Saturday, 2 May 2015

FACE OFF: Brennan and Nixon talk dirty deeds

Here at Pulp Pusher we don’t do things by halves. Except this time. Authors can usually be found downing whiskey and we thought throwing together two leading lights of the crime fiction indie scene in a bar to talk about writing would be a good idea. 

Irish author Gerard Brennan pens hard hitting Celtic noir and is published by digital house, Blasted Heath. Keith Nixon resides with Caffeine Nights and cranks out black comedy and crime.

Keith Nixon.
Gerard Brennan.


Keith: What piques your interest when you open a novel?

Gerard: I'm a sucker for style. Give me a strong voice over an airtight plot any day of the week.

You?

Keith: Something that moves with pace and strong characters. I can’t be doing with plodding storylines…

So, what's next from the pen of GB?

Gerard: Hard to say. I finished two novels this year but one can't be published until I complete my PhD. The second hasn't been given the thumbs up by anybody jåust yet so for all I know, it's a bunch of shite. I'm working on a play and another Cormac Kelly novel right now, and I've a screenplay out there looking for an agent. Whichever of those hits the mark first is anybody's guess.

Keith: What's your most under-rated book?

Gerard: I think they're all overrated, mate. I'm lucky like that.

Keith: I’m not sure I’d agree with you there! The one I’ve under-rated the most of yours is Fireproof, to my eternal shame…

Gerard: Yeah, I’ve not forgiven you for that yet.

Keith: Will another drink help?

Gerard: Maybe. In fairness, I understand that the book isn’t for everybody. Fireproof seems to be the ginger step-child of my canon. It’s gotten a slight resurgence lately, though, thanks to a BookBub add. That was cool. I think it’s just one of those things. When you write a book that you can’t tag a specific genre to, it can make it hard to sell. Fireproof’s a sort of horror/crime/fantasy/comedy mash-up. And it uses religion as a backdrop, which can be off-putting to quite a few people. 

Your historic novels seem to do pretty well. Are they your most popular ones?

Keith: In terms of sales yes, by a country mile! I’ve sold over 10,000 of them now, not bad in less than a year. 

Gerard: Holy feck! Ahem… aye. Not bad, mate.

Keith: Historical fiction and Rome in particular seems to be a popular genre. Ratings wise the crime novels set a higher bar and they’re relatively more straightforward to write, but they’re less visible - funny really!

Which of your works did you enjoy writing the most?

Gerard: I’m not 100% sure. They were probably all quite a slog at the time, but as the months and years roll on you tend to remember the easier days over the hard ones. I’d say it was one of the novellas, though. Maybe Welcome to the Octagon. It’s about mixed martial arts (AKA cage fighting) and I’m an Ultimate Fighting Championship fan, so it was fun to attempt to translate that kind of action to the page. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a niche subgenre so the sales suck monkey butts. Never mind 10,000 copies. That one barely cleared 10.

While we’re chatting genre, why the direction change with The Corpse Role? Was it difficult to write a police procedural?

Keith: Yes and no. I like to get the basis of a story factually correct (which is a nightmare when you’re writing historical fiction from a period where nothing is recorded!) so there was an element of research and having to find a plausible storyline to hang the narrative from, but once I had strong characters it largely drove itself.

Gerard: Reader, writer and reviewer: Which role gives you the most pleasure?

Keith: Ironically I took them up in that order! I started reading at an early age, for as long as I can remember. Books are very important to me. If I get fed up or want to retreat from the world I’ll pick up a book. It’s a bit harder these days with the kids, though. Writing I’ll never give up. It’s a mentally tough activity, so I can’t do as much of it as I’d like (plus I have a full time job and the kids thing again). Reviewing has been great, I’ve met so many new authors as a result, but you have to be honest in your assessment, I believe. Sometimes people don’t like that.

So overall I couldn’t imagine changing any of them, but overall I’d have to go for reading – someone else can entertain me!

Could you imagine yourself as a full time writer?

Gerard: I'm kind of living the life of a full-time writer now. Kind of. I took a career break to do a PhD at Queen's University Belfast. A huge element of said PhD is to pen a crime novel. There's more to it than that, such as a critical element, courses that need to be completed, teaching opportunities... yadda, yadda, yadda. But I reckon that a true full-time writer (i.e. one that doesn't have to depend on university funding to cover their mortgage) would still have a bunch of commitments to honour, if their marketing team is doing a good job and setting them up with readings and whatnot. So, yeah. I can imagine it. And guess what. It smells like coffee. What surprises me most is how many distractions I can find that pretty much take up the time I'd have spent working the aul' office job anyway.

I could bang on about this until your eyes glaze, so I'll stop there.

You have a publisher AND you self-publish. What are you, greedy?

Keith: It’s a multi-channel strategy GB! By the way, I work in sales… I started off self-published as I had a lost year trying to get what’s now The Eagle’s Shadow to an agent. No-one was interested. My wife bought me a kindle for a birthday a few years ago, The Fix was almost done and I couldn’t face the trawl through agencies and postage costs so I put it out myself. Then along came Caffeine Nights and there are two Konstantin books with them and a third out in May (I’m Dead Again).

Someone suggested I dust off the Roman books so I did and they’ve both sold very well, to my great surprise. They weren’t right for Caffeine and I just wanted to get on with it. I’ve just self-published The Corpse Role, again just a timing thing.

Gerard: Cool, man. I've been doing some reading outside the genre lately. Horror, thriller, even science fiction. And I've enjoyed them more than most of the crime books I've read this year. I think I got stuck in a reading rut or something, and jumping genres has been a tonic. Now I'm starting to wonder if I should be wary of a writing rut. So I think that, before I hit said rut, I'm going to explore a few more genres. Horror first, I think. I'd quite like to do more genre splicing as well (like fantasy/crime fiction or something), but I'll try out a good ol' fashioned horror first. After rewriting two current books and finishing a third.

I'm going to have to work through this hangover tomorrow, aren't I?

Sigh.

Keith: Anyway, cheers!

Gerard: Slainte!



:: Find Keith and Gerard on Amazon

Monday, 23 March 2015

PUSH-UPS: Michael Malone

Michael Malone.
So, what you pushing right now?
Beyond the Rage, a contemporary crime thriller set in Glasgow.

What’s the hook?
The blurb ... Even though he's a successful criminal, Glasgow villain Kenny O'Neill is angry. Not only has his high-class escort girlfriend just been attacked, but his father is reaching out to him from the past despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother's suicide. Kenny is now on a dual mission to hunt down his girl's attacker and find out the truth about his father... but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet. An intelligent, violent thriller shot through with dark humour, Beyond the Rage enthrals and disturbs in equal measure. With an intricate plot, all-too-believable characters and perfectly pitched dialogue, this is a masterclass in psychological crime fiction writing.

And why that's floating your boat?
In my first two crime novels the main character was DI Ray McBain and Ray happens to have a bessie mate who is a bit of a gangster, Kenny O'Neill. In BtR Kenny takes centre stage and Ray makes a cameo appearance. It was great fun to throw off the constraints of a pesky legal system and just take a character wherever the hell he wants to go.

When did you turn to crime?
It was an accident, honest, guv. I didn't think I had the plotting skills to write a crime novel, but when a dream I had became the opening chapter to Blood Tears, I went with it and discovered that with lots of hard work and thinking time (see me staring into space ignoring everyone around me) that it was possible.

Hardboiled, noir, classic or contemporary?
BtR has a touch of noir but leans more to the contemporary. I think. I'm not much one for labels. I just write what I write, read as widely as I can and let people more clever than me get on with the categorisation.

What's blown you away lately?
I've just read John Connolly's new one  A Song of Shadows (out in April) and he's bang on form. (He never loses it to be fair). And a couple of really excellent debuts - The Abrupt Physics of Dying by Paul E. Hardisty and Graham Smith's  Snatched from Home. Both are well worth your hard-earned.

See any books as movies waiting to happen ...
I know I'm biased but I think my last book The Guillotine Choice would be a cracking movie - and we're in Papillon territory here, so what's not to love? Based on a true story it has everything - adventure, incredible courage and the best and the very worst of humanity.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
I tend to read mostly mainstream simply because I work in publishing and I need to read a strong selection across my client publishers. Having said that I am in the process of judging a self-published novel competition for the Scottish Association of Writers and there's a handful there that would sit comfortably on any publisher's list.

As for paper vs digital it's paper every time. Reading a book from a screen feels (to me) like I'm reading an unfinished manuscript (which I do from time to time) so I find it difficult to turn off my critical reader. It takes something outstanding for me to relax and just go with it. Whereas when it's already in book form, my only expectation is that I'm going to be entertained. And it takes some poor writing and editing for me to switch on my inner critic. It's a subtle change in mental approach that I can't seem to control but means paper wins every time. AND books are such lovely things aren't they? A row of gadgets on a shelf just doesn't have the same aesthetic appeal.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
CrimeSquad - monthly updates with some of the best new crime and thriller fiction out there. 


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Author of the Month for March is Peter Swanson who burst on the crime scene in 2014 with his debut, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart.

Preview by Yahoo




Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
I've just bought a new coffee bean grinder. You can't beat freshly brewed coffee to kick start your morning. (Unless it also comes with a warm croissant.)

:: Michael Malone blogs at http://mickmal1.blogspot.co.uk 

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Ringer gets some press

It can't have escaped both of you, my dear readers, that The Ringer is about to kick off at Ayr Gaiety Theatre on Feb 11-12.

There's even been some great coverage for the play in the press with the Daily Record, Evening Times, Scots Mag, Ayrshire Post, Highland Times, Rutherglen Reformer and many more running very nice stories.

There's more to come, so will post those when they appear, but in the meantime to keep you informed, and amused, there's a Pinterest page and a video trailer.

TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW FROM 
AYR GAIETY BOX OFFICE 
OR CALL 01292 288235

TRISTA & HOLT: BENDING NOIR TO THE DISCO BALL

By Andrez Bergen

While most people conjuring up the Tristan/Tristram and Isolde/Iseult tale of yore probably think love-potion histrionics, armour, amore, King Arthur, much bodice-ripping, Richard Wagner’s opera, or James Franco in one of his lamer film roles, I steer towards something far nicer: A book of myths and legends that I grew up with, illustrated by the great Alice and Martin Provensen.
Martin collaborated on Disney fare like Dumbo and Fantastia, but you might know him best for his creation (in 1952) of Tony the Tiger for Kelloggs. I actually have a coffee mug with that on it. Alice worked with the Walter Lantz Studio, creators of Woody Woodpecker. But it was their imagery as pair that caused the most impact, with eight books making the New York Times list for best-illustrated tomes each year they were published.
Anyway, Alice and Martin are bloody brilliant artists.
My dad picked up for me the myths and legends book I mentioned when I was in primary school, and I call it simply (suitably) Myths & Legends — though the official title is the somewhat long-winded Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends Adapted from the World’s Great Classics (originally published in 1958) with the stories adapted by Anne Terry White. 
So I always dug the tale of Tristram & Iseult (also known as Tristan & Isolde) for the artwork as much as the words and had it in mind for years to adapt the story in some way, somehow. I did pay homage in my novel One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, but on New Year’s Eve I got the bug in my “creative” bonnet to have a swing at the yarn — as a comic book.
Hence Trista & Holt.
Now, before you cough, splutter and/or soapbox that comic books are not real literature and belong nowhere near noir or on this site, let me point you in the direction of writers Alan Moore (who did V for Vendetta, Marvelman and Watchmen, all three of which have appeared on university curriculums apparently — though don't quote me), Frank Miller (Sin City and some of the best Batman and Daredevil escapades), Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) and the great Ed Brubaker — who rebooted Captain America with the 'Winter Soldier' saga and has done comics with names like Criminal and Fatale
So get over it.
If you didn't hack, choke or get judgemental at the mention of sequential stuff, all the better.
Anyway, over Christmas/New Year I was also entrenched in another Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler binge. I do them frequently. But this time I caught up on 95% of the Continental Op stories, along with The Glass Key, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man (yet again), as well as Marlowe in Playback and The High Window.
So I had this big hardboiled detective vibe happening in my brain, while polishing off my Bullet Gal series — which is hardboiled noir set in the '40s.
And when I started the new comic, of course these influences were going to hang heavy — along with the comic book work of Brubaker, Fraction, Miller, Moore and the pioneering Will Eisner (The Spirit).
Which brings me to the new comic series, the first issue of which will be published at the end of February via IF? Commix [iffybizness.weebly.com] in Australia.
Hell, there's even a Facebook page [facebook.com/tristaandholt] where I put regular work-in-progress rubbish and waffle on a bit more than here.
What's the score?
Well, it's the 1970s and set in an unnamed city in which crime families flourish and the police pinch pennies from those with most power. Our heroes are members of rival clans, star-crossed heirs apparent destined to find love, loss and betrayal.
I have no idea what encouraged me to flip the coin three pages into the new series and set the time frame as the '70s. 
Sure, some of the best crime/gangster movies were made then like The Godfather, The Anderson Tapes, Dirty Harry, The French Connection and A Clockwork Orange — but it's also the era of flares, disco, The Star Wars Holiday Special and CHiPs.
Which makes it all the more fun to tackle. With a serious bent, I swear.

:: Andrez Bergen blogs here: https://andrezbergen.wordpress.com

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015

PUSH-UPS: Anthony Neil Smith

So, what you pushing right now?
Got a new novel called WORM from Blasted Heath Books that has just hit the Amazons. The e-version is out, and there will be a paperback version from Down & Out Books in a couple of months. 
Also, after XXX SHAMUS (which I wrote under the pen name Red Hammond) was banned on Amazon, Broken River Books teamed up with Fanbacked to offer it *exclusively* right here: http://www.fanbacked.com/c/xxx-shamus/
What’s the hook?
WORM is a standalone novel about a regular guy looking for work up in the North Dakota oil fields—an economic gold-mine, an ecological disaster, and a sad human story all balled up into one lonesome stretch of prairie. This one took me a long time to write, and I’m pretty proud of it. 
And XXX SHAMUS is pretty much porn, but un-sexy. It’s kind of a critique of both the “pan to the curtains” shot in PI films, and the soul-sucking weariness of an over-porned culture. So, Hopper is a New Orleans private eye looking for a missing pregnant teenager, but Hopper is also irresistible to nearly everyone he meets. So he ends up fucking a lot of people. And how does that make him feel? Tired. Very tired. 
Yep. That shit was banned from Amazon.com.
And why’s that floating your boat?
Because being banned is cool if you can then turn the book into a cult classic! Goddamn, we’re trying!
WORM is a bit personal to me because 1) my mother-in-law was the one who pointed out the possibility of a story there in North Dakota, and 2) I had a heart-attack while I was writing it. I’ve made a full recovery and I’m in great shape, but damn, ya know? After that heart attack, I looked at what I was doing and decided I loved being a writer on an indie press, working with people I really admire and like, instead of chasing after douchebag agents and Big 6 presses.

When did you turn to crime?
Young age. Young, young age. Had to be, like, six or seven, discovering the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, and Encyclopedia Brown. That quickly gave way to adult novels, because the covers were wicked cool.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
Always noir, always contemporary. I want to see what writers can do with it next to make it new and exciting. Same shit I’m trying to pull. No one wears fedoras much anymore, but people still treat other people like shit and then get stomped into shit themselves, usually over drugs, money, or fucking. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Oh, I hate hate hate to do this because I hate leaving people out (and that’s because of how often I’m left out of “best of” lists), but okay, lately? Rusty Barnes’ novel RECKONING, The Area X Trilogy, Jim Harrison’s THE GREAT LEADER, Ryan Bradley’s WINTERSWIM, and now I’m regretting naming things. So much stuff on Kindle (shout out to Anthony Schiavino’s SHOTGLASS MEMORIES), damn you for asking. I’m also getting into hair pomade, and I love Lockhart’s Hair Groom, Anchor’s Teddy Boy Original, Shear Revival, and O’Doud’s Light.
See any books as movies waiting to happen?
No. Not mine, anyway. I mean, HOGDOGGIN’ is supposedly under contract, but we’re way past when I thought that would get traction (although I still love the producers and the director. I know, I know, movie stuff takes time.)
I’m very picky about movies, anyway. I get bored with them really fast, and I’ve found that when a ton of people in the noir world are going nuts over a particular movie, I usually don’t get the hype. So maybe I just prefer TV and novels.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Gotta go indie. I’m just finding more interesting stuff, writers willing to take risks and publishers willing to let them.
And I’m going to say digital. The prices of indie press books on Kindle make it possible to discover a lot of new stuff, and I read faster on Kindle. So that’s my discovery engine. When I buy paper now, it’s because I love the author enough to get it immediately, or because the book itself is from a small press and handsome, or, most importantly, it’s a mainstream book that’s used and cheap. Books should be cheaper. Cheaper books means we are willing to try more authors and take more chances.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
Well, Fanbacked, of course: http://www.fanbacked.com/c/xxx-shamus/
Here’s another: http://www.wdwforgrownups.com/

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Even though I’ve come to accept and appreciate my position as a small-time writer on indie presses, it is still pretty hard to not be bitter about how things didn’t work out with larger presses for the earlier books, especially ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, which really should’ve…[takes deep breath], but after the heart attack, I just couldn’t put myself through that grind any more. I’d rather work hard to leave the stress and heart break (ha, see what I did there?) of those days behind and publish with smaller presses where I know fewer readers will find me. It’s complicated. It’s sometimes shitty, but I’m also now in a place where the happiness outnumbers the unhappiness 10 to 1.

I’ll just keep writing novels. It’s just a part of my life now.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

GUEST BLOG: On The Wire

By D. F. Robertson

Some readers here will (hopefully) be more familiar with my genre fiction published under the pen name of Leon Steelgrave through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.  You might then find yourself asking what exactly constitutes a D. F. Robertson novel.  In part, like one of my literary heroes, Neil Gunn, it is a Scottish connection, and more than that, a tendency to defy classification.
Although the more snobbish element of the literary establishment might take a different view, I have long held that good writing is good writing, regardless of whether it is genre fiction or mainstream literary fiction.  Writers set out to write the best book they can; sometimes we are successful, other times not, but either way we prove Iris Murdoch’s assertion that “every book is the wreck of a perfect idea”.  I suspect this is why the majority of us continue to write, striving towards the chimera of executing our ideas perfectly.  I have yet to succeed, but my decision to publish this book under my own name and in physical form indicate its status as a favoured son.
The genesis of On The Wire lies as far back as 2005, when the idea detached itself from another, as yet unpublished, novel.  It took me until 2012 to complete a draft I felt equal to the idea.  I completed several other novels during this period, but always knew I would come back to this one.  In many ways, it was simply the process of allowing my skill as a writer to develop to the point where I felt confident with my ability tell the story as it demanded to be told.  The killing fields of Flanders demand respect, while the dead are owed the truth.  Twin objectives not always easy to reconcile.
The central conceit of the book is the seeming invulnerability of Davy Geddes, a mysterious loner who volunteers for Kitchener’s New Army to atone for some unspecified sin.  Here we have the juxtaposition between an army of men fighting to live and a single man hoping to die, which allows us to explore the concept of heroism and the ever troubling issue of faith during war.  As one would expect, themes of revenge and justice are never far away.  This is also, predominately, a story of the working class, of farm workers, labourers, shop assistants and factory workers.  Ordinary folk compelled by extraordinary circumstances to participate in the greatest slaughter of the modern age.  As such, it is no place to be concerned with the justness of either side’s cause.  Neither shall I offer any apology for what some readers might view as unnecessary brutality within the prose.  War is a dirty, dehumanising business and it should ever be portrayed as such within the pages of fiction.
The setting is, of course, one of great social upheaval, with socialism and women’s suffrage sweeping through Europe.  Both have their roots in class and equality issues that continue to dog modern society.  We have come a long way in the last century, but not nearly far enough, judging by the images on our television and computers screens.  And that brings us back to why we write; if our world were perfect few of us would feel the need to hold up a mirror, black or otherwise, to it.
:: Visit D.F. Robertson on Facebook and buy On the Wire on Amazon UK.




Tuesday, 6 January 2015

THE RINGER comes to the stage

Wed 11 & Thu 12 Feb at 7.30pm

MAIN THEATRE 

Tickets: £14.00 / £12.50 (conc)
Online booking at The Gaiety Theatre, Ayr.


A brand new hard-hitting crime drama from Edinburgh based award-winning journalist, editor and novelist, Tony Black. The Ringer is a cautionary tale of revenge, enacted upon the most unsavoury of characters. Told in the raw Scots tongue, and equally unflinching language, the lowlifes of Scotland’s second city have never looked so low.
For small time Glasgow drug dealer, Stauner, life is sweet when he meets Monique. With free board and an unpaid servant at his beck and call, the daily trip to the bookies is his toughest chore. It could all be too good to be true, but the misogynist Stauner stupidly believes it’s his due. When the wide boy’s deluded state persuades him that Monique should steal from night-club boss Davie Geddes, however, Stauner’s arrogance gets the better of him. Soon his cloak of small-minded bigotry is stripped from him and he’s forced to pay for the grievous misdeeds of his past.
Parental advisory 16+. Contains strong language, dark comedy, violent themes and sexual references. 
Starring Evie Adams and Chris Taylor. Adapted by Pete Martin.

Monday, 29 December 2014

PUSH-UPS: Jon Bassoff

So, what are you pushing right now?
Other than the usual designer drugs, I’ve got a book out called Factory Town

What’s the hook?
Ramsey Campbell calls it “a hallucinatory descent into an urban hell” and I think that’s a pretty good description. The basic premise is this: a tortured man named Russell Carver arrives in this post-industrial wasteland searching for a young girl. Wandering deeper and deeper into the dangerous, dream-like and darkly mysterious labyrinths in town, Russell stumbles upon clues that not only lead him closer to the missing girl, but to his own troubled past as well. Factory Town is violent, surreal, and grotesque—just like my family dinners. 

And why’s that floating your boat?
Before writing Factory Town, I read the book The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’d never read anything like it before. It read like a long, strange dream. Characters seemed to take on new personas with no explanation. Time, place, and point-of-view shifted with no explanation. And it was confusing as hell. I like confusion. While Factory Town comes from a different genre, I worked hard to use that same dreamlike logic in the novel. 

When did you turn to crime?
As a kid, my father indoctrinated me with film noir (The Maltese Falcon is his favorite film). When he showed me The Third Man, I was hooked. And then I read Jim Thompson. Such violence. Such meanness. I didn’t know you could make your narrator a complete psychopath! And that’s what I’ve done. Every one of my narrators is wounded at best, sociopathic at worst. 

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
The darker the better. My own writing has been placed in the sub-sub genre of “psycho-noir” and I like that just fine. I love noir and hardboiled both, but I’m really fascinated when the author messes with the narrative itself. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Right now I’m reading Satango by this Hungarian author named Lazslo Krasznahorkai. He writes these incredibly long and meandering sentences and is able to convey terrible sense of doom and dread. With my modest intellect it’s challenging as hell, but I’m plowing through it. 

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
My own! Corrosion and Factory Town were both optioned and have been turned into screenplays by the great Jack Reher, but now it’s that miserable waiting game. I hope it happens so I can move to Hollywood, have an affair with a young starlet, become addicted to narcotics and narcissism, and thoroughly ruin my life. But I’m not holding my breath. 

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
A story’s a story, so it could be written on the back of a cocktail napkin for all I care. I’d say that indie presses are putting out more exciting novels these days. My American publisher, DarkFuse, would be at the top of that list, I think. 

Shout us a website worth visiting.
See pictures of me (fully clothed) and learn about my books at www.jonbassoff.com

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself.

I had a vasectomy when I was thirteen years old, by court order, after I knocked up a three hundred pound El Salvadorian woman who also happened to be the mayor’s mistress. I've since been married six times, my current wife for fourteen years and not once has she asked me what I do for a living. 


:: Buy FACTORY TOWN on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

GUEST BLOG: June Gundlack on Insectipids

June Gundlack.
By June Gundlack

I live in Essex, with a quiet husband and noisy parrot.  During the day I work in the City of London.  At night, I sit in my turret and write...

It is said there is a book inside everyone.  Well it took a very long while for my first novel bravely go where novels go...

I have always loved writing and use people, locations and an inquisitive mind to create my short stories.  My escapades and other journeys have often appeared on The Daily Mail Letters Pages- accompanied by excellent cartoons from their artist, Phil Argent.  Even irritating situations can be entertaining.

After a Start Writing Fiction course at the Open University some years back and writing activity on writing websites I began writing short stories, some made it to print in magazines and charity anthologies.  

My dear old Dad encouraged me 'to write a book'.  An idea in 2007 inspired by my then young teen  nephew, Ben,  started its first draft  - Dad had liked the basic recipe, but it remained a recipe not quite ready.  It was always on the back boiler - waiting to be finished.  Over the years, and with declining health for dad, the book was forgotten - his memory - stolen by the evil Mr Alzheimer.   That is until just before last Christmas, when out of the blue dad asked, 'Did you write a book'?  That was the final push I needed.  I decided to tidy up my novel, INSECTIPIDS, and get it out there. 

In February I was offered a contract with Crooked Cat Publishing.  I knew many great authors from Twitter and Facebook who were represented by CCP and felt truly privileged to become one of their authors.  My novel, Insectipids, is set in part in Scotland  making representation by a Scottish publisher even more special for me.


Insectipids is aimed at teen/YA/and adults who like me, like to act their shoe-size.  I suppose there is a little bit of me in the story - I love to find some element of humour in most things and occasionally a little humour slips into the story - as does weird, bullies, scary, sci-fi, mystery and music.  

Often ridiculed for being different was normal for young James Allen.  He was used to it - until he found himself on the receiving end of a happy-slapping incident.  This turned out to be the spur he needed to change his life and, in doing so, for him to make a difference to the rest of the world.

Inspired by his secret childhood friend, Zoga, his decision takes him on adventures far and wide, introducing him to challenges most adults would cringe at or shy away from.

A short while before his 16th birthday, James develops an increase in physical and mental powers.  Energised by his drive and ability to think and act faster than most, he saves the world from the nemesis known as INSECTIPIDS.

"It's only a fly."  Those four simple words will forever be a reminder that 'only' could mean far worse...

When I received my first author copy - I delivered it to my parents - it was a proud moment for me.  Some members of staff  in their Nursing Home have also read it - proving  there's no upper age-limit for YA fiction.


:: Insectipids is available on Amazon (UK)  Visit June at: http://junegundlack.com/   www.facebook.com/june.gundlack/  JuneGundlack@Twitter.com








Monday, 10 November 2014

BULLET GAL: HARDBOILED WONDERLAND, AND THEN SOME

Andrez Bergen.
By Andrez Bergen

Most people would hardly think that a comic can hold a candle to quality hardboiled detective yarns or crime stories, but I beg to differ. In fact I’d even indulge in a round of Queensberry Rules-by-correspondence, or a willy-nilly digital slap (preferably two).

In the long history of the comic book there have been some stand-outs, like Will Eisner with The Spirit and Lee Falk in the earlier days of The Phantom. More recently writer Ed Brubaker has taken on impressive stature in his shake-downs of then-tired titles such as Captain America and Daredevil, as well as Iron Fist (with Matt Fraction). He’s also shone via his own comics Velvet, Fatale and the Criminal series.

So when I set out to write my own hardboiled monthly comic book this year, I was hardly setting a precedent.

Nor was I truly innovating via artwork, since the key influences here spanned from Dada a century ago to Terry Gilliam, Jim Steranko and Jack Kirby’s work in the 1960s.

Bullet Gal, therefore, set itself as a mash-up of stimuli my battered psyche had accrued over the past few decades - summoning moments of Eisner, Kirby, Gilliam, Steranko and Marcel Duchamp – that were stuffed into a shiny chrome art-deco cocktail shaker, jiggled, and infused with latter-day saints of the grime like Brubaker and Kenzo Kitakata.

But that doesn’t intimate the sum total of Bullet Gal.

Equally vital has been the over-saturation I’ve indulged in of 1940s and ‘50s film noir. Think of John Huston’s 1941 shoot of The Maltese Falcon, Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949), and the version of The Big Sleep directed by Howard Hawks in 1946 - all of which I watched dozens of times over. Alongside screenings, a repeated reading of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane is guaranteed to have caused some damage.

And let’s not forget science fiction, again especially cinematic, be it Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, or Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon

Nor contemporary comic book artists. People I’m currently inclined toward include Steve Epting, David Aja, Sean Phillips, David Lloyd, Frank Miller, Matt Kyme and Michael Lark – all of whom have strong leanings of their own towards… noir.

Finally? The cultural baggage: heavily skewed in favour of Australia, where I was born and raised, yet corrupted by my past 13 years in Tokyo.

So what does all this really mean?

Likely that the twelve-issue cycle shaping up Bullet Gal addressed all these things, consciously… or not quite so much. That this is a comic book, yes, infused with elements of hardboiled noir, sci-fi/dystopia, and the collage-style, take-the-piss mentality of cut-up specialists from Duchamp to Brion Gysin. That there’s a sprinkling of Australia and Japan in there, and I carry the added burden of far too much cinema I cherish.

With all these disclaimers in mind, I’d like now to refer you to a particular Kickstarter campaign that’s currently being run.

The open-minded chaps at Under Belly Comics in Canada seem to think that this genre and cultural potpourri works - in and of itself – and they’ve decided to print all twelve issues of Bullet Gal as a 300-page trade paperback.

Artist Niagara Detroit also appears to believe in the project as she provides the painting for the front cover art.

Let’s hope you and the general public are equally like-minded.


BULLET GAL KICKSTARTER:

Thursday, 6 November 2014

New Barry Graham feature at the Highland Times


One of the great perks of writing journalism is getting to meet and question people that you admire. I've been a great fan of the American-based Scottish author Barry Graham since first reading his brilliant title, The Book of Man, and I've recently had the chance to interview him for that newspaper of note, The Highland Times.

I talked to Graham about his time in the Highland capital of Inverness, where he worked as a journalist for a while, and did some fiction writing. Interestingly, we both worked for the same newspaper, at different times, and even managed to settle in the same part of the city.

You can read the piece at The Highland Times.

Guest Blog: Douglas Skelton

By Douglas Skelton

They say there's a little bit of the writer in all their characters.
Then what part of me is in Davie McCall?
Davie's the hero – well, anti-hero – of my two crime thrillers 'Blood City' and 'Crow Bait' (both published by Luath Press).
He's a crook and a hard man. 
I can't even dodge my fare on the bus and I couldn't punch my way out of a wet paper bag. I'm a writer not a fighter, baby.
He's got clear blue eyes .
I've got brownish eyes and if I take my glasses off I stumble around like Mr Magoo.
He doesn't talk much.
I can go on like a broken record.
He's attractive to women.
So am I (I can't continue with that thought – laughing too much).
He's a hard guy to write. I like dialogue. I like dialogue a lot. And he says so little.
Everything about him is internal, which means that the reader knows more about him than the other characters. Which is the way it should be, of course.
I've tried to make him vulnerable without becoming a wimp. I'm enough of the latter for both of us. He's a hard man with feelings. Sure, step over a line and you'll end up using your teeth as castanets but he's not arbitrary with the punishment. Anyone he hurts has to deserve it. Well, mostly.
So what part of me is in him?
Okay, he likes dogs. He had one in the first book, gave it up in the second and – tiny spoiler alert – gets another one in the third.
We also share an aversion to crowded rooms (unless everyone is looking at me, as my spotlight-grabbing turns at author events will testify. I'm shy but can give it the old 'me, me, me' at the drop of a hat. I've been known to do a ten minute monologue when the wee light comes on in the fridge).
We both like music. 
He doesn't smoke, neither do I.
He doesn't drink or swear. Neither do I.
He doesn't lie.
Okay, I do – especially about the drinking and swearing.
And that's it, really. Not much, is it?
So if there really is a little bit of the writer in all their characters, I dread to think what part of me is in Jimmy Knight – the brutal, corrupt, misogynist of a cop who is one of the running villains of the Davie McCall quartet.
No – not going there. Some things are best left unexplored.

:: CROW BAIT is available from Amazon UK now.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Guest Blog: Gerard Brennan on Undercover

Gerard Brennan, author of Undercover.
By Gerard Brennan

One of the coolest things I’ve read from the early reviewers of UNDERCOVER is that if the character, Rory Cullen (a fictional footballer who has recently signed with Manchester City), actually released an autobiography, they’d read it.

Now, in fairness, I’ve put those words in a few mouths simply by including snippets from Cullen: The Autobiography at the start of each chapter in UNDERCOVER. Here’s an example:

Money is killing this game. I'd play for three square meals a day and a roof over my head if that's all it paid. Fucking love those Ferraris, though.

At some points in the novel, the quotes are meant to provide a sense of foreboding. Others are just a wee bit of fun at the expense of the more notorious (in my mind) players in the Premier League. To be clear, UNDERCOVER is a crime thriller featuring Cormac Kelly who is working undercover to infiltrate a criminal gang (yes, the clue is in the title). One of the characters just happens to be a footballer. Another character, the victim of the criminal gang, in fact, is the footballer’s agent.

I feel like that distinction should be made, lest a few people who read this post pay for a copy only to discover that it’s not a Premiership satire. There are elements of that in there, I suppose, but that’s mostly me amusing myself as I try to shape a fast-paced thriller in the form of this novel.

It got me thinking, though ... could I write a fake autobiography? And would you call it an autobiography or a biography? There may be pen name issues if I pretend to be a footballer myself. Legal ones too, as I can’t resist having a poke at the Rooneys, Beckhams and Lampards of this world, and we live in a pretty litigious society. It’d have to be an out-and-out parody for me to get away with writing the kind of stuff that other people can chat about at the pub, the gym or on their chosen social media platform. I could change the names to protect the privileged, but where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, the long and short of it is, I think I could write a Cullen biography in the style of the snippets found in UNDERCOVER. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would be easy. Possible, yes, but not easy. And here, don’t get me wrong, I like to challenge myself, but there are enough challenges already out there for me at the moment. Like trying to build a life in which I can feed my family by writing for a living. I’m kind of doing that now, though I can see a very definite finish line to this lifestyle that I’ve worked towards for over a decade. Every writer can, I suppose, (even the likes of John Grisham can fuck their career through stupidity) and all I can do is write, write, write and hope that there are enough kind souls out there willing to pay to read my scribbles.

And if you’ve read me for free – I’m looking especially at you ebook pirates – maybe you could give a little back in the form of a review? I’d forgive your ‘theft’ if you did. At least it would prove that it was worth stealing.

Unlike Rory Cullen, I’ll never buy a Ferrari, never mind a bunch of them. But that’s okay. I’m lucky to own a Hyundai (it only took me five years to pay the fecker off) and a bus timetable. So long as the kids have been dropped off or picked up from school, I’m relatively free. Could I pretend to be the new George Best for long enough each day to write his *auto*biography? Probably not. But sure, I’d like to spend a little more time with Cormac Kelly instead. I just have about 60K words to write for another couple of projects before I can. 

And I think Kelly would rather spend his time hanging out with a boxer or a mixed martial artist this time around. I know I would.


:: Visit Gerard's website: http://www.gerardbrennan.co.uk Buy Undercover on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.




Sunday, 26 October 2014

Guest Blog: Dave Zeltserman on The Boy Who Killed Demons


By Dave Zeltserman
The prolific Dave Zeltserman.
When Tony offered me a guest spot on Pulp Pusher, I’d already done a number of interviews and articles about my latest book, The Boy Who Killed Demons, and was afraid I’d run out of anything new to say about it. Still, though, it was a damn generous offer on Tony’s part, and I didn’t want to turn him down, so I decided to do something that I’ve been very nervous about doing. Namely, tell the truth of how Demons came to be published.

Two years ago I was doing a book reading for Monster at a Newton, Massachusetts bookstore, and a kid who had sat in rapt attendance approached me afterwards. The kid  had his hair dyed bright green, and his all-black Goth attire made his pale face look almost ghostly. His name turned out to be Curt Tucker. He was 14, had aspirations to be a writer, and shared my love of H.P. Lovecraft’s weird tales. For four months following the reading, Curt and I traded emails where I attempted to do the mentoring thing and offer encouragement to a very young and fledgling author, and as often happens in situations like this the emails from Curt tailed off. Then 9 months later he surprised me by showing up at my door to hand me a package. He seemed scared and didn’t much want to talk, only asking me to read what was inside the package and to see if I could get it published, telling me that it was important that I do so.  Before I could ask him anything else, he was on his bike, peddling away. It was all very odd. While I was curious about this encounter, I was in the middle of writing a new horror novel that I was deeply into, and so all I did was give the contents of the package a quick cursory look, saw that it was some sort of journal, and stuck it in a pile of things to read. It wasn’t until five months later that I picked it up again and gave it a thorough reading. At that time the name on the journal, Henry Dudlow, seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t place where I’d heard it before. As I read more of the journal, I remembered. About a month or so before Curt had delivered the package, a story had broken about a grisly murder outside of Boston that a 15 year-old Newton kid named Henry Dudlow was suspected of committing. The story, though, quickly died after that one day with no follow up stories, and like a lot of other people I’d forgotten about it. Here’s the strange thing about it: I could swear that this is all true—that I saw the story on at least two Boston newspaper websites—but when I tried searching these newspaper websites, there was nothing. The story has been scrubbed clean, unless I was somehow imagining it.


Here’s where the story gets odder. Any record of Henry Dudlow also appeared to be scrubbed clean. I tracked down his parents, and they insisted they never had a child named Henry or otherwise, but there was something very off in their expressions when they made their claims. After my short and bizarre meeting with them, I tracked Curt down again, and he was now insisting he never gave me anything, but he also seemed badly frightened as he did so.

"readers will fully believe
in both the madness and the greatness
of his tragic young hero
"
--Publishers Weekly 
At this point I wasn’t sure what to believe. I had this journal written by Henry Dudlow, except Henry supposedly never existed, and the kid who delivered the journal to me seemed almost desperate in his claims of not having done so. Was this a hoax or something else? I knew the journal physically existed—my wife and others verified it—so I wasn’t delusional about its existence. All in all I felt uneasy about the whole thing, and I had to keep digging into it. For several weeks I came up empty, and I started questioning my own sanity. If Henry Dudlow truly never existed, yet I vividly remembered that murder story breaking and now had in my possession what was supposed to be his journal, was it possible that I wrote the journal myself without ever realizing it, and fantasized all the rest of it? I wasn’t quite sure what to think until I found Sally Freeman. When I asked her about Henry I could see for a brief moment that she was going to deny his existence like everyone else had, but then tears welled up in her eyes, and rather grim-faced and defiantly she told me that Henry was real. “His journal is real,” she insisted, “don’t believe what they’re telling you.” I hadn’t told Sally about the journal, and fortunately I recorded her conversation, which allowed my wife to verify it, so at least I proved I wasn’t insane. At least I knew that much. But I was still left with the question whether the journal was real or a hoax. Shortly after meeting with Sally, something happened to tilt this answer more toward the former. While the same people (or demons??) who cleansed any record of Henry ever existing attempted to do the same with Henry’s neighbor, Mr. Hanley, they made one mistake. They forgot about the same newspaper photo that freaked Henry out so much—the one with Hanley in the background carrying a large bulky package wrapped in white butcher’s paper—and I now have it!

I still couldn’t claim the journal was legit—even if Henry Dudlow wrote it, it could still be a hoax or delusional fantasies—but I couldn’t shake the thought that it could be real and for the sake of the world it needed to be out there. For that reason I took it to my publisher and begged them to publish it. I wanted them to attribute the novel to Henry, but since they couldn’t find any record of him ever existing, for legal reasons they’d only publish it as a fictional novel with me as the author. While I felt a bit funny about those terms, getting Henry’s journal out into the world seemed too important not to agree. I just have to pray that this all turns out to be an elaborate hoax. I think we all have to pray for that.

:: The Boy Who Killed Demons is available on Amazon UK and USA

:: Dave blogs at Small Crimes  Visit his website at  www.davezeltserman.com