Sunday 28 August 2011

Timothy Hallinan interview: Little Elvises

Little Elvises by Timothy Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan, both Edgar- and Macavity-award nominated in 2011, is the author of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers and the Junior Bender Mysteries. This year, he conceived and edited an ebook of original short stories by 20 well-known mystery authors, SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN, with 100% of the price going to Japanese disaster relief. His most recent book is the Junior Bender ebook, LITTLE ELVISES.

Can you sum up LITTLE ELVISES in no more than 25 words?

A thriller with a laugh track, set in Los Angeles, with roots in the 1960s imitation Elvises. Almost everyone, including the hero, is a crook.

What was your motivation for writing it?

I wanted to make myself laugh, for one thing. The first-person narrator of this series, Junior Bender (I didn't know—until Zoë Sharp told me—what “Bender” means in British slang), is a burglar who moonlights as a private eye for crooks. Junior operates on a moral scale that interests and amuses me. He's a career criminal, but he's also an unhappily divorced man who worships his daughter, and—within broad limits—he always keeps his word. Junior's voice was in my ear the entire time I wrote the book.

Also, I always found the Little Elvises, most of whom had careers that could be measured in months, both funny and sad, which I think is a great combination.

How long did it take you to write?

Seven weeks to a full first draft, because once Junior starts, he won't let go of me. I wrote the first book about him, CRASHED, in five weeks, which is the fastest ever for me.

How important is a book's central character?

It's pretty close to everything, especially when that character is written in first person. He/she is the reader's guide and companion. If the reader doesn't want to hang around with the central character—well, there are a lot of other books out there.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?


Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

When my first series of books came out, in the 1990s, I got a call from a very big producer, who shall remain nameless, asking whether I'd like to make obscene amounts of money as a dialogue doctor. I said yes and got a script someone had obviously slaved over for God only knows how long along with a bunch of notes about how to make some scenes stronger. The dominant voice in this process undoubtedly belonged either to the lead actor or his agent, because over and over again, I was instructed to give him the closing line in a scene, and make it a grand slam. I was also, for two scenes, asked to give him a specific number of additional words – say, 48. That drove me crazy until I counted the words for him and the other actor/actress in each scene and learned that 48 new words would give that character one more word in the scene than the other character had.

I sent the script back and begged off.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

I'm most of the way through the fifth Poke Rafferty Bangkok thriller, THE FEAR ARTIST, and I've got about 20,000 words on the next Junior, MUTHER'S DAY. And I get up every day full of anxiety about whether the day's work will be any good and also thrilled silly that I get to do this for a living.

Little Elvises by Timothy Hallinan

Thursday 25 August 2011

Brian Lindenmuth interview: Snubnose Press

Brian Lindenmuth is the editor of Snubnose press and the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler Magazine. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree Magazine and at Galleycat and the Mulholland Books websites.

Can you provide an overview of Snubnose Press?

Snubnose Press is the newly formed ebook imprint of Spinetingler Magazine. Spinetingler has been around since 2005. We have a long history of publishing short fiction from new, established and emerging writers. Spinetingler is also a paying short story market. Snubnose will be an ebook extension of that ethos focusing on longer works of fiction.

Why become a publisher?

Why not?

Because it's the next logical step for us and we've wanted to for years now. Years ago, when Spinetingler was under different ownership for a bit, we had wanted to get into publishing and had many discussions. Around that time we had talked about getting into the limited editions market for example. Start-up costs were always an issue and e-publishing has lowered the bar of monetary start-up costs enough to enable us to seriously move forward with what we wanted to do all along.

Plus, because of our involvement with the community and we have friends who are writers we know that there are a lot of really great writers out there and a lot of great manuscripts.

Who's involved?

Jack Getze, Sandra Ruttan and myself. Our logo and the cover for Keith Rawson's upcoming short story collection were designed by Ben Springer (aka Poker Ben). Boden Steiner, who did the cover for Speedloader, is our Art Director.

Who chose the name?

I did and pitched it to the others. Everyone liked it so we took the ball and ran with it. It felt right once it was there.

How do you decide which titles to publish?

We use some of the minor thaumaturgical methods outlined in Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia libri III combined with a workforce that includes the friends of our children.

How many titles are you planning on publishing?

For the rest of 2011 we will be publishing about a book a month. We would like to maintain the same pace in 2012 but obviously that will be determined by the submissions we receive.

How did you decide on your contract terms (which are incredibly generous!)?

The core group of owners of Spinetingler and Snubnose are Jack, Sandra and myself. Two of that group are writers who have had various ... interesting ... adventures with traditional publishers. So we wanted to be generous to writers. Also, there is a practical side to generosity that I would be remiss in not mentioning. It is very easy for authors to self-publish their work these days. So we put together what we think is a good package: generous contract, an art director, an editorial staff (that have reps for being tough) and an established marketing platform.

How much editorial input do you have in your titles?

Mo the one-eyed cat makes all the tough decisions.

What are your marketing strengths?

We are established within the mystery and crime fiction community. The Spinetingler name carries with it some level of quality assurance. We have well established ties and friendships within the business. That's just to start. That's just the folks we know. We want to move beyond the groups and circles that get created over time (and can calcify) and find new groups of readers. The internet has created a new tribalism that we sometimes aren't aware of. It's of the utmost importance to work your base AND find new people to connect with.

Tell us about your launch title, Speedloader.

Speedloader is an anthology of six short stories that can be classified as dark crime fiction by new and emerging writers. One of the stories, Plastic Soldiers by WD County is one of the darkest stories I've ever read. Nik Korpon's story about drug addicts in Baltimore uses an economy of words to get to the heart of a personal and moral dilemma. Nigel Birds story shows what small crimes can be lost in larger ones. Richard Thomas's story explores the heart of an alcoholic's slide. Matthew Funk's story takes the reader and his everyman protagonist on a nighttime hell ride. Jonathan Wood's story is a revenge epic written in miniature.

All of the writing in Speedloader is top shelf and our goal is to have future Speedloader installments.

What else do you have coming up that you can tell us about?

Our lineup for the rest of the year includes the short story collections Monkey Justice by Patti Abbott, The Chaos we Know by Keith Rawson and Gumbo Ya-Ya by Les Edgerton. The novel Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan. And the revenge novella Dig Two Graves by Eric Beetner. We are actively negotiating on a few other titles, one of which is so experimental that it probably proves the need for small presses.

How important is digital in relation to paper?

Well, it's a game changer. As a reader I love my Kindle and do a lot of my reading on it. As an editor I love being able to send submissions to my Kindle and make motes on a manuscript. As the husband of an author I've seen the benefit of being able to e-publish out of print back list titles. I've also seen the success that others that I know have had.

There has also been a huge rise this year in e-publishers.

Like all transitional periods though I don't wish to speculate too much because I can't predict the future. I'm enjoying the ride though.

What are your thoughts on eBook pricing?

They have been all over the place. As a reader I've bought my fair share of cheap ebooks, some of which still remain unread, and I've bought higher priced ebooks from traditional publishers. I used to think that ultra cheap was the way to go but now I'm not so sure.

In general (for right now) here is my pricing philosophy.

Something like Speedloader (6 stories) is good at .99c.

A short story collection or a larger anthology should be $2.99

Novellas should be $2.99

Novels should be in the $2.99-$4.99 range.

I don't think a universal sweet spot has been found yet because where the rubber meets the road for a title varies for each book so the most important thing that this whole epublishing enterprise has allowed is flexibility. We can release at one price and play around until we find the right one. It's a great theoretical argument but ultimately it's going to be like that old saying that all politics is local. We’re going to work hard to find the right price that fills the most potholes on as many streets as possible.

How much difference does a good cover make?

People say don't judge a book by its cover and, broadly speaking, that may be true. If we are being honest this proves to be a falsehood, especially at the extremes. A terrible cover immediately sounds a false note, repelling the reader, and a great cover may not guarantee a sale or a great read but it will make a reader stop and take notice. That's nothing to take lightly. And when the content of the book is as great as the cover, that's special.

Boden worked his ass off and gave us a great and special cover for Speedloader. The designs and variations that hit the cutting room floor would make great covers in their own right. He worked tirelessly to make the cover as great as possible and the final result speaks for itself.

It seems to me that in the e-book age cover artists aren't getting the props they deserve. To fix this we want to make sure that everyone knows who does our covers because we are proud to show off his work and we want to make sure his name rings as loud as it should.

Clearly the cover game is changing and it is one of the many interesting facets of this whole evolution to watch. Just a couple of examples. How important are cover blurbs on an ebook? With the reduced size, how much emphasis should be put on font size?

You've been getting some reader feedback already, in relation to the cover for Sandra Ruttan's HARVEST OF RUINS. Is this kind of interaction something we're likely to see more of?

In some form. We want to make sure the reader is involved because...why not. The Harvest cover thing actually evolved. There were a few cover choices and both Sandra and I were debating which one we liked best. I then decided to show the cover selections to some co-workers of mine. Some people who are readers and book buyers but aren't a part of the online community. They all chose the same cover and it was different than the one that I liked. So the idea of soliciting feedback from readers in the community came from there.

How important is a good title?

As an editor one of the things that I realize I am thinking about when I'm reading submissions is the length of the title. If ebook covers are generally viewed at a thumbnail size then a title with seven or eight words isn't going to work as well as a title with three words. Speedloader is one word and ties in thematically with the Snubnose name and the amount of stories.

What aspects of marketing do you enjoy?

Meeting new people and being introduced to new blogs and sites. There also is some joy to be had in seeing something you had a hand in making being recognized and talked about. I love talking books.

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

I prefer darker types of fiction. I want to be gutted, it is a rare emotion but an attainable one.

As a publisher, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Someone with an open mind. Someone willing to say ‘yeah, that sounds interesting’.

What was the last good eBook you read?

The great thing about these evolving times is that that question can mean so many things. Fuck a good book. How about great ones?

How about a book that was self-published by the author - Angela Choi's debut novel, Hello Kitty Must Die, came out last year from Tyrus and she self-published her second novel earlier this year. It's called Apologies Not Included and is dark and twisted in the best possible way. I think that female writers are writing some of the best psycho-noirs out there and are really pushing the boundaries of what that form can be and do.

How about a backlist title from an established author - I finally had a chance to read Hoodtown by Christa Faust, which is a great example of a mid-list writer being able to bring out an older title. It's probably one of the best books I've read all year.

How about an ebook by an epublisher - Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride from Concord ePress is a darkly funny book that a traditional publisher may not have been interested in.

How about a novella that was released online serially - Pablo D'Stair's novella This letter to Norman Court was serialized over community blogs and sites and is now available in its entirety for free from Smashwords.

Or a novel (I’m assuming) released serially by an established crime writer – Ken Bruen’s Black Lens has been coming out in weekly installments over at the Mulholland Books website.

What are you reading now?

I've always got my fingers in multiple pies so: manuscripts; Pulp Ink; The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey; Just Like That by Les Edgerton; Wild at Heart by Barry Gifford; God's War by Kameron Hurley; 99 Days by Matteo Casali & Kristian Donaldson and finally Novahead by Steve Aylett

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose?

The death of Newton Thornburg in May really struck me. For such a great writer to die in relative obscurity and for his death to go unnoticed was a tragedy. His novel Cutter & Bone remains a favorite (and the movie, Cutter's Way that was based on it) and with his death I feel a strong urge to read it again.

Who's your favourite living writer?

Will my wife kill me if I don't say her :) So the question becomes who is my second favorite writer which as you know is a very tough question. James Sallis maybe.

What makes you keep reading a book?

Short chapters. Kidding. Kind of.

Years ago I tried to quantify what constitutes a great book for me and the best that I could do was to imagine a three circle Venn diagram with the three circles representing character, writing and story and my favorites resting somewhere in the intersection of the three.

What makes a book sell?

Word of mouth and coverage. Then sales beget more sales and eventually, at some point sales can become a kind of self-sustaining feedback loop.

How do you create 'word of mouth'?

Get the book into readers hands. People can’t talk about it if they haven’t heard of it and read it. For Speedloader that meant putting it in the hands of the best online writers, our friends and people we have developed relationships with over the years. Also, no gun. What I mean is that when I sent the books out I didn't pressure anyone for a review or coverage in a timely manner. I've been a reviewer for too long to understand that increased publicist pressure doesn't work and can be a turn off. So put the book in folks hands and let it go from there. You also need to make a diligent effort to reach blogs and sites that may be interested and that are outside your normal community. Find new people, put the book in their hands, let them tell their people.

You’ve been telling people for awhile now about not preaching to the choir. That is in my DNA. For years I was the mystery and crime reviewer at a SF/F site. I’ve had people say to me why would you do that. Because it was the best place to be and I probably sold more books for authors than anybody else because the audience I was writing for wasn’t aware of the authors I was writing about.

Years ago Richard Pryor infamously set himself on fire in a drug-induced psychosis and ran down a California street in what is now known as the "freebasing incident". The police officer who finally subdued him said that Pryor was lucid and kept saying "if I stop I'll die". That's a phrase that has always stuck with me. You cannot rest on laurels and past accomplishments and what happened yesterday has no bearing on what will happen tomorrow. Keep working the shit out of it, in other words.

How do you feel about writers self-publishing?

On one hand you have my wife who has self-published a back list title. You have found success with it and friends have found success as well. I think the stigma that once was there isn't there in the same way. On the other hand you have The Greek Seaman.

Which author should be much better known?

There are a lot but I don’t like wishy-washy answers that evade the question so I’ll say… Lynn Kostoff, and hopefully that happened last year and the increased coverage of Late Rain (as compared to his previous novels).

If someone's reading this who has a project that might be a good fit for you, how would you prefer them to go about submitting it?

Our guidelines can be found here. Bottom line is to send us an email to

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Keith Rawson interview: The Chaos We Know

The Chaos We Know by Keith Rawson

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer who lives in the alkaline desert waste of southern Arizona with his wife and very energetic daughter. His stories, poems, interviews, reviews, and essays have appeared in such publications as Plots with Guns, Needle Magazine, Out of the Gutter, the Lineup,, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp and many others. He is a staff writer for Spinetingler and publisher of Crimefactory magazine.

Can you sum up The Choas We Know in no more than 25 words?

Nasty, trangressive pieces of hard-boiled dirt

What was your motivation for writing it?

I just write. I can’t stop myself anymore. Seriously, I’ve tried to kill it but it won’t go away.

How long did it take you to write?

Well, since The Choas We Know is a short story collection, it’s about a quarter of my output for the past 4 years. It’s a combination reprint/out of print/never before published collection. There’s a ton of new material slated for upcoming anthologies and online/print magazines that I wanted to include, but I figured the editors I’m working with on those projects would most likely kick my ass if I did.

How much difference does an editor make?

A HUGE difference. A good editor makes you see things in a different light even if you initially don’t like the changes they want you to make. Believe it or not, probably my most effective editor has been my friend Kieran Shea (co-editor of the upcoming anthology, D*CKED, and all around talented mother fucker.) Shea is such a perfectionist with his own work that he demands the same from the people who are writing for him.

Sure, I wanted to kick his ass a little (just a little) when he came back with the edits for my story in D*CKED, but in the long run it made the story so much better.

Brian Lindenmuth is also a HUGE asshole of an editor, but he’s one of the few guys who I know won’t blow smoke up my ass about a story.

Who designed your cover?

Mr. Ben Springer ( @pokerben on the Twitters, you should follow him)

How much difference does a good cover make?

On a personal level, not all that much. Of course, I buy a ton of books and the book description and premise mean much more to me than the cover. But for most book buyers, I guess a solid cover makes a difference. But, seriously, who the fuck buys a book solely for the cover and without reading the premise first? (and this is by no means a shot at cover designers like Boden Steiner, Ben or John Hornor Jacobs, all of these guys are doing some important work)

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

Write one thing at a time. This was advice I was given a long time ago and I heeded it near religiously up until this past year. I don’t know if it had to do with some big life changes I was going through or if I was just bored with what I was writing? But for the first six months of the year I was juggling three lengthy projects, plus taking on more than a few short stories.

Finally I just had to give myself a break from writing before I permanently burnt myself out. Now I’m back to being focused on a single project with a short story or two thrown in there keep the voice fresh.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

I love plotting. I love coming up with what motivates a character or group of characters. I love coming up with the meat of a story and putting it down on paper. I hate endings, though. When I’m plotting I can see the entire picture except for the end. I don’t know if this is because I like to keep it a surprise when I’m writing it or if it’s my creative blindspot.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

Pretty much all of it.

A few years ago I discovered I was adept at the marketing side of publishing. I love being able to spot trends and then learn how to exploit them. I love coming up with strategies to help push sales and interest. I don’t really know if anyone is paying attention to what I have to say, or cares, but much like my writing, you can take it or leave it, because I’m going to write what I want and market it the way I want.

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

I like my crime fiction much like my women and coffee: Dirty, violent, funny. How can a cup of coffee be funny? Well, your woman can dump it in your lap, break your nose with the mug, and then laugh hysterically while you hop around the kitchen with your crotch on fire and trying to stanch the flow of blood gushing from your nose.

Ah, my 5th wedding anniversary, I remember it like it was yesterday.

What was the last good eBook you read?

I’m reading Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan right now and like Sandra’s past novels, I’m really enjoying the hell out of it. She has a gift when it comes to writing a procedural.

What crime book are you most looking forward to reading?

Uuuummm, all of them.

Like most fans of crime fiction I’m omnivorous, I more or less want to read every book that comes out, but being on a limited book budget, I, of course, have to pick and choose. So if I had to narrow it down here’s a breakdown: Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill, (Yeah, I’ve already read it months ago, but I’m still going to buy it.) The Cut by Pelecanos and The Drop by Connelly (what can I say, I like my big blockbuster books) The Killer is Dying by James Sallis (reading it right now to prep for an interview with him on August 18th, but once again I’ll still buy it) The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell (Same thing as Sallis, but once again I’ll buy it because, hey, I’m a sucker like that.) So that wraps up this month…

I’m also really looking forward to Duane Swierczynski’s next Charlie Hardie novel, Hell & Gone, and Charlie Stella’s next novel from Stark House… Yeah, I read way too fucking much.

What are you reading now?

My “just for fun” read is Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs. Great supernatural southern gothic, it’s a ton of fun.

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose?

Probably The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale. Great novel that I haven’t read in close to ten years.

Who's your favourite living writer?

That one flip flops for me on a yearly basis, but this year it’s Lansdale. I went on a binge of re-reading Lansdale after finishing off his latest Hap & Leonard novel, Devil Red. I think the most important thing about Lansdale for me is his control of the BIG voice. The natural storytelling voice that I think most writers possess but either choose to ignore or convolute due to market concerns

From an artistic rather than financial perspective, what book do you wish you had written?

The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy. I love all of that conspiracy stuff like a fat kid loves anything he can fit in his mouth.

What did you do before you became a writer?

Everything. I worked as a busboy, a fry cook, a bartender, a gas jockey (being a gas station attendant, believe it or not, is still the favourite of my old jobs. I worked graveyard shift, so I spent a good portion of the night doing nothing but reading.) staff at a group home, manager of a day program for the developmentally disabled, a college enrolment advisor, and now I work as a social media manager

Where do you find out about new books?

The blogs mostly. I’m a big fan of Patti Abbott’s forgotten books Friday, plus blogs and sites like Hardboiled Wonderland, Pulp Serenade, Bookgasm, etc.,

What's the best collection of short stories you've read?

I’m still a big fan of Hemingway’s Men Without Women. I also love Hubert Selby’s Song of the Silent Snow. Of course, Selby is one of my cornerstone authors, so I pretty much love everything he put down on paper,

What are your views on eBook pricing?

Nothing should be priced under $2.99 unless it’s a short story single, otherwise all you’re doing is shooting yourself in the ass. Yeah, you might gain a wider circulation (and that’s a big maybe for most writers), but when you price yourself at 99 cents you’re not only cheapening all of your hard work, but you’re making jack shit on the money end to boot.

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but with all of the writing I do, I’d like to make a little money at it

What are the biggest problems facing writers these days?

Developing an audience and making money off your writing. Developing an audience isn’t hard per se, you just have to remain persistent and publish regularly, but the tough part is taking that audience and convincing them to buy what you’re selling, especially if you developed your audience online through the zines where you’ve been giving your writing away for years.

How do you feel about the ease with which anyone can publish?

I love it and hate it. I love it because you run across little gems like Josh Stallings first novel, Beautiful, Naked, & Dead or Witness to Death by Dave White. But then you get….well, quite a bit of stuff that should have never left the writer’s hard drive.

Which author should be much better known?

Shit, all of us…. But if I had to narrow it down, I think it’s about time Ray Banks got more than a little exposure. Same with Victor Gischler, Neil Smith, Scott Phillips, Stephen Graham Jones…Really, there are way too many to name.

What's the book you've recommended most to friends?

The Song is You by Megan Abbott and Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Do you enjoy writing?

When the words are really working me, I love it. But when I have to work the words, I fucking hate it with a blinding passion

Do you enjoy the editorial process?

Does anyone? Next Question!

What's the oddest question you've been asked in an interview?

It wasn’t so much odd as condescending and from an interview I abandoned after the first two questions.

Quick piece of advice to writers who would like to start interviewing other authors from a guy who’s done a lot of them: Remember interviews aren’t about YOU they’re about your subject.

How do you feel about reviews?

I love ‘em, I write tons of them and enjoy reading them.

How do you feel about awards?

I’ll never win one

The Chaos We Know by Keith Rawson

Sunday 21 August 2011

Zoe Sharp interview: Fox Five

FOX FIVE: a Charlie Fox short story collection by Zoë Sharp
Introductory offer price £0.86/$1.49

Zoë Sharp opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve and wrote her first novel at fifteen. When she isn’t writing about her ex-army bodyguard heroine, Charlie Fox, Sharp is usually hanging out of moving vehicles with a camera, or doing house construction. She is a member of the Murderati blogsite (, and part of the Hardboiled Collective.

What was your motivation for writing Fox Five?

I realised I had four existing short stories featuring Charlie Fox that spanned her career from back when she was still teaching self-defence in a northern UK town, right up to her present career in close protection. The rapidly expanding market in eBooks gave me the chance to gather them up, together with a brand new 12,000-word story, intros and other bonus material like a Meet Charlie Fox section, with the hope both of delighting existing readers and introducing the character to new ones.

Who designed your cover?

This was done by a very talented graphic designer, Jane Hudson at NuDesign. I think she’s really caught the feel of Charlie with this. She’s also done the eBook covers for the first five early books in the series. It was great to have the opportunity to sit down and watch a real artist at work, and to develop a really strong series identity.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Probably ‘having written’ rather than the actual writing, which can be a frustrating, exhausting, mind-sweat slog – at least if you care about it being right. But I do love getting it to all hang together, when the story seems to take on a life of its own and the strands weave together more tightly. I outline a lot before I begin, but this doesn’t make the story stale for me. If I know the route I can enjoy the journey rather than worry about getting lost. I plan the major events of the plot, but not the reactions of the characters to those events. They surprise me as they go, and that’s a pretty good part of it, too.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

Two pieces of advice spring to mind. The first I know came from Stephen King’s ON WRITING memoir – ‘read, read, read, write, write, write’. There’s no substitute for it. And the second – can’t remember where this came from, but I have it as my screensaver – is ‘GET ON WITH IT’.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

Getting out there and actually talking to people – doing bookstore and library events, and festival and conventions. Which is a shame, really, because more and more the publicity side of this business is being done via the internet. Now I can do an interview slobbing around in my PJs (if I wore any) rather than having an excuse to dress up ;-] OK, TMI, I know . . .

As a writer, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Hmm, this is a good question, because mainly I write to please myself. I wanted to read about a strong female protagonist who wasn’t a caricature, but I couldn’t find one that satisfied me, so I set about writing my own. However, I realise that there aren’t too many people exactly like me (which, let’s face it, is probably a good thing) so I’m hoping to appeal to all readers who enjoy action with a human touch. I hope fans of Lee Child’s Reacher would also enjoy Charlie Fox.

What did you do before you became a writer?

I can’t really remember a time before I was a writer. Probably just loafed, I suppose. I have always written to one degree or another, finishing my first novel at fifteen. It did the rounds and received what are known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’, but at that age one is easily discouraged. I tried my hand at non-fiction instead, working as a freelance photo-journalist. This teaches you a LOT about the craft – how to write to topic, to length, to deadline, and not to be too precious about it if a sub rips your deathless prose to bits to make it fit the page layout. The photography side of it teaches you to really LOOK at what’s around you, and to capture a flavour, an essence, in a single frame.

What makes you keep reading a book?

Voice, character, pace, story. I love books that lose me a night’s sleep because I just can’t put the damn thing down, where the story is not obvious but doesn’t present impossible puzzles with implausible solutions. And, for some reason, I’ve found since I bought a Kindle that a book has to work just that little bit harder to hold my attention. Maybe it’s because I can’t gauge the length of it as easily, and I can’t just flick forwards to see how many pages to the end of the next chapter.

What's the best collection of short stories you've read?

I still really like Jeffery Deaver’s TWISTED. Every story grips you and because it’s an anthology from a single author, the voice and the quality is consistent all the way through, which can sometimes be an issue with collaborative efforts. I also like single-character anthologies, like the ones done by Leslie Charteris featuring Simon Templar, The Saint. They’re little brain-snacks of your favourite character, rather than a full sit-down meal.

What's the book you've recommended most to friends?

Strangely enough, it’s a non-fiction book by motorcycle journalist Dan Walsh, called THESE ARE THE DAYS THAT MUST HAPPEN TO YOU. Walsh is a mad Mancunian, who set off to ride around Africa – way before Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman – and then down through the Americas, with no prep and very little backup. He’s a prose poet, and his stuff is compulsively, beautifully readable.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Yes. But that, as they say, is another story . . .

Friday 19 August 2011

Kent Harrington interview: Red Jungle

Red Jungle by Kent Harrington

Kent Harrington was born in San Francisco. He attended San Francisco State University and received a degree in Spanish Literature. He lives in Northern California.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

Red Jungle is about the effects of neo-colonialism on Guatemala and the effects of a murder on the life of one man and his family.

What was your motivation for writing it?

I had wanted to tell my family’s story because I thought it also said a lot about the nature of Guatemalan politics and history. We go way back there on my mother’s side having arrived as a foot soldier with Pedro Alvarado.

How long did it take you to write?

The book took about 18 months or so. I started it there in Guatemala.

How much difference does an editor make?

A lot of difference. I had one of the best in Dennis Mcmillan and still use him even though DMP is now out of business. A good editor has to be a psychiatrist.

Who designed your cover?

I designed the Red Jungle cover because I decided I didn’t like the cover that DMP was going to use. I took the photo used on the cover of the first edition with a throwaway camera no less! It’s a photo from atop a pyramid at Tikal.

How much difference does a good cover make?

It makes all the difference, I think. Or at least I used to think that. They say now with eBooks, covers don’t matter. I doubt that is true. The first impression a reader has of your work is the cover. In my opinion, the cover has to reflect your POV as an artist. And, too, the cover is part of the entertainment value of a book.

How important is a good title?

It’s the same for titles as it is for covers, only perhaps more so, because they have to speak to the reader’s subconscious. A title almost has to conjure up something in us. It has to work like a good poem works too. In other words, like a poem, a good title works via sound too. It has to sound good.

How important is a book's central character?

Good question. I think that, normally, it’s everything. I wrote a comedy called Lola Knows Best and it was a shared stage, so maybe there it wasn’t as important. But generally speaking, your protagonist – he or she or it—better be damn engaging or you’re screwed.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

I think it was from a movie writer ironically: “get into the scene late and leave early.”

What's the best piece of business advice you've been given?

Tell them to send the money! In Hollywood they always want to somehow delay payment. In the novel business there was never much money to begin with, but it’s always good to remember that as a professional you want to be paid—just like the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

I love going through at the end and adding what I call language sparkles here and there. That’s something that I enjoy because during the first and second drafts you have to worry about the big picture and not the details or you will NEVER finish a novel.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

My strength is I let the characters tell me their story. My weakness is that I let the characters tell me their story.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

I love to meet fans one-on-one at a book store. They are always so gracious and sweet to me. And when they tell me that I’ve given them a bit a pleasure in life, that to me is more important than any money or critical praise. When you hear praise from a fan it just means the world. I hope the bookstore never dies! Sometimes when things are going badly with work, I remember how important it is to get it perfect, because I want that fan to walk up to me and say it was good.

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

I tend to enjoy the old school third person style. I find that first person narrative limiting both as a writer and a reader. If it’s a good yarn, I’ll enjoy it.

As a writer, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Eclectic. I don’t want readers to like just my type of book! What kind of world would that be? No, eclectic.

What was the last good eBook you read?

I have not read any eBooks except my own to make sure there were no mistakes in the transfer. It’s only because – and especially lately – I like to get away from the computer screen when I’m reading because I use the computer so much when I’m working! It’s not a comment on eBooks. I plan on taking an eBook reader on my next trip as I can no longer carry five books around on vacation like I used to. There is a place for both.

What crime book are you most looking forward to reading?

Right now The Talented Mr. Ripley by Highsmith. I really want to read the whole Ripley series. I loved the movie and want to read it on my next vacation—really, really do.

What are you reading now?

Right now, because I’m in the middle of a novel, I read mostly non-fiction. I’m reading V.S. Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness and enjoying it. The first chapter is funny.

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose?

Madam Bovary without question. It’s been on my mind. I’d like to adapt it for film. That would be fun.

From an artistic rather than financial perspective, what book do you wish you had written?

The Comedians by Greene. What a book! It’s been forgotten here in the States but I re- read it and it’s a masterpiece. Truly is.

What did you do before you became a writer?

I was a day laborer. A carpenter. A teacher, and a busboy. I’ve had lots of jobs, some dangerous, and they were good for a crime writer to have had.

How old were you when you completed your first novel?

I was 25. The novel was no good. However, the discipline it took to finish it was pivotal to the direction my life was to take.

What makes you keep reading a book?

I have to care about what’s going to happen. It’s very simple, if I don’t care I put it down. There has to be a strong narrative element, as well as good characters, obviously.

What do you look for in a good book?

I want to be entertained and transported hopefully to some place or situation I’ve not experienced and that intrigues me. It’s why I like Jane Austen, precisely because I couldn’t experience that world any other way!

Where do you find out about new books?

Usually from good friends. Dennis Mcmillan is always calling me about something. I love it when he calls about books. He’s encyclopaedic about crime fiction.

What's the best collection of short stories you've read?

Ernest Hemingway’s First 40 Stories or something like that. I loved those stories and it was those stories that made me want to be a writer when I was just thirteen.

What are your views on eBook pricing?

It seems that there is a great deflation, driven by the flood of eBooks that are being released on the Amazon platform. I don’t think that will last. Prices will stabalize for eBooks ultimately. Readers will be willing to pay a fair price, say between 4 or 5 dollars, for eBooks from a good author they really enjoy.

What are the biggest problems facing writers these days?

The above issue of price. Again, I think readers are learning that just because it’s cheap doesn’t make it worth buying.

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

Yes. I’ve written the script for Dia De Los Muertos, which is in development with Danny Huston directing. I’ve written original screenplays too, as well as adaptations of my novels.

Do you read outside of the crime genre?

Yes, quite a bit. I love history and recently, because of the novel I’ve been working on, have had to do a lot of research, which I enjoyed a great deal. I’m a bookworm at heart.

What was your favourite book as a child?

The Cat And The Hat Comes Back. I used to read it about once a day when I was about six.

Do you enjoy writing?

I love it. There is nothing I love more than putting a sentence together.

Do you enjoy the editorial process?

No, because it makes me nervous. I get anxious unless I know the editor very well. People who don’t know you are often too quick to dismiss things that are, in fact, important about your work.

What's the oddest question you've been asked in an interview?

Had I ever screwed while riding a bicycle. Honest. It was asked at a bookstore. Funny!

How do you feel about reviews?

I don’t pay them much attention—good or bad. That’s some more good advice I got when starting out.

Huston told me that his grandfather (Walter Huston) had sunk all his money in a play that went bust. When Walter had to act the last scene of Treasure of Sierra Madre where he cries and stomps around, he just recalled his bad reviews for that play, and all the money he’d lost!

How do you feel about awards?

I’ve never gotten any, so I’ve no opinion!

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Yes a novel called .....

Red Jungle by Kent Harrington

Thursday 18 August 2011

Pulp Ink: Openings

Pulp Ink edited by Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan

PULP INK is the bizarre, chaotic side of crime fiction. From an ass-kicking surfer on acid to an idiot savant hitboy, these tales are dark, funny, action-packed and told with all the gleeful insanity of a Tarantino flick.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll roll into the fetal position and beg for mercy.

So sit back. Pour yourself a cup of joe, crack a beer, tie off – whatever you need to get comfortable – and get ready for a dose after dose of pulp action.

With stories by:
Allan Guthrie, Reed Farrel Coleman, Gary Phillips, Hilary Davidson, Matthew C. Funk, Paul D. Brazill, AJ Hayes, Michael J. Solender, Richard Godwin, Naomi Johnson, Jimmy Callaway, Sandra Seamans, Patti Abbott, Jodi MacArthur, David Cranmer, Chris F. Holm, Jason Duke, Eric Beetner, Ian Ayris, Kate Horsley, Matt Lavin, Jim Harrington, Nigel Bird, Chris Rhatigan

Requiem for Spider by Reed Farrel Coleman
Her heart was lonelier than Sergeant Pepper’s and the whole fucking band. I could see that from across the bar, not that across the bar was like seeing across space and time. It was more like twenty feet and, at that time of night, the view was relatively unobstructed. She had last call girl written all over her. Don’t misunderstand, she wasn’t a call girl. She wasn’t even much of a girl anymore. Thirty, at least, she hadn’t fit that description for quite some time. What I mean to say is that she was the kind of woman who probably had more than her share of men, but only because she understood that desperation was her ally. She was that pair of shoes on the discount rack you bought because you needed shoes and you only had so much money and the store was closing. When the bartender screamed “Last call for alcohol,” it was her mating song. She was a last call girl.

Jack Rabbit Slim’s Cellar
The $5 Mil Hak by Jodi MacArthur
Elvis sang. High heeled shoes and flats drummed in harmony across a high waxed floor. My head ached. My balls ached more. A bullet dug into my ass, making my sitting experience an uncomfortable one. I kept a special utensil in my sleeve for occasions like this. Lesson learned from ’89, the Red Iron Waffle. Unfortunately, Hank Rinks remembered the Red Iron, too. His goons checked my sleeves first thing.

Padre by AJ Hayes
It’s midnight when the cell phone rings. I scramble awake to answer. Only one person got that number. Hello Padre I say. How you doing? He talks a while. I say okay and hang up. Jimmy looks at me.
    Padre needs us I say. Jimmy’s already out the door.

The Creation of Ice by Sandra Seamans
Madelyn Cooper awoke to find herself duct taped to a straight back chair. An elderly woman, who looked like a bag of cotton balls had exploded on her head, stood with her arms crossed over her sagging breasts clutching a cast iron frying pan in her hand. Madelyn moaned, the frying pan certainly explained the pounding headache.

Zed’s Dead, Baby by Eric Beetner
“Zed? Oh Zed’s dead, baby.”
    “Yeah, so I’ve heard.”
    “Well, then why are you asking me?”
    “I’ve heard a lotta guys called dead who walked through the door the very next day.”
    “I don’t know what to tell you. Zed’s dead.”
    “Yeah, you said that already.”

Your Mother Should Know by Allan Guthrie
God took Pa when I was six. An automobile accident. Some folks’ religious fervor would have waned. Not my mom’s. Pa’s early ascent to heaven made Mom even more passionate about her faith. She prayed on her knees every night for hours at a time, skin like squashed spiders when she stood up.

You Never Can Tell by Matthew C. Funk
Junior was studying Atticus’ hands to figure if they were the right ones and Nina wondered how he might tell they were the ones that killed his father.
    Would it be something in the crease of the knuckles? In the notches? In their weight? She just knew they weren’t the hands Junior had been seeking for these past nine months.

A Whole Lotta Rosie by Nigel Bird
Fifty years to the day Rose has been walking on the planet. Not that she’s walked on much of it. Sheep farms in the summer. Back home the rest of the time.
    Hasn’t been far.
    Not that she’s needed to.
    A huge fish in a small pond, you might say. Six foot four and eighteen inches round the biceps. The blokes on the station all kid on she’d crush any man who lay between her thighs, but they’ve all taken their turn at one time or another and all gone back for more.

The Lady & The Gimp: A Peter Ord Investigation by Paul D. Brazill
They say that it never rains but it pours and that troubles are like buses – they all turn up at once. They say a lot of things, though. And most of what they say is about as much use as a condom in a convent.
    For example, they also say that lightning never strikes twice. Which is a pretty clear indication, to my mind, that “they” never encountered Lightning Jones.

A Night at the Royale by Chris F. Holm
The man in the black gabardine suit gritted his teeth and tried in vain to ignore the idiot Americans who sat behind him in the otherwise empty theater. They’d stumbled in five minutes prior – a good twenty minutes after the feature had begun – giggling like schoolgirls and reeking of patchouli and marijuana. In the man’s youth, such tardiness was not permitted; when he was a boy, if you wanted to catch a film in Amsterdam, you were to be seated before the lights dimmed or you were not to be seated at all. But then, these were different times, as the dull glow of the No Smoking signs peppered throughout the theater reminded him – and these imbeciles were as unfamiliar with Dutch culture as with the inside of a shower.

Clouds in a Bunker by David Cranmer
“Hold on a moment. The teakettle is whistling.” The line went silent for a beat and then, “I’ll be right back.”
    On the other side of the six-inch thick door, Chief Willis sat close, listening in, while the beady-eyed police negotiator Meeker tilted the phone for both officers to hear.
    “Damn, the old man is gone again. I thought we had him this time,” Meeker said.

The Wife of Gregory Bell by Patricia Abbott
I didn’t start out to be a criminal. Does anyone? But in my case, it made no sense. I was raised by upper middle-class people in a nice suburb of Philadelphia. There was no gang or disreputable friends to lure me into a life of crime. No incidents to jade me. My parents did all the right things and my two sisters are virtuous if slightly dull women.
    It seems likely I was a genetic mishap because something inside me was restless and twisted from the start. Even as a child, if I could find a way to avoid work, I did. If I could discern an easy way out, I took it. If an opportunity to acquire something I wanted presented itself, I seized it. Yes, I wanted things and was particularly susceptible to things of beauty, seldom resisting a cashmere sports coat, a prom queen, a sports car. I took all of them out for a spin.

If Love is a Red Dress – Hang Me in Rags by Michael J. Solender
Perhaps you should rest now Del. Wearied bones make for weighty ascent.
    Rest? I don’t think I’m up for any rest just now. What difference would it make? My mind won’t stop racing. Her vision will never escape my memory. So at peace, so much at ease. Her pallor shone bright against the ruby redness of her dress.

A Corpse by Any Other Name by Naomi Johnson
Lucian put his El Dorado in park. Holding onto the wheel with the hook at the end of his left arm, he turned to face Mackie in the passenger seat and gave him a “you best not be fucking with me” look. It made Mackie glad he wasn’t fucking with Lucian.
    “He’s really dead.”

Surf Rider by Ian Ayris
The Surf Rider’s mind blew in April ’73. The Surf Rider, he didn’t feel a thing – five Strawberry Fields and a staple diet of Mandrax and Lebanese Gold does that to a man.
    The doctors called it a “drug-induced psychosis.”
    Nearly forty years on, the Surf Rider stands at a bar in Huntington Beach, what remains of his dignity covered by an Afghan coat and knee-length Bermuda shorts. His voluminous gut pushes out a faded Grateful Dead t-shirt, his sun-brown hands clutch a bright yellow Lightning Bolt surfboard closer to him than the dreams of a shattered childhood. His silver-grey hair hangs past his shoulders, and his eyes stare wide, wide to a world beyond words.

The Slicers’ Serenade of Steel by Gary Phillips
Rudy Canary wasn’t much for jogging. His knees hurt and it seemed as if invisible pins were pricking his lower legs as he ran down the street. It was going on eleven o’clock on a moonless night. In this part of town, only the working girls and potential johns cruising by getting an eye and earful were out.
    “Come on, stud muffin, forty for a date,” a big-boned gal spilling out of a too-small outfit blared at a mortgage slave rolling slow on the street in a sedan. She made a fist near her mouth, working it back and forth as she rhythmically poked her tongue inside her cheek.

The October 17 Economic Development Committee Meeting by Chris Rhatigan
I need fire running through my veins for this. Instead I’ve got a combo of caffeine, nicotine and dexedrine.
    I’m parked behind Parson Government Center. Probably ten minutes left and I’m rattling like the muffler on a banger’s Civic.

Threshold Woman by Richard Godwin
Late June, fireflies bomb the window of my Buick as I drive slowly to Sultry.
    Her brother Carlos calls her Anna, he doesn’t know her secret name, the one I use as I hold her shivering in my arms.
    She is clear as diamonds, soft as petals.
    She shimmers in her own perfume.

Redlining by Jim Harrington
Walter rested his forehead against the steering wheel while he waited for Malcolm to return. He’d warned the fool about drinking so much water. At the sound of a voice, Walter looked up as Malcolm emerged from the woods talking on his cell phone.
    “What the…?” Walter pounded his fist on the dash and exited the truck. He adjusted his cap against the sun, stomped to his partner, grabbed the phone, and hurled it into the mix of budding trees and rotted trunks.

Jungle Boogie by Kate Horsely
Raoul stood on the corner, leaning against the plaster wall of Bar El Diablo, telling himself to walk away. It was seven in the evening and the sky was a ripening bruise behind the cathedral. The August heat licked his face and a knot of girls skipped arm in arm across the zócalo. One burst into song. He told himself to go back to the museum, to lock the statue in its glass case, and if his boss asked any questions to make up some amusing story. But he’d crossed an unseen line on Barrio El Cerrillo and now he couldn’t move. So he dragged on the stub of his cigarette and stared at the blonde woman on the cathedral steps.

This Little Piggy by Hilary Davidson
Lysandra hated her clients, and she didn’t try to hide it. Freakshows, she called them, though she had special nicknames for the real weirdos. There was her regular four o’clock Tuesday appointment, who liked her to wear pink marabou stilettos. Such a stereotype, that guy, so she called him Frederick’s of Hollywood. Her Wednesday nooner had a thing for thigh-high black boots, and Lysandra called him Pretty Woman – not to his face – since she suspected he’d never gotten over Julia Roberts as a hooker. Pretty Woman’s Thursday counterpart craved pointy-toed Jimmy Choo kitten heels in beige, of all colors; Lysandra suspected that one was a politician and dubbed him El Presidente. But her ongoing Friday five o’clock date was the worst: Stanky Mr. Keds had an unhealthy fixation on sweaty sneakers. Lysandra barely managed to suppress her gag reflex in their sessions. She charged him three times her usual fee before decamping to the shower and scrubbing every inch of herself – not only her feet – with a scented scrub that reminded her of sugar cookies in her grandmother’s kitchen.

Comanche by Jason Duke
Willie Jones looked around the empty bedroom at the back of Devilwood Springs. The room was as Kara had described it, no windows, the walls and ceiling covered in mirrored panels positioned at different odd angles. The mirrors reflected myriad fractured copies of him through the bleak emptiness of the room. His lean build, tucked black Under Armour shirt, dark blue jeans, unnervingly stared back on him everywhere he looked.

Misirlou by Jimmy Callaway
1. Cheeseburger, Hold the Relish
    Mal walked in the front door, said, “Cheeseburger’s dead.”
    Bronson looked up from the TV, said, “What?”
    Stillwell looked up from the TV, said, “Who?”
    Mal said, “Guy that runs that Greek place down the street. I stopped in for a gyro, joint’s closed for a week. Death in the family notice in the window.”

The Only One Who Could Ever Reach Me by Matt Lavin
You wish Freddy would shove his goddamned fist in his mouth and choke on it. Instead, he wipes his nose on the sleeve of his gray hoody and flashes you a nasty, tobacco-toothed grin.
    “Glad you’re here, Greg,” he says. “I need some sleep.”

Pulp Ink edited by Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan
Amazon UK, Amazon US

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Nigel Bird interview: Beat On The Brat

Beat on the Brat by Nigel Bird

Author of BEAT ON THE BRAT (and other stories) and DIRTY OLD TOWN (and other stories), Nigel Bird's work has appeared in a number of magazines and collections, including the Mammoth Best British Crime Stories this year. He has just released the much-awaited PULP INK anthology with co-editor Chris Rhatigan in collaboration with Needle Publishing.

How important is a good title?

The need for a good title is something I may have underrated. There’s a difference I need to come to appreciate between an I-like-it-a-lot title and a title that works for the general reading population.

Take ‘Beat On The Brat (and other stories)’ as an example. It’s from a great song by the Ramones. It works really well as a title for a short story when the story suggests a possible inspiration for the song. And I love it.

Whether it’s a good title for a collection remains to be seen. Perhaps it’s that step too far, a matter of my personal taste overriding any sense of the market.

All the same, I’m the kind of guy who thinks ‘Baby In The Icebox’ is a title of genius. At least I’m not alone in my folly.

Where I draw some comfort from my title choice is the way it should prevent innocents stumbling into it and finding they have bought something which is far too challenging for them to work with. Due to the nature of this one, I really don’t want people taking this up as a whim and finding themselves plunged into my worlds without warning.

What was the last good eBook you read?

For fun and absolute pleasure, ‘The Long Midnight Of Barney Thomson’ was splendid. I also enjoyed ‘Out There Bad’ by Josh Stallings, a very different kind of story to ‘Long Midnight’ with energy, violence and stimulation from cover to cover (virtual covers, that is).

The Bastard Hand’ by Heath Lowrance really buzzes, is amazingly powerful and is highly recommended.

My favourite summer holiday read, however, has been ‘One Too Many Blows To The Head’ by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner. Set in 1939, it feels like it was written about then – zesty one-liners and cracking dialogue as well as a world of unpleasantness brought to life in a way that made me feel I was there. I’m not sure it has sold that well in the UK, but it should be at the top of everyone’s To Be Read list.

Where do you find out about new books?

The network of people on the internet provides a wonderful range of tastes and recommendations to dip into. There are people out there who are so well read that it makes a good deal of sense to be led by their opinions. I can get more books than I need from Twitter and Facebook alone, but it’s the blogs I love to go to for the real depth of opinion and the personal twists. I’m almost afraid to mention any lest I miss some out but – Spinetingler, Pattinase, The Drowning Machine, Jen’s Book Thoughts, My Friends Call Me Kate, Musings Of An All Purpose Monkey and You Would Say That Wouldn’t You will always give you a good all round view and will cover a lot of older material as well as the new.

I also read a lot of short stories online. Favourite places are Beat To A Pulp, A Twist Of Noir and Shotgun Honey. Offering a compass point in that region are Death By Killing, Sant’s Rants and the very impressive Criminal Thoughts of R Thomas Brown.

Goodreads does a good job of spreading the word. Once you get to know the people writing the reviews, it can be an excellent source of eclectic material.

I have picked up a couple of books from Kindle Forums and Amazon threads, too. No regrets as yet.

What are your views on eBook pricing?

It will settle. Reach a balance that everyone is happy with.

Given that when buying a Kindle readers have forked out £100 plus already, I think they need to benefit from low prices for e-books.

I put out ‘Beat On The Brat’ at the £1.49 which seems more than generous, but is above the going rate for quality work in the UK. I’ve just this morning had a rethink, however. You can get real gems out there for the bargain prices and early doors’ sales for this one suggested that £1.49 was just too much. It’s now back to the 75p/99c minimum and I hope that will encourage people to buy and read, which is why I put it out in the first place.

My biggest issue over pricing is with Value Added Tax. We’re not taxed on paper books, so to have it imposed on the sales of the environmentally friendly option seems absolutely crazy. All books should be free from tax, something I’m feeling more strongly about as I come to terms with the imposition.

I’d like to point out that I’m not against taxes at all. My daughter spent a night in hospital a while ago, attended by dedicated, specialist staff who monitored her breathing after her first severe asthma attack. They saved her life that night and I didn’t have to pay anyone a penny. It would have been the same if she’d been there for six months. I’d pay more tax to make sure these services are maintained. Just not on e-books if I had the choice.

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

About 20 years ago, I wrote something called Deborah Faints. It was a romantic comedy as far as I was concerned.

A young man working in a bookshop falls for a customer. When she puts a notice on the board asking for piano lessons for her daughter, he gives her a call and becomes the new tutor. The girl’s been a mess since the death of her grandfather, but when our guy shows up she opens up a little after a session of chaotic fun. The catch is that Chris (let’s call him that) can’t play the piano.

Chris gets lessons from an old drunk down the road, a star of yester-year fallen on hard times. Payment is in whisky and cigarettes.

The romance gets underway until the lady finds out about the fake piano skills and it unravels until it’s all tightly bound once more.

I thought it was great, like Clerks but clean.

I passed it on to a film-maker and he...

... lost it (either that or couldn’t face telling me the truth).

I have a copy still to be typed under a pile of dust.

Ever tried your hand at poetry?

Indeed I have.

When putting together ‘Beat On The Brat’, I was trying to establish a balance in the work so that it would really engage the reader. The timing of me putting it together coincided with the Norwegian massacres and that reminded me of a batch of Haiku I’d written about another killing from last year. Once the connection in my head had been made, I had to have the poems in there.

Later, when I realised I was putting together work that is about as dark as I can imagine, I felt there was a need to tone down the whole by using some lighter shades from the palette. I guess the Haiku had opened the gates, so I went for something I wrote a while ago as a kind of Bob Dylan/Nick Cave amalgamation. There’s humour in them there hills, honest.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

The release of Pulp Ink is imminent [it's out – Al]. It’s been a hugely exciting project and I need to thank all the authors involved, Chris Rhatigan (co-editor) and all those who’ve been supportive in terms of offering reviews, opinions and islands of calm when the occasional storm has appeared on the horizon.

For those who aren’t aware of Pulp Ink, it’s a collection of stories themed around the soundtrack of the movie Pulp Fiction.

The line-up for the collection is:

The authors who we’re bringing together are (in order of appearance in the book) Reed Farrel Coleman, Jodi MacArthur, AJ Hayes, Sandra Seamans, Eric Beetner, Allan Guthrie, Matthew C Funk, Nigel Bird, Paul D Brazill, Chris F Holm, David Cranmer, Patti Abbott, Michael J Solender, Naomi Johnson, Ian Ayris, Gary Phillips, Chris Rhatigan, Richard Godwin, Jim Harrington, Kate Horsley, Hilary Davidson, Jason Duke, Jimmy Callaway and Matt Levin.

Doesn’t that just blow your socks off?

And Chuck Wendig was kind enough to take an early read for us. This is what he thought:

"Tongue-piercings. Foot-fetishists. Murderous cinephiles. This gritty, grimy, giddy collection is as pulpy as they come, transcending the Tarantino reference material and stepping into its own. All because of a stable of home-run crime writers who know just what the hell they're doing."

It’s looking fantastic and I hope that everyone out there takes a look.

I’ll also be out there soon in a great anthology called Grimm Tales, soon to be released by Untreed Reads. It’s another great collection. Another honour to be included.

On my plate just now is a story I’m trying to get together for the excellent Shotgun Honey. There’s a word limit of 700 words and I’m finding that to be a real challenge for the tale I want to tell. It’s a reminder to me of the talent of the authors who’ve made it up there already and created waves of their own.

My novel is still there, too. 5000 words from the end of the first draft. I can’t wait to get the broad strokes over so I can begin to sift out what works from what doesn’t.

Something else I’m really looking forward to is a little cross-pollination. A short work of mine was accepted by artist Stacey Yates for a project she has on the way. Taking a set of short pieces on a similar theme (the report of a body of a woman found in the road) she’ll produce work to bring the stories to life visually. I’m very happy to have the chance to be in a gallery with my words – no way my drawing skills were ever going to have that happen.

Beat on the Brat by Nigel Bird