On Saturday 22 September, I took part in the Festiwalu Literatury Wielorzecze in the town of Elbląg here in Poland. Nick Sweeney and I were interviewed by Arco Van Ieperen. Radek Obuchowski translated. Here is a version of that interview that I thought some of you might enjoy.
Why did you choose the genre of Crime Fiction for your novels and short stories?
Well, maybe the genre chose me? I started writing regularly in 2008, after discovering online flash fiction sites – most of which were crime fiction focused. A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, Beat to A Pulp. That said, it’s also an area of writing I’ve always enjoyed. Crime fiction covers a multitude of fictional sins and – outside the mainstream – allows for odd character studies – from Jim Thompson to Patricia Highsmith to Damon Runyon and more.
What are the difficulties in getting short stories and novels published nowadays? It is different from, say, twenty years ago in your opinion? Do you think it’s easier to get published in a major language such as English than in a less popular language like Polish?
I’d never even considered writing – well, never finished anything – in the good old bad old days of publishing, but my scattershot attempts at storytelling conveniently coincided with the rebirth of indie publishing – most of which is in English. It looks like it’s even harder to get published by the Big 6 these days. Publishing is a business, after all. And business doesn’t like risk. If you write in Polish, you’re only going to get published in Poland in the beginning. But the success of Scandi Noir shows that it’s possible to do well when translated into English. I’m not sure why Polish writers haven’t cracked that market, to be honest.
Humour is an important element in your novels and short stories – what is the function of humour in your work?
I write about people. People in extreme situations. People at odds with life, their frailty. As Charlie Chaplin said. “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”
You mainly write short stories and novellas. A Case of Noir, although it has the same protagonist throughout the book, reads like a series of short stories. Do you prefer shorter forms of fiction to longer novels, or is it only a question of time before you write a longer work?
I started writing via Six Sentences- tell a story in six sentences – and the stories got longer, so a novel is probably on the horizon. A Case Of Noir is indeed a series of short stories that I did for a now defunct Italian publisher but they’re stitched together with a rusty needle and a loose thread.
In an interview with David Nemeth you said that you “have already written more than most people need.” Do you think the crime fiction market is saturated or and does that discourage you from writing more, or do you give in to the constant need to write more?
I was joking- a bit- in that I’m well aware that my stuff has little chance of mainstream success. You’d think that the crime fiction market would already be saturated but reports of its death have clearly been exaggerated. I’ll keep plodding on doing my own thing, whatever.
Your work is readily recognisable as British fiction, regarding vocabulary, slang and subject matter. What makes British fiction different from its American counterpart in your opinion?
Maybe our sense of absurdity. It’s something we relish in many ways. American’s are sometimes chastised for lacking irony but I think it’s just that they can be painfully sincere.
I’ve read that you played the bass in a number of bands in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Your work is filled with references to music, musicians and lyrics. How important is music for you and what role does it play in your fiction?
It’s probably because I’m too idle to stretch to far outside the parameters of my own experience. But life always has a soundtrack, doesn’t it?
I know it’s a tedious question as I’ve been asked myself hundreds of times but: Why Poland?
Unlike Groucho Marx, I’ll join any club that will have me as a member! After I finished my TEFL course, I applied for lots of jobs in lots of places and a school in Poland were on of the first to answer. It seemed churlish to say no.
Has living abroad affected your writing in any way? Is it easier to write about your home country from a distance?
For sure it’s a view askew. Discombobulation is its own reward.
I truly enjoyed your novel Last Year’s Man, which of course is this year’s book. Could you tell us something about the story and how it came about, without providing too many spoilers, of course?
The big influence was the British comedian Tony Hancock, and also Takeshi Kitano. A sense of resignation to time moving on. An existential shrug of saying – ‘Stone Me, What A Life!’ And the fool’s errand of nostalgia.
Alcohol and drugs play a significant role in your work. Characters are often drunk or hungover, or drinking to stop being hungover. Do you think it reflects the crime scene and/or the ex-pats scene, or is it more of a Marlowian mood setting that you aim for, a wink to the noir from the forties and fifties?
Well, it’s never a great stretch! For sure the shadow of those tropes is cast, but it’s more about writing about people I know and situations I’ve known or know of. And most heavy drinkers are hopelessly deluded. Unholy fools. Which is great for absurdist noir fiction. As I’ve said before, crime fiction is about bringing order to chaos and noir is about bringing chaos to order. So ….
Brit Grit on the Laikonik Express – na Wielorzeczu po angielsku.
On Saturday 22 September, I’ll be taking part in the Festiwalu Literatury Wielorzecze in the town of Elbląg here in Poland. I’ll be chatting with Nick Sweeney and Arco Van Ieperen. Radek Obuchowski will translate.
Here’s some more information about the gig, in Polish:
Po raz pierwszy w historii Festiwalu Literatury Wielorzecze zapraszamy Państwa na spotkanie autorskie z pisarzami anglojęzycznymi. To prawdziwa gratka dla filologów oraz miłośników kryminałów.
Rozmowę z Paulem D. Brazzilem i Nickiem Sweeney’em poprowadzi Arco Van Ieperen. Brit Grit on the Laikonik Express 22 września o godz. 18 w Bibliotece Elbląskiej. Spotkanie tłumaczyć będzie Radek Obuchowski. Zapraszamy serdecznie. Wstęp wolny.
Nick Sweeney mieszka w Londynie, pracuje jako niezależny pisarz, redaktor oraz muzyk. Jego opowieści zostały opublikowane w wielu czasopismach takich jak Ambit, Eunoia Review, In-flight, Writing Raw. Powieść Laikonik Express opowiada o Polsce, śniegu, wódce oraz podróżowaniu pociągiem bez powodu. Została opublikowana przez Unthank Books w 2011 roku. Jego krótka opowieść ‘Traffic’ została nagrodzona drugim miejscem w konkursie V.S. Pritchett Memorial Award w 2015 roku. Twórczość jest głównie inspirowana Europą Wschodnią i jej obywatelami oraz historią.
Paul D. Brazill urodził się w Hartlepool (Anglia), lecz obecnie mieszka w Bydgoszczy. Jest autorem Cold London Blues, Guns Of Brixton, Kill Me Quick!, A Case of Noir, Last Year’s Man oraz Small Time Crimes. Jego teksty ukazały się w wielu czasopismach i antologiach, m.in. The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime (część 8, 10 i 11). Jest również redaktorem kilku antologii, w tym bestsellerowej True Brit Grit (której współredaktorem jest Luca Veste). Jego prace zostały przetłumaczone na język włoski, polski, fiński, słoweński oraz niemiecki. Prowadzi popularnego bloga pauldbrazill.com oraz jest nauczycielem języka angielskiego.
Dominika Lewicka-Klucznik, Stowarzyszenie Alternatywni
‘David: I enjoyed one of your latest books, “Last Year’s Man” which displays the wit in your writing. So, what makes Brits funnier than Americans? Kidding. A bit of a safer question, what is it that makes the English so damn funny?
Paul: I think the Brits revel in our own ridiculousness, we know that life and people are absurd. After all, there are two types of people in the world and they are both preposterous. The most preposterous are the ones that don’t know they are, of course.’
Rear the rest of the interview over at DO SOME DAMAGE.
For a country with such a relatively low crime rate, crime fiction is more than somewhat popular in Poland. Polish television is as cluttered with corpses as its British and US counterparts and if you walk into Empik, or any of the country’s many book shops, you immediately spot the kryminał and sensacja sections. The shelves are choc-full of police procedurals, cozies, thrillers, and their various hybrids. There are lots of books by foreign authors there, of course, especially the ubiquitous Nordic noirs. But there’s plenty of home-grown talent, too. Most of whom have yet to be translated into English – though not for long, I suspect.
Here are a few shots of Polski Noir to give you a taster:
Katarzyna Bonda is a journalist and scriptwriter whose novels have all become best-sellers in Poland. Her books include the Hubert Meyer trilogy (The Case of Nina Frank, Only the Dead Don’t Lie, The Florist), the true crime books Polish Murderesses, and An Imperfect Crime, as well as a textbook entitled The Writing Machine. However, her most successful novel series stars the female profiler Sasza Załuska: Girl at Midnight, The White Mercedes, and Lanterns. Girl at Midnight received the Audience Award at the 2015 International Crime Festival, while The White Mercedes won the 2015 Empik Bestseller Award. Foreign rights to the books have been purchased by the likes of Hodder & Stoughton and Random House.
S. M. Borowiecky has been compared to Dan Brown, James Patterson, Paula Hawkins and Stephen King. She followed up her bestselling debut Ani Żadnej Rzeczy (Or Anything) with Która Jego Jest (Who is he?), which has also been a great success.
Mary Sue Ann was born in a small town in Silesia. In the dark evenings she writes dark novels. Zabójcza podświadomość (The Murderous Subconscious) is a paranormal crime novel. The action takes places in Los Angeles where a serial killer targets woman who are in advanced stages of pregnancy. Real estate agent Laura Kovalsky one day receives a strange phone call that shakes her stable world. Will a little boy with paranormal abilities be able to help Laura, the police and the FBI catch the killer?
Jacek Ostrowski AKA Jack Sharp is a Polish writer who specializes in dark fantasy noir with a strong gothic atmosphere.
His best known books are Posiadlosc w Portovenere (The Mansion In Portovenere), UT, Transplantacja (Transplantation) and Mezczyzna z tatuazem (The Man With The Tattoo).
His most recent novel Ostatnia wizyta (The Very Last Visit) is based on the true story of an unsolved kidnapping that took place in communist Poland.
It shouldn’t be long before all of these authors are translated in English so keep a beady, bloodshot eye out for them.
TRANSAKCJA – NICK SWEENEY (PRZEŁ. ALEKSANDRA GUZIK)
‘Witek Galicki nie mógł tego wieczoru nazwać sukcesem. Kobieta uśmiechnęła się w sposób, który można by wziąć za zachętę, ale Witek zsunął się z niej delikatnie i uniósł rękę w przepraszającym geście. Odwrócił się tyłem i przysiadł na brzegu łóżka. „Nieudana transakcja” pomyślał.’
Nolan Kennedy teaches English in Istanbul. One day, Kennedy, the son of an unsuccessful American Beat writer, accidentally finds out that Don Darius, his main boozing partner, has been secretly writing a novel – and a bloody good one it is, too. But Don has already upped sticks to Poland so Keenedy decides to track him down. Kennedy’s fool’s errand soon melts into Don Darius’ own romantic quest.
Nick Sweeney’s Laikonik Express is a marvelous novel that is full of warmth and charm. Although the young protagonists are a touch pretentious and overly earnest it’s still a pleasure to spend time in their company. The real strength of Laikonik Express, however, is its rich supporting cast of people and places. Highly recommended.
This week I was interviewed by the journalist Adam Pakiela for the Polish newspaper’s Magazyn Bydgoszczi.
The online version of the interview is up now, and includes some great photographs from Lukaszcz Antczak.
Here’s the blurb:
In snow smothered Warsaw, Luke Case, a boozy English hack with a dark secret, starts a dangerous affair with a gangster’s wife. Case escapes to the sweltering Spanish heat where he meets a colourful cast of characters, including a mysterious torch singer and a former East End villain with a criminal business proposition. While in stormy Toulouse, he encounters a blast from the past that is positively seismic which forces him to return to England and confront his past.
A Case Of Noir is a strong shot of international noir from Paul D. Brazill.
There’s a lot of it about.
Also, the paperback of COLD LONDON BLUES is now available from Amazon.com
A CASE OF NOIR will soon be given a reboot from those classy folk at NEAR TO THE KNUCKLE. It should be out early on in March.
SHOTGUN HONEY will be publishing one of my yarns in early March. It’s called SMALL TOWN CREED.
NICK SWEENEY is over at POLSKI NOIR at the moment.
My latest BRIT GRIT ALLEY column is up at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE.
I have a Quick Fire interview up at Richard Godwin’s Slaughterhouse.
I talk about Cold London Blues, living in EXILE and more.
Chris’ story The Hard Nowhere is translated into Polish by Magda Kożyczkowska.
W najciemniejszym zaułku – Chris Rhatigan (przeł. Magda Kożyczkowska )
(c) Kasia Martell.