Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Ronnie Bob lumbered his flab into the lead. His finger licked at the 30-06’s trigger. It had been since Stagger Lee had hauled Solly from the covered cab of the F-150, sliced his duct-tape bonds and told him to get running.
“Bout fucking time,” Ronnie Bob said, eyes already leaping for targets in the amber drift of the Kentucky forest. “Don’t see why we didn’t blast that coon soon as we got here.”
“The plans to make it seem a hunting accident,” Stagger Lee said, strolling after smooth-as-you-please, like he were promenading Transylvania Park, not stalking the coal-rich hills of East Kentucky.
“Sure seems a load of sweat just to give a black boy his due.”
“It’s suspicious enough that you’re shooting your daughter’s dark-skinned boyfriend.”
“Maybe in these enlightened times. Used to be that polite society understood such things.”
“Polite society expects you to at least pretend to not break the law.”
“He’s the one breaking the law,” Ronnie Bob jabbed his rifle ahead.
“Ain’t no law about getting a girl pregnant.”
“Should be. And there’s laws against pushing dope.”
“How you so sure Solly’s pushing dope?”
“I just know.”
“Southern Daddy ESP, huh? Solly’s colored, so it goes to figure. Is that it?”
“Nah, I hear talk,” Ronnie Bob was already wheezing and wiping his brow.
“Talk from who?”
“From Aubrey, for one.”
“Oh, you believe her when she tell you that Solly’s a drug dealer, but not all the times she said she weren’t banging him?”
“You got to use the word ‘banging’ in the same sentence as my daughter and a coon?”
“If you got another euphemism, try it on for size.”
“I just know, Stagger.” Ronnie Bob sagged his old, fat bones against a stump. “I just know.”
Stagger sidled up and set the six-pack of Pabst he slung in his hand on the stump. He patted Ronnie Bob on the shoulder and took a moment soaking in the forest: The quilted, smoky smell of the oaks and the sharp pine tar and the green-yellow drift of it all, cooling in the dying day.
“Well, that’s why I’m here, Ronnie Bob,” he said. “That’s good enough for me. Let’s set awhile.”
They sat and drank beer and talked of better times. Ronnie Bob talked of how easy it was to raise a girl until she was too old for pigtails. He talked of how the weight of the mixed-race baby in Aubrey’s belly was sending all that tuition money he’d saved for her right down the drain. He got to slurring his words and only then touched on how Stagger Lee was the sole, decent, white man left in Lexington—the only one who would step up and do the right thing by seeing Solly got the death coming to him.
“I always knew you were more to me than a bookie,” Ronnie Bob blubbered, mouth wet on Stagger’s shoulder. “You a stand-up man of the old school.”
“Rumor has it,” Stagger said and drank.
When the sky had mellowed from electric blue to Navy, they kicked their empties away and got to walking.
Ronnie Bob was as quiet as Stagger. He wiped his eyes for a final time.
They went into the forest with guns up.
They followed Solly’s city-boy trail.
Ronnie Bob was back to sagging when Solly’s voice came from the hash of the tree trunks.
“I figured this far enough,” Solly sounded bored and sad. “Let’s finish it.”
Ronnie Bob swept his rifle around. No target caught it. He yelled at the trees.
“You man enough to knock up my girl, you be man enough to step out and get what’s coming!”
“You really can’t live with Aubrey and me together?” Solly said.
“What gave you the clue, nigger?” Ronnie said.
Solly stepped from behind an oak, shaking his head. He’d dried his cheeks but his eyes were still wet. He opened his hands.
“Go ahead, then,” Solly said.
Ronnie Bob raised the rifle and crushed the trigger. The bang shook the woods.
Solly was untouched. He just looked at Stagger. Ronnie Bob goggled his gun.
“What the fuck?” Ronnie Bob said, then fired two more rounds.
“Blanks,” Stagger said. Ronnie Bob turned on him. Stagger had his rifle aimed at Ronnie. “These ain’t, though.”
“Why?” Ronnie Bob quaked. “Why, after all he’s done?”
“Reckon that is why,” Stagger said. “Dope pushers as industrious as Solly are hard for me to come by.”
Stagger’s bullet hit home and Ronnie Bob’s grimace exploded. His body flopped to ground. Ants and flies wasted no time swarming.
Solly hung his head. “Poor Aubrey.”
“Don’t you worry none,” Stagger patted his shoulder. “This hunting accident’s on me.”
Saturday, 28 January 2012
My latest novel is called The Ghosts Of Havana. It's the second installment in my Key West Nocturnes series, in which I intend to lift the veil off Key West, revealing it as a true noir city, on a par with Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Miami (or even Manchester). The first novel in that series is Setup On Front Street, and it's done quite well. The Ghosts Of Havana, however, is just out. It's different in that it starts out as noir, but veers into thriller territory, so I call it a noir thriller.
What’s the hook?
It's a tale of old vendettas that will not die. I have a quote from David Goodis in the front that says, "Every man has an ax to grind, whether he knows it or not." That pretty well sums up the book.
And why’s that floating your boat?
There's a blow-'em-out twist toward the end which I had wanted to write about for years. I actually started a novel years ago which had this twist in it, but I couldn't get past the first 100 pages. I set it aside.
Then, when I was writing The Ghosts Of Havana, I remembered that dusty effort, so I modified it and it fit perfectly in the new book.
When did you turn to crime?
Crime fiction (thank God we're moving away from calling them "mysteries") was a natural for me, almost from the very beginning. It allows me to write about the human condition as I see it. That is, ordinary people, minor players in society, sometimes make bad choices and inevitably get caught up in the backwater of those choices. They find themselves in over their heads and occasionally cross the line. Who among us wouldn't do the same, given the same desperate circumstances?
Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
I prefer noir, because of my answer to the previous question, but hardboiled is probably a close second. Classic and contemporary. Jim Thompson, David Goodis, James M Cain, and Gil Brewer are just a few of the great classic noir authors. Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett are some of the top-caliber hardboiled writers. Nowadays in noir, you have Vicki Hendricks, Elmore Leonard, and James Sallis. Jonathan Woods is another one. And of course, Lawrence Block spans both noir and hardboiled, as well as classic and contemporary. He'll be around forever.
And, what’s blown you away lately?
Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli is the best thing I've read in a long time. It's a noir novella that is a standout work. I've also just reread Street 8, a superb, yet little-known, Miami noir from 1977 by Douglas Fairbairn. Every Florida crime fiction author has been influenced by this book in one way or another.
See any books as movies waiting to happen?
I would like to think White Shadow by Ace Atkins has a shot at becoming a movie. It would be terrific if they could re-create Tampa in the 1950s on the screen as vividly as Ace did on the page.
Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Indie. I toiled for years trying to get the attention of can't-be-bothered agents and editors. I had no insider contacts and I resented the fact that many of the agents, especially those who insisted on exclusive submissions, never took the time to reply. My first novel was traditionally published, but the four books since then are all self-pubbed. Each of them has sold more than my trad-pubbed novel.
Paper or digital? I prefer paper, but the fact is digital is taking over, and it cannot be stopped. Print isn't going away, though. It'll still be used extensively for books that don't translate well to digital, such as coffee table books, almanacs, atlases, and the like. If anyone has any doubts, just look at Amazon's sales of the Kindle in the months leading up to Christmas: one million a week.
Shout us a website worth visiting …
Of course, that would be http://mikedennisnoir.com
Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
For most of my adult life, I was a professional musician. I played piano and sang (rock & roll, rhythm & blues, country) for decades, during which time, I never held another job. Not many musicians can make that claim.
But when my musical career wound down, I backed away from it to become respectable. I turned to professional poker.
I played poker at the professional level for six years, doing quite well, even moving to Las Vegas to pursue it. One day, however, I came home from the Bellagio poker room to find an email in my computer informing me that a publisher was offering me a book deal on my first novel. From that moment forward, I never returned to the poker room. I had to develop a website, an Internet presence, and a promotional mechanism, all of which consumed my every waking moment.
About a year ago, though, I returned to my beloved Key West, where I enjoy year-round island life.
Thursday, 26 January 2012
1 Stone Avenue
Sat Feb 4 at 6pm
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
"In the words of Mister Ellroy, welcome all you peepers, prowlers, pedophiles, pedants, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps.
"If you know the dark side of life and dream in blood red pictograms, if you feel at home in the motels and bars of the dangerous side of town, then welcome, what took you so long?
"While you're here I need a favour. You know that story you told me, the one about the murder and the big black bag of cash, well I need you to write it down. There's these guys, PJM Publishing they're called, and they're running this competition that sounds right up your street. Twisted Americana, that's what they call it and they want stories, short stories, the kind of thing you love, dark, twisted and sick as f... well, you know what I mean.
"Anything goes as long as it's twisted and Americana, think murder, mayhem, sex and violence. Paedophile priests and snake charmers. Motels and roadside diners, Vegas neon and the desert cat house.
"Look, I gotta run so do your own homework.
"Check out: www.pjmpublishing.com/competition.html and give it a go. Just don't tell them I sent you."
Further details about the contest and PJM Publishing can be found by visiting www.pjmpublishing.com. The competition itself is free to enter and will result in a paperback anthology of winning entries being published later in the year. All winning entrants will receive a free copy of the finished book.
Friday, 20 January 2012
Arguably, the success of Paul Sayer’s The Comforts of Madness (1988) still has some of the heavyweights vying for The Whitbread Book of the Year that time scratching their heads.
When you consider one of them was Salman Rushdie, and that the book he had in the race was The Satanic Verses, the image of head scratching suddenly seems insufficient.
Tic-ridden apoplexy seems more appropriate.
Sayer’s win was an upset for the old order. And justification writ-large for the team at Bloomsbury - the ever-agile publisher that was to score another success a few years later with a certain boy wizard.
The critics, championing the result, waxed lyrical:
“The Comforts of Madness is surely sad, but enthralling in its excellence. Sayer's style is understated and sure handed,“ announced New York Newsday.
Two decades later the author is still bashful about his incredible success - an achievement, which despite a Booker Prize long-listing in 1999 for Men in Rage, remains a career high. Sayer has continued to pen engaging, testing works, however, and even dabbled in the crime genre with The God Child (1996).
His crime offering received rave reviews with The Times declaring Sayer a “subtle moralist with an eye for the stranger byways of vice and virtue” going on to declare the novel as “fresh evidence for his talent and seriousness”.
The God Child is indeed an unusual crime novel. The intense, brooding conflicts of the Yorkshire coast almost strangle the reader with their agonies. Protagonist Harold Broom is a put-upon, cuckolded bankrupt who is taunted by letters from his wife’s lover. And miracle child, Maisie - born to Harold’s brother’s wife after a car accident - is a furtive teen without her troubles to seek.
PULP PUSHER spoke to Paul Sayer about The God Child and asked about his dabblings in crime, and the rewards of overthrowing the old order.
TONY BLACK: The book that introduced me - and quite a few others, I'm sure - to your work was The Comforts of Madness (1988). It proved to be quite a calling card for you.
PAUL SAYER: The Comforts of Madness was my third attempt at writing a novel, and if it hadn’t made it into print I may well have given up trying. In the end, the route to publication came through its winning The Constable Trophy, a now sadly defunct Yorkshire Arts initiative to find ‘the best unpublished novel in the North of England’. I’ve always thought it highly unlikely that any agent or editor would ever have taken it on, owing to its shortness and dark nature.
How did it feel to pick up the Whitbread Book of the Year award?
Winning the Whitbread, for which The Satanic Verses was a hot favourite, was as much a surprise to me as it was to everyone else: I was already more than satisfied with the book’s critical reception and the Whitbread First Novel award, and on the night the overall prize was awarded I was certain I was only there to make up the numbers.
You'd been working as a psychiatric nurse at the time, I believe, at what stage did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
Being from a rather modest background, I had no game plan at all for becoming a full-time writer, and I’m not sure that, with a wife, mortgage, and a son just about to start school, that I really wanted such a thing. But, of course, an award such as the Whitbread lifts you into a different league, both commercially and critically, at least for a little while, though the reality of what you earn rarely stands any comparison with the fabulous riches that many people imagine such an accolade should bring.
Obviously that job was influential in the writing you produced then.
Working as a psychiatric nurse constantly exposes you to lives lived in extremis and most mental health nurses I know seem to develop the same sixth sense about the human condition, and what is or is not genuine behaviour. For any category of writer, this kind of insight is priceless.
One of your subsequent books The Absolution Game (1992) was long-listed for the Booker Prize; you must have thought you were knocking at the door of the literary establishment.
The Absolution Game was a book I laboured over for too long – nine and a half full drafts in total – and I was so tired of it I never really cared for the final outcome. The Booker ‘long-listing’ was about as far as it was likely to get. Its reception also convinced me that the novel of contemporary social concerns was not keeping pace with modern tastes and thinking, leading me further into the mainstream, first with The Storm Bringer and then The God Child.
We're well and truly used to literary authors becoming genre writers now (Kate Atkinson and John Banville to name two) but back then it was quite a brave step.
What most literary authors are looking for, whether they admit it or not, is that most desirable of novels: one which is both well-written and well-crafted, but which also has a wide and popular appeal. You mention John Banville – I’m guessing you mean the finely rendered The Book of Evidence, which pre-dates my book – and indeed that work, along with Ian McEwan’s The Innocent, and some work of the late Brian Moore, and others, showed that you can give great depth and resonance to the often one- or two-dimensional crime novel. My agent at the time, Carol Smith, absolutely loved The God Child, but for me it brought the discovery that those who write genre novels best are the writers who are fully committed to the form, and I probably was not one of them. Alas, I’m no Raymond Chandler – for me one of the greatest prose fiction writers of the twentieth century.
I was thinking more of Banville’s crime writing success as ‘Benjamin Black’ …
I do try to pay attention to what’s going on in the literary world, but I’m afraid the Benjamin Black ouvre has passed me by completely.
The setting of The God Child is mired in a kind of claustrophobia. It's very noir, very murky. It's also very filmic; did you write it with one eye on the screen?
I do like narratives which are close and intense – the panoramic sweep of so many great American novels is beyond me and may have something to do with my Englishness and the small landscape I inhabit. But that’s not to say that the deepest and most universal truths cannot be found in the often stifling social microcosms in which we Brits live. As for writing with the screen in mind, I don’t know that anyone can take that as a principal motive for creating a novel: the literary scene is such a crowded marketplace these days and only a very tiny percentage of books actually make it into production.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that the initial germ of inspiration for The God Child came from a real-life murder in the late-70s/early-80s in Filey, the Yorkshire seaside town which I disguised as Oughton Bay. It involved the killing of a hotelier by his wife, and a barman at the hotel who was also her lover. It’s a long time ago and the details are a bit sketchy in my mind, though I do remember the Daily Mirror helpfully printing a photograph of the hotel’s pool table on which much bonking by the guilty couple was said to have taken place.
The characters of The God Child interact in complex ways. I'm thinking of the mother, who comes to play a pivotal role in the storyline, and the godchild, Maisie, herself; the protagonist, Harold Broome, is an uncle and a son and a husband. This much familial context is not something we're used to seeing in a mystery novel, was that something you wanted to address?
The family setting, with all its shades of insincerity, its failed attempts at communication, its conniving and thwarted desires, is of course a great staple of fiction of all kinds and it was the only way I felt I could deliver such a narrative. Not for me, I’m afraid, the crime novel with the detective with a suspect temperament and quirky, murky past. Which is not to say I don’t admire the better examples of those kinds of creation: Henning Mankel’s Wallander, for example, has some very edgy ideas about race and sexual politics which I find intriguing.
You’ve mentioned Chandler and Mankel, are there any other crime writers you admire?
If I was to get metaphysical about the genre, I’d say virtually all crime writing owes something to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and a modern classic derivation, while not exactly a novel, is Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, another source of inspiration for The God Child. Amongst modern writers of, if you like, ‘pulp’ crime fiction, I find the output varies wildly in quality – some readers appear perfectly happy to accept quite low standards of writing, and the plots and characterisation in many of these books can be terribly hackneyed. However, I do find Ruth Rendell’s Barbara Vine strand always seems to reach a reliably intelligent level of reader engagement.
How do you feel about The God Child all these years after its publication? Is there any part of it you would change?
If I was to write The God Child again, I’d make more of Harold’s relationship with his wife – I feel I rather skimmed it a bit and there was a lot more that could have been learned about him from that.
You seem to be quite heavily involved in teaching writing at the moment; are you getting much writing done?
At the moment I‘m involved with writing about crime of a different kind with a book entitled The True Adventures of Richard Turpin. The title says it all really, since it’s a novelised account of the real life of the burglar and highwayman Dick Turpin: a story considerably more interesting than the mythical Black Bess and ‘Stand-and-deliver!’ version, though I suspect some people will always prefer the pantomime villain to the real thing, since he could be brutal and callous and it’s not easy to inspire sympathy for him in the reader. I twice thought I’d crossed the finishing line with the book, only to learn that I still hadn’t really got to grips with a very complex story and my organisation of the historical material continues to drive me slightly loopy. Over the last two years I’ve also been dogged by a little ill-health, namely a very old renal problem - polycystic, if you’re interested in such things – which led to my having a kidney transplant at the end of October. However, I’ve managed to avoid dialysis and my recovery is good, if a little slow, and by early next year I’m hoping to be back on track when I intend to nail that blackguard Turpin for good! All breath should be kept suitably baited.
Would you tackle crime fiction again? How do you feel the genre has developed over the years since you tried your hand?
I would certainly be interested in writing another crime-driven novel, if only for the opportunity it would present to examine the incredibly complex nature of evil, of which I have never read a satisfactory definition. But with such plot-driven writing, you definitely have to be ‘in the moment’ and to hit a certain groove that must be followed to the end. And the great rule, of course, is that you should never know how the story ends until you get there.
How do you feel about the current state of publishing in general?
The traditional London-based bricks-and-mortar publishing houses still have a stranglehold on print review space and the industry as a whole, but the world is changing fast and their approach to e-books seems very fragmentary and likely to find a few of them out quite soon. The scope for small independent houses - offering print-on-demand and other formats for the cyber-savvy -would seem to be better than ever before. But the old soldiers in the book business, who are generally ‘conservative’ in both the chief wretched senses of the word, will remain very difficult to shift from their entrenched positions as arbiters of literary taste and fashion.
Are you interested in eBooks? Do you own a Kindle?
I have yet to read an e-book, however I was recently given a Samsung something-or-other which I think has Kindle properties, though I’ve yet to work out how to use it. Look, all my life I’ve been a reader of physical books, and then a writer of the same sensual and iconic artefacts, and old habits like that die incredibly hard, though I know I’ll have to come to terms with the new production methods sometime. Adapt or perish: it’s ever been thus.
:: Paul Sayer's
Men in Rage is
Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Right, MURDER MILE, you're itching for the run-down I can tell. Here goes:
In a cold, windswept field on the outskirts of Edinburgh, lies the brutally mutilated body of a young woman. As DI Rob Brennan looks at the tangled mass of limbs and blood, he feels his heart freeze.
Like Fiona Gow five years earlier, this girl has been strangled with her own stockings, sexually mutilated and her eyes have been gouged out. Is this the work of an Edinburgh Ripper? The press certainly think so.
Rob Brennan is determined to uncover the truth - however painful that might be. But truth is hard to come by in a world of police rivalries, media hysteria and copycat crime.I can honestly say this was the most difficult novel I've ever written ... a man's reach etc, but there were times when I thought I'd taken on too much but determination and DI Rob Brennan's interesting path through the chaos got me there.
It's a bigger novel too, the biggest I've written ... 120K words-ish. Yes, I nearly choked when I saw that. Quite a lot more than the slim Dury ones.
Anyway, enough of me rabbiting along. Here's what some more qualified people had to say about Brennan's first outing TRUTH LIES BLEEDING ...
"In a departure from his brilliant Gus Dury series, Tony Black introduces a new character to the Edinburgh crime scene, DI Rob Brennan. Dury is the new star of Scottish noir, Brennan proves lightning can strike twice."
-The Daily Record
"Black renders his nicotine-stained domain in a hardboiled slang that fizzles with vicious verisimilitude."
- The Guardian
"Black has already delivered four fine novels to establish himself at the front of the Tartan Noir pack and this fifth sees him pushing the police procedural as far as it will go . . . a superior offering in an already crowded Scottish crime market."
- The Big Issue
"Brennan is beautifully sculpted out of hard rock, Black really excels with his depiction of Edinburgh’s low-life scum . . . an accomplished and impressive piece of Tartan Noir."
- The List
"Scottish noir at it's absolute and utter best, Truth Lies Bleeding is a rollercoaster of the personal and professional, dark and light, desperation and determination."
- Aust Crime
"This is an excellent police procedural novel and Rob Brennan is a thoroughly engaging and believable protagonist. The book takes a very dark and difficult topic and treats it with sensitivity and complete lack of sensationalism. Yet it's a thrilling, chilling enthralling read."
- The Big Beat from Badsville
"Truth Lies Bleeding is a brilliant read. Black has created a compelling character in Brennan but he's particularly good at showing the lives of people on the margins of Edinburgh society, the grimy underbelly of smack heads and low lives. Truth Lies Bleeding is another cracking slice of the dark side of life from Tony Black and proof that he's got plenty of tricks up his sleeve."
- Pulp Metal Magazine
"Tony Black has proved in his earlier books that he can write up a storm and in this book he also really nails the characterizations that make this impossible to put down."
"Truth Lies Bleeding pins the reader to their chair with deft action, sharp characters and a harrowing plot. Well worth catching."
- Crime Time Preview
"It’s a great book. Shaprly written. Brilliantly plotted. Page-turning and thought-provoking at the same time. Highly recommended."
- Sea Minor
"Every flaw is stripped of shadow and every bad deed gets punished. If I read a better example of the police procedural this year I will be amazed."
"Truth Lies Bleeding has lost none of the grit, nor the savage descriptive powers so characteristic of the earlier novels ... still conveys the harsh, bitter world of his Edinburgh setting extremely well."
"Tony Black is a very skilled writer who can depict the grim, darker aspects of life with realism and yet still be highly readable."
"Black’s narrative switching between the pursuer and his quarry work well, and his clearly conflicted relationship with Edinburgh adds to this story’s appeal."
- Kirkus Reviews
And if you're so inclined, here's the ever-talented Pete Martin's brilliant trailer for said tome:
Monday, 16 January 2012
1__Dig Two Graves by Eric Beetner
The rise in e-book publishing seems to have reignited interest in the novella, and in Beetner, it’s found a perfect match. Pitched perfectly and razor sharp, Dig Two Graves, sees Val, a recently released bank robber, seek revenge on his double-crossing former partner, Ernesto. It’s fast, furious and sparkles with black humour. We’ve seen the likes of Stuart Neville and John Rector make the leap from the Internet to a wider stage. Beetner might just be the next to join them.
2__One Behind the Ear by Wensley Clarkson
Known predominantly as a true crime writer, Clarkson’s foray into fiction shows he’s no one trick pony. Malcolm Deakin is a hitman for hire. He’s careful, methodical and doesn’t take risks. That is until he’s contracted to kill a former school friend. What unfolds is a nasty tale of paronia, as Deakin becomes increasingly unsettled by the feeling he’s being lined up to take a nasty fall. Although the dialogue occasionally leans towards being a little clichéd, this remains a brutal and unflinching story.
3__Happy Days by Graham Hurley
DI Faraday is gone and Hurley’s immaculate police series is brought to a close. Former police detective, Paul Winter, remains on the payroll of criminal-turned-businessman, Bazza McKenzie, but with the recession biting, McKenzie’s attempt to win real power at the local elections is Winter’s chance to escape the increasingly erratic behaviour of the man. But that proves easier said than done. Pitched perfectly in the claustrophobic environment of Portsmouth, Hurley’s morally complex series cements its position as the absolute benchmark for authentic police novels.
Nick Quantrill lives and works in Hull, an isolated city on the east coast of England. His second Joe Geraghty novel, The Late Greats, is published March 2012 by Caffeine Nights. His short stories appear in Volumes 8 and 9 of The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime.
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
"At least my shirts stay pressed," I said, "and I’m well hydrated.”
He started off with his name, Rory Hancock, and surmised that his wife, Lola, might be cheating on him. I expressed sympathy, hoping it played sincere. Then he showed me a snapshot of his blonde honey. Christ, she was a generation younger than him and had dips and curves that spoke of a gymnastic ability on a Serta.
Hancock intimated that he worked too much and might have taken his darling for granted. Oh, really? Then he took off, leaving behind a mushroom cloud of cologne and a check for five days of peeping on his soul mate.
First line on the expense account: daylight film stock. Housewives snuck around in the mornings and afternoons and then scurried home, trying to beat their hard working hubbies back to the love nest. How did Hancock glean that his dear Lola might be unfaithful? Not from a lack of conjugal delights, he had said, but from too many crock pot meals.
On my third day of trailing Mrs. Hancock, she met this natty dude-who was younger and more handsome than my client-at a hip al fresco place. Click. Click. Click. Three finger prods, twisting the lens into focus, each shot zoomed in, the last capturing a wet lippy smooch. After munching on veggies and fish, they took off in separate hotrods, reconvening at a sleazy motel to munch on each other.
Lola’s beau left the room first, and I snapped some shots of him skipping merrily to his roadster. She stayed a while longer, exiting the pleasure dome with damp hair, tooling home, I gathered, to check on her husband’s mushy dinner.
I returned to the office and sipped some hooch. I picked up the phone to call Sir Hancock, but a disagreeable thought cracked my rock-solid ethics. I still had two more days of my client’s money to spend, and it certainly could take that long for the rolls of film to be developed.
When the perfectly pleated and foul smelling Mr. Hancock returned to my office, I showed him pictures from the first few days of following his better half around. Shots of her shopping. Exercising at the club. A lunch with a girlfriend.
"Shall I keep on it?" I said.
"I’ll need another check."
I picked up Mrs. Hancock’s shapely tail again and this time she and her lover didn’t bother with the caloric foreplay, meeting at the same motel for presumably the same hootenanny.
I meandered over to the motel’s center to see Joey, who never suffered from any quandaries about increasing his clerk’s meager income. I slid over a frowning Ulysses and Joey slid back a name, Edward Jones, and a spare key to their room.
I waited for "Edward" to leave, which he did, by himself again, and then I walked over to the door, letting myself in. Lust had turned over chairs, twisted bedding, knocked a lamp asunder. The shower splashed from around a corner.
I waited behind the bathroom wall until Lola came out. She was birthday suiting it across the room when I grabbed her from behind and we landed on the bed, me atop her backside.
"Oh, honey, what a surprise," she murmured.
"Uh-uh," I said, my nose caught in her wet hair.
She tried to squirm free, but I held her tight. "What do you want?" she said.
Looking back at me, something sparkled in her eyes. "Hurt me," she said.
Her ass wiggled against my crotch. I reached down to undo my pants.
We refrained from the post-coital cuddling and moved straight into pillow talk.
"I’ve been following you,” I said.
"Then you got what you wanted,” she said. “Now go.”
"I got something you’re gonna wanna buy, Lola." I told her about the pictures I had.
"You’re gonna fuck me twice, huh?"
I waited outside the bank. She had fifteen minutes before I would drive to her husband’s office and show him my photo album. She came out in twelve and we made the exchange.
While I counted her money, she perused my negatives. I had the prints under the seat, but I neglected to mention them. When we were both satisfied with the exchange, I offered her a ride back to her car at the motel. What I really wanted was her in that room again.
She slid out of my seat. "I’ll catch a ride."
I drove downtown and parked in a garage next to a white office building. I locked the five large and my camera in the trunk before I went inside and up to the third floor. The cutest little birdie greeted me as I walked through the door of Edward Jones, Investments.
"I’m looking for one of your brokers," I said. "I met him at lunch the other day and misplaced his card." I described Lola’s lover.
"Oh, you mean, Mr. Ewell," she said. "Let me see if he’s available."
He was not available. Didn’t surprise me-not with the length of his lunch break. I took a seat and an hour later, the man I had seen with the lovely Lola Hancock walked his client through the waiting room and then approached me, hand out, smiling with perfecto teeth.
"Richard Ewell," he said. "How can I help you?"
I pumped his hand and spoke softly. "I know where you’ve been banging Mr. Hancock’s wife."
His grin, the handshake froze. "Excuse me?"
"Let’s take a walk."
When we reached my car, I told him what I had and what I wanted.
"You’re scum," he said.
"Like you ain’t?"
And then Ewell shocked me. His fist had some meat behind it, knocking the wind from my gut. I fell to my knees, and he treated my chin to some fine Italian shoe leather.
When I came to, I had a smidgen of a headache. I kept pills in the car. I opened the door and learned something else about Mr. Ewell. He was good at ransacking stuff. First the hotel room and then my car. The prints under the seat were gone. He had not opened the trunk.
Ewell worked late that evening. First his noon tweaking and then I came along to mess up his schedule. I followed him at a discreet distance. His house was one of those suburban monsters with an acre of wasted space around it. There were kids frolicking on a swing set. His wife greeted him at the front door with a peck on the cheek. If I hadn’t been looking through my zoom lens, I mighta’ puked.
"Hey, there, Dick," I said from my cell phone the next day. "Remember me?"
"I talked to Lola last night," he whispered into the phone. "You gave her the negatives and I destroyed the prints."
"Dick, do you think I’m that stupid?"
"I’m hanging up."
"Oh, good," I said. "That way I can turn into your driveway and show your beautiful wife these photos I took yesterday around lunch time."
"Really nice place you got, Dick. Your price has doubled to ten thousand."
I waited in the dark, near the bed where I got Ms. Lola to grit her teeth. The door opened and I saw Ewell, in shadow, holding a gym bag. He flicked the light switch, but I had unscrewed all the bulbs.
“Shut the door and come in,” I said.
“I’m dropping the bag,” he said. “Toss me the negatives.”
Shooting Dick would have been problematic, but nevertheless, I drew the hammer on my sidearm.
“I want to count it,” I said.
The door closed and he came forward, tossing the gym bag on the bed. I was behind him then, my barrel against the back of his head.
“Pull your pants down,” I said.
I dug the barrel into his skull. “So you’ll never forget me.”
Rory? I thought about hitting him up for another week, but his cologne was torturing my sinuses. When I told him Lola was as faithful as an angel, Ewell might have been fucking her sideways.
REWIND << This story first appeared on the original Pulp Pusher website.
Monday, 9 January 2012
Take a deck at a piece I put together for The Rap Sheet about one of the books Ken mentions here, Rilke on Black. And, if you're so inclined, nip over to the ever-talented scribe (and Pusher contributor) Paul D. Brazill's blog for another offering on the quite possibly the greatest living crime writer of our time.
But enough from us, over to Mr Bruen ...
For more on Ken Bruen's work visit www.kenbruen.com
Well, ‘Bad Signs’ was released last October, and there is a new book called ‘A Dark and Broken Heart’ coming out in May 2012. There are also another couple of writing projects I am working on, one of which is longer-term, the other much shorter-term and likely to appear before May, but I have been sworn to secrecy on both counts! I am also working on the book for 2013, entitled ‘The Devil and The River’, and this is the story of a very strange, almost occult murder investigation carried out by a smalltown Mississippi Sheriff, himself a Vietnam veteran. It’s a very dark and brooding story, very southern, very atmospheric, as the central character not only deals with the murder and all its complications, but also battles with his own internal demons, many of them as a result of his war experiences. Lastly, the band I am in – called ‘The Whiskey Poets’ – are rehearsing in preparation for gigs and tours. We recorded a four-track EP on CD, and those four tracks are available as a CD or as a download from the website.
What’s the hook?
The hook of the new book, out in May? Well, it’s a tough question as there is a twist right at the start that I defy anyone to predict! Let’s just give the blurb, and then you can read the book and let me know if you guessed the way it was going to turn out.
It should have been so easy for Vincent Madigan. Take four hundred thousand dollars away from some thieves, and who could they go to for help? No-one at all. For Madigan is charming, effective, and knows how to look after himself. The only problem is that he's up to his neck in debts to Sandia ' the drug kingpin of Harlem, known as the 'Watermelon Man' on account of the terrible act of vengeance he inflicted against someone who betrayed him. This one heist will free Madigan from Sandia's control, and will finally give him the chance he needs to get his life back on track. But when Madigan is forced to kill his co-conspirators, he finds that not only is the stolen money marked, but an innocent child has been wounded in the crossfire. Now both Sandia and the collected might of the NYPD are looking for him. And beyond even this, the one person assigned to identify and hunt down Madigan is the very last person in the world he could have expected. Employing every deception and ruse he can think of, Madigan is engaged in a battle of wits that will test him to the very limit of his ability. Can he evade justice for what he has done, or will his own conscience become the very thing that unravels every one of his meticulous plans? Will this final lie be his salvation, or his undoing?
And why’s that floating your boat?
For the same reason that all new and upcoming books float my boat! There is always a tremendous sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding the release of a book. I spent so damned long getting into print, and now I am in print, and the books are received generally very well, and I am always eager to know what people think. I very definitely write for myself and for readers. I never wrote for a paycheck, and I never will. I write for the sheer love of it, and I just want to see the books out there and enjoyed.
When did you turn to crime?
Well, right from the get-go, crime as a genre seemed so all-encompassing, and such a great way to investigate the human psyche. I don’t really think of myself as a conventional crime novelist. My books have been called ‘human dramas’, and in France they call them ‘slow-motion thrillers’ which is a great expression. The thing about a crime novel is that you can pretty much write anything – historical, romance, murder, police procedural, family saga, organized crime, conspiracy, assassination, politics, everything and anything – and it’s still a crime novel. The other thing that truly fascinates me about writing crime novels is that here you are presenting ordinary people with an extraordinary situation, and that gives you the scope to investigate the entire range of human emotions and reactions. For me, as a reader and a writer, I am drawn into a story by the emotional engagement. The characters are all-important, and they need to engage the reader on an emotional level. I have no great concern that people should remember my name, nor the intricacies of the plotlines I write, but I want them to be able to remember how the book made them feel. For me, that is everything.
Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
As a reader, I have to be completely honest and say that I read very little crime at all. I have not read any of the recent Scandinavian crime novels. I do not read contemporary American PI or police procedurals, nor do I read British crime fiction. I read authors that make me feel like a bad writer. I search out authors who I admire as extraordinary prose writers, and I read them as a way to constantly challenge myself, and make me work harder to be a better writer.
And, what’s blown you away lately?
‘Winter’s Bone’ by Daniel Woodrell, ‘The Outsider’ by Camus, ‘Crazy Heart’ by Thomas J. Cobb, ‘Barney’s Version’ by Mordecai Richler.
See any books as movies waiting to happen?
I have a love/hate relationship with the film industry. It is very fickle, very unpredictable, very surreal much of the time. I was commissioned to write the screenplay for ‘A Quiet Belief in Angels’ by Olivier Dahan, which I did, but I do not believe the project will go forward for reasons known only to the production company. A well-established and excellent treatment writer completed a treatment for ‘A Simple Act of Violence’. It was discussed at a very high level in one of the largest film production companies in Hollywood, and they decided against pursuing it as it was ‘intensely contentious and politically sensitive’. I have been asked to write original material for the screen, I have been asked to write the screenplay for ‘Candlemoth’, and – as yet – nothing has come of any of these projects. As a friend said to me, ‘You want six years, nothing happens, and then all of a sudden everything happens in two weeks, and it happens precisely as you didn’t want!’ We shall just have to wait and see.
Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Well, mainstream really, as there is nothing more satisfying to me than a beautifully bound and covered high-quality hardback. I am releasing e-books, though I do not yet have a kindle. I support e-books unconditionally though, as anything that gets more people reading has my vote. Independent book publishers and bookstores need all the support they can be given, and I also work ceaselessly doing whatever I can to acknowledge and support the ailing library system. Where my true concern lies is in the field of education, as we have just graduated the third or fourth generation of kids from school who 'do not read'. But don't even get me started on the lunacy of the education system!
Shout us a website worth visiting …
Well, selfishly, you could go to my website and check out all the blog entries about everything from writing to politics, art, music and photography (along with a vast gallery of pictures I have taken on the road), also my band website (www.whickeypoets.com) where you can listen to some samples, and then order the CD, but as far as other website are concerned, the only websites I use are ones that relate to whatever research I might be doing for a current writing or music project. I am not a web-trawler for pleasure, as such a vast amount of material on the net is suspect and false.
Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Well, what’s there to say? I am an aspiring novelist, an even more aspiring musician, a dad, a husband, a seasoned traveller, a blues aficionado, a keen photographer and cook and painter and screenwriter, and I recently passed my driving test and I love to drive, and I collect rare vinyls, mainly from the West Coast psychedelic era, and I love music of all kinds and types, but if nailed down for half a dozen or so artistes I would have to include The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Kelly Joe Phelps, Led Zeppelin, and so many others I can’t even begin to list them, and as far as authors are concerned, I love Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, Conan Doyle, Steinbeck, and I think ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote is one of the finest books ever written. I love film, and I have a vast DVD collection, but I never have enough time to keep up with the things I want to watch. I don’t watch TV series, even those that have been touted as ‘life-changing’, as I know that if I get drawn into watching a TV series I will lose many valuable hours that need to be spent writing and creating. Additionally, I have given a significant enough amount of time to some of these series, and – in the main – have found them to be a staggering anti-climax. I am constantly on the go, never seem to slow down, and always have to be doing something. No-one is awarded more time than anyone else in any given lifetime, and I have a lot of things to do!