Col Bury’s My Kind Of Justice is a fantastic blend of social realism and gripping thriller action.
There are some great characters – Bardsley is a favourite, of course- , plenty of humour and a genuinely touching ending. A belter!
Col Bury’s My Kind Of Justice is a fantastic blend of social realism and gripping thriller action.
There are some great characters – Bardsley is a favourite, of course- , plenty of humour and a genuinely touching ending. A belter!
CB: At long last, my debut crime novel MY KIND OF JUSTICE has just been released by Caffeine Nights Publishing. So it’s signings, interviews (at all the best blogs!) and then back to the sequel, plus a few other bit ‘n’ bobs I’m working on.
PDB: How did you research this book?
CB: I’ve always read and written crime fiction, plus I know a lot of cops and have worked closely with violent offenders, so most of it was already with me I suppose.
PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?
CB: My two ebook collections, as (along with the ezines) they served to get my name out there in the big wide world, but the novel is a much more testing challenge, and did the rounds with an agent (as you know) and I gleaned lots of praise but no ‘cigar’. I rewrote it based on the feedback and then the man from Caffeine Nights Publishing ‘he say “Yes”,’ so with all the work involved, it has to be the novel.
PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?
CB: Film’s easy, The Shawshank Redemption. Book’s almost impossible, but I loved Stuart Neville’s The Twelve (aka The Ghosts of Belfast). Song is possibly Sweet Child O’ Mine by Gun ‘n’ Roses, but that changes dependant on mood. TV Programme’s Cracker or Luther.
PDB: Is location important to your writing?
CB: Absolutely. Manchester is a huge character in my fiction. The contrasts are distinctive: The old and the new, architecturally; the good and the bad people; the blue or red football-wise; the paradox of the historical (and present) rep for industry and hard-working folk, yet there are literally thousands of ‘dolites’ and ‘gobshites’! It’s a booming City, but like many others, there’s a dark underbelly that’s a crime writer’s dream.
PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?
CB: Daily just after release, then probably weekly.
PDB: What’s next?
The second DI Jack Striker novel and then a separate series featuring a female anti-hero. Plus, I’m doing a comedy book on and off, which provides respite from the crime. There will probably be another short story collection too. Thanks for having me, Paul.
Bio: Col Bury is the former Crime Editor of webzine Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, for which he was voted ‘Online Fiction Editor of the Year’ in a 2010 readers’ poll. His fiction has featured in many anthologies, most notably, THE MAMMOTH BOOKS OF BEST BRITISH CRIME 9, 10 & 11. He is the author of two popular short stories collections, MANCHESTER 6 and THE COPS OF MANCHESTER, and his debut novel MY KIND OF JUSTICE has just been released via Caffeine Nights Publishing. Col lives with his wife and two children in Manchester, UK, where he reads a lot, enjoys action movies, shoots pool and watches his beloved Manchester City FC.
Find him on
‘Sarah Brinkley was too timid for the Job and soon realised it wasn’t for her. To be honest, deep down she had known all along. She’d learned quickly that working Moss Side and Longsight certainly wasn’t for the faint-hearted. Anyway, they’d frozen her pay, and upped the retirement age and her pension contributions, so there wasn’t much point in sticking around as she’d probably never get to see it. And she certainly wouldn’t miss the goddamn paperwork, that’s for sure.’
Check out the rest of this cracking yarn at THRILLS, KILLS N CHAOS.
By now people will know that, after years of trying, I’ve finally bagged a deal for my debut novel, MY KIND OF JUSTICE. It’s been a bumpy old journey, one where I often thought I’d missed the bus. Obviously, it’s clear I certainly haven’t ‘arrived’ yet. I’ve just got on the bus, that’s all, and who knows it could stall or even break down!
Paul’s invited me to write about the road to publication, so here we go…
When I was a spotty teen I read horror and crime and fantasised about actually having a stab myself, since I’d somehow snagged English ‘O’ Level a year early at school so was dead good at proper England innit. Old pal, Dave Barber and I used to share crappy short stories with each other and so the bug began. In my early twenties I briefly embarked on a writers’ correspondence course (no internet then) and the tutor gave words of encouragement that spurred me on, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to write (or how to) nor how the industry really worked, so I set out to learn how all the cogs fit together and to discover my ‘voice’ therein.
Children’s stories were rejected, short story entries into many, many comps fell flat and the crime writing I’d gravitated toward – it seemed to choose me, since I’d been surrounded by it growing up around Manchester – was always on my mind, even though it was a constant struggle. Procrastination (reading tens of ‘How to’ writing books), disorganisation, full-time work (always) and then marriage and two children, prevented progress as a writer, but the drive and ambition bubbled within. The naysayers played their part as per fuckin’ usual (don’t listen to those negative buggers who are only happy when they’re miserable), hence when I hit the brick wall of 41,000 words (oddly, twice) on my first attempts at crime novels, I let life take over, though still dreamed and tinkered with writing. And I read, a lot, mainly crime.
Until, in 2008, I became friends with Matt Hilton via a mutual work colleague. Bizarrely, I was reading aloud about his huge success re’ his Joe Hunter thrillers deal and my line manager said, “Matty? Matty? No way!”… and phoned him (125 miles away in Carlisle) to congratulate him, then passed the phone to me… “Er, hello…” I said nervously. And the rest is history. We became firm friends, and when Matt started the ezine Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers in 2009 I became his co-editor and it exploded and became the catalyst to take my writing, confidence-wise, up a notch or three. Seeing my own work on the site (six shorts published by Matt before I began the editing role) was a welcome taster to how a ‘real author’ must feel, and the positive and constructive feedback from readers (yes, real people who read, actually read my writing and liked it!) spurred me on. I then felt confident enough to submit shorts to other ezines, like Chris Grant’s A Twist Of Noir, among others, and they liked my work enough to publish it. New readers , contacts and many good friends were found.
Editing stories from all over the world, from writers at varying degrees of competency, from questionable to top notch, then offering feedback, is a helluva way of analysing structure, style and what works and what doesn’t within a short story. I did this for nearly five years and, although it did consume us (Matt, Lily Childs, Lee Hughes, Dave Barber) in the end, it was an invaluable apprenticeship. It was also a thrill to publish writers’ first stories and some have consequently flourished big time! The site won awards, but, alas, was impacting on our own writing time and family life so something had to give.
Alongside this, because of shifts, I couldn’t get to a writers’ circle physically, so joined Writers News Talkback forum where I lurked for a while until chatting at leisure with a vast array of writers. Again, many friends (too many to name here) and contacts were made, and I learned a helluva lot about the business.
I started reviewing the odd book, interviewing fellow writers on my blog, and going to more book launches and writing festivals (including Harrogate, hic!) to get a feel for the whole scene, and that was possibly the most useful aspect of the ongoing apprenticeship; a thousand conversations (many drunken) about writing and the industry, plus rubbing shoulders with great writers and drinking up their wisdom. Also, at these events you meet readers, publishers and agents, so attending’s a no brainer if you want to ‘get on’.
Back to the ezines… in 2010 New York agent, Nat Sobel had scoured short story sites and approached a bunch of writers, including little old me. To cut a long story short, I rewrote a crime novel umpteen times (once, from scratch after 50,000+ ditched words!) until it was ‘ready’ to send out to publishers. I went through that process of waiting months for the responses to come in and that is stressful, I’ll tell yer! It seems writers (self-published authors apart, maybe) are always waiting anxiously for news, good or bad, and even the best tell me that’s one of the worst aspects of the process.
Anyway, the novel Nat Sobel squeezed out of me did the rounds of the big hitters, got close with one or two and to quote Nat: “We could paper the walls with glorious rejections, but no one offered.” One publisher asked me to change the location from Manchester as they already had an author writing similar stuff there, but Manchester’s what I know, so we declined. A point about timing here: that ‘similar’ author they had, left for another publisher not long after. Dammit!
Despite no deal the positive feedback was encouraging and I wrote another crime novel with a supernatural twist to help it stand out from the crowd. It didn’t. After going through the process again, the rejections poured in and, with several friends winning books deals and some having success in self-publishing, I felt like I’d not only missed the bus but had been driven the opposite way and left in the wilderness. I flirted with depression and self-pity and stopped writing for a while, as things fizzled out with Nat, albeit amicably, despite him poo-pooing a few pitched ideas for other prospective novels. I learned a helluva lot from Nat and will be forever grateful. However, the fact remained that I’d lost my rudder and was up Shit Creek, but after an extensive search I found a paddle and began to steadily find the right course.
Confidence grew gradually as I won flash fiction comps and my short stories were published in numerous anthologies, including the last three MAMMOTH BOOKS OF BEST BRITISH CRIME. I spoke to lots of people about self-publishing and read all about it. My short story collections, MANCHESTER 6 and THE COPS OF MANCHESTER had done pretty well on Amazon, but they were just for exposure and a novel was a different animal. The thing that stopped me from self-publishing, despite intense frustration, was that I deeply needed that validation of a ‘Yes’. For the record, I think the S/P option is another great way of finding a readership and I may well partake in the future, but not just yet.
I entered my novels into comps and won diddlysquat. I re-read them, gleaned feedback from trusted friends, rewrote them. Then I decided to sub to two carefully selected ‘smaller’ publishers I knew quite a bit about. And waited… a-bloody-gain!
One said, “No,” and the other, CAFFEINE NIGHTS said, “Yes!”
Validation, at last! But beware… now the fear of failure has been replaced by the fear of success. *gulps*
So, I’ve finally got my bus ticket and we’ll see where it takes me. I’m expecting more bumps along the road, but I’ve buckled-up to enjoy the ride! 😉
Thanks to all who supported and encouraged me throughout, and thanks to Paul for having me…er, so to speak.
(This post first appeared at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE)
Richard Godwin’s masterful One Lost Summer is a sweltering, intense noir set amongst London’s rich and powerful. A claustrophobic, psychological study of obsession and loss, voyeurism and sex, with echoes of Simenon, Highsmith and Hitchcock.
Another hard-hitting and realistic collection of flash fiction and short, sharp stories from Col Bury. The standouts are the grittiest – ‘A Public Service’ and the fantastic vigilante tale ‘Mopping Up.’ More from The Hoodie Hunter please?
I was lucky to have a story – Who killed Skippy? – in the first issue of Eddie Vega’s Noir Nation. The second issue is another classy mix of great visuals, non-fiction and short stories. Cort McMeel‘s interview with Madison Smart Bell is fascinating and the short stories from Ray Banks, Court Merrigan and Andrew Nette are particularly splendid. All in all, a gem of a magazine.
Tony Black’s Killing Time In Vegas is a typically tightly-written, hard-hitting, short story collection which sees the master of Tartan Noir turn a bleary eye on America’s underbelly. Every story is a great example of hardboiled crime fiction, though the title story was my favourite.
Darren Sant is best known for his fantastic and gritty Tales From The Longcroft books. But there was always a big heart inside all that grit and with The Bank Manager & The Bum he has given us a heart-warming slice of hard hitting urban fantasy. Great stuff it is, too. His best yet.
If you like westerns, you’ll love The Adventures Of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. If you like crime fiction, you’ll also be well served. And if you like both genres, then these are the books for you. The stories in these collections are perfectly formed tales of the old west with a more modern slant. Cash and Gideon are Marshals, one white, one black. Men of honor dealing with the problems of violent and dangerous times. Every story is a gem but favourites are the hard-boiled noir of ‘The Outlaw Marshall’ and the intense tale of child abuse, ‘Melanie.’ In volume 2, Edward A. Grainger gives us another great collection of stories about good men in tough times. The first story – written with Chuck Tyrell – is probably the best of the bunch as it gives us Cash’s back story, telling us about how he was raised by Native Americans. The final story is a shot of the dark stuff. Reflections In A Glass Of Maryland Rye, is pure western noir showing Cash Laramie’s darker side. The stories in between are gems also. Highly recommended.
Timothy Hallinan’s splendid Crashed introduces us to Junior Bender, a well-read burglar who is hired to steal a Paul Klee painting and ends up caught in a game of double-cross, triple- cross and more. Crashed is a very well written and immensely enjoyable crime caper full of rounded, realistic and interesting characters and peppered with sharp satirical swipes. A corker, for sure.
A serial killer is on the loose in Bristol. But not just any serial killer. No, this one is clearly obsessed with the films of the late great Vincent Price and is putting his obsession to good use by murdering doctors in various ingenious ways. The Nine Deaths Of Dr Valentine is smoothly written and bloody marvellous fun, capturing the spirit of Dr Phibes and then giving it an extra twist. Highly recommended.
P I Joe Geraghty is hired to solve a disputed murder case in this short and sharp slice of crime fiction from Nick Quantrill which is a great introduction to his writing and his immensely likable PI.
A young girl’s body is found in a Glasgow park on a bright sunny day. The killer hides out in a derelict house; the only person that he can trust is Harry Rayburn, a former lover. Rayburn is a nightclub owner and low level criminal. Bud Lawson, the victim’s father, is full of violent rage and out for revenge, no matter the consequences. John Rhodes, Glasgow’s biggest gangster, has been asked to help him. D C Harkness is assigned to the case alongside Jack Laidlaw, a brooding hard-bitten cop with the soul of a poet.
Laidlaw is an artful, gritty, social-realist novel that was written in the mid `70s and has only recently been republished. It is a hard-hitting, multi-POV collection of rich character studies, the most potent character being the city of Glasgow, as conflicted and conflicting as Detective Laidlaw himself.
Laidlaw is the impressive start to a short series of novels featuring Detective Laidlaw, a series that I look forward to following. Marvelous stuff.
America may well be the official home of pulp and noir but the United Kingdom, long perceived as the land of tame 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)
Like many big cities, it has its fair share of undesirables, so crime is all around you, unfortunately. But this is a national problem, not just Manchester. So, yes, you have to become streetwise, and, yes, it is useful for a crime writer’s understanding of real crime. Perhaps I’m giving Madchester, sorry, Manchester, a bad press here, and the crime is actually spread much thinner than I’ve suggested. In actual fact, it’s a wonderful place to live. Very vibrant, trendy and full of great northern banter, especially when it comes to football.
It’s been described by the press as… the ‘gun capital of the north’… (but things have improved dramatically after a big sting by the cops)… ‘Madchester’, regarding the historical tit-for-tat gang shootings, as well as the top music scene… Oasis, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, James, Take That (!), etc.
But, to be honest, I can’t see myself living anywhere else. I love it, innit!
PDB- How did Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers come about?
A mutual friend told me about Matt Hilton’s success and, knowing I was intrigued, he phoned Matt and put us in touch early in 2008. He basically called Matt ‘n’ thrust the phone in my hand! Anyway, we hit it off and became good friends via near-daily emails, and the odd call, before we finally met up in Lancaster (half-way between Manchester and Carlisle) for a bite to eat and a non-stop chat about writing and life. I’ve said it before, but Matt’s unflinching support has been a godsend to me.
Matt tried for years to get published and appreciates how difficult it is (was). So, he started TKnC in January 2009 to help new writers showcase their talent and get constructive feedback. Initially, there were only a few contributors, me included. I was like a dog with two dicks, eagerly sending him story after story, knowing somebody (apart from me mum) would be reading my stuff. For the first couple of months it didn’t really take off, but was still great fun.
Unexpectedly, in March 2009 Matt kindly asked me to assist and I literally bit his hand off. A risky thing to do, considering he’s a black belt. 🙂 Me… an editor? A little later, I recall Matt and I were debating the merits of accepting a certain submission and he made me laugh, saying, ‘Col, we’re becoming editors …aaarrgh!!!’ We’re so proud of how it’s taken off, though most of the credit should go to Matt for his foresight in creating the site: it’s his brainchild.
However, what definitely helped speed things up was letting my Writers News Talkback friends know of TKnC’s existence. I’d say about twenty, or so, now have stories on the site, and for many, like me, it was their first taste of publication. And I know for a fact that loads more of them are readers. I believe this gave TKnC a welcome boost, before word spread within the blogosphere.
TKnC has won awards, grown in popularity, and Matt’s revamped the layout. And now we have ‘horror dude’ Lee Hughes on board, so things are looking damn good.
PDB- What is Writers Talkback and how did you get involved?
A few years ago – before entering the blogosphere – I’d been considering joining a writers’ circle to spur me on in this lonely business we’re in. I’d only ever been in one before, but that was just a writers’ ‘line’, not a ‘circle’ – ie, just me ‘n’ fellow scribe David Barber. Because of shifts, the kids, football ‘n’ pool commitments, I knew I couldn’t get to a certain place every week to attend one, so, being a long-time subscriber to Writers’ News, I started lurking on WN Talkback forum.
I soon found they were an extremely helpful bunch, with some experienced writers amongst them. I noticed ‘newbies’ being welcomed with open arms, and getting answers to all their questions. So I decided to take the plunge and actually introduced myself in 2007.
I can safely say, I have some friends for life over on TB. That’s where I met the likes of cool horror writers, Lee Hughes ‘n’ Lily Childs, for example. I began entering their monthly One Word Challenge, whereby the previous months winner picks a word for everyone to write a piece in 200 words. Incredibly, to me, I’ve actually won a few, including the poetry one month! (I must have been the only one who entered).
Without the support of my fellow ‘Talkbackers’, I doubt very much I’d have progressed to the stage I’m at today.
PDB- You’ve just signed to a top New York agent. How cool is that?
Cooler than the epicenter of an iceberg, bud! Nat Sobel is a powerhouse in the industry and he literally squeezed my novel out of me over a nine month period. Nonetheless, I know these are tough times for the wannabe novelist. I’m hopeful, but don’t wanna tempt fate… you can read more about this here:
PDB- Give us the SP on your novel?
The SP? About £1.99 🙂
The working title has changed from ‘The Hoodie Hunter’, to ‘Vengeful Pursuit’, to ‘Operation Predator’, and is presently, ‘STRIKER’.
Detective Inspector Jack Striker has a shady past that haunts him throughout the novel. When he teams up with un-PC, DC Eric Bardsley and pretty rookie DC Lauren Collinge, in Manchester’s Murder Investigation Team, their first case seems to be a gang fight that got out of hand. But, when the ‘hoodies’ are being executed daily, Striker realises there’s much more to the killings than the gang warfare Manchester cops have become accustomed to. Two so-called colleagues have it in for Striker, and begin to snoop into his past. He also has to dig deep into his past, himself, to find the answers as to why the ‘hoodies’ are being slayed. And in a frenetic finale… lots more exciting, twisty stuff happens!
Jeez, that’s the first time I’ve done that about my novel, but I don’t wanna give too much away.
I’d say, it’s a gritty, fast-paced, whodunnit-procedural-cum-crime thriller, sprinkled with dark wit. A mix of all the things I love reading.
From the few people who have read it to date (two agents, two authors ‘n’ a detective), two words seem prominent: ‘Compelling’ and ‘Gripping’. I just hope the publishers think the same. I must confess, I’m shitting me-self in case things go tits up. (Translation for literary types: Col is somewhat apprehensive at the distinct possibility, especially in the current economic climate, of not finding a purchaser for the said novel.)
PDB- Could you describe a typical writing session?
Very random, mate. I get home from work, usually tired, thinking, ‘Right. Tonight I’m gonna blast the keyboard.’ Then Mandy tells me my lad’s got footy (soccer) practice, or my daughter needs a lift to dancing, or something, so the writing sess’ is deferred. I’ve found that late night sessions are my most productive, as I’ve always been a bit of an owl (this also helps to spot lurking backstabbers – no? okay). However, when you’re up at 6.00 for work, it doesn’t do much for the old baggy-eyes.
I REALLY value my days off, when the kids are at school. I’ll browse the blogopshere to see what my writing buds are up to, then discipline has to kick in, and I write. I’ve sacrificed a lot at the expense of writing, including sleep. But I do ensure there’s quality time with the family too. When I’m not at work, it’s not uncommon for me to write non-stop all night, because I hit a rhythm that I may not get chance of replicating for a while.
PDB- What’s next?
Nat Sobel is obviously trying to sell my novel, so much depends on that. I wrote it kinda ‘blind’ (without an outline), but now Nat already has my outline for the sequel, which I’m currently working on. I have a solid idea for a third too, which I can’t wait to write, and embryonic ideas for several more. So fingers crossed, eh?
Obviously, I’ll still rattle off the odd short story, whenever an idea pecks my head enough, plus I’ll continue co-editing TKnC with pleasure, as that is truly an honour to be a part of.
May I take this opportunity to thank all my friends throughout the blogosphere, as I simply wouldn’t have got to this stage without you.