Messy Business – Books, Writing, Stuff

Books and books and books …


Author Interview

Beau Johnson’s All of Them to Burn.

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 Amazons US, 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 pool ball out of his mouth and allow him to talk about it.

In the meantime, get involved in some Bishop Rider stories

Known Associates published by Story and Grit.

Knit One, Purl Two published by Shotgun Honey

Displeased published by Spelk Fiction

Interview with Jo Perry, author of Everything Happens

Jo Perry is the highly rated author of the Dead series of books, which follow Charlie and his dog, Rose. They’re both dead, but they’re not done – they have a mystery to solve. Monty Python’s Eric Idle said of it: “Starts with a bang and goes on surprising. Highly enjoyable and unique…”

Now Jo has a novella coming out and she’s popped into Messy Business to talk all about it.


Hi Jo, you have a new novella coming out, Everything Happens, published by Fahrenheit Press, which is one side of a double story shared with Derek Farrell. What’s your story all about?

My novella, Everything Happens is Vegas Noir – a departure from my Los Angeles-based mystery series about a dead man and a dead dog. Everything Happens intertwines the stories of a woman going to Vegas to get a quickie divorce and of her soon to be ex-husband who goes to Vegas to celebrate a big score and a new girlfriend. I hadn’t planned on writing the novella until Fahrenheit Press’s imprint, 69 Crime, published the first of cool, tete beche pulp crime editions with a novella by Aidan Thorn and one by Nick Quantrill. I loved both novellas and the format. When Chris McVeigh and Chris Black asked if Derek Farrell and I would be interested in writing novellas for the second one, I was in.

The only problem being that I had not been thinking of writing a novella at all. I used the opportunity to write about a woman and about Las Vegas, which Derek Farrell also employs in his novella. I have been visiting Las Vegas for most of my life and love its clarity, vividness, and strangeness. It felt good to write about a woman who––excuse the expression––discovers her power. And the alien landscape seemed like the perfect place for a woman to shed layers of herself until she finds out who she really is.

I’m wondering what you mean about Las Vegas’ clarity – it’s moral clarity? Immoral clarity?

I just wrote a guest post about Las Vegas for the Murder Is Everywhere blog that will appear shortly, so I don’t want to rehash stuff I say there. Here’s the link.

But I will say that Las Vegas has geographical clarity – it is the jewel-like glittery “there” glowing in the middle of the desert nowhere.

Las Vegas is also clear about its purpose, the fulfilment of desire on the cheap or for as much as one is willing to pay. 

Also Las Vegas is clearly the opposite of where everyone who goes there comes from:

Different rules apply.

Where does your female protagonist come from. How had her power been repressed, become dormant?

I don’t know where Jennifer comes from exactly. Maybe from inside me and from outside, too. I’ve been a woman for a long time now.

Jennifer is a young woman who has done her best to do what women are supposed to do––love and nurture. Loving and nurturing, however, require self-effacement, deferring pleasure, tongue-biting and stoic silence. The messages Jennifer has received from the world––and which most women receive––have also kept her down and dormant, i.e. that everything happens for a reason, that buying stuff and makeovers result in beauty and power and authenticity, that women are especially imperfect and require massive improvement, and that sisterhood is powerful except when it’s a sisterhood of consumption, credulity and cruelty.

Jo Perry

It sounds like her soon-to-be-ex is the type who can only have it all his own way or he’ll take his ball home. What’s his story?

You’re going to have to read the novella to find out his story, but like everyone, even the assholes among us, Jake is the hero of his own narrative, the center around which his world revolves. Yet Jake collides with others who have their own agendas, who have scores to settle and scores to make and their own needs. Jake’s narrative conflicts with Jennifer’s and with those of his, um, business partners and colleagues.

You say you didn’t have a novella in mind – did you find it difficult to contain the story you wanted to tell in a smaller space?

I’d written novels and short stories, but never a novella. I think I fit the story to the novella’s shape and length, or that maybe the novella’s length shaped the story. And yes, it was very difficult.

I had trouble locating crucial places in the narrative, i.e. it was difficult to intuit where the beginning ended and the middle began and where the end began. Does that make sense? I just didn’t have a feel for it.

A novella requires a novel’s depth, but without a novel’s sprawl. Writing a novella is like doing a high dive into a well, rather than swimming into an open sea. You can drown doing both, but it’s safer and less claustrophobic to write a novel. A novella is an unforgiving form. But there’s room for discovery, unlike the short story which is usually built on one idea, one twist.

A novella is deep enough to contain various characters and their complexity of feeling and motive.

I think that each form – short story, novella, novel – tells a different kind of story.

Fahrenheit Press

You’ve been to Las Vegas many times, but was it hard to get the city into your headspace after your Dead series’ Los Angeles location?

It was strange to write about the living instead of writing about the dead.

I enjoyed imagining taste, touch the smell of the air, the sensation thirst, hunger, pain, etc. 

I realized that I’d been in dead mode for a long time now. It felt good to be alive.  I also enjoyed contemplating a place other than Los Angeles. And Las Vegas has everything. 

For Everything Happens, writing about the living, did you have to control all those descriptive elements about the senses? What was the editing process like?

Each place must be described as the character experiences it. Los Angeles and Las Vegas are vivid, full contrasts, and inhabited by fantasists and dreamers – the ironies are built-in and reveal themselves.

Writing about the living made me feel enlivened. It felt really good. 

As for editing, I am a relentless reviser/rewriter. I just keep rewriting until it feels right, sound right, is clear, complete and feels true to character/or my aims.

Did you have any conversations with Derek Farrell about how you would both approach the concept?

Yes. Before we embarked on our novellas, Derek and I had a productive, clarifying conversation about how we could connect our stories, and we agreed on Las Vegas and a few other things.

Derek is brilliant, generous, and lovely to talk to. That conversation helped me dive in. 

You wrote episodic television. Which show did you write for, and how has that translated to your books?

My husband and I wrote and produced episodic television as a team. We wrote for Simon & Simon, did a Star Trek: Next Generation script, did three scripts for 21 Jump Street, and wrote for a few other shows no one remembers––Sidekicks, Snoops––and stuff for shows that didn’t make it to air. Also, a few movie scripts that never were produced.

I learned so much from writing for television, especially for Simon & Simon which was a hit show––efficient, with amazingly talented people working in every part of production and writing. 

I learned to listen to criticism/notes, i.e. the reader is reacting to something – something off, unclear, missing, redundant, wrong ––and it may not be the thing he/she points out to you. But I learned to pay attention when someone has a problem with something in a book or in a script. 

I learned a lot about pacing, about dialogue, about what a scene is, and to me the most important thing––when a scene should end.  Too often fiction takes too long to end or ends over and over. I learned from TV writing that every scene should end crisply, should not be overwritten, and should, if possible, end with anxiety or suspense. 

Writing under pressure was good experience, too. And seeing what one wrote actually acted out and spoken and filmed was illuminating. The words have to be efficient and true to the way real people talk.

Everything Happens is described as cinematic. Is that because of how it’s structured? The prose? What makes a book cinematic?

I’m not sure. There’s a lot of internal thinking in my novella and that is the opposite of film, but there’s also intense action, a vivid setting, some twists, reversals and surprises. Maybe that’s why.

Do you read your work aloud while editing?

I know that Timothy Hallinan reads all his manuscripts aloud to his wife to test the rhythms, grace, etc. of the language.  I think that is a smart thing to do, and his attention to this aspect of writing is evident in his powerful, beautiful writing. 

I probably should read my work aloud. I listen to it in my mind’s ear, I guess. I have a habit of writing very long sentences that are meant to be read on the page rather than spoken––but I do pay special attention to the rhythms and diction of what my characters say when they talk. Or think.

What’s next for you?

I am writing a novel right now about a character who appeared as a cameo in Dead Is Beautiful, book 4 in the Charlie and Rose series, but who was too interesting and fun to remain just a cameo. 

Now he’s the protagonist – hilarious and brave, sweet and tough, but faced with his one, deep, paralyzing, irrational fear while trying to find out who set him up for murdering a man he didn’t know. It’s another L.A. novel but a different L.A. – and yeah, there’s a very important dog. A living dog.

Also (so far – everything is subject to revision) a millionaire avocado rancher, a Samoan American makeup artist/security/martial arts expert, a punk band, a Mensa member/accountant, a weight-loss group. Oh. And it takes place during Christmas. At least that’s what’s happening so far. Don’t hold me to any of this. I have a long way to go.

And I have an idea that won’t let go of me for the next, about a totally different character and different fictional world––a mystery or thriller about death and Jewish religious practice.

Jo, you’ve been a great guest. Any final words?

Thank you very much for the very interesting questions. You made me think.


Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.
In 2019, Perry was the first female writer invited to speak at the venerable Men of Mystery Event. 
Her short story, “The Kick The Bucket Tour” (Retreats from Oblivion, Journal of NoirCon) made the Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2018 list in The Best Mystery Stories 2019, Lethem, Penzler, editors. 

Jo lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.  They have two adult children. Their two dogs are rescues. 

Read Jo’s story, “The Kick The Bucket Tour” in Retreats from Oblivion, the journal of NoirCon.

Jo Perry’s website:

Twitter: @joperryauthor

Instagram: @noirjoperry

Interview with Janet Roger, author of Shamus Dust

Ive got Janet Roger, author of the very good-looking novel, Shamus Dust, to talk about her book and a whole lot more. Enjoy.

Your book, Shamus Dust, set in a battered post-war London, is out on 28 October this year. What’s the story, in 30 words or less?

Pandora’s Box just got opened in the ruins, City Police has a vice killing on its hands, and a spooked councilor hires a shamus to help spare his blushes.

I love the 40s London setting. What drew you to the city and the period?

Well, thank you. Shall we start with the City? Shamus Dust is set there at Christmas 1947, when – as it still is – the City of London was the financial heart of the capital, often simply known as the Square Mile. Think of it as London’s Wall Street. In fact, it genuinely is – even now – the more or less single square mile contained inside the arc of London’s ancient Roman walls, with the Thames running along its southern boundary. What drew me, was living and working there on a couple of occasions. You can walk the whole City very easily, and if you do that you inevitably get up close to its geography and history. As for period, those early years of Cold War fascinate me in general. But in the City something very special happens. It had taken a hammering in the London blitz. Hundreds of its acres – some of the most valuable real estate on the planet – were flattened rubble. Which made it an archaeologist’s dreamland. For a few short years, digging in those blitz sites gave them unimagined access to the two-thousand years old Roman city right beneath their feet. They wasted no time. Before reconstruction got seriously under way they’d made monumental discoveries: a Roman temple, a Roman fortress on the line of the wall, even the foundations of an arena – a Roman coliseum, no less. And there was the puzzle. The discovery of the temple and the fortress made instant splash headlines. Yet London’s very own Roman coliseum – yes, there really is one – got overlooked. Seriously, it completely escaped notice for the next almost forty years. Which started me wondering what the story was…

So this Pandora’s Box is an opening of Roman treasure which sets off murder and intrigue?

It was a window opened on that lost Roman arena. In the blitzed London of the early postwar it was stumbled on in the north of the City, on a construction site close by the current (vast) Barbican development. But the window closed again, and the coliseum’s existence – it’s an arena the size of a football field – simply got overlooked (!). The mistake is explained today as just one of those things, an oversight that went unnoticed until 1988, when the archaeological record was examined again. Once rediscovered, the Roman amphitheater was excavated for more than a decade, then opened to the public in a spectacular new gallery below ground (don’t miss it on a trip to London). Shamus Dust, of course, fills out the story differently. It goes back to those Cold War years, when rebuilding the City was up for grabs and fortunes were staked on the coming construction boom. In this telling, the real estate interests include high-end racketeers as well as corrupt City grandees, who think any delay on construction will be very bad karma indeed. Cue that monumental discovery on a construction site that no-one will get to hear of. Cue the apparent vice killing that gets Shamus Dust under way. And then cue the hardboiled gumshoe who gets hired as part of the cover-up.

Shamus, in the British sense refers to a policeman. In America the term was often a derogatory term for Irish cops, and now a private detective. Who’s your shamus and what motivates him?

You just told me something about the British use of shamus that I didn’t know. There’s also a rather lovely connection to Yiddish speakers from Eastern Europe, arriving as immigrants into New York. If I can get this right, the shammes is the Synagogue’s house man – the eagle eye and the ear to the ground who’s meant to know what’s going down in the shtetl. So, when those European immigrants first came across the novel notion of a private eye, they simply reached for an equivalent (the shammes) from the old country. The question is, How Do You Say It? Near the beginning of The Big Sleep, Marlowe – Bogie himself – tells Carmen Sternwood he’s a Shahmus. On the other hand, near the end of Somewhere In the Night, Police Lieutenant Kendall (Lloyd Nolan) tells the chanteuse that her new squeeze is a Shaymus. Both films are from 1946, so you choose. Though it’s interesting that both Marlowe and the police detective have to explain that the word means private eye. As for Newman, he’s been an American in London for nigh-on twenty years, arrived in the Depression era for the chance of a job in the City. He turns insurance investigator, spends his wartime transferred to a British Army unit with his boss, tracking down military supply fraud (but that’s another story). War ended, he’s back in the City, going it alone as a gumshoe, motivated in Shamus Dust by a payday offered by a City councilor. Also motivating for him are a kingpin racketeer, some unsubtle policing, the necessary femme fatale and a temporary medical examiner who’s clearly out of his class. Which motivation wins out? It’s complicated.

Early reviewers have noted Shamus Dust’s Chandleresque hardboiled language, and you clearly love the old noir film classics. The setting and timeframe makes me think of the The Third Man. How important is the use of language to you? Do you have patience for Ellroy-style prose?

The Third Man! Well, I’m a fan of Graham Greene, love the movie and still buy a ticket anywhere it’s showing. And it’s true, the themes of Cold War rackets, displaced Americans, love and loss, are all there in Shamus Dust. Not to mention deep winter and the dark disillusion of the times. Language? A reviewer said of Shamus Dust recently, Imagine Polanski’s masterpiece, Chinatown, played out against the bomb sites and grimy alleys of a freezing 1947 London. Now, setting aside the compliment, that was interesting because Chinatown’s screenwriter is the Angeleno, Robert Towne, who says he loves what he calls Chandler’s lazy lyricism. So do I. For me, it’s the lyric prose that lifts the Marlowe stories out of the crime read and into the territory of the novel. It brings a unity and spaciousness. In a word, it lets them breathe. So yes, language is important. James Ellroy? But which James Ellroy? The one who writes The Black Dahlia, or the one sponsored by Western Union? I’m for The Black Dahlia, but prose style takes you, I think, into the bigger questions of how you write your historical fiction. I had a story set in 1947. A (subverted) Chandleresque seemed obviously suited as a way to tell it – after all, it’s when Marlowe is at his best. Now, the fact is that by now you have to historicize those years for your readers, so it won’t happen, but still, I’d love to leave them wondering when exactly in the 1940s Shamus Dust was written! You’ll know what I mean. James Ellroy is interested in just the same period I am, but sees his historical fiction very differently; language, chainsaws and all.

Is planting an American PI in London the natural thing to do? Would an English PI, in this timeframe, have stilted your rich prose? Made the tone more arch than street-level cynical?

The American shamus is a device, obviously. But as for natural or not, Americans – in and out of uniform – were everywhere in western Europe at the beginning of the Cold War. And in numbers, too. In London, Newman wouldn’t have stood out in a crowd. Some of his compatriots – Carole Landis, Richard Widmark, Orson Welles and others – were arriving there to star in British films noirs. No-one found that strange. But let’s go back to The Third Man. Trevor Howard’s terrific Major Calloway in that movie is a man cast in much the same mould as Newman (even if he is in uniform). But the problem is, I just can’t hear Shamus Dust being narrated by an Englishman of the time. English rhythms work against that Chandleresque lazy and lyrical. English cadences and manners play in the wrong key. And besides, it’s a story told from the outside. From police to racketeers, shell-shocked veteran to femme fatale, almost every character the American encounters is English. I wanted a reaction from someone who would find the English as strange and exotic then as we do now, from this distance in time. The American shamus answered the need.

You’ve talked about noir masters and the city’s they evoke: Lehane and Boston, Block and New York – are you aiming for Roger of London?

I love Roger of London. It sounds like a really swish Bond Street dress shop. Even so, I doubt it’s going to trouble Block or Lehane in the name recognition stakes. What they do in creating so powerful an image of their cities through fiction, is really remarkable; a PR agency couldn’t hope to promise as much. But truly staggering is how Simenon and Chandler have mythologized Paris and LA into a new century, for those who never heard of them just as much as for their enduring fans. These last two are not even native sons. Or is that their secret weapon? I think I might have a go with that dress shop idea.

I think of American noir as the protagonists and antagonists carrying guns, and English set noir as more knives and garrotes. Your world is as seedy as that across the pond, but how do the underworld figures threaten each other? How does the American view the English underworld?

You’re not alone in that, and it makes me wonder where the different images come from. Perhaps the English notion of gentleman-detectives leaves them thinking that in London a hit gets arranged over tea and muffins. Or perhaps Americans naturally think – since the cars are always bigger, the buildings are taller and the rich are richer – that their mob must be heavier and their cops tougher. As if a London heist is a more civilized affair, or the shakedown there is more refined. In 1947, London had an immense dockland and waterfront, a financial quarter, industry and commerce. In the early Cold War it also had severe shortages of everything (even more so than in wartime); an element of returning soldiery that didn’t fit back in; and a wave of sidearms liberated by the soldiery, who’d had six years’ familiarity with how to use them. In other words, every necessary ingredient for the rackets, as in New York, or in Los Angeles or in Chicago. When a gun is pulled in a British-made film noir of those years – many of them set in London – no-one blinks in astonishment. Likewise, many of the cops had military police experience (The Third Man’s Major Calloway is a Scotland Yard detective with a colonel’s rank in the original story). Newspapers of the day tell the same story of a dark, violent city. And after all, the mob on both sides of the Atlantic was going out to watch the same Jimmy Cagney movies. Perhaps the world’s been waiting for Shamus Dust to set the record straight.

Is Shamus Dust the beginning of a series, or a one-off? What’s next?

Not a series, but there is a sequel on the stocks. The Gumshoe’s Freestyle is set in the City of London (of course), in the summer of ’48. Those Cold War years made interesting times. Freestyle ties up some loose ends and returns to some characters from the first story. There’s even a lead-in planted near the close of Shamus Dust, though you do have to know your Chandler to spot it. I liked the idea of some passing link between events that Newman and Marlowe will never know they shared an interest in. That said, Freestyle stands on its own and takes Newman to an entirely new case. It’s been interesting deciding which characters to go back to, how fleeting or important they need to be, and of course, how to introduce them to the reader who doesn’t already know them from the earlier story.

Janet, you’ve been a great guest. Any final words?

Only to thank you for your very kind invitation, and some out-of-the-ordinary questions. I really enjoyed the back and forth.

Shamus Dust reviewed by Kirkus Reviews.

You can buy Shamus Dust from Amazons UK and US. It’s released on 28 October 2019.

I interviewed Kevin Berg over at Flash Fiction Offensive

I’ve interviewed Kevin Berg over The Flash Fiction Offensive. His new book, Ants in My Blood is available on pre-order right now (click US, UK, Canada to get involved). He writes some dark, and darkly funny, stuff.

Click HERE to read the interview. This man does a deep dive with his answers. Great stuff, as always. And thanks to Jesse Rawlins for the platform.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Free Lunch

Remain Nameless

Meat Sack Full of Maggots

Insatiable Delusion

Pieces Forgotten

Reaching for the Sun

Killing the Other Me

Leftover Wishes

Vibrations Linger

What the Monster Taught

The Day After Pill

Hot As Hell



Eat Up, Cunts

Jesus Christ: Serial Killer

Voice From The Hole

Ants in My Blood

Author Interview: Beau Johnson

Beau Johnson is here to talk about his new book, The Big Machine Eats, his new short story collection featuring his character Bishop Rider. Beau’s style will pull you in. His writing is conversational, funny, and brutal.

Beau, what is The Big Machine Eats all about?

First off: Jason, thanks for having me! I’m of two minds to what The Big Machine Eats is about. On one hand, it’s about life and how it will eat you up if you let it. On the flipside, it boils down to one man, Bishop Rider, and the depravities he sets his sites on correcting. You know, Disney stuff. This is not to say this book is exclusive to Bishop Rider and friends. It is set up the same way as A BETTER KIND OF HATE, with favorites of old and adventures that are new.

What motivates Bishop to correct these depravities? Is it some depravity in himself he’s scared of?

A combination of factors contribute to Rider’s motivations. Personal loss (the murder of his mother, the rape and murder of his sister) being the inciting incident. Second would be his time in the police, and how, when he needed what he’d sworn to uphold most, he realized just how broken the system he worked for truly was.

How does he deal with the darkness?

Dismemberment, mostly. The odd hanging here and there, sure, but yeah, taking people apart, this is the thing that lets him sleep at night.

How did Bishop slip inside your head and force you to write about him?

I wish I had a clear answer for that, Jason. Looking back, I can’t really recall when Rider slipped into my life. What I can tell you is this: wasn’t until three or four stories in that I realized I had something with legs. Further still, it took me years to understand I’d already written about the men responsible for April and Maggie Rider’s deaths but had yet to connect the two. Is this a by-product of non-linear writing? I don’t know. Maybe. Either way, it happened, and once I realized my stories were connected in a way I failed to notice, this is when the damn burst. Each story involving Bishop then propelling the next one on. Different than most writers, sure, but seeing where I am now, I would not change it.

Can you sit down and Bishop Rider just flows out your fingertips like he’s possessed you, or do you procrastinate and make shapes out of the shadows before you get going?

Little from column A. Little from column B. Sometimes the story is fully formed. Sometimes it pulls me along. I can’t even say I have a favorite of the two. I do enjoy that I get to put his life to paper, though. Truly a blast whenever he pops up in my head.

Did you write The Big Machine Eats to the blast of music, or in silence?

Neither, actually, which as the book itself, is something of a rare occurrence. Long story short, I broke my collarbone last summer. It resulted in me re-watching the entirety of Friends and Lost from a lazy boy, gaining forty pounds, and writing the last half of The Big Machine Eats on my phone. As I’ve said before, I’m quite fortunate being born right handed…

Did Friends seep into the book?

Ha! No, but I ended up changing my mind in regards to a central idea that ran through the show, reversing my original belief and coming to agree with Ross on something I never thought I would—he and Rachel were, in fact, ON a break.

I really can’t remember. What’s it like writing on a phone?

With one arm? With mostly one thumb doing all the heavy lifting? It was not my favorite thing, that’s for sure. Don’t even get started on backspacing. I was crazy with the backspacing. Have I mentioned backspacing?

I counted three times. I’m not sure your mental health survived.

I’m guessing the editing process was interesting?

Nothing new there, ha, but yup, the editing process was interesting for sure. The impatience that accompanied it being the bigger bad in the end.

Sarah M. Chen said you had a ferociously twisted mind. Is it safe to approach you on a rain-lashed night to ask directions to the nearest pub?

Sarah M. Chen. She’s so nice. I have a standing dinner date with her the next time we connect at Bouchercon. As for my mind being ferociously twisted, I can safely say it is all for show and yes, please hit me up for directions on a rain slashed night. I mean, a man has to get his story ideas from somewhere, right?

The Big Machine Eats is out on a dinner date. Which book is it slurping the same strand of spaghetti with?

Oh man, great question. So many great books and authors to choose from. I have go with my man Uncle Stevie for the win, however. The Dark Tower, his Magnum Opus, in particular.

Of course. There’s a stranger to fiction at a book stand, ready to delve right in. Your book sits there among a dozen others. They like your cover, but that one to the left is also giving them come-to-me eyes. So is the one to the right. They can only take one.

Luckily, you’re passing by and feeling sociable to people you’ve never met.

What do you tell them?

I’ve been hearing good things about that one in the middle. Can’t put my finger on it, but the author, he looks very familiar as well…

Attractively challenged, but yeah, familiar.

Who is publishing the beast and when is it out?

Ha! Beast. Love it. My publisher is Down and Out Books. Commander and Chief being Eric Campbell. A man who quite literally changed my life by taking a chance on me. There are others, though, especially the ones who took the time to give The Big Machine Eats the once over even before any editor did any heaving lifting. There is the afformentioned Sarah M. Chen, Paul Heatley, Kevin Berg, Marietta Miles, Gary Duncan, Joe Clifford, and last but not least, Tom Pitts. This is on top of other chefs in the kitchen, editors being first and foremost. A writer can drop and beat or two, sometimes more, but it is truly awesome when an editor can help you make things sing. As for when I give birth: It enters the world on the 26th of November, baby! Mark your calendar! Bishop Rider Lives!

You can buy The Big Machine Eats on preorder HERE.

City of Forts

“A brilliant read that explores society and all its cracks. Jason 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 When the Music’s Over from Fahrenheit 13 Press.


“This book has some serious grip. It sinks its teeth into the reader fast and hangs on. Solid throughout, visceral. Thoroughly enjoyed it.”

– D.S. Atkinson

Bullets, Teeth, & Fists

“A great collection of shorts from an author with a stellar writing style! The first and last tales are the most entertaining, serving as perfect book ends to house the others in-between. There is a lot of depth to each story, which is difficult to accomplish considering their brevity. I will be investing more of my time on Mr. Beech.”

– Shervin Jamali, author of Remember.

Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 2

I’m interviewed by Tom Leins over at his place

You can read it all here.

Renato Bratkovič interviews me over at RadikalNews

You can read the beast here.

Author Interview: Aidan Thorn

Aidan Thorn is an emerging crime-writing star, what Paul D Brazill might call a Brit Grit writer. He has a highly entertaining short story collection out now, Criminal Thoughts, so I thought I’d kick a few questions at him to see if he put them away like Sturridge, or flapped a bit like Manchester United’s current attack.

Aidan Thorn, thinking about something criminal.

Hi Aidan, do you write for pleasure, or would your soul burn in torment if you couldn’t get your stories out.

I write for pleasure, but part of that pleasure is  having my stories out there and being read. Creating the story is great fun but for me there’s no greater pleasure in writing than having people tell me they enjoy what I’m doing, and it’s even better when it’s another writer that I respect. So, getting my stories out is part of the pleasure. It would be great to one day make a living from this thing I love doing, but forgive me if I get a little buzz every time a Gareth Spark or a Paul D Brazill says, nice work about a piece of mine.

You have a novel placed out of sight in a dusty drawer. What is it about, and when do we get to see it?

I think it’s unlikely you’ll ever see the novel, in its current shape anyway. It’s the first thing I ever started to write, and if I was starting it today I wouldn’t write it the way I have. There are around 30 pages before there’s any dialogue and some of the writing is embarrassingly clumsy. What I’ll say is I still think the story and characters are strong, and so one day I might try to reshape it, but it needs a significant edit. Rather than tell you what it’s about here’s how I used to pitch it when I was trying to get the attention of publishers and agent…

The Anti-hero is king, Tony Soprano, Dexter, Ray Donovan… When the Music’s Over introduces the reader to a new anti-hero, Wynn MacDonald and he’s been in the game since the others were in diapers.  When Wynn’s ex-employer’s son is murdered he is called out of retirement to find the person that committed the crime and see justice served.  Wynn is not a well man but returns to his employer out of duty.  Wynn’s investigation leads to some shocking discoveries and he learns that the organisation that he gave his life to was not all that he thought it was and when he eventually tracks the murderer down he is left with some difficult decisions.

When the Music’s Over is a story about relationships and families, tackling the themes of betrayal, murder, dealing with terminal illness and evaluating how life has been spent. This is all explored through the lives of members of a criminal organisation and the families affected by their actions.  The story explores how changing circumstances and environments leave once powerful, confident and fearless people feeling vulnerable, isolated and obsolete.  This is a character driven story spanning two decades of deceit.

So, that’s it… As I say, I still love the story and characters so if a good agent, publisher is reading this and fancies working with me to edit this into shape, I’m all ears!

You also have two novellas in progress. When do we get to see them. What are they about?

My novellas are, I hope, a little closer to being out there than the novel. I’m in the middle of writing both. When I’m finished I’ll send them to a couple of people, including writers that I respect and ask if they’d mind looking them over. If they think that the books are up to it I’ll then self publish them. I’m hoping one will be out this summer and both by the end of 2014.
They’re both crime themed, but very different beasts. ‘Worst Laid Plans’ is a comedy of sorts, about a group of young lads who accidentally kidnap a rock star and as he’s disillusioned with his life he ends up advising them on what they should do in return for a cut of the ransom. The second, is currently untitled but takes a recurring character from my short story collection (Criminal Thoughts – out now etc…), Detective Alan Simmons. I’ve retired him and put him out of his comfort zone in Las Vegas, he has a gambling addiction and is trying to stretch his police pension a little further. Basically, Simmons meets a young woman who went to Vegas to become a Showgirl and has ended up in prostitution, Simmons tries to help her change her life.
Do you have any plans to write more about Mikey and Ricky?
I love my characters Mikey and Ricky from Criminal Thoughts stories, After Hours, Personal and A Present and so I’m sure there will be more from them. A couple of people have said they’d like to see a longer piece with these two. A Present had the potential to expand into a bigger story, but I’ve put that out there now and so have no interest in telling that story again… maybe a mistake, but I like it as it is. I’m sure I’ll find a way of getting Mikey and Ricky out there again.
Can you bring out character in crime fiction? Or are they all avatars heading towards a nasty conclusion?
I hope I’m bringing out character in my crime writing, characters are what draw me to crime stories. I love the complexity of a criminal character, particularly when making them the hero of a piece… Anti-hero’s are cool, right? Who are the most memorable characters in TV and Film? For me it’s Michael Corleone, Travis Bickle, Tony Soprano and recently we have Walter White and Jessie. Making someone bad but also likeable is a great challenge and I try to do that with most of my main characters, sometimes I might aim and miss but I think I’ve achieved it most of the time.
You wrote a horror short recently for Thrills, Kills, & Chaos. Which is easiest to read, which to write? Which do you prefer?
I’m a crime fan through and through so to me that’s always easiest to write. The Guest at Thrills, Kills & Chaos was, for me, a challenge I set myself just to see if I could do horror. I’d got into reading a bit after some recommendations from David Barber and seeing the work of the likes of Lily Childs. I couldn’t resist having a little go myself and I was really chuffed when David got in touch and told me he liked my story enough to publish it on Thrills, Kills & Chaos. I may venture back into this area again some time, we’ll see – I might not though, it’ll make naming my second short story collection too difficult, I can hardly just call it Criminal Thoughts 2 if I start experimenting with other genres, can I?
Who is crime fiction’s master?
Big question, I’m going to cheat a bit. Mario Puzo introduced me to crime fiction when I was a young lad, I started with Fools Die and couldn’t stop reading his work after that. I wouldn’t say he was the most complete writer but he got me started. After that I got into Michael Connelly in a big way, he used to be brilliant, unfortunately I think some of his later efforts have been a little below his top standard. For me the writer that is consistently good is George Pelecanos, across around 20 books I don’t think he’s ever dropped a beat. He’s got a style that makes you feel like you’re listening to an old friend tell a story. He never wastes a word but manages to give such a rounded description of character and environment in tightly drawn stories. Stuff that I often find annoying when other writers try it, describing clothing, food, music etc… Pelecanos does with such passion and expertise that it just enhances the experience of reading him… Brilliant! Now, can I also give a shout out to an indie spirit? Darren Sant, that boy writes tales of modern Britain with such authority that I really think he should be getting bigger audiences, I really think he’s a modern-day Dickens.
The best crime novel, ever? Why?
The Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos. For all the reasons I list above about his writing, but also because it’s probably the only book I’ve read by Pelecanos that feels like an epic, despite it being Pelecanos’ usual short length. There are huge characters, families and stories in this one great book. I can’t speak highly enough of this writer and particularly this book.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I’ll still be writing, in about four years of writing so far I’ve got a novel (needs work) 20 short stories and a couple of novellas in the works. So in 10 years there will probably be 100 shorts, and a couple more novels. Maybe I’ll make some money from it, but if I’m honest as long as I’ve got money to look after my family and self I don’t need much more than regular trips to the cinema, a PC and books.

Click to buy Criminal Thoughts from Amazon US and UK

More Liverpool than Man Utd, then. Result.

You can read my review of Aidan Thorn’s Criminal Thoughts here.

Paul D. Brazill interviewed me at Out of the Gutter

My only regret? I used the word “woods” twice in one sentence.


Read the piece here:

You can grab Bullets, Teeth & Fists here:


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