Wednesday, January 20, 2016

20 Questions with Paul Brazill

It’s hard to hang around the crime fiction community much and not come across the name Paul Brazill. (Often mispronounced, but still.) Paul is the author of Guns of Brixton, Cold London Blues, The Last Laugh, and Other Shots of Noir. Born in England, Paul now lives in Poland. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. His writing has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit with Luca Veste.  

Today Paul is here to talk about new newest book, Kill Me Quick!
One Bite at a Time: Tell us about Kill Me Quick.
Paul D. Brazill: Seatown may not have a lot going for it – apart from the Roy Orbison lookalikes and Super Seventies Special every Thursday night, of course – but it is at least the place Mark Hammonds calls home. And after a decade away, it's the place he returns to when he has nowhere else to go. From dead bikers to dodgy drug deals, from one downbeat bar to another, from strippers to gangsters and back again: the luckless former musician bounces from one misdeed to the next along with a litany of old acquaintances, almost as though he never left. And if only he can shake off everybody who wants to kill, maim, or otherwise hurt him, maybe he could even think about staying. After all, there’s no place like home, eh?

OBAAT: Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you? (Notice I didn’t ask “Where do you get your ideas?” I was careful to ask where you got this idea.)
PB: I’d read Cathi Unsworths Weirdo and re-read Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock around the same time. Both take place at the English seaside. I was e-chatting with Cathi about the lack of seaside noirs. She suggested a few books, and since I’d set a few short stories in the fictional seaside town of Seatown I thought I’d give it a go. Can’t hang a man for that!

Kiss Me Quick hats used to be very popular at the English seaside so the title was obvious.

OBAAT: How long did it take to write Kill Me Quick, start to finish?
PB:  About six to eight weeks, with gaps, breaks. I left it to marinate for a couple of weeks and then tidied it up. Went back to it about a week later.

OBAAT: Where did Mark Hammonds come from? In what ways is he like, and unlike, you?
PB:  Well, he is a bit like me in that he drinks too much and is always one step behind the action. His musical career was much better than mine, of course!

I’ve known, and know, lots of musicians of various degrees of success and Mark is like many of them. He’s someone who had his moment in the sun and has absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of his life. He’s just about clever enough to know that he’s not particularly clever though he does have one moment of inspiration in the book.

OBAAT: In what time and place is Kill Me Quick set? How important is the setting to the book as a whole?
PB: It’s for sure set in the north east of England. It’s where I grew up. It’s in the fictional town of Seatown, which is an exaggerated grotesque version of my hometown and its environs.

It’s post ‘80s. It had to be set after the ‘80s because that was a time when a few British bands had a degree of success that they never really recaptured.

OBAAT: How did Kill Me Quick come to be published?
PB: Around the time I was thinking of writing a ‘seaside noir’, I read and liked a few books from the publisher Number 13 Press. Their plan was to publish 13 novellas on the 13th of each month. That kick started me into writing the book and submitting it to them. I made the deadline, just!

OBAAT: What kinds of stories do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, in or out of that area?
PB: I mainly like stories about people with strong personality and writing that has personality, too. Crime fiction offers up a lot of that.

Naming names: Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, Nelson Algren, Charles Bukowski, Les Edgerton, Oscar Wilde, KA Laity, Damon Runyon, PG Wodehouse, Dorothy Parker, and Heath Lowrance are good examples. There are loads of others, of course.

OBAAT: What made you decide to be an author?
PB: I didn’t. It’s something I stumbled into. I’d always quite liked the idea of it, of course, because writers used to have such strong personalities and lived such full and rich lives in the old days - Capote, Mailer, Wilde, Greene etc. Now they just play Bejeweled Blitz and moan a lot on Twatter, of course.

But I fell into writing after messing around on social media and found some flash fiction websites that I liked – Beat To A Pulp, A Twist Of Noir. I thought I’d give it a shot and still seem to be getting away with it.

OBAAT: How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing crime fiction?
PB: Well, I’m not scared of made up versions of violence because real life is worse, of course. I’ve met lots of colourful, interesting people. Heard lots of interesting stories. Seen some funny and weird things. They’ve given me stuff to use. Whether or not I write crime fiction is another story, of course.

OBAAT: What do you like best about being a writer?
PB: I enjoy writing and finishing it. Anything else is a bonus.

OBAAT: Who are your greatest influences? (Not necessarily writers. Filmmakers, other artists, whoever you think has had a major impact on your writing.)
PB:  People with strong personalities or whose ‘art’ has a strong personality. Tony Hancock, Tom Waits, Alan Bennet, Ealing comedy, Damon Runyon, Bukowski, Mamet, Tarantino, Billy Wilder, Mar E Smith. All the writers that I’ve mentioned and many more. Certainly real people at least as much as entertainers. No names no pack-drill.

OBAAT: Do you outline or fly by the seat of you pants? Do you even wear pants when you write?
PB:  As in the rest of my life, I wing it. Fully clothed. We may only be writers but we’re not barbarians!

OBAAT: Give us an idea of your process. Do you edit as you go? Throw anything into a first draft knowing the hard work is in the revisions? Something in between?
PB: Block my block. Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Leave it for a bit and tidy it up. Two steps forward, one step back. I think Les Edgerton does the same thing so that’s alright.

OBAAT: Do you listen to music when you write? Do you have a theme song for this book? What music did you go back to over and over as you wrote it, or as you write, in general?
PB: I don’t usually listen to music as I write as I’m too easily distracted but film soundtracks sometimes work.

The theme song for Kill Me Quick! Could the theme to the ‘70s British sitcom Whatever Happened To the Likely Lads?

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack to The Phantom of the Paradise a lot recently and who knows how that’s influencing me!

OBAAT: As a writer, what’s your favorite time management tip?
PB: Time is a concept created by the bourgeoisie to oppress the proletariat. I have no time management skills. Que sera sera.

OBAAT: If you could give a novice writer a single piece of advice, what would it be?
PB: Never give or listen to advice. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink.

OBAAT: Generally speaking the components of a novel are story/plot, character, setting, narrative, and tone. How would you rank these in order of their importance in your own writing, and can you add a few sentences to tell us more about how you approach each and why you rank them as you do?
PB: Character and atmosphere are the main thing for me. If it ‘feels’ right then I stick with it. I’d write better plots if I could but I’m not clever or organized enough.

OBAAT: If you could have written any book of the past hundred years, what would it be, and what is it about that book you admire most?
PB: Maybe, Gerald Kersh’s Night and The City. Atmosphere characters and a proper story.

OBAAT: Favorite activity when you’re not reading or writing.
PB: Life.

OBAAT: What are you working on now?
PB: Back From the Dead. A sort - of follow up to Guns of Brixton and Cold London Blues – both published by Caffeine Nights Publishing. Darker and more violent but still funny, I hope.

A short story for the next NoirCon programme.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Personal Response to bane666au

Last month the blog got a little action when someone picked up on my review of Netflix’s Jessica Jones and brought it to the attention of series creator Melissa Rosenberg who linked to it on her Facebook page. With exposure comes a greater audience. Not all of them will be of the same high caliber we’ve come to expect here at Castle Schadenfreude.

My review included this: “The most fun—for me, at least—is how this show must make men’s rights advocates’ heads explode.” That prompted this comment from bane666au: “Why exactly would it make our heads explode? We aren't against female characters, writers, directors etc. This is just a lame strawman argument by someone who has no idea what they are talking about.”

I did a little looking into bane666au and checked out his web site, so you, dear reader, wouldn’t have to. A quick perusal and listening to a couple of his videos provided ample evidence as to why I thought it might make men’s rights advocates’ (read: bane666au) heads explode: they (read: he) are (is a) misogynistic douche bag(s). And a dickless coward, to boot.

What leads me to believe he’s a dickless coward? I use my name on my blog and web site. My real name. Dana Fucking King. I don’t hide behind a pseudonym. (Note to bane666au: that means “fake name.”) Even worse, his sounds like some teenaged kid’s idea of badass. (“Bane’s hard-core man, and 666 is fucking evil, Dude. Rock on, Garth.”) True, the “au” hints that he’s in Australia (though you’ll know that two words into a video), but Australia’s big and it used to be a penal colony so for all I know “Bane” is like Smith or Johnson down there. Why not let his name stand like a beacon in these dark times?

Probably because his intentions aren’t all that honorable. Note his carefully-worded reply. “We aren't against female characters, writers, directors etc.” I never said their heads would explode because there were female characters, writers, directors. I said it was because there strong female characters, etc. I’ve done quite a bit of research into the men’s rights movement for an upcoming book. They’re all in favor of women. In their place. In the eyes of the men’s rights activist, that place is either in the kitchen or on her knees. (I exclude those “men” who have joined up with Men Going Their Own Way and have decided they want no women in their lives, period, which I also suspect is largely bullshit, though I suspect most women are grateful.)

I will admit my research into the men’s rights movement (MRM) was not exhaustive. It was, however, exhausting. I really couldn’t do more than half an hour or so at a time before disgust and the desire to un-read some things overcame me. These are people who believe domestic abuse is “sex symmetrical” and that the vast majority of rape accusations are false. Many do not believe it is possible for a man to rape his wife. There is a school of thought in the American MRM that Mexican wives are preferable because they are docile. There is a group with the sole intention of diverting donations from White Ribbon, a Canadian organization dedicated to “end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.” The counter group’s (, as opposed to motto is “End Violence Against Everyone” and has a photo of a “battered woman” with their pledge. (Looks more like a cheap make-up job to me, but I’m no expect.) Scroll on down and the evenhandedness disappears. Women are the culprits here, and feminism is the root or most evil. The site is hosted by A Voice For Men, the “leading” web site for the MRM, and hardly a voice of reason.

So, bane666au, that’s why men’s rights activists’ head will explode. Strong women. Women of the type that led to MRAs boycotting Mad Max: Fury Road. You think you’re men? Men don’t blame others for their own failures. Men don’t carry on about a vast female conspiracy that has neutered the “manginas” in positions of power to bias laws in women’s favor.  What men do—in addition to taking responsibility for their own weaknesses and failures—is have to deal with a world where a woman has little choice but to view us as potential threats, both physically and economically. As usual, Louis CK is dead on:

Here’s the deal, bane666au or whatever the fuck your real name is: (In fairness, he may use a pseudonym because his family has threatened to beat the shit out of him if he leaves any way for people to connect them.) We’re on to you, and your cowardly, spineless, pusillanimous, timorous, yellow, weak-kneed, gutless, frightened, cowhearted, despicable buddies. Go your own fucking way. Find an island somewhere and create a male utopia of self-emasculating, self-loathing, self-defeating, and self-abusing onanists and leave the rest of us to work things out. Without you, we have a chance of getting it right.