Crime & The City Solution: Tony Black By Paul D Brazill
Tony B) I’m not much of an outsider … I was born in Australia but left there when I was about nine-weeks-old to come to Scotland, my parents were ten-pound Poms who lasted ten years in the sunshine before the dreich shores drew them home. So, yeah, I’m Scots more than anything so I’d be a bit worried if I couldn’t get into the national mindset.
PDB) Does it take it out of you living with Gus so much?
Tony B) He can be hard work, no shit. He’s a real glass-half-empty kind of guy and I definitely wouldn’t want to hang with him, just in case any of his bad luck rubbed off. But, y’know, I don’t have that much trouble separating my life from his … I close the laptop and he’s away.
PDB) Do you see the world with a journalist’s eyes?
Tony B) I was a hack for over a decade so you do get into that way of thinking a bit, yeah. It’s kind of hard to stop yourself coming over stories for the papers and muttering, ‘good yarn’, and so on … I remember when I started as a cub reporter, I was green as grass and my first editor said, give it time you’ll be seeing stories all over the shop and he was right. It’s a shame the journalistic world is in such a bad way because that way of thinking has little value these days, the state newspapers are in. Ironically, we need people who can sift through the smoke and mirrors more and more … it’s a heavy weight to be putting on bloggers’ shoulders!
PDB) Did you ever own a ‘I Came In Eileen’ T-shirt?
Tony B) No. But Christ, I wish I did! For the record, I never owned a Makin’ Bacon one either … remember those?
Makin’ bacon – advertised at the back of ‘Sounds’ magazine in the 70’s.
… which brings me to
PDB) If Ken Bruen is the Iggy Pop of the new crime writers who are you?
Tony B) You’re obviously not catching the Iggster’s new adds for life insurance here in the UK … man’s sold out. Ken has way too much class for any of that caper, he’s more a flat-out genius of the John Lennon variety … I’d be the bloke that carries his guitar to the gigs, if I was lucky!
PDB) If there was a chance to adapt the Gust stories for films or TV, how would you feel? Would you be worried that they’d be bolloxed up like Brookmyre’s Quite Ugly One Morning?
Tony B) I wouldn’t be letting that Cold Feet geezer anywhere near anything I did … he’s well over exposed and has only one way to act – pish. So, yeah, I’d be against that … but like I’d have any say. To be honest, if anyone from TV or film got in touch, I’d be too busy turning cartwheels to care what they did with it.
PDB) I liked the story I Want Candy that you wrote for Thuglit. Was it weird writing in ‘American’?
Tony B) No, not really … I think here in the UK, and elsewhere, we’re so exposed to US cinema and music and culture in general that it’s almost like a default gear for a lot of writers. I’ve spent a lot of time in the States, visited over 20 cities, and I’m pretty well immersed in their music scene so it comes quite easily. In fact, I’d really like to work on a US-based novel one of these days … maybe that’s the way to get the US deal that’s evaded me so far.
PDB) What’s on the cards now?
Tony B) I’ve just finished the fourth in the Dury series, LONG TIME DEAD, and it’s out in July. The paperback of LOSS comes out at the same time through Arrow/Random House here in the UK. I’m taking a bit of time off for the next few weeks to do some catch-up reading and then I’ll be down to work on the new standalone, MURDER MILE. This one’s a police thriller and doesn’t feature Gus, but it’s set in Edinburgh as well. I’m starting out with a new character, a messed-up cop called Rob Brennan and I’m looking forward to that.
Have a snifter of Gus Dury in the short story Last Ordershttp://therapsheet.blogspot.com/2010/01/last-orders-original-gus-dury-story-by.html
Tony Blacks website http://www.tonyblack.net/
PULP PUSHER http://www.pulppusher.com/#
Tony Black talks about Ken Bruen http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/2009/11/guest-blogger-tony-black-storm-bruen.html
INTRO TO THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL By Robert Crisman
Except—there wasn’t enough for a novel! The way I’d mapped it, Joey and Danny had maybe 100 pages to flounder around to finis. Enough for a screenplay.
In fact, that’s how Two Rotten Weeks started out. My plan had been to hook up with Robert Rodriguez, who’d put it on screen where the thing would make billions—and then I’d go shopping for mansions and Bentleys, and then spend the rest of my life getting laid by young freaks. But Rodriguez had other shit going. Quentin was busy. Van Sant said, “No!” Visions of Section Eight housing, or maybe a lean-to under a bridge trestle, loomed.
Hollywood showed me the back of its ass! I thought to myself, I’ve got to do something! And—why not a novel? Something to do till my Social Security kicks in!
But as I said, what I had was a screenplay. One hundred pages. I had to pad that bad boy!
So I tossed in some killer sci-fi shit, mixed in with political intrigue for days—about how George W. Bush, the Forrest Gump of malevolent dipshits, fucked up the plans of Zork the Galactic Destroyer to eat planet Earth like a tunafish sandwich. Not on purpose, of course, he’d have fucked the thing up, but, how he actually did do it’s a story, my brother, and one that has to be told for the sake of our children.
See, Zork and his legions had noshed through millions of planets and sucked out their marrow, and had now worked their way to this neck of the woods.
And they wanted us bad!
This was true for two reasons: First, their home planet., Zork, was just toast. They’d chewed it to mud. Nothing but mud—like Elbonia in Dilbert cartoons.
Zork had once been much like the Earth. It had trees, grass, and bugs, and small woodland creatures, a couple of oceans, and Zorks, who were sort of like people.
And as people here do they fought like baboons. And what happened was, they started with rocks and ended with anthrax and death rays. Kind of like us, but way space age, man. We’re still like monkeys compared to the Zorks.
Ghengis Khan? Romans? Mere punks!
Anyway so, the Zorks are blasting away at each other and falling like flies, and after awhile the whole fucking planet’s a toxic waste dump. Everything smelled like dinosaur shit. And, funny thing, all that weird stuff they’d cooked in the labs for their wars? If we even think about breathing that stuff we fall over dead. But the Zorks—they’d sucked it into their DNA, man, and—turned out they liked it! Some kink in the genes just went crazy or something!
Charles Darwin was right! You know, take some species, they’re pooping along and it’s same-o same-o, and then the wind changes. The skies all fall down, the dudes get bent over like boomerangs, man, and the next thing you know, the Queen of the May is wearing her tits on her butt!
A guy’s gotta see what he’s grabbing for, right?
New conditions, new needs, new tools to get the job done!
Same with the Zorks and that anthrax. They learned to use it as food! It tasted like ribeye! They’d sprinkle it over their cornflakes and stuff! Cornflakes and ribeye, a real taste treat! Their ads on TV made it look like it all came from Spagos!
By this time the rest of their planet was pretty much hasta la bye-bye.
And it was the same with the rest of the places they raped. One minute bunnies, the next minute mud. The Zorks were voracious! They needed their anthrax! They searched out the planets that stockpiled the stuff. They chewed through the cosmos. And then they found Earth.
The Zorks all got woodies! Earth was a sump. The oceans were landfills, the rivers caught fire. People ate plastic and absolute shit: Mickey D’s, Herfy’s, the frozen foods section at WalMart, and so on.
Fort Dietrich made the Zorks drool for a week.
They prepared to invade and, like I told you, George did us a solid. Just how is for later on in the book.
All I had to do was make the thing plausible, right? Do that and I had a surefire bestseller!
Now, as it happens, I’d written another screenplay, called Bone Thugs, in 2006. The thing was a hard look at Bush and the rest of his ratsucking crew, and nobody’d touch it, scared that the Feebs would ship them to Gitmo or something. But now, under cover of Joey and Danny’s timeless and heartwrenching tale, a tale of low crime and late-inning redemption, the story of one man’s love for a woman you all wish you had—the Lovely Danielle whom you’ll meet down the road, who makes Nicole Kidman look like a boy, who sooner or later will give up the Good Thing to Joey, most likely right at the end of the saga’s last chapter, and who sure made him wait a long goddamned time, who in fact has his nuts in her sack, and who, assuming we still have a future, will rule the Dominions foretold by Zoroaster and—
Where was I?
Oh yeah! And plus, she can flat cook her ass off!
And I could sneak Bush and the Zorkian menace right into the middle of this nonsense!
Am I a stone fucking genius or what?
Also—and you can think of this as a bonus—I padded the book even more to be safe. Publishers now thirst for tomes. See, novels these days cost as much as that payment you put on the house that you lost when the variable interest rate landed last fall, and publishers feel that the bigger the book the better you’ll like it and won’t bitch so much about price. They all think you’re size queens or something.
So to beef up my book, I took a break at a quasi-logical point to show in a little vignette how the jails in this country get filled up with dopefiends. Ironically, the folks in this story escape because one of them, Leann, is a stone fucking fox and the cops are a gaggle of dick-thinking morons. Had that not been the case, Leann and her partner’d be under a jail right now and—
Anyway, it’s nothing to do with Joey or Danny or George or the Zorks, but it sure is a clown show and full of the same kind of laughs as my epic and, consequently, a sort of thematic companion. You’ll dig it, I promise.
Ticket To Ride – A True Story By Robert Crisman
She put her hand to Rob’s face, stroking his cheek with the tips of her fingers, a light in her eye that perhaps even Frank never saw, and plaintively asked him, “What took you so long?”
In the blink of an eye they lay in a field of roses, entwined, their every breath a small gasp of attar that danced to the rhythm of oboes. Ravel wept with joy.
And angels swooped low and then soared! Bobby Hatfield held forth on tenor! This truly was heaven!
Rob dropped off to sleep. Ava made off with his nuts in her sack…
He didn’t mind. Let her play! She’d bring them back. This was heaven…
And, next stop, the White Powder River! If all the brochures had it right, he’d float like the sky on a raft made of feathers, with luck till time died.
It was why he’d come, really…
The White Powder River meandered, past the lush jungles, jade outcrops, the pulsing of drums, and sirens and mermaids that shimmered and sang as he floated. Rob became one with the waters…
And then, and then…the day became night! Up ahead now, lights blinking, all day-glo colors, arranging themselves into words that spelled out—the exit? From heaven?
Above the exit a clock going tick-tock…
Jesus Christ, man! Rob had just started to get a good groove on!
St. Peter showed up on a barge with guns mounted foredeck and aft. With him, St. Michael the Archangel, looking all bad-ass and dressed like a Ton Ton Macoute, with the shades, the beret, the whole fucking bit. “C’mon, Rob,” Pete said, “you knew what the deal was, brother…”
Michael meanwhile kept tapping his whipstick against his right thigh, letting Rob know that he’d love to work it on out his own special way.
One psycho dude…
This wasn’t in the brochures for damn sure!
Nonetheless, back on the tideflats, Rob scrambled to get back to heaven as soon as he possibly could. Ava, the White Powder River, the raft made of feathers; he wanted to float like the sky…
He even made it a couple three times. Ava kept making off with his nuts, true bliss for sure but—each time he fell back to earth the wind picked up speed and blew colder…
Then, one time Rob geezed and stepped on the train and started on up—but the ride leveled quickly and heaven began seeming a tad far away. And, for the first time, he noticed these bumps on the track, his car listing a bit. The train stopped just short of heaven’s front porch.
Rob would remember this ride with his stomach. So near and yet so far away!
And so it went. He kept buying tickets. The train started dying in Leadville and places like that. And this one time in Provo, the train up and stopped beside Hank Williams’s old, broke-down tour bus. Inside the bus, Hank, wrecked by speed, eye sockets empty, toothless mouth gaped, dead and gone…
Rob felt his own teeth grow loose in his gums…
Meanwhile, the price of the ticket climbed up up up up…
Rob started to have to rob banks to get back on the train! He’d hand the conductor his ticket, the conductor would give him the stinkeye and tell him, siddown, and the train would chug out of the station and start on a ride through some outpost of hell.
It was hot in the train. Rob’s armpits stank. Rats nibbled up under his seat…
Too fucking bad; Rob had to keep riding. What else to do? A habit will rope you, my man.
Rob slept in the train station now. Outside, nothing but dust storms and cops, and golems with uzis and six-inch-long teeth. Rob owed those golems a whole ton of money. The banks that he plundered couldn’t begin to cover the money he owed.
Rob shivered and shook. He slept in a corner that hadn’t been swept since the 1893 Expo. An old New York Times, yellowed and muddied and torn by the decades, made do as his blanket. He didn’t change clothes. Someone made off with his toothbrush. He had six teeth left.
He’d ride and he’d ride. Then this one time out of the station, the train picked up speed and Rob started to rattle. He looked out the window—and the train was hurtling downhill! I mean like fast! It bounced, man, no shit, there were rocks on the track, and Rob’s head hit the roof—and his teeth, shaking loose in his head and—goddamn! He had to slow this train down!
Bing, an idea! Grab the damn brake and make the train stop! And then—no! Shit, fuck, piss, shit! That would mean the end of the ride! Rob was out in the middle of nowhere! Stop the train and then what?
The train hurtled down, down down, down, lurching and thrashing and—Genius attack! Rob ran to the boiler room, grabbed up a shovel. He opened the furnace, coal there on the floor—and he started stoking! Burn, baby, burn! He’d blast his way through all this shit and take off for the moon!
Oh yeah, baby, zoooooooooom—
Down a funnel! Hey, where’s the moon? Rob bumped, bounced, and banged! The whole train caught fire—and, outside now, wolves! Sabertooth wolves! They were gaining!
Stoke, stoke, stoke, stoke! Rob had to go faster and faster and faster! Those flames, licking closer—his ass, on fire!—and here came the lip of the cliff and—shazaa-aa-am—!
Bye bye, Rob…
Heaven, turns out, was merely a stop on the way to the rocks down below.
Bio: Robert Crisman rode on that train. Heaven’s exactly the way he describes. So is hell.
Dave Zeltserman – Interview
“With graphic imagery and exciting twists, this novel is impossible to put down and has a surprising ending. A brilliant read.” The Aberdeen Press and Journal
Dave was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Killer and his writing in general.
PDB: Dave, in twenty five words or less, can you pitch me your new novel KILLER?
Dave: A meditative look into the mind of a killer.
PDB: Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer all have protagonists who are very bad men that have done some very bad things. Doesn’t this go against the mandates of creative writing classes in that the ‘heroes’ of those books aren’t sympathetic?
Dave: I think most readers are going to find Leonard March, the protagonist of Killer, a sympathetic character, at least through most of the book. Yeah, he was a hit man, but he leaves prison as little more than a toothless old wolf howling at the moon. He’s got all these forces working against him, and he’s introspective as he tries to figure out how he got to where he is.
Kyle Nevin, my protagonist from Pariah, is a different beast entirely. Kyle is a force of nature, and like of forces of nature–hurricanes, tidal waves, volcanoes–it can be fascinating to see the destruction that he brings those unfortunates that get in his way.
Just as noir masters like James M. Cain and Jim Thompson could keep readers fascinated watching their noir protagonists inevitable descent into hell, I think the same is true with Kyle, except I think even more so given his utterly destructive and unrepentant nature.
PDB: Is the location of Killer an important part of the story?
Dave : Most of Killer takes place around Boston, but not really in it, with areas like Waltham, Revere and Winthrop taking center stage, but the flavor of these areas are important to the story and atmosphere. Boston is much more important to Pariah as a lot of South Boston mob lore is worked into the novel.
PDB: You once said that writing Small Crimes was a very ‘instinctive’ thing? What did you mean by that?
Dave: At some point the subconscious taking over, and adding strong thematic elements that weren’t planned, or necessarily intended at an intellectual level but worked their way into the book regardless.
Let me give you a more concrete example with Killer. Killer is written as alternating present and past chapters. Before I started writing I had the present chapters outlined at a very detailed level, but I was going to wring it with the past chapters, and make each one Leonard committing one of his mob hits.
At some point that changed without any real planning, and instead the past chapters ended up having a strong arc of their own, and connecting to the present chapters in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
PDB: Has your writing process changed over the years?
Dave: Not really. I still write very detailed outlines before starting. I still find myself deviating from these outlines as the book becomes something organic–a living thing so to speak. But while new and unexpected plot threads and characters are born, I always end up working my way back to the original outline.
I tend to struggle with my 1000 to 1500 words a day like I’ve always have, and then go on a blind writing fury when I get within 7000 or so words of the ends, finishing those in one sitting. The only real change is I’m closer to the mark now when I finish.
My earlier books needed far more revising–Pariah and Killer and others needed very little revising from their first drafts.
PDB: What’s in the pipeline for Dave Zeltserman in 2010?
Dave: Other than Killer, I have two more novels and a bunch of short stories.
Outsourced is a different kind of crime novel than my ‘man out of prison’ novels. In this one a group of desperate software engineers come up with a brilliant plan to rob a bank with things not quite working out as planned. Think Ocean’s 11 and Falling Down, which not too surprisingly, John Tomko, who was a producer on both those movies, is involved in the film development of this, which has been optioned by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film.
The Caretaker of Lorne Field is not crime, and I think is a book that is really going to surprise readers who’ve gotten to know my crime fiction. The basic premise of this is that a field has been weeded for over 400 years by a succession of caretakers, with the mythology being if the field isn’t weeded, the world will end. Now in the present day, the current Caretaker believes this myth but finds that most of the people in his small town no longer do, and his job becomes increasingly more difficult. A balancing act is performed through the book on whether he’s crazy or knows something nobody else does.
As far as short stories, Julius Katz and Archie will live on in Ellery Queen, and I also have stories in the next Thuglit anthology and Damn Near Dead 2
Dave Zeltserman‘s website is here
His blog – SMALL CRIMES – is here
Killer will be available from Amazon
The first chapter of his unpublished novel Vampire Crimes is here
“Writer’s Guilt, Envy & A Bullet In The Foot” by Mark A. Crittenden
One author sees the other one doing it. Word count becomes the enormous object of envy. So and so writes more daily than I do. I must “one-up” him or her. The irony of it is that it makes the writer a flash junkie. That’s right. I said it. Ten years ago, I had never heard the term flash fiction, but now it’s the latest thing. Sure there was brevity and concision, but no flash. Or maybe it was always there, and the invention of the blog just brought it into the mainstream forefront of our lives. What is flash? Most would define it as a story less than one thousand words. There are subspecies of it as well, some designed to be one hundred words exactly, or just two or three sentences.
So, we are in the midst of an obsession with writing something incredibly meaningful in a few sentences or more- mini haikus for the plot-developmentally impaired. What sparked this incredibly combative and envy-driven form of expression? As an editor, I have noticed that authors are less likely to turn in a piece over a thousand words, as if this form of Samurai duelling amongst each other has rendered them incapable of writing in long hand. What may very well have started as an exercise to increase concision and exposure has had a paralyzing effect on word count, and the possibility of a story having due time to unfold. Well, I would say more, but it appears I am out of space. HA!
Ghost Story By Peter Straub – A Review By Steve Jensen
Steven Paul Jensen was born in South Wales in 1965.
He is seeking publication of his first novella, The Poison of a Smile while writing his second book, Ariele – A Ghost Story. Steve is working on a number of literary projects with Frank Duffy.
…and The Journal: