Criminal Records #11 – Tom Leins on Sharp Knives & Loud Guns

In the latest instalment of the Criminal Records series, Tom Leins puts together a playlist to accompany his latest book, Sharp Knives & Loud Guns (All Due Respect, 2021).

GET SOME by Lykke Li

Perhaps unsurprisingly, shotguns play a major part in Sharp Knives & Loud Guns – chiefly in ‘Slug Bait’, the first of the three brutal novelettes that make up my new collection.

Guns aren’t particularly commonplace in my stories (hammer, knives and cricket bats feature far more frequently) but this book features a paranoid, cocaine-fuelled amusement arcade owner and a trigger-happy vice cop, and both men favour loud guns as their weapon of choice.

Simultaneously brooding and propulsive, ‘Get Some’ by ‘Lykke Li would make a great accompaniment to the grisly early scenes at Paignton Cliffs Caravan Park, in which Joe Rey is forced out of hiding and into the company of deranged amusement arcade proprietor Ray Coody. “Like a shotgun/needs an outcome/I’m your prostitute/you gonna get some.”

Cool track, cool video. Get some!

PURE FILTH by Lack of Afro

Every now and then, when I write myself into a narrative cul-de-sac, I dig into my big folder of abandoned stories, pluck out a stray character or sub-plot and insert it into the faltering story. (Never delete anything, kids!) It warps the story out of shape in an intriguing new way, and takes the story in a brand-new direction. Did I do that in the first draft of ‘Slug Bait’? Yes, I did!

In ‘Slug Bait’, the sub-plot and the main plot rub shoulders multiple times before they eventually collide. One of the most eye-popping segues sees Joe Rey watching gay porn in the lounge of a disgraced politician, before participating in a vicious heist. I think ‘Pure Filth’ would work better to accompany the heist scene than the porno scene, but the title means that this funky little track can slot onto the soundtrack to cover both of these disparate scenes. Filthy stuff!

(Lack of Afro is from Devon too, which seals the deal for me!)    

DIAMONDS & GUNS by Transplants

I first heard this song nearly 20 years ago (Autumn 2002), when backpacking around California. We spent a week or so in a hostel in LA, and whenever my Walkman ran out of batteries, and I couldn’t listen to my tapes, I’d tune into KROQ, where this song was playlisted. I listened to a lot of KROQ in the evenings, to drown out the sound of the obese Hollywood bottom-feeder in the corner bunk, wanking/grunting under his rancid blanket.

I was already a big Rancid fan (particularly … And Out Come the Wolves – less of a fan of rancid youth hostel blankets), and this track blew my mind. I’m 42 now, and I still love it – so much so that I named a chapter after it in ‘Smut Loop’, the second novelette in the collection. I love the energy and the casual criminality of the lyrics. Imagine this song being played over Benny Hill-esque scenes of Paignton Noir carnage – cool, right?

Just swap chubby sex pest Benny Hill for a never-more-desperate Joe Rey, and swap the scantily-clad women for thieving rent boys, and you are in my headspace. (And, mark my words, my headspace is a lovely place to spend your free time!)


I rediscovered this genius track during the first lockdown, when I was finishing off Sharp Knives & Loud Guns, and I love its raucous energy. Everything about this song is sublime, and I never get bored of listening to it! (The fact that the song is about a party taking place during a Medieval plague, is weirdly appropriate!)

Anyway, there’s a scene in ‘Sweating Blood’ – the third and final novella in the book – in which Joe Rey visits the scene of a notorious local atrocity that has been turned into a shrine by “the kind of ghoulish pricks that congregate at crime scenes” in search of his latest tormentor. He doesn’t find the individual that he is looking for, but he brutalises everyone and anyone who gets in his way.

Mark my words, the scenes of Joe Rey rolling into sheltered accommodation in full shitkicker mode while this song plays would be tremendous!

DRAG THE HILLS by Ben Weaver

I think the finale of ‘Sweating Blood’ is one of the most intense endings I’ve written to date, and it was pretty draining to write, as I knew I had to get it right. I guess the readers will ultimately judge whether or not I succeeded…

After finishing the book, this song shuffled into rotation on my MP3 player, on one of my looping lockdown walks around suburbia, and it blew me away. After listening to it on repeat, I cursed myself for not having heard it earlier, as the line “I’d rather have scars from the life I’ve lived” sums up Rey’s state of mind at the end of this book.

Sharp Knives & Loud Guns ends with a brief epilogue, and this is definitely the song that I’d like to play over the end credits. What would the authorities find if they were to drag the hills in Paignton? Buy the book and find out!

Buy The Book!


Tom Leins is a crime writer from Paignton, UK. His books include Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, Boneyard Dogs and Ten Pints of Blood (all published by Close to the Bone) and Repetition Kills You and The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men (both via All Due Respect). His new book, Sharp Knives & Loud Guns, was released by All Due Respect in December 2021. For more details, please visit:

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!

Criminal Records #10 – Jason Beech on Keep the Motor Running

In the latest instalment of the Criminal Records series, Jason Beech puts together a playlist to accompany his new book, Keep the Motor Running.

C’ERA UNA VOLTA IL WEST by Ennio Morricone

Kietan Telles is an enforcer with a sense of his own mythology, and when he discovers the book’s chief antagonist, Czech Downes, has no taste in music, he plays this Ennio Morricone track through the car’s speakers. Czech, a bit of a cultural wasteland, is mesmerized by the tune, something he’s never heard. But he suspects Telles’ motivation for playing it. Does he play it because he’s evangelical about the tune, or is it a means to lull Czech and his partner into a trance so he can finish them off?

SATELLITE by The Dave Matthews Band

Tempest Stanley reckons her getaway driver, Karl Lankester, stinks the place out with his Dave Matthews love. Songs like ‘Satellite’ mark him boring as hell, but as she has serious trust issues, that boredom increases her comfort with him. Still, there’s no way she’s sliding that CD into the player. She’d rather listen to radio jingles and the angry beeps of New Jersey traffic.


Tempest is a Sheffield lass, in America for its glamour and pace, but the Steel City pulls at her heartstrings in funny ways. She’s fallen out of love with life, with no trust for anybody, so what better than a bit of hometown longing in ABC’s ‘All of My Heart’. This being noir, love is fleeting – if it ever exists at all.

SABOTAGE by The Beastie Boys

The kind of heat that makes asphalt sticky. Cars squealing down the highways, squeaking down murky alleys, the heroes stealing motors from sleazy motels. This classic tune fits the book perfectly. Except … there’s only a brief appearance from a copper and the story roars through New Jersey. Meaning Pennsylvanians get some abuse.

BREATHE by The Prodigy

They live in two houses stuffed onto a New Jersey jughandle. Three sides of traffic and the fumes to stunt your children, and one side each other. There’s no room to breathe, no room to spread your legs. A bag of cash and product could set them free, but as Karl and Tempest’s minds race at the possibilities, this is a tune to suffocate their nerves and cook the kind of paranoia that pushes them into all the traps.

Buy Keep The Motor Running!


Sheffield native, New Jersey resident Jason Beech writes crime fiction. His coming-of-age crime drama City of Forts was described as “tense, atmospheric, and haunting” by UK crime writer Paul D. Brazill. You can buy Jason’s work from Amazon and read his work at Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey, Close to the Bone, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Pulp Metal Magazine. His new novel, Keep the Motor Running, is out now.

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!

Criminal Records #9 – Andrew Davie on Ouroboros

In the latest instalment of the Criminal Records series, Andrew Davie puts together a playlist to accompany his book Ouroboros (All Due Respect, 2020).


As a fan of metal, I’m always on the lookout for contemporary bands. Apocryphon, from the album of the same name, is a song that has all the great elements of a stoner-doom song; killer riffs, great vocals, and dynamite playing. I especially love the lyric “You want to live for eternity/see behind the veil. Everything comes around again/the serpent eats its tail.” The serpent eating its tail. The symbol of the ouroboros is what gave the book its title. As I was writing it, I kept that image in the back of my mind and it was always a symbol I tried to incorporate.

BLUE IN GREEN by Miles Davis

Gropper is a jazz fan. In Pavement, he refers to and listens to Bill Evans. At the time, I had been familiar with Miles Davis, but I hadn’t truly listened to Kind of Blue. Aside from being a killer album, and featuring performances by some of the best musicians of all time, it’s easily one of the greatest albums ever produced. This is a track I imagined Gropper would listen to while on a stakeout, and it just fit the mood.

REVELATIONS by Iron Maiden

Flemmings was a bar I would frequent when I lived in Astoria, in Queens, just across the river from Manhattan. Most of the Jukebox songs were the typical fare and each song was featured in the rotation. They didn’t feature any metal except it had Iron Maiden’s Revelations, which I would play. It would be great to watch the other patrons’ heads slowly pick up from their drinks with a flummoxed look on their faces as if to suggest “Who’s playing this crap?” Needless to say, I would always save a few quarters for Iron Maiden when I frequented the bar.


Since part of Ouroboros takes place in prison, I was reminded of one of my favorite prison scenes which had this song playing on the soundtrack. While Nina Simone’s version is incredible, I was taken by this version by The Animals.

TO PARTER by the Butthole Surfers

I used to listen to this song at the track in Hong Kong when I knew it was time to get psyched up for the next race, and now I have that same response when I hear it. As soon as the first few notes of To Parter begins, I know it’s time to get work done.

Buy Ouroboros!


Andrew Davie is originally from New York City. In 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His short stories deal with existentialist themes in the speculative fiction genre. He also writes hardboiled novellas in the crime genre. His crime novellas Pavement and Ouroboros are available from All Due Respect Books, No One Runs Faster Than a Bullet and Dig Two Graves from Close to the Bone. The Posting Method is available from Next Chapter. His novella Leviathan Rising and collection The Leprechaun Violence Conjecture are available from Alien Buddha Press.

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!

Criminal Records #8 – Jason Beech on Never Go Back

In the latest instalment of the Criminal Records series, Jason Beech puts together a playlist to accompany his new book, Never Go Back (Close to the Bone, 2019).

REBELLION (LIES) by Arcade Fire

Barlow Vine has just killed a man – his lover’s lover. Now he’s heading from Spain back to his hometown in the vain hope that his actions won’t catch up with him.

There’s a scene in the basement of the abandoned house where Barlow doesn’t quite know if his confused, concussed mind is dreaming or the shadows on the wall of dancing kids are real. The lyrics aren’t the main thing, and Arcade Fire are not British, but there’s a feverish folksiness to the sound which fits the strangeness.

GHOST TOWN by The Specials


Barlow’s arrival back in Sheffield is not what he dreamt. To start, he’s committed murder in Spain so he can’t just throw himself back into the swing of things. So, Sheffield has turned into a Ghost Town, where people just swish past him without acknowledgement to a soundtrack of wind. Lots of wind in Sheffield…


Barlow’s a big fan of The Jam. So is his crush, and so is his oldest friend. The Jam’s music runs through the novel. Barlow and his old mate, Denise, love them. His newfound love, Surraya, strides about in an Eton Rifles t-shirt. It’s also one of my all-time favourites.

COOL FOR CATS by Squeeze

There’s a piano in the cellar of the abandoned house Barlow hides in. What better way to cheer a man with a splitting headache than a jolly romp through Squeeze’s classic? The piano’s out of tune, so turn the wonky up to eleven.



His head is beating, there are men either trying to kill him – or use him – and he’s in mental turmoil at the murder he’s committed. What else to take the edge off but the soothing strings of Blur’s The Universal? It has a mournful quality to fit Barlow’s many regrets.

Buy Never Go Back!


Sheffield native, New Jersey resident Jason Beech writes crime fiction. His coming-of-age crime drama City of Forts was described as “tense, atmospheric, and haunting” by UK crime writer Paul D. Brazill. You can buy Jason’s work from Amazon and read his work at Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey, Close to the Bone, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Pulp Metal Magazine. His new novel, Never Go Back, is published by Close To The Bone on 29 November 2019.

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!

Criminal Records #7 – Tom Leins on Boneyard Dogs

In the latest instalment of the Criminal Records series, Dirty Books curator Tom Leins puts together a playlist to accompany his new book, Boneyard Dogs (Close to the Bone, 2019).

BONEYARD DOGS by Baxter Dury

My book Boneyard Dogs is the sequel to Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, which was soundtracked here last year. Whereas that playlist featured a raucous mixture of punk, hip-hop and drum ‘n’ bass, this time around the tone is more subdued. Boneyard Dogs features its fair share of unhinged, pulse-pounding scenes, but the mood is also unusually contemplative in places – by my standards anyway.

This track – which inspired the book’s title – was included on Baxter Dury’s debut album, Len Parrot’s Memorial Lift, from 2002. I was very hungover very often that summer, and this woozy album takes me back to that era in an instant. Unlike my protagonist, Joe Rey, I didn’t have to go toe-to-toe with scumbags in smoke-choked pubs while nursing a succession of brutal hangovers – I just had to hire out deckchairs to holidaymakers!

Tonally, my book is nothing like this gently psychedelic album, but this song title was too good not to recycle, with its unwitting echoes of Matt Scudder and Quentin Tarantino.

RENTED ROOMS by Tindersticks

Tindersticks were one of the more unusual English bands to emerge during the Britpop era, and they are probably as well known for their soundtrack work as they are for their conventional albums. (Interestingly, since leaving the band, multi-instrumentalist Dickon Hinchcliffe has composed the soundtracks for all manner of cool stuff, including Winter’s Bone, Out of the Furnace, Red Riding and Peaky Blinders.)

Anyway, this is another slow song – about grubby sexual encounters – something that Joe Rey is no stranger to, especially in this book, where he attempts to use his dubious charms to his advantage on more than one occasion.

Right, are you ready for something to set your toes tapping?

MARSHA MOXLEY by Nixon & The Burn

Nixon & The Burn were the best band to ever come out of Paignton, and their presence on the Boneyard Dogs soundtrack is a no-brainer. In a just world, their songs would be playing on the jukeboxes in pubs across town on a daily basis, but Paignton was no more ready for them than it is for my books!

This video features Paignton Pier and the Palace Place Social Club (two locations which haven’t yet featured in my books), but I would definitely use this song in one of the Dirty Lemon scenes (an old band hang-out) – probably to accompany the first ‘discussion’ between Rey and his nemesis, Detective Inspector Butcher.



A double-dose of Devonshire is called for, and this song by Plymouth roots-punks Crazy Arm is a cracker. A Charnel House is a vault where skeletal remains are stored – appropriate for a book with a body-count as high as Boneyard Dogs – and the lyrics are a great fit too, from the great “fucking up someone somewhere, fucking up someone bad” line to the references to a “coastal bruiser” and “trouble in Little England”. This one is my favourite track on the band’s second album, Union City Breath. Tremendous stuff!


‘Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ is a great title, and possibly my favourite Dylan song since ‘Things Have Changed’ in 2000, which was included on the Wonder Boys soundtrack. Odd video too – grubby, gritty and violent.

After hearing this track for the first time, I knew that I wanted to use the title for the closing chapter of this particular book. It feels entirely appropriate for a man who has run out of options, run out of friends and run out of luck. Rey kicks down doors for a living – what’s behind this one?


Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. He is the author of Boneyard Dogs and Meat Bubbles & Other Stories (both Close To The Bone) and Repetition Kills You (All Due Respect) as well as the novelettes Skull Meat, Snuff RacketSpine Farm and Slug Bait. For more information, please visit: Things To Do In Devon When You’re Dead.

Buy Boneyard Dogs!

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!

Criminal Records #6 – Paul Heatley on Guillotine

In the latest instalment of the Criminal Records series, Paul Heatley talks us through some of the tracks that influenced his new book, Guillotine (All Due Respect, 2019).

PROTECT YA NECK by the Wu-Tang Clan

Guillotine tells the story of a young girl trying to escape from her criminal father with the man that she loves. It also tells the tale of her ex-boyfriend, a former army vet-turned-hitman who chops off the heads of his clients targets upon request. Mikey is the eponymous Guillotine. So, with that in mind, you’ve got to believe the Wu-Tang Clan’s seminal hit ‘Protect Ya Neck’ is pretty much his theme song. When Mikey makes an entrance, this is what’s playing.


The aforementioned young lady is Lou-Lou, daughter of the dangerous Big Bobby Joe. When Guillotine begins she and her lover Leon are hiding out in a motel, laying low until they’re sure they can safely get out of town without being detected, awaiting a phone call from a friend of Leon’s who says he’s going to get them a car. ‘Running Up That Hill’ represents the obstacles before them, and their struggle to escape Lou-Lou’s tyrannical father.

Purists might be annoyed that I’ve opted for the Placebo cover as opposed to the Kate Bush original, but the Placebo version is the one I heard first and it’s the one I prefer. It has a darker, almost oppressive quality about it that fits right in at home in this nasty slice of noir. Oh, and I’m not being hyperbolic when I call it nasty. Rob Pierce, author of Uncle Dust, Vern In The Heat, and others, called me a sick fuck. I’m gonna wear that badge with pride.

HEADS WILL ROLL by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Obviously, the title of this song is some clear foreshadowing, but the disco-influenced song itself works very well when you picture Tommy – Leon’s friend who’s sorting him out the car – driving through the night coked-up to the gills. Tommy is a wannabe tough-guy who likes to tell people he used to be part of a dangerous motorcycle club, and so dresses himself in leathers and chains. He’s got a hard powder habit and is regularly snorting the shit up his nose.

BIG JESUS TRASH CAN by The Birthday Party

The manic nature of this track ties itself well to Guillotine’s fast-pace, and the coke-addled mind of Tommy, but it also contains the line “American heads will roll in Texas, roll like daddy’s meat”. The setting of the story is purposefully ambiguous, but Chris Rhatigan [All Due Respect publisher] and I both decided on it being vaguely southern. And heads rolling? Yeah, I’ve gone for a theme.

So, four songs and not a single Mark Lanegan track among them? Oh, go on then, just one…

RAMBLIN’ MAN by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan

There’s a real western vibe to this song (in fact, the whole Ballad Of The Broken Seas album has a strong western influence) that appeals to me. I love westerns, and I hope Guillotine shows some of that admiration. A strong influence upon the story itself was the description I read a long time ago for the Sam Peckinpah movie Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (which I’ve never seen). I have, however, seen The Wild Bunch. Bad men doing bad things – the very description of noir that I adhere to.

This song works on a couple of levels. Firstly, Mikey is a rambling man, regularly on the move due to the nature of his profession. Secondly, if this were a movie, this would be the closing track. When you get to the end of the book, you’ll see why. Just imagine this playing as the sun burns over the desert and the credits begin to rise.


Paul Heatley is the author of more than fifty short stories published online and in print at a variety of publications including Thuglit, Mystery Tribune, Crime Factory, Spelk and Shotgun Honey, among others. He is the author of The Motel Whore & Other Stories, Guns, Drugs and Dogs, Fatboy, An Eye For An Eye, The Runner, Violent By Design and Guillotine.

Buy Guillotine!

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!

Criminal Records #5 – Aidan Thorn on Rival Sons

In the latest instalment of my new series, Aidan Thorn talks us through some of the tracks that influenced his book, Rival Sons (Shotgun Honey, 2018).

Music always plays a huge part in my writing. My first book, When the Music’s Over follows one time band member Benny Gower after he has murdered his business partner, a murder with its roots in the 1990’s when Benny was trying to break through in the music scene. My soon to be released novella, Worst Laid Plans, focuses on the accidently kidnap of a rock star. And Rival Sons, the book released by Shotgun Honey at the end of last year? Well on the face of it there’s very little to do with music here. It’s a dark and brutal tale of the Gordon family, a crime family at war for decades, a war that has laid dormant for 20 years but is brought sharply into focus by the terminal illness of the family’s mother. As I say very little to do with music there, apart from the fact that the whole thing was inspired by being at a gig in Southampton a few years ago. The band’s name appeared behind them on the stage, I of course knew the band I was going to see (I was, and still am, a big fan) but it wasn’t until I saw their name lit up behind them that I thought, that would be a great name for a book. The band was of course, Rival Sons.


While Rival Sons were ripping through their opening track of the evening I was plotting out the idea of two sons, one who aspired to the family’s criminal ways, Graham, and one who wanted nothing to do with it at all, Kyle. That first track was ‘Electric Man’, I was already six or seven beers into a good buzz and my plotting didn’t get much further that night, but it was during this fantastic night of live music that the germ of an idea was born.


Rival Sons begins in a rundown pub on the outskirts of town – Kyle Gordon, a good son, has returned. The dilapidation of the town shocks him. He’s been serving in the armed forces for 19 years and he cannot believe what he’s returned to. This scene sets up the tone for what’s to come, Paul Brazill recently described Rival Sons as an urban Western. As Kyle finishes his drink and leaves the pub for me it’s soundtracked by the greatest country star of all time singing ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’.


When Kyle arrives at the family home, he is struck by how frail his mother is and he’s pulled in by a mixture of emotions. He’s concerned for his mother and he’s uncomfortable at being under his father’s roof – he despises his father, every move he has made as an adult has been to rebel against him. There’s also the nostalgia of returning to his old bedroom, unchanged from when he left in the 1990s. For me any of the early scenes in the family home trigger memories of the more melancholic Britpop tracks from my own youth, few sum up my feelings about these scenes better than ‘This is a Low’ by Blur.


Like most of my work, Rival Sons is a crime story wrapped around stories about relationships. One of my favourite relationships from this book is the one between Kyle’s teenage daughter, Zoe and her barman boyfriend. There is such a freshness about this pair, such an innocence that while they’re together they feel almost removed from all of the tension of the family. That they are pulled sharply into the focus of the trouble is what changes the course of everything for everybody, but in the moments these two are together there’s a lightness and bounciness that takes me to Eels, ‘Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living’).


The story of the Gordon family concludes at a fast pace. There’s no time to catch a breath as it races towards its bloody finale. It’s frantic, fraught and the body count rises quickly. There’s very little dialogue in these closing exchanges, there’s not much left to say. It’s a gritty finale and in my head its soundtrack is equally gritty, it all plays out to the driving bass and tortured vocal tones of Nirvana’s ‘School’, captured best here in this ’92 set from Reading Festival.


Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England. His short fiction has appeared in Byker Books Radgepacket series, the Near to the Knuckle Anthologies: Gloves Off and Rogue, Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, The Big Adios Western Digest, Shadows & Light, Hardboiled Dames and Sin as well as online in numerous places.

His first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts, was released in 2013 and his second, Tales from the Underbelly, in 2017. In September 2015 Number 13 Press published Aidan’s first novella, When the Music’s Over. In 2016 Aidan collated and edited the charity anthology Paladins for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, working with 16 authors from the UK and USA to deliver this project.


Buy Rival Sons!

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!

Criminal Records #4 – Kurt Reichenbaugh on Sirens

In the latest instalment of an occasional series, Kurt Reichenbaugh talks you through some of the tracks that influenced his book, Sirens (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013).

When I wrote Sirens, I wanted to write my own version of a coming of age story, set in my Florida hometown during the ‘70s, and stock it full of songs from the soundtrack of my youth. The result was something quite a bit different than what I had intended. Instead of a coming of age story, it became more of a corruption of youth tale, complete with zombies, conspiracies, psychotic wrestlers, UFO folklore and deadly strippers. But the soundtrack remained. In the end, it’s something of a scruffy, undisciplined, novel with its share of sloppy notes, like a bootleg Jimmy Page solo. But its heart is pure.


One of the oldest songs that inspired Sirens was ‘Venus’ from Frankie Avalon. Not exactly a hardcore rocker. Instead, what appealed to me in this song is the idea behind it. My lead protagonist, Kevin, dreams of finding a girl to love, a girl that doesn’t exist. Early in the novel he’s riding with his father in the family car and ‘Venus’ comes on the oldies station. To Kevin, ‘Venus’ represents the kind of girl he could wish for, yet never have. It’s a romantic ideal that is like that blue light across the bay from Jay Gatsby’s house. The lead siren and femme fatale, Suzie, sees the romantic ideals that Kevin has and uses that to toy with him throughout the story.


‘Bip Bop Boom’ by Mickey Hawk and the Night Raiders is pure rockabilly rave-up. Our group of friends in the novel: Kevin, Brad, Nick and Otto are represented by this song in the spirit of youth and cars and rock n roll and abandon. Not a whole lot had changed for teenagers in the ‘70s from the ‘50s. Yet, the Vietnam War and Watergate separated the two generations, and ‘70s kids probably had even less of a reason to believe in authority than any generation before them. They came of age in a decade of rampant domestic terrorism. They knew they were being sold a lie, and from their cynicism Punk Rock was born.


In Sirens, Kevin does not find the girl of his dreams. ‘Cherry Bomb’ by the Runaways is the flipside to ‘Venus’. It’s the ultimate dirty girl song in a way. Instead of debutants with silver gowns and white gloves, Kevin and Brad get strippers and prostitutes. ‘Cherry Bomb’ is playing in the strip club they go to when looking for Suzie, the queen Siren of the novel. I used my own youthful experience for this part of the book. I’d managed to sneak into a few strip clubs in my teens, thanks to a “doctored” driver’s license, and had my own encounters with hard strippers and aggressive bouncers. There is nothing quite like the lure of a bad girl to get a (sometimes not-so) nice guy in trouble.


The sirens represent a variety of dreams and nightmares for our heroes. They’re either good or evil, and various shades of gray between. ‘The Revenge of Vera Gemini’, written by Patti Smith and Albert Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult, inspired the mood of the book. Blue Oyster Cult was one of my favorite bands when I was a teen, in addition to the Rolling Stones, Santana and so many others. I don’t pretend to know what the lyrics of ‘Vera Gemini’ mean, but the mood and the spirit of the song is one of many that I attempted to feed into my writing of the book.


Lastly, I include ‘The Six Teens’ by Sweet. Adolescence ain’t easy for anyone; forget about zombies and murderous sirens from other worlds. In the opening paragraphs, our protagonists are in Nick’s bedroom and Desolation Boulevard is playing on the stereo. There is even a “Suzie” in the song. Its lyrics describe teenagers from 1968, nearly 10 years prior to the setting of Sirens. But adolescence is timeless. Life goes on and we’re all part of the sixteens, as the lyrics say. Not all of my characters make it to the end. No one gets through life unscathed, but we try to do our best along the way.


Kurt Reichenbaugh is the author of the novels SIRENS and LAST DANCE IN PHOENIX.  His short stories have appeared in PHOENIX NOIR, Southwest Noir, HUNGUR and Out of the Gutter Online. His day job as a financial analyst interferes with his hobbies and his real life.

 Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!

Criminal Records #3 – Tom Leins on Repetition Kills You

In the latest instalment of an occasional series, Dirty Books curator Tom Leins talks you through some of the tracks that influenced his book, Repetition Kills You (All Due Respect, 2018).


Repetition Kills You is an experimental noir. A novel-in-stories. A literary jigsaw puzzle. The book comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. The narrative timeline is warped, like a blood-soaked Möbius Strip.

Repetition Kills You is also a pop-noir jukebox – a collection heavily inspired by the random tracks spat out by my iPod when I was working on the book. Music is often a starting point when looking for inspiration for a new project, and this book is a prime example.

The title came from the 2007 single of the same name by cult UK electronica duo The Black Ghosts, and fitted the concept perfectly. When assembling the overlapping short stories that make up the book, that phrase stuck in my mind. Motifs are repeated, storylines are reimagined, supporting characters are killed off, only to re-emerge elsewhere in the timeline…

In the title story, protagonist Joe Rey admits stomping the same guy twice in the same day – purely by accident. As the man says: “They say repetition kills you. Well, it’s sure-as-shit going to kill somebody.”


Nick Cave’s lyrics are phenomenal, and his rich, dark imagery is a great jumping-off point when looking for inspiration. A number of people have told me that ‘The Carny’ is their favourite story in the book, and it is definitely one of mine too. Imagine the deranged carnival depicted in Cave’s song – but relocated to Paignton. Add in complicated family relationships and a long simmering desire for revenge and you are in the right ballpark.

Happily, I can confirm that the title character, Eugene, will return in the one of the sequels to Repetition Kills You – provisionally titled Screw Joint – which I’m currently in the midst of writing. Given how ‘The Carny’ turned out, you would assume that Rey would be inclined to steer clear of the Eugene, but that isn’t going to happen, and this new story sees him dragged out of his comfort zone and into a hellish new environment where nothing is as it seems.

(Note: surreally enough, ‘The Carny’ was initially performed live at a Liar’s League literary reading in Hong Kong, where the performer, a guy named Aaron Kahn, gave this defiantly Devonshire story a welcome Americana twist!)


My story ‘This Is Hardcore’ originally appeared in 2016 in Pulp Fiction, a quirky little anthology themed around the songs of Britpop band Pulp. It concerns a typically violent investigation for Joe Rey, which sees him plunge headfirst into the seedy world of suburban pornography. The story even includes a retired porn star whose back catalogue is made up of films named after obscure Pulp album-tracks, including ‘Inside Susan’ and ‘Acrylic Afternoons’!

I have owned the Pulp album in question for two decades, but never recall watching the noir-themed music video – until seeking it out for this feature. A fitting soundtrack to my dirty British noir.


‘You Will Miss Me When I Burn’ is easily the oldest story in the collection, written in 2013 – some five years before the publication of Repetition Kills You. It first appeared in Sein und Werden’s ‘Auto de Fe’ issue. Suffice to say, Sein und Werden always made me think outside the box with its themes!

The track that inspired the story featured on the Soulsavers 2009 album, Broken, and sees Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees singing a Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) track first recorded as Palace Brothers back in 1994. Such a bleak song – it makes my story seem like a comedy by comparison!

(Bonus track: ‘Idle Hands’ by The Gutter Twins inspired my ‘I’ story of the same name. This one is another Lanegan collaboration, this time with Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs. As such, I think he is the only artist to appear twice!)


For me, putting together a short story collection is a lot like assembling a mix-tape, and this downbeat Nine Inch Nails track – and the story it inspired – felt like the perfect closer. After a string of explosive stories and queasy revelations I was keen to end the book on a more contemplative note, with a more subdued story – something that tied the collection’s disparate themes and sub-plots together – and also something that had readers scrambling back to the first chapter – armed with the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle. My future books will end with buildings in flames and blood dripping off walls, but not this one!


Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. He is the author of the short story collections Meat Bubbles & Other Stories (Near To The Knuckle) and Repetition Kills You (All Due Respect) and the novelettes Skull Meat, Snuff Racket, Spine Farm and Slug Bait. For more information, please visit: Things To Do In Devon When You’re Dead.

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!


Criminal Records #2 – Paul Heatley on An Eye For An Eye

In the second instalment of a brand new series, UK crime writer Paul Heatley puts together a playlist to accompany his visceral 2016 thriller, An Eye For An Eye (Near To The Knuckle).

PENDULUM by Mark Lanegan

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I’m a BIG Mark Lanegan fan. I don’t make any secret of it. Listen to this song and tell me how you couldn’t be? Let’s set the scene for this one: imagine a ‘True Detective’ style opening of dark and grainy images taken from the story to come – a bloodied dart, a hammer, a one-eyed girl, mangled and fallen bodies – and put this song over the top of it. As with the next song in this small collection, the lyrics pertain to the main character – the world-weary Graeme Taylor: ‘Swing Pendulum, Swing low, Got no place to call my own, Oh my Lord don’t you bother me, I’m as tired as a man can be.’


How could a story set in Newcastle not feature the music of the city’s finest band? I’m not particularly a fan of Lindisfarne so you won’t be seeing ’Fog On The Tyne’ or ’I’m Coming Home Newcastle’ on this list! As I stated above, this is the other song that relates most strongly to Graeme. He’s done with his old way of life and he wants to move on. Problem is, much like Michael Corleone, they just keep pulling him back in…


Transport the Southern Gothic stylings of The Gun Club’s ‘Run Through The Jungle’ to the concrete jungle of Newcastle and the beaches of Northumberland, and here’s a song that fits REAL well. Its oppressive, driving rhythm compliments a story about a chase that can only have one ending…

THE MERCY SEAT by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

It was a toss-up between this one and ‘Red Right Hand’, but by this point ‘Red Right Hand’ has been used to death. ‘The Mercy Seat’, much like ‘Run Through The Jungle’, captures the same oppression of a chase that can’t be outrun, which is why I’ve gone for the link to the full seven-minute album version, as opposed to the five-minute single.

EYE FOR AN EYE by Soulfly

Here’s a song that I hope captures the frenetic, Chester Himes style high-energy that I wanted to present with this story. Also, it has the same name as the book, so you can stick it over the end credits!


Paul Heatley is the author of more than fifty short stories published online and in print at a variety of publications including Thuglit, Mystery Tribune, Crime Factory, Spelk, and Shotgun Honey, among others. He is also the author of The Motel Whore & Other Stories, Guns, Drugs and Dogs, An Eye For An Eye and Fatboy. A prequel and a sequel to An Eye For An Eye will be released this summer from Near To The Knuckle with The Runner dropping in August and Violent By Design coming in September, and he has a new title, Guillotine, coming from All Due Respect in early 2019. 

Are you a crime writer? Would you like to write about the musical influences on your new book? If so, drop me a line via the contact form on the About page!