Have A Brit Grit Christmas!

martinaI asked a bunch of Brit Grit writers about their favourite Christmas book, film and song, and this is what they said:

Martina Cole:

Well my favourite Christmas book has to be John Updike and Edward Gorey’s ‘The Twelve Terrors of Christmas.’ Film has to be Lon Chaney as The Wolfman. I love old horrors especially at Christmas! And song has to be ‘Fairytale of New York’ as I adore The Pogues and Kirsty! (I remember when they were called Pogue Mahone! Kiss my arse in Gaelic!)

Lesley Welsh:

I’m going to be really tedious and say ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.‘ Still gets to me every time. Music-wise, Jona Lewie and ‘Stop The Cavalry’. Christmas book? That’s a difficult one, I never much liked Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’ and don’t really recall others specifically about that time of year as I would probably have avoided them like the proverbial. So can I have a play instead? For which I nominate Steven Berkoff’s one-man short play ‘Harry’s Christmas‘. Devastating.

Douglas Skelton: 

The book has to ‘A Christmas Carol,’ obvious I know but it’s the only actual Christmas book I can remember reading! I know when I see other choices I’ll kick myself (so if you have any suggestions, let me know) For film I’d have to go with ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, although ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ comes a close second. And song – there are so many – but ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ has the right blend of sweetness and melancholy for me.


Book I can’t really look beyond Dickens with ‘A Christmas Carol’, though you can’t beat a winter’s evening in the warmth with a book from a favourite author. Film Being a cynical and hardboiled crime writer is fine for 364 days of the year, but the remaining day has to be reserved to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Song, all of Kate Rusby’s “While Mortals Sleep” is great and the use of a brass band gives it that distinctive Yorkshire feel that warms me.

Luca Veste:

Book – ‘The Grinch who Stole Christmas’ by Dr Seuss Film – ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’. Song – ‘White Wine in the Sun’ by Tim Minchin

Matt Hilton:

The Spy Who Came For Christmas” by David Morrell, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Silent Night” by Bing Crosby

Mark West:

Favourite book –‘The Mystery Of The Invisible Dog’ (it takes place between Christmas and New Year. Favourite film – either ‘Scrooged’ or ‘Die Hard’. Favourite song – ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ by Slade.

Alex Shaw:

Book: ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Film: ‘Die Hard.’ Song: ‘Feed The World.’

Sheila_Quigley-320x320Sheila Quigley:

‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’  – I can’t count how many times I’ve seen it – ‘White Christmas.’

Sarah Hilary:

‘The Long Shadow’ by Celia Fremlin. ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ (Cary Grant, David Niven).’The World of Winter’ by Bing Crosby

Ian Ayris:

Here we go: Christmas Book – ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charlie Dickens, Christmas Film – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Christmas Song – ‘White Christmas’ – SLF.

Richard Godwin:

Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Deep Throat’, Frank Zappa’s ‘Bobby Brown.’

Martin Stanley:

Okay, right now, off the top of my head: my favourites are Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Bad Santa’, and The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’.

jason 2016.Jason Michel

Book/ story – ‘A Christmas Carol’, Film – gotta be a Bond, not traditional, of course, but the nostalgia of a Christmas evening Bond flick, Song – I would say Slade then again, I have a tradition of listening to Frank Sinatra at Christmas.

Graham Wynd:

Um…’Little Women’, ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’, and oh, everyday a different answer so….Darlene Love, ‘Christmas Baby Please Come Home’. Best Xmas LP ‘A John Waters Xmas’.

Ryan Bracha:

‘The Little Matchgirl’ by HC Anderson for book, or ‘Mog’s Christmas’. The best and most underrated Christmas film ever is ‘Scrooged’. Song has to be ‘Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M’. Tune.

Betsy Reavley:

Oh easy, Charles Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’, ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ – Elvis Presley and film would have to be ‘Home Alone’.

nigelbirdNigel Bird:

Run Run Rudolph’ by Chuck Berry, ‘Diner’ (Barry Levinson) and ‘The Christmas Star’ (it’s a short story, so I hope that counts) by Mina Lewiton.

Graham Smith:

Can’t think of an Xmas book but ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Fairytale of New York.’

Paul Heatley:

My favourite book is ‘Sausagey Santa’ by Carlton Mellick III, song is ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade, but film is a toss up between ‘The Santa Clause,’ ‘Elf,’ and Ron Howard’s ‘The Grinch’ – I like the garishly colourful and OTT ones!

Tess Makovesky

I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas on the planet.  I quite like some of the old traditions, but hate the modern, consumer-driven, hyped-to-hell-and-back, be-perfect-or-else-you’ve-failed version, which tends to bring me out in a severe case of Bah Humbug.  So my choices of reading, watching and listening matter over the festive period tend to reflect this.

Favourite Christmas song: there’s a special mention for Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ which brings back happy memories of school Christmas parties.  But the winner, hands down, is ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty McCall.  Any Christmas song that includes lyrics like You scumbag, you maggot, You lousy old faggot gets my vote every time, and the harmonies (even with lead singer Shane McGowan apparently on such a massive bender he could barely stand up during recording) are amazing.

Favourite Christmas movie: I can’t really handle all those mushy-gushy sanctimonious ‘isn’t family wonderful’ type movies that you’re supposed to like at Christmas.  But Home Alone won me over the first time I saw it.  It has just the right blend of mischief, quirkiness, and sheer evil joy, from parents forgetting one of their own children, to Macauley Culkin’s 8 year old dreaming up ever nastier ways to keep the burglars out of the family home.  Great fun!

Favourite Christmas book: this one really had me stumped.  I wasn’t sure if there were any specific Christmas books, and when I googled, I’d never read most of them and wasn’t keen on the rest.  However, my favourite as a kid was probably ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C S Lewis for the sheer magic and inventiveness of the story.  Although these days, I probably have more sympathy with the Wicked Witch than I ought to.  Imagine: always winter but never Christmas.  I can think of worse things…!


Recommended Reads: Drive by Mark West

drive-small1Published by Pendragon Press, Mark West’s Drive is available as a limited (to 100 copies) edition paperback (which will contain an exclusive afterword) and unlimited ebook, across platforms.

“Drive takes you for a journey down the darkest alleyways of human savagery.  
A fast paced, high tension thriller that delivers on all fronts….”
– Jim Mcleod, The Ginger Nuts Of Horror
“Drive is a gripping, tense urban noir with prose as tight as a snare drum…”
– Paul D. Brazill, A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton.
“Mark West writes the kind of fiction that gets under the skin where it lies dormant until you turn out the lights …”
– Dave Jeffery, author of the Necropolis Rising series

Short, Sharp Interview : Mark West

PDB: Can you pitch your latest/ forthcoming publication/ project  in 25 words or less?

MW: Never Tear Us Apart (working title): It’s about two lonely people, at an out-of-season seaside town, trying to find one another. And a house that has an appetite for flesh.

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

MW: Musically I’m never current in my tastes though I did enjoy the FUN single recently.

Probably the best film I’ve seen this year is “Skyfall”, which does exactly what a Bond film is supposed to, has some of the old humour back in it and is everything that the po-faced Quantum Of Solace wanted to be.

In terms of reading, my book of the year so far is Adam Nevill’s “Last Days”, which is genuinely brilliant though I’m currently reading Stephen Volk’s “Whitstable” and I think it’s going to give it a run for its money.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

MW: Not completely, no but I think you can turn it down enough that it doesn’t intrude on your enjoyment.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

MW: I’d like to write for films, purely for the process and the audience but theatre would probably be what I’d lean more towards – it’s immediate and the feedback is right there, as you perform.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

MW: It’s difficult to say, some projects need a lot of research, some don’t need much at all. When I wrote “The Mill”, even though I’d experienced bereavement recently in my family, I researched the grief cycle (which was unpleasant), TB and a whole raft of other things. With the new project, I don’t anticipate as much.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you?

MW: I enjoy social media – and use it – a lot but try to keep a healthy mix between “me and my friends, messing about” and “me being a writer”. I’m lucky in that most of my writer friends on Facebook and Twitter are of the same mind, so you’re as likely to find Stu Young & I taking the piss as you are to find us pimping our latest works. I try to be the same on my blog, some of it’s about the writing, quite a bit of it isn’t.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2012/13?

MW: I have two short stories to write for upcoming anthologies, appearances in the four or five more (stories already delivered!), two novellas from Pendragon Press and a PentAnth collection from Hersham Horror books that I’m project managing and contributing a tale towards (all the stories hark back to 70s NEL paperback horror and/or Amicus style films). Plus this novel to write.


Recommended Reads

Die, You Bastard Die! – Jan Kozlowski

Claire is a tough, no-nonsense paramedic who is called back to her home town to take care of her injured father. The sordid skeletons come rattling out of the closet as Claire is forced to confront her abusive childhood. Can any book live up to a title as good as Die, You Bastard, Die!? Jan Kozlowski’s blisteringly violent  rush of grindhouse Gothic actually does. A corker!

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green by Paul O’ Brien

Lenny is a ‘mark’ A long time wrestling fan who wants ‘in’. Paul O’ Brian’s fantastic debut crime  novel opens with Lenny in a more than somewhat dazed and confused state after  being involved in a car accident.  The smartly woven story then moves backwards and forwards across the US and from the early ‘70s to the late ‘60s, and then back again, until it reaches a magnificent adrenaline pumping finale. Blood Turns Dollar Green has a rich cast of characters including a supposedly mute and South African giant, and a colourful cornucopia of gangsters and low – lifes. Brilliant.

What Gets Left Behind by Mark West

Mike returns to his home town  – the scene of a childhood tragedy – and picks at the sores of the past in Mark West’s marvellously written horror  novella. West moves the story  back to the ‘80s –when the town was being stalked by a serial killer –  and then hurls it forward as Mike attempts to confront his inner demons. Full of atmosphere and aching with a sense of nostalgia and missed opportunities, What Gets Left Behind is chilling and moving story of regret.

The Storm Giants by Pearce Hansen

Everett is a man with a dark and destructive history who is living a life that approaches normality – an artist wife, a young son, a house in the country. But then The Widow steps out of the past and forces Everett to return to his old, violent ways. Pearce Hansen is a splendid writer who has created a powerful,  strange and affective kind of urban fairy tale with oodles of hardboiled action and social commentary to boot.

Find Emily by J J Toner

D I Ben Jordan returns for a second hard-hitting outing in J J Toner’s cracking Find Emily. Jordan has handed in his notice but is called in to find a missing child, the daughter of a big shot Irish businesswoman and a former American football star . Jordan know that he has  maybe 24 hours to find the missing child and Toner breathlessly drags us along with him on his frantic search that includes encounters with the IRA, a sex traffic ring, corruption and much more. Find Emily is the sort of gritty, realistic crime thriller that would be topping the best seller lists, if there were any justice in the world.

Top Tips: Recommended Reads

I’ve read a fair bit of  new stuff recently- and done quite a bit of re-reading too- so here are a handful of  some of the books that have tickled my fancy of late.

Bang Bang, You’re Dead by Nick Quantrill.

Nick Quantrill is best known for his slow burning, evenly paced P I novels – Broken Dreams and The Late Greats. BBYD however, is an in-your-face, Brit Grit novella that tells the story the story of Sam, who is fresh out of the slammer and trying to get his life back on an even keel. But those ties from the past still bind him. Hard hitting and involving, this shows a more visceral side to Quantrill’s writing which he carries off with aplomb.

The Spider Tribe by Heath Lowrance.

Hawthorn is back !  In The Spider Tribe, Heath Lowrance’s pulptastic creation confronts the Iktomi, an ancient, supernatural race that grow powerful when people are consumed by hate and fear. Since the white man is currently ripping up the Black Hills, they are in full force and only Hawthorn can stop them. The Spider Tribe is another vivid and fast paced horror/western novelette from the massively talented  Heath Lowrance.

The Mill by Mark West

Michael is a young widower who  communicates with the memory of his late wife in his recurring dreams. However, after attending a Bereaved Partners’ Group meeting, he discovers that there may be more to his dreams than he realizes. The Mill is a wonderfully written novelette that proves to be both chilling and moving, and stayed in my thoughts for a long time after reading it.

Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick

When roughneck Billy Keyoe jumps in his Cadillac to flee his small town blues, he encounters a girl named Feather at the crossroads and embarks on a journey into darkness and painful self-discovery in Kevin Lynn Helmick’s brilliantly lyrical and richly painted hybrid of cinematic noir and magic realism. Superb.

Chastity Flame by KA Laity.

K A Laity confidently grabs hold of  the Modesty Blaise template and ratchets its components  up to 11 with Chastity Flame. And what she gives us is  a highly addictive,  fast-moving, clever, sexy and funny globe-trotting,  spy romp. The first in what is sure to prove to be a massively enjoyable new series.

The Claddagh Icon by K A Laity.

K A Laity’s The Claddagh Icon is a classic hardboiled story of a chancer who gets in over his head when he meets a Galway femme fatale. A tightly written story that drags you along by your tie, belt and whatever else it can get its hands on. Also available in Italian.

The Secret Hour by Richard Godwin.

Richard Godwin’s The Secret Hour is a lyrical hybrid of noir,crime fiction and psychological drama worthy of Hitchcock. Godwin once again masterfully digs beneath the surface of London, and its inhabitants, to reveal the darkness that the dazzle of glamour hides. Also available in Italian.

So, get stuck into that little lot, eh?

ill at ease by Mark West, Neil Williams, Stephen Bacon.

Ill at ease by Mark West, Neil Williams and Stephen Bacon comes with the tag-line ‘Three New Stories Of The Macabre‘, which is an accurate enough  description but doesn’t really do justice to  this cracking collection of urban horror stories.

In Stephen Bacon‘s chilling ‘Waiting For Josh’, a successful London journalist returns to his home town to spend time with a dying friend. Guilt, disappointment, shame, dread and the ghosts of the past all haunt this wonderfully written story.

And more  supposedly long buried secrets also  crawl to the surface in Mark West’s  vivid ‘Come See My House In The Pretty Town.‘ Old friends make contact through Facebook -a nice touch -and have  a reunion in an idyllic, quintessentially English village, complete with a country fair, which isn’t quite what it seems.

The last story in this far-too-short collection is ‘Closer Than You Think’ by Neil Williams, who is also responsible for the smashing cover. A dark cloud hovers over this gripping story which starts off with the mundane incident of someone picking up something discarded at a rubbish dump.

In fact, it’s the mundanity of the settings, combined with the masterful writing, that gives this  marvelous collection a palpable sense of the ominous. 

The characters in ill at ease are all very real and  living recognizable lives of quiet, and mostly dull, domesticity. Until something happens that pulls so hard on the threads of their lives that the whole bloody thing unwravels.

Ill at ease is a highly recommended collection containing  three splendid examples of modern, British storytelling.