Top Tips: Recommended Reads

THE STREET MARTYR COVER webThe Street Martyr by T. Fox Durnham

Over the years, America has given us an abundance of great urban poets, such as Johnny Thunders, Chester Himes, Tom Waits, George V. Higgins, Bruce Springsteen, Nelson Algren, Martin Scorsese and John Cassavetes. Poets that simultaneously eulogise, celebrate and chastise the neon soaked and blood stained streets of America’s cities. Poets that embrace the highways and the alleyways. The bodies and the bullets. The sirens and the screams. The saints and the sinners. The lost and the lonely. The dispossessed. People like The Street Martyr’s Vincent – a battered and bruised small time criminal with a tarnished heart of gold.

With The Street Martyr, T. Fox Durnham has created visceral, vivid, lyrical, and heart wrenching tale of lost souls living life on a razor’s edge. A powerful and gripping tale which will haunt your dreams.

The Blood Whisperer by Zoe Sharp.

I’m a big fan of the ‘man on the run’ thriller – The 39 Steps, Rogue Male, North By Northwest even The Da Vinci Code. Zoe Sharp now gives the sub-genre a couple of well-aimed kicks in the cobblers with this fantastic, breathless and gritty thriller

The Blood Whisperer tells the story of Kelly Jacks, a former CSI and ex-con who is now working as a crime-scene cleaner. When she investigates an apparent suicide, Kelly is quickly forced to go on the run from the police, local gangsters and Russian killers. Non-stop action, great characters and twists-and-turns abound.Loved it.

Fire Mission by Craig Douglas

Authentic, well-written and full of great characters, Fire Mission by Craig Douglas is a hard-hitting, unflinching and uncensored soldier’s diary full of humour, anger and heart-in-mouth moments of tension. A gripping, gritty read.

Diary Of An Expectant Father by Pete Sortwell

Pete Sortwell’s Diary Of An Expectant Father is the story of Graham – a hapless and hopeless man at odds with his own life – as he attempts to come to terms with the reality of his girlfriend’s pregnancy. Down-to earth, touching, realistic, insightful and very, very funny.

What The Hell Is Brit Grit ?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Short, Sharp Interview: Pete Sortwell

PDB: Can you pitch THE VILLAGE IDIOT REVIEWS in 25 words or less?

It’s a comedy novella based around a load of idiots leaving reviews of things they’ve bought. It’s also the funniest thing I’ve ever written.

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

I’ve enjoyed watching Mrs Biggs. Also Moone Boy, Ted was good, as was The Watch. I’m waiting for a good British film to match Wild Bill in terms of greatness.

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

I think it is, yeah. Although I’m a writer, so I would say that.

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

Yes, I’ll be starting writing screen plays in the New Year. I think I might even have a pretty well-known ‘youtuber’ to partner with on it. I’m looking forward to it although I think it’s going to be a higher mountain to climb that writing a novel has been. Watch this space. I won’t be giving up though. So hopefully, one day, something that I’ve written will be on TV.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

I was going to say ‘very little’ but once I’d thought about it I don’t think a novel could be written with no or little research. I know for ‘So Low, So High’I had to speak to a lot of people who were like the main character, who lived a life like he did. I had to listen an awful lot to people’s stories and observe the way people spoke about bad things in a light way. That was the easy bit, all I had to do was listen.

I found researching how to structure it harder. Although I worked with an editor and proof reader who helped out no end, however finding a decent one that wasn’t going to rip me off or do my head in took some research too. For The Village Idiot Reviews, I suppose it was a life time of ‘I should have said that’moments or little things I saw and thought were funny, I could put that down as research.

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

It’s helped me find some colleagues for a blog, friends who have been there and done it, people for me to pass on knowledge too, which makes me feel good and shows I’ve learnt from the guys who passed it to me. It’s allowed me to contact writers I like. Share links to my work and ultimately find places to submit my work too.

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

I’ve got more Idiot books to write, and a third novel to finish. Although I’m not sure I’ll get them all done. I’ll have a good go, though. I’m trying like that.

The Village Idiot Reviews is available in paperback and as an ebook. The Office Idiot Reviews is out now an ebook.

(This Interview Was First Published down BRIT GRIT ALLEY)