Guest Blog: Recording Earcom 2 for Fast Records, 1979 by Alan Savage

Alan Savage, Basczax, Futurama, GUEST BLOGS, Joy Division, Music, Paul D Brazill, Post Punk, Teeside

earcom-2Recording ‘Kirlian Photography’ and Celluloid Love’ with Bob Last, Cargo Studios, Rochdale, May 1979 (I think it was that month).
..and the formation of the ‘classic’ Basczax line up.

Bob Last (Fast Records label owner and manager) first took an interest in Basczax (then called Basssax) before me and Jeff Fogarty joined in late ’78. He had seen them supporting the Rezillos at Middlesbrough Rock Garden and was intrigued by their weirdness: kimonos, pancake make up and strange avant-electro sparse music that sourced from both punk and Kraftwerk. Since then, founder member and bassist/songwriter Mick Todd had kept in touch albeit on an ad hoc basis. It was not until me and Jeff joined that things really took off. Mick Todd knew he needed to get some better musicians to play with and I guess me and Jeff fit the bill.

Let’s rewind shall we, to the night I met Jeff and was lured into Basczax?

October 1978. Local bands including No Way, The Barbarians, Shoot the lights out (or was that another night?) and Monitor were playing the Wellington pub in Middlesbrough. Jeff was the sax player in Monitor. I was playing too – only two songs, one of my own called ‘Trends’ – which was crap – and a New York Dolls cover ‘Personality Crisis’. The band I was in that night had the terrible name of Original Sin. Not my idea by the way. They were really a working man’s club band. Indeed, I had got stuck playing the workies clubs as I had left my boring soul destroying job at British Steel earlier in the year with the mistaken belief that I could make a living playing music. We were a mediocre, third division club band and I wanted out. I liked the lads in the band – we had a good laugh most of the time, but I think they all knew it was a matter of time before I jumped ship. I just didn’t know how to leave as I did not really know any other like-minded musicians who were not playing the clubs.

When we arrived to set up our equipment – I was using a borrowed amp- the Barbarians were there, running through their sound check. There were no monitors of course – there would have been no room for them anyway. A tall scraggly hippy looking man came over to us and said ‘Hi…you can use our equipment if you want…it might be better, there’s no space really’…It turned out to be Dave Johns, leader of the Barbarians. He was very open and friendly and had a great benevolent sharing attitude. I liked him straight away. I also liked the fact he had a Burns Guitar that sounded really trebly, like the guitar sound from the Beatles ‘Revolver’ album. He had a way of hunching over his guitar, his face in concentration, his long lank hair obscuring his face from time to time. He had an insectoid, quirky stage presence.

Standing at the bar later, I got talking to Jeff Fogarty. I had run into him in rehearsals at the local youth club down the road at Easterside/Grove Hill and we hit it off, sharing a mutual like of Roxy Music. I thought Jeff was quite exotic, playing the saxophone. I knew no other sax players and he really stood out. He had a charisma about him. (Don’t let this go to your head now Jeff!) Suffice to say, we really hit it off. This was the night that destiny called for me, that’s for sure.

I remember being really impressed with both the Barbarians and No Way. The Barbarians sang songs with local subject matter like ‘Binns Corner’. I remember talking to Dave Johns about the song. He was very obliging and seemed happy to talk about nerdy things like lyrics. I was too scared to talk to Fran, their singer: he looked really scary to me! (Of course he turned out to be a pussy cat once you got to know him)

No Way came on to big cheers. They sounded bloody great: really powerful, having an orderly sound that begged that admittedly awful word: professional. Their singer, Matey, was a great fitting front man – leaning over the mic stand, pint of lager in hand, off hand leery beery attitude- he was an instant local hero. They had a great guitarist in Paul Gardner too: minimal, droning string riffs and he used a proper guitar unlike all us el skinto copy guitar owners – he had a Fender Telecaster. Oh, their rhythm section was great too by the way. They were simply a very good local band who maybe could have done something outside their immediate back yard.

I remember standing there watching them, and watching the crowd going mad for them. It was the first time in my so far short life as a musician I felt a terrible feeling: envy. It made me even more determined to get out of my club band. (Paul Gardner might be surprised if he reads this!)

Get out I did.

Jeff actually joined the club band I was in briefly. I am not sure why he did this; he was more like a guest player on a couple of songs. I think he was trying to look for an opportunity to get me out of the band. I could be mistaken of course, but looking back, that is my impression.

I phoned Jeff regularly from the phone box up the road. I didn’t actually have a phone back then, being a council estate skint bastard. He was very excited one day and told me I had to come and see him immediately as he had in his possession a cassette of a band that was looking for new members. It was Basssax (remember, that was how it was spelt then)

I distinctly remember hearing that cassette. The quality was pretty bad, but there was something on it that sounded unique: it was ‘Kirlian Photography’. Now I was pretty hip to Kraftwerk and recognised straight away that it was a bit like ‘Radioactivity’. But that was exactly what I liked about it. I remember thinking that the singing was out of tune – but it had a strange charm, almost sounding oriental in its atonal between notes atmosphere. Plus the lyrics were strange and being from the Bowie school of pretentious art fops from Jupiter, I loved it.

It all happened very quickly. We joined bassist Mick Todd, with synth player Nigel Trenchard and drummer (and old school friend of mine) Mick ‘Cog’ Curtis. Rehearsals were intensive. We thrashed around in a place called the Gables on Marton Road. I remember it was always freezing there and when we got a Calor gas heater in, it became more bearable. The first songs we tried out were ‘Kirlian Photography’, ‘1999’ and a song that Nigel Trenchard had written called ‘Detached Houses’.

Nigel was a character – he fancied himself as the Eno of the band, which was cool by me. He was a very funny man and a practical joker. I remember once, when the band picked me up from my house in Easterside, he leapt out of the car and kissed me full on the lips in front of my mother. He was like Iggy Pop – recklessly impulsive!

I remember another time we were dancing at some new wave disco night in Middlesbrough. He was with a girl and every time he came into my view, he got his willy out and shook it for all to see. He was outrageous and there was never a dull moment in his company.

Why was he ejected from the band in favour of John Hodgson? I cannot actually remember the reason. Ego clashes perhaps. Pity we didn’t go a bit further down the line with Nigel…

Jeff in the meantime suggested we changed the spelling of the band name to Basczax. It was a kind of ‘Ultravox’ (John Foxx not the man with the Clark Gable moustache) sounding name – Jeff was really into these at the time as was I briefly. (though not as much as Jeff) My main bands at that time were Wire, Magazine and The Banshees.The Scream’ was a terrific album at the time. I was still very hung up on glam rock of course. I got a guitar because of Marc Bolan. His spirit was never far away from me. Bowie and Roxy Music were the other two obsessions of mine. I also liked Bill Nelson, his Red Noise album was impressive to me at the time. (but I found it irritatingly quirky on hearing it years later)

basczax-2Basczax we were then. And we got two new members: Alan Cornforth on drums (Mick Curtis, lovely lad that he was, couldn’t keep up with the fast evolution of the band, bless him ) And John Hodgson on Keyboards/synth and occasional vocal.

Both had been drafted in from Blitzkreig Bop. One of Teesside’s first punk bands who released a brilliant single with ‘Let’s Go’. I mean the original version on Mortonsound by the way.

I remember the phone conversation with John Hodgson really well.

He said ‘I’m looking for something cold, something more synth based’. I remember thinking ‘he’s on the wavelength’ and he joined pretty much straight away, as did Alan Cornforth. I think he did one last gig with the Bop and then he and Alan joined us.
Our first rehearsal had John introducing a keyboard riff to us that became ‘Translucent Tales’: our mock psychedelic epic set closer. We were a band that was not self conscious about bringing in then unfashionable musical influences. John never hid the fact that he was a huge fan of Genesis. He was actually a prog rocker in punk disguise. (your secret is out now John!) Me and Mick Todd loved psychedelia too – one of Mick’s favourite albums from the past at that time I remember was ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’, the Rolling Stones’ ill advised but strangely fascinating 1967 acid blues album.
Basczax thus became the ‘classic line up’.

We were a band with one foot in the trashy punk/glam camp, and one foot in the emerging electronic wave of bands about a year in front of us then. I felt we were in tune with the musical zeitgeist, if only for about six months.

basczax

I wrote songs like I had two weeks to live. Jeff and I came up with ‘Hollywood Strut’, ‘Neon Vampires’ and ‘Madison Fallout’ around his Mum’s house. Jeff would vamp at the organ, I would direct chord changes, Jeff too putting his musical diversions. The first song we wrote together eye to eye was ‘Celluloid Love’. It was Jeff’s bass line I seem to recall, that sparked the song. I wrote the music on the chorus. We shared lyrical duties – writing a line each. It happened quickly, had that ‘Roxy’ atmosphere about it and I distinctly remember taking it to rehearsals to work out. John Hodgson came up with the great keyboard hook on it. He was very handy like that, always embellishing the songs with hooky parts.

Alan came up with the unusual drum beat –a kind of military shuffle. We were all mindful of trying to approach things a little bit differently.

It was to be a track we were to record for Bob Last’s Fast Records, along with ‘Kirlian Photography’ which was Mick Todd’s song.

bob-lastBob Last was producing a 12 inch ‘musical magazine’ as he called it: Earcom. There had already been one released and we were to be on the second one, alongside tracks by the Thursdays and Joy Division. I have no idea how Bob Last managed to scoop two out-takes from the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ sessions, but I do remember thinking: ‘Wow! We are sharing a record with Joy Division!’ (even that early on, already a legendary band)

Now a lot happened in the run up to recording these tracks. Basczax had amassed a large-ish local following, we were playing a Friday night residency at a pub on the Thornaby/Stockton -on-Tees border called ‘The Teessider’. We had by now, a full set of songs, we had a quickly evolving sense of who we were and we had a buzz about us, that even extended to some of the major record companies like Virgin, who I seem to remember were briefly interested in us. (if this is delusional hind sight, please correct me, ex-band members)

1979 was a year that was a white heat of creativity in pop/rock music. There was a pioneering spirit in the air as bands like PIL released the brilliant punk/dub/German prog rock influenced ‘Metal Box’ album. Joy Division led the way from thrashy punk to somewhere altogether more moody and atmospheric.

There was plenty of good new wave pop around: Blondie went from strength to strength.
Disco was big in the charts and was starting to become assimilated into some of the post-punk bands music. The most obvious example was ‘Heart of Glass’. It was a great record that made disco seem cool.

Chic were big in this year. I loved them and anyone with a sense of great dance grooves and hooks loved them too.

On the scratchier side of things you had The Slits and The Pop Group – both using dance rhythms in their music and the explorative dopey vibe of dub reggae (which John Peel played a lot of on his show)

The electronic vanguard was upon us: Gary Numan, love him or hate him, led the way with ‘Are Friends Electric’ – the first proof that men in black shirts and make up with synthesisers could make Top of the Pops. The Human League and all their ilk, followed in Numan’s steps about a year later. (Remember, it took the Human League quite a while to have a proper hit record)

But there was one album and band that blew me away that year, more than even Joy Division. It is still one of my favourite albums: ‘Fear of Music’ by Talking Heads.
‘Fear of Music’ was the sound of a band really hitting their artistic stride: it was an album full of great ideas and it set a benchmark for me. I loved – and still love – the album’s sense of experimentation, while still retaining a sense of song craft. ‘Heaven’ was a sublime track and ‘Life During Wartime’ was funky as hell. Welcome to the post punk disco party.

Even old hero David Bowie made a decent album, now somewhat overlooked I feel – in that year, with ‘Lodger’.

Basczax, 1979: we were in there somewhere, we felt sure we fitted the post punk synthy pop /rock bill.

So there we were – barely six months together and we were recording in a proper studio with a producer in the glamourous location of Rochdale, Cargo Studios.

Bob Last looked cool in shades and a combat jacket over his Human League ‘Being Boiled’ T-shirt. He had the air of a young Phil Spector about him I remember thinking. Of course, I wouldn’t have dreamt of telling him that. He was also eating apricots. Lots of them almost constantly. He was trying to quit smoking and this explained his rabid munchies syndrome. He had the air of someone quite calm and in control about him. He wasn’t exactly chatty, the kind of person who only spoke when he really had something to say. He didn’t really do small talk. I didn’t really know how to take him to be honest, but he was genial enough to get along with. I was young and still suffering bouts of adolescent self-consciousness. I was pretty insecure back then, coming to think of it, and my aloof exterior was a coping mechanism for my shyness. I also had a debilitating negative side to my nature that I still struggle with today to be honest. It didn’t take much to send me off at the deep end. Enough of this navel gazing now…

earcom-22I remember setting up my guitar amp. It was a small practice amp and not the Marshall stack or decent guitar combo that maybe the session engineer expected. It was all I owned.
‘Is that it? You are using that?’ he said incredulously.

I felt a bit embarrassed.

Bob Last intervened: ‘It will be fine when we mic it up’.

I had brought my only guitar: A Kay Fender Stratocaster copy, purchased from Gratton’s catalogue. It had that scratchy Strat sound, had a five way pick up selector and was not a bad sounding copy coming to think of it. (In fact many people said it sounded better than my next guitar, a Columbus Les Paul copy)

I remember thinking I hope I don’t break any strings because I didn’t have the money to buy any more. I was always chronically broke back then. I have no idea how I managed. Sometimes I didn’t even have the bus fare to rehearsals and walked. I was a rock n roll pauper. Once, I went two days without eating hardly a thing. No wonder I was as skinny as a rake. Mr. Bowie – I blame it all on you.

Bob Last was a pretty hard task master I seem to remember. He made us run through ‘Kirlian Photography’ loads of times. Drummer Alan Cornforth got fed up and was not happy with his drum sound. He went into a sulk and a bad atmosphere started to descend on the session. He went out for a walk, well actually, went off in a huff and I remember John having to talk him around. I just felt embarrassed more than anything as the session ground to a halt. I half expected Bob Last to say ‘forget it, just go home’ but he didn’t. He tried to talk Alan around and in the end, Alan did come around of course. Bob Last was trying to get us to hit a steady groove for the track. We were used to tear-arsing through songs live, and it was hard to pull back and let the music breathe. But time was up against us now: we had to nail these tracks; we had no choice, no luxury of time. We had to do a lot in eight hours.

Then, it was my turn to get stroppy.

Bob Last said to me ‘Oh come on…stop those pretty guitar solos will you?’ when I was overdubbing my guitar for ‘Celluloid Love’. I hardly had any time as John had spent ages overdubbing his keyboard lines. The atmosphere was becoming panicky now as time was running out and I hadn’t even done any vocals yet, apart from the guide tracks when we were recording the basic bass and drum track.

In a fit of frustration, I whacked the hell out of my guitar, running my fingers anywhere on the fret board. I got art rock rage in other words.
Bob Last was (at last) pleased with what I was doing.
‘That’s great…let’s go for it now’…
So, the manic guitar on ‘Celluloid Love’ was done in the second take. I was actually scared of snapping strings, I remember.

I fully expected Bob Last to give me the third degree again when I overdubbed my guitar for ‘Kirlian Photography’ but he liked that guitar line.
‘It sounds good; psychedelic’ he said, looking over his shades at me, probably sensing my nervy insecurity.

I wondered if the song was too long and should we cut it down? After all, who did six minute tracks in those ‘quick get it over with’ post punk days?
‘No’ said Bob Last. ‘It’s good as it is’.

I also remember Jeff doing his sax parts quite vividly. We piled on the Roland Space Echo, an effect that Jeff liked to use as it made him play spacey, more random notes.

As for my vocal, I had to do them quickly. And I did. I seem to recall that ‘Kirlian Photography’ and ‘Celluloid Love’ were both second takes after an initial run through.
We did some backing vocals quickly and I seem to recall we had a fit of giggles doing the Mr. Gumby sounding backing vocals for the chorus of ‘Kirlian Photography’. I remember John getting a little impatient ‘Come on Sav, get it together maaan’ he joked in his best mock hippy voice.

The session went a little over time as the tracks were mixed. The thump thump thump of the bass drum seemed to go on for ages, as the sound was tweaked and the drum sound worked on. Some of us went out to look around outside to get some air.

I remember hearing my vocals isolated in the mix and cringed. I wanted the music back in to mask them. I also remember thinking my guitar sounded tinny and wishing I could get it to sound fatter somehow.

I also remember the thrill of hearing the mix come together. ‘Celluloid Love’ sounded great with all of John’s keyboards textured. I also remember saying ‘get the guitar up’ on the chorus and Bob Last obliged.

The mix for ‘Kirlian Photography’ came together quicker. It was all there in the performance or take we had done and just needed the levels setting. The echo on the guitar and on Jeff’s sax was added in the final mix down I seem to recall.
The time came for playback after what seemed like ages.

We were really pleased with the results. Except I got a bit hung up about my rhythm chops going out of time at the end of ‘Kirlian Photography’. ‘Nobody will notice’ said Bob Last. Pretty soon it was forgotten about and even I didn’t notice it.

It seemed to take ages for the record to come out. In fact, it got to a point where I thought it wasn’t going to happen. I remember getting our copies of the 12 inch Earcom very vividly. They were sent to Mick Todd’s house in Redcar and that bus journey to his house that day just could not go fast enough for me.

Mick had done a nice collage for the inner sleeve that represented us in a graphic sense well. No band photos. This was becoming less the norm in those days. It was more about images and graphics. I always thought it was a pity. Some decent band shots would have been a good thing.

I did not like the cover of the record: a picture of someone abseiling/rock climbing. ‘What the hell for?’ is one thought I had at the time.

I was not even that impressed with the Joy Division tracks. They sounded just as they were: shelved out takes that did not make the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album.
The Thursdays tracks were shambolic fun. Only in 1979 could a band of twelve year olds make a record in the name of alternative prankery. At least that is the impression I got.
So there you go. It was official: Basczax was now a proper band who had a proper record out on a proper (and cool) alternative record label.
Even John Peel liked it.

Which of course, made it all worthwhile.

We drove back to Teesside that day knackered but buzzing with the adrenalin of it all.
Then I remembered, the next morning, I had to go and sign on the dole. It’s a mighty long way down rock n roll as a certain band once sang.

sav  2Bio: Alan Savage is a Middlesbrough born singer and songwriter. He releases music under his own name and other guises such as Dada Guitars and The Crystaleens.

His previous bands include Basczax and TheFlaming Mussolinis.

Guest Blog: Basczax: Teessider nights: some flashes, 1979… by Alan Savage

Alan Savage, GUEST BLOGS, Music, Paul D Brazill, Post Punk, Punk, Richard Sanderson, Teeside

basczaxIt is mostly a blur now of course, but there are plenty of flashes in my mind of those Friday nights back in ’79-’80 when Basczax played a residency at the Teessider pub.
50p on the door I recall, as we were trying to save money for a PA. Did we get one? I cannot remember.

The Teessider itself was just over the bridge under which the Tees flowed, on the Stockton side of the Thornaby/Stockton border. Thornaby was named after an old Viking settlement and Vikings still lived there except they had lost their horned helmets, shaved off their hair and called themselves skinheads. They would lurk in the darkness after the gigs, making punks lives difficult and making the journey to the train station a scary thing for most.

One night, I went to the station with Robbo (Dave Robinson – where the hell are you now?) We were trailed by skinheads out for some bovver. I had my tuxedo and eye liner on. They started to call me predictable things that I need not repeat: you can guess. Robbo, never the most diplomatic person when drunk, faced them off straight away: ‘Oww! What’s your fucking problem then? What-is-your-problem?’ the last line delivered in (drunk) Dalek diction. Me: ‘Oh shut up Robbo, let’s just ignore them’…No chance of that. We ended up running up the railway track in the dark to escape our hunters. I remember trying to climb over a fence and my hands stung: I had grabbed a bunch of overgrown nettles in the scramble to get over it.

Life as a late teenager was scary. Actually I was 19 nearly 20 at the time, but not yet far enough away from that horrible adolescent world that could often turn violent. We got away, and we somehow managed to get back to get the train too. However, the journey back was nervy too, as drunken men peered at us through pissed rat eyes, sneering and saying things like ‘are you punks then?’

Still, not even scary nights like this, or skins outside the pub waiting to cause trouble, stopped punks and post-punkers, bohemians and long mac(kers) denim boys and posers, and curiosity seekers, flocking to the Teessider on a Friday night.
Guest Blogger: John Hodgson - Punk Rock

It had been John Hodgson’s initiation I seem to remember. We talked about a regular gig and how it would be a good thing to have a place where other local bands could play together. The Teessider was not really purpose built for a band to play. There was a pillar positioned centre left of the ‘stage area’ – well, ok, floor area and it blocked your view if you were in the wrong vantage point. The floor space was just about enough to set up drums – pushed right to the back, and a mic stand centred, with guitars – lead and bass – on either side. Keyboard player John had to fit in there somehow: it was not spacious is what I am trying to say. To get to the toilets, people had to walk directly in front of the band. It was a squash, but the atmosphere made it feel like somewhere bigger.

It was always packed. It started off with maybe twenty to thirty people, most of them in local bands, and their friends/girlfriends but it rapidly grew to a chock full house. I think one night we did a door count of over a hundred people – heaven knows, they were all squashed up at the bar as well as peering above tables (this was a pub remember, tables and chairs not removed.)

teesider
We brought in good trade for the landlord, so he and his wife were pleased.

The jukebox played punk favourites: ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ was one that was always on, ‘Angel Eyes’ by Roxy Music, ‘Are Friends Electric’ by Tubeway Army. These records were suggested, I think, to the landlord, whose musical taste stopped at Elvis Presley.

I distinctly remember setting up equipment to Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’. Hearing that Blondie track today, takes me right back there. I really liked Blondie’s singles: how could you not?

We had rehearsal space upstairs too. We recorded the songs in our set up there, engineered by drummer Alan Cornforth. It wasn’t overdub recording, just capturing the songs in their live form. The recordings were released as a cassette album called ‘Terminal Madness’. We sold quite a lot of copies I seem to recall.

We worked out a song called ‘Metal Culture’ up there and played it on the same night. We were never short of ideas, at one point I was writing an average of two new songs a week, either on my own or with Jeff. We were just all flying in the moment.

The landlord and his family lived just across the landing. They had an Alsatian dog that one day, when I had left my guitar case open, shat in it. The landlord’s children were cheeky little urchins and it was revealed one day that their secret name for me – obviously they had seen me in my glam-punk eyeliner – was, ‘the man from fairyland’
Teessider nights were exciting and had a buzz about them.

I remember one of the Billingham crew who used to come and see us tell me that it was the highlight of her life coming to the Teessider. I remember well the feeling of impatience as I took the bus there every Friday. If somebody had suggested setting up a band tent outside to live there, I would have given it serious consideration.

The local music scene had exploded after punk filtered through to the provinces, just like any other large town and city outside London. And Teesside had some really good and varied bands at that time.

Apart from the local heroes No Way and The Barbarians  there was the dada art punk of Shoot the lights out. There was the tuneful and upbeat new wave of Deja Vu, the fractured minimalist scratchy punk of Interview: Richard Sanderson -Banned From The Big Breakfast!Bombay Drug Squad, the very interesting and unique Drop, led by Richard Sanderson, whose willowy, fragile stage presence was compelling to watch.

Another really good band from that time was The Sines. Frontman Doug Palfreeman showed up solo one night at the Teessider and asked if he could play some songs. He did. And he nearly shredded my guitar strings too as he gave an explosive Pete Townshend style performance, borrowing my Kay Strat. He turned up again with a full band – well, a trio. They played some blistering Who-like songs and never failed to impress with their high energy performances.

There were other bands, very much outside of the Teessider crowd, but still doing their bit for the advancement of local culture: Carl Green and the Scene and Dimmer’s power pop outfit The Commercial Acrobats being only two of them.

Monitor, Jeff’s band before Basczax, developed into a really good band, with a female singer and good guitarist I had worked with before called Alan Hunter. They didn’t last long though – pity, as I remember them as a band with potential.

space-frogsThen there was the anarcho-smut punk of The Amazing Space Frogs, a band that I occasionally played bass and guitar for. Frontman Bugsy was like something out of a punk Carry On film – gloriously inane and puerile.
Bands, bands….there seemed to be new ones forming on a weekly basis.

The biggest pity, was that the scene went largely unreported outside the area. Manchester, Glasgow and Sheffield had their own scenes going on, reported in the weekly music papers like Sounds and N.M.E, but nobody came to Teesside.

John Hodgson, I remember, was always trying to find an in-road to attracting press to Teesside. He actually achieved a pretty good scoop once: a two page spread in the then new Smash Hits magazine, which highlighted the local music scene. We all waited for the press to arrive. They never came.

madison-falloutLarry Ottaway formed Pipeline Records, on which we released Madison Fallout’/Auto Mekanik Destruktor’ in December 1979. There was a lot of talk of him being the area’s Tony Wilson at the time, somebody to get the music scene noticed, but it came to nothing when he disappeared to Hong Kong. He had to go there for work reasons and that was the end of Pipeline, who were going to release something by Drop too. This was the whole reason the area was invisible: there was no sussed entrepreneur to cause some ripples outside the area. The fight was always the same: against apathy and lack of exposure.

Basczax were causing our own ripples though. We toured with early Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, a tour that came about through Rough Trade putting us forward for the support. Our single sold well and went into its second pressing; Rough Trade was interested in us. So were Dindisc, the Virgin subsidiary label. We had no manager though and were probably very naive when it came to following such interest through. I have no idea what happened to those A@R people or why it all just fizzled out.
Never mind. We had our own thing going on anyway at the Teessider.

earcom-2One hot summer night in June, Fast Records’ The Flowers came down from Edinburgh to play with us. They arrived for the gig pretty frazzled from the journey. I remember talking to the guitarist Simon who told me that Joy Division’s just then released album ‘Unknown Pleasures’ was incredible and that I had to hear it. He was right: hearing that album was a kind of epiphany moment, as it was for so many people of that time and generation. It is hard to describe the impact that record had. It was not punk but was obviously music that was from the spirit of Punk. It had a wiry and sparse sound to it, like dub in parts. Need I say the obvious? It was massively influential.

The Flowers were a pretty quirky lot and they performed a great set. I can remember Richard Sanderson dancing in front of them quite vividly. I think we raised the entrance price that night as they needed expenses. They stayed in the glamourous location of Redcar at Basczax bassist Mick Todd’s house. I remember singer Hilary asking us if there was a fish and chip shop nearby as she hadn’t eaten since breakfast time. There wasn’t. I think they dropped off somewhere to get some though.

One night, a band played who made me feel we had serious competition.
They were called Savage Passion (Ian Ingram told me the ‘savage’ was after me – but he was a smooth talking gypo and probably lying!)

The band had a very charismatic front man in Ian. I remember some girls next to me nearly passing out when he took his shirt off to stand at the mic in an Iggy pose. One of them laughed, looked at me and said ‘cor…he’s gorgeous!’ I remember replying: ‘why are you telling me?!’…

I am sure Ian took full advantage of his female admirers. But he took too many drugs, lost his focus and ruined himself. Savage Passion fell apart because of Ian’s antics. Maybe he really did think he was Iggy Pop. Pity.

Like any halcyon time, you think it is all going to last forever, but of course it didn’t and couldn’t.

The scene changed drastically I recall with the arrival of ska and then, of all things, a Mod revival. Skinheads suddenly seemed to be everywhere. Most of them of course were all right, but there was always that nasty edge when they were around.

The Teessider landlords suddenly put a stop to the Friday night slot. They were starting to get arsey with us for some reason, I think the landlord’s wife was sick of it all and it was a long Friday night, with a lot of people lingering and staying too late.
There was the sense of the end of an era when it all stopped. In fact, somebody actually said that to me at the time.

To all those who came to the Teessider: cheers and I hope life and sister fate have treated you all well.

Now, where is that copy of  ‘Unknown Pleasures’…and  Gang of Four’s ‘Damaged Goods’ EP?

(This post first appeared at Sav’s blog)

sav  2Bio: Alan Savage is a Middlesbrough, U.K, born singer and songwriter. He releases music under his own name and other guises such as Dada Guitars and The Crystaleens.

His previous bands include Basczax and The Flaming Mussolinis.

Guest Blog: Why Do We Do It? by Robert Cowan.

BRIT GRIT, Crime Fiction, GUEST BLOGS, Music, Paul D Brazill, Robert Cowan

daydreams-and-devils-coverFirstly, thanks to Paul for inviting me onto his blog to say a few words about my books. If he sees something in them I must be doing something right.

I’d like to start off with a question. Actually not just any question, but the question, (No, not the 42 one). Why do we writers do it? Why sit in front of a blank screen, which stares back at my own invariably blank face, as I never plan anything (including this blog), wondering if I can fill it with something that can entertain, or even move complete strangers. Time and time again, hour after hour, setting yourself up for judgement, failure, ridicule or worse…apathy. Why not just sit and watch Eastenders, or if you’re feeling a bit frisky nip upstairs with your significant other…even Pokémon go.

robert cowanI guess for most of us it stems from a need to be creative, maybe some sort of validation or legacy. But why writing? There are no doubt as many answers as there are writers and the answer might change with time. For me the original answer was I had characters I wanted to share and characters are always the main ingredient in my books, driving and creating the story with me sitting, typing it up. In my first novel , The Search for Ethan’, there was a real mix, with the self destructive Stevie, decent Tommy, depraved Margo, spiritual Katie, drunken, hapless Hughie…but what became interesting for me was what they had in common rather than the differences. I did wonder at times whether subconsciously they were aspects of my own personality, (always a fan of the Who’s Quadrophenia), no doubt I could find many a shrink happy to take my cash to chase that one down…or I could just write.

My second book,Daydreams and Devils’, was again filled with ‘colourful characters’, psychopathic crime boss Vincent a particular favourite. I found a swingball game in the hut the other day, which got me wondering. (that’ll make sense if you read it). As with the previous book, there’s plenty of dark humour and dialogue, but with crime thrown into the mix it’s my most Brazilesque novel and probably the best place to start for anyone reading this. Like Paul, I’m a huge music fan, and all my books are full of music references and lyrics, which my editor highlights in red alongside horrendous cash numbers for breach of copyright…and I promptly ignore and turn them black again. What could go wrong? Daydreams and Devils tells the story of a bunch of particularly evil gangsters and a young band taking their first steps on their musical journey. The stretch for this one was running the two very different and separate stories side by side, before bringing them together. It was also a lot of fun to write.

robert cowan bookStretching yourself as a writer and person, having fun…As I mentioned previously, the answer to that question may change with time. With my third book, For all is Vanity, throw in plain old curiosity. The desire to just see what happens, see far can you take it…and can you take readers with you? It is by far my darkest book yet…and they’re all pretty dark. What happens if you lose everything? When I started writing it I thought it would be lots of vigilante mayhem, streets running with the blood of bankers, politicians, rapists and assorted, well…cunts to be blunt. However it became something very different, more psychological, sometimes anguished, occasionally funny and more experimental. Part novel, part diary with subconscious characters who reveal themselves in dreams, alcohol induced psychosis…I must admit I wondered if anyone would ’get it’. So far so good.

A pretty eclectic bunch with no discernible genre and 10k into book four that seems set to continue. Hopefully something for everyone. I shall sign off now before I over stay my welcome, so it’s goodnight from me and good night from him…and her…and him…but not him, he’s a moody bastard.

Find out more about Robert Cowan here.

Guest Blog: Shot In Detroit by Patricia Abbott

Crime Fiction, GUEST BLOGS, Patti Abbott, Paul D Brazill

shot in detroitIn my novel SHOT IN DETROIT, the protagonist is a photographer trying to find a project that will succeed artistically and financially. When an opportunity fortuitously presents itself, she comes up  with the idea of photographing the dead clients of her mortician boyfriend. All her portraits will be men under forty. Aside from her aesthetic and economic concerns, her interest has always been to reflect the city she lives in.

But she also worries, and others will confront her over the course of the novel, about whether she is exploiting these men. Is she bringing needed attention to the deaths of black men in Detroit or is she merely looking for a good subject?

As I have been preparing to talk about this book, it occurs to me more and more that photographers are held to a different standard in their subject matter due to their portrayal of live (or dead) people. One only needs to think of Sally Mann and the criticism she came in for from photographing her half-nude children. Diane Arbus took pictures of what we then, politically incorrectly, called freaks. Shelby Lee Adams made his name photographing  the impoverished (and often deformed) peopled of Appalachia, Roger Ballen took pictures of the mentally ill in South Africa. Robert Mapplethorpe was notorious for capturing  sado-masochistic poses of gay men.

Whether these subjects are appropriate for photography or not is in the end in the eye of the beholder. I began to think hard about what other genre of art was held to these standards. What impressionist-era artist was critiqued for painting a beautiful landscape or city scape when just out of sight was the teeming masses of impoverished Parisians, the day-laborers in vineyards harvesting crops for pennies with bleeding hands.

A photograph has the ability to display truths about our society more cogently than any other form of art. Look away if you must but think hard before denying it a place on the wall. Artists can be faulted for what they don’t paint or sculpt just as credibly as what they do.

Biography

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 150 short stories that have appeared in print and online publications. She won the Derringer Award in 2008 for her story “My Hero.” She is the co-editor of the e-anthology DISCOUNT NOIR. Collections of her stories MONKEY JUSTICE AND OTHER STORIES and HOME INVASION were published by Snubnose Press.

In 2015, Polis Books published the novel, CONCRETE ANGEL and in 2016, SHOT IN DETROIT.

You can find her blog at http://pattinase.blogspot.com

Guest Blog: Number Thirteen Press – The End? by Christopher Black

Christopher Black, GUEST BLOGS, Kill Me Quick!, number 13 press, Number Thirteen Press, Out Of The Gutter, Paul D Brazill

number 13 pressSo that’s it, then. Thirteen crime novellas from thirteen authors in thirteen months. Richard Godwin’s Ersatz World was the last, and Number Thirteen Press is finished.

Only, not quite. Of course there’s still the admin and the accounting and the marketing. The boring bits I’m not very good at anyway. But the publishing part is finished and it’s been one hell of a ride. Didn’t quite manage thirteen consecutive months, which I knew was an ambitious target, but had a damn good go and it’s been seat-of-the-pants stuff all along – a seemingly endless chain of literary panic. And it was fun. Lots of fun, and I got to work with thirteen fantastic authors (who were dragged deep into the panic and all responded brilliantly) and publish thirteen books that I genuinely believe in. At the start I had to choose the limits I would set in the submissions guide, and I decided to leave it as open as possible. The result was books of real variety, showcasing genuine talent across a spectrum of crime fiction that is broader than I could have imagined.

Would I do anything different, starting again? Of course I would. I went in with some design experience and some editing experience and made everything else up on the spot, so of course I made mistakes and had to work even harder as a result. Some things could have been better. But I don’t regret any of it, either. If I was starting now it would be easier for the experience, but if I waited for experience I would never have started. I jumped in to see if I could swim. Well, I ain’t drowned yet.

And that’s bring us to the real poser, the question that seemingly everyone wants the answer to: what next for Number Thirteen? Is there more? kill me quick cover

If I knew, I’d tell you. First things first, and first I’m taking a break. My own writing has taken a back seat for too long. But in the future? The publishing took up far more of my time than I could have guessed, so it’s hard to promise that sort of commitment. It certainly doesn’t pay well. A friend in the business once told me that small press publishing is about the 1 in 10: the one success that allows you to publish the other nine, and so far he’s been proved just about right (although we are batting above average). And anyway, there are more publishers filling that hole. I really believe in novellas and short novels (under 60k words) as the perfect crime/hardboiled/noir length: think They Shoot Horses Don’t They? and James M Cain. In fact, The Postman Always Rings Twice probably wouldn’t be published today, too short. When I first had the idea, there were crime short stories and flash fiction online, and crime novels that I often found 10 or 20,000 words too long, but only a couple of small presses who would consider that in between length – the novella to short novel, perfect for the contemporary ebook equivalent of the old paperback originals and an era when publishing had more ideals than business sense. Enough space to really develop the story, but shorter than demanded by the economics of legacy publishing. Short, sharp and tight, with depth but no wasted words and no padding. A lot of people really bought into the project: initial readers, reviewers, the thirteen authors, of course; but also others who weren’t connected, simply because they loved the books, the format, and the idea. But now more and more small presses are stepping in to the gap. Does the world need another Thirteen?

Then again, it really has been fun. So maybe…

But at the moment I just don’t know. A break, finish a novel or two, catch up on my own reading and viewing. And in the future, another set of 13? Or a different publishing model? Or with a partner? Or…?

I guess in six months or so we’ll see how much I miss the buzz of putting out some of the most original, intriguing, exciting and just damn brilliant crime fiction around. For the moment, excuse me while I sit back, look over those covers, re-read a few favourite chapters and enjoy what is, before I decide on what might be.

And when I’ve rested up, I might just do it all over again. Put me down for definitely, maybe.

NUMBER THIRTEEN PRESS IS HERE.

This post first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online.

Guest Blog: Paladins by Aidan Thorn

Aidan Thorn, ANTHOLOGY, GUEST BLOGS, Paul D Brazill

paladinsLife has been good to me, I can write that today as I sit here healthy. Eleven years ago I didn’t feel so lucky, it was maybe a week before Christmas 2004 when I found a lump on my right bollock (I can say bollock, it’s fine, I’m a gritty crime writer – ask anyone). I went to the doctor and within days I was at the hospital, by New Years Eve 2004 I was back at home one bollock lighter and a cancer patient. Whilst all that was going on for me, a Tsunami had hit Thailand. It barely registered with me – in fact it’s fair to say that at the time I couldn’t give even half a fuck. Looking back I feel terrible to think I was that self-involved. All those lives lost and destroyed and all I gave a shit about was what was happening to me – not cool.

I just didn’t get it, why me? I was in the gym every night and when I wasn’t I was running, I ate healthy and I didn’t take the piss with my drinking. I have to admit I went pretty dark for a while – again I’m not proud. The thing is I actually was one of the lucky ones, they caught it early and apart from the mild inconvenience of regular blood tests, scans, X-Rays and hospital appointments I didn’t really suffer at all. Well, unless you count not being able to shit for about two weeks because it was too painful!

So, why am I telling you all this (and when I say all I mean the three or four people that bothered to click through from a Facebook or Twitter link I’ve posted)… Well, as I said earlier I’m a writer and through that I’ve had the privilege of meeting some incredible people, mostly through social media. I’ve been lucky to have been published by great people like Darren Sant and Craig Douglas at Near to the Knuckle, Ron Earl Phillips and the teams at Shotgun Honey and The Big Adios, David Barber on his ‘Thrills’ sites, Tom Pitts and Joe Clifford at Out of the Gutter, Gary Duncan at Spelk, Wednesday Lee Friday at the Horror Within… I’ve been in books published by the Near to the Knuckle boys, Andy Rivers at Byker Books, Paul D. Brazill and Andrew Scorah… And all the time these guys have been publishing me I’ve been meeting great people that they’ve also published… There’s a great and supportive community of writers that work together and help each other out. One of the people I met through this network is a wonderful lady called Henrietta Furchetnicht, herself not a writer, but her husbandCraig is – and a bloody good one at that. For a while they shared a Facebook account and so we became friends, and I’m so glad we did. See Henri is battling Multiple Myeloma a nasty fuck of a cancer that no one deserves, but definitely not a gem like Henri. And yet, Henri faces this bastard with bravery, wit, intelligence, and verve and a great many of us writer types have observed from afar as she’s gone through her treatment. Yes, there have been struggles and we’ve seen them and many have willed her on, but what I’ve seen most is a woman who loves life and is determined to live it. She makes me look back at the 25 year old me that got pissy because he lost a bollock and feel ashamed. If I could go back and speak to that guy I’d hold Henrietta Furchtenicht’s Facebook timeline in front of him and I’d say “Look you moppy little shite, that’s how you deal with this shit!”

I’ve been so inspired by Henri’s story (I’m not calling it a journey, this ain’t the fucking X Factor!) that I just felt I wanted to do something. And what better thing to do than to get a bunch of great writers together, writers I love and friends of Henri’s and Craig’s, and put out a charity anthology in support of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. So I approached a few writers and I couldn’t believe the response. The initial plan was to have around 10 substantial short stories in the book. I approached around 20 writers, expecting a bunch of knock backs and then I was going to approach another 10 or 20… I couldn’t believe it when within hours of the first batch of emails, nearly everyone had said yes. So, please if you’re a writer and you weren’t asked to contribute, it’s really not because I didn’t want you, it’s just because I was overwhelmed before I’d even taken a serious look at it. And the reason for the great response – well every one of them wanted to do something for Henri, as soon as I’d said it was for her, they were in.

So, Paladins was born a fitting name that means a warrior that is fully devoted to kindness and ridding the universe of evil. Mark Wilson came up with the name, and he also designed the stunning artwork that you can see here. Craig Douglas has also been a huge supporter, by offering his excellent formatting services for the book. And then we come to our authors, every one of them a star, top talent and generous of spirit. You might not think it to read their work, but these guys have big caring hearts and deserve your attention, so thank you, Christopher Davis, Gareth Spark, Craig Furchtenicht, David Jaggers, Bill Baber, Ryan Bracha, Jason Beech, Graham Wynd, Cal Marcius, Darren Sant, Linda Angle, Matt Mattila, Gabriel Valjan, Keith Nixon, Robert Cowan.

The stories in this collection all feature someone in need or someone helping someone else. Every story is told with passion, there’s a lot of bad language and horrible situations but fuck it, that’s life and these tales deal with the darker moments of it – and they’re great.

Paladins is available as an ebook and the paperback is out nowhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Paladins-Keith-Nixon-ebook/dp/B01C8B7E7K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456858749&sr=1-1&keywords=Paladins

(This post first appeared at Out of The Gutter Online.)

Guest Blog: Life and the City by David Siddall

BRIT GRIT, brit grit alley, Crime Fiction, David Siddall, GUEST BLOGS, Liverpool, Out Of The Gutter, Paul D Brazill

- (3)Liverpool: one of the world’s great cities, second city of the empire, and gateway to America. What is it about Liverpool that gets under the skin and into the blood?

I am not a native. My home town lies twenty miles to the south. A quiet town and a semi-rural existence. So when I moved over two decades ago, it was akin to moving across the world. The humour, the banter, the pace of life was different. Took me a while to find my place. Did I adopt Liverpool or did it adopt me? I don’t know. But I do remember the moment when the Landlady of the local pub called an adopted Scouser. It was a proud moment. That night I stood just that little bit taller at the bar

And that’s it. If they like you you’re in; if they don’t, they’re not afraid to tell you.

To most first time visitors Liverpool is about two things: football and the Beatles. But there is so much more; the docks and buildings lining the waterfront were granted, World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2004. World capital of pop is perhaps, more open to debate. But certainly since becoming European capital of culture in 2008, there has been a steady increase in tourism seeing the city through new eyes.

But it’s the people who make Liverpool what it is. Independent, enterprising, anti-authoritarian, and standing up to be counted is hardwired into a Scousers DNA. A Scouser doesn’t like being ripped off. A Scouser won’t stand idly by and let those in authority pat them on the head. A Scouser knows what’s right and wrong.

And once the call is made, a Scouser is like a dog with a bone. They won’t let go. Ever.

What other city would campaign so long and hard for justice at Hillsborough? And after so much talk by fans throughout England complaining at the increase in football ticket prices, it was the mass walkout at Liverpool FC that resulted in a rethink by the owners.

Liverpool – first again.

Maybe it was this same spirit that saw Liverpool at the epicentre of drug dealing in the 80s. These were desperate days of mass unemployment and poverty, of the Toxteth riots and Yozza Hughes’, “Gizza’ job.” For many the only way out was sport or criminality. With links to South America and the continent, these gangs developed into cartels with huge distribution networks. Men at the top end became extremely rich. Curtis ‘Cocky’ Warren, even managed to make the Sunday Times Rich List!

Independent, enterprising, anti-authoritarian, and waving two fingers at the establishment. That’s Liverpool.

It’s this attitude and mind-set I’ve tried to encapsulate in my collection, Breaking Even.

Breaking Even consists of a novella and six short tales, most of which revolve in and around the city. The novella and title story, Breaking Even, features, ‘Chance’ a typical, happy-go-lucky Liverpudlian, who being, to quote a Scouse phrase, ‘down on the bones of his arse’, agrees to smuggle drugs from the Caribbean. Needless to say things don’t go according to plan.

‘Chance’, through circumstance beyond his control, finds himself in a situation that can end in only one of two ways. Shit or bust. As the story develops he is drawn deeper and deeper into the mire with only his wits and a gun for salvation.

Mixing it with the protagonist are a disparate bunch of characters that fill the criteria of a noir piece: a femme fatale, a psychopathic villain, a bagman who maybe, isn’t quite the villain he seems, and a partner who for good or evil, pushes ‘Chance’ on.

The genesis of this tale was the arrest of a local man, a disabled pensioner, caught with a good deal of cocaine strapped to his body boarding a plane from Antigua. This guy is not your typical villain, not someone to take on criminal enterprise or the role of drug mule lightly. Yet here he was, caught red-handed and looking at a ten stretch in a roach infested West Indian nick.

What made him do it?

Maybe the prospect of an ‘easy’ ten grand appealed? Maybe at seventy plus he liked the idea of excitement? Maybe, (to quote Bob Dylan), he had nothing left to lose?

Shit or bust.

But the idea sowed a kernel. How does an ordinary man reconcile himself to committing such a reckless act and live with the consequences if it all goes wrong? The story that developed followed from the, ‘What if’, principle.

Of the other tales, four are Liverpool related. Gangsters at the end of nefarious careers, good ideas gone bad; characters at the beginning or end of a cycle of events are the essence. And to these men, maybe the only way out is…

You get the picture?

At this point you may get the impression Liverpool is a crime ridden, dangerous city. It’s not. But like any big city, not everything is rosy in the garden. Drugs and crime go hand in hand. Poverty still exists and the policy of austerity by Westminster forces the Council to cut and cut again

In fact Liverpool is a vibrant cosmopolitan city very different to those dark days of the 80s. To experience a Friday or Saturday night is one of life’s great experiences. Don’t believe me? just see Rough Guide’s top 50 ‘Things to do before you die’, bucket list. Liverpool’s nightlife is sandwiched between Petra and The Great Wall of China at number 3. (Still think they should have mentioned a Mad Monday though).

Liverpool will survive. Always has, always will. She’ll be there till the end of time , sniffing out what’s good and bad in society. And if she doesn’t like what she sees, have no hesitation saying, ‘Thanks but no thanks’. Then she’ll turn away, and stick two fingers up at the rest of the world.

David Siddall is the author of A MAN ALONE, BREAKING EVEN and MORE!
This post appeared previously  at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE.

Guest blog: ERSATZ WORLD by Richard Godwin.

Chris Black, GUEST BLOGS, London, noir, number 13 press, Number Thirteen Press, Paul D Brazill, Richard Godwin

RICHARD GODWIN EATS THE WORLD!!!!!!!!Someone is playing computer games with mankind.

REALITY?

‘The medium is the message.’

Marshall McLuhan.

Here are some thoughts about my latest novel Ersatz World.

ERSATZ

As defined by the OED:

‘(Of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else.

Etymology

Late 19th century from German, literally, ‘replacement.’

This is a novel about a man who thinks he is being followed, who is abducted four times by the same two men in different styles and periods of dress because they think he has some information they need. Each abduction is told in a different genre. While the novel has a Noir feel, it may be satire, it may be a thriller, it may be sci fi, or something hybrid, something else. It resists genre and portrays a world of simulations. The protagonist, a publisher, hates the digital age of publishing and believes we are being turned into code. His wife is suffering from body dysmorphia and collecting prosthetic limbs. The protagonist thinks his business partner is working with androids. His bestselling author has disappeared.  As he searches for the author the police arrest him. They think the author’s manuscript is a blueprint for a terrorist attack on London.

LIVING IN THE REPLACED WORLD

This is what he tries to do as he is accused of planning a crime, hiring two men to abduct him, plotting an incendiary attack, and having an affair with a gangster’s moll. The word Ruby occurs throughout. It may be a clue in a paranoid puzzle. It may be the name of his mistress, married to a dangerous man. The world he knew is gone, he struggles to find it.

ersatz worldSIMULATED WORLD

That is what he sees, the publisher afraid of code. He seeks the real body, the body politic beyond the code. There are different segments of reality going on in the novel, different states of truth that the protagonist has to work his way through. As he does he begins to understand his wife’s obsessive need for disembodiment, for a disembodied state of being.

He escapes his captors and then the police arrest him for murder and ask him about the code word Ruby. It may be that his wife’s emails have triggered a false positive. It is all unreal now, simulated world of spies, the age of surveillance, of voyeurism. Then there is a terrorist attack on London.

GENRE

Simulation, parody, definitions of style and approaches to a reality that cannot be defined, cannot be caught in a net, there is no genre in the novel. This is hybrid Art. It seems that the protagonist may be right after all, he may be under surveillance, but then he thinks we all are. In this passage at the beginning of the novel, as he gets up and reads the newspaper he ponders on the real:

‘He scanned the article, seeing ruins crumble, entire edifices of the world he once felt was secure becoming powder, like the dust that settled each night on his marital bed. He felt historicised, as if a resident zeitgeist were fracturing his being, splintering his identity like a piece of bone. The familiar taste of nausea flooded his mouth as he sipped his coffee, and he wondered if he lived in a state of permanent apprehension, as if some part of him knew what was about to occur. And as he stared at his reflection in the kitchen window he wondered what it was he feared, what denouement in his waning drama would be the act that shook him to his core, feeling as though some watchful conspiracy were about to embroil him in its agenda. The world was becoming unfathomable to him.

… The drive to work in Kensington was the same as it had been for weeks. Buildings and people passed by his white Volvo S80 as if on a reel of film that replayed itself over and over on a daily basis and from time to time Samuel wondered if any of it was real, as if London itself had been caught in some mirror that merely fed simulations of the city’s life to its inhabitants.’

Coming soon from  NUMBER THIRTEEN PRESS:

Ersatz World by Richard Godwin.

number 13 press

 

Guest Blog:Looking Forward with Excitement by Graham Smith

BRIT GRIT, brit grit alley, Crime Fiction, Graham Smith, GUEST BLOGS, Paul D Brazill, True Brit Grit

At the time of writing my annual crime writing masterclasses are just over a month away. For me it’s a time of great excitement. Not only do I get to see the friends I’ve made over the previous years’ courses, I also get to learn from some top notch authors.

This year Crime and Publishment takes place from the 26th to the 28th of February at its usual home of The Mill Forge near Gretna Green. I’m the manager here so talking murder and crime all weekend makes a wonderful change from discussing weddings.

From its inception in 2012, Crime and Publishment has grown far beyond my wildest dreams and I can now boast that previous attendees have signed five separate publishing contracts, two of these attendees have also signed with top name literary agents and even one of our speakers (RC Bridgestock) met and signed up with an agent due to being at Crime and Publishment. Never once did I dare imagine my wee pet project would become so successful in such a short space of time.

When I first set down to create Crime and Publishment, I was determined that it MUST be three things,

· Affordable as there are so many courses which sound great but are prohibitively expensive

· Educational because it has to be deemed worthwhile by the people who part with their hard-earned to come along

· Opportunistic for those who attend. Many writers never get to meet an agent or publisher and when they do, they don’t know what to do. I was (and still am) determined that anyone who attends Crime and Publishment will leave better equipped to grab any opportunity which comes their way, as well putting a gilt-edged opportunity in front of them.

Last year we saw the publication of my own debut novel and a short story collection which introduced the police team featuring in Snatched from Homeand Mike Craven’s debut Born in a Burial Gown and a short story collection which introduced his police team. (I’m not sure where he got the idea for the short story collection from)

2016 alone will see the publication of four more books plus hopefully a novella and there’s still plenty of time for other submissions to be accepted.

For the record they are

· Night is Watching by Lucy Cameron

· Raise the Blade by Tess Makovesky

· I Know your Secret by Graham Smith

· The Major Crimes Team Vol 2: Matching the Evidence (Still under final edits before submission, but both I and the publisher are confident)

· Amit Dhand’s as yet untitled debut.

As the organiser of Crime and Publishment, I cannot express how proud of the hard work and talent of the gang as a whole. Not only are they all busy individuals they each make time to support and help each other out with discussing plot threads, beta reading and most of all, by being a friend who gets how frustrating wonderful the life of a writer can be.

I’m now at the point where I’m putting together the final touches to the two sessions I’ll be taking, while also liaising with the speakers as to their requirements and taking bookings from writers who are looking to improve their skill set.

This year the programme is packed with great speakers sharing their knowledge and I’ll be pitching in to cover some different aspects of the skills writers need to succeed in what is an ever more crowded arena.

For those interested the full programme can be found on our websitewww.crimeandpublishment.co.uk but here it is in brief

· Writing your Fights Right – Taken by Matt Hilton a thriller author and 4th Dan at Kempo Ju-Jitsu

· Structuring your Story – Former Hollywood screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloffexplains the three act / eight scene structure

· Back to Basics – Renowned mentor Michael J. Malone shows how to avoid common pitfalls many aspiring authors fall into

· Networking for Authors – I show a few simple tips and techniques in a short session on networking and how to network efficiently

· Preparing your Pitch – Sara Hunt from Saraband Publishing leads a session on making the perfect pitch.

· Pitch Session – Sarah Hunt listens to attendees pitches in a series of private 1-2-1 sessions. Those who make a successful pitch may be our next success story

· 1-2-1 Surgeries – All of our speakers will make themselves available for private consultation to help with plot holes, characterisation or anything else you need help with

· Nurturing your Characters – Michael Malone and I will explain what makes some of the most iconic crime characters so loveable and how to infuse this into your writing (optional extra @ £25)

For me and a lot of the attendees who come, the weekend is about far more than just sitting listening to the speakers and making notes. It’s about reconnecting friendships and forging new ones. It’s about sharing experiences, tips, techniques and talking about ideas, books and a hundred other things with a bunch of people who share your enthusiasm.

Newcomers to the group are made welcome and I personally try to make sure everyone is included in discussions. Attendees are split into two groups with even numbers of old and new faces in each.

For the first time ever, I’ve even started planning next year’s event before this year’s has taken place. While I’m still lining my ducks up, I can’t say too much, but I can say that I’m confident that those I’m speaking with will help the continual rise and improvement of Crime and Publishment.

I don’t have a lot much more to say other than thanks to the mercurial Paul D. Brazill for inviting me along and, if you’re serious about improving your writing and would like to attend Crime and Publishment, you can contact me at Crime(@)themill.co.uk (obviously you’ll need to cut the brackets off the “@” for the email address to work, I just don’t want spammed with Viagra substitutes)

This post appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online.

Guest Blog: Brit Grit – Killing and Community by Darren Sant

BRIT GRIT, brit grit alley, Darren Sant, GUEST BLOGS, Near To The Knuckle, Out Of The Gutter, Paul D Brazill

In November Near to the Knuckle turned 4. We celebrated by throwing an online party the only way we know how – lots of great fiction! In fact we had 13 stories over spread over 2 days. It meant a lot of hard work for Craig who posted, formatted and edited the stories. For myself the work was audio reading and uploading. However, it’s not really hard work when you love something is it? Believe me it’s hard reading aloud stories that talk about shaving nut sacks without laughing out loud. Thank YOU for that Karl Kowesky with G-String Gangsters.

Although we offered prizes all of the people who contributed, most of whom are regular contributors to the site, didn’t do it for the prize they did it for the love of writing and the sense of community they feel in our group and on our site. That’s really what I want to talk about. I know I speak for Craig also when I say that’s one of the things that drives us. Not just the love of the fiction but the sense of belonging and kinship, friendship we feel in our little online bubble.

Many of the writer’s I know best write about terrible events. Crimes that would shock communities and destroy families. Yet, from imaginations that can conceive such things come the warmest hearts. Aidan Thorn, a writer who I count as friend, as well a fantastically talented chap has been the driving force behind a charity anthology that has a group of which I am a member. I’ve seen some of the finest talents donating long stories to this project because they care for the lady it is in support of. Most of them have never met her but they’re damn decent human beings and think nothing of giving their time for a most worthy cause. I feel privileged to belong to this community of great people even though when they pick up a pen every one is a cold blooded killer!

(This post appeared at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE)

Guest Blog: Down in the Hole by David Jaggers

David Jaggers, GUEST BLOGS, Near To The Knuckle, Paul D Brazill

jaggersMusing on crafting a collection of interconnected short stories.

It’s not a new concept. The short story cycle or composite novel has been around a long time. From Joyce’s Dubliners which links disparate characters to a central locale (Dublin), to The Unvanquished by Faulkner which illuminates one family from seven different angles. The idea of weaving a common thread through a group of unrelated stories is a compelling one.

Despite its usefulness, there is surprising deficit of the composite novel/novella device in modern noir. When I started the process of filtering through my body of work with the idea of pulling together a collection, I felt compelled to scrap the idea entirely and pick a single existing story to build a world around, using the composite model.

The result was Down in the Devil Hole, a cluster of stories that revolve around a fictional town in rural Kentucky and the effects of a massive storm that devastates the area. Each of these tales are set either before, during, or after the storm, and the characters are all linked together by family ties, location, or sheer bad luck.

down in the devil holeAll but one of the stories in this collection are brand new and I have to say, the challenge of making them fit together like puzzle pieces has been one of the most rewarding things I have done as a writer. Unlike chapters in a novel or novella, each of these stories have to be able to stand alone, with a beginning, middle and end. Yet they also have to carry the theme and tone of the entire work.

I hope I have achieved the goal of a building a unified world that pulls the reader in, making them want to discover all the various connections, while constructing it in a way that they can open it to any one story and be entertained with a single piece of short fiction.

Bio: J. David Jaggers lives in fly over country, where he spends his days in the white collar world of finance and his nights writing about the degenerates and losers dwelling in shadows of our brightly lit society. He has been published in Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Pulp Metal, and various other magazines and anthologies. He has a short story collection Down in the Devil Hole available from Gritfiction Ltd. and you can find links to all of his published work at Straightrazorfiction.com

Guest Blog: Devils on Every Side by Graham Wynd

films, Graham Wynd, GUEST BLOGS, horror, number 13 press

satan's sororityMost of the time when I think of the 70s I think of it as the most horrible time to be kicking around. Bad hair, bad clothes, arena rock and disco—at least until punk came along and kicked it all to the curb for a while. But then I remember cool things like glam and the Velvets and the Stooges—and a lot of terrific spooky movies, full of ambiguous and often downbeat endings. These are the movies in the back of my head that played while I was writing Satan’s Sorority.

Of course the big mama of devil horror is The Exorcist. It’s holds up as a fascinating film, though a lot of the horror these days for folks is seeing a child go through horrendous medical tests with doctors who are just speculating. While it’s not quite the classic 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby is, it made more than a few people believe that there might be something brewing up from the land of brimstone. Some of them were cheap ripoffs of better films, like The Mephisto Waltz, a Faustian tale with Jacqueline Bissett, Alan Alda and Barbara Perkins – or Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.

But there were some born-to-be-B pictures that have kept their cheesy charm over the years, like the rural devil’s sects in The Devil’s Rain, which featured Ida Lupino, Ernest Borgnine and Shatner, as well as introducing a kid named John Travolta. In the same year, Race with the Devil, gave a twist on the city folk out gallivanting where they ought not be, like The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In that one, Peter Fonda, Loretta Swit and Warren Oates show what happens when happy vacationers accidentally witness ritual murder. Uh oh!

Of course a big fave is The Omen. Gregory Peck and Lee Remick and Doctor Who and the Carmina Burana against a wicked little boy and the awesome Billie Whitelaw (“I am here to protect thee”). And David Warner! I saw all the Omen films. The first one is the best but in the second one there’s William Holden, Lee Grant, and the man bisected by an elevator cable, which is ALWAYS IN MY MIND when I step on an elevator (which explains the weird look I get). The third one has Sam Neil, so there you go.

suspiria-posterI know I’ve seen Satan’s School for Girls but I don’t remember a thing about it. When I think of devilish girl’s schools, I go right to Dario Argento’s Suspiria, one of my favourite movies period. The lovely Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion, the terrific Goblin soundtrack, Argento’s bloody palette of riotous colour and, of course, UDO! I don’t even much mind that they conflate witches with devils: after all people have been doing that since the fifteenth century, so maybe I should give up on trying to school them (never!).

Which reminds me of Ken Russell’s The Devils. It is criminal that the film is not available (cheap repros and cut versions abound: don’t be fooled!). Bernard Rose just hosted a screening of it in L.A. to huge acclaim, so there’s an audience for it. When I worked in the video store in Hollywood in the 80s, I remember it being in one of those oversized boxes. I first saw it back in the mid-70s and was totally knocked out. Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed?! How can you not love this film? It’s totally wild. It deserves a proper release.

A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub, including SATAN’S SORORITY from Number Thirteen Press and EXTRICATE from Fox Spirit Books. See more stories (including free reads!) here.

Guest Blog: THE DAMN DIRTY APES CONTROVERSY BY ADAM HOWE

Adam Howe, GUEST BLOGS, pulp fiction

ADAM HOWE

VS.

THE SOCIETY FOR THE PRESERVATION

 OF THE NORTH AMERICAN SKUNK APE

GATOR baitWriting for the indie press, without an advertising budget for promotion, the best an up-and-coming writer can hope is that an established writer will endorse your work, that you might poach a few of their readers.

I’ve been very lucky.  Early in my writing career, Stephen King chose my short story Jumper (written under the pseudonym Garrett Addams) as the winner of his international On Writing contest; should you wish to read that story, you can find it at the end of the Kindle edition of King’s On Writing – but cut me some slack, I was very young when I wrote it.  Since then, I’ve received encouraging praise from other great writers whose work I admire – enough to keep me plugging away at this writing lark.

For Damn Dirty Apes, an offbeat throwback to creature-features and 1980s action/adventure movies, and one of the novellas in my new collection, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, I thought it might be fun to request an endorsement from a more unusual source.  Little did I imagine the shitstorm that would erupt when I sent the manuscript to Mr. Lambert Pogue, General Secretary of the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape.

Here in full is Mr. Pogue’s letter to my publisher, dated 3rd September 2015:

Sir,

This morning I received among my usual correspondence a manuscript entitled Damn Dirty Apes by Adam Howe, with a request to provide an endorsement.  Now let me say in advance, in my official capacity as General Secretary of the S.P.N.A.S.A, I am not in the habit of reading, much less of reviewing fictional works.  Having read enough ill-conceived, ill-researched and illness-inducing titles exploiting the Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Skunk Ape phenomena to last a lifetime, I will politely decline, citing more pressing work commitments.  Yet Howe’s manuscript is so deeply offensive that I feel I must respond, frankly and fully.

From a research point of view, it is clear that Howe has exerted himself no further than a cursory Google search, spicing his narrative with only the most lurid tidbits.  In so doing, he serves the reader a rancid broth of gross distortions, misrepresentations and half-truths, played for shock value and scatological humor.  No doubt the small print prefacing the published book will contain the usual disclaimer: “This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to characters living or dead is entirely coincidental.”  And readers would be well advised to take these words to heart.  Unfortunately for me, this advice was more difficult to apply.

As I waded through Howe’s nauseating pulp fiction, I became uncomfortably aware that the protagonist named as ‘Jameson T. Salisbury’ was based on a decidedly non-fictional character.  And furthermore, someone I regarded as a personal friend.  There is no doubt in my mind that ‘Salisbury’ is a thinly disguised, grotesque caricature of the late Gerard Hauser, author of the seminal work Among the Skunk Apes of the North American South: One Man’s Journey of Self-Discovery (Pine Marten Press, 1972, sadly long out of print).

I daresay only a handful of people are alive today who remember the hermetic Hauser well enough to take offense at the injustice Howe does to the man.  To the best of my knowledge, he left no next-of-kin to defend his reputation, much less to pursue litigation.  So it seems that apart from my own protest, Howe’s slanderous portrayal will remain unchallenged.

For those unaware, it is due to Hauser’s lifelong study of the North American Skunk Ape, that the majority of our knowledge about this reclusive hominid derives.  Taken as a whole, the decades of self-sacrifice in Hauser’s pioneering field research comprises a huge debt to which all of us in the field owe him.

Yes, there were controversies that dogged the man.  It hardly bears repeating the allegations made by young female campers who reported Hauser for voyeurism and indecency; embarrassing episodes Hauser claimed to his dying breath were simple misunderstandings.  And yes, the unanswered questions surrounding Hauser’s final expedition, in which an amateur cryptozoologist tragically lost his life when he stepped into a hominid-snare, are difficult for even his staunchest supporters to defend.  But these are, in the main, anomalies that can be excused as the enthusiasm of a field researcher with no formal training.  (In the latter case, it should also be noted that the authorities cleared Hauser of any criminal wrongdoing, a fact many of the man’s critics so conveniently forget!)  Hauser’s shortcomings and eccentricities pale in comparison to the sheer volume of data he left to us – physical evidence, photographs, and compiled eyewitness testimonies; a life’s work spanning decades.

Until Hauser’s premature death in 1982, he and I exchanged semi-regular correspondence.  I met him personally only once, when he was scheduled to lecture at the annual hominology convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  I found him to be considerate, courteous, lucid, and well balanced.  In Howe’s repellent pulp fiction, Hauser is lampooned as an unhinged and callous misfit, slovenly and selfish, who thinks nothing of endangering others in the obsessive pursuit of his cause.  He bears little resemblance to the kind and gentle man I felt privileged to call my friend.

I cannot, in all good conscience, endorse this work.  Moreover, I call on all hominologists, whether in the Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Skunk Ape fields, to put aside our differences and unite in a boycott of this disgraceful book.  Quite apart from Howe’s literary shortcomings, which will quickly become apparent to the unsuspecting reader, the author’s attack on Hauser’s integrity is the action of a cynical coward seeking profit by besmirching the reputation of a man no longer alive to defend himself.  Furthermore, I wish it to be known I am prepared to render my fullest assistance to any parties pursuing legal action against Howe and his publisher for the injustice done to Gerard Hauser.

Sincerely,

Lambert Pogue, General Secretary S.P.N.A.S.A.

Clawson, Ohio

This was just the beginning.  Mr. Pogue proceeded to make good on his threat to boycott the book.  Rallying a small army of hominologists, they besieged the Comet Press Facebook page with angry calls for my head.  Such was the furor, I genuinely believed Damn Dirty Apes would never see print, and I am enormously grateful to Cheryl Mullenax at Comet Press for weathering the storm and sticking by me.

In my defense, the character of Jameson T. Salisbury was written as an affectionate (if mischievous) tribute to the late Gerard Hauser.  What little I know about Hauser – and indeed, very little is known – I gleaned from an article in the Fortean Times relating to Hauser’s doomed final expedition in the Arkansan backwoods.  Hauser struck me as exactly the kind of colorful character I enjoy writing about, a real-life Quint from JawsDamn Dirty Apes was written as a light-hearted romp, no more or less.  I had no intention of maligning Hauser’s reputation and I deeply regret any offence I may have caused.

Fortunately, I was able to placate Mr. Pogue with an apology, and a modest donation to the S.P.N.A.S.A.  He lifted his embargo, and even kindly provided the somewhat terse disclaimer that precedes the story.  Mr. Pogue would like me to stress that this should be in no way read as an endorsement, and advises any serious student of hominology that their time would be better served reading S.P.N.A.S.A. approved non-fiction.

Lesson learned, and in future I’ll stick to asking other writers for blurb.

_____

Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet (pub. Comet Press) is a collection of crime/horror/humour novellas including Damn Dirty Apes, the title story Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet, and Gator Bait.  It can be pre-ordered NOW and will be available in paperback and eBook formats 03/11/15.

_____

Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet: Story Synopses

DAMN DIRTY APES

Washed-up prizefighter Reggie Levine is eking a living as a strip club bouncer when he’s offered an unlikely shot at redemption.  The Bigelow Skunk Ape – a mythical creature said to haunt the local woods – has kidnapped the high school football mascot, Boogaloo Baboon.  Now it’s up to Reggie to lead a misfit posse including a plucky stripper, the town drunk, and legend-in-his-own-mind skunk ape hunter Jameson T. Salisbury.  Their mission: Slay the beast and rescue their friend.  But not everything is as it seems, and as our heroes venture deeper into the heart of darkness, they will discover worse things waiting in the woods than just the Bigelow Skunk Ape.  The story the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape tried to ban; Damn Dirty Apes mixes Roadhouse with Jaws with Sons of Anarchy, to create a rollicking romp of 80s-style action/adventure, creature horror and pitch-black comedy.

DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET

Escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, the butcher of five sorority sisters at the Kappa Pi Massacre, kidnaps timid diner waitress Tilly Mulvehill and bolts for the border.  Forcing his hostage to drive him out of town, it’s just a question of time before Tilly becomes the next victim in Hingle’s latest killing spree.  But when they stop for gas at a rural filling station operated by deranged twin brothers, Dwayne and Dwight Ritter, the tables are turned on Hingle, and for Tilly the night becomes a hellish cat-and-mouse ordeal of terror and depravity.  The meat in a maniac sandwich, Tilly is forced against her nature to make a stand and fight for survival.  Because sometimes the only choice you have is to do or die…to Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet.  Reading like a retro slasher flick, this pulpy Southern Gothic kidnap-thriller takes no prisoners as it roars towards a shattering conclusion.

GATOR BAIT

Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man’s wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace.  Folks come to The Grinnin’ Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back.  Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong?  Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense.

BIO: Adam Howe is a British writer of fiction and screenplays.  Writing as Garrett Addams, his story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of his On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of King’s book.  His fiction has appeared in places like Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, Horror Library 5 and One Buck Horror.  His first book, Black Cat Mojo (pub. Comet Press) is available now.  Follow him at Goodreads and Tweet him @Adam_G_Howe.