“This book has some serious grip.” – David S. Atkinson
“They’re barely in their teens, but already they’re streetwise, courageous and honourable, qualities that are tested to the nerve-wracking limit in this gritty coming-of-age tale from a master of description. Compelling reading.” – Brendan Gisby, author of The Bookie’s Runner
“Beech expertly balances the nostalgia of childhood adventures with the brutality of life in a very grown-up and dark town. City of Forts deserves to sit equal with the greats as a piece of entertainment and a study of modern life’s struggle.” – Aidan Thorn, author of Rival Sons
“An excellent slow burn novel.” – Keith Nixon, author of the Solomon Kane and Konstantin series.
“Jason Beech’s City Of Forts masterfully blends urban noir with coming of age drama. Tense, atmospheric, and haunting.” – Paul D. Brazill, author of Too Many Cooks and A Case of Noir
“Beech writes in attention-grabbing, visceral prose…” – J. Salem
“This was a fast-paced action adventure. It kept me on my toes and turning the pages to see what was going to happen next. Very good read!” – Latisha Austin
“Never Go Back is worth your time. Especially if you like watching people suffer or enjoy chillin’ with the bad guys.” – Aurelia Pitchstone
This thing has been on the Kindle for a few years, which shows the mad build-up of stuff I’ve stored on there, but this was worth the wait.
It kicks off with Owen Laukkanen’s N.F.G., an excellent slice of fishing boat noir, where the story revolves around the careless owner’s son and an old hand, Earl, whose full of stories nobody but the narrator listens to. Crammed around a tiny table in the ship’s galley in their quieter moments, tension arises from the son’s attitude and builds to a Biblical climax. Excellent rise in tension amidst the pressure of hauls, the wild sea, and dive-bombing seagulls. A great way to start the anthology.
They’re all very good noir tales, and one of the standouts is CS DeWildt’s Decomposition is the Universe Forgetting Itself. This bit of madness starts with Tommy Skaggs stealing money from a neighbouring trailer, and you’re already against him with the way he talks to the young girl he finds alone in there. He walks out with the money and an uneasy feeling in the reader’s stomach, and it gets worse when he robs the store and kills the cashier. You think the rest would be about his escape, but when he jumps over the wall into the trees which neighbour the backyard of a demented old woman, the story slides into a weirdness that’ll make you gag all the way to the end. It’s brilliant.
Eric Beetner’s Ice Cold Alibi is Hitchcock stirred into Sweeney Todd, with a protagonist you’ll love to hate, a tale of strong women and useless men. Top stuff.
Liam Sweeny’s God’s Country is a sweaty drug-runner tale that’ll hurt your stomach as you read it, and Scott Adlerberg’s The Gulf is a Belize set beauty stitching racial snipes and gender fears together in a complex tale. A white woman from Vermont travels with her black Brooklyn boyfriend to a so-called independent Belize where British troops still patrol – Adlerberg weaves in colonialism, white-woman-with-black-man anxieties, black-man-with-white-woman anxieties, male-female power imbalances, male pride, and female anger at having to deal with men’s obsession with her body so she can’t just be. Throw in an unwanted pregnancy and you have enough here for a novel, but Adlerberg, without an ounce of preachiness, makes an impactful noir tale out of it all in a short space. This one had me waking up thinking about it the next morning more than the others, but it’s a cherry on top of an excellent cake all round.
You can buy All Due Respect, Issue 2, from Amazons US and UK.
Matt Phillips’ You Must Have a Death Wish is a fun blast of noir which follows three men through their disastrous decision-making – Moonie Sykes who is branching out to become a hit-man and who finds it difficult to harden his heart for it; Gato, a man so pissed at an associate he wants Moonie to kill him and then maybe set him up for the murder, and Larry Aces, the dodgy property businessman who screwed Gato over.
If you’ve read any Matt Phillips you’ll expect violence, some offbeat conversations, and an explosive finale. I powered through this one, and though there’s some gruesome acts to make you wince, this felt more of a lighthearted romp from Phillips than the other two I’ve read – Know Me from Smoke and Countdown where the consequences really hurt.
The main man, Moonie, is a fantastic character, full of heart, always looking for a way up, but somehow lacking the immorality you need to get ahead in the crime world. Gato is a lizard – cold, calculating, and holds a grudge only the splash of blood can cool. Larry Aces is funny, wildly immoral, performs one act you can’t ever forgive him for, and spews rubbish out of his mouth every sentence. A proper scumbag.
The one character I didn’t buy is Zelda who hooks up with Larry Aces after he goes on the lam, drawn way too thin compared to the richness Phillips always gives his characters. I didn’t get what she wanted, she seemed to hate Aces and yet stayed with him it seems just for the size of his dick.
Beau Johnson has dropped in for a cup of tea laced with beer and hardcore violence to talk about his new book, All of Them to Burn, out on 24 February from Down & Out Books. I just need to know who the author is he speaks of.
Hi, Beau, what’s this new book you’ve written?
Right out of the gate then, is it? Okay. I see how this works. But first, Jason, I want to thank you for having me. You have always been so gracious with me, my answers notwithstanding. Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, the new book is the same as the previous books I suppose. New stories, of course. New adventures. But set up the same way the others have played out. Some one-offs. Some time-travel. But at its heart sits what always has: Bishop Rider and his continued struggle. More to the point: the end of it.
Bishop Rider rolls on, righting the world’s wrongs – but the world has a whole lot of wrong. How does Bishop cope with this knowledge, that his revenge can never be finished in his lifetime?
He knows. Has accepted the fact many times over. But it doesn’t deter the man. “It’s not the way killin’ is done.” He’d say, or something to that effect, and steamrolls on in an attempt to get as many as he can before he can no longer “go to work.”
And how about redemption. Bishop seeks it, but the things he does – even if it is to the scum of the Earth – must pile on the weight of his sins. Do you see him ever reaching a point of redemption?
Never. The man has too much hate. I even broach this very subject in ALL OF THEM TO BURN. In one story, a character tells Bishop he thought he’d feel different after Bishop lets this man kill the man who’d killed his child. “That’s the secret, Hoss,” Bishop says to this man. “You never do.”
How has Bishop developed since The Big Machine Eats, his second outing.
Well, funny you should ask. Seeing as I’ve always told Bishop’s story out of sequence for some reason, many things have occurred since the Big guy last ate. One, he continues to deal with the fallout of being down a limb. Not a whole limb, mind you, just the bottom part of what I call his kicking leg. Then there’s the whole Kincaid thing, which involves what Rider sees as his greatest mistake, and how it comes back to haunt him. There’s also the bit about his death, too, but maybe we save that for another day.
You’ve noted that people around you give you sideways glances after reading your work. Now I know it’s fiction, but what we write comes out of us. What percentage of you is Bishop Rider, and what do you tell friends who question your state of mind?
Ha! 90/10 split all the way! Rider being the furthest thing from his creator as you can possibly get. Which makes it all the more enjoyable when I do get those sideway glances (insert maniacal laughter here).
What’s your view on the state of the world?
I can’t, m’man. It kills me. Apologies.
You’re a massive advocate for other writers, which is top stuff. Who are you mad for right now?
I’m currently reading ORPHAN X by Gregg Hurwitz. Great stuff so far. And my last read was MY DARKEST PRAYER by Shawn Cosby. Top notch. Great voice. Great story. Great book. As I’ve been known to say: go on, get some. On the horizon I have GRETCHEN by Shannon Kirk and MAXINE UNLEASHES DOOMSDAY by Nick Kolakowski.
You’re itching to write. Life gets in the way and you end the day with your plans still in your head. Out of ten, how mad are you and how do you deal with it?
Since my wife and kids got me this handy dandy cell phone four years ago not so mad. I mean, I’ve now written one and half books on a phone for crying out loud! Weird times, my friend. Weird times.
You’ve said you’re an acquired taste. What kind of reader loves you all over their taste buds?
More than I ever thought would, to tell you the truth. I feel I’ve gotten better at writing, or maybe stronger is a fairer word, but I’ll acknowledge I took a hit early in my career, just before A BETTER KIND OF HATE came out. A bigger name than I will ever be, a writer I loved, let’s just say I wasn’t their acquired taste. And I know I’ll never be to everyone’s liking, I do, and you’d have to be some kind of moron to think along such lines, but it doesn’t mean it hurts any less to understand that someone you admired sees you as such.
What’s your next book? Is it written, planned, or still brewing and stewing in your mind?
Too soon to tell, but I will say this: a funny thing happened on the way to editing ALL OF THEM TO BURN…
Any last words, Beau?
Not only is Jason Beech a gentlemen and fellow wordsmith of the dark, you should check out his books too! I hear the latest one is a corker. All told, during my next purchase round, I might just have to get it myself.
You can buy All of Them to Burn direct from publisher, Down & Out Books, or from AmazonsUS, UK, And more.
Since Beau and I talked he’s announced that he will release another book featuring Bishop Rider, Brand New Dark. When the time comes I’ll take the poolball out of his mouth and allow him to talk about it.
In the meantime, get involved in some Bishop Rider stories –
Shamus Dust is a postwar London-set whodunit noir thriller that is so rich you have to take your time over it. It starts with a murder, which rolls into a body-count high enough to keep the American PI Newman on his toes, involving the secrets of the city’s rich, their affairs, the corruption of London City policemen, and Roman ruins exciting enough to stall redevelopment riches to certain developers.
Roger has the atmosphere of a ruined, snowy London down so much you can feel the cold and hear the crunch under your slippered feet. The conversations drip with classic black and white noir, and some of the colour she puts into the descriptions read like poetry. Sometimes, it’s a bit too much – I liked the words so much sometimes that I lost the thread of the plot with all the situational detail. But when these characters talk you’ll put on your fedora and hang onto the characters’ coattails to see where they’ll take you.
Joanne M. Reinbold is at Messy Business this festive New Year’s Eve. She’s a lovely person with a dark mind. The ending to her novella, Missing, still plays on my stomach and spine, usually when I’m not expecting it.
A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that (???). What words do you have for such a philistine?
My mom and dad used to say that frequently. Not something their fiction reading and writing kid wanted to hear. This is what I told them: Just because non-fiction is supposedly factual, doesn’t mean someone didn’t make up those facts. Every day, we find out that something we believed to be fact is no more than an individual’s or a group of people’s interpretations of a thing, person, or event, or even completely made up. Our understanding of those things changes when new information comes to light or the misinformation is revealed. Also, non-fiction often keeps readers at a comfortable emotional distance, while fiction can bring life, emotion, feeling, and perspective to people, places, and events in a way that most non-fiction can’t, and that makes some people uncomfortable. It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone now and then, so don’t be a wimp, put on your big kid pants, and give that “fiction” a try.
What must a protagonist have to make you read on?
For me to keep reading, a protagonist needs to be remarkable or fascinating in some way (preferably many ways) and they need to be involved and engaged in a thought-provoking story—I like to learn new things and I like it when a story can change my opinion, thinking, outlook—that engages me both intellectually and emotionally.
Do you need a likeable protagonist?
No, definitely not. I’m a sucker for the “unlikeable” protagonist when they’re done well. Sherlock Holmes is a good example. He’s quite off-putting in many ways: arrogant, superior, dismissive, rude at times, but he’s also active, brilliant, mysterious, unpredictable, and in some instances, even heroic.
Name a great antagonist, novel or movie, and what they do for you.
I’ll name two, both created by Thomas Harris. Francis Dolarhyde from Red Dragon and Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs. Harris pulls no punches with his antagonists, Dolarhyde and Lecter are completely believable, and as a result, absolutely terrifying. Once they’ve been introduced, the reader doesn’t even need to experience them committing a crime, just the knowledge of their presence infuses those stories with incredible tension. It’s quite amazing.
What makes you throw a book out the window?
A story that has no point, no heart, no authenticity. A story that feels like the author doesn’t care or is copying someone else badly.
Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?
I have done a time or two, but I would say in those cases the novels weren’t so much dodgy as ambitious and difficult. Also, in both cases, I had great respect and admiration for the authors. If it’s just poorly done, no, certainly not. That’s an exercise that leads to pain and frustration, sometimes anger.
What gets you writing? A great novel, maybe. Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?
All of the above. I’m a very curious person, and like Sherlock Holmes, I maintain a large compendium of unusual, strange, odd, baffling, and weird things and occurrences which I discover in various ways and catalogue for future reference.
What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?
My first book was a novelette. I was able to keep everything, all the details, organized in my mind. Learning to do that was very helpful, but my second book is a much longer story and I’m finding I need to keep notebooks, make timelines, write chapter synopses, and create “trails” through the chapters in order to keep track of everything. I enjoy it, but it’s a lot of work.
What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?
Investigating a brutal murder, my detectives discover scams targeting the elderly, cybercrime, a rural crime ring, and immigration issues which make sorting out the murder quite difficult.