Messy Business – Books, Writing, Stuff

Books and books and books …


Author Interview

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.

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