Episode 2 of Tiny Tales features: Nick Boldock, Paul D. Brazill, Ian Ayris and Darren Sant. This podcast features adult themes and language throughout.
Episode 2 of Tiny Tales features: Nick Boldock, Paul D. Brazill, Ian Ayris and Darren Sant. This podcast features adult themes and language throughout.
It was shortly after the pitter-patter of tiny feet had been drowned out by the rat-a-tat-tat of the debt collector’s knocks that Carole Parker considered killing her husband. But it wasn’t until many years later, when her daughter Kate had grown up and flown the nest, that she actually decided to do it.
Carole had barely been out of her teens when Doctor James Parker, as glimmering and sophisticated as a Brandy Alexander, swept through her hum-drum life like a tornado, picked her up like Dorothy and plonked her in an Oz that bore more than a passing resemblance to Chiswick, West London.
As the years trundled on, however, James’s gambling and drinking habits ballooned to the size of the Hindenburg, his mood swings and behaviour grew more and more erratic and Oz turned out to be no place like home.
Carole’s initial, overriding feeling of disappointment eventually melded into a hate that slowly marinaded until it congealed into a cold, hard contempt.
Carole, who had been studying Chemistry at Durham University when she met James, found that she couldn’t safely rely on him for an income and she eventually took a part time job at Bogajski’s Veterinary Practice in Holland Park, an upmarket joint that pampered the pets of B and C-list celebrities. Over the years, a bottle of chloral hydrate that nestled on a shelf at work had stood out like the lone, beautiful whore in a rundown brothel, teasing and tempting Carole. The years had stretched out like a long summer shadow until, at last, she spiked a bottle of Mortlach – James’s favourite whisky – and headed home.
Carole got off the 94 bus at Turnham Green and glimpsed her reflection in the newsagent’s window. Her heart sank like the Titanic. As she looked at the frump in the window she remembered overhearing a couple of shiny, happy WAGs talking about her as they sat in the vet’s waiting room.
‘Not bad looking but a bit on the drab side’, the northern one had said.
‘Dowdy and past her sell-by date,’ commented the other, in a grating Estuary accent.
‘About time for a make-over,’ they giggled.
It had hurt but Carole could hardly disagree and she’d been depressed for days after. What had happened to the vivacious young woman who used to light up a room like a firework display? She’d been drowned in a flat cocktail of debt and drudgery but there was still a spark, she knew.
Well, she thought, with James out of the way – and his insurance money in the bank – there would be a rebirth. A phoenix from the ashes. A flush of excitement burst free like a champagne cork but by the time she stood at the gate of her semi-detached house that excitement was waning and being replaced with fear. Fear of prison if she was caught. Fear of what Kate would think. And then the guilt, the doubt and the panic hit her like a tsunami.
Then she saw the car. A big grey BMW that was parked outside her house looking like a shark that was waiting to strike.
‘There are, of course, myriad negotiation techniques,’ said Detective Sergent Frank Cook, in a voice not dissimilar to that of the tiger in the Jungle Book film. ‘One of the most popular is a two-hander, as it were, known as the good-cop/ bad-cop. But I, however, am here alone today and I am as far from a good cop as you can imagine so I think I’ll just stick to the Corleone method.’
Carole was focused now. She looked at James but he just looked pathetic, like a scolded schoolboy. His face was bleeding and snotty and the fingers of his left hand hung limp. With his shaking right hand, he signed the contract as Frank Cook hovered over him like Godzilla over a flattened Tokyo. James was a big man – he’d played prop forward for Durham University – but Frank was bigger, with a face that looked as if it had recently been scrubbed by a Brillo pad and big, big hands, one of which held a big, shiny bloodstained Glock 29. The moment that Carole signed the paper she could feel her life slipping away like dishwater down a plughole.
‘Congratulations,’ said Frank. ‘You are now the proud owners of ..well … life.’ He grinned like a game show host, pushed the deeds to the house in the pocket of his Armani jacket and then indifferently threw an IOU towards James.
‘I do believe we should have a little snifter to celebrate, don’t you?’ said Frank, putting a CD into the player. ‘I think Doctor James here is certainly in need of a little hair of the dog that fucked him up.’
Carole went over to the drinks cabinet. She took a swig of Glenfidich before passing the bottle over to James, who gulped it down like a drowning man gasping for the last breath of air.
Puccini’s Tosca blasted out as Frank looked at a photograph on the wall: Carole and Jimmy on honeymoon in Las Vegas, looking full of life and future.
‘Those were the days, my friends, eh?’ said Frank, turning and spotting Carole’s Sainsbury’s bag. ‘And is that a bottle of Mortlach, I spy? I hope you’re not keeping the good stuff for yourself.’
For the next few minutes, Carole seemed to step out of herself as if she were watching a film. She poured the Mortlach for Frank and let it all happen. About halfway through Tosca’s third act, as church bells rang, Frank started babbling, puking and convulsing and, by the late evening, he was dead.
Outside The City Barge, a bustling pub overlooking the Thames, the speakers were blasting out an old Eddie & The Hot Rods song. A jet ski cut across the water and Carole flashed back to the previous month when she and James had dumped Frank Cook’s body and BMW in the river’s murky water, somewhere near the Isle of Dogs.
A small aeroplane left a trail of white foam across the vivid blue sky. Carole smiled to herself as she showed her friends the shiny red shoes that she’d bought from Harvey Nichols with one of James’s many credit cards.
‘I think I saw your husband looking out of the window again today,’ said Sarah, a mousy woman with mousy hair. ‘Is that all he does these days? He seems to peek through the curtains whenever I park near you. Is he turning into a Peeping Tom?’
Carole laughed. That really was all James did now. Snoop. He was at the window day and night waiting for reprisals from Frank’s cronies. Reprisals that she doubted would come.
If anyone missed Frank Cook or thought that he’d been murdered, she doubted that they would suspect a boring suburban couple like her and James. And if they did, well, she had that big, shiny gun in her handbag, just in case.
‘Oh, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,’ chuckled Carole as she drained her glass of Pimms and lemonade. ‘Same again?
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One
Ginger Ronny had told Burkey about the murder towards the bitter end of one of their occasional raucous Tuesday night drinking sessions, as the dawn had desperately begun to grasp for life and Malcolm Duffy was grumpily getting ready to close up Le Duffy. But it wasn’t until the cusp of Wednesday evening – as Burkey struggled out of bed to start his night shift at the slaughterhouse – that the reality of the situation finally melted into his consciousness, like ice cubes in a glass of Jack Daniels.
‘Jude Walker,’ he groaned, as he sat on the stained and wobbly toilet. ‘Jude friggin’ Walker.’
He put his head in his hands as he pebble-dashed the inside of the toilet bowl with the residue of the previous night’s boozing session and tried to force a tear or two with the same passion that he’d shat. But he couldn’t. Despite all Jude had done for Burkey over the years, the man had been a nasty twat who’d had payback coming to him for donkeys.
Burkey showered, dressed and left his flat, a hovel that was above a closed down dirty book store and had been advertised as being a ‘loft-style apartment’. He started to have a nagging feeling tugging at him as he limped down the stairs, and it wasn’t just the need for a little eye opener before he started work.
As he shuffled into Le Duffy’s dimly lit bar, adjusting his eyes as he negotiated his way through the closely stacked tables, he realised what the problem was. Ronny had confided in him. Burkey. Or Gimpy, as he usually called him. Of all of Ronny’s dodgy cronies and neo-incestuous family members he’d confessed a murder to Burkey.
Although they occasionally got drunk together, Ronny and Burkey had never been friends, as such. Ronny had even regularly taken great pleasure in taking the piss out of Burkey’s limp. Even back in school he had been worse than most of the other kids when it came to cruel jibes. They were bound together by a love of the booze, though, which wasn’t everything but it was a lot.
Malcolm served Burkey his usual pre-work shot of peppermint schnapps. He hated the taste but it didn’t smell of booze, they said. He sat at the bar, knocked it back and ordered another. This Ronny situation was a quandary and a conundrum, as his old granddad used to say. What the hell was Ronny up to?
He ordered another drink and tried to piece together what Ronny had actually told him about killing Jude.
It went like this: Ronny was sat in his Ford Granada in the car park outside The Bongo Club getting a blow job from Skinny Minnie, one of the club’s barmaids, who gave extras when it came close to her rent day. She was dressed as a schoolgirl since, although she was forty if she was a day, she had the skinny, petit body of an anorexic teen which boosted her earning capacity.
After she eventually swallowed his load, Ronny loosened his grip and allowed her to come up for air. He pulled a wad of notes from his Wranglers and peeled a few off. Most of the cash he used to pay her was counterfeit but there was so much of it in the town these days that it was becoming accepted currency.
He sat and smoked a joint while Minnie cleaned him up with baby wipes and there was a knock on the window. Well, more of a bang. Ronny wound down the window to see the massive form of Jude Walker shouting and screaming about something or other. Ronny had no idea what he was on about. Not that it mattered since Jude had a tendency to completely lose the plot over any old thing when he was snorting the crap coke that was produced by the same Russians that made the fake cash.
Ronny knew that there was nothing he could do to placate Jude and began to wind up the window when Jude stuffed a massive hand through the gap and grabbed Minnie by the throat. Well, Ronny, ever the gentleman, couldn’t allow that to happen so he pushed open the car door sending Jude sprawling backwards until he crashed his head against the breeze-block wall that everyone used to piss against when then went outside the club for a cigarette. Ronny walked over and saw that Jude was out for the count. And then, before he could do anything about it, Minnie turned up with a brick and proceeded to smash the shite out of the unconscious Jude’s big fat head.
Ronny apparently grabbed the brick from Minnie and slapped her till she calmed down. Then he started to hyperventilate. They were so far in shit creek an outboard motor wouldn’t help, let alone a paddle. Jude Walker was an old school-friend, for sure, but he was also the off-white sheep in a very dark family. A very loyal family indeed.
Burkey looked up at the cracked triangular clock that hung behind the bar and realised that he was going to be late for work if he didn’t get a move on. Fuck it, he thought. This was serious stuff. He ordered another drink. A proper one this time. A double Jack D.
The bar had started to fill out without him realising it and he was in his pots, singing along to the Pina Colada song when someone tapped him on his shoulder. He could almost taste the sour breath.
‘Burkey, I need you,’ Ronny whispered in his ear. Burkey turned and saw Ginger Ronny, high as a kite, wearing a cagoule and covered in all sorts of mud and shit.
‘What do you … want?’ said Burkey.
‘I need you to help me bury him.’
‘Get a friggin’ move on Gimpy,’ said Ronny, as it started pissing down.
A big grin crawled across his flushed face like a caterpillar. Burkey assumed Ronny thought that using his old school nickname would motivate him. Far from it. He was starting to realise that Ronnie was just manipulating him. Using him to do his dirty work.
Burkey forced a smile. He was getting soaked to the skin in a vandalised cemetery, after spending the last half hour digging a grave and Ronnie was going on and on at him like fingers down a blackboard.
Burkey stopped, the pain in his bad knee getting worse and worse in the cold and wet weather.
‘Give me a minute or two,’ he said.
‘Oh, for fucks sake, Gimpy, I friggin’ told you …’
Burkey swung the shovel without thinking about it and it smacked Ronnie square on in the head. Ronnie just stood there, an unlit cigarette in his hand. A blank expression on his face that reminded Burkey of a cartoon character.
So Burkey twatted him again and he fell forward into the open grave. There was a flash of lightning, followed by a rumble of thunder as Burkey managed to drag himself out of the grave. He paused to catch his breath and got down to covering up the bodies with renewed enthusiasm, safe in the knowledge that he’d make it back to Le Duffy in time for last orders. But he’d keep himself to himself tonight, that was for sure.
Paul D Brazill was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Polish, Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including three editions of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST BRITISH CRIME.
We have taken the unusual step of allowing tracks to be downloaded individually, as there is a wide stylistic variety.
“I am now mainly known as an experimental musician and free improviser. This collection, however, focuses on the other side of my work – as a singer and songwriter. This is an area I don’t really work in any more – my band “Foulkestone” (with Jude Cowan Montague) only performs traditional material, and I have found that traditional song can express more than enough of the things I’d like to say. So this is something of a “goodbye to all that”
The tracks on this collection run from “Hollow Call” recorded by an early version of Drop in 1978 to “Quill” a solo recording from 2010. Other tracks were recorded by the groups Halcyon Days and The Euphoria Case (in several incarnations)
The recordings range from 24 track studio recordings to mono cassette recordings. All the recordings have been re-mastered where ever possible from the original tapes.”
Richard Sanderson 2012
All songs composed by Richard Sanderson except “Babes in the Wood”, which is traditional, but arranged by Richard Sanderson.
Richard Sanderson – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard, Electronics, Alto Saxophone, Melodeon, Accordion, Laptop
Other musicians in chronological order-
Mark Spybey – Drums
Mark Sanderson – Percussion
Neil Jones – Keyboards
Chris Oberon – Bass
Andy Kiss – Drums
Paul D Brazill – Bass
Ronnie Burke – Drums
Peter Ord – Guitar
Martyn Simpson – Guitar, Bass
Gary Phillips – Keyboards
John Silvester – Tenor Sax
Pat Power – Bass
Dave Power – Guitar
Simon Lindsay – Drums
Chris Cundy – Bass Clarinet
Ian R Watson – Trumpet
Debra Scacco – Flute
Clive Pearman – Guitar/Banjo
With many thanks to the other musicians who’ve been kind enough to play on my songs,- Duncan Goddard, Gary Simpson, Stephen Weatherall, Helen Walker, Chris Burton, Mark Braby, Andy Coules.
Pauline Williams really hadn’t wanted to talk to her brother. Not for a while, anyway. She’d been giving him the cold shoulder recently. She’d had more than enough of Billy’s shenanigans over the years, so she started to ignore his text messages and calls. She’d even unfriended him on Facebook. But when she found out he’d been in an accident, her resolve soon wilted. Family was family, after all.
The bus arrived just after she got to the bus stop. It was almost empty, as usual, since most of the people that lived in the area didn’t take buses. They were doctors, lawyers, teachers, social workers, and they drove expensive cars or took taxis. The bus was really only there to take their kids to the swanky private school at the other side of the town. Pauline flashed her monthly travel pass to the sleepy bus driver, who paid it scant attention. She walked to the back of the bus and sat down heavily. Her joints ached. She was feeling her forty years of working as a cleaner more and more each day. She was on the verge of drifting off to sleep when she heard a familiar voice.
“The glory days are far behind us now, eh Pauline?” said George Morrison, as he sat down next to her.
Pauline opened her eyes and smiled. George’s glory days were certainly behind him. He used to cut a fine figure, even when they’d been at school together. He used to be a mod in those days, always sharply dressed. He was the lead singer in a couple of bands, too. One of them, The Blue Beats, had a Friday night residency at The Band In The Wall in Manchester and had supported The Small Faces on one of their tours.
The lasses used to be all over George. They used to say he had more tarts than Mr Kipling. He looked as rough as toast now, though. Hair like straw, face like a blackcurrant crumble, wearing a shabby grey shell-suit. The booze and the divorces had certainly taken their toll on George.
“Oh, I don’t mind growing old, so much,” said Pauline. “Anyway, there’s not a lot I can do about it, is there?”
“Yeah, and it certainly beats the alternative,” said George.
He chuckled, and started a coughing fit.
“True enough,” said Pauline.
She looked out of the window. Another church had been turned into a pub.
“Are you off home, then?” said George.
“Naw, I’m off to the hospital to see our Billy,” said Pauline.
“What’s he been up to?”
“Broke his arm falling out of a window, apparently.”
“Has he been out on the burgle again?”
“Yeah, I think so. Daft bugger.”
“At his age, eh?” said George, grinning.
“Mind you, we’re none of us spring chickens, eh?” said George. “Are you still doing Doctor Moody’s house?”
“Oh, yes. Every Monday and Friday. Come rain or shine. Not that there’s much to do since he went bed bound. He’s got a home help that does most of it. I’ve said I’ll pack it in but I think he needs the company more than anything. That home help that comes is a nice lass, but she speaks funny English.”
“Where’s she from?”
“Czechoslovakia or somewhere. How’s your Andy?”
“Not good. Not bad.”
Pauline patted his wrist. She gazed out of the bus window and was silent until they pulled up outside the old people’s home. George got up. “
See you around,” said George.
“Tara,” said Pauline.
Billy was sat up in bed nattering away with a young Indian nurse when Pauline walked into his room. He had a bandage on his head and an arm in a sling. He was in a private room, of course. No second bests for Billy. She wouldn’t ask where he’d got the money to pay for it. She’d given up on those sort of questions a long time ago.
‘Oh, Enter The Dragon!’ said Billy, when he saw Pauline.
The nurse was confused.
‘I don’t understand,’ she said.
‘Sorry Jyoti,’ said Billy. ‘Just a little family humour. I reckon Bruce Lee was a bit before your time.’
‘I’ll leave you to it,’ she said, and left.
Pauline sat in an armchair that was by the window. The room was stiflingly hot. Hailstones pelted the window pane. There was a plasma screen television pinned to the wall. It was showing a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The sound was turned down.
‘This is a swanky place, Billy,’ she said.
‘Nothing but the best for Billy The Cat. You know that,’ he said.
‘Oh, that I do know. So, what the hell happened to you?’
‘You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.’
‘Probably not but tell me anyway. Are the coppers involved?’ said Pauline.
She took off her shoes and massaged her feet.
‘Well, yes and no. Sort of indirectly they are.’
‘Are they going to charge you with breaking and entering?’ she said.
‘No. There’s no chance of that,’ said Billy.
He smirked. Looked full of himself.
Pauline leaned over to the bedside table and took a bottle of Lucozade and a plastic cup. She poured herself a drink.
‘Go on then,’ she said. ‘Spill the beans.’
Billy sat himself upright with a struggle. He took a Polo mint from a half open packet and popped it in his mouth. Crunched.
‘Do remember Vic Napper?’ he said.
‘That bent copper that used to sniff around you when you were in the Quality Street gang?’ said Pauline.
‘The self-same,’ said Billy. ‘Although I think you’ll find there was never any evidence of my association with that particular criminal fraternity.’
‘Oh, I do apologise for my allegation. I wouldn’t want to sully your good name. So, go on. What’s he got to do with it? I thought he’d pissed off to Spain or something?’
‘Well, he had. But it turns out he had enemies.’
‘A copper so bent you could use him as a pipe cleaner? That is a surprise,’ said Pauline. She chuckled.
‘Yeah, well it turns out one of those enemies caught up with him.’
‘Yeah. Looks that way, though the official report says that it was an accident, though.’
‘How did he go?’
‘Drowned in a swimming pool.’
‘So what’s that got to do with you?’
‘Well, Napper had a diary. A little black book. With names, dates and places.’
‘And some of these names …’
‘Felt vulnerable. And wanted me to get the book for them from his old flat.’
‘And did you get it?
‘No. It wasn’t even there. I looked everywhere.
Pauline switched on the radio. It was The BlueBeats, the local band who’d almost made it big.
‘Those were the days, eh?’ he said.
‘They were good. If it hadn’t been for George Morrison’s dad …’
Billy held up a hand.
‘Bygones,’ he said.
‘Yeah, the past is the past,’ said Pauline. ‘Nothing we can do about it now. So, what you going to do about Nappers little black book?’ she said.
‘Nowt I can do,’ said Billy. ‘He probably had it stashed away somewhere but who knows where.’
‘Wasn’t he supposed to be shagging a lass from round here?’ said Pauline.
‘Yeah, they said he was knocking off some married bint.’
‘Well, maybe he left it with her.’
Maybe but no one ever found out who she was. He was a right dark horse that Vic Napper.’
‘Well, that probably helped keep him alive as long it did,’ said Pauline.
It was getting dark outside and the streetlights were coming on.
‘So, when are you getting out of here?’ said Pauline.
‘They say I could go home in a couple of days, to be honest. But I think I’ll milk by client’s financial hospitality a little longer,’ said Billy.
Pauline stood and groaned with pain.
‘I could do with a little break myself,’ she said. ‘But …’
‘No peace for the wicked,’ said Billy, winking.
Pauline was glad to be back home. She took off her shoes, put on her slippers and made a cup of tea. She put a few custard creams on a saucer and sat down in front of the telly.
She was a bit sad about what had happened to Napper but it wasn’t a great shock. He’d always been an arsehole albeit a bloody good looking arsehole. Much better looking than her husband Lenny had been, that was for sure.
She was adrift on a sea of bittersweet memories when she heard an ice cream van’s chimes. ‘That’s Amore.’ She sighed. She should have known it wouldn’t have been long before Alberto came sniffing around.
There was a loud bang on the front door.
‘Come on in, it’s open,’ she shouted.
The Monolith, Alberto’s minder, walked into the living room first. He was wearing a long leather coat and wrap around shades, as usual. Behind him, was Alberto Amerigo, a tiny little man with dyed black hair and a pencil moustache. He wore a shiny white linen jacket with a pink carnation in the lapel. He looked like a spiv but he used to be a barber, then an ice cream man and now he was a loan shark. He had the cold, dead eyes of a shark, too.
‘Evening, Pauline. Long time, no see,’ said Alberto.
‘Evening, Al. What can I do you for?’ said Pauline.
Alberto sat on the arm of the sofa.
‘I hear you’ve been to see your Billy in the hospital,’ he said.
Pauline took her feet out of her slippers and wriggled her toes.
‘I have. Family duty and all that,’ she said.
‘Yes. Family is important. How’s the old rogue keeping?’
‘Not too bad, to be honest. They say he should be out in a few days.’
‘That’s good to know. Did he happen to say anything about the whereabouts of a certain little black book?’ said Alberto.
He leant forward and glared at Pauline. The Monolith cracked his knuckles.
‘Not to me he didn’t,’ said Pauline.
Alberto nodded slowly.
‘Well, if he does, you will let me know, alright?’ he said.
‘Of course, Al. You can rely on me.’
‘Magnifico bonny lass,’ he said with a wink.
He nodded to The Monolith and they both left the room.
Pauline heard the front door slam. She sighed and put her slippers back on.
It was probably time to dig Vic Napper’s little black book from its hidey-hole in the cupboard under the stairs. She stood up but then her knees started to ache and she sat straight back down. She picked up the remote control and switched on the television.
After all this time, it could probably wait until after Downtown Abbey.
BIO: Paul D. Brazill’s books include Last Year’s Man, Man Of The World, Gumshoe Blues, and Kill Me Quick. He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime.
‘Eric is an ex-con, bareknuckle boxer better known around his Chicago neighborhood as “Ugly.” He wants to shed his past, build a life with his family, but his past won’t be so easily left behind. His junkie brother Joe has stolen $100K from a powerful drug dealer—and Ugly’s on the hook unless he hands Joe over. Which is gonna be hard considering he has no idea where Joe is. Ugly and his “business partner” Nicky hit the streets to find him, each step taking Eric back into the violent life he’s desperate to leave behind. Ugly’s done with it all. He’s pissed, sad, and exhausted, but he’s gotta keep moving if he wants any chance of Joe—and himself—getting out alive.’
Daniel Vlasaty’s Stay Ugly is a vivid, visceral and bone-crunching tale of loyalty, loss and redemption.
‘Chino Genetti is about to break one of the first rules of being a hitman: don’t fall in love with your target. The alcoholic assassin’s life changes when he receives the assignment to eliminate beautiful jazz singer Ericka Green. When love clouds his judgement and he forgoes his loyalty to crime boss Cocoa, he ends up a target himself. On the run from assassins, Chino makes a begrudging deal to live in peace, but old wounds and retribution threaten to take away everything he loves. Desperate to protect Ericka, Chino is ready to leave a bloodbath in his wake. But will his trail of vengeance be enough to save her?’
Hardboiled crime fiction turns grindhouse in this fast-moving, high-octane slice of power-pulp!
Chris McGinley‘s Coal Black is a brilliantly powerful collection of short stories set in the hills of east Kentucky. This is a world of poverty, deperation, drug addiction, and crime. These are stories of good people and bad people living on the razor’s edge. The stories and the characters in Coal Black overlap, intertwine and interconnect to create a whole that is as just as good as its parts. The tales are social realist with a strain of magic realism and every single story is great. These are artfully crafted stories to savour. Coal Black is simply one of the best short story collections that I’ve read, and I look forward to rereading it. Very highly recommended.
A troubled, ageing hit man leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him.
Last Year’s Man is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir.
Praise for LAST YEAR’S MAN:
“Brazill offers a series of amusing episodes filled with breezy banter in this offbeat slice of British noir.” —Publishers Weekly
“It’s all here, everything you’ve come to expect from a Paul D. Brazill caper—the fast pace, the witty banter, the grim humour and the classic tunes—except this time he’s REALLY outdone himself. Unlike the lament in the song the title takes its name from, Paul’s best years are surely still ahead of him.” —Paul Heatley, author of Fatboy
“Paul D. Brazill is the Crown Prince of Noir. That’s my opinion, granted, but I stand by it. For those who require proof, just pick up his latest novel, Last Year’s Man, and it will be clear why I make that statement. All hail the crown prince!” —Les Edgerton, author of The Rapist, The Bitch, Just Like That and others
“Brazill is brilliant, a unique voice which stands out from the crowd.” —Keith Nixon, author of the Solomon Gray books.
A young policeman is killed by a suicidal teenager while the city – and the murder investigation- is crippled by a snowstorm. Nigel Bird’s Let It Snow smoothly combines kitchen-sink social-realism with a Brit Grit police procedural and is as authentic as it is involving. Let It Snow is the first in Nigel Bird’s new series and is highly recommended.
Living well is the best revenge, or so they say, apparently. And, for most of my life, I did live well – very well – once I’d broken free of Seatown’s umbilical cord, which had been strangling me like a noose.
Fame. Money. Drugs. Travel. Fast cars. Faster women. All of the above.
And it felt good. Bloody good.
Or, at least, it used to.
The taxi crept along the coast road, past the worn-out Bed & Breakfasts, half-empty amusement arcades and deserted kebab shops. A shabby looking Santa Claus pissed against the side of a mangy looking Christmas Tree that stood shaking in the wind outside the public toilets.
“Do you get home much these days, Mr Stroud?” said the crumpled tissue of a taxi driver with the big, bushy eyebrows.
“Not so much, these days,” I said, half yawning.
The radio was playing a medley of Christmas carols at a volume so low it was sending me to sleep.
“Bet it’s a fair bit different to life down the smoke, eh?” said the taxi driver. “Bright lights, big city and that.”
He slowed down as a raggle-taggle group of rat boys staggered across the road.
“Vive la différence,” I said.
The taxi pulled up at a red light. It was early evening and allegedly rush hour but there weren’t too many cars on the road. The granite sky was filling with black storm clouds.
I gazed out of the window at Booze n News, Seatown’s popular chain of newsagents and off-licences. Booze n News had been the brainchild of Frank Griffin, a local Conservative Councillor and father of Nigel, my childhood tormentor and font of all of my bile.
Outside the shop was a familiar looking woman being hassled by a whining toddler as she struggled to put a buggy into the back of a Renault Espace. Karen Griffin, Nigel’s wife.
Once she’d been the glam of glams but now she was looking more than a little shop soiled. I smiled to myself with satisfaction. This is what I really came “home” for. Bathing in the misery of the people that had caused me so much unhappiness during my youth. Taking pleasure in seeing any spark of life that they’d had dampened by the drab hand of domesticity.
Karen locked eyes with me and smiled but I just turned away and looked at the torn billboard outside the shop.
In red marker pen it proclaimed:
“Best-selling thriller author Julian Stroud to host Rotary Club Christmas Charity Lunch”.
“Bet it’s gone downhill since you came here last time, eh, Mr Stroud?” said the taxi driver.
“Plus ça change,” I said, as I slowly let out a silent fart.
“Aye,” said the taxi driver, winding down the window.
I used to lay awake at night thinking of my childhood humiliations. How much I was ridiculed. Laughed at. And over the years I let my hatred marinade. And congeal.
And then the doctor told me about my body’s uninvited guest. The plague that crawled through my veins. And then I had an idea.
“So, you never heard about Fast Eddy then?” said Karen Griffin.
She downed her fifth Baileys with a gulp. Her face flushed red and her eyes sparkled.
“No, I hadn’t,” I said. I looked out of the Carvery window. Out at sea, a fishing trawler adorned with Christmas lights bobbed up and down on the waves.
“They say he met a lass on the Internet. Was getting on really well, too, until he sent her his picture, that is, and then she blocked him,” said Karen.
I remembered Fast Eddy and could understand the girl’s consternation. He was once described as being like an uglier version of Shane McGowan. Without the charm.
“And what happened?” I said, almost interested.
Karen was looking good, I had to admit. She’d dolled herself up pretty well. Her idiot husband had apparently been in a drunken sleep on the sofa and hadn’t even noticed her sneak out.
The fatigue was behind her eyes, though, and I almost felt sorry for her. I was starting to wonder if I could go through with this nasty little plan that I’d hatched.
“Well, he had an idea of where she lived. Some village in Scotland. And so he started to spend every weekend going up there on the train and walking around the place looking for her. Until he got picked up by the police for being drunk and disorderly. Thing is, though, he’d got the wrong village, anyway!”
And then she laughed.
Karen Griffin’s cruel cackle hauled me back to my teenage years and the agony of just living. And made up my mind for me.
The motel room was dimly lit. Outside, I could hear the heavy bass of an old Public Image song. I finished my brandy, popped a Viagra and crawled into the bed.
“Speak French to me Julian, you know it really turns me on,” said Karen, as she pulled me towards her.
I took out a condom that I’d earlier pricked with a pin, and put it on.
“Le Petit Mort,” I said with a smirk.
Well, Christmas is a time for sharing, after all.