What The Hell Is Brit Grit ?

 

America may well be the  official home of pulp and noir but the United Kingdom, long  perceived as the land of True Brit Grit Guest Blog: It’s a Case of Having Good Genes! By Graham Smithtame Dame Agatha style cozies and stuck-up, Latin quoting police detectives, also has a grubby underbelly which has produced plenty of gritty crime writing. And there is a new wave of Brit Grit writers leaving their bloodstained footprints across this septic isle, too.
The godfathers of the new  Brit Grit could well be Ted Lewis, Derek Raymond and Mark Timlin with Jake Arnott, J J Connolly, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid as part of the next wave.
But in the last few years, more and more BRIT GRIT writers have been creeping out of the woodwork, through the cracks in the pavement, out of the dark and dingy alleyways.
Scottish crime writer Tony Black, for example, is the author of four novels featuring punch drunk, booze addled  Gus Dury, an ex  journalist turned reluctant Private Investigator whose shoulder has more chips than Harry Ramsden. The books  see Gus sniff around the back streets of Edinburgh and follow the rancid trail of crime and corruption right to to the top. They’re gruelling, intense and exciting journeys – not without moments of humour and tenderness. You may feel as if you’d like to give Gus a smack every few pages but the pit bull proves himself again and again.

Gus Dury may be in the gutter but he’s still looking at the stars, albeit through the bottom of a bottle of whisky. And it’s down to Black’s great writing that when you you finish one of his novels you feel battered and bruised  but can’t wait for the next round.

Pulp mastermind Otto Penzler  famously said that noir is about losers and not private investigators. Mr Penzler has probably never read any Tony Black – or fellow Scot Ray Banks, then. Banks’ Cal Inness quartet is the real deal. Inness is true loser. He’s a screw up. A lush. A mess. A man so far in denial he’s in the Suez. In each  brilliant tale he bangs his head against as many brick walls as he can. And he feels the pain. And so do we. The quartet is as bitter and dark as an Irish coffee and leads to a shocking yet inevitable conclusion.

And there’s more: There’s Alan Guthrie who gave us the best novel of 2009 with SLAMMER; Nick Quantrill ‘Broken Dreams’ which looks at a Northern English town that has had it’s fair shair of kickings but still isn’t out for the count; Bad Penny Blues is Cathi Unsworth’s  ambitious look at  the many facets of London in the late fifties and early sixies; Comic genius Charlie William’s and his nightclub bouncer hero Royston Blake help you see life in a way that Paulo Coelho never will!
There are BRIT GRIT publishers too:  Newcastle’s Byker Books publish Industrial Strength Fiction such as the Radgepacket – Tales from the Inner Cities anthologies; Brighton based Pulp Press publish short, punchy novellas with the slogan ‘Turn Off Your T.V. and discover fiction like it used to be.’

And there’s even more …
There’s Howard Linskey, Martin Stanley, Jack Strange, Paul Heatley, Mrtina Cole,  Ben Cheetham, Christopher Black, Martyn Waites,Allen Miles, Danny Hogan, Chris Leek, Gary Dobbs,  Gareth Spark, Sheila Quigley, Ian Ayris, UV Ray, Danny King,  Col Bury, Mark Billingham,  Andrew Bell, Alan Griffiths (whose blog is aptly called BRIT GRIT), Julie Lewthwaite, Steve Mosby, Darren Sant, McDroll, Richard Godwin, Colin Graham, Neil White, Andy Rivers . . . and more! There’s even comic BRIT GRIT from Donna Moore and Christopher Brookmyre, BRIT GRIT thrillers from Matt Hilton and surrealist BRIT GRIT from Jason Michel!

And now, of course, we have True Brit Grit- A Charity Anthology edited by Luca Veste and me, with an introduction from Brit Grit mastermind Maxim Jakubowski. True Brit Grit is a hard-hitting, gritty, crime anthology  from 45 British writers. All coming together to produce an anthology, benefiting two charities.

Oh, and I even have a weekly column- Brit Grit Alley over at Out Of The Gutter Online!

“The BRIT GRIT mob is coming to kick down your door with hobnailed boots.
Kitchen-sink noir; petty-thief-louts; lives of quiet desperation; sharp,
blood-stained slices of life; booze-sodden brawls from the bottom of the barrel
and comedy that’s as black as it’s bitter–this is BRIT GRIT!”

(This is adapted from a piece that first appeared in the program for the 2010 Noircon and was later republished at Pulp Metal Magazine)

 

Ten Crime Books To Help Cure Your Hangover

Imagine  it’s a gloomy Monday morning. Outside your window, dark malignant clouds fill the sky. The residue of the weekend’s fun and frolics is draining away like dishwater down a plug hole. And work – the ultimate four letter word- is hanging over you like a hawk ready to strike its prey.

You want to turn over and smooch with Morpheus but you know you can’t. So what can haul you out of the pit and into the world as effectively as a hair of the devil dog that bit you?

Well, here are ten shots of crime writing medicine that will work as more than a little eye opener.

1.  Deadfolk      by Charlie Williams.

Royston Blake is god. Well, in his own mind he is. The head bouncer at Hopper’s Wine Bar is the king of Mangel, a dead end town somewhere in the north of England. In the first of a cracking series of books, Royston is dragged by his lapels into a series of wickedly funny and increasingly violent scrapes. This book will change your life in a way Paolo Coelho never will.

2. One Fine      Day In The Middle Of The Night by Christopher Brookmyre.

Die Hard An On Oil Rig. Like the pitch? In OFDITMOTN, a school reunion is held on an oil rig that has been converted into a luxury hotel. But when an inept bunch of terrorist mercenaries gate crash the party only Scotland’s answer to Bill Hicks can save the day. Yes, really.

3.      The Mexican Tree Duck by James Crumley.

The eponymous tree duck is Private Eye C.W. Sughrue’s Rara Avis and it’s part of a wild ride that is cluttered with multi-coloured characters and vivid, lurid even, scenes. You have bikers and obese twins and ‘Nam and stolen fish and booze. And a tank. This is a book for someone who, like C.W. Sughrue, thinks that ‘life is a joke, so make it a funny one.’

4.      Top 10 by Alan Moore, Gene Ha & Zander Cannon.

Like Ed McBain’s 87th precent novels, the graphic novel Top 10 details the work and day-to-day lives of the police force at one particular police station, in this case the 10th Precinct Police Station in Neopolis, a city in which everyone, from the police and criminals to civilians, children and pets, have super-powers.

One story involves the suspicious death of the member of a boy-band called Sidekix, whose hit single was Holy Broken Hearts, and other pop-culture in –jokes abound, including a clothing store called The Phonebooth and  Deadfellas, a story about vampire gangsters.

5&6. The Big O /Crime Always Pays by Declan Burke

The Big O and its follow up Crime Always Pays actually are that oxymoron

‘screwball noir’. These novels are like two cracking, fast paced, clever and very droll road movies with a top drawer cast that includes a narcoleptic called Sleeps and a one eyed wolf.  Twists and turns, spicy dialogue and scenes which really make you ‘LOL’, as the young people say.

7. On Broadway by Damon Runyon.

You know you’ve made it as a writer when your name is used as an adjective: Runyonesque.  Damon Runyon  is probably best known for the film adaptations of his stories such as Guys and Dolls and  The Lemon Drop Kid. He created his own world with a number of pithy short stories set amongst the low lifes of New York’s Broadway during the 1930. These yarns, sometimes shaggy dog stories, are peppered with gaudy, fast talking characters and smart punch lines. The language and the style is Runyon’s own.  Much copied –think of the film Some Like It Hot – and never bettered.

8. Musical Chairs by Kinky Friedman.

Kinky Friedman is his own number one fan. The country/ protest singer is also the hero of Friedman’s novels and the cast of these novels is Friedman’s cronies, The Greenwich Village Irregulars. But what could have been an elaborate in – joke is actually a series of very funny and entertaining mystery romps. In Musical Chairs Kinky riffs on Agatha Christie as the members of his old band, The Texas Jewboys, get bumped off one by one. Cracking live act, too.

9. BLUE HEAVEN by Joe Keenan

Gilbert Selwyn is selfish, feckless, greedy and, more pointedly, openly gay, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to all and sundry when he decides to get married and especially when the person he is going to marry is Moira Finch, a person who, to all intents and purposes, he had previously loathed. What their friends don’t know, however, is that the marriage of inconvenience is a plot hatched by the money grabbing ‘couple’ in order to score a payday on the wedding gifts.

Although you may not find anything as hum drum as a kitchen sink in this romp, you will stumble across the Mafia, cross dressing, blackmail and even a John Woo style shoot out.

10. Old Dogs by Donna Moore.

Donna Moore’s smashing caper yarn has an absurdly colourful cast of self- interested characters chasing a McGuffin, a pair of rare ornamental Tibetan dogs. There are laughs aplenty and great farcical moments in this sweary Ealing Comedy as the characters collide with and crash into each other in their attempts to get their grasping and grubby paws their treasure. Murder, mayhem and mischief abounds.

(This post first appeared at the Mulholland Books’ blog a couple of years ago but seems to have gone walkabout.)