The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Nigel Bird

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Nigel Bird to discuss his new book, In Loco Parentis (All Due Respect).

Congratulations on the publication of In Loco Parentis! How would you pitch the story to potential readers?

When the systems let down a young child, teacher Joe Campion decides to take matters into his own hands. With justice as his compass, his personal life loses its bearings and his world quickly disintegrates.

What do you hope that readers take away from the book?

I’d like them to feel something. To experience the sadness, the tension and the humour of Joe’s story. I hope they get an insight into the mind of someone who is struggling to survive and maybe to look at others and see that most people are working really hard to keep afloat. Maybe they’ll see teachers in a different light, too. That they’ll be a little more understanding of how the job can carry too much weight even for those who don’t go so obviously off the rails as they try and cope.

This book was published by All Due Respect; do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

I read crime fiction from both the mainstream and from independents. There’s a lot to recommend a varied diet of books to any reader and that applies even more to writers. There’s exciting work coming from everywhere and we’re lucky to be around at a time when we have such choice and that publishers like All Due Respect exist. A lot of what I read was written a long time ago, so it’s a case of buying second-hand much of the time.

If you could recommend one crime novel that people are unlikely to have heard of, what would it be?

The first two that come to mind are:

William Boyle’s Gravesend, a superb and beautifully written novel that has a strong emotional charge.

Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock. It ticked boxes I didn’t know I had. This short story collection is a masterpiece.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

When I was focusing upon writing short stories, I had the good fortune to be published in a number of really great anthologies as well as to compile a couple. I see each of those collections as being communities of writers and that’s where my crime-writing roots lie. I also see Blasted Heath and All Due Respect as loose families of sorts and they are other communities which I’m proud to be part of.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

I don’t really see writing as a career anymore, so I’d be happy to follow the path of any author who just kept on writing. I wouldn’t mind having Simenon’s ethos or to knock things out with the rhythm of Ed McBain. They’d do.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

All Due Respect will be putting out a couple more of my titles, Smoke and Mr Suit. They’re both stories I think work well and that I’m proud of. After that, I have a novel that will be published at the end of 2019, the first in a series of police dramas. I have contracts for the first three, but if I’m still enjoying writing about the characters by the end of the third, it’s possible that there may be more.

Bio:

Nigel Bird lives on the east coast of Scotland with his family. As well as writing novels, novellas and short stories, he works in three rural schools as a Support for Learning teacher.

Website:

http://nigelpbird.blogspot.com

 

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Book Review: Hell Ship by Benedict J. Jones

HELL SHIP

Author: Benedict J. Jones

Publisher: The Sinister Horror Company

Release Date: August 2018

Set in 1944 on the Strait of Malacca – the narrow stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra – Hell Ship follows the fortunes of nine survivors of the torpedoed Empire Carew vessel, adrift and barely alive in a lifeboat. After weeks in the water – surviving on condensed milk and seagull meat – the motley crew find safe haven on the Shinjuku Maru, an abandoned ship they encounter floating in a strange fog. Little do they realise, this ship harbours a grisly secret, which will make the horrors that they have already experienced pale in comparison…

With cinematic pacing and lashings of gore, Hell Ship is a satisfyingly sinister slice of nautical pulp horror. The superb, sadistic prologue – seamen splattered everywhere – sets the tone for the unrelenting sense of dread that follows, and the novella unfolds in an enjoyably gruesome fashion. Jones has fun with the period details, and breathes new life into the familiar cast – which includes the brutally efficient, axe-wielding sailor Busby and the quivering wreck of a commanding officer, Snell.

As the old adage goes, worse things happen at sea. Suffice to say, even worse things happen on the Hell Ship! Great fun.

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Review by Tom Leins

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Martin Stanley

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Martin Stanley to discuss his Stanton Brothers series.

Firstly, for readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you pitch the Stanton Brothers series to readers?

The brothers (Eric, the brains, and Derek, the brawn) are a pair of criminals who make their money by stealing from other criminals (mostly drug dealers and thieves). They tend not to kill those they’re stealing from, because most of them know better than to involve the police in their business. Also, killing’s bad for trade – the police do stick their snouts in that kind of trouble.

How did you come up with the characters, and how have they evolved since their first appearance?

I came up with the idea of two bickering criminal brothers many years ago. They’re loosely (very loosely, I might add) based on stories I’ve heard from people. Their characters and the situations have been jumbled up and boiled down by my imagination over a few years into what appears in the novels and novellas. The brothers got their surname from the manhole covers. A few years ago, I found out that the DJ duo Stanton Warriors did exactly the same thing.

Because of the slapdash way I write, which is to come up with ideas and storylines long before I actually put fingers to keyboard, it means that I end up writing and publishing in no particular order. For instance, the latest book Fighting Talk is chronologically the first tale, but because of the way I write it means it has come around last. What this means is that I must think about the character narrative slightly before writing begins. However, Eric starts out a bit more sentimental and heroic in the earlier narratives, but becomes a cold-hearted bastard by the time The Glasgow Grin rears its nasty head. Derek remains a fuckwit throughout, but I doubt you’d want anybody else by your side in the event of a fight.

What are they up to in your new book, Fighting Talk?

They’re still working as debt collectors for Alan Piper in this one. Eric is sent by his boss to get to the bottom of why his favourite (think most beautiful) client has missed her last few debt payments. What Eric discovers leads the brothers into the path of a rather unpleasant dog-fighting syndicate. Although they have to break a few bones to reach that point.

What do you hope that readers take away from your books?

Honestly, I hope they get entertainment. I write readable prose, and can weave together some nice descriptions when the mood takes me, but I’m not a stylist. I’m more interested in telling a good story, one with a few twists and turns along the way. I’ll leave subtext and metaphor to those who are better equipped to use them.

What are the main positives behind self-publishing – and what are the chief drawbacks?

The positives are total artistic control. Nobody tells you what you can publish or how to publish it. The drawbacks are total artistic control – if you fuck up, it’s on you. Other drawbacks are that unless you’re very lucky then you’ll sell the total of fuck-all.

Even if you’re lucky and have a success (I had a modicum of success with The Glasgow Grin a few years ago – several thousand sales), maintaining it is incredibly difficult. Over the three years since The Glasgow Grin, I’d say I’ve lost about eighty to eighty-five percent of that audience. I haven’t published enough new content to maintain my sales figures and build on my audience. Quality control, advertising, book covers, marketing, it’s all on you. Which is why, from next year, I’m probably going to pitch new material to Indie publishers first. I just don’t have the time needed to do an adequate job of self-publishing.

Do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

Both. I like a mixture of Indie and self-pubbed authors and mainstream stuff. The more exciting writers and fiction seems to be coming from the Indie side at the minute. Independents are reworking old genres and rewriting the rules. Traditional publishers seem to be wedded to police procedurals or missing ‘Girls’. Unless there’s a twist, or some brilliant writing, the police procedural might be the dullest fucking genre in crime fiction.  How many sad cops with family issues can there be? I tend to be drawn to criminal protagonists or private detectives, and the grittier end of crime fiction.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

Paul D Brazill treads a similar path to my own, though he’s a far better writer (particularly his prose, which often leaves me more than a little envious). Keith Nixon is another writer I’d consider a peer, though again with stronger writing chops. I certainly respect and admire Ryan Bracha; he emerged around the same time as I did, though his stuff tends to be more experimental and he’s not afraid of taking risks. His best stuff is great.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

Maybe James Ellroy. I dislike his right-wing politics, and his tendency to ham it up for interviewers, but his books sell in big numbers and he gets critical respect, even when it feels like he hasn’t earned it (his most recent novel Perfidia being a case in point). His best novels are some of the finest crime writing you are ever likely to read. The LA Quartet should be read by anybody with even the slightest interest in writing crime fiction. If I write anything that’s even half as good as any of the books in that series, I’ll be able to say I wrote something good. Until that day, however…

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I’ve got a novelette, Get Santa, that’s been collected together with some previously released Stanton brothers’ shorts due in October; then in November or (more realistically) December I’m aiming to have another novella (currently titled Sexy Lexy) due for release.

After this I may put the brothers away for a while and finish The Amsterdamned (which is a companion novel to my first book The Gamblers). I will pitch this to Indie publishers and see what happens. If nobody bites, for any reason other than quality, I’ll self-publish in 2020. If it’s a quality issue, I’ll assess what I need to do to ensure it’s good enough to publish myself.

Bio:

Martin Stanley is the author of the Stanton brothers’ books (in reading order): 1) The Curious Case of The Missing Moolah; 2) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum; 3) The Green-eyed Monster; 4) Bone Breakers; 5) The Hunters; and its direct sequel 6) The Glasgow Grin. He is also the author of The Gamblers, a violent crime thriller set in Bristol, and a Stanton prequel novella Fighting Talk.

Martin lives, works and socialises in London. He likes drinking craft and Belgian beers, watching classic movies and bingeing on TV shows. And he obviously loves to read (often with a pang of author envy).

Website:

www.martinstanleyauthor.com

 

Book Review: The Runner by Paul Heatley

THE RUNNER

Author: Paul Heatley

Publisher: Near To The Knuckle

Release Date: August 2018

Pitched as a prequel/companion piece to the author’s must-read 2016 book, An Eye For An Eye, this brisk, aggressive novella centres on Davey Hoy, a ruthless mid-level dealer who works for Newcastle’s notorious Doyle Family. Hoy’s already short fuse ignites when a bag of his ill-gotten gains is ripped off by Cathy, the girlfriend of his callow associate, Jackson Stobbart. Forced into action, the hapless Jackson sets out to retrieve the loot before Davey realises it is missing – setting in motion a memorably bloody chain of events.

The muscle-bound Davey Hoy is a fantastic antagonist, and his competitive streak and obscure motivations are an early sign that his knife-edge behaviour will spiral out of control as the book unfolds. Like An Eye For An Eye before it, The Runner has a chase dynamic, but the location and characters are entirely different, as the narrative swerves into the small coastal town of Amble. There are some neat call-backs to Heatley’s previous book, and I really hope to see the mythology surrounding the Doyle clan fleshed out further in future instalments.

The Runner is hardcore, dog-eat-dog Geordie noir. I look forward to the next book in the series, Violent By Design, in September!

Review by Tom Leins

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Book Review: Last Year’s Man by Paul D. Brazill

LAST YEAR’S MAN

Author: Paul D. Brazill

Publisher: All Due Respect (an imprint of Down & Out Books)

Release Date: July 2018

After a couple of piss-poor decisions, it’s very clear that trigger-happy middle-aged hit-man Tommy Bennett has outstayed his welcome in London. Fleeing the Big Smoke without his passport, Tommy’s options are sorely limited, and he makes the decision to return home to Seatown – his old stomping ground in the north-east of England. Tommy’s unexpected arrival is less ‘prodigal son returns’ and more ‘unpleasant smell wafts back through open window’, and the old rascal finds himself getting sucked back into a brand-new scam alongside a very old friend.

The rumpled, world-weary triggerman – with a long memory, and an even longer list of health complaints – is a perfect conduit for Brazill’s quirky storytelling style, and the story itself (think Get Carter played for laughs) allows him to play to his strengths. For an expatriate writer, Brazill’s knack for writing about small town English grotesques is pretty damned impressive, and unlike the hapless Bennett, this book is slim and spritely!

If anything, this yarn climaxes prematurely, but I suspect we haven’t seen the last of the incorrigible Mr Bennett. A booze-swilling, bladder-busting, brain-splattering caper. Great fun.

Review by Tom Leins

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