My interview with Arco Van Ieperen. 

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On Saturday 22 September, I took part in the Festiwalu Literatury Wielorzecze  in the town of  Elbląg here in Poland. Nick Sweeney and I were interviewed by Arco Van Ieperen.   Radek Obuchowski translated. Here is a version of that interview that I thought some of you might enjoy.

Why did you choose the genre of Crime Fiction for your novels and short stories?

Well, maybe the genre chose me? I started writing regularly in 2008, after discovering online flash fiction sites – most of which were crime fiction focused. A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, Beat to A Pulp. That said, it’s also an area of writing I’ve always enjoyed. Crime fiction covers a multitude of fictional sins and – outside the mainstream – allows for odd character studies – from Jim Thompson to Patricia Highsmith to Damon Runyon and more.

What are the difficulties in getting short stories and novels published nowadays? It is different from, say, twenty years ago in your opinion? Do you think it’s easier to get published in a major language such as English than in a less popular language like Polish?

I’d never even considered writing – well, never finished anything – in the good old bad old days of publishing, but my scattershot attempts at storytelling conveniently coincided with the rebirth of indie publishing – most of which is in English. It looks like it’s even harder to get published by the Big 6 these days. Publishing is a business, after all.  And business doesn’t like risk. If you write in Polish, you’re only going to get published in Poland in the beginning. But the success of Scandi Noir shows that it’s possible to do well when translated into English. I’m not sure why Polish writers haven’t cracked that market, to be honest.

Humour is an important element in your novels and short stories – what is the function of humour in your work?

I write about people. People in extreme situations. People at odds with life, their frailty. As Charlie Chaplin said. “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”

You mainly write short stories and novellas. A Case of Noir, although it has the same protagonist throughout the book, reads like a series of short stories. Do you prefer shorter forms of fiction to longer novels, or is it only a question of time before you write a longer work?

I started writing via Six Sentences- tell a story in six sentences – and the stories got longer, so a novel is probably on the horizon.  A Case Of Noir is indeed a series of short stories that I did for a now defunct Italian publisher but they’re stitched together with a rusty needle and a loose thread.

 In an interview with David Nemeth you said that you “have already written more than most people need.” Do you think the crime fiction market is saturated or and does that discourage you from writing more, or do you give in to the constant need to write more?  

I was joking- a bit- in that I’m well aware that my stuff has little chance of mainstream success. You’d think that the crime fiction market would already be saturated but reports of its death have clearly been exaggerated. I’ll keep plodding on doing my own thing, whatever.

Your work is readily recognisable as British fiction, regarding vocabulary, slang and subject matter. What makes British fiction different from its American counterpart in your opinion?

Maybe our sense of absurdity. It’s something we relish in many ways. American’s are sometimes chastised for lacking irony but I think it’s just that they can be painfully sincere.

 I’ve read that you played the bass in a number of bands in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Your work is filled with references to music, musicians and lyrics. How important is music for you and what role does it play in your fiction?

It’s probably because I’m too idle to stretch to far outside the parameters of my own experience. But life always has a soundtrack, doesn’t it?

I know it’s a tedious question as I’ve been asked myself hundreds of times but: Why Poland?

Unlike Groucho Marx, I’ll join any club that will have me as a member! After I finished my TEFL course, I applied for lots of jobs in lots of places and a school in Poland were on of the first to answer. It seemed churlish to say no.

Has living abroad affected your writing in any way? Is it easier to write about your home country from a distance?

For sure it’s a view askew. Discombobulation is its own reward.

 I truly enjoyed your novel Last Year’s Man, which of course is this year’s book. Could you tell us something about the story and how it came about, without providing too many spoilers, of course?

The big influence was the British comedian Tony Hancock, and also Takeshi Kitano.  A sense of resignation to time moving on. An existential shrug of saying – ‘Stone Me, What A Life!’ And the fool’s errand of nostalgia.

Alcohol and drugs play a significant role in your work. Characters are often drunk or hungover, or drinking to stop being hungover. Do you think it reflects the crime scene and/or the ex-pats scene, or is it more of a Marlowian mood setting that you aim for, a wink to the noir from the forties and fifties?

Well, it’s never a great stretch! For sure the shadow of those tropes is cast, but it’s more about writing about people I know and situations I’ve known or know of. And most heavy drinkers are hopelessly deluded. Unholy fools. Which is great for absurdist noir fiction. As I’ve said before, crime fiction is about bringing order to chaos and noir is about bringing chaos to order.  So ….

Recommended Read: May by Marietta Miles

MayMarietta Miles’ May takes place on Folly Island in the 1980s and in Shreveport, Louisiana  during the 1970s.  There’s a storm coming  to Folly Island and May Cosby is just hoping to survive it, and any other disaster that might befall her.

In the course of this tense and claustrophobic book we find out a lot about May and the people she encountered over the years.  As well as as moving backwards and forwards in time to tell May’s story, Miles also gives us a look at the POVs of a couple of the book’s supporting cast; the hapless Tommy and  the vicious John Karl Jr. And we see how they impact on May’s life.

Marietta Miles once again proves herself to be one of the best noir writers working today.  May is a brutal, brittle and brilliant gem.

Nick Sweeney is at Polski Noir

polski noir t-shirtTRANSAKCJA – NICK SWEENEY (PRZEŁ. ALEKSANDRA GUZIK)

‘Witek Galicki nie mógł tego wieczoru nazwać sukcesem. Kobieta uśmiechnęła się w sposób, który można by wziąć za zachętę, ale Witek zsunął się z niej delikatnie i uniósł rękę w przepraszającym geście. Odwrócił się tyłem i przysiadł na brzegu łóżka. „Nieudana transakcja” pomyślał.’

Read the rest here.

Recommended Read: Laikonik Express by Nick Sweeney

Laikonik ExpressNolan Kennedy teaches English in Istanbul. One day, Kennedy, the son of an unsuccessful American  Beat writer, accidentally finds out that  Don Darius, his main boozing partner, has been secretly writing a novel – and a bloody good one it is, too.  But Don has already upped sticks to Poland  so Keenedy decides to track him down. Kennedy’s fool’s errand soon melts into Don Darius’ own romantic quest.

Nick Sweeney’s Laikonik Express is a marvelous novel  that is full of warmth and charm.  Although the young protagonists are a touch pretentious and overly earnest it’s still a pleasure to spend time in their company.  The real strength of Laikonik Express, however, is its rich supporting cast of people and places. Highly recommended.

Grab Exiles: An Outsider Anthology for only 99p/ 99c!

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Exiles

To celebrate the latest ALIBI  noir festival in Slovenia, EXILES: AN OUTSIDER ANTHOLOGY is currently only 99c / 99p!

A powerful Noir short story collection edited by the Bukowski of Noir, Paul D. Brazill. Exiles features 26 outsiders-themed stories by some of the greatest crime and noir writers, K. A. Laity, Chris Rhatigan, Steven Porter, Patti Abbott, Ryan Sayles, Gareth Spark, Pamila Payne, Paul D. Brazill, Jason Michel, Carrie Clevenger, David Malcolm, Nick Sweeney, Sonia Kilvington, Rob Brunet, James A. Newman, Tess Makovesky, Chris Leek, McDroll, Renato Bratkovič, Walter Conley, Marietta Miles, Aidan Thorn, Benjamin Sobieck, Graham Wynd, Richard Godwin, Colin Graham, and an introduction by Heath Lowrance.

Sonia Kilvington Reviews The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh paperbackThe Cyprus based writer reviews my recent short story collection.

She says:

‘Guns, gangsters, old geezers with grudges and whores without hearts proliferate his pages; luring you in, before taking you down. With twenty mouth-wateringly delicious crime stories to choose from – how could you possibly lose?’

Read the rest here. 

Out now! Exiles: An Outsider Anthology

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The all new version of Exiles: An Outsider Anthology – now published by Artizan– is out now!

‘A powerful short story collection edited by the Bukowski of Noir, Paul D. Brazill. Exiles features 26 outsiders-themed stories by some of the greatest crime and noir writers, K. A. Laity, Chris Rhatigan, Steven Porter, Patti Abbott, Ryan Sayles, Gareth Spark, Pamila Payne, Paul D. Brazill, Jason Michel, Carrie Clevenger, David Malcolm, Nick Sweeney, Sonia Kilvington, Rob Brunet, James A. Newman, Tess Makovesky, Chris Leek, McDroll, Renato Bratkovič, Walter Conley, Marietta Miles, Aidan Thorn, Benjamin Sobieck, Graham Wynd, Richard Godwin, Colin Graham, and an introduction by Heath Lowrance.

Grab it from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and every other Amazon.

Recommended Read: Dig Ten Graves by Heath Lowrance

dig ten gravesHeath Lowrance’s Dig Ten Graves is a lethal cocktail of noir, pulp fiction, horror. bizarro and even sci-fi.

There are shades of Kafka and Lovecraft, satire and absurdest humour, chills and sadness.

Dig Ten Graves is a great taster/ introduction to Heath Lowrance’s writing and is well worth checking out.

Recommended Read: The White Flamingo by James A. Newman

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In James A. Newman’s The White Flamingo, Detective Joe Dylan investigates the gruesome murder of one of Fun City’s many call girls and quickly realizes that there is a serial killer on the loose in Fun City.

The White Flamingo – the third ‘Joe Dylan crime noir book ‘ – is hard-boiled pulp fiction pumped up to the max. It’s a lethal cocktail of graphic violence, booze, drugs and sex. It’s bright lights and dark shadows and it’s certainly not for the fainthearted.

Short, Sharp Interview: Gareth Spark

PDB: What’s going on now?

Right now I’m suffering that mixture of dread and delight that comes when you publish anything, and which seems so much more severe when that something is a collection of stories you’ve worked on for a number of years. 

SNAKE FARM, is a book into which I’ve invested a lot of imaginative capital and energy for a long damn time. It’s a post-modern tribute to the outlaw life, an examination of violence and, above all, a collection of gritty stories. The book begins with tales set in the old American west, at the very dawn of that idea of the desperado as hero, and continues through tales of war and crime and heartache to a penultimate tale set in a post-apocalyptic world, before heading right back to the Wild West.

PDB: How did you research this book?

The title (as well as being pinched from a kickass Ray Wylie Hubbard song) comes from those places where they keep these poisonous critters and use their venom to create an anti-venom, a cure, and I liked the idea of the book as a metaphorical snake farm. The historical stories were researched pretty hard to provide some kind of accuracy, but the vast majority occur in the here and now and take place in areas I know pretty well, either in the UK or Spain.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

Somebody once asked Picasso which of his paintings was his favourite and he replied, “The next one.” I’d have to echo that sentiment.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme? 


At the moment, I’m pretty into JUSTIFIED. I’m re-watching all 6 seasons, beginning to end. (Thank you SKY TV!) The books I’m digging right now are EVERYTHING RAVAGED, EVERYTHING BURNED by Wells Tower and THE ANIMALS by Christian Kiefer. I’m also looking forward to Aidan Thorn’s upcoming second collection. That guy can write.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

I personally think the answer to the kind of cultural vanilla gloop that comes with globalisation and social media hegemony is with the particular and the local, and I try to make my writing a true representation of the places I know well, excepting the historical stories, and I research those with no small industry.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

Hardly ever, and that’s the truth. A history of miserable “Author’s profile” pics means I never google my name either. That way madness lies.

PDB: What’s next?

I’m editing a 50K Novella called GUTTER WOLVES, which is a gangster thriller set on the Costa del crime and I’ve just finished a screenplay called JERICHO ROSE about a Gulf War vet/recluse who finds a kidnapped girl. I’m also writing a new novel, a noir called WINTER FIRES. That’s still in the 1st draft though.

57377-sparkyBio: Gareth Spark writes dark fiction from and about the moors and rust belts of the North East where grudges are savoured, shotguns are cheap and people get by in the economic meltdown any way they can.

His work has appeared at Near 2 The Knuckle, Out Of The Gutter, Line Zero, Shotgun Honey, and many more journals/zines. Gareth Spark was born in the middle of a blizzard on New Year’s day, 1979. He grew up in Whitby and published his first book, a collection of poetry called “At The Breakwater” at age 22.
He has since published two further collections “Ramraid” (Skrev Press) and “Rain in a dry land” (Mudfog) as well as the crime thriller, “Black Rain” (Skrev Press, 2004) and the collection of short stories “Snake Farm” (2015). He reviews fiction and poetry for various on-line journals.
(This interview first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online)

James A. Newman Reviews A Case Of Noir

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A Case Of Noir

‘Paul D. Brazill’s world here is one of peroxide Berliner blondes wearing PVC raincoats with blood red lipstick smeared across their lips.  Barbarous gangsters and shyster scam artists, drunken literary agents and pop producers shelter in cities ruined by war and Vodka, drenched by decadence, spent of hope, driven by desire.’

Read the rest of the top crime writer’s review here.