Friday, 2 October 2015

A TASTE OF ASHES: one week on

Well, that's the new book, A TASTE OF ASHES, precisely one week old. 

And what a busy old week it's been.

A fabulous launch on the isle of Arran, hosted by the ever-brilliant Douglas Skelton (a very nice man, and fine writer, you should check out his stuff) went down a storm. After a day of the ferries in dry-dock - creeping fog, no less - it's lucky we got going at all, so well done to all at Brodick Library, who did a fine job. 

Said book has been racking up the reviews in the last week, too.

And what a cracking bunch those reviewers are.

First up was, Linda's Book Bag, who had this to say:

'Perfect writing. The story opens in dramatic style and maintains its pace throughout ... The narrative races along and keeps breathless reader interest. The twists and turns, with frequent jolts and bombshells, make for a truly thrilling read.'

I won't be knocking that. Cheers, Linda.

Next, we caught a review from Liz Loves Books:

'Clever intuitive prose and a great deal of storytelling art makes A Taste of Ashes rather more delicious than the title would suggest. Black is indeed back. Highly Recommended.'

Pretty, pretty praise.

I loved what Undiscovered Scotland had to say, too:

'A Taste of Ashes is Tony Black's second outing for Detective Inspector Bob Valentine, and a darkly entertaining and splendidly gritty read it is.'

And, lastly, if you're still with me on this brag-fest, there was Crime Fiction Lover. A very carefully thought-out review that concluded:

'Tony Black is one of the leading lights in Scottish crime fiction as A Taste of Ashes proves. If you haven’t read any of his work previously then this is as good a place to start as any.'

With the book promo on Amazon keeping Ashes riding high in the charts (No. 4 in Scottish Crime) it's been a sound start. Well done to all at my publishers B&W, especially Janne and Laura who have been busy racking up these reviews.

:: A Taste of Ashes is currently 98p on Amazon.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

BOOK LAUNCH: Wednesday, September 30, 7pm

Well, it's that time again, folks. Book launch time.

A TASTE OF ASHES will be launched at the end of the month on the scenic isle of Arran.

A fair schlep for those of you on the mainland, about an hour on the ferry from Ardrossan, and would likely involve a stay over. But, you never know, it may just be worth the bother.

For those of you in the 'hood, Brodick Library is doing the honours this time, with the fabulous writer (and very nice man) Douglas Skelton hosting the event and maybe asking me a few questions about the book. It has a bit of an Arran setting so should be interesting for those that know the place.

And, there will be some fine Arran fare on offer, in the form of a buffet. I'm almost loath to mention the free grog, but there you go, fill yer boots!

Wed, Sep 30, 7pm at Brodick Library, Arran.

:: And, you can pre-order A TASTE OF ASHES for £0.98 on Amazon right now.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Tidelines Bookfest

I'm doing an event in Largs this weekend, Sept 12, if you're in the hood. Lots of fun and games assured, oh, and a free buffet ... well, it's included in the price! Details here ...

SEPTEMBER 24: A Taste of Ashes

The follow-up to the first DI Bob Valentine book (ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD) is due at the end of this months, maybe sooner in some shops. A TASTE OF ASHES sees Bob Valentine and Glasgow's own Sylvia McCormack on the trail of some more brutal murders in the down-at-heel seaside town of Ayr. Expect mystery, action aplenty, and perhaps just a hint of supernatural goings on.

Here's the blurb from my excellent Edinburgh-based publishers B&W:

When DI Bob Valentine returns to duty after a narrow escape with death, he is faced with the discovery of a corpse on a kitchen table with a horrific neck wound and a mystery surrounding the victim's missing partner and her daughter. It's all too close to his own near-fatal stabbing.

When the murder investigation begins to reveal a tragic family drama, Bob Valentine struggles to deal with the rapidly unfolding events and the terrifying visions that haunt him. As he starts to uncover the illicit secrets of the family's past, can he keep a grip on the case and on his own sanity before the body count starts to rise?

:: You can pre-order A TASTE OF ASHES for just £0.98 at the moment on Amazon.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

GUEST BLOG: Saira Viola on Jukebox

Saira Viola.
London noir - a contradiction?   Noir is LA, noir is New York.  London is raffish Moll Flanders or pathetic Little Nell.  London's horror is quaint: it's the city of Gothic.  De Quincey stumbling around in an opium stupor.  But Richard Widmark once walked the London streets, where Jules Dassin decided to film Night and the City.  And what was true in 1950 is even truer in today's gentrified London, which is nothing but a bit of glitter and Gucci obscuring the foul rag and bone shop of its heart.  This is the London I choose to write about in Jukebox, the city where Macheath might well ask, "What is the burgling of a bank to the founding of a bank?"  Bankers, lawyers, digital Grub Streeters, and criminal kingpins -- all one big dysfunctional 21st century family.
I am the answer to the question, what happens when the femme fatale decides to write the story?  Let Agatha Christie and her sisters rule the parlor; I prefer the mean streets where Chandler sent his common but unusual man.  Just as the femme fatale knew her victims better than they knew themselves, so too a female author can have unique insight into the rituals of men.  Fedoras and gumshoes are not the only keys to the kingdom; a plunging neckline and a pair of lizard stilettos will open more doors than any amount of dead presidents forked over by a private dick.  
For me, the writing is not just a means of exposing the nastiness that is contemporary London but also a way of contesting the past, exploding conventions and overturning expectations, in order to get at an elusive or ambiguous truth that is, if not redemptive, or even reassuring, as when punishment follows the crime, then at least aesthetically adequate to the reality that I describe -- the Siren song of consumer capitalism.
A pay-as-you-play juke joint where the bad, the beautiful, and the buzzed all vie for the top spot on the hit parade, Jukebox spins pop dreams of a city fractured by racism, sexual subterfuge, class conflict, tabloid values, and celeb idolatry, while crooks and mooches bump and grind to the beat of their own clueless vanity as Hot Chocolate coos ‘Everyone’s a Winner baby. . .’ 
In dreams begin responsibilities – and Faustian bargains.  Meet Nick, a legal flunkey who dreams of escaping into rock stardom, and his uncle Mel Greenberg, Clerkenwell’s answer to John Gotti – a sartorial charmer who wears manspanx, has a weekly spray tan, and an addiction to fox fur and caviar.  He parties with millionaire web nerds, has strippers and call girls on tap, and is besotted with a tri sexual Burlesque star.  A determined finagler, Mel is a walking riddle of greed and depravity, a Cheshire cat with fangs, who makes his nephew an offer he can’t refuse.  And the knowledge that Nick acquires is the sort of thing that made Oedipus poke out his own eyes.

:: Buy Jukebox by Saira Viola on Amazon UK

Thursday, 6 August 2015

PUSH-UPS: Brian McGilloway

SOMETIME SANTA: Brian McGilloway.
So, what you pushing right now?
My new book, Preserve the Dead. It’s the third Lucy Black book. 

What’s the hook?
Lucy pulls a dead body from the River Foyle. What initially looks a suicide takes a different turn when they discover the body was already embalmed. 

And why’s that floating your boat?
The book was finished 20 months ago but we had a lot of problems settling on a name for it which held up publication. It’s strange that, in pushing a new book, you generally end up talking about something which is at least 12 months old and you’ve moved on to a whole new story and set of characters since. 

When did you turn to crime?
In 2007 as a writer, in 1997 as a reader. Just after I finished my degree a crime bookshop in Belfast opened called NO Alibis. I called in one day and picked up a few books - some Colin Dexters and Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue. I was back two days later, joined the loyalty scheme and never looked back. The owner, Dave Torrans, loves crime writing and knows it inside out. He’s also a pusher - with every couple of purchases he’d slip a freebie into the bag and say, ‘I think you’ll like this.’ He got me hooked onto James Lee Burke with a copy of the Neon Rain. I’d be very happy to think he’s been handing out the odd freebie of mine to some unsuspecting customer too.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
Contemporary. I love books that reveal something about the state of the society which produced them - state of the nation crime. I think it’s something the crime novel is particularly suited to as it can cover all levels of society, peers behind the facade, and deals with the extremes of human behaviour. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
I chaired the Irish Noir panel at Harrogate and they sent me a batch of books to read, which was easy as I’d already read most of them. there’s so much good stuff coming out of NI at the moment. Stuart Neville’s new one, Those We left Behind, is as brilliant and thought-provoking as you’d expect from Stuart. I’m just staring on Claire McGowan’s new one, The Silent Dead. Claire's a wonderful writer and one of very, very few women writers tackling Northern Ireland at the moment but I suspect that will change.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
The Devlin books have been in development for 8 years now, so I’d love to see that happening soon! I loved Declan Hughe’s books and always thought they’d make cracking TV. And I think Tommy Lee Jones made a good Robicheaux, but we haven’t had a great movie of any of James Lee Burkes books yet.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
I’m happy to read anything that grabs me. I tend to the paper rather than digital, to be honest. And I still buy hardback of any writer whose books I know I’ll want to keep.

Shout us a website worth visiting … has just been updated and made all shiny and new, so do feel free to drop by.

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …

I supplemented my student years by, among other things, playing a shopping centre Santa when I was 19. On the first day, I was driven up to the shopping centre on top of a fire engine. Some of the local kids ran alongside us the whole way up the road shouting, “Oi! Santa, you fat bastard!” 

:: Buy Brian McGilloway's PRESERVE THE DEAD at Amazon UK

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Being Busy by G. J. Brown

G.J. Brown
Being Busy by G. J. Brown

A man that I thought I'd killed has just come back from the grave and, in doing so, has forced me into a change of identity.

Back in 2008 I gave birth to a small time accountant from Glasgow called Charlie Wiggs. As unlikely a hero as you could imagine, he survived my first book, Falling, made one more brief appearance in my second book and was buried with quiet dignity. Craig McIntyre then took over my life, an ex US military bodyguard who roams the planet causing chaos. Craig and Charlie could hardly be more different. One tall and athletic. One small and overweight. One being chased by a U.S. black ops agency. The other being thrown off a roof by Glasgow thugs.

Then I met a U.S. publisher called Eric Campbell from Down and Out books based in sunny Florida. We shared a beer at the Left Coast Crime Festival in Colorado Springs and worked our way through a mountain of follow up emails that ran on for nearly two years. In the interim Craig made two outings in The Catalyst and Meltdown, while Eric and I kept up the dialogue.

Then, just before Christmas, Eric made me an offer that I couldn't refuse and, as a result, Charlie is going to appear in print in America next year when Down & Out will publish Falling. As part of the deal I made a rash promise and offered up a sequel. So, in January, I sat down to find out where Charlie has been for all these years. To start with I re-read Falling and Charlie's ghost rose from the pages and took new life.

I've just put a full stop on his return, at least the first draft, and as odd as having an accountant as the main protagonist might be, I like the fact the wee man is back.

To add to the madness of resuscitating Charlie I've also swallowed a pill that I should have swallowed a few years ago and rebranded myself as G.J. Brown. Why? Well the spectre of our ex Prime Minister casts a long shadow and I've been struggling to rise above it, especially when it comes to finding my books on the Internet. Type Gordon Brown into Google and you'll see what I mean. 

As a part time writer I have a full time job to hold down and the return of Charlie, the name change and the next Craig McIntyre novel makes for packed days. And, to add to it all, as a founding committee member on Scotland's crime writing festival Bloody Scotland, we are just about to launch the programme for 2015. The line up looks great and the festival is going to be bigger and better than ever (an old cliche but appropriate).
So all in all, as my wife points out, as good as it is to be busy, I'm happier when I'm busier.

For more see - now I'm just off to work out the set list for my show on local radio.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Enjoy a Twisted Fate in Los Angeles California with Tony Bulmer

Los Angeles, California. Everyone knows the City of Angels is a crazy town. It also happens to be my town. Tottering on the edge of fire & insanity, the fault lines of my world stretch from the endless Pacific, to the wild swirling canyons of Hollywood legend. I live on Mulholland Drive, the snake-back spine of the city, but it wasn’t always this way, hell no.

Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Michael Connelly. There is a distinct tradition of L.A. crime writing. I guess I am one too, but like the writers I just mentioned I am an outsider. I wasn’t born here. I ended up in L.A. quite by accident after series of disasters and coincidences. 

I spent close to 25 years in London England working a long succession of publishing gigs for the likes of Fleetway Comics and Dennis Publishing. I started writing crime as an antidote to the loathsomely mundane nature of my day job. I lived in a bad-assed area of North London back then and had to run a gauntlet of drug-addled maniacs just to get to work and back. Shootings, stabbings and screaming psychosis of every kind were daily gifts. One day I walked out the door and cops with machine guns were storming the house across the street. It was that kind of neighborhood.

Crime writing is an antidote to such things. Not just for the writer, but for the reader also. Crime writing intellectualizes the horror and danger of the world in which we live and raises the possibility of justice, redemption and salvation. 

For me, the very best crime writers, like Ross Macdonald, not only provide answers to the question of crime, they also raise questions about society’s big issues—poverty, abuse of power, social injustice of every kind. These are questions that concern me also, for whilst I am deeply influenced by writers such as Chandler, Fleming, Charteris and Robert Crais, I also love writers such as Steinbeck and Orwell. I am driven to provide a sense of social conscience in my work, that might in some small way make the world a better place—or at the very least, put social issues into a context that will empower the reader, so they might more easily deal with seemingly intractable bullshit that confronts us all on a daily basis.

Social conscience? What about the sex & violence and car chases? I hear you say. 

Noel Coward, once opined, “The theatre is a wonderful place, a house of strange enchantment, a temple of illusion. What it most emphatically is not and never will be is a scruffy, ill-lit, fumed-oak drill hall serving as a temporary soap-box for political propaganda.” This also applies to the popular novel. Entertainment is what this gig is about. I am an entertainer. And as such I am obsessed with taking the fun-filled fast-talking world of the Chandleresque protagonist to newer and ever greater heights. I have written smart-mouthed investigators, Sherlockian know-it-alls, and a whole bunch of bad-assed villains, as endearing and empathetic in their vileness as they are in the erudite nature of their after-dinner conversation—you will dig them all, I just know it.

Like Chandler and fellow Brit Lee Child, I was raised in England, but have spent many years in America; this has given me a unique understanding of both cultures. I get the in jokes, but I am also enough of an outsider that I can still delight in the picayune details that so many miss. I strive to capture those details, of course, and relay them with a wit, humor and humanity that will have you treasuring my books alongside those of your favorite writers. 

You should read my books. I have written ten. My latest, Twisted Fates, Twelve Tales of Murder and Redemption is a book of short stories with deliciously unexpected endings, set in and around Los Angeles, California. By the time you read this my latest high-concept crime thriller Manhattan Takedown will also be available—CIA shenanigans; corporate malfeasance and a politically incorrect talk radio DJ who might just turn New York into a post apocalyptic wasteland. Relentless twists, endless double-dealing and a mystery so intense it will have you guessing to the very last page. But you would expect that, wouldn’t you my pulp-loving pals?

:: Find out more about Tony Bulmer:

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

MEAN STREETS: A Crime Fiction Story Bundle

11 crime novels. Pay what you want. Help worthy causes 

The Mean Streets Bundle is a collection of books by renowned authors like Ed Gorman, Bill Pronzini, Sean Black, Clive Barker and David Morrell - the author of First Blood no less! Oh, and my own Truth Lies Bleeding (DI Rob Brennan 1) is in there too. There's a little over a week left to grab this bargain, check it out here:

Saturday, 2 May 2015

FACE OFF: Brennan and Nixon talk dirty deeds

Here at Pulp Pusher we don’t do things by halves. Except this time. Authors can usually be found downing whiskey and we thought throwing together two leading lights of the crime fiction indie scene in a bar to talk about writing would be a good idea. 

Irish author Gerard Brennan pens hard hitting Celtic noir and is published by digital house, Blasted Heath. Keith Nixon resides with Caffeine Nights and cranks out black comedy and crime.

Keith Nixon.
Gerard Brennan.

Keith: What piques your interest when you open a novel?

Gerard: I'm a sucker for style. Give me a strong voice over an airtight plot any day of the week.


Keith: Something that moves with pace and strong characters. I can’t be doing with plodding storylines…

So, what's next from the pen of GB?

Gerard: Hard to say. I finished two novels this year but one can't be published until I complete my PhD. The second hasn't been given the thumbs up by anybody jåust yet so for all I know, it's a bunch of shite. I'm working on a play and another Cormac Kelly novel right now, and I've a screenplay out there looking for an agent. Whichever of those hits the mark first is anybody's guess.

Keith: What's your most under-rated book?

Gerard: I think they're all overrated, mate. I'm lucky like that.

Keith: I’m not sure I’d agree with you there! The one I’ve under-rated the most of yours is Fireproof, to my eternal shame…

Gerard: Yeah, I’ve not forgiven you for that yet.

Keith: Will another drink help?

Gerard: Maybe. In fairness, I understand that the book isn’t for everybody. Fireproof seems to be the ginger step-child of my canon. It’s gotten a slight resurgence lately, though, thanks to a BookBub add. That was cool. I think it’s just one of those things. When you write a book that you can’t tag a specific genre to, it can make it hard to sell. Fireproof’s a sort of horror/crime/fantasy/comedy mash-up. And it uses religion as a backdrop, which can be off-putting to quite a few people. 

Your historic novels seem to do pretty well. Are they your most popular ones?

Keith: In terms of sales yes, by a country mile! I’ve sold over 10,000 of them now, not bad in less than a year. 

Gerard: Holy feck! Ahem… aye. Not bad, mate.

Keith: Historical fiction and Rome in particular seems to be a popular genre. Ratings wise the crime novels set a higher bar and they’re relatively more straightforward to write, but they’re less visible - funny really!

Which of your works did you enjoy writing the most?

Gerard: I’m not 100% sure. They were probably all quite a slog at the time, but as the months and years roll on you tend to remember the easier days over the hard ones. I’d say it was one of the novellas, though. Maybe Welcome to the Octagon. It’s about mixed martial arts (AKA cage fighting) and I’m an Ultimate Fighting Championship fan, so it was fun to attempt to translate that kind of action to the page. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a niche subgenre so the sales suck monkey butts. Never mind 10,000 copies. That one barely cleared 10.

While we’re chatting genre, why the direction change with The Corpse Role? Was it difficult to write a police procedural?

Keith: Yes and no. I like to get the basis of a story factually correct (which is a nightmare when you’re writing historical fiction from a period where nothing is recorded!) so there was an element of research and having to find a plausible storyline to hang the narrative from, but once I had strong characters it largely drove itself.

Gerard: Reader, writer and reviewer: Which role gives you the most pleasure?

Keith: Ironically I took them up in that order! I started reading at an early age, for as long as I can remember. Books are very important to me. If I get fed up or want to retreat from the world I’ll pick up a book. It’s a bit harder these days with the kids, though. Writing I’ll never give up. It’s a mentally tough activity, so I can’t do as much of it as I’d like (plus I have a full time job and the kids thing again). Reviewing has been great, I’ve met so many new authors as a result, but you have to be honest in your assessment, I believe. Sometimes people don’t like that.

So overall I couldn’t imagine changing any of them, but overall I’d have to go for reading – someone else can entertain me!

Could you imagine yourself as a full time writer?

Gerard: I'm kind of living the life of a full-time writer now. Kind of. I took a career break to do a PhD at Queen's University Belfast. A huge element of said PhD is to pen a crime novel. There's more to it than that, such as a critical element, courses that need to be completed, teaching opportunities... yadda, yadda, yadda. But I reckon that a true full-time writer (i.e. one that doesn't have to depend on university funding to cover their mortgage) would still have a bunch of commitments to honour, if their marketing team is doing a good job and setting them up with readings and whatnot. So, yeah. I can imagine it. And guess what. It smells like coffee. What surprises me most is how many distractions I can find that pretty much take up the time I'd have spent working the aul' office job anyway.

I could bang on about this until your eyes glaze, so I'll stop there.

You have a publisher AND you self-publish. What are you, greedy?

Keith: It’s a multi-channel strategy GB! By the way, I work in sales… I started off self-published as I had a lost year trying to get what’s now The Eagle’s Shadow to an agent. No-one was interested. My wife bought me a kindle for a birthday a few years ago, The Fix was almost done and I couldn’t face the trawl through agencies and postage costs so I put it out myself. Then along came Caffeine Nights and there are two Konstantin books with them and a third out in May (I’m Dead Again).

Someone suggested I dust off the Roman books so I did and they’ve both sold very well, to my great surprise. They weren’t right for Caffeine and I just wanted to get on with it. I’ve just self-published The Corpse Role, again just a timing thing.

Gerard: Cool, man. I've been doing some reading outside the genre lately. Horror, thriller, even science fiction. And I've enjoyed them more than most of the crime books I've read this year. I think I got stuck in a reading rut or something, and jumping genres has been a tonic. Now I'm starting to wonder if I should be wary of a writing rut. So I think that, before I hit said rut, I'm going to explore a few more genres. Horror first, I think. I'd quite like to do more genre splicing as well (like fantasy/crime fiction or something), but I'll try out a good ol' fashioned horror first. After rewriting two current books and finishing a third.

I'm going to have to work through this hangover tomorrow, aren't I?


Keith: Anyway, cheers!

Gerard: Slainte!

:: Find Keith and Gerard on Amazon

Monday, 23 March 2015

PUSH-UPS: Michael Malone

Michael Malone.
So, what you pushing right now?
Beyond the Rage, a contemporary crime thriller set in Glasgow.

What’s the hook?
The blurb ... Even though he's a successful criminal, Glasgow villain Kenny O'Neill is angry. Not only has his high-class escort girlfriend just been attacked, but his father is reaching out to him from the past despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother's suicide. Kenny is now on a dual mission to hunt down his girl's attacker and find out the truth about his father... but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet. An intelligent, violent thriller shot through with dark humour, Beyond the Rage enthrals and disturbs in equal measure. With an intricate plot, all-too-believable characters and perfectly pitched dialogue, this is a masterclass in psychological crime fiction writing.

And why that's floating your boat?
In my first two crime novels the main character was DI Ray McBain and Ray happens to have a bessie mate who is a bit of a gangster, Kenny O'Neill. In BtR Kenny takes centre stage and Ray makes a cameo appearance. It was great fun to throw off the constraints of a pesky legal system and just take a character wherever the hell he wants to go.

When did you turn to crime?
It was an accident, honest, guv. I didn't think I had the plotting skills to write a crime novel, but when a dream I had became the opening chapter to Blood Tears, I went with it and discovered that with lots of hard work and thinking time (see me staring into space ignoring everyone around me) that it was possible.

Hardboiled, noir, classic or contemporary?
BtR has a touch of noir but leans more to the contemporary. I think. I'm not much one for labels. I just write what I write, read as widely as I can and let people more clever than me get on with the categorisation.

What's blown you away lately?
I've just read John Connolly's new one  A Song of Shadows (out in April) and he's bang on form. (He never loses it to be fair). And a couple of really excellent debuts - The Abrupt Physics of Dying by Paul E. Hardisty and Graham Smith's  Snatched from Home. Both are well worth your hard-earned.

See any books as movies waiting to happen ...
I know I'm biased but I think my last book The Guillotine Choice would be a cracking movie - and we're in Papillon territory here, so what's not to love? Based on a true story it has everything - adventure, incredible courage and the best and the very worst of humanity.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
I tend to read mostly mainstream simply because I work in publishing and I need to read a strong selection across my client publishers. Having said that I am in the process of judging a self-published novel competition for the Scottish Association of Writers and there's a handful there that would sit comfortably on any publisher's list.

As for paper vs digital it's paper every time. Reading a book from a screen feels (to me) like I'm reading an unfinished manuscript (which I do from time to time) so I find it difficult to turn off my critical reader. It takes something outstanding for me to relax and just go with it. Whereas when it's already in book form, my only expectation is that I'm going to be entertained. And it takes some poor writing and editing for me to switch on my inner critic. It's a subtle change in mental approach that I can't seem to control but means paper wins every time. AND books are such lovely things aren't they? A row of gadgets on a shelf just doesn't have the same aesthetic appeal.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
CrimeSquad - monthly updates with some of the best new crime and thriller fiction out there. 


Author of the Month for March is Peter Swanson who burst on the crime scene in 2014 with his debut, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart.

Preview by Yahoo

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
I've just bought a new coffee bean grinder. You can't beat freshly brewed coffee to kick start your morning. (Unless it also comes with a warm croissant.)

:: Michael Malone blogs at 

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Ringer gets some press

It can't have escaped both of you, my dear readers, that The Ringer is about to kick off at Ayr Gaiety Theatre on Feb 11-12.

There's even been some great coverage for the play in the press with the Daily Record, Evening Times, Scots Mag, Ayrshire Post, Highland Times, Rutherglen Reformer and many more running very nice stories.

There's more to come, so will post those when they appear, but in the meantime to keep you informed, and amused, there's a Pinterest page and a video trailer.

OR CALL 01292 288235


By Andrez Bergen

While most people conjuring up the Tristan/Tristram and Isolde/Iseult tale of yore probably think love-potion histrionics, armour, amore, King Arthur, much bodice-ripping, Richard Wagner’s opera, or James Franco in one of his lamer film roles, I steer towards something far nicer: A book of myths and legends that I grew up with, illustrated by the great Alice and Martin Provensen.
Martin collaborated on Disney fare like Dumbo and Fantastia, but you might know him best for his creation (in 1952) of Tony the Tiger for Kelloggs. I actually have a coffee mug with that on it. Alice worked with the Walter Lantz Studio, creators of Woody Woodpecker. But it was their imagery as pair that caused the most impact, with eight books making the New York Times list for best-illustrated tomes each year they were published.
Anyway, Alice and Martin are bloody brilliant artists.
My dad picked up for me the myths and legends book I mentioned when I was in primary school, and I call it simply (suitably) Myths & Legends — though the official title is the somewhat long-winded Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends Adapted from the World’s Great Classics (originally published in 1958) with the stories adapted by Anne Terry White. 
So I always dug the tale of Tristram & Iseult (also known as Tristan & Isolde) for the artwork as much as the words and had it in mind for years to adapt the story in some way, somehow. I did pay homage in my novel One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, but on New Year’s Eve I got the bug in my “creative” bonnet to have a swing at the yarn — as a comic book.
Hence Trista & Holt.
Now, before you cough, splutter and/or soapbox that comic books are not real literature and belong nowhere near noir or on this site, let me point you in the direction of writers Alan Moore (who did V for Vendetta, Marvelman and Watchmen, all three of which have appeared on university curriculums apparently — though don't quote me), Frank Miller (Sin City and some of the best Batman and Daredevil escapades), Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) and the great Ed Brubaker — who rebooted Captain America with the 'Winter Soldier' saga and has done comics with names like Criminal and Fatale
So get over it.
If you didn't hack, choke or get judgemental at the mention of sequential stuff, all the better.
Anyway, over Christmas/New Year I was also entrenched in another Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler binge. I do them frequently. But this time I caught up on 95% of the Continental Op stories, along with The Glass Key, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man (yet again), as well as Marlowe in Playback and The High Window.
So I had this big hardboiled detective vibe happening in my brain, while polishing off my Bullet Gal series — which is hardboiled noir set in the '40s.
And when I started the new comic, of course these influences were going to hang heavy — along with the comic book work of Brubaker, Fraction, Miller, Moore and the pioneering Will Eisner (The Spirit).
Which brings me to the new comic series, the first issue of which will be published at the end of February via IF? Commix [] in Australia.
Hell, there's even a Facebook page [] where I put regular work-in-progress rubbish and waffle on a bit more than here.
What's the score?
Well, it's the 1970s and set in an unnamed city in which crime families flourish and the police pinch pennies from those with most power. Our heroes are members of rival clans, star-crossed heirs apparent destined to find love, loss and betrayal.
I have no idea what encouraged me to flip the coin three pages into the new series and set the time frame as the '70s. 
Sure, some of the best crime/gangster movies were made then like The Godfather, The Anderson Tapes, Dirty Harry, The French Connection and A Clockwork Orange — but it's also the era of flares, disco, The Star Wars Holiday Special and CHiPs.
Which makes it all the more fun to tackle. With a serious bent, I swear.

:: Andrez Bergen blogs here:

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015

PUSH-UPS: Anthony Neil Smith

So, what you pushing right now?
Got a new novel called WORM from Blasted Heath Books that has just hit the Amazons. The e-version is out, and there will be a paperback version from Down & Out Books in a couple of months. 
Also, after XXX SHAMUS (which I wrote under the pen name Red Hammond) was banned on Amazon, Broken River Books teamed up with Fanbacked to offer it *exclusively* right here:
What’s the hook?
WORM is a standalone novel about a regular guy looking for work up in the North Dakota oil fields—an economic gold-mine, an ecological disaster, and a sad human story all balled up into one lonesome stretch of prairie. This one took me a long time to write, and I’m pretty proud of it. 
And XXX SHAMUS is pretty much porn, but un-sexy. It’s kind of a critique of both the “pan to the curtains” shot in PI films, and the soul-sucking weariness of an over-porned culture. So, Hopper is a New Orleans private eye looking for a missing pregnant teenager, but Hopper is also irresistible to nearly everyone he meets. So he ends up fucking a lot of people. And how does that make him feel? Tired. Very tired. 
Yep. That shit was banned from
And why’s that floating your boat?
Because being banned is cool if you can then turn the book into a cult classic! Goddamn, we’re trying!
WORM is a bit personal to me because 1) my mother-in-law was the one who pointed out the possibility of a story there in North Dakota, and 2) I had a heart-attack while I was writing it. I’ve made a full recovery and I’m in great shape, but damn, ya know? After that heart attack, I looked at what I was doing and decided I loved being a writer on an indie press, working with people I really admire and like, instead of chasing after douchebag agents and Big 6 presses.

When did you turn to crime?
Young age. Young, young age. Had to be, like, six or seven, discovering the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, and Encyclopedia Brown. That quickly gave way to adult novels, because the covers were wicked cool.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
Always noir, always contemporary. I want to see what writers can do with it next to make it new and exciting. Same shit I’m trying to pull. No one wears fedoras much anymore, but people still treat other people like shit and then get stomped into shit themselves, usually over drugs, money, or fucking. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Oh, I hate hate hate to do this because I hate leaving people out (and that’s because of how often I’m left out of “best of” lists), but okay, lately? Rusty Barnes’ novel RECKONING, The Area X Trilogy, Jim Harrison’s THE GREAT LEADER, Ryan Bradley’s WINTERSWIM, and now I’m regretting naming things. So much stuff on Kindle (shout out to Anthony Schiavino’s SHOTGLASS MEMORIES), damn you for asking. I’m also getting into hair pomade, and I love Lockhart’s Hair Groom, Anchor’s Teddy Boy Original, Shear Revival, and O’Doud’s Light.
See any books as movies waiting to happen?
No. Not mine, anyway. I mean, HOGDOGGIN’ is supposedly under contract, but we’re way past when I thought that would get traction (although I still love the producers and the director. I know, I know, movie stuff takes time.)
I’m very picky about movies, anyway. I get bored with them really fast, and I’ve found that when a ton of people in the noir world are going nuts over a particular movie, I usually don’t get the hype. So maybe I just prefer TV and novels.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Gotta go indie. I’m just finding more interesting stuff, writers willing to take risks and publishers willing to let them.
And I’m going to say digital. The prices of indie press books on Kindle make it possible to discover a lot of new stuff, and I read faster on Kindle. So that’s my discovery engine. When I buy paper now, it’s because I love the author enough to get it immediately, or because the book itself is from a small press and handsome, or, most importantly, it’s a mainstream book that’s used and cheap. Books should be cheaper. Cheaper books means we are willing to try more authors and take more chances.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
Well, Fanbacked, of course:
Here’s another:

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Even though I’ve come to accept and appreciate my position as a small-time writer on indie presses, it is still pretty hard to not be bitter about how things didn’t work out with larger presses for the earlier books, especially ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, which really should’ve…[takes deep breath], but after the heart attack, I just couldn’t put myself through that grind any more. I’d rather work hard to leave the stress and heart break (ha, see what I did there?) of those days behind and publish with smaller presses where I know fewer readers will find me. It’s complicated. It’s sometimes shitty, but I’m also now in a place where the happiness outnumbers the unhappiness 10 to 1.

I’ll just keep writing novels. It’s just a part of my life now.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


By D. F. Robertson

Some readers here will (hopefully) be more familiar with my genre fiction published under the pen name of Leon Steelgrave through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.  You might then find yourself asking what exactly constitutes a D. F. Robertson novel.  In part, like one of my literary heroes, Neil Gunn, it is a Scottish connection, and more than that, a tendency to defy classification.
Although the more snobbish element of the literary establishment might take a different view, I have long held that good writing is good writing, regardless of whether it is genre fiction or mainstream literary fiction.  Writers set out to write the best book they can; sometimes we are successful, other times not, but either way we prove Iris Murdoch’s assertion that “every book is the wreck of a perfect idea”.  I suspect this is why the majority of us continue to write, striving towards the chimera of executing our ideas perfectly.  I have yet to succeed, but my decision to publish this book under my own name and in physical form indicate its status as a favoured son.
The genesis of On The Wire lies as far back as 2005, when the idea detached itself from another, as yet unpublished, novel.  It took me until 2012 to complete a draft I felt equal to the idea.  I completed several other novels during this period, but always knew I would come back to this one.  In many ways, it was simply the process of allowing my skill as a writer to develop to the point where I felt confident with my ability tell the story as it demanded to be told.  The killing fields of Flanders demand respect, while the dead are owed the truth.  Twin objectives not always easy to reconcile.
The central conceit of the book is the seeming invulnerability of Davy Geddes, a mysterious loner who volunteers for Kitchener’s New Army to atone for some unspecified sin.  Here we have the juxtaposition between an army of men fighting to live and a single man hoping to die, which allows us to explore the concept of heroism and the ever troubling issue of faith during war.  As one would expect, themes of revenge and justice are never far away.  This is also, predominately, a story of the working class, of farm workers, labourers, shop assistants and factory workers.  Ordinary folk compelled by extraordinary circumstances to participate in the greatest slaughter of the modern age.  As such, it is no place to be concerned with the justness of either side’s cause.  Neither shall I offer any apology for what some readers might view as unnecessary brutality within the prose.  War is a dirty, dehumanising business and it should ever be portrayed as such within the pages of fiction.
The setting is, of course, one of great social upheaval, with socialism and women’s suffrage sweeping through Europe.  Both have their roots in class and equality issues that continue to dog modern society.  We have come a long way in the last century, but not nearly far enough, judging by the images on our television and computers screens.  And that brings us back to why we write; if our world were perfect few of us would feel the need to hold up a mirror, black or otherwise, to it.
:: Visit D.F. Robertson on Facebook and buy On the Wire on Amazon UK.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

THE RINGER comes to the stage

Wed 11 & Thu 12 Feb at 7.30pm


Tickets: £14.00 / £12.50 (conc)
Online booking at The Gaiety Theatre, Ayr.

A brand new hard-hitting crime drama from Edinburgh based award-winning journalist, editor and novelist, Tony Black. The Ringer is a cautionary tale of revenge, enacted upon the most unsavoury of characters. Told in the raw Scots tongue, and equally unflinching language, the lowlifes of Scotland’s second city have never looked so low.
For small time Glasgow drug dealer, Stauner, life is sweet when he meets Monique. With free board and an unpaid servant at his beck and call, the daily trip to the bookies is his toughest chore. It could all be too good to be true, but the misogynist Stauner stupidly believes it’s his due. When the wide boy’s deluded state persuades him that Monique should steal from night-club boss Davie Geddes, however, Stauner’s arrogance gets the better of him. Soon his cloak of small-minded bigotry is stripped from him and he’s forced to pay for the grievous misdeeds of his past.
Parental advisory 16+. Contains strong language, dark comedy, violent themes and sexual references. 
Starring Evie Adams and Chris Taylor. Adapted by Pete Martin.