When a group of London gangsters turn up at a half-dead seaside town to take revenge upon a former hardman, they get more than they bargained for. Weston-super-Nightmare is violent and funny and also touching. A vivid Brit Grit gangster yarn full of broad humour, gaudy characters and also pathos. It’s a balancing act that John Bowie carries off with aplomb. Brit Grit Seaside Fun n Frolics and highly recommended.
At the start of the Swinging Sixties, a serial killer nicknamed Jack The Stripper stalked te streets of West London. In Bad Penny Blues, Cathi Unsworth smartly weaves together fact and fiction as she tells the stories of Stella – a young fashion- designer who is haunted by visons of the dead women – and PC Peter Bradley, a policeman who is investigation the killings.
First published in 2010 by Serpents Tail, Bad Penny Blues as been republished by Strange Attractor Press and now includes an introduction from no less than Greil Marcus as well as The Ghosts Of Ladbroke Grove, a revealing afterword from Cathi Unsworth.
Bad Penny Blues remains a cracking yarn with a great sense of time and place and is, of course, highly recommended.
John Bowie’s Transference is the follow up to his dark and moody debut novel, Untethered. Similarly soaked in booze and bad decisions, Transference follows its ex- SAS protagonist John B to Manchester where he investigates a young man’s apparent suicide, as well is digging up the dirt that most of the city would prefer to keep buried.
Transference is atmospheric and violent, a supernaturally tinged noir tale that casts a bloodshot and bleary eye over Manchester and its criminal fraternity. Brit Grit meets magic-realism.
You can pre-order Transference from Red Dog Press, and you really should.
The sound is a thump, thump, thump that goes on and on and on, over and over again and drags me by my lapels into consciousness.
I open my eyes and shards of sunlight slice through the blinds. Squinting, I focus on the worn Francoise Hardy poster on the wall and the familiar red flock wallpaper. Once again I’ve fallen asleep fully clothed on my sofa, tangled up in a tartan blanket which has seen better days, and nights. The coffee table and the floor near the sofa are littered with the usual debris of beer cans and whisky and gin bottles.
I pick up a half full can of Stella, lay back and steadily sip.
Memories of the previous night trample over my thoughts with dirty feet and eventually, I turn on my side and look around the room.
As well as the usual alcohol, the table is covered in a fair amount of Colombian marching powder and in the corner of the room, next to the CD player, holding a glass of what looks like gin and tonic, face down in a pool of puke, is a man.
And he’s dead.
The evening was melting into night and dark, malignant clouds were spreading themselves across the sky. I pulled down the metal shutters and locked up Las Vegas Amusements as a battered yellow taxi cab spluttered to a halt in front of the arcade.
I shuffled into the back seat of the cab as the driver struck a match on the NO SMOKING sign and lit his cigar.
’Astros?’ said the driver.
‘Aye’, I replied, nodding, ‘Same shit, different day.’
‘Didn’t you say that yesterday?’ he smirked.
The taxi snaked its way along the sea front, past pubs, greasy spoons, gift shops and amusement arcades, as the rain fell down in sheets. We pulled up outside Astros as a leathery bottle blond struggled to control a black umbrella which fluttered and flapped like a big black bat trying to escape from her grip.
‘Eyes down,’ said the taxi driver when he gave me my change. Being a bingo caller, I got that sort of thing all the time and it never failed to amuse the person who said it
I was trying to catch the pasty faced barmaid’s eye when, dressed in a white linen suit and a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, a blast from the past that was positively seismic burst into the bar. Jim Lawson, a man with a face like a blackcurrant crumble, a liver like the Great Barrier Reef and the smell of a soggy mongrel, sidled up to me, shuffling and sniffling, moving in close and conspiratorially like a double-agent in a Harry Palmer film.
’Jesus Christ,’ I said.
‘Close but no cigar,’ said Jim, wiping the happy-talc from his nose. ‘Thought, I’d find you here.’
‘Long time no see,’ I said.
’Sounds like a Chinese take-away,’ smirked Jim.
‘Aye, you could make that into a joke. Albeit not a particularly funny one,’ I said, slowly tearing up a beer mat.
‘It’s been donkey’s years,’ I said. ‘Still doing the sleazy hack thing in Bucharest?’
‘Oh, aye,’ said Jim. ‘Still dishing out the spare change and bingo calling for pensioners at Las Vegas, eh? Clickety–click, two fat ladies and that?’
I nodded, suddenly draped in a drab cloak of gloom.
‘I imagine you’ve a few tawdry tales to tell, eh?’ I said. ‘Louche bars and lithium dens, that sort of thing?’
‘More than a few,’ said Jim.
We sat at a rickety table in the corner, with two pints of Stella and whisky chasers, near what must have been the Xmas tree version of mutton done up as lamb – emaciated and overdressed in as much yuletide tat as possible.
‘How’s the great unfinished novel?’ said Jim.
‘Not so great. Still unfinished,’ I said.
‘Well, have a butcher’s at this. Eyes down,’ he said, grinning as he dumped a massive manuscript on the table. On the front was the title: ‘Destination Lurid’ by James G. Lawson.’ I was uncharacteristically speechless.
‘It won’t bite,’ said Jim, wiping a bead of sweat from his top lip. ’Get stuck in there. ’
And so, I looked. And, of course, as luck would have it, it was good. Very good. A potboiler, for sure, but what a potboiler! I was hooked from the first page. Line and friggin’ sinker!
‘I’m off down the smoke to see an agent on Monday,’ said Jim, looking more than a little pleased with himself. ‘I sent a sample chapter off to a few friends of friends and Bob’s your Uncle and Fanny’s your Aunt.’
And me? I just started pulling so hard on the threads of my life that the whole thing was starting to unravel. I took another gulp of whisky and headed toward oblivion, like dirty dishwater down a plughole.
In the early hours of the morning, when I awoke back at my flat, The Walker Brother’s ‘The Electrician’ was playing at a low volume and Jim was laying on the floor foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. And then he went into convulsions.
I drained a glass of gin, turned over and went back to sleep.
I take the drink from Jim’s hand, and slowly sip it until I start to feel warm and glowing, like one of the kids in the old Ready Brek advert. Then, I drag the body into the kitchen and, struggling, dump it into the freezer, covering it with packets of frozen peas and fish fingers.
James G. Lawson is as good a pen name as any, I think, as I switch on the computer to check the Monday train times to London, before polishing off the gin. I look around, see that I’m out of booze and take a wad of cash from Jim’s wallet. No worries, it’s nearly opening time.
‘Death has ripples’
‘Death is contagious’
Sarah is only a young a child when her father talks to her about death and she is haunted by its spectre all her life.
In fact, Sarah is not the only one of the characters in Steve Mosby’s brilliant Still Bleeding to have felt death’s ripples.
Her close friend Alex Connor, for instance, has been living in self-imposed exile since his wife’s shocking death. But he is propelled back to England when he learns that Sarah has been murdered. And his brother has confessed to the killing.
And then there’s Paul Kearney, a homicide detective, who is working on a serial killer case in which women are kidnapped and drained of their blood. Kearney is a man obsessed, brutalised by his work.
Both Conner and Kearney dig deep into the underbelly of society and eventually their investigations intertwine in a gripping story with some great twists and turns.
Still Bleeding is a powerful novel that gives you a great story, wonderfully atmospheric writing, realistic characters and a whip crack pace. And more than a few emotional whallops, too!
The Stanton Brothers are back!
Martin Stanley’s Teesside based crooks return in this short and brutal collection of cracking capers. DIRTY SNOW is choc-full of scams, violence, guady but authenic characters, razor-sharp dialogue and a great sense of place.
If you haven’t read a Stanton Brothers book before, you could do a lot worse than starting with DIRTY SNOW and working your way through the rest.
Over at his Dirty Books blog, Tom Leins, the grittiest of all Brit Grit writers, says:
‘The rumpled, world-weary triggerman – with a long memory, and an even longer list of health complaints – is a perfect conduit for Brazill’s quirky storytelling style, and the story itself (think Get Carter played for laughs) allows him to play to his strengths. For an expatriate writer, Brazill’s knack for writing about small town English grotesques is pretty damned impressive, and unlike the hapless Bennett, this book is slim and spritely!’
Read the rest of the review HERE!
Over at Amazon.co.uk, Mark Hewitt says:
Noir Con‘s online journal –Retreats From Oblivion– have published a slice of my Brit Grit called No One Is Innocent.
‘Marjorie shuffled through the door to the snug and switched on the lights. She pressed a button and the dusty Wurlitzer jukebox burst to life. Jane Morgan belted out ‘The Day The Rains Came.’ In French.‘
‘History’s never written by the dead.’
Math Bird’s Histories Of The Dead is a brutal and brilliant short story collection that is bookended by two truly powerful short stories- ‘Histories Of The Dead’ and ‘Billy Star.’
The rest of the stories in the collection are just as well-written, moving and compelling. These are evocative stories of hard men and women living hard lives and Bird proves himself to be a master storyteller throughout.
‘From blood-soaked shenanigans to effortlessly clever banter, there’s everything you’d expect and more. The motif of the hitman haunted by his past gets a fresh angle as disgraced Tommy Bennett returns to Seatown, the northern coastal city where his past awaits him. A wild mix of musical and pop culture references come at you thick and fast. I was chortling by the end of the first page.’
Read the rest of the review here.
Ace transgressive fiction writer Mark Ramsden has some nice things to say about my writing and then we have a little natter:
‘In the mid 20th century there were light-hearted crime novels about decent chaps with a taste for adventure. The Saint. The Toff. Perhaps, like Paul Temple, they had a cockney manservant and lived in Mayfair. Mr Brazill’s comedic capers are generally set somewhere less salubrious. Perhaps a grim seaside town, where laconic losers drink super strength lager, which might be stored in their pockets for later – not much later at all.
Instead of a search for the Maltese Falcon a vile gangster wants to know which of his girls are offering, against his wishes, a ‘full service’.
The one liners come thick and fast. ‘”I’m as honest as the day is long”. If you live in Iceland.’
‘The silence dragged like a BNP voter’s knuckles.’
There’s nifty descriptions: ‘He had salt and pepper hair that erred on the side of Saxa, and his face had that scrubbed-by-a-Brillo Pad look favoured by football mangers like Sir Alex Ferguson.’
It’s realistically sleazy and gritty but with enough humour so you don’t need to drown your sorrows – unlike Paul’s protagonists.
Like his Too Many Crooks there’s a sly metafictional flavour but it’s gentle and playful. It won’t strip the enamel off your teeth, like some of the beverages consumed herein.
In short, an original homebrew with a kick. Well worth sampling.
MR Your earliest influence, writers you most admire?
PB Well, I wasn’t a book person as a kid so the first writers I noticed were comic writers like Stan Lee, Steve Gerber, and music writers like Jane Suck and Paul Morley. Monty Smith’s film stuff for the New Musical Express was essential reading. After that, the ‘grown up’ books were by Dorothy Parker, Graham Greene, Kurt Vonnegut and Elmore Leonard – the latter due to an NME article by Charles Shaar Murray.’
When property developers buy a London tower block and start to force people out of their homes, Ella and Molly start a protest campaign .
But one night, Molly gets a phone call from Ella that throws both of their lives out of kilter.
Eva Dolan’s This Is How It Ends is a gripping, rich, inventive and powerful 21st century crime thriller that will keep you on your toes.
Over at Amazon.co.uk , ace crime writer Keith Nixon says: