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.

Buy Book

Review by Tom Leins

Advertisements

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

Buy Book

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

Buy Book

Book Review: Sunk Costs by Preston Lang

SUNK COSTS

Author: Preston Lang

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

Release Date: May 2018

Sunk Costs is the story of Dan, a young drifter looking for a ride east. When a strange woman in a business suit picks him up on the highway, he thinks that his luck is in. Before too long, however, she has pulled a gun on him and suckered Dan into participating in an improbable scam to rip off her former employer. Intrigued by the prospect of making some fast money with a little casual deception, Dan throws himself into the woman’s scheme, only to have his head turned by a sultry accountant with an appealing counter-offer – before he even leaves the building!

Sunk Costs is a tightly plotted and satisfyingly duplicitous thriller. Lang’s writing is crisp and clean throughout, with some enjoyably dry one liners, and his style suits the subject matter perfectly. Dan is a great character: a resourceful slacker with few morals, who is seemingly unfazed by anything the increasingly bizarre situation throws up. Plus, he enjoys some nice interplay with his off-kilter partner-in-crime Kate (the aforementioned accountant), as the duo fumble their way through scattered clues in search of their elusive pay-day.

The tone is offbeat, without ever lapsing into madcap, and while their exploits sometimes lack a genuine sense of threat from the other interested parties, Lang has enough surprises up his sleeve to keep you on your toes. If you are looking for a smart, unusual, contemporary con-man caper, then you won’t go far wrong with Sunk Costs.

Buy Sunk Costs

Review by Tom Leins

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Chris Orlet

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Chris Orlet to discuss his new book, A Taste of Shotgun (All Due Respect).

Congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you pitch A Taste of Shotgun to potential readers?

I hope A Taste of Shotgun appeals to readers who like their fiction pulpy, dark and with a dash of absurdist humor. A few readers have compared the book favourably to the works of Jim Thompson and Jason Starr. I hope they’re right.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

I hope it makes them think, as well as entertains. If the book has a theme it is about survival and how close to the edge so many of us are living, and what we have to do these days to stay afloat. How one little thing, an illness or an accident or an arrest for speeding, can lead to disastrous consequences. How the game is rigged for the few, against the many and no one seems to notice or care. In other words, it’s a goddamn laugh riot.

The blurb on the front cover namechecks the 1970s – do you have a favourite decade for crime fiction?

There will never be another time like the era of the great pulps masters, the 40s and the 50s. Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Charles Williams, Harry Whittington, Charles Willeford, Gil Brewer. They are the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Or would stand on if they weren’t falling down drunk all the time.

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

Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayres. Okay, so people reading this blog have probably heard of it, but people who read this blog have heard of everything. So yeah, Peckerwood. The story explodes off the page with an unforgettable cast of shitbirds, corrupt lawmen, ex-bikers, backwoods babes, Memphis drug dons and a dogged states attorney out to make a name for himself by bringing down a crooked lawman. I might also mention that it is laugh out loud funny.

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

Both, but I do try to keep up with most of the new books that Down & Out & company is putting out because they are just an awesome publisher. Without them we’d all be reading David Foster Wallace and Italo Calvino and William Gaddis and Julio Cortázar. I’ve read them, and trust me, it’s not fun. So buy Down & Out’s books while you still can, dammit.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

I don’t think they’d want to be associated with me, whoever they are. But they are probably the writers who publish with All Due Respect and Down & Out Books. Maybe Broken River. Those weirdos.

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

Career trajectory? To quote Sam Shepard: “I’m not interested in a career. I don’t want to have a career. I want to do the work that fascinates me.” To me that means the continuing struggle to find something new and interesting to say in a new and interesting way. So I would choose Sam because he didn’t give a damn.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I am working on the third or fourth draft (I lost count) of two more crime novels. One, called Love and Other Dead Things, is a straight-forward noir. Maybe too straight forward for the Me Too Generation. Might have to tweak that some more. The other, Leadwood, a twisty crime novel, involves the klan, a St. Louis billionaire philanthropist, and a couple of snoopy reporters and is set in the Mark Twain National Forest. (Go look it up.) I hope to finish both by the end of the year.

Bio:

Chris Orlet is the author of A Taste of Shotgun (All Due Respect) and In The Pines (New Pulp Press). He lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with his wife and daughter.

Buy A Taste of Shotgun

The Interrogation Room – An Interview with David Owain Hughes

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with David Owain Hughes to discuss his new book, South By Southwest Wales (Darkwater Syndicate).

Firstly, how would you pitch South By Southwest Wales to potential readers? 

I think Richard Ayre’s full blurb will sum this question up nicely:

‘Samson Valentine. Once the best gumshoe in the city, but now little more than a washed-up has-been. The question is, though, which city? And when?

Owain-Hughes is probably best known for his horror stories, but South by Southwest Wales showcases the sheer versatility of this brilliant writer, and the detail of both setting and characterisation combine to make one hell of a good read. In Samson Valentine, Owain-Hughes has created a classic flawed hero. A man who is inherently good in a world that has turned bad. And when things get personal, Valentine shows that he is not a man to cross.

In South by Southwest Wales, David Owain-Hughes presents us with a pure gem. Part Noir detective thriller, part insight into the dark world of alcoholism. This is a fabulous story that weaves its way seamlessly from 1940’s Chicago to modern-day Cardiff, thanks to the fractured mind of its main character.

I can’t think of a better evening than to sit in the pool of light from a shaded chintz lamp, sip a single malt, and get lost in South by Southwest Wales. Pure magic.’

–Richard Ayre

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

A deep-rooted love and admiration for Samson Valentine, for he’s a man who manages to turns the table on his shitty luck, crawling out of a gutter he’s found himself in. He fights for his life and those he loves, as he battles alcohol abuse, depression and personal demons. I hope his story will inspire others. Sam, a bloke with a set jaw and an iron will, will show what one person can do with a heart and bellyful of determined. Nothing is impossible.

The bulk of your work to date has been within the horror genre. What prompted the switch to crime fiction? 

I’ve had a thing for crime fiction for many years – especially 1930’s/40’s gangster crime – and so it came as no great shock to me that I wanted to produce a book within the crime/noir/detective genre. I also have a keen interest in detectives/P.Is, as they’re almost always portrayed in films/books/TV shows as lonely individuals – an aspect I love exploring when building my own characters.

However, I think the biggest prompt for me to write such a book, was to show people I’m not a one-trick pony; that I can write other things too, not just blood, guts and perversion. I had a golden opportunity here to explore some dark, interesting things, such as Sam’s delusional state of mind and hard-drinking habits.

Are the two genres uneasy bedfellows, or do they feed into one another? 

A bit of both, I think. I’ve never once though the two genres stood worlds apart and sometimes live in each other’s backyards. Just like horror, crime deals with real-life monsters, the human condition and whole host of other subjects – some taboo – a lot of writers wouldn’t touch if their lives depended on it.

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

Mainstream, although I do occasionally dip my toe into in the independent scene. I love how bold some indie authors are, especially those who write extreme horror, who mostly leave nothing to the imagination. They are fearless, holding nothing back, and that’s how art should be, right? I know a lot of people don’t like lots of detail, but I do. I don’t want the monster hidden or the gore toned down. I want to see, feel and breathe a character’s pain in every detail as they’re mutilated, fall from grace, drink themselves into a black hole or some other nasty subject that rips a person apart, whether it’s from limb to limb, or from the soul outwards.

Who are your prime influences?

Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Bentley Little, Shaun Hutson, James Herbert, Guy N. Smith, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Ian Rankin and many others! I’d also have to add Alice Copper, even though he’s a musician, his music has inspired so much of my work over the years. It would be rude to leave him out!

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

Probably Richard Laymon. I have so much love and respect for him, even though I never got the chance to speak to him, and his work. He’s the reason I set out on a path to become a writer – his story triggered something within me, to get me going. When I read his novel One Rainy Night, it blew me away. I couldn’t believe there were writers out there jotting such insane stuff! Brilliant.

Do you crave mainstream success, or is developing cult status satisfying enough? 

I’d settle for cult status. Definitely. However, if you’d asked me a few years ago, I probably would have said mainstream – to take my writing to the highest level possible. These days, I guess I’m more realistic. There are so many people out there writing nowadays, that getting recognised is extremely difficult.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans? 

At current, I’m taking a breather. I want to catch up with my reading and to spend some quality time with my family. I also want to push this new novel, and give it time to see how it does, before I press on with something new. When I return to the writing, I plan to write the sequel to South by Southwest Wales.

Bio: 

David Owain Hughes is a horror freak! He grew up on ninja, pirate and horror movies from the age of five, which helped rapidly instil in him a vivid imagination. When he grows up, he wishes to be a serial killer with a part-time job in women’s lingerie…He’s had multiple short stories published in various online magazines and anthologies, along with articles, reviews and interviews. He’s written for This Is Horror, Blood Magazine, and Horror Geeks Magazine. He’s the author of the popular novels “Walled In” (2014), “Wind-Up Toy” (2016), “Man-Eating Fucks” (2016), and “The Rack & Cue” (2017) along with his short story collections “White Walls and Straitjackets” (2015) and “Choice Cuts” (2015). He’s also written three novellas – “Granville” (2016), “Wind-Up Toy: Broken Plaything & Chaos Rising” (2016).

Website: 

http://david-owain-hughes.wix.com/horrorwriter

 

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.’

WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE by The Animals

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…

RUN THROUGH THE JUNGLE by The Gun Club

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!

Bio:

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!

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Frank Westworth

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Frank Westworth to discuss his JJ Stoner series.

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

Did you ever wonder what trained killers do when they leave the military? JJ Stoner is one such; he knows killers and their ways, which makes him pretty good at finding them. What happens after that is down to the politicians…

How did you come up with the character, and how has he evolved since his first appearance?

Originally, the stories weren’t intended to be about JJ at all – they were based around a team of three female killers, three sisters in fact. Stoner was simply intended to be a device to reveal the sisters and their ways to The Reader. The character himself, JJ, is based on guys I met when both my sister and brother were serving in the British Army. With added detail to make him a fuller personality – a passion for playing guitar and riding large Harley-Davidson motorcycles, for example.

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

I want every reader to be entertained, to have a good read, maybe to smile a little at the way things go and at the characters in there. Entertainment – that’s all I want The Reader to take away.

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

The positives? An author is free to write what they want, without any of the positioning demanded by conventional publishers. Good friend of mine who’s a seriously successful thriller writer was told by his publishers that he needed to introduce a ‘supernatural’ theme to his books to make them more like Stephen King or John Connolly. His books sell well without that, but no, he has to do what he’s told.

The downside is that it’s almost impossibly difficult to introduce your writing to an audience. And there is no money in it, which is fine if writing’s not intended to be an earner, less so otherwise.

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

I read all sorts of books, mostly crime and sci-fi. It’s not easy to define ‘mainstream’, but if you mean do I read books in the publishers’ Top Ten, then the answer is no, very rarely. They tend to be too formulaic for my tastes – probably because mainstream authors need to write what their publishers want, hence the current ‘The Girl Who…’ endless repetitions and the like. That said, there are a whole load of truly outstanding authors out there who are conventionally published on a smaller scale and produce stunningly good books. One joy of the internet is that it’s not difficult to find them. This is a good thing indeed.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

Peers? That’s a hard one. I could never claim to be anywhere near as good as any of these authors, but I would be seriously delighted to be considered on the same page as Steve Hamilton, Craig Russell, Chris Petit, Michael Marshall Smith, Don Winslow, Derek Raymond, James Crumley and maybe even Fred Vargas! I’d not even try to compare my efforts with their books, but there’s a similar level of … intensity, perhaps.

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

Jon Courtenay Grimwood, aka Jack Grimwood. He has written in so many different styles – SF, literary, historical and currently espionage – that his career has long been very interesting. He’s also a journalist – as I am – and I admire the way he writes and develops as a writer.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

Not easy to be define! I’ve started writing the fourth book in the JJ Stoner ‘Killing Sisters’ trilogy (every trilogy needs four books, we all know that!) as well as another couple of short stories set in the same universe and featuring appearances by characters from the full-length novels. I’ve also dug my way into writing a sci-fi novel, but it’s very slow going as it’s an entirely different way of writing. We live to learn, though, don’t we?

Bio:

Frank Westworth shares several characteristics with his literary anti-hero, JJ Stoner: they both play mean blues guitar and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Unlike Stoner, Frank hasn’t deliberately killed anyone. Instead, Frank edits a monthly classic motorcycle magazine.

Frank’s ‘Killing Sisters’ series starts with ‘A Last Act Of Charity’ and continues in ‘The Corruption Of Chastity’, concluding in ‘The Redemption Of Charm’. However, you can start with any of the books in the series; they’re written to be enjoyed if you come in halfway through…

You can also meet key characters from the Killing Sisters series in the JJ Stoner short stories, which begin with First Contract.

Author Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/killingsisters

Author website:

www.murdermayhemandmore.net

Author Amazon page:

www.amazon.co.uk/Frank-Westworth/e/B001K89ITA/

Author Goodreads page:

www.goodreads.com/author/show/576653.Frank_Westworth

 

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Chris Roy

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Chris Roy to discuss his new short story collection, Her Name Is Mercie (Near To The Knuckle).

Firstly, for anyone unfamiliar with you and your writing, can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how your situation has influenced your fiction?

I’ve been in quite a few interrogation rooms. Never thought I would feel privileged for it. Thanks for having me, Tom.

I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We didn’t have much, my mom, brother and sister and I, but we were happy.

I was in trouble a lot as a kid, for stealing (the first time I was in an interrogation room I was 10). I escaped from a juvenile detention center and went to military training school. I never really straightened up. Started pulling parts at my uncle’s junkyards when I was 12 and kept a full-time job as a mechanic during summers, and part-time every day during high school. Made a bunch of money selling drugs and got my own place when I was 17. Attempted 12th grade a second time and was expelled for possession of LSD. When I was actually home I didn’t watch much TV; I was likely outside working on cars, 4×4s, or motorcycles.

When I was 18 I worked at a transmission shop. I was also working with a Vietnamese dealer named Dong (also 18). We sold cocaine, ecstasy and weed. He supplied, I distributed. A disagreement over money escalated into threats, then, later, a fistfight. He died from injuries. A friend and I covered it up. Literally. And were charged and convicted.

I’m 36 now. I’ve served 18 on a life sentence, housed in maximum security on High Risk since 2005 for two escapes. A couple of my best friends are on Death Row.

Art and fitness are what I’m known for as a convict. I’m serious business when it comes to tattooing (though, oddly, I have none). Rise Tattoo Magazine in France featured my work last year – what an honor that was. I’m very passionate about boxing. Currently training a couple of youngsters that have developed quickly. They won’t shut up about how tough they are and never pass up a chance to flex. I love it.

Your question makes me think back to when I was arrested, in the county jail as a teenager. When I got serious about art, and very serious about fitness and boxing training. If, back then, someone told me I would become a professional writer in prison I would have pointed and laughed at them. My writing skills were non-existent then.

Writing home and to pen-pals – combined with personal criminal experience, crimes I’ve studied and the hundreds of novels and non-fiction books I’ve read – gave me what I needed to start writing crime fiction in 2007. As a necessity I’m a very physical person. That carries over into my writing, too.

In the beginning I sensationalized crime with highly amoral protagonists. I would fabricate crimes that used the poor to steal from the rich, say, or the state and government. I was still very much a criminal then, involved in some of the crimes I created stories from. I was driven to create crimes that I could carry out from my cell. The victims never knew who I was or where I was. The plan was to make enough to buy my freedom. I learned so much – that I could potentially make a lot of money, that I was a danger to a lot of people, and then, no matter how I tried to rationalize it away, I learned I had a conscience. There are guys in the system making a killing running scams and want me on their team. I know I could make a pile of cash and maybe get out with it. But I won’t go back to that life.

In a world of criminals where the most criminal enjoys the highest status, I was known. The person I once was is a different animal than the person writing this now.

Writing adds a significant healthy purpose to my life. So far it’s not rewarding in profits, though it’s rewarding in a way I would never experience as a crook.

Turning our attention towards your new book: congratulations on the publication of Her Name Is Mercie. How hard was it to select the stories – and indeed the running order?

Thanks, man.

Coming up with the themes for each took some thinking. My short stories in the past were centered around crimes. The job, the heist or scam was the thing. Her Name Is Mercie is about the characters, the tribulations they experience from crimes committed against them. Each story is vastly different, though each has an element of wrongdoing, characters doing awful things to other characters. Mercie is the main feature, the longest story, so it gets pole position. Marsh Madness is the shortest, a cliffhanger, so it’s last.

Do you have a favourite story in the collection? If so, why is it your favourite?

Marsh Madness is the first in a new style. It marks a change for me. I had been writing for a decade, worked on my thrillers for several years, and they weren’t well-received. The handful of reviews were sincere though were mostly courtesies. A writer I respect greatly critiqued Shocking Circumstances and gave advice on how to improve that would make some writers quit. I took it as a challenge, and changed my style and my entire approach to crime fiction. Marsh Madness was an exercise after a lot of studying. A test, written during a dark time. It impressed the right people and took me in a creative direction I didn’t see coming.

What is the oldest story in the book? How do you think your style has evolved since then?

I’ve mentioned Marsh Madness was the first in this collection. The style progressed into a variable one. Tension and emotional descriptions aren’t applied with just action or danger of some kind. There’s more story involved now. More linking of emotions to the setting. The narrative doesn’t tell readers a character is feeling a certain way – it shows the characters expressing it so that readers get the feeling themselves.

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

Most of the crime fiction I’ve read has been mainstream. Novels in prison are, by far, written by New York Times bestselling authors.

Your collection has been published by Near To The Knuckle – do you have any favourite NTTK authors or titles you would like to recommend?

Paul Brazill is great, right? Brit grit specialist. Richard Godwin has an otherworldly style that will keep you on your toes. I’ve read some of your work, too. Damn brilliant stuff.

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

Possibly Greg Iles. Each of his books are so well put together, a shit ton of brain power thrown at each page. His style is top shelf. So are his sales – I would like to be able to afford an attorney some day and get back in court!

Bio:

Chris Roy was raised in South Mississippi, in the midst of ugly Gulf Coast beaches and spectacular muddy bayous.

Chris lived comfortably with the criminal ventures of his youth until a fistfight in 1999 ended tragically. Since January, 2000, he’s been serving a life sentence in the Mississippi Department of Corrections.  

Nowadays he lives his life of crime vicariously, through the edgy, fast-paced stories he pens, hoping to entertain readers. When he isn’t writing, he’s reading, drawing or looking for prospects to train in boxing.

Books:

Her Name Is Mercie

Shocking Circumstances Book I: Last Shine

Shocking Circumstances Book 2: Resurrection

Sharp as a Razor Book I: A Dying Wish

Website:

http://www.unjustelement.com

Twitter:

@AuthorChrisRoy

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Roy/e/B00MF6LCHM