CROTCHROCKETS BY ANTHONY NEIL SMITH

Anthony Neil Smith, Crime Fiction, Pulp, Short Stories

CROTCHROCKETS

(originally appeared in Kung Fu Factory’)

            When the well blew, they lost four good men, and a fifth – guy named Ratchit – had an iron rod pierce his head but was somehow still up walking around.

            “It’s fine!”  Ratchit shouted because the iron rod had busted up his ear so all he heard was iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii pitched up real high.  He limped to the left and hummed between shouts.

            The ten men left, led by Colonel Hutter (not really a Colonel, not really a Hutter, neither), dragged the dead men over to their motorcycles and draped them over the seats, their MC jackets proclaiming them 1%ers, Devil Whippers, straight out of Grand Forks.  Fifteen former roughnecks who’d ridden hard all over North Dakota setting up exploratory oil wells, now reduced to ten and half.  They’d had wells blow before and not lose anyone.  They’d had dry wells, a couple of spurters, and one gusher.  This one had potential, but then it went and blew and killed Ferret, Dingo, Doctor Strange, and Elisha the Prophet, and done rendered Ratchit plum stupid.

            And that wasn’t the worst of their problems. 

            Colonel Hutter had the men stand around the dead and their bikes to say a few words.  Not so much a prayer as a Fuck you.  “You goddamn bastards were friends and allies and hard workers, but you fucked up bad.”

            The rest: “Amen.”

            “Like real bad.  And now we’ve got to leave your asses here on your sweet rides so the buzzards and coyotes can have you if the fire don’t get you first.”

            “Fuckers!”

            “Salute.”

            They all grabbed their balls and spit on the ground while the flames licked higher and boiled out thick black smoke.

            While they all mumbled and dispersed, the Colonel and his second-in-charge, Hot Spoon, checked out the horizon behind them, the big sky of the Dakotas revealing another cloud rising, but this one wispy and thin, growing larger and larger.

            “They found us.”

            The Colonel nodded.  “I thought we had a few more days, but I guess this here explosion got their attention.”

            Hot Spoon ran his fingers through his Fu Manchu, bushy and rough with dried insect wings meshed in.  “We can make the border, slip on up to Alaska.  We’ll have to leave the gear, though.  Too bad they’ll ransack it.”

            The Colonel grunted.  Then again, louder.  “I think we’ve got to fight them.”

            Hot Spoon stepped in front of Hutter, noses touching.  “Sir, need I remind you that we just lost four and a half motherfuckers, and they’ve got at least forty motherfuckers, and the last time we rumbled, you became leader because they totally killed Grand Randy.”

            Hutter sighed.  He wished Hot Spoon would lay off the buffalo jerky.  “We run, they overtake us.  We prepare now, maybe we take them by surprise and at least make a dent.”

            Hot Spoon curled his lip, ground his teeth, and went to walk away.  “Whatever you want, you sick sack of shit.”

            Hutter had had enough.  He spun on his heel, grabbed Hot Spoon by the collar, and jerked him back, switchblade in his other hand.  He slashed a deep gouge from Spoon’s forehead all the way down to his chin.  Spoon grabbed Hutter’s wrist before he could do more damage.  Gave it a vicious twist, then a strike to his elbow, meant to dislodge the blade.  Hutter took it like a stone wall.  Headbutted Spoon, who went to jelly on his feet.  Before he could solid up again, Hutter roundhoused a boot into the man’s face.  Something snapped.  Spoon dropped like a stone.

            Hutter stood over the body, reached down and turned Spoon’s head so he could look into his eyes.  Still blinking.  He wasn’t dead, just paralyzed from the neck down.  If someone didn’t come along and find him, Spoon would die of thirst.  Hutter figured it gave the traitorous son of a whore more than a fair chance.

            “Make that five men I lost.”

            Spoon blinked manically, tried to squeal.  Came out like a snore.

            Hutter stood, pointed at Ratchit.  “You!”

            Ratchit pumped his fist.  “Mommy!  Pooh Bear made a puddle!”

            “You’re my new Lieutenant.” To the rest:  “Let’s ride, Whippers!”

*

            The Score couldn’t believe his goddamned luck.  Knew as soon as the black cloud mushroomed into the sky that he and his crew of Fire Breathers had caught up to the Devil Whippers faster than expected.  Another well blown.  A fine bunch of idiots Grand Randy had slapped together to go and fuck up as much as possible chasing oil.  The Score wanted a slice of that action.  He wanted to bring in his fellas, do it right.

            A full battalion, it sounded like, all forty of them on their fine ass Japanese crotchrockets racing across the prairie towards the squid ink billowing from the horizon.  The Score loved the sound of all them engines singing like “Thus Spake Zarathurstra” which he’s last heard his older brother playing trumpet in middle school band back when there was such a notion as school and bands. He’d recruited well, going from state to state picking up former NBA players who’d gotten their shot for a season or two before they were let go.  Tall black men with tattoos, tall white guys with bad hair, all unprepared for life outside of sports.  Easy pickings–Come with me and I’ll teach you kung fu and make you filthy rich oil barons.  They were halfway there, with some land they pirated in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and now the Dakotas.

            Also along for the ride, like the clan’s spiritual advisor, was Cho Luger, former kung fu actor out of Seoul until he was caught in a sex scandal–he had a weakness for teenage European girls, and it all came to light when he got three of them pregnant on the same night within fifteen minutes of each other.  The Fire Breathers treated him like a god on account of one classic flick about a heroin addict in ancient Korea who became a master of “Dying Ape Flailing Style” kung fu when he was all hopped up on smack–thus, Junkie Master 2: Needle of Destiny.  The first Junkie Master movie didn’t have the same kick, since the lead actor had been an actual junkie, but, man, the way Cho split heads in the sequel it made you forget there’d ever been an original.

            Ready to kick more ass, they were.  None of them ever getting a second chance in pro sports or showbiz, not even professional wrestling.  So they hooked their wagons to the Fire Breathers and hoped to cash in on “Drill, Baby, Drill!”

            Then The Score caught a glimpse of the unexpected. A second cloud rising beside the first.  Thinner, lighter, almost like a dust devil.  There would be no ambush after all. Those fucking Whippers were headed right for them.

            The Score held his fist high and slowed his bike, brought the Fire Breathers to a halt en masse as Cho and the Sergeant-at-Arms eased their bikes on either side of their boss.  The Sergeant-at-Arms was an Armenian with a name so complicated that everyone called him 29 – his jersey number from his half-season with the Nuggets.  Bounced out when he carried a knife on court and threatened to slice Kobe (RIP) like a New York Strip.

            Cho had probably already spied this through his ever present sunglasses, but for some reason of bullshit honor or deference, was unwilling to tell The Score.  Assumed, most likely, the leader had already made his choice and didn’t need Cho’s advice unless asked for.  Goddamn, Score wanted to shout, This ain’t fucking ancient Asia.  Got to let me know these things.

            On the other hand, 29 seemed to be a minute behind everyone else on the planet.  He pointed at the black smoke in the distance and said, “We’ve having them now.”

            The Score looked up at 29.  One of the few men he had to crane his neck for. “Good, I appreciate the enthusiasm.  But flick your eyes to the left, barely a degree, and look lower on the horizon.  Tell me what you see.”

            29 squinted.  “Dust devil.”

            “Keep looking.”

            They did.  All three of them.  Another half a minute before The Score said, “And?”

            “It’s still there.”

            “You know of many dust devils that persist like that?  Especially in North Dakota?”

            29 licked his finger and lifted it in the air. “Well, it’s a windy day.”

            The Score nodded.  “That, my friends, is the enemy approaching.  Perhaps we have miscalculated.  I was sure they would be so concerned with whatever blew up out there that we could catch them unawares.  But it seems they are getting better at the art of deception and have fooled us once.  But they will not fool us twice.”

            29 let out a ferocious yelp and pulled his Samurai sword free of its sheath.  He’d bought it at a mall head shop in Kansas City.  The Score was pretty sure it couldn’t cut through warm ice cream.  He put his hand on top of 29’s blade, eased it to the ground.

            “No, son.  Not with swords.  We have disciplined our hands to fight, and fight they shall.  Let’s do this the way Jackie Chan taught us–by using our natural surroundings.”

            Cho sniffed and said, “Hack.”

            The Score turned and spread his arms wide, shouted at his men, “If we’ve lost the element of surprise, then at least let us choose the battleground.  To glory!”

            “To glory!

            They remounted and rode on.

*

            The choreography of kung fu is largely a cinematic experience, or for exhibition amongst professionals.  The best at it can anticipate the moves of their opponents and counter the strikes, thus making them appear to be mind readers.  But the truth is closer to “muscle reading”, the same flinches and contraction as when you play the Slap Hands Game on a third date because you’ve run out of stuff to say and you want an excuse to touch her.

            Training yourself to anticipate the twitches, that’s the key.

            Don’t worry about pretty kung fu.  For example, Israeli Krav Maga is an effective fucking weapon to have in your arsenal, but it ain’t pretty.  Like two Ultimate Fighting douchebags if they weren’t on TV and were fighting over some pussy instead of cash.  Just overwhelm your opponent when he strikes.  Tie him in knots.

            Prettiness is an illusion.  Fighting is ugly.  And ugly is only pretty if you’re fucked in the head, right?

            Dying Ape Flailing Style is even more distracting and messy than Krav Maga, and it pretty much only works in slow motion, with special effects, and only when you’re hallucinating.  It might have seemed like a real system of fighting to those who developed it, but only in the same way that Klingon is a “real” language.

            Said all that to say this: Cho dies first.

*

            Cho lost control of his bike on the way to the tilled-up cornfield where the Fire Breathers would face the Devil Whippers for the final showdown.  He hit a pothole and exploded the front tire.  He banged his head real good and broke his arm.  Blacked out for a few seconds, too.  Serious concussion.  But when he stood again, he was in ancient Korea.  All around him were peasants riding mules.  Tall fuckers – and noisy mules – but still in need of his fighting skills.  The bikers coming from the opposite side of the field were skeletons from hell, resurrected to punish the weak.  Only the Junkie Master could save them.

            The first step was to charge them on foot.  A suicidal task for anyone else, the Junkie Master had the element of surprise on his side.  At the last moment, he would leap into the air, hover over the gang of demons, and rain down pain upon them.

            He started across the field – slowly – before The Score or 29 could stop him.  They were dismounting their steeds, lining them up on the edge of the field.  Shouting at him to hold up.  Not like they couldn’t catch him.  Dude was in slow motion.  What the hell was he thinking?  But The Score had learned never to question Cho’s impulses.

            A few feet away from the first bike, Cho leapt into the air, got about to handlebar height before the first biker slammed square into him.  Knocked the rider off.  Both of them were then struck by three, four, five bikes, a mass of twisting, burning chrome.  Screams from the bottom of the pile.  Cho’s face ended up on a tire that was still spinning, wide open, shearing off the Junkie Master’s nose and lips.

            The surviving Whippers recovered, pulled their injured from the throttling pile, and stumbled around like wounded Confederates at Gettysburg.

            The Score held his hands together the way he’d seen Cho do right before battle.  29 followed.  Spread out behind them were the Fire Breathers, a “V” of extra tall motherfuckers ready for one more beatdown.

            There was Hutter leading his pack.  But no Hot Spoon?  What the hell had happened to Hot Spoon?  Maybe Hutter had sussed him out as the Fire Breathers’ inside man.  Pretty much the only way The Score had been able to keep up for so long.  Spoon had left messages behind at every truck stop, every bar, every whorehouse, every Hardee’s, usually scratched in grease on the bathroom walls.  But Spoon was gone and now Hutter’s second in charge was a guy with an iron rod through his skull.  Instead of leading his men in formation, many of the Whippers were holding their backs, trying to find a place to sit, or bent over gripping their knees, throwing up.

            The Score spoke first.  “There is no dishonor in handing over the deeds to the land, my friend.  Self-knowledge is more powerful than the fist or even steel, and I would not begrudge you an amiable retreat.”

            Hutter hitched an eyebrow.  “The fuck you saying?”

            “Give me the deeds and you can go.”

            “Those deeds are about all I’ve got left.  Look at these guys.  Any of them seem oil baron material to you?”

            He had a point.  Most of the remaining Whippers reminded The Score of his drunken uncles at barbecues, talking about how they just got some pills to help keep it up.  The Score cringed at the thought of those guys in their sandals and socks sticking it to his aunts, who were all too skinny with hair twenty years out of style.

            “We’ve come so far.”

            Hutter laughed. “That’s because you won’t leave us alone, punk.”

            “But you came to us first this time. You wanted this.”

            “Maybe.” It was soft, breathy.  Hutter blinked into the sun, taking deep breaths. Could be, The Score thought, he was facing a man out of options.  Not so much wanting to die, but knowing not to be so much a fool as to run off to Samarra when death would catch him here or there, didn’t matter.

            29 cracked his knuckles.  “We ready?”

            Hutter held up his fist and shouted, “Whippers!  Let’s get this over with.”

            Each side formed a wall of bad motherfuckers.  The foot soldiers on each side found targets on the opposing line. 

Then someone blew a whistle.

*

            The Score did not expect to be shot.

            He expected to use his skills in a dazzling exposition of mind over body, larger than life, taking on three men at once with his complicated combos of kicks and punches.  Chops to the throat.  Holds that would render his opponent useless, gibbering like a baby.  Kicks that would cause brain matter to leak from the ears.

            But the first Whipper he approached shot him with a .44 magnum.

            Surprised, certainly.  They’d never used guns before.  Always played by the rules.  He spun, gasping for air from the sheer shock of the slug damn near taking his shoulder off.  Spun to fall into the arms of another Whipper, this one with a tiny old .22 pistol that he used like a staple gun across The Score’s chest–ping ping ping ping ping ping.

            The Score was on his knees. Mouth wide open.  “Why? What did I miss?”

            The one with the .22 shrugged.  “We didn’t have Cho Luger.”

Aimed, held his tongue right, and Ping, right in the eye.  Could almost follow the bouncing bullet just by watching how the Score’s head weaved.

            The gunman was so busy nodding at his handiwork that he missed the Fire Breather behind him, already high in the air bringing a high-top sneakered foot to crush his spine.

            And lo, it did.

            The Whippers got the upper hand on the Fire Breathers because of the guns.  Got the numbers down right about even.  But when they ran out of ammo and turned the guns around in their hands to use as a club, the Fire Breathers were back in their element.  Guns went flying out of fists. Broken fingers everywhere.  Old timers’ last moments, thinking of Waylon tunes while ex-pro ballers kicked the shit out of them.

            29 was having a ball.  With The Score gone, he’d pulled out his sword and started whooshing around with it, Luke Skywalker-like, scaring the hell out of Whippers.  But whenever he landed a few blows, no limbs went flying.  No heads tumbling off necks.  No bodies sliding half-and-half.  Just big, reverberating whacks.  Damned sword wasn’t killing anyone.  Just bruising them.

            Didn’t matter.  Pretty soon, he’d found Hutter, spitting out teeth and trying to crawl away with twisted legs.  The Head Whipper turned onto his back as 29 lingered above, a foot on each side of the man’s head.

            “Well?  This is the part where you let me go again?  Let me lead you to the next blown well and the next empty cornfield?  Again?”  Laughing through it like it was a good joke.

            29 sneered, aimed his sword for Hutter’s mouth, double-handed it, and drove it down.  If it had gone right, the blade would’ve punctured right through to the ground.  But this blade was less blade and more yardstick.  It shoved Hutter’s tongue to the back of his throat.  29 kept stabbing, feeling flesh give way a little at a time while Hutter gargled the blood spurting from his tongue.  He finally choked on it, and 29 pulled the blade away, slung the spit and mucus off, and shouted victory, last man standing.

            Except that he wasn’t.  There was one more, a Whipper, answering 29’s shout with a louder one.

            “Seeeeeeeea Baaaaaass!”

            Looked over his shoulder.  So it had come to this.  29 face to face with the guy who had an iron rod through his head.

            They circled each other cautiously, stepping over and on top of their fallen brothers.  Ever closer.  29 worked his blade in loops and swirls like bad guys from Indiana Jones movies.  Smiling all toothy.

            Ratchit lifted his hand to his head, grabbed one end of the iron bar, and yanked on it until it started to slide from his head, the sound like gravel pouring.  Blood leaked out of the entry hole.  Ratchit shook his head, blinked, and lifted that iron bar like a sword.

            29 charged.  Swung.

            Rathcit blocked it with the bar.  Strong fucking bar.  It held the blade in mid-air.  No one was going anywhere unless the other backed off. 

            29 leapt back first, taking his time, looking for a second swing.  Ratchit’s ear was so fucked, and one if his eyes red like it was filled with blood.  Maybe that side.  Maybe he was deaf and blind on that side.

            29 came in with a low swing, arching upward, trying take off Ratchit’s right arm.  But Ratchit caught the blade, held it in his armpit, clutched tight to his side.  Gave it a pull and the sword came free of 29’s hand like it was made of Jell-o. 

            Ratchit dropped the iron rod and took the sword.  Admired it.  Posed with it, doing Conan the Barbarian moves.  Nodded.  “I like this.”

            “It’s yours.  Take it.  Let me go, and you can have it, I swear.”

            Ratchit ran his fingers over the edge of the blade.  “Dull as dogshit, though.  You didn’t sharpen it?”

            29 shook his head.  “Never used it before.”

            Ratchit dropped the sword, picked up the iron rod, and walked over to 29, inches from his face.  At first, 29 thought Ratchit was taller than he looked far off, but then he realized the crazy bastard was standing on the back of a dead Fire Breather.

            A staredown.

            29 wasn’t going to beg for his life.  He remembered what Cho had taught him, about what to do when standing so close to an opponent: Balls.  You go for the balls.  You grab them in your claw and yank them like they are fresh plums on a tree.

            So 29 curled his fingers like an Eagle’s talon and struck the man’s crotch.  Only to find nothing there to grab onto.  He patted around, thinking maybe they were dangling real low or something.  Maybe up tight.  Maybe Ratchit was wearing a fucking cup.

            Ratchit smiled.  “Lost my junk to a shark in the Gulf of Mexico.”

            With that, Ratchit punctured the soft part under 29’s chin with the iron rod, right up through the roof of his mouth, into his sinuses, and that was enough.  Ratchit then rammed the heel of his hand into 29’s nose, shattered it all sorts of ways, and shoved it right through to his cerebrum.  His eyes rolled up and he fell backwards like a mighty oak.

            No one else left to kill. 

            Ratchit pulled the rod from 29’s head, looked it over, and gave it a lick.  Then he fit it back into the entry hole, pushed it back into place through his skull, and felt immediate peace, love, and understanding for all animalkind.

            He headed off towards the line of Fire Breather motorbikes, picking out the one that was painted to look the fastest, and went looking for some prairie dogs to kill for supper.

Bio: Anthony Neil Smith is the author of the Billy Lafitte series, All the Young Warriors, Slow Bear, and many more. He is a professor of English at Southwest Minnesota State University. He’s a fan of cheap red wine and Mexican food. He has a dog named Herman, who is a very good boy.

Bishop Rider Week: Monday – Fire In The Hole by Beau Johnson

Beau Johnson, Canada, Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Indie, Pulp, Short Stories

This story is part of Rider’s early days, before he finds a certain video and tracks down the men who killed his mother and sister. This is also Batista’s first appearance in a Rider story, and as you’ll see, the Detective isn’t as onboard with Bishop’s brand of justice as he’d come to be. Either way: the struggle begins.        

FIRE IN THE HOLE

I push the steel harder into the back of Terrance’s shaved head. 

            “C’mon,” he says. “You and me, Rider, we’ve similar goals.”  The scum was right as well as wrong.  Where I saw him and his kind as a means to an end, he only wanted atop the pile.  “We’re businessmen, you and I.  Way I see it, the info I’m givin’ you, I should be gettin’ a free pass.” 

“Anne-Marie Shields.  Did she get a pass?”  Terrance was smart, played dumb, but I already knew.   Put a bullet in his crotch to make him understand.  I unloaded the remaining five just to let off steam.

            “And this piece of shit, this Terrance, he said Toomey and his men are coming in night after next?”  Batista continued to look out over Culver, the city he’d sworn to protect.  Duty and honor are the things which make up Detective John Batista; what made up most of the men he stood in line with.  That he now found himself in my world was something we rarely discussed.  It was a given, what I did.  And he’d yet to try and turn me in.

In him I see myself, a time when belief had been the norm; that this world did in fact not kick at its dead.  Detective Batista and I, we have our demons, sure, each the thing that drives us on.  But to be fair, that is where the similarities end.  No matter how much he might think otherwise.

Toomey, though…Toomey was the here and now.  And Toomey was trouble.  Aggressive. Ruthless.  Feral.  He was high end too, lacking the moral compass most considered a conscience.  Word on the street was he kept a portable wood chipper now, and that the man was unafraid to take his time if given the chance. 

Bangers wouldn’t use him, slingers either, which left me two choices, both of which I could work with.  Russians or Italians.  Little more re-con and Bobby Carmine popped into view.

“Head-shit looking to take you out, I see.”  Batista runs a hand through his greying hair, goes down about his goatee and finishes with a sigh.  Politics notwithstanding, I swear the man’s as textbook as they come.

“What it looks like, yeah.”

“And just what is it you want from me?”  I looked to the city’s lights behind him, looked down into the valley which had claimed so many.  Culver was not the place I’d been born, but I was certain it’d be the place I’d die.       

“I want unobstructed access to the south side when this goes down.  I’m not looking for collateral damage.  Ensure the night’s patrol is light.”

He looks at me, shakes his head, and then says he’d work on it: Batista-speak for yes.

“You’re going to need ordnance, then.”  I told him yes, but that it wouldn’t be coming from him.  As ever, he’d already done more than enough. 

Outside Carmine’s place I load the launcher as soon as I see Toomey and his crew are given the go through.  Ten minutes later and I light the night.  Upon entering, I can’t help but think back to men like Toomey.  Hell, to men like Carmine himself.  Lowlifes who think they deserve; men arrogant enough to believe the streets were theirs; who would rob and kill and extort and have others do the very same thing in their name.  I picture Mick the Fish, Danny Dolan, and Marcel Abrum.  They were special, each of them, all receiving a little extra piece of my time.  To Toomey I would do the same.  He of the wood chipper fame deserved no less.

As the Kevlar takes two to the chest I turn, dive, but take one in the side of the leg as I return fire.  I hear a click.  Another.  And then the gun as it’s tossed aside. 

“Come if yer comin’ goddammit!”  I did.  It was Toomey, of course.  Why men like him never died like the rest of them I will never know for sure.

Through the debris and flame and smoke I see what he’s become—intestines that stream outwards, flowing in place of his legs.  Thick, they wind around brick and plaster like pregnant string.  He gurgles, spits up, and as I approach I step on as much of him as I can.  In the end I don’t need bullets.  I only look him in the eye. 

To protect and serve, Batista says.  To protect and save, I respond.

I admit the difference is vast.

Beau Johnson lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.

Find Beau Johnson online …

Website: https://www.beaujohnsonfiction.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007691865781
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beaujohnson44
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beau-Johnson/e/B079MHF7RG/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17692442.Beau_Johnson

Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973) by K A Laity

Crime Fiction, Films, K A Laity, Kim Morgan, Noir, Private Eye, Pulp, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing

Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973)

I read the novel so long ago (back in my L. A. days so looooong ago) I could only remember the basics of the story. There were probably more of them in the original script by the legend Leigh Brackett, but Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking always left room for improvisation and Elliott Gould—unlikely to be most director’s ideal choice to play Phillip Marlowe—works well here.

It’s been so long since I’ve seen this film that likewise memory proves unreliable. So much has changed in the mean time, too. I’ve been soaking in noir and neo-noir for so long now it’s altered my view on the genre, mostly to be much more accommodating. I dug out my vintage paperback to read later and sat down on a sunny Saturday afternoon to visit 1973 Los Angeles with Elliot Gould and co and Vilmos Zsigmond’s singular cinematography.

The ginger cat is the one thing everybody remembers. I should write a book about ginger cats in noir. You can’t cheat a cat. Chandler loved cats. The scene feels genuine to any cat lover: having fallen asleep in his clothes, Marlowe is awakened by the moggy landing on his belly. Ouch. He has no choice but to drag himself out at 3am in his 1948 Lincoln convertible to the 24 hour food store. The car is a nice touch, signaling Marlowe a throwback to another time, Chandler’s idea of the P.I. as a kind of knight with a code.

Then there’s the candle dippers next door. The topless women would feel more gratuitous if they didn’t have a totally believable and completely natural hippy languor. Asking Marlowe to pick up boxes of brownie mix and doing elaborate yoga poses on the balcony at night. The iconic High Tower provides an unforgettable location for Marlowe’s home, outdone only by the Malibu Colony. Apparently the Ward’s house was the one Altman was living in at the time.

Nina van Pallandt embodies the concerned wife with just enough difference from the mostly Californian cast to make her thinking seem mysterious but believable. Sterling Hayden is a legend and manages to uphold that without chewing scenery which would be easy to do in the role of the writer who can no longer write, who is drunk and angry with the world, not necessarily in that order. Allegedly inspired by Chandler’s own struggles as his wife was dying. Ward’s death is changed from the novel and pays off much better, especially in how it affects Marlowe, who develops a fondness for the difficult man. The drinking scene with Hayden and Gould was largely improvised and has an authentic feel.

Henry Gibson, best known at the time as a gentle poet on Laugh-In, is super creepy and menacing in a really unsettling way as the dry-out doctor trying to extort money from Wade.

Jim Bouton, better known for baseball and even more so for his tell-all memoir Ball Four about that career, makes his film debut as the pal asking Marlowe for a lift to Mexico with some suspicious injuries including a clawed face.

What feels most 70s about this movie is the cops. Well, not that they’ve changed much in L.A. according to my friends who still live there. That gritty, don’t care about anything attitude and the clothes—those awful seventies clothes that modern films never quite get right—they provide a good target for Marlowe’s dogged resistance. The ink interrogation scene is another improvised scene.

I had to look it up, but yeah, there’s a portrait of Leonard Cohen in the Ward’s house because Altman was a fan. Speaking of fans, I love the gatekeeper at the Colony and his impressions of the stars.

A cool thing: except for ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ that opens and closes the film, all the other music is variations of the theme tune by Johnny Mercer and John Williams—even the dirge played in the scenes in Mexico. It’s a great thematic device that gives the picture aural coherence.

The changed ending is often credited to Altman, but it was part of Brackett’s original script which was shopped around for some years before finally coming together with this unexpected group of talents. It works. The final scene is almost an inverse of The Third Man’s iconic ending, with a harmonica in place of the jaunty zither.

Well worth a revisit if it’s been a while for you, too. If you’ve not seen it, a treat awaits. Bonus: here’s a great interview with Gould by Kim Morgan.

K A LAITY IS HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE.

Supernatural Noir: Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) by K A Laity

Films, Horror, K A Laity, Pulp, Supernatural Noir

Supernatural Noir: Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

Having recently seen (and wrote about) Witch Hunt (1994) I was looking forward to seeing this mash up of supernatural and noir, largely because I figured Fred Ward would play the part of PI Harry Philip Lovecraft a lot better than a rather wooden Dennis Hopper did in the later film. That guess was correct.

Ward immediately gets what the film is meant to be a plays the noir elements with an edge of satire and humour. He channels the classic Bogey Spade but with a sense of irony, knowing this is a crazy mash-up of elements and an exercise in nostalgia. Ward is an underrated actor who always bring a everyman sensibility and a weight of intelligent emotion to every part he plays. He brings life to the part and a reality despite the clichés, over-the-top dramatics and clunky dialogue.

Because the rest of Cast a Deadly Spell is not up to his abilities. That includes a young Julianne Moore who is given next to nothing to do apart from lip syncing to someone else’ song and carrying out every cliché in the femme fatale playbook. You can almost see her composing a strongly worded letter to her agent. Yet at moments she makes us believe in her Connie (heart of) Stone, which is more than can be said for the rest of the cast.

David Warner phones it in. Lee Tergesen is quite good with very little help, despite being literally gay-bashed. I thought the role of Lovecraft’s witch partner, Hypolyta Kropotkin, was too small in Witch Hunt, but it’s miniscule in this film. Arnetia Walker gets very little to do except save Lovecraft’s ass.

The Lovecraft storyline intertwines with a Big Sleep-style detective narrative; nonsense with a virginal debutante (Alexandra Powers) that attempts to evoke both the Sternwood sisters at once. Needless to say the Lovecraft garbage is vile. It’s also incredibly boring and clichéd. Virgin sacrifice? Really? Oh hey, Necronomicon. Admittedly less of a cliché in 1991, but secret book of secrets has been a staple of horror films for a very long time.

Worse are the Gremlins. And they are really called that in the credits. Someone recently shared a meme about how cretins believe the moon landing was faked with an image of what SPFX looked like in 1969. The ‘old ones’ in this film really look like cheap knock offs of the Gremlins films (the first in 1984, which gives you an idea of the quality). Rubber monsters age poorly, but they would have looked out of date in 1991. I know, low budgets and all (this is an HBO made for tv movie) but Witch Hunt shows how much more effective you could be with more subtle effects. That movie is looking better now.

A shame because the concept of supernatural noir is such a great one and has been done really well (*cough* by people associated with this site). Fred Ward was so good. If you’re more forgiving of bad FX and hokey plots, you might find it ‘A great way to spend an evening!’ as Entertainment Weekly did. Potato, po-tah-toe.

SamHaiNe presents: Hainesville – Natural City

Art, Music, post punk, Pulp, Punk Noir Magazine, SamHaiNe

A cold winter night in the secret city.
A collection of short monologues and flash fictions highlighting some of the individuals that call Hainesville “Home”. These are stories about people who live outside the margins that define civility and exist in the moment on the edge of a razorblade.


This is a pulp future-present inspired by neo-noir, retro nostalgia and some cyberpunk aesthetics.

“NATURAL CITY”

Credits

released September 6, 2020

Written, Spoken & Produced (except where mentioned)
by Sam HaiNe
Directed by Sam HaiNe.

Tracks: 2 &15, produced by The Green Dutch (Jade Palace Guard)
Track: 3 produced by DJ QUAZZAR
Track: 5 features Theo Copeland reading as Richard Applegate
Track: 6 features Logan West as the Salesman
Track: 7 & 9 produced by $need the Jade Badger (Jade Palace Guard)
Track: 9 written by The Broke MC
Track: 14 produced by JK/47
Track 16: Originally produced and mixed live by Mr.Chi-202 & the Jade Badger (Jade Palace Guard)

Shout Out to :
AmorKillz, JK/47, The Green Dutch, The Jade Palace Guard,
New Retro Wave, Victim1ne/Thor, Vinyl Fatigue, Real Vision Radio,
Tha Night of the Goonz, DJ Polarity, Paul D. Brazil, the Taco Cartel, Ghost Decibels, Cutey Calamity, Cult Classic Goods, The Dead End Kids, 21215, Void Vision, Harlem-NYC, Philadelphia,
Crazy Eddie NYHC, Rec.Real, Anthony Danza, Broke MC,
Demetrius Daniels, J.Hexx Project, King Vision Ultra, Mia Tyler,
Logan West, The Foley-Mcnair-Fladness family, Chef Alison Fasano,
Terrence and everyone from O.L.L. class of 96′;
LyeBway, Chuck Locc, Dunny, Melo, Meter, Black
& everyone from 148th street, Sugar Hill, Harlem.

This album is dedicated to
the memory of Mark Levin of the High Road Cafe, R.I.P.

Pre-order RATTLESNAKE RODEO by Nick Kolakowski

Down and Out Books., Nick Kolakowski, Pulp, Shotgun Honey

PRE-ORDER NOW! Available 10/26/2020. RATTLESNAKE RODEO by Nick Kolakowski, A Boise Longpig Hunting Club Noir, 2nd in series (October 2020)

• Trade Paperback (ISBN-13: 978-1-64396-128-6) — $14.95 includes FREE digital formats!
• eBook Formats — $5.99 SPECIAL PRE-ORDER PRICING: $3.99

The download link for the ebook (as a .zip file with three popular digital formats) will be included in the customer receipt when the order is completed on or just prior to the publication date.

Also available from the following retailers …

• Amazon — Trade Paperback | eBook
• Amazon UK — Trade Paperback | eBook
• Barnes & Noble — Trade Paperback | eBook
• Kobo — eBook
• Play — eBook

The fiery sequel to Boise Longpig Hunting Club is here…

Three nights ago, Jake Halligan and his ultra-lethal sister Frankie were kidnapped by a sadistic billionaire with a vendetta against their family. That billionaire offered them a terrible deal: Spend the next 24 hours in the backwoods of Idaho, hunted by rich men with the latest in lethal weaponry. If Jake and Frankie survived, they’d go free; otherwise, nobody would ever find their bodies.

Jake and Frankie managed to escape that terrible game, but their problems are just beginning. They’re broke, on the run, and hunted by every cop between Oregon and Montana. If they’re going to make it through, they may need to strike a devil’s bargain—and carry out a seemingly impossible crime.

Rattlesnake Rodeo is a neo-Western noir filled with incredible twists. If you want true justice against the greedy and powerful, sometimes you have no choice but to rely on the worst people…

Praise for RATTLESNAKE RODEO:

“Nick Kolakowski is known for his insightful essays on complex social issues and controversies within the world of crime fiction but, for those unfamiliar with his fiction, Rattlesnake Rodeo (and its fantastic predecessor, Boise Longpig Hunting Club) are terrific starting points. At turns ruthless and intimate, but always with a touch of humor, Rodeo takes readers on a violent, memorable journey through the new American West and the dark violence plaguing his characters’ souls.” —E.A. Aymar, author of The Unrepentant

Yesterday’s Wine by Paul D. Brazill

Brit Grit, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Paul D. Brazill, Pulp, Punk Noir Magazine

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.

George frowned. 

“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. 

Pauline tutted. 

“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.’

Jyoti smiled.

‘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.’

Pauline groaned.

‘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.’

‘Croaked him?’

‘Yeah. Looks that way, though the official report says that it was an accident, though.’

Pauline grimaced.

‘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.

Billy smiled.

‘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.

‘True enough.’

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

WEBSITE

paul d brazill noir

Book Review Kraj the Enforcer: Stories (Rusty Barnes, Shotgun Honey) By Chris McGinley

Chris McGinley, Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Pulp, Punk Noir Magazine, Rusty Barnes, Shotgun Honey

kraj the enforcer

Kraj is unlike any tough guy you’re liable to come across in hard-boiled fiction. If he’s cool, it’s not because he delivers “tough guy” dialogue before he sorts someone out. And if he’s feared, you wouldn’t know it by the reactions of those around him. No, what recommends Kraj as a character, and this new book of stories by veteran Rusty Barnes, is his ordinariness, which is to say, Kraj’s motivations are often the same as ours: to get a pizza, drink a Pepsi, rent a better apartment, down a domestic beer, have sex. But in Barnes’ capable hands, Kraj’s earthbound desires, and his highly ordinary reluctance to go to work, are what recommends him most to readers.

Kraj (pronounced Krai) is a Croatian immigrant, a veteran of the Balkan conflict of the early 1990s, something which uniquely shapes his psychology and the ways in which he works—more on that later. He operates as a loan shark collector for a low-level mobster who runs a dance club in central New York near the Pennsylvania border–what setting could be more ordinary?– but he also moonlights as a petty thief and underground street fighter in a gambling ring. He just wants to do his job and collect his pay, however unpleasant it may seem at times. Indeed, Kraj seems to accept his place in the pecking order, though he’s not overly joyed about it. Nor does he relish the bone breaking and general ass kicking he carries out daily. In fact, he’s unnerved and physically sickened when he has to bust up a client in the presence of his wife and kid. But this is what he must do, go to work, like all of us who serve bosses not unlike Tricky Ricky, who can be demanding and unsympathetic, even downright exploitative. To be sure, Kraj is no mob boss, not even a “made man.” He’s a mere employee. Barnes explains it well: “Johnny was a target, his wife and son would be collateral damage. Tricky Ricky lived for the collateral damage, because his reputation got made that way. Only difference was that Ricky never had to worry about going to jail. Kraj had trapped himself on the wrong side of the power equation. It wouldn’t last forever, but Kraj had to live with it now, even if memory told him he’d be here forever and then some. He shook his thoughts away. There was work to be done.” 

The dark “memory” Barnes refers to surfaces much in the book, and it’s central to Kraj’s ability to do his job, but also part of his malaise. Kraj has seen horrors, including the rape of his sister and the disappearance of his mother and father in a war zone famous more for its war crimes than for any conventional military conflict. In another writer’s hands, the material could easily come off heavy handed, but Barnes’ weaves in the references in clever and subtle ways, and always in such a manner as to give the reader a suggestive glimpse of Kraj’s complex psychology, of what he might be thinking or feeling, but without laying it out there too plainly.

It must be noted that, although Kraj lives an “ordinary” life in some respects, his daily rounds are nothing but that. The book is filled with tension, with clever moments of detection, realization and action. Whether on a white-water rafting trip where he must avoid a den of snakes, or on a collection stake out, the energy is high and the pace is quick. What Barnes has managed to do in the Kraj stories is deliver a psychologically complex character, one whose violent past intersects with his day-to-day work to create a kind of writing that’s gripping for both its action and fully formed main character.

Kraj, the Enforcer is a fine book, a unique and refreshing addition to the hardboiled genre, and something readers would be remiss not to pick up.

The Big Issue by Paul D Brazill

Brit Grit, Crime Fiction, Flash Fiction, Humour, Pulp, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

You see, they call them issues these days. Not like issues of comics like Shoot or Whizzer and Chips or Razzle, though. Naw, these are things like anger management issues, relationship issues, substance abuse issues. What that means is that issues are stuff that’s wrong with you. Stuff that fucks you up. And fucked-up people are called people with issues. See?

Like Tony Amerigo. It’s his dirty book shop that I’m stood in. He’s got issues, alright. He used to be a well tasty heavyweight. Could have knocked the Brut out of Henry Cooper, back in the day. But old Tony, like his dad before him, is more than a bit fond of the booze – floats like a butterfly, drinks like a fish. So, he’s got alcohol issues. Self-medication issues. So, now he’s got cash flow issues. Which is why I’m here trying not to breath in the cigarette smoke since Tony hasn’t exactly responded to the smoking ban in a positive way.

And that’s the trouble with people like Tony. They just don’t understand that times are changing. Now me, I’m a man of the 21st century but Tony’s a bit of a relic, like. He’s had the same dirty book shop for donkey’s year. The same rusty shutters. The same sun-bleached horoscope and trainspotting magazines in the window – as if the locals don’t know what he sells. Probably the same old porno mags in there, from the looks of it.

That’s why his business is going down the Swanny, to be honest. These days everyone can get their filth on their computer or even on their mobile phone. And for nowt. So, why go to a dump like this?

He’s got location issues, too. Used to be well posh round here when I was a kid but now it’s like holiday camp for smack heads. Once it gets dark, it’s that Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ video all over again.

My boss, Captain Cutlass, has told Tony to diversify. Maybe get in a couple of one-armed bandits, scaffolder’s lap tops and the like. Or some of the duty free ciggies that the Poles and the Euthanasians sell. But Tony’s stuck in his ways.

Oh, and here’s another thing. These days, it’s all about presentation skills. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say something that counts. That’s why I’m very careful about what I call myself when I turn up at Tony’s gaff.

I’m a factotum, you see. Now, I know what you’re thinking: What’s a friggin’ factotum when it’s at home? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s someone who sorts stuff out for someone else. Bit of this. Bit of that.

The bloke I sort stuff out for is an entrepreneur, although some people call him a gangster. And he’ a right head the ball, with it. His name’s Captain Cutlass. Well, that’s not his real name. His real name’s Jordan but no one calls him THAT these days.

Cutlass is a sea coal baron which means he’s got a bunch of lads who drive jeeps down to the beach at low tide and dig up coal. He’s made a packet, he has. Not that he needs it. Before he got into the sea coal game, Cutlass made a mint smuggling booze and ciggies and that into the docks. He used to stand at the front of one of the boats waving this massive friggin sword about. Hence the nickname. Although I think the sword was actually a rapier.

Anyroad, old Tony’s a bit thick, like, and I doubt he knows the difference between a factotum and a totem pole. So, what I say is that I’m a ‘representative’ of Mr Cutlass. See? I don’t even say I work for Cutlass. What I say is I just ‘represent’ him. It’s not the same, like. More official.

I say that Mr Cutlass isn’t very happy with Tony’s financial contributions and that he would appreciate it if Tony increased his monthly payments, since he’s been getting a bit behind.

After a bit of the to-and – fro, I have to be proactive and take the initiative, don’t I? I break one of   Tony’s thumbs. And then the other. So, he’s screaming and turning red and telling me that he’s got nowt. The cupboard is bare.

After a couple more slaps I come up with the idea of torching his shop to get the insurance and pay off Cutlass and a little consultation fee for me. The only problem is that Tony hasn’t paid the insurance since God was a bairn.

And now it seems like Tony has a problem. Except, that these days, we say that there are no problems, only challenges. So, yes, our Tone has a righty nasty friggin’ challenge ahead of him.

* * *

I’m outside the old Odeon cinema finishing my curry and chips when the BMW pulls up.

‘Get in,’ shouts Captain Cutlass, turning down ‘Tiger Feet’. No fucker else in this day and age listens to Mud, but Cutlass is a even more of a relic than Tony Amerigo. Big black, spidery quiff. Teddy Boy suits. The full whack.

‘Just the man I’ve been looking for,’ says Cutlass.’

‘Aye?’ I say.

‘Oh, aye,’ he says, sniffing a bit and looking me up and down.

‘Tony Amerigo,’ he says spraying the inside of the car with peach deodorant. He’s a right poncy twat sometimes, is Cutlass.

‘Oh, aye,’ I say, playing it cool.

‘How did it go?’ says Cutlass.

‘Well, it was … challenging,’ I say

Cutlass looks me up and down.

‘And what the bollocks does that mean in the Queen’s English?’ he says.

‘Our Tony has … issues, ‘ I say

‘Aye?’ he says.

‘Oh, aye,’ I say.

‘And what type of issues are these?’ says Cutlass.

‘Financial issues,’ I say.

Cutlass shakes his head.

‘I reckon the daft twat’s going to have some mortality issues soon, then,’ he says.

‘Aye,’ I say. ‘I’ll face that challenge tomorrow. Fancy a pint?’

PAUL D. BRAZILL IS HERE.

 

PhotoFunia-1589629363

‘Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counter Culture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980’

Andrew Nette, Ian McIntyre, Pulp, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing
Sticking It to the Man tracks the changing politics and culture of the period and how it was reflected in pulp and popular fiction in the US, UK, and Australia from the late 1950s onward. From Civil Rights and Black Power to the New Left and Gay Liberation, the 1960s and 1970s saw a host of movements shake the status quo. With social strictures and political structures challenged at every level, pulp and popular fiction could hardly remain unaffected. Feminist, gay, and black authors broke into areas of crime, porn, and other paperback genres previously dominated by conservative, straight, white males. For their part, pulp hacks struck back with bizarre takes on the revolutionary times, creating vigilante-driven fiction that echoed the Nixonian backlash and the coming conservatism of Thatcherism and Reaganism.
The book features more than three hundred full-colour covers, as well as in-depth author interviews, illustrated biographies, articles, and reviews from more than 30 popular culture critics and scholars. The wrap around cover is attached to this email.
You can buy the book from the following places:
It is also available on a number of other platforms and book shops.
Sticking it to the Man cover.jpg