise, it’s solid.

Lastly, after a quarter of a century in that world I developed a decent contacts book. It’s full of weird and wonderful people to ask questions if I need to.

When did you begin writing? 

When I was nine or ten. I’d hammer out adventures for role-playing games on my dad’s typewriter (Gary Gygax, co-author of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ was my earliest literary influence). As a teenager I started my own twisted humour magazine called ‘Swamp’ (circulation – about six of my friends). At college I was a student journalist, writing a scabrous gossip column and movie reviews. Eventually the itch to write my own novel really, really needed to be scratched. I started one on an A4 pad, scribbling in biro, when I was a young patrol officer. I remember trying to describe what it was like to work night-shifts, about what a special place London became after dark. Of course, it was awful, but you have to start somewhere.

Any favourite suspense/crime authors?

I’ll give you two of my favourite crime writers. The first is Philip Kerr (for his Bernie Gunther detective thrillers, set in Nazi Germany). Bernie is probably my favourite character in fiction – a decent man in a fucked-up world, someone who can’t help but end up with blood on his hands, but prepared to pay the price for his sins. The second is Mark Timlin, whose late 80s / early 90s Nick Sharman books are hard-boiled gems set in south London: Cocaine. Threesomes with strippers. Sharp suits. Gun porn. Car chases in souped-up Sierra Cosworths. Rock stars. And did I mention LONDON! Read them now, especially if you like a walk on the wild side – Timlin was a roadie for rock bands before he became a writer. I’ll admit to being heavily influenced by Timlin when writing the Cal Winter thrillers. If he ever reads this, I hope he gets in touch and I’ll buy him a disgracefully boozy lunch (you choose where, Mark). Maybe with bang-bang chicken, one of Sharman’s favourites.

How does your interest in military history and technology in warfare affect your writing?

I did a History degree and was an army reservist. I think my obsession with military history helps when writing military characters – you quickly realise soldiers are very tribal. Cal Winter’s an ex-army officer and even though he’s cashiered in disgrace, he needs the balm of camaraderie as much as the buzz of action. To give another example of how real-world history inspires me, my latest book (Timberwolf), is a crazy science-fantasy set in a world analogous to the 1940s. One of the key scenes is based on the German airborne assault on Eben-Emael. If I wasn’t a history geek, I would never have heard of it.

As for technology, I love gadgets and toys. Oh, and tanks. I love tanks. Personally I blame watching too many Bond movies as a kid (except for tanks, unless we’re talking about Pierce Brosnan driving a T-55 in Goldeneye). Then, towards the end of my career, I became an online investigator. I was exposed to social engineering methodologies and what the military would call ‘information warfare’. I got completely hooked on how the Internet was becoming a battlefield domain. That led to me writing ‘The Saint Jude Rules’, which I didn’t realise was actually me, oracle-like, partially shadowing the world of shit that is 2020. See? I was an information warfare hipster, back before it was cool.

41TnZ5v0saL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Could you tell us about writing “The Devil’s Work“? What inspired this novel?

‘The Devil’s Work’ is the second Cal Winter novel. I wanted to write an over-the-top action thriller based on movies like ‘The Wild Geese’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare’, but set in the 21st Century. A story with impossible commando raids and double-crosses. I’d also read about how China was buying up vast chunks of Africa, which I thought made for an interesting back-story.

I spoke to a couple of friends who know Africa well about world-building, then spoke with an ex-SBS guy over a pint about how you’d drop a RIB from a helicopter… and the rest fell into place from there. The scene where Cal meets a journalist in a flyblown African bar was more or less pilfered from a bloke I know who was a warzone news cameraman. Then I needed to create a bunch of gnarly mercenaries to join Cal and his sidekick Oz. They were inspired by tough-guy movies like ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Con Air’ (you’ve got no heart if you don’t love that movie) – I ended up with a dread-locked Scottish ex-paratrooper, gangster twins from East London who served in the Foreign Legion and a Russian-American sniper who comes along for the ride.

Funny story: I was working in a Criminal Intelligence unit when I wrote the book, so was required to submit the script for vetting. As the book features a troubled SIS (MI6) team, my bosses decided to send it over to Vauxhall Cross for the spooks to take a look. As it happens, SIS wanted me to change one tiny thing – and this is the most British thing ever – they just asked politelyThere was no suggestion of an order, just a “would you mind awfully, old chap?” Who was I to disobey Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service? I’m not allowed to say what it was, so I won’t, except it had nothing to do with their reputation. I thought, all things being equal, they were cool about it.

What will your next novel be about?

I wear two writing hats (I’m such a rebel) – Thrillers and Speculative Fiction. On the thriller front I’m toying with a fourth Cal Winter story and I’ve also got 40,000 words down on a story about police corruption. It’s set on the Thames Estuary where London meets Kent – smuggling country. An ex-anti-corruption cop joins forces with a gangster’s widow to take down a criminal gang, who themselves are in the shit with the Albanian mafia (the Amazon-meets-Uber of European organised crime). Think ‘The Departed’ meets ‘The Long Good Friday’, with counter-espionage and the Isle of Sheppey. I do love glamorous locations. On the speculative fiction front, I’m also writing a sequel to ‘Timberwolf’. It’s got some good reviews and I really enjoyed writing it.

Any suspense/foreign intrigue movies that you like?

Okay you asked… Heat, Ronin, The Dirty Dozen, LA Confidential, Hanna, all of the ‘Bourne’ movies (even the dodgy one with Jeremy Renner), John Wick 1-400, Man on Fire (of course Chris Walken gets the best line: a man can be an artist… in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasy’s art is death. He’s about to paint his masterpiece), Nikita, Reservoir Dogs, Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, Way of the Gun, Snatch, In Bruges, Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Layer Cake, No Country for Old Men, virtually any Bond movie, Leon, The Long Kiss Goodnight. I could go on, I devour this stuff whenever I can. And some great TV? Altered Carbon (first series), The Man in the High Castle, Babylon Berlin, The Boys, The Punisher, Fauda and The Bureau.

How do you create your characters?

They pop into my head semi-formed, then I start writing detailed profiles in my trusty notebook. Eventually, if I’m lucky, a character emerges. For others I open my mental rolodex of people I met at work, there are thousands of ‘em. Obviously, they’re heavily disguised, or composites. I think writing is a privilege and I hate bullying or betraying confidences – even for people I don’t like.

Link to Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/ Dominic-Adler/e/B00EYKGN26? ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid= 1572852445&sr=1-1

Link to Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/ Dominic-Adler/e/B00EYKGN26% 3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Link to website www.dominicadler.net

Link to Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ dominic.adler.90

51blOzLEuVL._SY346_

Kilburn by Eoghan Lyng

PhotoFunia-1591000525Kilburn

Sometimes, I think of Kilburn;
Wrestling the wreath, of an unnamed
Tree from Ireland.

We clamour to Kilburn,
Calling to past ways, pathways,
As spirits are tap’d out and sold.

And where would you be,
Kilburn? Catching the hordes,
The Gypsies, the More o’ers

Passing their ways, their trades,
Their songs “O’er The Fields,”
Sunny, no.

Which way to Kilburn?
West, is it ? I guessed it
Would head to that part

Of the unladen bird, where
It would take us; come with us
Away-away!

Patterned, we fashioned
An emerald and I’ll ask,
That one be put in your name.

Recommended Read: Gender Justice by Nicky Charlish

gender justice

Twenty-year-old Toni is fresh out of the slammer and working in a gay bar in London’s Old Compton Street when she is embroiled in a gang war war that threatens to shatter her dreams of a better life.

From the very first page, Charlish grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags you through the mean streets of Soho and South London.

Nicky Charlish’s Gender Justice is a violent, fast-paced and involving slice of Brit Grit that wears it’s bloody heart on its sleeve.

Corona Connections: Episode One – Magic Moments

Shoreditch Pictures

Episode One of Shoreditch Pictures‘ new online series, Corona Connections, which follows characters during lockdown of the coronavirus epidemic. Magic Moments is the story Harry,(Max Waldron) who calls his Grandma (Patricia Loveland) to wish her a happy birthday and give her a heart-warming surprise. Written & Directed by Ben Wicks Produced by Sarah Culverhouse. Shot entirely on Skype.

Shoreditch Pictures

Facebook: www.facebook.com/shoreditchpictures/ Twitter & Instagram: @shoreditchpics

 

Bringing The Punk (Via Pakistan & the U.S.A) Back To London Through Poetry – Sascha A. Akhtar

Sascha Akhtar.jpg

“When I was 7 years old, my mother’s sister (who I consider my own sister) was only 9 years older than me. She was the only full­-on punk in Karachi in 1984, possibly in all of Pakistan. And no holds barred at that,” relates Sascha Aurora Akhtar of the deep-rooted connection she has always felt to punk.

“I loved it. All of it. The green hair. Her ‘fuck you,’ attitude (which I can tell you nobody else loved at the time), the music, I loved the badges. She had gone to London and brought back a badge-maker. That was huge for me. As a result, I was nicely educated (at 7, in Pakistan) about anarchy symbols & other important punk insignias”.

Sascha’s poetry has always been punk. Her first book The Grimoire Of Grimalkin was called, “..a work of contemporary Gothic, with a punk core and an anarchic sense of humour”. (It was also it must be noted called, “a contemporary masterpiece,” by the man who is the Department Chair at New York University of the Department of French Literature, Thought & Culture.)

“I never thought ‘Oh. I’m going to be a poet’’. No. I just always wrote to ward off the demons. It is not easy being me, staying balanced, well, even. It never has been. I have extreme sensory issues, sensitivity to sound, light, change, energy as a result even the chemical functions in my body create severe responses, so not PMS but severe PMS (for which I am an advocate for change in our perception of this). So not just slightly irritable, right? But totally depressed for more than 10 days, and sadly, suicidal. It’s taken A LOT of work to manage these things. BUT my own PUNK core has ALWAYS helped me; as a channel of expression, as a call to be strong & brave & stand up for what you believe in, as a (to me) genderless mode for a woman to empower herself, as musical inspiration – Punk is everything”:

Watching Venus mar the sun

as     you   locked     on

to     me,       target

I am going

two ways

& poetry   is the fuselage

they     will     find

my       twisted   body

conjoined with

 

Extract from Sascha’s second collection 199 Japanese Names For Japanese Trees

“Music is my strongest influence. There are many poems that begin with a quote from a song. The high-art punk of Nick Blinko via his band Rudimentary Peni is my ‘soul,’ music. “There’s someone who has constantly struggled with mental health issues and used his art to heal in many ways. Yes, I’ve said it, Punk can be healing!”

 

Sascha’s latest book’s title is #LoveLikeBlood and “Yes. The second poem is called #LoveLikeBlood, with an epigraph: There’s A Nod To Killing Joke In Here. “Aren’t Killing Joke like, totally Punk Noir, tho’? Amirite?”

Sascha’s performances are raw & highly-charged. “I’ll tell you what. I WAS in a punk-death-metal band in college in the 90’s. And yep. I was the vocalist…and yep…there WAS a lot of SCREAMING, GROWLING & SNARLING. Fun times!”

Sascha’s new book #LoveLikeBlood is available from Knives, Forks & Spoons Press – a stalwart on the Indie scene. The poems in the book feature titles such as FREAK BREACH ( “This is my ultimate punk poem”), Ejaculate As A Noun, Anatomy of A Car-Crash and Girl Child Of The 80’s.

She has been gigging all over the U.K. since the onset of September.

 

Sascha A. Akhtar is the author of five published poetry collections with Salt, Shearsman, ZimZalla, Emma Press and Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. She has another full collection forthcoming in 2019 imminently with Contraband UK. In 2020, her book of translations of feminist fiction writer from the Subcontinent Hijab Imtiaz is forthcoming on Oxford University Press India. She has been widely anthologised & translated and is an #ACE funded writer having received her award in October 2018. Her fiction has appeared in Tears In The Fence, Storgy, BlazeVox, Anti-Heroin Chic and The Learned Pig. She attended Bennington College, Vermont for her undergraduate degree and attended UMASS-Amherst M.F.A Creative Writing on a full fellowship.  She is teaching in the English department of the University of Greenwich and is a Poetry School Tutor with a specialisation in magical texts and poetry as a magical art.
In September 2019, her poem Poems For Eliot, was named as the number one poem of the last five years by Poetry Wales.
F:@ChoisirLeMotJuste
Tw:@AkhtarSascha

Recommended Reads: Abide With Me and April Skies by Ian Ayris.

In American fiction, the lines of genre are regularly blurred so that characters in the writings of ‘dirty realists’ like Nelson Algren, Harry Crews, John Fante and Charles Bukowski can comfortably inhabit the same world as those of crime fiction writers such as James M Cain, Jim Thompson and Charles Wilford.  This, of course, is a very good thing.

With British fiction, perhaps because of the yoke of the class system and prissy academia, that doesn’t seem to happen so much. But within the recent sub-genre of Brit Grit, things are changing. A lot of these new hard-hitting writers have as much in common with Irvine Welsh and Allan Sillitoe as they do with Ted Lewis and Derek Raymond. This, of course, is a very good thing.

Which brings me to Ian Ayris’ brilliant John Sissons novels, Abide With Me and April Skies. These are books with balls and brains and heart.

In Abide With Me – set in 1975Johnny Sissons is a young boy from the East End of London. Johnny’s family are normal, very likeable and very close. And they are getting by as best they can in sometimes difficult times.  Johnny, like his father, has an exhilarating love of West Ham football club, a passion that beats throughout the novel like a heartbeat.

Johnny’s neighbour, Kenny, however, doesn’t have such luck – his home-life his heartbreakingly grim. Abide With Me is a book about their friendship. About loyalty, family, poverty. It’s about doing the right thing. And about making mistakes and facing up to them.

It is an incredibly involving book. As we watch Johnny and Kenny grow up and head toward a life of crime like dishwater down a plughole, we are with them all the way. Ayris’ gripping, gritty, beautiful novel is full of warmth, wit, excitement, comedy and tragedy. An uncompromised chunk of social realism,

Its sequel, April Skies, is set in ’90s London. John Sissons is out of the slammer and trying to get by, working at a market stall. When he loses his job, he gets a job at a door production factory and his luck starts to change. But is it for the better? April Skies is marvellous. Full of realistic, well-drawn characters, great dialogue, sharp twists and turns, and with a strong sense of place and time. Nerve-wracking and heart-breaking, tense and touching – April Skies is a Brit Grit classic.

Both books are now available in various formats from Fahrenheit Press.

Ian Ayris books

Recommended Reads: Nolan, Gadsby.

black moss

Black Moss by David Nolan.

In 1990, Manchester radio journalist Danny Johnston looks into the murder of a child while the eyes of the world are on the Strangeways prison riot. More than a quarter of a century later, he again takes up the investigation.  Black Moss is gripping, fast paced, moving, authentic, and funny, too! Very highly recommended.

Back Door To Hell

Back Door To Hell by Paul Gadsby

Jen and Nate work in a Snooker Club and decided to rip off their gangster boss. A desperate chase across the UK quickly ensues, with violent consequences. Back Door To Hell is a realistic and riveting slice of Brit Grit with marvellous, well-drawn characters and sharp twists and turns.  Great stuff.

 

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER: ANNE BILLSON

 

anne billson 2

BOOKS

Dark Entries – Robert Aickman. In 1968 I got this collection of short stories out of Croydon Library straight after seeing The Bells of Hell – an adaptation of Aickman’s Ringing the Changes in the Late Night Horror anthology series; needless to say the BBC has since wiped the tape.

A Harlot High and Low – Honoré de Balzac. A sequel to the more celebrated Lost Illusions, but I read this one first; I love the character of Vautrin, a criminal mastermind who ends up as Paris’s Chief of Police.

Ubik – Philip K. Dick. I dig the advertising slogans, and the slow drip-feed of hints that All Is Not As It Seems (it rarely is in a Dick novel).

The Enigma of Amigara Fault – Junji Ito. Ito is a genius and his horror mangas WILL give you nightmares. This one is particularly creepy and disturbing.

Le position du tireur couché – Jean-Patrick Manchette. After I moved to France and was training myself to read more French, a friend introduced me to the left-wing “polars” (crime stories) of Manchette; not just terrific reads, but the hard-boiled language is relatively simple. This was filmed, very badly, as The Gunman (2015), starring Sean Penn. A 1982 French adaptation, Le choc, is only marginally better, but at least in that version you get Alain Delon to look at.

Les liaisons dangereuses – Choderlos de Laclos. La Marquise de Merteuil, c’est moi. Remembrance of Things Past – Marcel Proust. Glad I read this in my early twenties; I’d never find the time now. Much funnier than you’d expect (I read the Scott-Moncrieff translation) and the author ties it all up at the end with the Mother of all Literary Pay-offs. Everything you ever needed to know about life, love, art, memory and the passage of time; it really did change my life.

Froth on the Daydream – Boris Vian. Vian is one of my heroes (as well as a novelist he was also a surrealist, poet, translator, literary prankster and provocateur, songwriter and jazz trumpeter), and this is his best-known book, full of wordplay and creative whimsy that ends up leading you into some very dark places.

MUSIC

Le chanteur – Daniel Balavoine (“Je me prostituerai/Pour la postérité” – vicious demolition of your average pop star career)

Bluebeard’s Castle – Bela Bartok (the ultimate musical dispatch from the eternal war between men and women; music to make your hair stand on end, plus some of the best brass ever)

Independence Day – The Comsat Angels (“I can’t relax cos I haven’t done a thing/And I can’t do a thing cos I can’t relax” – story of my life)

Imperial Bedroom – Elvis Costello

Bitches Brew – Miles Davis (I often play his Electric Period albums while writing because it’s extremely effective at neutralising unwanted outside noise, building work etc) Histoire de Melody Nelson – Serge Gainsbourg

Vec Makropulos – Leos Janacek (the downside of living for 300 years, plus lots of brass. I do like classical brass.)

Doctor on the Go – Lee Perry (from an album called Revolution Dub, purchased from Brixton Market with my dole money in the mid-1970s, before I even knew who Lerry Perry is; I love the piano backing, and the samples from TV’s Doctor at Large – Robin Nedwell’s laugh!)

The Royal Scam – Steely Dan (I love all their other albums too; they never get old)

TELEVISION

The Avengers (1965-1968) The Emma Peel years.

Better Call Saul: I much prefer this to Breaking Bad.

Bilko: fastest, funniest, most cynical sitcom ever.

Desperate Romantics: The Pre-Raphaelites as preposterous soap opera.

Futurama: clever, funny, subversive, but can also make me cry.

G.B.H.: British TV drama at its best.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Wire: the first three seasons, with Stringer Bell.

FILMS (This is not to say I don’t love Vertigo, The Seven Samurai et al, but I tried to pick films that don’t usually feature in everyone’s all-time Top Ten Lists)

Green for Danger (1946) Alastair Sim – “When I took my departure that evening, it was not with the feeling that this had been one of my more successful investigations.”

Night of the Demon (1957) “I must protect myself. Because if it’s not someone else’s life, it’ll be mine. Do you understand, mother? It’ll be mine.”

The Rebel (1961) “Blimey, who’s gone raving made here then?” Best film about modern art ever.

Le deuxième souffle (1966) Lino Ventura, hard-boiled French gangsters in mackintoshes; cool nightclubs full of dancing girls; criminal codes of honour. I’m particularly fond of the mysterious Orloff, a peripheral character whose story I would like to write some day.

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) “Attack what? Attack where?” The yawning chasm between Britain’s preposterously elevated idea of itself and how it actually is: class-ridden, mired in delusions of Empire, hamstrung by nepotism and petty squabbling. There’s even some Fake News in there. Tony Richardson’s best film, still criminally undervalued, with a brilliant ensemble cast drawn from a Who’s Who of Great British Acting.

The Conformist (1970) Jean-Louis Trintignant is so insecure about his manhood that he becomes a hitman for the Fascists. One of the most handsomely photographed and designed films ever made; Bernardo Bertolucci’s best; and a big influence on the Hollywood movie brats of the 1970s.

Daughters of Darkness (1971) Delphine Seyrig as the world’s most soignée vampire, preying on a honeymoon couple in off-season Ostend.

The Fate of Lee Khan (1973) Hong Kong/Taiwanese martial arts period thriller with six great action roles for women. Directed by the great King Hu. One of the most nail-bitingly tense films I’ve ever seen.

The Fury (1978) Psycho kids who can make people bleed from all orifices; John Cassavetes in evil mode. Possibly Brian De Palma’s most bonkers film, full of weirdly mismatched performances, odd comedy, and a contender for most delirious ending ever.

After Life (1998) Dead people have to select a memory to take with them into eternity in Hirokazu Koreeda’s low-key but lovely, humane, deeply affecting and thought-provoking inquiry into the meaning of life.

PLACES

Notting Hill, Soho & Tokyo in the 1970s, Westbourne Park & New York City in the 1980s, Holborn & King’s Cross in the 1990s, Paris in the 2000s, The Low Countries in the 2010s

THINGS

Belgian beer, Belgian chocolate, Belgian frites, Roquefort, Pecorino & Ossau-Iraty cheese, small film festivals, cats, skulls, lipstick, handbags, travelling by train, canals.

Bio: ANNE BILLSON is a film critic, novelist, photographer, style icon, wicked spinster, evil feminist, and international cat-sitter who has lived in London, Tokyo, Paris and Croydon, and now lives in Brussels. Her books include THE HALF MAN, SUCKER, STIFF LIPS, THE EX and THE COMING THING as well as several works of non-fiction, including BILLSON FILM DATABASE, BREAST MAN: A CONVERSATION WITH RUSS MEYER, and monographs on the films THE THING and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.
THE HALF MAN

Short Stories For Sunday: Tony Black and Mark West

Stone ginger

Stone Ginger by Tony Black

Charlie ‘Minty’ Lamb meets Ginger in his local pub and is soon besotted with her. But things quickly turn pear shaped in this short, sharp Brit Grit yarn.

Goblin Glass

The Goblin Glass by Mark West

When his life falls apart, Warren is pulled sharply back into a life of crime. He is hired by a gangster to steal a mirror that was once owned by a Spanish magician.  The Goblin Glass is an atmospheric and marvellously well-written blend of Brit Grit and the supernatural.