Showcase First – Gerald D. Johnston
The Journal is proud to present the third in a series of Showcase Specials. Today it’s the turn of Gerald D. Johnston. Gerald, an author with a frighteningly unique take on everything we thought we knew about fiction, answers some rather probing questions, and illuminates us along the way on what makes him tick, or to be more precise, what makes us tick.
The importance of the interview you are about to read was conducted by The Journal’s very own Steve Jensen and Frank Duffy. Both reporters were flown aboard T -17 Nook helicopters into mainland China, and from there to a location seven hundred miles west of Beijing.
Such was the delicate nature of the mission/interview, both men were then taken ‘upstream’ through China’s most inhospitable ‘darkened’ interior by boat. They were ordered to stay below deck for most of the journey, only going topside to eat, relieve themselves or otherwise grab the occasional ‘breather’.
The journey by boat terminated five days after starting. On arrival at what might or might not have been a former Buddhist temple, they were met by what they loosely described as ‘the indigenous population having joined forces with several rather suspicious gentlemen of European extraction’.
Our two reporters were then prepared in ‘ancient ceremonial’ dress, blessed by the ‘tribe’s’ pantheistic Gods (it is unclear here whether or not the ‘Gods’ were members from the tribe, or in actual fact, genuine Gods, demigods, or plain old deities), and finally, blindfolded and led away to meet the ‘leader’, one Gerald Johnston.
Once their blindfolds were removed both reporters state quite adamantly that at no time did they actually ‘lay eyes’ on Gerald Johnston. He remained a voice in the shadows, seemingly within reach at all times, yet tantalizingly unobserved.
The following is for the eyes of The Journal’s readers only.
(Any similarities between this introduction and Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and/or Coppola’s reinterpretation, ‘Apocalypse Now’, are purely absurd).
“My name is Shakespeare Tiberius Poole, and I’m on a mission from God. Or, at least that’s what Dave, the grossly obese undead guy, said. Apparently angels don’t do wet-work anymore, and there’s something I need to do before being allowed to cross over. I was on my way to complete that mission when I stopped by here.”
(From Shakespeare’s Dead)
(For purposes of fluidity, both interviewers have been ‘melded’ into one)
Interviewer: You’ve stated before that a motorcycle accident left you with plenty of time to write, but before the accident, how would you have described your writing self, the writer inside?
Gerald: I could sum that up in one word: nonexistent. Up until writing ‘The Savior’, the germ progenitor of ‘Dropcloth Angels’, I’d written nothing since my poor attempt at a post secondary education back in the nineties, where I lived the life of Pan and paid the piper in brain cells. That’s seventeen years ago, now—but please don’t do the math on that.
There were, of course, many occasions since in which I found myself thinking about writing, but I didn’t act on the feeling.
“Ever stare down into a coffin and wonder—even for a brief second—what it’s gonna be like when you die? How you’re gonna look, or whether the mortician painted you up in a hurry because he or she had to make it home for dinner on time?
I can only speak for myself, but let me give you my answers to these questions:
1) It sucks…”
(From ‘Shakespeare’s Dead’).
Interviewer: How would you describe the response from other writers on HarperCollins ‘Authonomy’ site?
Gerald: Before I answer that question, let me say this: I believe Authonomy is an excellent venue for first time authors to mingle with those more experienced, and to glean what knowledge they can from any and all readers of their work.
As to how my first novel, ‘Dropcloth Angels’ was received, well, that is a mixed bag of nuts actually. I remain astounded that anyone thought of it as better than average, never mind some of the very flattering reviews it’s received. Many reviewers have commented on my use of metaphors, and how original and fresh they are. Some have mentioned the complex duality of Zane’s character, and felt confused that they grew to like him, if not understand his appetites or motives—which was my intention. Who wants to be bored by ‘just another killer’? Others have noted the depth of Zoe’s character, and found an immediate connection with her. (The double Z’s are intentional, by the way.)
The following are pulled straight from many comments I’ve received on my work. I’ve been told I am sick, twisted, a talent gone horribly wrong, fresh, darkly humorous, witty, verging on literary genius, a fucking riot, and evil. The following comment caused me to blush. It was taken from the comment of the #3 talent spotter on the Authonomy site:
“Holy sh@t! I thought reading David Baldacci, made me squirm…wrong! G-man…you have got this hog-tied. The genre is looking for a new messiah, pardon the expression your Lordshipness, and you’re it!”
The comment itself was quite a bit larger, but I don’t want to expose myself as the closet egomaniac that I really am. I’ve never read any David Baldacci, but I took these words as a compliment.
When I think of the many comments I’ve received from my peers at Authonomy, I always stagger back to one in particular. I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions from this reader’s words:
‘’I can’t read this. I don’t believe in perpetuating such as this. It has no socially redeeming essence. I have no idea what you mean to accomplish with this other than to make money off of what can only be called the sickness of humanity. It is clear you have GREAT talent. Why you would use it this way is uncertain.’’
Ah, I love that comment. She/he really kicked my ass there. But one positive thing I took away from her/his words was this: I caused a physical reaction within a reader. That’s a powerful feeling, knowing you can change the tempo of a heart beat, induce tears or a robust laugh, cause a person to revile you—or, evoke a heightened emotional response to mere words printed upon a screen or page.
Interviewer: Did you toy with the idea of writing much earlier on in your life? Can you remember anything you might have written in your childhood?
Gerald: When I was five, I told my mother I wanted to be a writer or a pilot. As it turns out, I’m more than a little afraid of heights, so being a pilot was out. That year, I penned my first story. It was about a ghost, buried treasure, a mansion on a hill, and two frightened kids who found a map in a hole dug by their dog. I believe there is even a ‘dark and stormy night’ reference in the opening scene. Somewhere in my parents’ home, amid many plastic-sleeved photo albums, that tale lives on between its construction paper covers. When I was six, I discovered Superman. I traded my #2 pencil for a cape, effectively squashing any hopes of a sequel to ‘Me, my buddy, and the scary ghost’.
That first story would prove also to be my last until I was thirteen-years-old. My first year of high school, I wrote a story of teen promiscuity and drugs, and filled with as many invectives as I could muster. This was a tale meant to enrage a hard-assed English teacher who seemed to make it his personal business to piss me off, but instead of being angry, he placed it in a countywide teen writing contest sponsored by the local library. I’m not entirely sure how many entries there were, but (whatever the story was called; if it even had a title) placed third. I wasn’t interested at the time, though. What the teacher didn’t know was that the story wasn’t fiction; it was autobiographical. All I wanted to do was have fun.
Writing may not have been my number one priority, but it never strayed far from the surface. Someday I was still going to be a writer. Just not then.
“Even after finding out it wasn’t a skin-flick, we at least thought that having Morgan Freeman in it was going to be enough to make the movie halfway enjoyable—he’s been in some pretty sweet movies and his voice is cool as shit—but no. Not even the voice of God himself could fuck-start that turkey. All he did was exactly what the title said: Drive Miss Daisy’s grumpy ass around.”
(From ‘Shakespeare’s Dead’).
Interviewer: Who is Zane Ellis?
Gerald: Basically, Zane Ellis—just like you, me and Bobby McGee—is a product of his environment. Raised in an old plantation house by a mentally unstable mother who could ill afford to pay their bills, he was abused by her and a slew of gentlemen callers and began to withdraw into himself; the final mental wall was thrown up when she married a man of money to ensure retaining the house. The man she chose would turn out to be the most sadistic of all. To escape, young Zane would find sanctuary in the churchyard that butted up to the back of their property, where he would sketch many of the statues while he awaited dawn.
A love of art came secondhand to Zane; his mother was a tattoo artist who was renowned throughout New Orleans as a true master of her art. It was through this craft that his mother gave him a rare gift, a gift of body art on the eve of his eighteenth birthday—his stepfather, sexual deviant that he was, gave him a different sort of gift.
Giving in to a rage that had been building for years, Zane brutally murdered, then ate the hearts of his two crazed guardians. By the time anyone bothered to enter the old plantation house, he’d painted the walls and flooring of two rooms; every single depiction a likeness recalled from his long nights in the churchyard. The angels were born to his fingertips and he was free.
After coming under the care of a doctor by the name of Gideon, Zane found inspiration; he flourished in his art, honing new found skills and branching off into performance art. It was also about this time that he found a food that he loved slightly less than human flesh: Froot Loops. This second life would begin Zane’s introduction to a new renaissance; a revisit of the primal, the blend of blood and bone to create his dropcloth angels.
“The ruckus, as it turned out, was caused by a body. A body, who, aside from the three inches of a cheap ball-point pen protruding from one eye and a slender trail of seeping blood, could have been a vagrant, missing only a sign that might read: Wil playe ded fer a doller.” (From ‘Dropcloth Angels‘).
Interviewer: Can you expand on ‘Savior’s’ transition to ‘Dropcloth Angels’?
Gerald: You know, it’s odd that I don’t have a copy of the original short story saved in my computer. After a brief hunt, I found a well marked up paper copy. I’ll condense the story for the purpose of explaining it here: The original first paragraph, twelve lines of explanation of Amin Meiwes (The Rotterdam cannibal), as well as other like minded individuals, evolved into the piece I gave to The Journal, ‘The Lost Psalm of Gideon: A Snuff Life’.
Sadly, that chapter never made the final cut and will remain a cyber ghost. The next three pages of the short story covered the seduction of a woman named Jeanne, who Zane met at a cancer survivor’s general assembly. This would become the structure for chapter three of DCA. The next few pages cover Jeanne’s last meal before she becomes one herself. This would end up being some of chapter nine, and all of ten. The final couple pages of the short story cover a time nearly two years later, as a not-so-healthy Zane visits an A.A. meeting in order to find his next meal. It’s at this meeting he sees a young woman who sparks memories of a woman he knew, a woman who’s been dead for two years. This young woman he sees would become Zoe, the main character of DCA. This portion would turn into the seed for chapters 31 and 32. Here is where we come to the only real deviation from the plot of the short, to the plot of the novel. In the final pages of the short story, the as yet unnamed sister of Jeanne follows Zane to his home and visits her own brand of horror upon him as vengeance for what he’d done to her sister. In the novel, things happen quite differently.
Interviewer: Describe a typical writing session.
Gerald: The ingredients for a typical writing session: plenty of coffee, a box of Dentyne Ice mints, relative (outside) quiet, a large block of time, and no telephone.
I have a small skeleton about six inches tall named Skully. Skully’s been with me since I was a teen. He wasn’t always a writing companion, but that’s what he is now. I greet him, then pat Mortimer on the head (Mort is a life-sized skull purchased for me by my daughter last Christmas). Mortimer is a good listener, but quite shy. There is an imp who has taken up residence in my keyboard; I found him sipping my coffee one day when he must have thought I wasn’t coming back right away. His name is Bart. Bart is an asshole, but relatively harmless if given the proper amount of drugs.
After greeting the three wise men, I hit ‘shuffle’ on my Itunes, then open Ywriter, the program in which I write. From there it’s anybody’s guess how it will go; I often start with a general idea—a paragraph or so—of what I need to happen in a given scene. From there I’ll usually write freeform dialogue, allowing the scene to develop organically, and then add description to the talking heads, and exposition to guide the main plot and any bridged sub-plots on the go. There are also times, say in a short story or stand alone chapter, when I’ll write the piece from front to back, instead of bouncing around. In an average session of four hours or so I’ll write somewhere between 3 and 7 thousand words—sometimes more if inspiration or time is on my side. The most words I’ve written in one day were eighteen thousand.
Much of my actual writing process takes place in my head long before my fingers hit the keyboard. I’ll run through entire scenes in my head and need only to transfer it from cellular gray to pixilated black. I don’t feel that writing is just about the physical act. There is so much more to writing that any average person would never understand: a song snippet, an odd phrase overheard in line at the bank, a devastating event halfway around the world reported through a lipstick smile beneath a perfectly coifed haircut. All of these things, and countless more, run like tiled dominoes through a writer’s mind—overlapping, branching off—until an idea springs forth; or, that plus something totally unrelated from two weeks ago spurs another.
Interviewer: Is it true you once wrote 50,000 words in eight days?
Gerald: Very true. That 18k word binge was part of it. This past November I took part in the Nano Wrimo competition, a challenge in which the contestants must write 50k words during the month of November. To be honest, I dicked around for the first twenty days, only posting about eight or nine-hundred words. On November twentieth, inspiration struck and I was off. I’d decided to delete what I had there and go with another, previously brewing, idea. That project was called ‘Shakespeare’s Dead’. Fifty-thousand words is obviously far too short for a novel, but it did make very nice framework for what would come. On November twenty-eighth, I hit, and passed, 50k words, and submitted it for verification. The prize: A downloaded ‘patch’ to display on my web page stating that I’d been one to write 50k words in one month. More than that, though, I was given a huge head start on completing the novel itself.
Chrissie stared at the exit door, watched it thump closed, and waiting; there was always the chance that he might change his mind or remember someone else who could take the bird. The fading slap of shoe leather on the stairs said otherwise. Turning, she gazed down at the parrot. Poe halted in his self groom and bobbed on his perch. “Viva Las Vegas, rawk! Viva Las Vegas.”
She blew out a long breathe and narrowed her eyes. “Shut up, bird.” (From Merry Fucking Christmas).
Interviewer: There’s no denying the eye-catching titles you employ, such as ‘Merry Fucking Christmas’, so tell us: how important titles are to you?
Gerald: The title is one of the most important aspects of my work. With DCA, I titled every chapter. Often, those few words were the inspiration for the entire chapter. Sometimes I titled them after writing a chapter, but mostly the former.
The actual title ‘Dropcloth Angels’ is not exactly what the reader thinks. The general, underlying, meaning is evident, but the true meaning isn’t revealed until the end of the story. With MFC, the title reflects the very essence of the mc’s struggle during the story.
Her name is Christmas; named so for the day she was born. On this particular Christmas, Chrissy must deal with a neighbor across the hall (who dumps his Poe-quoting parrot in her lap), her four cats (that want to dine on said bird), a crook-nosed hood (who is searching for her neighbor), a large, tattooed, Mexican man named Jesus (Hey-Zeus) she’d met a few years earlier at a ‘Babies Born On Christmas’ convention (and was gullible enough to give him her phone number—a number that he dialed each and every Christmas and masturbated on the phone while speaking to her). To round this day out, and make it a real ‘Merry Fucking Christmas’, one of the formerly mentioned ends up dead, and Chrissy is forced to find a hiding spot for the body.
“I was once told by a man I admire to write what I know.
This is what I know: Snuff.
It was that same great man who also handed down to me another equally useful kernel of knowledge; His words carried me through many dark hours of doubt and on through to the completion of this work—although, I’m sure if he knew of the subject matter, he would not have been so forthcoming and helpful.
“When in doubt,” he had told me, “Speak to the page as a friend, a lover, or a stranger if you must, but forge on and converse. You will find comfort there. Inspiration’s embrace is fleeting and often fickle, so when she calls, go to her and hold tight for as long as you can before she leaves you with nothing but a vague memory and an empty page.”
Friend, Lover, Stranger.
I choose you, stranger.”
(From ‘Gideon’s Lost Gospel’)
Interviewer: What are your aims for 2010 writing wise?
Gerald: My objectives for 2010 are to:
a) Query for representation for DCA. I don’t know if I should say this here, but my ideal agent is Nick Ellison. I’ve been cyber-stalking his career for the past eight months, and will be sending my first query to him, tailored only to him. Aside from representing my current favorite author, Christopher Moore, he’s also worked as an editor for the late, great, Kurt Vonnegut. Can you imagine what that must have been like? How does one edit genius?
b) Complete edits on ‘Shakespeare’s Dead’
c) Finish ‘Plan B, Mr. Seed’, and the novel I’m writing under a pen name.
d) Write a few short stories and try to get them published somewhere.
e) I’ve been working with a handful of very gifted writers from The NightReading.com site on a collaborative murder mystery story. We’ll be hopefully finishing that this year.
Interviewer: Your influences include a heady mix of Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, Clive Barker, just to name a few, and you are a big admirer of no-nonsense directors like Oliver Stone, George Romero, Guy Ritchie, and John McTiernan. How much of them would you say ‘comes out’ in your own work?
Gerald: It’s my belief that writers are a product of their own ego/Id struggle, combined with their most commonly experienced outside stimuli. I’d like to think my writing is made up of all that I love, as well as all that I know. It will surely mirror the formerly mentioned professionals. This is because the part of my brain that controls my fingers as they stroke the keyboard also houses the soul of each of their works—each one caged within their separate cubicles and waiting only for their inspiration to find need.
FILE REF: ALTER/G JOHNSTON. CLASSIFIED. BLACK APPRAISAL. NOT TO BE SHOWN OUTSIDE PENTAGON DECLASSIFACTION OBSERVATION PROJECT BLUEHAWK.
NB: The Journal will be presenting a one-off fiction special from Gerald to be announced later today. Stay tuned for updates.
In two weeks we will be presenting an exclusive Showcase with The Journal’s very own, Steven Jensen.
Until then, go carefully into the night, heed the shadows and let the darkness run riot.
Showcase First – Jason Michel
The Journal is proud to present the second in a series of special showcases examining the work of new and exciting writers from around the world. Each showcase will consist of interviews, excerpts from the featured writer’s stories, ‘overviews’ from other writers and of course, one juicy hunk of prime fiction.
‘Roll up, roll up, you beautiful wanderers in search of fractured minds, sniffing out your delicate little fantasies of fiction…come and listen to the Man tell his stories…what a tortured, brilliant psyche this one has…all the better for eating you up with…all the better for cajoling you inside…mind you don’t shut the door…
Hey what happened to the lights…it sure is dark in here.
We at The Journal have been known to take our coffee darkest black, just like our fiction, so you’ll excuse our excitement at having the opportunity to shoot some questions to a very interesting writer indeed.
Jason Michel is a writer of startlingly original fiction who grew up in Britain, but now resides in Paris, France. He is also the creator and editor of Pulp Metal magazine, one of those rare literary beasts which defies pigeon-holing (If you’ve ever read an issue of Pulp Metal magazine, you’ll also understand how committed he is to publishing the best and the newest in the way of Small Press writers).
With that in mind we examined his views, his writing, and his oblique take on the world we live in.
PLEASE NOTE: The Journal dispatched their experienced reporters to do what they thought would be a straightforward interview, yet they were wholly unprepared for the oddity of the situation which subsequently arose. The following which you are about to read has quite literally been transcribed from what little we were able to salvage of the event.
Day 14, Location X, possibly somewhere on the outskirts of Paris, – Audio-Diary of Interviewer One.
(We hear the whir of some unidentified miniature recording device being switched on, and then the interviewer’s voice)
Interviewer: (to himself, and possibly to us as a way of ensuring authenticity in case anything went wrong) The man in front of us is Jacques, his last name unknown. He claims to be an aide of Jason Michel’s. With him are two women, both of whom speak no English. They are all dressed in what I presume to be some kind of militaristic uniform.
(We hear a loud metallic clanging as of a door either opening or shutting)
Interviewer: We appear to be in some kind of World War Two bunker. How odd considering we were minutes before driving through the suburbs. That’s the last time I’ll let anybody blindfold me, including the wife. (there’s a significant pause and we hear only the sound of people walking)…now we are entering what seems to be a chamber of some sort…there’s strange graffiti on the wall, more like glyphs, possibly, it’s hard to say in this light…is that Jason Michel?
Jacques: That is Henry. He’s Mr. Michel’s security.
Interviewer: Right. Security. Bunkers. Blindfolds.
(At this point the first part of the tape ends. The second tape, covered in what is probably dried clay, is played to continue with the supposed chronology…though normal classical time is not guaranteed with Jason Michel)
Interviewer: Okay, it’s working. I think (there’s a rattling noise, presumably the interviewer checking the battery). Right. That seems to be it.
Okay, I’d like to start with Pulp Metal magazine, first. Was the magazine a protest of sorts against the conventional run of magazines permeating the Small Press, or was it perhaps the bringing together of so many of those disparate elements which comprise your passions for all things darkly imaginative?
(We hear Jason Michel’s voice – there is a moment of overlapping static – then we hear him clearly, though it sounds as if we are listening to an interview being conducted in some dark echoing subterrean chamber).
JM: I’d say it was the latter. Hence the title Pulp Metal. Combining the twin disciplines of Fiction, Music, Art, Comics, & Film. Okay, so that’s five. Bite me.
The idea popped into my tiny brain-steam just before Christmas last year & I asked Paul Brazill if he would like to do a column for it, as he’s a many of many words, most of them hilarious & he was into it. It just took off from there.
Also, I found a lot of people out there take themselves far too seriously. Calling themselves “artists” or working for that status “underground legend”, which to me is a term that’s pretty much redundant in the current climate. That’s by no means disrespectful to anyone who I’ve featured in PMM as the quality of each & every one of the pieces that I’ve featured has blown me away. But I prefer to see them a people who have a passion for writing, painting, photography etc, first & foremost.
We will never be famous & I think that anonymity is a good thing in the obsessive compulsive celebrity-based nonsense that assaults us day to day (says the hypocrite, having a Showcase!).
I really wanted to inject a touch of irreverence & humor into the whole proceedings that does seem to be lacking somewhat from the scene, except, maybe, from the bizarro guys.
For example, I’m going to feature a Cocktail section, where people can suggest their favorite tipple for all to try, a Pulp Metal Guide To The Modern World, where folks can tell people the things they do to keep sane & the pranks they’ve pulled, & a recommendations page called Pearls Before Swine, where peeps can write a short piece on the books that they think we should be reading & why.
Uh … What was the question again?
“Having met him, he is not misnamed, he looks exactly like someone who knows they are too unacceptable/good/defeated to stand to be further piddled on by literary corporationdom and is not afraid to twist the cliché of life with the fire of rebellion. All in all he is an ugly tattooed son of a bitch with a lyrical voice of great, well, beauty; if a car crash can be beautiful?” – the video poet, Adam Sandell
Interviewer: You’ve moved around quite a bit, Europe, Asia, even Africa, so just how deeply does your environment play on your writing? And which of the locations would you say has best suited your ‘writing’ mind?
JM: Actually, I spent seven years in Asia. Two years in Japan, five in Thailand then one in Morocco, a couple back in London & I’ve been in France for four. I think.
Environment is very important to my writing, I think. Adapting to new cultures has a way of letting you be in a state of permanent adolescence. You’re often seeing something from a different angle that challenges your old assumptions of the world. Not in that “Oh, just ate snake with some hill tribes” kind of deal but in everyday life. You want to learn about a place, then live there in the daily tedious grind.
Although not everyone can, of course. I’ve met many people in certain countries who even though they’re physically living in a completely different culture have never really left their homelands. They either become embittered animals that strike out at any new experiences or go completely doolally. Of course, everyone feels this way but some just go with it, baby! Whoosh! Bye-bye marbles! I still struggle with it everyday, but struggle I must.
So, getting back to the last question, I’d have to say all them, from Blade Runner futuristic Japan to the bureaucratic hell that is France.
“Never has anybody’s work reflected so deeply the actual ‘man’. Complex, obstinately thumbing its nose at convention, astute in its appraisal of both the writer and the world around him, probing, insightful, rich, and unfettered by modern constraints, a poke in the eye for any and all literary establishments, Jason Michel is not a writer for today, nor he is a writer for yesterday, he is a unique amalgamation of all the best parts of all the writers who did it their way. Highly recommended for those genuinely interested in learning something new. But please God, don’t call him the new ‘anything’, he’s his own man.” Frank Duffy, The Journal.
Interviewer: Your work has a certain filmic quality to it, echoing perhaps the works of directors like David Lynch, Hal Hartley or even new Brad Anderson. How strongly does film imagery play in the development of your prose?
JM: A lot. We all daydream & films are not much more than someone else’s daydreams brought to life. I daydream shitloads & the more bizarre images that come to me end up on virtual paper. They’re usually the ones that shock me or make me giggle.
I’ve always been attracted to the stranger end of things & films like Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead, The Machinist, or Old Boy, leave you with questions. They stay with you.
I also love the “humming” scenes of Lynch’s films, where nothing is happening & all we see is a corridor but the intensity, the promise of something nasty is truly gripping. Kubrick’s another great example of that.
How could you write that? Answers on a postcard, please!
‘Jason will send you big hairy pirates if you make him smile. Also, he runs probably the most unique ezine I’ve seen yet.’ - Jodi MacArthur, writer.
‘You can’t say no, you know. He’s big and bad. And a bloody good writer.’ – Luigi Clemente, writer.
(At this point in the proceedings our first interviewer started to complain of violent headaches, the symptoms of which seemed to manifest in the form of vivid hallucinations, most of which he claimed to show Jason Michel’s entourage in their true form. Therefore from here on in we employed a second member of our team to conduct the rest of the interview)
Second Interviewer: (we hear the scrape of what is most likely a wooden stool on the ground as our interviewer takes his place. Somewhere in the vicinity of the recording device we hear the slow drip of water…and what might also be the whispering voices of children…)
Second Interviewer: Anybody reading your influences from Pulp Metal will get a clear idea that your tastes are incredibly diverse. Do you strive to produce that same eclecticism in your own work, or is it inherent, an inseparable part of you which manifests more clearly as you write?
‘Jason Michel is one of the finest writers I have ever encountered. His angry tales portray a vivid sense of drama and character detail, with the rough sensibility of a south-paw fighter. His tales The Wait, and Reynardina in Howl: Dark Tales of the feral and Infernal deliver a one-two punch you won’t likely forget.’ – Mark Crittenden, editor of Howl: Dark Tales of the Feral and Infernal.
JM: Hey, Freud! C’mere! I suppose we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants & there is a reason why each of our individual influences are there. For me, it comes from a passion for ideas. I see no distinction between the so-called High Brow & Low Brow, & I, being a normal kid growing up, can still remember the moment I first read Crime & Punishment & realized that it was neither difficult to read nor tedious. I’ve loved listening to Heavy Metal since I was a nipper, yet I can also feel the beauty in Mahler’s symphonies, or submerge myself in Martin Denny’s exotic world. A noble escapism from the drudgery of taxes & work is all they are, daddy-o! Escapism is vastly underrated.
Second Interviewer: What would you like to see happen in the Small Press? Or what would you like to see less of in the Small Press?
JM: I don’t know if I’m qualified for this. I ain’t no Andrew Gallix or Lynn Alexander. Those people are far more into the whole Small Press scene than myself. I’m a hermit by nature just coming out of my cave. I tend to focus on what I’m doing & to hell with everyone else! The internet has seen an explosion of writing with some great ideas & it has to be said some fucking awful poetry. Me too. But again, that’s only subjective. Those people may have poured their soul into those things.
After all, is it not the process that’s important?
I’m a vagabond who just happens to produce a magazine that some people seem to dig. Still learning all about it. I suppose the main thing is to give newer writers a break & to keep a look out for those ideas. That feeling when Lee Rourke published my story Black Dog about five years ago on the old Scarecrow website will stay with me for a long time.
Second Interviewer: Which piece of work would you identify as illustrating what you want to say as a writer? And which (the recording device picks up what sounds like laughter…nervously the interviewer continues)…story would you say is your favorite in terms of technical ability, or perhaps, let me put it differently, gives you the most satisfaction when reading it.
JM: Well, COABD was the most emotionally draining & taught me lots about writing but when I read my stuff, there’s a certain disassociation that comes along with it. It doesn’t feel like I wrote it. I quite like the ancient idea of a deamon or muse that uses you. That way the old ego doesn’t get so battered when it turns out that you’ve written a big pile of poo. Just some part of yourself playfully fannying around with ideas.
Although, I do enjoy reading the story Looking Through Roadkill For Answers that I had the honor to have published at Full Of Crow magazine. Was chuffed with that one. Shorter pieces & flash are great at for sharpening the literary claws.
Second Interviewer: With your debut novel, Confessions Of A Black Dog how much of it would you say reflects a perspective sharpened by travels?
JM: Sharpened or dulled, I ain’t figured it out yet!
Well, the book does take place in Thailand, Morocco & London, so I guess that my travels were intimately connected to the story. That whole book was, in part, an exorcism & a personal journey, sometimes into places I really didn’t want to go! Thinking back, as I wrote it, I was trying to create a very personal mythology.
It was, after all, inspired by a dream.
In fact all the dreams in the book were real. As I mentioned before dreams (both waking & in sleep) most definitely rear their surprising & beautiful heads in my work. As does masturbation, another form of fantasy.
Second Interviewer: You have two upcoming stories in HOWL an anthology of werewolf themed stories. What can you tell us about these stories without giving too much away, and will we be seeing more horror based stories from you in the future?
JM: I really enjoyed writing both these stories & the limitations that they implied. One was based on the cover & an old British legend. Which I turned on its head. The other was based on the idea of the Norse beserkers. Again trying to do something different with it. It was a funny experience corresponding with Mark Crittenden (the Editor) as we bickered & gnashed our teeth at each other. Some parts were a little too saucy for him yet we finally agreed on a couple of ideas that in their vagueness seemed all the more transgressive!
Another lesson learned.
I think the Howl Anthology was the only time that I’ve ever written for an audience & even then I tried to push the boundaries somewhat. I always figured that way you could write whatever you wanted.
But, yeah, I’m sure I’ll give Horror another stab. But on my terms.
‘Jason Michel’s ’Confessions of a Black Dog’ barks, bites and savages. A rabid stray in a world of pack followers.’
Second Interviewer: Now we know you’ve just finished a pulp novella called Blam! Blam! Bad Eye. Give us an overview of the story, and how long it took to write.
JM: BBBE is a pulpy dystopian revenge story. I love the dystopian & post apocalyptic genres & thought that I’d just give a try at writing a wee story. It is based in a Blighty in the near future and a CCTV camera operative sees the world collapsing all around him yet feels impotent. All he does is watch. Of course, something comes along that changes all that. Basically it’s a yelp & rallying call for the destruction of society as we know it.
No big deal.
“Been a while since I was gut-punched, and smacked around like that. Hesitation is not the name of the game with Jason Michael’s. Straight for the jugular; his words have an industrial strength poetry that holds you rigid, comforting in a life-affirming panic sort of way,” – Ryan Ashton, author of ‘Hark The Sound of Clipped Wings’, and ‘Severance Pay Limited’.
Second Interviewer: Are there any genres with which you particularly identify? If not, are you afraid of negative cross-over with your own work? Or would it appeal to your Pulp Metal mentality to be as attached to many genres as possible? Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable existing outside of them in order to concentrate on a more literature directed course?
JM: See, I find it difficult to describe what I write. Even if I am writing inside a genre it tends to get all shaken up with other shit. Like a bad cocktail. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t & you only realize this as your running to the comfort of the toilet bowl. Let’s call it Pulp Metal. That’s what I write. Un-Purist Pulp Metal.
Which has its negative side as people love their labels, don’t they?
That’s why I initially self published both my books. Didn’t know where send the cheeky little rapscallions. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll find me a nice little genre to settle down with & have some literary kids.
“Without trying to be deliberately enigmatic with regard to the prose of Jason Michel, it must be admitted that it hits at a very distinct nerve and does so with a precision in its disregard, it manages to be at once hollow and alluring. There is something of a razorwalk in his voice, what is rendered to the page something that blurs a reader’s own thought processes with the rhythms of disquiet his characters explore–his writing is something between insight and outright intrusion. The ‘strange whispers in the blood’ that Knut Hamsun was so set to explore, Michel seems to go after with a von Trier sense of antagonistic humanism. ” – Pablo D’Stair, Brown Paper Bag Publishing, editor of ‘Confessions Of A Black Dog’, and author of ‘Kaspar Trualhaine, approximate’ and ’i poisoned you’.
Second Interviewer: You’ve mentioned your plans for the future with Pulp Metal, but where would you like the magazine to be ten years from now? And finally, where would you like to be, as a writer, artist, ten years from now?
JM: I would like PMM to get more bizarre & more fun & more subversive & for more people to get involved & for it to be read in every home in the world & for a fatwa to be placed on my head because of it & for it to grow like a humorous-shaped tumour that destroys all in its path. Really.
But I’ll settle for it just being a place where people can pop in & read some mind-blowing writing & art, leave the odd bit of amusing hate mail, have a few shits & giggles & take away a couple of good cocktail recipes. Like a speakeasy with a good jukebox.
As for me, well, still at it would be a start. That’s a really nasty question as tomorrow is a fucking mystery to me never mind ten years time. Still at it. That’s all. It’s good enough.
(After this interview was concluded we believe our reporters were taken, blindfolded of course, to another undisclosed location. Facts from this point on remain sketchy at best, but from what we were able to gather our staff were forced to participate in ‘medieval ritualistic ceremonies invoking supernatural things best left unnamed’. On being released we believe they forfeited collecting their personal belongings in order to get to the nearest airport and on the earliest flight out of France. Unfortunately en route four of the original team disappeared, and in fact, on landing at Heathrow airport, members of the flight crew denied having seen or spoken to them. The remaining staff reported to our offices, visibly traumatized, and shortly thereafter resigned from their posts).
Reviews of Jason Michel’s work:
Make no mistake, this may be masquerading as some kind of noir semi-biographical novel, however it is a really impressive literary tour de force. What does this mean? Negatively: It means the thing is not as easy to consume as junk food after a night out and it has some proofing errors. Positively: This is the most amazing book I have read this year along with “The Captive Mind” by Milosz who won the nobel prize in 1980.
What is so amazing, three things are: First: The writing style is exceptional, he uses throughout the book numerous talents and techniques for an amazingly rich variety of senses of movement, voice, thought, angles of perception, and action, as a good poet would. You can lift whole passages in this book and they would stand alone as pieces of poetic art.
Second: The drama of the characterisation is unmatched. All his first person characters are intensely real, which is strange because they are all clinically manic and diagnosably bi-polar. Their discordant interactions are disturbing, beautiful, and extreme. I suspect this man has spent time in an asylum or dealing with care in the community and seen beauty in the extreme. The normality of the abnormality is more than noir, it is a rare talent.
Third: The plot unfolds, interacting with the psychology and philosophy of the characters in a linked and representative way. This is not ponderous but brutally gripping, direct, and painful. You could write a significantly longer book on the philosophical personal interactions inherent in this book, and it would be interesting. Given the characters loosening link with our traditional reality, I have not seen a book which questioned the basic reliance on value, meaning, responsibility, and living with the correspondence risk of perceived truth in such an open way.
It has elements of magical (or should I say insane) realism, this is combined with powerful internal conversation and in places as bare a look at the juxtapositions of normal life today without pretension as I can remember. The plot at the same time tells a tale of increasing breakdown/break through, although what if anything is psychotic hallucination is unclear, perhaps more than you thought on first encounter, some of which leaves questions as you think back.
The book’s themes include the power of words, their beginning and ending, if it is so, Jason may be responsible for unleashing this book on the frankly vulnerable minds of generations of literature lovers. Perhaps this book will be forgotten on lulu, but frankly it equally would not surprise me if it became a highly controversial Advanced Level modern literature text within ten years. Do not change it! – Adam Sandell, artist.
Jason Michel’s Confessions of a Black Dog is a novel-length Zen koan. The book follows the adventures of Sam Morgan, who travels through Europe and Thailand. Sam is the main character but the book occasionally switches points of view to other characters. Everyone in the book is alienated in some way. Some are alienated from other people, some from their country, others from themselves. Everyone in the book has given up hope, at least in the American sense of the word, and are consequently both liberated and downtrodden.
Michel’s novel constantly offers unsolvable dichotomies and metaphysical puzzles. Every action, every word, every character in the book is temporal and fleeting and yet everything is eternal. The main question, unanswerable even to Sam himself, is whether he is going insane or whether there is some objective truth in his ability to communicate with dead people, gods and demons.
The reader follows Sam’s line of questioning and, if they are anything like me (and I am nothing if not an “average” reader) begins to feel at some point that the book is providing a definitive answer to the puzzle. But another paragraph or two later, the question is once again muddled and the reader is once again left unsure.
The genius of the book lies in its narrator. At first Dostoyevskian (in that he is omnipresent, is able to relate the exact thoughts and feelings of every character and yet is clearly an actual person, though he never reveals exactly who he is) he slowly reveals himself. The narrator actually becomes the key to understanding the novel, if it’s possible to understand it at all.
In short, the narrator is a great revelation, yet he answers nothing. Confessions of a Black Dog is a book that almost requires multiple readings. The mysteries it raises constantly leading to other questions and puzzles. For days afterward, I carried this book in my mind at work and at home. Highly recommended.” – Pat King, writer.
WARNING: The following story may disturb or inflict unseen side-effects.
Showcase Firsts: Fiction
The Man Next Door is locking himself inside his room.
He feels the heavy brass key in his hand. Oxidized green clefts. Shiny where worn by thumbs. He feels the subtle vibrations flow through it.
From the steel lock and each of its internal mechanisms into his scrawny chicken’s feet fingers. For a full minute, he stands there with his eyelids drawn down. Hooded over his closed windows to the soul. That exists not.
Seeing the ever-changing kaleidoscopic void behind his eyes, hearing and feeling the muffled vibrations of his neighbors as they sit upon sofas; children’s hearts beating as a sex scene appears in a film while their parents are in the room; a dropped glass; an argument about money; smelling the cooked blood of a dog’s dinner; tasting his lunchtime cheese and meat sandwich. Then they open, his eyes do, and he glides into the kitchen on a draft.
He sits down at his ill-chosen white table and sips at his cup of tea. Lapping gently. With patience. He has been waiting for it to cool down enough for him to drink. He waited for two full minutes. That is a long time to wait if you slowly count
He knows that it has been exactly two minutes because of the ticking of the grandfather clock in the living room. Tick. Tock. It is a family heirloom. The clock was once the property of his grandfather. His great-grandfather had been a member of the gentry and his great-grandmother a scullery maid. Scrapings on dark tiles. Threats of silence. Their forced coupling had produced a son. Granddad had been a bastard. Literally. In the ensuing scandal, the grandfather clock had been given to her family as payment. That and nothing else.
His father had been a bastard of a different kind too. Growing up with a chip on his shoulder. He had inherited his family’s vicious streak that bordered on the mad. Had put his son through the hell of family. Persecution had been the norm. Mental and physical. Until one fine day he had slipped and fell into a dog fight pit and the two fanged beasts had stopped their internal conflict and turned upon the broken intruder.
And so, quietly and without a fuss, the clock had been passed to him.
The Man Next Door stares blankly at the wall.
On the wall is a picture of a lion tearing a lamb apart.
The Man Next Door is thinking about his roast.
It is in the oven being cooked and the smell brings an unusual feeling of peace. A fine piece of rump with some potatoes, garlic and rosemary, fresh from his own window box. He stands up to check his cooking and grabs an oven glove.
He opens the oven door and the furnace blasts his face and the aroma wafts up his nostrils and the spitting and sizzling hot meal sounds attack his ears. He leans into the heat. Pulling out the baking tray he turns the potatoes, seeing that they still need to brown on one side. Then he prods the meat and finds it to be still a touch too raw inside.
He likes his flesh cooked. With just enough juices to moisten the mouth.
Another twenty minutes at least.
Then it shall be perfect.
The Man Next Door begins to think about his future.
He wonders where he will be next.
Once he has finished here.
Once his work is all done.
Once everything has come to an end.
He also wonders how much meat he has left and whether he should go out hunting again. It was the one true trait that he inherited from his father. Not the rapturous cruelty of persecution. A joy of the hunt was his father’s true legacy. But whereas his father chased only for sport; he, at least, ate all that he trapped.
The Man Next Door stands up wearily, pushing up with his arms and legs to remain standing without wobbling. Sinews stretch and contract. He has not eaten in a couple of days and his tall skinny frame needs sustenance. The lean years have made everybody that little more prudent. Everyone except the rich, of course. They still gorge themselves. High in their ivory towers. He makes his way over to the other side of the kitchen. His lanky lurch clears it in two small steps and he is stood in front of his wide old freezer. There are traces of mold on the hinges. Chipped white paint.
He has many things in there.
For a rainy day.
His is a tradition taste.
Using all his effort he forces the freezer door open. It can be awfully tight. There. It breathes the air around it. Frozen steam spews forth and he moves things this way and that. Looking for the …
There it is.
The girl’s head.
Such a pretty head. Frozen, yet her blue eyes still open wide. They look up up up into the sky. Long brittle brunette hair. Like candy-floss in a ponytail. Mouth hanging in distress. A distress now finished. Her once soft skin now solid. Blood congealed.
He had been proud of the cut he had made in her neck.
Such a clean cut.
He gently moves it to one side and finds a thigh. A liver. And a breast. He has enough meat for a while. It is so sad. Life made up of things eating things eating things eating things eating things …
He thumps the freezer close.
Memories of the pretty girl walking around and chewing gum.
Leaning against the wire fence of a high school. He had smelt her blood. That is what had brought him to her. The blood between her legs. She had been on heat.
And he had hunted her.
As a wolf hunts a deer.
The lion rips the lambs head off.
His head turns slowly and surely.
His upper torso follows, along with his arms.
From his hips, all the way down to his feet.
He turns with measure and poise and enters what was designed as a living room. It is no longer a place of leisure and relaxation. No TV is switched on and no children play with toys on its floor. There has never been a domestic argument in there. Now, at this moment, this very second, it is something quite different. It is a plan. A plot. There are faces and drawings all over the walls. Some have an X scrawled on them. You are there and so am I. We are his pawns. Nobody knows that he is there or what he is doing. There are bits of string criss-crossing, connected to chess pieces on the floor. Nobody has the slightest clue. There are scribbled notes on old receipts and words carved into the floor with a knife.
Some understood in the past but not anymore.
No one understands anything anymore.
Not a damn thing.
Jason Michel can be contacted at Pulp Metal magazine for autopsies, groovy tunes and exorcisms of the spiritual self.
In two weeks time we will be showcasing the work and views of American writer Gerald Johnston, a novelist and short story writer who knows no bounds in taking us way beyond the pale of dark fiction into a heartland all his own.
Until then, go carefully into the night, heed the shadows and let the darkness run riot.
Showcase First – Paul D. Brazill
The Journal is proud to present the first in a series of special showcases examining the work of new and exciting writers from around the world. Each showcase will consist of interviews, excerpts from the featured writer’s stories, ‘overviews’ from other writers and of course, one juicy hunk of prime fiction.
Inside the mind, inside the head…what’s the difference…this is his mental landscape…welcome to dark alleyways, bullets, death and double indemnity…
Meet the man they call the Alan Sillitoe of crime writing.
Paul hales from the north east of England, but is currently based in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where he is busy producing his own unique brand of crime fiction. The Journal having been big fans of Paul’s work for quite some time decided to put some questions to the man; tying him to a chair and slapping him ’round procured the desired results.
The following interview was conducted under duress…his.
’The sun was melting the tar coloured night into morning as we reached the top of the hill. The Kid sat down against the windmill cradling the dying Dog in his arms. I looked out across the fields towards the beach where smoke rose from the burning car. Sirens screamed in the distance, melding with the sound of the seagulls.’
(The Ballad of the Kid – this can be found at Thrillers Killers n Chillers)
Interviewer: (we hear the thwack of a hard callused hand against the face of today’s guest ‘interviewee’). Okay, Paul, that’s good, you’re awake. What’s that? Can you have a drink? Sure. Not a problem. Only you’ve some questions to answer first. What’s that? Who said anything about playing fair? You want that drink you’d better get yer head outta yer ass, or Big Charlaine is apt to go upside yer head with more than that bottle of Jack you keep eyeing up.
Okay, Mr. Brazill, so we’ve got this skeleton sitting all by its lonesome. What’s that again? Where’d we get it? Well, ain’t you all dumb and soft in the head all of a sudden. We got it fom Joe ‘Merchandise’ Flafferty, you remember Joe, don’t you? Yeah, from the look on yer face, I’d say you know ‘ole Joe.
Anyway, like I said, we’ve got this skeleton. Only this skeleton is sorta looking a little too on the lean side, if you catch my drift. So, we’ve gotta put some meat on the skeleton, flesh it out, put some clothes on it, make it recognizable again.
That skeleton’s you, Mr. Brazill.
Don’t look so surprised. You knew we’d get to this sooner or later.
Interviewer: You were brought up in Hartlepool. I heard if ever there was a place a guy would have it tough growing up, then that’s the place the lads are sorted out from the lasses? Tell me what you remember.
PB: Well, I didn’t start writing until many years after I left Hartlepool – I lived in London for about ten years before I moved to Poland -but the influence is clearly there and it’s dirty fingerprints seem to be smudging my writing more and more.
Hartlepool in a town on the north east coast of England. If you look at it on the map you’ll see that it’s at a point that juts out a little bit and, in fact, all the main roads bypass the place. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up there by accident. It is known as a town of high unemployment, a crap football team though much better now than when I was a kid -and former dark fortress of Peter Mandelson ( cue thunder and lightening).. We also, allegedly, hung a monkey there. But we thought it was French…
Hartlepool is the runt of the pack in that part of England and the people see themselves as misfits and outsiders compared to the ‘big cities’ of Middlesbrough and Stockton. It’s actually got some very nice parts but most people wouldn’t know that!
I think it’s an oddball town and there are more than a few oddballs in the town – and all the better for it! Some of the characters I met growing up there shuffle into my stories from time to time.
I left school at with one O level and have had no higher education. I didn’t spend a lot of time at school before I left either! I’ve worked as a clerk on the docks, in a toy shop, in a second hand record shop and mostly as a welfare rights and housing adviser. There’s plenty of material there. My dad was actually from Gloucester – he came to Hartlepool when he was in the navy during WW2- and his dead was an Irish gypsy. The surname is Irish. My oldest brother was a musician whose buried in Gambia. I live in Poland.
‘Wrapping his wife’s body in the fluffy white bedroom rug, Oliver supposed that he should have felt guilty, depressed or scared but he didn’t. Far from it. In fact, he felt as free and as light as a multi-coloured helium balloon that had been set adrift to float above a brightly lit funfair.’
(The Tut – this can be found at Beat to A Pulp)
‘THE NOIR BUKOWSKI!’ - KEITH RAWSON
‘PAUL BRAZILL IS A VERY OBSERVATIONAL WRITER WHO’S STYLE IS REMINISCENT OF ALAN SILLITOE BUT A LOT DARKER AND GRITTIER. BUT THERE IS HUMOUR WITHIN HIS STORIES- AND THAT’S DARK AS WELL. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ ANY OF HIS WORK THEN NOW IS THE TIME TO LOOK HIM UP. PERSONALLY, I WOULD LIKE AN ANTHOLOGY OF HIS SHORT STORIES SITTING ON MY SHELF. - BROKEN TRAILS
Interviewer: That’s more like it. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Yeah, sure you can have a smoke. Here. What? Untie your hands? If I do that, you better promise not to go making a fuss. I wouldn’t want to have to put me gloves on and get all bloody now, would I? Right. Now. Tell us everything about this first story of yours, ‘Six Sentences’.
PB: When I stumbled into the world of internet writing – via Keith Rawson and Nick Quantrill at My Space – about 18 months ago, I came across the writing of Cormac Brown. I first read a story called Swerved at Powder Burn Flash – a site for crime stories of 1000 words or less – and thought it was very smart – dry as a nun’s knickers – and it conveyed a lot in less than 1000 words. I found out that this was called flash fiction and I developed a taste for it.
Later I found Cormac’s blog – Cormac Writes -which took me to Six Sentences. I used to be in a couple of post-punk bands in the early 80’s. I took up the bass after reading an interview with the bass player from XTC who said that four thick strings was easier than 6 skinny strings. I thought I’d take the same positive approach to writing!
I’d had a fear of writing for most of my life but Six Sentences at least seemed like something I might finish! However, it wasn’t so easy! So I gave up!
Being a bit of a tart, I ‘friended’ Cormac at Crimespace and Facebook and he encouraged me to start a blog and give Six Sentences another try.
In December 2008 I sent a story to 6S and was well pleased when Rob McEvily published the story – Black & White & Red All Over. It got positive responses so I sent another – The Pint Of No Return. This was aptly published on New Year’s Eve also got a good response. I also sent a story to the print publication Six sentences Volume Two and THAT was accepted.
Shortly after that Aldo Calcagno at Powder Burn Flash asked me to send a story and David Cranmer also suggested that I send one to his new ezine Beat To A Pulp.
Along the way I’d spotted a cracking ezine called A Twist Of Noir and so in March 2009 I decided to write and send THREE stories to ATON. Christopher Grant kindly accepted them all and the response was very good although BSC Review called one of the stories ‘borderline-forgettable’!
From then on I sent out as many stories to as many places as possible thinking of it as ‘Growing Up In Public’, as Lou Reed once said. Thriller Killers n Chillers has also been a good outlet for me because the editors Col Bury and Matt Hilton are a couple of northern lads and they get my sense of humour!
If these platforms didn’t exist I know that I wouldn’t be writing…
‘The morning after Charlotte killed her father, the air tasted like lead and the sky was gun metal grey. She stared out of the window of her East London flat, barely focusing on the rows of concrete blocks being smudged by the Autumn rain.
The ensuing days of gloom collided with weeks and the weeks crashed into months.
And then it was Spring.’
(The Friend Catcher – this can be found at A Twist Of Noir and a couple of other places)
Interviewer: What about origins, Paul, what about them? Where’s a young lad like you get his inspiration?
PB: I always fancied short stories and Damon Runyon was one of the first people who made me want to give it a try. I liked the fact that he had his own world and was funny! Mark E Smith, Galton & Simpson, Patricia Highsmith. Bit of a mish-mash.
‘The autumn night had draped itself over the city and a sharp sliver of moon garroted the sky as Lena pulled a Zippo from the pocket of her black PVC raincoat and lit a Galois, dissolving into the darkness as the flame flickered out.
‘So, tomorrow at midnight, then,’ she said in a voice as dark and as bitter as an Irish coffee.
‘Midnight it is,’ I replied to the fading sound of high heels click, click, clicking on wet pavement.’
(Cold London Blues – this will be in the book Harbinger*33 sometime this year)
Interviewer: I’ll tell ya something, you’re sure full of surprises. Now, I must admit I’ve got a soft spot for one or two of yer stories, but I ain’t tellin. I’m no fairy. But what about you, Mr. Brazill, which of ye tales makes yer ma smile with pride, so to speak?
PB: I was pleased when I wrote Swamplands also as I really wanted to be able to write a 100-word story. I think I still have a punk approach to writing and 6S, Flash Shot – who published Swamplands first, and Blink Ink – 50 words or less! – remind me of bands like Swell Maps, or early Wire. The Nightwatchman, The Magic Hour, When The Snowman Brings The Snow are stories I’m proud of because they were supposed to be funny and, amazingly, people thought they were funny! The Tut was my second submission to BTAP. David rightly turned down my first story which was all exposition. I cut to the chase with The Tut, which is, I think, my strong point.
Interviewer: I ‘erd something doin’ the rounds recently, and I ain’t sure you’ve been too generous with the truth. What’s that I’m saying? No idea what I’m on about? Really? You sure it’s a wise thing clamming up now? No, I didn’t think so. Some of the guys been tellin’ me you got something going down with ‘Radgepacket’? It true you wrote a story called ‘Nightwatchman’?
PB: I knew of Byker Books through Nick ‘Broken Dreams’ Quantrill and I’d read Radgepacket Online and enjoyed it. Nick encouraged me to send a story and I did want to write a few stories about a Hartlepool PI in the vein of the Albert Finney film ‘Gumshoe’ . The hero is named after my mate of 30 years, songwriter Peter Ord, and the title of the story is one of his songs.
(As is Play Dead Until You Die – which will be published in the Harbinger*33 anthology)
I sent off The Nightwatchman and was pleased as punch drunk that Ed accepted it. So, I’ll be in Radgepacket Four along with the great Ray Banks. Can’t beat that after 18 months of writing.
‘PAUL BRAZILL WRITES THE BEST SHORT PULP FICTION ON THE NET TODAY. BAR NONE. IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, I’LL TAKE YOU OUTSIDE FOR A KNUCKLEDUSTER SANDWICH WITH A BASEBALL INSERT FOR DESSERT. HIS STORIES ARE LEAN, MEAN AND ARE DRIPPING WITH MILES MORE INVENTIVENESS AND STREAKY DARK HUMOUR THAN ANY OF THE BUKOWSKI WANABEES OUT THERE TODAY. HIS WORK HAS BEEN FEATURED IN POWDER FLASH BURN AND BEAT TO A PULP AMONGST OTHERS. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN AND ENJOY THE RIDE.’ JASON MICHEL, OUTSIDER WRITERS COLLECTIVE
‘Paul’s work leaves it’s prose dangling from the eyelids, it’s plots wrapped around the jugular, its characters old-school, hardboiled and yet refreshingly NOW. His ideas have so many disparate elements clinging to the gleaming framework of these sleek shiny beasts he calls stories, you wonder how the hell he manages to keep things so ship-tight. All hail the chief of crime, the bad man of noir.’ FRANK DUFFY, THE JOURNAL.
Interviewer: Now a little birdie, one whose name I’m not at liberty to repeat unless they start digging up the foundations of some gin-joint over on the waterfront, which they won’t, cause my boss runs the gaff, told me you have your own gang of respectable bigwigs. You better tell me who these fellas are that you admire so much, and I mean the ones in the same line of business you seem so fond of touting.
PB: I’m no expert on crime fiction. Apart from Elmore, Jim Thompson and Highsmith, I haven’t immersed myself in that may writers though I’ve read odds and sods. I used to like Pelecano’s but he got a bit preachy.
Ellroy to me is like listening to a Can or King Crimson LP. I can admire it but it’s hard to love. I recently found out his mother was murdered? He’s kept that quiet. Probably didn’t want to exploit it.
The past year I’ve discovered lots of writers that I’d never even heard of before and it’s been great. The unholy trinity of Scots writers – Ray Banks, Tony Black, Alan Guthrie – have really impressed me. Nick Quantrill, Ken Bruen, Donna Moore, Matt Hilton, Charlie Williams, Adrian McKinty tickle my fancy.
Writers from the north of England, Scotland and Ireland have an edge and a style and humour to their work which resonates with me.
Dave Zeltserman is the best of the American novelists but I’m really looking forward to Hilary Davidson’s novel. Based on her short stories she’s a biggie! And Keith Rawson too, though he may be a bit too sick to be too mainstream!
On the net there’s loads of stuff but I always keep an eye open for Cormac, Eric Beetner, Lee Hughes, Al Tucher, Patrica Abbot. I’m sure I’ve missed out a few faves but it’s a golden time!
‘NO ONE ELSE WRITES THEM THIS SHORT, THIS DARK, AND THIS GOOD’ -PULP SERENADE.
‘IF YOU’VE NOT READ ANY OF PAUL’S WORK I URGE YOU DO TO SO – YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT,SEE.’ – THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
Interviewer: Okay, Mr. Brazill. We’re almost there. Just one more question before I let you go. And this one’s the biggie, so no holding back on the verbal sauce, let me at it.
What’s the score for the future? What you got mapped out down in old Bad Town? I know you’re hiding somethin’.
(It was at this juncture during the interview that Mr. Brazill succumbed to the rigours of the our interrogation techniques. Hindsight says giving him the bottle of Jack’s wasn’t such a swell idea either. But that’s hindsight for you, always stating the bleeding’ obvious. The rest of the answers you’re about to read were ‘hastily obtained’ from several well-known colleagues of Mr.Brazill’s.)
Paul Brazill’s upcoming work this first quarter of 2010:
The Night Watchman in Radgepacket Four along with Danny King, Ray Banks, Andy Rivers & others (March)
Stamp Of A Vamp in Howl: Dark Tales of the Feral (March)
Swamplands & Crimson Trail in Daily Flash: 365 Days of Flash Fiction from Pill Hill Press ( December)
Play Dead Until You Die & Cold London Blues in HARBINGER*33 With stories from Eric Beetner, Michael J Solender, Pamila Payne, Kevin Michaels and MANY more plus amazing illustrations. To be published at some time this year.
This Old House in Bats In The Belfry, Anne Frasier’s Halloween Anthology/Halloween Issue.
M in Flash! from Lame Goat Press – to be announced.
Online, Paul will be kicking off a serialised story called Warsaw Moon at the Disenthralled noir special in April.
Paul has a few interviews popping up at his blog http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/and at Pulp Metal Magazine.
He is also currently working on a novella, RED WINTER, and another Peter Ord story/ novella called A Man On The Run.
Showcase Firsts Story
by Paul D. Brazill
Elvis awoke in a cold, dank sweat, hungover from bourbon and bad dreams. The nightmare had consisted of him being hunted through a swamp by the murderous spectre of his stillborn twin and his pounding heartbeat seamed to echo through the mansion.
He stumbled into the bathroom , splashed cold water on his face and looked in the mirror to face his own ashen reflection and that of his grinning doppelganger.
Aaron tightly wrapped the umbilical cord around Elvis’ throat and pulled it until his brother breathed no more.
The king is dead, long live the king, he muttered.
(This story originally appeared as a 100 word story that was at Flashshots and later reprinted at A Twist Of Noir)
Interviewer: You okay there…whoa…steady now, Mr. Brazill. That’s right, grab yer bottle of Scotland’s finest. Charlie! Show him out will ya…Charlie, you listen’ ya bum…there you go Mr Writer…see you on the other side…hmmmm
(Turns to cohorts)
Interviewer: Hey, tough sonfabitch for a writer, wasn’t he, lads. What? Yeah. Sure. Bring him in. Now Mr. Jason Michel, you gonna be a good boy…?
Paul Brazill for his sins can be contacted on his website for heists, long cons, and quick-dry cement by the kilo.
In a week The Journal will be looking at the work of Jason Michel, writer and editor of Pulp Metal magazine and numerous other strange offerings. His is a truly unique perspective, and we’re proud to bring you an exclusive interview with the enigmatic chap.
Until then, go carefully into the night, heed the shadows and let the darkness run riot…