A Story For Sunday: This Old House

Ten Sycamore Hill was, in Peter James’ mind, the font of all of his misfortunes. While women, work, cars and kids came and went, the only constant in Peter’s turbulent life – apart from the copious amounts of alcohol that he consumed, of course – was that weather-beaten Victorian detached house overlooking Hart Village; its increasingly battered facade and interior seeming to degenerate with each one of his trials and tribulations.

With every one of Peter’s disappointments, a window frame would crumble; with every disaster – romantic or otherwise – a door handle would come loose or slates would be ripped from the roof by an unsympathetic wind; when his health failed, so did the heating. And, as Peter’s bank account was slowly depleted, the wallpaper and paint seamed to peel itself free from the walls before his eyes.

Each night, as a drunken Peter staggered back from another interminable drinking session at the Raby Arms, he would look up at his home perched on the hill, looming over the village like a great black crow and, soaked in alcoholic self-pity, he would curse: ‘Fuck. Fuckin’…fucker…fuck.’ Or words to that effect.

And then, one October, as Halloween loomed, Peter had an idea so bright that it was positively incandescent.

*

The Raby Arms, an anonymous country pub amongst a cluster of anonymous country pubs, was always smoggy – despite the smoking ban – and, indeed, the interior, including the mirrors, the windows and the faces of most of the regulars, all seemed to have a nicotine sheen. As on most nights, the pub was half-empty.

‘You know, it’s actually possible to kill someone with a bottle of Pepsi and a packet of Mintoes?’ said JT, peeling an unlit pin-sized roll up from his bottom lip.

Peter nodded.

‘Oh, aye?’ said Peter, as he hung his camel coat on the moose head coat rack and sat opposite JT with a sigh. ‘Not a lot of people know that.’

‘Aye,’ said JT. ‘Well, it’s true. According to Big Jim. Reckons that he saw it on that YOU TUBE.’

JT, a gaunt, jaundiced-looking man with a spidery black quiff, was sat at his usual corner table, near a buzzing slot machine, drumming his fingers on his pint glass to The Shadow’s ‘Apache’, which played from to a crackly speaker.

Peter sipped his pint of Stella, gazed at the fading bat-wing tattoos on his hands and faded in on the memory of a drunken night at a Newcastle tattoo parlor that then segued into the time he first met his wife, Deborah, at Astros nightclub. Twenty five years ago now. There’d been a lot of booze under the bridge since then, he thought.

He looked at JT. A former hardman, just like him, and had a flashback to the night when it all started to go wrong. When they’d thrown a rowdy punter down the stairs at Astros with a little too much enthusiasm. The policemen on the scene had also shown a little too much enthusiasm for the arrest and the ensued injuries had, luckily for Peter and JT, resulted in a suspended sentence. But the stains remained.

There was a loud bang and Big Jim burst through the doors. Peter and JT both laughed as Jim stumbled into the toilets, his fly open, muttering to himself.

‘Here he is, the David Niven of Hart Village,’ smirked JT.

‘So you reckon it’s a non-starter then?’ said Peter, massaging his left arm.

JT took a swig of Stella.

‘Oh, aye. Great idea. Get Big Jim to burn down your house and then collect on the insurance. A foolproof plan, that. About as foolproof as that canoeist that did a Lord Lucan and ended up getting spotted in Rio or somewhere.’

JT had a point, thought Peter. Big Jim wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the box. He remembered the time in the pub quiz when Big Jim had answered a question about the largest Loch in Scotland with ‘Chub’. However, Jim was cheap and Peter really wanted rid of that house. The bills were mounting up and the Invalidity Benefit that he’s started getting after his first heart attack barely covered his drinking sessions.

Peter sighed again and slouched in his chair as he wiped his sweating brow with his ubiquitous tie.

‘Just think,’ he said. ‘Bonfire Night’s coming up. It’s like Full Matal Jacket out there some nights. This time of year, kids are always pushing bangers and fireworks through people letterboxes. It’s happened to me loads of times. Now, if I happen to leave some booze splashed around the place and work on my motorbike in the front room and it catches fire, well…’

They both looked up as Big Jim plonked down next to them.

‘Peter, I’m your man,’ said Big Jim.

‘I’ll take that with a mountain of Saxa,’ said JT.

*

The night stumbled on and JT and Big Jim left Peter propped up at the bar, tearing the label from a bottle of Newcastle Brown. He was watching Lewis, trying to ignore the numb feeling in his arm. It had been creeping up on him with greater regularity these days. Doctors were out of the question. Overpaid quacks, he thought. Well, he had thought that since Dr. Khan had misdiagnosed his dad’s cancer as ‘constipation’ a few years before. Feeling weak, he went to sit down when he heard the bang.

‘Bollox!’ he shouted. ‘He hasn’t… he…’

Hot, sweating and wheezing, Peter rushed out of the pub and up the cobbled path towards his burning home.

‘Tosser!’ he shouted at Big Jim, who was tripping, tumbling and stumbling down the path in a panic.

Peter was burning up with anger and the pain in his arm was getting worse. He suddenly heard a sound behind him, turned and saw a bedraggled bunch of vampires, werewolves and ghosts.

‘Trick or treat!’ they shouted.

‘Oh, bollox,’ whispered Peter and then he gasped and crumpled to the ground like a demolished building.

The weight of a mammoth was on Peter’s chest before the last stages of the coronary kicked in. The costumed kids deftly lifted his wallet and watch and, as they frisked him, Peter looked up at his burning house and saw its black silhouette against the waxing moon, his vision starting to fade.

Ten Sycamore Hill’s windows and front door seemed to light up a glowing red, like the eyes and mouth of a grinning Jack O’Lantern, the flames darting about like a lunatic’s tongue. And then he thought he heard a maniacal laugh.

A Story For Sunday: The Weather Prophet

The Weather Prophet

It had been another one of those seemingly endless days when, like King Midas in reverse, everything I touched turned to shit. True, cold calling was a thankless and futile task at the best of times. In fact, most people in the company hated it but me, well, I just seemed to have a knack for it. A silver tongue. An innate ability to worm my way into people’s affections. To get them to fork out their hard earned cash for something they neither needed nor desired. To sell ice cream to Eskimos, as Foley, my boss, said. But recently, knockback had followed knockback and I’d started to feel as if I was losing my touch. I could see the predatory looks in the eyes of the young Turks who were so eager to take my position as top dog in Premier Properties. Something I was not going to allow happen, for sure.

The working day eventually ground painfully to a halt and I inevitably ended up sitting by myself, drowning my sorrows in a dreary hotel bar, staring out of the window as the autumn rain lashed the deserted car park. Letting my resentment bubble and boil. As was my wont.

“Think there’s a storm on the way?” said Shelley, the pasty-faced barmaid, as she collected the half-empty glasses from the table next to mine. An uproarious group of young women had sat there for a while, knocking back tequila slammers and spewing out dirty jokes. A tiddly hen-party that had called in to shelter from the rain. I’d attempted to start a conversation with the dowdiest but the women had quickly made a hasty exit, of course.

“Do I look like a weatherman?” I said to Shelley, and glared at her. I didn’t need her pity-induced small talk today, that was for sure. The Half-Moon Hotel was a charmless place, catering to travelling salesmen for the most part but it was situated halfway between my office and my apartment and I called in after work most evenings for a drink or two. I occasionally chatted with Shelley, coming on all empathetic as she prattled on about her tedious family. Her monotonous life. On days like this, however, I preferred to get drunk in the company of my own self-loathing, thank you very much.

Shelley flushed and went behind the bar, noisily restocking the fridge with overpriced bottles of beer. Muttering under her breath. Her angelic exterior quickly crumbling. Predictably showing her true colours.

But then, most people were predictable, truth be told. They just couldn’t see outside the limits of their own experience. Couldn’t think outside the box, as Foley, would have said. They had a paucity of imagination.

When most people first clapped eyes on me, for example, their initial reaction was usually one of revulsion, followed quickly, perhaps, by pity. Sometimes hilarity. And maybe I would have been the same as them if I hadn’t been born a hunchback. Maybe I’d have been just as blinkered in my worldview but my disability gave me a unique perspective on life. Gave me an edge, really. A liberating cruelty.

There were many worse things than being a freak, after all. Being ordinary, mediocre, drab were much, much worse. Like Shelley. She was a mousey blonde with a mousey personality. One of life’s perpetual drudges. She did, of occasion, have her uses though and so I thought it best to make my peace with her. I limped over to the bar and gave her a weak smile? The limp? Oh, that was a fake, apart from the hump I was in the best of health but better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb.

“Sorry about being so grumpy, Shelley,” I said, drooling a little. Yeah, that was fake, too. I wiped my mouth with a napkin and put on a sigh.

Shelley beamed a 100 watt grin.

“No problem, Ed, we all have our off-days.”

If the time was right, I would, perhaps, have gone into a long moan-ologue about how every day was an off-day for someone with my… problems but I wasn’t in the mood for a pity party so I just ordered another gin and tonic and then hobbled back to my seat, quickly followed by Shelley, who placed the drink on my table with an exaggerated flourish before heading back behind the bar.

A storm had indeed picked up, the sound of the rainfall mercifully drowning out the Joni Mitchell songs that were leaking out of the sound system. The front door noisily burst open and a group of shiny-happy-people loudly rushed in, eager to get out of the downpour. Two men and two women. Mid-thirties. All nice enough looking and well turned out in clothes that were fashionable but not overtly so. One of them spotted me looking over and turned to his friends. Whispered. They glanced over furtively and smiled uncomfortably. Ordered their drinks and retreated to a table as far away from me as possible.

Any other night, I would have had some sport with them. Maybe shuffled over and tripped so that I fell into their laps, accidently grabbing one of the women’s breasts. But today I had little energy for anything. I picked up my briefcase and took out a paperback book that I’d bought from a second-hand book shop during my lunch break. Sniffed it. Stroked the cover, which depicted some sort of elaborate machine that had been invented purely for the purpose of inflicting pain. I began reading and was submerged in a world of glorious suffering when someone stood over me, coughed and spoke.

“Gorra love that Kafka,” she said in a strong Liverpool accent.

I looked up as she took off her rain hat and let her long black hair fall loose.

“A greatly misunderstood humourist,” I said, straining a smile.

She took the book from my hands, frowned and almost threw it across the table.

“When I was a kid I thought a penal colony was a country full of dicks,” she said. Took off her raincoat and hung it over the back of a chair. “Maybe I was right.”

She pulled out another chair and sat next to me. Straightened her short black dress. Picked up my drink and sipped it.

“Gin makes you sin,” she said. She spat an ice cube back into my glass.

“Do I know you?” I said.

“Well, you do now.”

She held out a perfectly manicured hand. I took it. It was ice cold.

“I’m Roma. Shelley’s sister. She’s told me a lot about you. A lot. “

She winked. I flushed and glared at Shelley who was behind the bar cleaning glasses. She looked uncomfortable and averted her gaze.

“The resemblance is … is …”

“Not biological,” said Roma.

“Ha!”

“We’re both adopted.”

Roma clicked a finger and Shelley rushed over from behind the bar.

“What can I get you?” she said with voice like shattered glass.

“Double Glenfiddich for me and another gin for the Elephant Man,” said Roma.

I flushed with embarrassment, rage and… desire. Roma held my gaze and I felt myself becoming aroused. She slipped a hand under the table and patted my hard penis. Dug her nails in.

“Patience… you repulsive troll… patience.”

I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words. Roma fiddled with an unlit Gitanes Brunes and we sat in silence until Shelley brought the drinks over.

Roma put the cigarette back into its blue packet and sipped her drink.

“Shelley tells me you’re a man of very special needs,” she said.

“I am.”

“Well, I’m certain I can help you satisfy those needs, with the right financial motivation.”

“That’s good to know,” I said, burning up. Skin prickly. Throat arid.

“Sure you can afford it, Quasimodo.”

I gulped.

“I can, I can.”

And I could.

My affliction had been due to some dubious pharmaceuticals my mother had taken during her pregnancy. She had subsequently been awarded a massive compensation payment from the manufacturer which she’d kept in a trust fund for me that I couldn’t access until I reached the age of 24. Now, well into my thirties, despite living quite frugally, I used it from time to time for holidays, and yes, occasional trips to see call girls. I had many special needs after all.

“More booze?” said Roma.

“Oh yes.”

She raised her arm like a flamenco dancer and loudly clicked her fingers three times. Shelley brought another round of drinks over, we drank quickly and then the night dissolved into oblivion.

***

A thunderstorm ripped the night open and dragged me from my sleep. My swampy brain slowly focused on the silhouette of Roma’s naked body as she stood in front of my bedroom window, the tip of her cigarette glowing and disappearing as she sucked on it. A neon sign flickered and flashed outside, lightning flashed and then everything turned pitch black.

“Power cut again,’ I said. ‘I’ll find a candle.”

“Don’t bother,” said Roma.

She leaned over and put out her cigarette on my shoulder. The pain was… delicious.

***

The cold morning air tasted like lead as I wandered from my apartment to my office. It was a short walk but I felt exhausted as I sat at my desk. The morning was like wading through treacle, sipping muddy coffee and trying to concentrate on my work. When lunchtime came around, I walked up to Foley’s office. Knocked.

Foley looked up from his lap top. He was bleary eyed and unshaven but he still kept the good looks that had earned him a highly successful modelling career when he was younger.

“Shit, Ed you look worse than I feel. You been burning the candle at both ends again?”

“Something like that,” I said. “Look, I need to go home and catch up on some sleep. I’m no use to anyone today.”

Foley looked as if he was about to say something about me being useless every day at the moment but he bit his tongue. I know I filled the company’s quota of disabled staff and was pretty much unsackable.

“Do what you need to,” he said and went back to Facebook.

I left the office and headed for The Half-Moon Hotel. I was relieved to see that Shelley wasn’t working and walked up to the bar, forgetting about putting on the fake limp.

“G& T, Ed?” said Alec, the barman, a fading playboy with slicked back hair and the smile of a vampiric shark.

“A bit early for the hard stuff. Just a half of Guinness.”

I was tempted to add ‘and that’s Mr Ross to you’. I hated the way people immediately assumed they were on first name terms with the disabled.

As I sat at the bar and sipped my drink, I stumbled through my foggy memory of the previous night. I certainly didn’t remember drinking a great deal but I really couldn’t remember leaving the hotel bar. Apart one moment of wakefulness the night was a blank.

I started to feel a little better and invariably ordered another drink.

“Is Shelley working later?” I said.

“I doubt it,” said Alec. “She was supposed to be working today but she phoned in sick. First time for everything, I suppose.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh yes. She’s never sick. You know how bubbly she is. Sweet enough to give you diabetes. Still, since The Vamp appeared on the scene …”

“The Vamp? Oh, Roma, her sister?”

I started to get excited just saying Roma’s name.

Alec laughed. Licked his teeth.

“Sister? Well, they certainly didn’t kiss like sisters when I saw them in Le Madame last week.”

Le Madame was an infamous gay nightclub on the edges of the city. Images and words scattershot the sludge that passed as my thoughts. My throat went very dry. I slugged the Guinness but felt like choking.

“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” said Alec.

“I’m the fucking ghost,” I said.

I rushed back to my apartment, sweat oozing through my pores. Ignored the lift and ran upstairs. A click and I opened the door into the darkened room. The heat and the smell of sex smothered me.

I switched on the light. The place had been trashed, of course. My Laptop was gone along with a couple of watches and some other pieces of jewellery that could be described as being valuable. They’d even taken my phones. I knew that my credit cards had been taken before I opened the drawer to my desk but I looked anyway.

I was shaking as I went to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and took a bottle of Finlandia vodka from the freezer. Poured a more liberal amount into a dirty glass, drank it down in one but couldn’t wash away the thought that Roma- and presumably Shelley- had somehow got my bank account’s pin number from me. Wondered how much cash they could withdraw in one day. Could they take it all?

I knew that I should get in touch with the bank and the police and try to sort out the mess but knowing wasn’t the same as doing. As the song said, ‘between thought and expression lies a lifetime’. Or something like that.

I poured myself another drink. Sipped it slowly as I walked out onto the balcony and waited for the storm to break.

The end.

The Weather Prophet is included in The Last Laugh.

A Story For Sunday: Dead Pimp In A Trunk

I WAS GOING to tell you about why I killed Lewis Quad and how he’d had it coming to him. How he’d asked for it and deserved everything he got. Tell you what an evil bastard he was and how many lives he’d destroyed over the years. All the shitty little things he’d done just because he could. Justify my actions, and the like. But then I realised that, well, if you knew Lewis Quad you’d know all of that anyway and if you didn’t know Lewis there was no way in heaven, hell or purgatory that I was ever  going to be able to explain the whole thing to you. So I thought I’d just tell you what happened next.

***

I wasn’t even close to Cyrus White’s farm when I realised I was running low on fuel. The last few hours had been a blur. I’d been so wrapped up in replaying the events of the last few days I’d been smothered by them, truth be told.

As I drove through the night, the streetlamps were yellow streaks across the pallet of darkness. I’d been listening to a phone-in talk show about ghosts, hauntings and such, and though I’d never been superstitious, I sure was glad when the dawn eventually broke on through.

I saw a sign for a gas station off of a side road and turned off the radio so that I could concentrate. I followed the directions until I reached a small disused general store with a dusty, rusted gas pump in front and a battered old station wagon parked beside it. I parked my Dodge, lay my head on the steering wheel and groaned.

After a moment or so, I switched on the radio to wake myself up but it was as dead as the corpse in my trunk. I lay back in the seat and pulled out a quarter bottle of Wild Turkey. Sipped. As I watched the sun rise like a gold doubloon, I started to relax.

Then I heard the bang.

***

She was old, in her eighties or something like that, carrying a sawn-off shotgun and wearing a ragged green-velvet ball gown. She staggered out of the store, tripping over her high heeled shoes and pulling a red beehive wig from her head as she raced toward the station wagon. I guessed she didn’t notice me at first because she threw the gun into the car and crawled in after it. She started up the station wagon with a struggle and reversed. Right into my car.

***

The sunny morning had hardened into a granite gray day and the non-stop drizzle failed to wash away the pain in my head. It wasn’t the impact of the cars so much or even the hangover that was kicking in. It was Mathilda and the way she talked. And how much she talked.

I pulled up outside White’s farmhouse just as Mathilda was telling some long and winding anecdote about unpaid alimony, jailbait whores and a pawn shop.

‘And, you know, what would you do, if you were unlucky enough to have found yourself in my situation?’ she said. She scratched her bald head. Glared at me.

‘I know what you mean,’ I said. ‘I know exactly what you mean.’

Although I most certainly did not.

Cyrus came out of the door cradling a crossbow that I knew he had made himself. He was tall and gaunt, with a long white beard and a bald head. He was wearing a frayed black suit. He swayed a little as he walked toward the car.

‘You took your time,’ he said. ‘My babies are getting hungry.’

I heard the pigs scream and a chill skewered my soul.

‘Don’t worry,’ I said, as I got out of the Dodge. ‘I have a little extra snack for them.’

‘Then come on in, ladies,’ said Cyrus. He opened up the passenger door and winked at Mathilda. ‘You’re just in time for tiffin.’

I picked up my purse and slammed the car door. Straightened my skirt.

Mathilda was already hobbling alongside Cyrus, arm in arm with him.

It was going to be a long day.

fin

A Story For Sunday: The Tut.

After enduring forty-five years of a marriage that was, at best, like wading through treacle, Oliver Beacock Robinson eventually had enough and smothered his wife with the beige corduroy cushion that he’d accidentally burned with a cigarette two fraught days before.

Oliver had been, for most of his life, a temperate man and he had survived the sexless marriage – its colourless cuisine and half-hearted holidays – with a stoicism that bordered on indifference. But his patience had been stretched to the breaking point by Gloria’s constant disapproval of almost everything he did.

And then there was the “tut.”

The tut invariably accompanied Gloria’s scowl whenever Oliver poured himself an evening drink or smoked a cigarette. She would tut loudly if he spilled the salt. Or swore. Or stayed up late to watch the snooker. The tut, tut, tut was like the rattle of a machine gun that seemed to echo through their West London home from dusk till dawn until he reached the end of his tether.

Wrapping his wife’s body in the fluffy white bedroom rug, Oliver supposed that he should have felt guilty, depressed or scared – but he didn’t. Far from it. In fact, he felt as free and as light as a multi-coloured helium balloon that had been set adrift to float above a brightly lit fun fair.

Oliver fastened the rug with gaffer tape and dragged the corpse down the steps to the basement. As the head bounced from every step, it made a sound not unlike a tut and he had to fight the urge to say sorry.

He’d done enough apologising.

***

Oliver poured himself a whisky – at eight o’clock in the morning! – and it tasted better than any whisky he had ever tasted before. Looking around his antiseptic home, the sofa still wrapped in the plastic coating that it came in, he smiled.

Savouring the silence, he resisted the temptation to clean Gloria’s puke from the scarred cushion that had been the catalyst of her death. Taking a Marlboro full strength from the secret supply that was hidden in a hollowed-out hardback copy of Jaws – Gloria didn’t approve of fiction and would never have found the stash there – he proceeded to burn holes in every cushion in the house.

And then he started on the sofa.

Oliver’s brief burst of pyromania was interrupted when he thought he heard a tut, tut, tut from the hallway. His heart seemed to skip a beat or two, but then he gave a relieved laugh when it was just the sound of the letter box, flapping in the wind.

***

Disposal of Gloria’s body proved much easier than Oliver would have expected. On a bright Sunday morning in April he hauled Gloria’s corpse into the back of his car, keeping an eye out for nosy neighbours, and drove towards Jed Bramble’s rundown farm, and the village of Innersmouth.

Jed was an old school friend and fellow Territorial Army member whom Oliver occasionally used to meet for a sly drink in the Innersmouth Arms’ smoky, pokey snug. He was also a phenomenal lush. The plan was to get him comatose and then feed Gloria’s body to his pigs. Oliver knew the farm was on its last legs, along with most of the livestock, so he felt sure that the poor emaciated creatures would be more than happy to tuck in to Gloria’s cadaver.

Perched on the passenger seat Oliver had a Sainsbury’s bag stuffed with six bottles of Grant’s Whisky. Just in case, he had a bottle of diazepam in his pocket, which he’d used to drug Gloria.

Just outside Innersmouth it started to rain. Tut, tut went the rain on the windscreen. At first it was only a shower but then it fell down in sheets. Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut.

Oliver switched on the windscreen wipers but every swish seemed to be replaced by a tut. He opened up a bottle of whisky and drank until the rain resumed sounding like rain.

Outside the dilapidated farmhouse, Jed stood with a rifle over his arm, looking more than a little weather-beaten himself. His straggly hair was long and greasy and his red eyes lit up like Xmas tree lights when he saw Oliver’s booze.

***

The cold Monday morning air tasted like tin to Oliver as, hungover and wheezing, he pulled Gloria’s body from the car and dumped it in the big sty. The starving wretches took to their meal with relish. Watching, Oliver vomited, but he didn’t try to stop the proceedings.

Back at the farmhouse Jed was still slumped over the kitchen table, snoring heavily. Oliver collapsed into a battered armchair and started to sweat and shake. He’d decided to stay with Jed for a few days, keeping him safely inebriated until Gloria’s remains were completely consumed. But as the days grew dark the tut returned.

The tick tock of Jed’s grandfather clock, for instance, was replaced by a tut, tut. The drip, drip, drip of the leaking tap kept him awake at night and became a tut, tut, tut. The postman’s bright and breezy rat-a-tat-tat on the front door seemed to pull the fillings right from his teeth. He turned on the radio but even Bob Dylan was tut, tut, tutting on heaven’s door.

***

The usually bustling Innersmouth High Street was almost deserted now. The majority of the local people were cowering indoors – in shops, pubs, fast food joints. Oliver walked down the street with Jed’s rifle over his shoulder. No matter how many people he shot he still couldn’t seem to escape the sound of Gloria’s disapprobation.

Tut went the gun when he shot the postman.

Tut, tut when he pressed the trigger and blew Harry the milkman’s brains out.

Tut, tut, tut when he blasted fat PC Thompson to smithereens as he attempted to escape by climbing over the infant school wall.

Oliver heard the sirens of approaching police cars in the distance and realised there was only one thing left to do.

Pushing the gun into his mouth he squeezed the trigger.

The last sound that he heard was a resounding TUT!

The End.

THE LAST LAUGH SUMMER 2018 PROMOTION: $2.99

the last laugh newTHE LAST LAUGH: CRIME STORIES by Paul D. Brazill — Published by All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books (February 2018)

• Trade Paperback — $13.95 (includes FREE digital formats!)
• eBook Formats — $5.99 SUMMER 2018 PROMOTION: $2.99

Also available from the following retailers …

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Description

From France, to Spain, to the northeast of England, hit men, gangsters, corrupt cops, drunks, punks, and petty thieves all tumble toward the abyss. The stories in The Last Laugh are vivid and violent slices of Brit Grit and international noir, full of gaudy characters and dialogue sharp enough to cut your throat.

The Last Laugh is a violent and blackly comic look at life through a shot glass darkly.

Praise for THE LAST LAUGH:

“If you took Ken Bruen’s candor, the best of Elmore Leonard’s dialogues, sprinkled in some Irvine Welsh, and dragged it all through the dirtiest ditch in South London, the result will be something akin to Brazill’s writing.” —Gabino Iglesias, author of Zero Saints and Gutmouth

“A broad range of cultural strands come together in the melting pot and form a delicious stew of criminal adventure… The observations are sharp and the characters create small nuclear explosions as they collide with each other.” —Nigel Bird, author of Southsiders

“Brazill isn’t just a writer; he’s a poet and you can take any of his stories and write a master’s thesis on just the language employed.” —Les Edgerton, author of The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping

The Last Laugh is currently only 99p!

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The Last Laugh

My short story collection, THE LAST LAUGH, is currently a KINDLE COUNTDOWN DEAL, which means it’s only 99p for the next few days.

From France, to Spain, to the north east of England, hit men, gangsters, corrupt cops, drunks, punks, and petty thieves all tumble toward the abyss. The stories in The Last Laugh are vivid and violent slices of Brit Grit and international noir, full of gaudy characters and dialogue sharp enough to cut your throat. The Last Laugh is a violent and blackly comic look at life through a shot glass darkly.

“If you took Ken Bruen’s candor, the best of Elmore Leonard’s dialogues, sprinkled in some Irvine Welsh, and dragged it all through the dirtiest ditch in South London, the result will be something akin to Brazill’s writing.” – Gabino Iglesias (author of Zero Saints and Gutmouth)

“A broad range of cultural strands come together in the melting pot and form a delicious stew of criminal adventure… The observations are sharp and the characters create small nuclear explosions as they collide with each other.” – Nigel Bird (author of Southsiders)

‘Brazill isn’t just a writer; he’s a poet and you can take any of his stories and write a master’s thesis on just the language employed.’- Les Edgerton (Bomb!, The Bitch)’

Grab THE LAST LAUGH here.

Pat McDonald Reviews The Last Laugh.

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The Last Laugh

Over at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk , Pat McDonald says:

5.0 out of 5 stars More characters to make your smile muscles ache!

‘Another extraordinary fun filled book of short stories from Paul D Brazill you just have to read. A veritable cornucopia of exquisitely described characters that any one of them could make a novel feature in their own right – assuming they were alive at the end of each piece.

Picking up a few tips on how to ‘off’ someone, or not to by accident! My disposal of bodies list is growing with every book.

The hint of a secret – is Brazill really a nut or is he hiding behind the persona? I’ve been having the last laugh, two chapters every night; it beats a cup of cocoa any time. More characters to make your smile muscles ache. It’s wonderful! Can’t help but thinking that there is a serious crime thriller writer lurking in there waiting for a name change? Pat McDonald British Crime Author.’

Colman Keane Reviews The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh paperbackOver at Col’s Criminal Library, Col says:

’20 short stories here from the master.

Humour, violence, action, horror, scams, capers and more.

Cross paths with …….posties, barmen, club owners, Petula Clark, pig farmers, Frank Sinatra, Pink Floyd, Heaven 17, Ronnie and Reggie, Polish molls, Ukrainian whores, nagging wives and hen-pecked husbands, dead pimps, hitch-hikers and taxi drivers, literary agents and exploding seagulls.

Visit…… run down pubs and Knightsbridge,  Covent Garden and Warsaw and Cambridge bookshops, casinos and betting shops, dirty record shops and Brazill’s Northern creation – Seatown,

Cultural references abound, razor sharp observations, pithy put downs and sharp one liners.’

‘The likes of Paul D. Brazill makes reading an absolute joy.’

Read the rest HERE. 

Warren Stalley Reviews The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh paperbackOver at Amazon.co.uk, Warren Stalley gives my short story collection The Last Laugh  FIVE stars and says:

‘The Last Laugh by author Paul D Brazill brings together a variety of old and new stories in one darkly, gritty collection. Peppered with classic one liners and black gallows humour these are tales of international noir, Brit grit and bad luck blues. Existing fans will enjoy renewing the acquaintance of classic characters, scenes and stories. While new readers are in for a treat with marvellous stories such as “Route 66 & All That”, “Red Esperanto”, “The Weather Prophet” and the classic Seatown capers. Mr Brazill cleverly finds poetry, comedy and beauty in the grime, grit, filth and fury of the underworld. His literary tales stride across the continents in Doc Marten boots with a whiplash smile. Highly recommended to any crime fan looking for something special. Enjoy.’

Dave Wilde Reviews The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh paperbackOver at Amazon.com, Dave Wilde says:

‘Reading Brazill’s Last Laugh is a bit like finding yourself in an episode of the British version of Shameless after a night of pub crawling and wondering how the hell you found yourself there. Pubs, drinking, blokes, tough guys, drunks, cheats, comedians, East European whores, and some rather off-color jokes fill out this volume. To me, this book is as much about the atmosphere and the mood and the poetry of the pub as it is about the plot in these stories. Some of the stories easily morph into each other and the mood of being slightly off-kilter is always there. There are passages in here you might want to read more than once. The characters and the material are so rich.’

Punk Fiction!

cover-brazill-last-years-man-5There has been a long and varied tradition of songwriters taking their song titles from books: Venus In Furs – The Velvet Underground, Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush, Lost Weekend – Lloyd Cole, 1984- David Bowie, Absolute Beginners- David Bowie.

And, of course, it goes the other way too.

My book Guns Of Brixton took its title from a song by The Clash and I used Clash songs to frame it. My follow up, Cold London Blues, does the same thing with the songs of Vic Godard and Subway Sect.

And it’s no surprise that many Brit Grit writers have taken the same approach, usually using punk and post- punk songs as inspiration.

Here we go 2,3,4:

Mark Timlin published a book called Guns Of Brixton years before I did.Ian Ayris’ April Skies uses the Jesus and Mary Chain, Tony Black’sLondon based short story collection is invariably called London Calling – The Clash again. Ian Rankin recently chose The Associates’ Even Dogs In The Wild.  Nick Quantrill used a Wilco song for the title of The Late Greats, and The Crooked Beat is one of The Clash’s lesser known songs.James Hilton’s debut thriller is Search and Destroy – Iggy and The Stooges, Jim Iron and John Steel’s Glory Boys is taken from a Secret Affair song. Ray Banks used The Stranglers for No More Heroes. Nigel Bird gave us Mr Suit (Wire) and Beat On The Brat (Ramones). Graham Wynd chose The Fall’s Extricate and Steve Suttie gave us the Road To Nowhere (Talking Heads).

And it’s not just punk songs that work as crime fiction titles. Nick Triplow used a Tom Waits song for Frank’s Wild Years and Adrian McKinty has used five of Mr Waits’ ditties, the most recent being Rain Dogs.

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Cold London Blues

Sheila Quigley always uses song titles for her books, starting withLindisfarne’s Run For Home, and more recently The Sound Of Silence. Andy Rivers used The Beatles for Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Aidan Thorn chose When The Music’s Over (The Doors).

And that’s only this side of the pond. Josh Stallings Young Americans (David Bowie) and K A Laity’s White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane) are just a couple of recent American examples that come to mind.

And there are plenty more, I’m sure.

So, who did I miss? And any suggestions?

(This post first appeared at the All Due Respect blog.)