With a mutual nod Paul D. Brazill and I pulled nylons – really nice and soft on the skin – over our faces and charged into the bank. I jammed the doors while Paul fired a shot at the ceiling. Plaster sprinkled my head and Brazill ducked, all nonchalant, at the strip light’s un-moored swing.
“Everybody on the floor and don’t move a damn muscle,” I shouted.
Customers screamed and the staff raised their hands as instructed. Brazill supervised the transfer of beautiful pound notes into our holdalls and told the old cashier she had nothing to worry about, “You’ll see out your retirement – just finish the job.”
My smile expanded at how Brazill would answer my questions now I’d agreed to help slip a few illegal notes into our pockets …
But the nylon must have strapped Brazill’s grin tight because he seemed a little unsure. Aye, we’d not yet finished the job, but … life’s sunrise glowed just beneath the horizon’s rim and I would get my answers. He pulled the nylon above his mouth and sucked air through his teeth.
“What?” I said.
I raised my weapon at the cashier who raised his head an inch too high off the floor.
Brazill put a hand on his hip and rubbed his chin with the gun-hand. “What we’re doing, it’s just not right.”
“It’s not what?”
“I mean, come on … look at these fine people …”
I surveyed these fine people. They were laying in puddles of their own sweat and piss. A man with a tattoo of a tear beneath his right eye drowned that tear in real salt.
“I mean, it’s a lovely day, these fine people are just out enjoying their day, and us pointing a gun in their faces – it’s bound to put a dampener on your day, don’t you think?”
“If you’re on the receiving end, yeah.”
Staff paused, the Queen in their hands raised an eyebrow above the bags where they should continue to dump her.
“This was your idea,” I said.
“I know, I know. The money, the money. But it’s a sin.”
I pursed my lips. I shot the high roof as a man shuffled close to the door. He quivered and yelped and said he only needed a breath of fresh air.
“You want to go and get a bottle of gin?” I said to Brazill.
“Would you mind? I can’t sin without gin.”
“And you’ll come back …” I bit my lip, “and answer my questions?”
He offered me a cheeky smile and crept out to head for the offy. I craned my neck to check his whereabouts while I controlled my crowd. They’d sensed the heart had left this operation, and it almost had when the sirens flashed their blue through the windows. The game had to be up. A policeman told me through a megaphone that they had the bank surrounded, that I should come out with my hands up, or release the prisoners.
“Brazill, you bastard, I want my answers.”
A big old burp came from above and Brazill rappelled down a zipline with a bottle of gin clamped by his armpit and a hand out.
“What about the money?” I shouted above the megaphone outside, the crying inside, and the whirr of the helicopter upside.
“All this … ” he waved a hand across the scene, “I was just messin’ with your head, fella. Let’s grab a pint and you can ask me those questions.”
We zoomed up the line and smashed through the glass ceiling, dodged and weaved to escape the helicopter’s gaze, until we managed to park our arses on a bar stool at The Peacock Inn where Brazill raised a pint of John Smiths.
“What did you want to ask?”
Paul D. Brazill has written a bottomless well-worth of short stories, diamonds scattered across a ton of anthologies and online magazines. His highly rated novellas include A Case of Noir, The Guns of Brixton, Too Many Crooks, and Big City Blues. They’re action-packed and very funny.
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?
Paul D. Brazill (PDB): That’s a pity. Life’s short – and ultimately futile. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
What must a protagonist have to make you read on?
PDB: Personality. Personality goes a long way. Especially something with bumps and nodules. And spikes. Spikes are good.
Do you need a likeable protagonist?
PDB: Preferably not. I don’t even need likeable people, truth be told.
Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.
PDB: Brighton Rock by Graham Greene.
“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him” From its brilliant opening line, Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (1938) grabs you by the throat and almost strangles you with its intensity. The lives of rich and diverse characters, such as big hearted Ida Arnold who investigates Hale’s murder, and Pinkie, the psychotic young gangster, intertwine in a gripping novel that is well-deserved of its classic status. The seaside town of Brighton itself is also one of the book’s strongest characters, as the glitz and grit collide.
What makes you throw a book out the window?
PDB: Nothing. If I don’t enjoy something I stop doing it. See question 1.
What gets you writing? A great novel, maybe? Something you saw on the street or on the TV? Something else?
PDB: I just start writing and see what comes out but it’s more likely to be something from life. Something ridiculous. Or sometimes a title TWOCed from a song I like.
What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?
PDB: Absolutely nothing, I expect. I don’t have much of a character arc.
What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?
PDB: Last Year’s Man is a seaside noir. An ageing hit man returns to his home town for a life of peace and quiet but he can’t escape his violent past.
Where can readers connect with you?
Here’s the bio: Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, Last Year’s Man, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Polish, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has had his writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. His blog is here.
You can buy his books from HERE.
It’s only beneath the bar, in a drunken haze, that I saw the money bags in Brazill’s hands as he stood in the pub’s doorway. He offered me a grin and a wink and a sorry shrug of the shoulders as he blended into the mist and the crowd outside the pub. I reached out with a groan as cops with guns replaced him in the pub’s entrance.
Ah well, I’d got what I needed.