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Messy Business – Books, Writing, Stuff

Books and books and books …

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Martin Stanley

I spot Martin Stanley in the Museum Tavern, a pint in his hand, an elbow on the bar, a story out of his mouth into the barman’s ear. The barman nods my way and Stanley scrunches his eyes at the sight of me. I don’t know who he thinks I am – I’m dressed in regular civilian uniform, a little worn around the edges, but nothing to elicit such a reaction. He jumps over the bar and out the back of the pub.

My back is a little dodgy, but I can hurdle with the best of them and I’m out the rear in a shot, the cusses of punters in my ears whose alcohol I’d spilt. I’ve made an appointment, and Stanley will honour it, hell or something about water.

I spot him head for the spinning door of a high-end bank, but the odd thing is I’m sure he spins right back out as I enter the building with him. I twirl back onto the street and hook his arm. Stanley faces me, surprise and anger on his face. It’s not him. I apologise and swivel to see where my appointment has gone, and step on the man’s foot by accident. He hops at the pain and crashes into the path of a bicyclist who jumped the red light.

I mouth my apologies and head for the man I see down a side road. He clangs metal steps which hang off the building’s outside. He can’t have changed clothes this quick, but he has Stanley’s gait. I make it across the road, skiing between cars, buses and bicycles. I jump two steps at a time and hold my side. Rub the stitch away. Stanley stands at the roof’s edge and stares at the city. The wind flaps his Savile Row suit and buffets the bowler hat he wears. What’s with the disguise? I had an appointment.

I charge over and tap him hard on the shoulder, full of righteous indignation. The man turns, his face tracked with years of hard living. Stanley has at least another forty to go before his face resembles this cracked Saharan landscape.

I grab the man’s elbow in apology. He mumbles a “thank you” about me taking the time to acknowledge him, and that I’d saved him. But I let go hastily when I see Stanley head to the Cartoon Museum and the man slips. I don’t have time to look or help, but when I make it round the building a crowd of people have swarmed round some object which had fallen from the roof. They block my way.

I shimmy in and out of bodies, the Stanley Matthews of the street, but without a ball. Everybody streams against me, like a conspiracy. Stanley has distance and owls his neck my way. Smiles. What’s his problem? He pulls his jacket free. In the blur of movement I’m sure he wraps a scarf round his neck. Bodies in the way. I lose sight and regain. There. He’s donned a blonde wig, shoulder length, and tight pants. On the move? In the middle of the street? I get closer, which sends him into a nervous scurry and he shoots off down a dank alleyway Fagin would have sent his thieving kids down. Stanley won’t get far in those platform shoes. I catch this Sweet tribute singer by the shoulder and he swings and hits me with a purse I never knew he carried.

“What do you want?”

“I … I …”

It’s not Stanley. This person is a woman. Comely and everything. She sees her chance in my confusion and puts those platforms to use, right in my hoo-haws. I crumble, hands in nut-comfort mode, and tumble into a drainpipe. A rumble jets up the drainpipe and dislodges something up high. I crawl away, blind to the crash and scream behind me.

Why is Stanley running from me? I see him everywhere. He’s the road-sweeper, he’s the glum McDonald’s server, the jogger, the underwear model in the department store window. I lean against a wall and pull thoughts into my head. What can I do but grab a pint and admit defeat.

I enter the Flying Horse and there, sat a two-seater table, is Martin Stanley. He’s in a t-shirt and jeans and taps a barmat on the table. He has two pints, one for him … “That one’s for you.”

“What the hell was that all about?” I ask.

“I thought you were a man called Jimmy. Dodgy bloke with a scar from ear to neck. Lost at cards to him the other night. Sorry, you look a little dodgy, too. Made me jittery.”

I sit opposite him and rub at my neck to wipe away any mark which could look like a scar.

Stanley raises his Duchesse de Bourgogne and winks, holds his words until a train of ambulances pass by for some unfortunate souls. “Now, what questions do you have for me?”


Martin Stanley is the author of the grim, exciting, and very funny Stanton Brothers books. He loves big-flavoured beers, has impeccable taste in loving Once Upon a Time in the West, and is mad for Berlin. You might catch him reading Elmore Leonard, Ted Lewis, and James Ellroy.

***

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?

Martin Stanley (MS): If his reading habits are anything to go by, it seems words are wasted on your friend. I’m not a fan of wasting words. He can go fuck himself.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

MS: They need to have something compelling about them. They need to be interesting, have flaws, personality, be driven in some way (whether it be by the plot or by personal demons).

Bone Breakers (A Stanton brothers thriller Book 4)

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

MS: I don’t need my protagonists to be likeable. However, I draw the line at irritating or boring, and I also hate whiny or self-pitying characters.

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

MS: I’m a massive fan of Roger Smith. He writes some of the best villains around. They are utterly despicable and yet recognizably human. Steve Bungu from Nowhere is a particularly well-rounded antagonist.

The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah (A Stanton Brothers thriller Book 1)

What makes you throw a book out the window?

MS: If it’s a piece of shit then it’s going out the window. If it’s boring or irritating, particularly if it’s a first-person piece, then it’s fifty-fifty whether that book’s going to fly or not. Bad endings make me want to send a book hurtling into the night sky.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

MS: Sometimes. I try to be optimistic that things will improve.  Most of time I regret that optimism.

What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

MS: Lots of things get me writing. I love listening for odd speech-patterns or weird arcane turns of phrase, and will often give characters those turns of phrase. I’ve been having great difficulty in finishing a novel recently, to the point where my progress slowed to a few hundred words a week (if I was lucky). Don Winslow’s The Force rekindled my love of writing. It made me want to finish my current project.  I often feel more creative after travelling.

The Glasgow Grin (A Stanton Brothers thriller Book 6)

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

MS: My current novel has taught me to plan everything. I decided to part plot and part pants the writing of The Amsterdamned. If I’d plotted the thing in its entirety, there’s a very good chance I’d be in the editing stage by now. Yes, I think I’ve learned to hate my latest novel.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

MS: My next book will be a collection of Stanton brothers’ short stories called Get Santa and other shorts. Available some time next month.

10. Where can readers connect with you? @MStanleyAuthor on Twitter and also at www.martinstanleyauthor.com

You can buy Martin Stanley’s books from Amazon US and UK.

Thanks, Martin.


City of Forts is available now in all digital formats and in paperback. Buy it HERE for the special release price.

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You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Paul Heatley

I’m all business-like as I plant myself at his table, my hands folded over each other. “Join our organisation.”

Paul Heatley wipes his glasses, places them on the tip of his nose, and slides them back into place. He strikes a match, clocks the karaoke singer with the helium voice, sets the Sambuca alight – and downs it in one. Breathes fire across the table my way and grabs the bottle for round I’ve-lost-count. Not bad to say he doesn’t drink.

I grab his wrist and shake my head. “No.”

“Take your hand from me, Beech. I’m in a good mood. Party mood. Dancing on the ceiling mood.”

“I want my answers tonight, before you slide beneath the table for the evening. Will you join our organisation?”

He laughs and shakes away my hand. Swigs another shot. “We all want answers. My bank manager, my wife, my boss, and me. Are you who you say you are?”

I nod. The pub heaves and cheers the next karaoke singer. Heatley grins at the dodgy ABBA impression and throws his name down the DJs ear. A couple of songs later he’s up at the mic, a bad impression of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal spewing out his mouth. I grab the mic and perform The Police’s Murder by Numbers, though I can hardly remember, never mind hold the tune.

He pah’s and rocks out Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine. I encourage him by murdering Take the Money and Run by The Steve Miller Band.

We take a break and I’m easy with his next Sambuca. He runs a hand through his hair. “Your organisation is not my style. I’m a free spirit. And, I don’t do that kind of thing.”

I let the smile sit on my face. Makes Heatley shift his arse cheeks one to another. A new singer takes the mic, only he introduces himself with some godawful mid-Atlantic accent and plugs the band he sings for, The Bell Peppers, and where they’re playing this night. He sours my smile and winds Heatley up. The fella croons some Maroon 5 in a highly polished tone. Irritates the shit out of me, and more importantly, my target.

After that berk has finished, Heatley cleans his palate with Nick Cave’s There She Goes, My Beautiful World. It’s ballsy, it’s off-cue, it gets the crowd going. But mid-Atlantic Man ruins the mood again with a blander version of Mr Bland himself, John Mayer. It’s so slick Friends of the Earth would launch a boat against it.

Heatley screws his nose at the call to the man’s gig tonight. The laydees get in free, and drinks are cheap, apparently. Free wouldn’t sell cheap enough if we had to watch him. He lets the Sambuca buzz his head.

I have a word with mid-Atlantic Man, out of Heatley’s vision. Tell him I’m a huge fan and put in a request for his next song.

I make my way back to the table. Heatley shakes his head, his mind made-up.

“I’m not that kind of man. It’s not my kind of work, Beech. I’m sorry.”

I purse my lips and say my regrets. “Well, let’s part on good terms – how about a duet?”

“Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence.”

“Why not?”

We make for the DJ, but mid-Atlantic Man has hogged the night again. Faces dull around him. Heatley rolls his eyes, but they spin when the wannabe closes his lids and nods like he’s at the artisanal fruit juice counter. He places undue import on the words, “Hello darkness, my old friend.”

I turn to Heatley and nudge his arm. “Well, what a shame. Your favourite song and all.”

Heatley grabs the mic from the man, and pushes him in the chest. mid-Atlantic Man pushes back. The instrumental wafts through the pub awaiting its Simon and its Garfunkel. Heatley, a civilised man, has Sambuca in his veins and some primal ancestor shoots out his actions. They fight over the mic and as the crowd surges I rabbit-punch Heatley in the ribs. He’s furious. Swings at mid-Atlantic Man and knocks him to the ground. Batters him with the mic until pulp smears the floor. Hello Darkness, indeed.

It’s done. The crowd drag Heatley away and I step in to help him. I show my teeth and they back away. “Will you join our organisation?”

Heatley can’t believe what he’s done. I mean, you don’t mess with The Sound of Silence, but this … He’s alive. It has nothing to do with the Sambuca anymore. He nods. “I’m in.”

“Let’s get out of here, then, there’s a few questions you need to answer.”


Paul Heatley is the highly rated author of noir cult classics, including Fatboy and An Eye for an Eye. He’s in a bunch of anthologies and has sown his fantastic short stories across a bunch of online magazines. Check him out.

***

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 Heatley (PH): Oh, wow. I mean, how do you even tackle something like that? You either get it or you don’t. And if you don’t, well shit, there’s a lot you’re missing out on.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

PH: The most important thing is having a story worth being told. If the protagonist has nothing going on then there’s no reason to keep reading.

An Eye For An Eye (Near To The Knuckle Novellas Book 5)

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

PH: Not at all. You need an engaging and interesting protagonist, but they don’t necessarily need to be likable. So long as they’re compelling, that’s the key. It’s not like you’re planning on becoming friends with this imaginary person and spending time with them outside the pages of the book. I just have to want to read about them is all.

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

PH: Lou Bloom of the movie Nightcrawler is a great antagonist/anti-hero. The scope of his ambition and what he’s willing to do to get the things he wants are thoroughly engrossing. He doesn’t even sleep! His means are highly questionable but there’s a lot to be learnt about pursuing your dreams and not letting anything get in your way.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

PH: Haven’t done it yet! Maybe I’m just selective about what I read.

Fatboy

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

PH: I do, in the hope there’ll be something redeemable to find. Luckily I’ve only really come across one or two dodgy books I felt were a struggle.

What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

PH: All of the above. I write every day so that keeps me motivated, and I’ll search out the inspiration I can find in any situation.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

PH: Sometimes the story will dictate its own pace. You set out thinking you’re gonna write it one way, pace it a certain way, and the story says No, THIS is how we’re gonna do things.

The Pitbull

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

PH: A hitman passes time while his ex-girlfriend attempts to escape her oppressive father and elude the various killers he’s sent after her.

Where can readers connect with you?

PH: All the usual places – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@PaulHeatley3).

You can get a taste for his work with the following short stories:

Three, Two, One at Shotgun Honey

The Santa Clause at The Flash Fiction Offensive

Bo’s Burial at Spelk Fiction

You can buy his work from Amazon US and UK.

Thanks, Paul.


City of Forts is now available from most digital stores and in paperback. Buy it HERE.

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You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Brendan Gisby

I drove my VW camper van into the side of the man’s car and listened to the call for help. I jumped out and helped him from his vehicle, but the man winced and grunted like he needed a stick between his teeth to counter the pain.

I let him go, all excited. “I know you.”

“I think you broke my leg.”

The lonely road in the hills way north of Strathearn had only grass, the wind, and a set of indifferent dumb animals as company.

“I said I think you broke my leg.”

“I’m so sorry.” I helped him stand on his good leg and encouraged him to the camper van. “You’re Brendan Gisby.”

“I am. The broken-legged version. I need to get to the hospital.”

“Yes, of course. Let me drive you there. I’m a big fan. I mean a big fan. I’ve got all your books. I read them aloud.”

Mr Gisby latched onto my eyes for the first time. Yes, he had met his one true fan. The one who will look after him in his direst need. I’ll be there for him for whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. He examined me, dug deep. Wanted to get to know his one true fan. Sure, he has other fans, but none of them are like me.

“You read Ferry Tales?”

“Yes.”

“Ping Time and Other Tales of Revenge?”

“Four times. In a row. Without another book’s interruption.”

“Okayyyy.” He craned his neck to check out his car behind me.

I shut the camper van’s door and jumped in the driver’s seat. I smiled, all excited. “I’ll drive you home, just hold on.” I turned the music on loud. A bit of Daniel O’Donnell would soothe his pain. While he listened to the music, I pushed his car over the hill and watched it crumple on the rocks below.

I jumped back in the van and smiled for him as we drove away. He had his leg tight in both hands.

“I don’t see my car? Where is my car?”

“It’s there, Mr Gisby, you’re just at a funny angle to see it properly.”

I drove over a few bumps, down a hill, over a flooded dip before the bridge, and sang along to the wonderful, soulful O’Donnell. I encouraged Mr Gisby to join in, to ease his trauma, but the poor man couldn’t get the words out through his tight lips. Poor sod stared at me with the roundest eyes.

“Is this your house, Mr Gisby?”

We’d made it to Strathearn. Mr Gisby’s eyes hardened and I barely heard his “yes.”

“I thought so. It’s just I sent you a bunch of questions, and I never got a response. I thought maybe I’d got the wrong address.”

I don’t know why his face set to stone. One crack could crumble that face to dust, and that wouldn’t do.

“I’m in the middle of a new book. I’m a little stuck on the ending. As soon as I finish it, I’ll send you your questions.”

“How long until you finish, do you reckon? This afternoon?”

“No.”

I’m not sure I liked that snort. Seemed rude of him. “Tomorrow?”

“No, for God’s sake. My leg … please.”

I’d forgotten about that. He did look a little sweat-soaked. “Yes. Of course.”

I badgered him about the answers, but I got nothing from him. As we passed the hospital he laid a hand on my shoulder and I pulled over to an abandoned industrial estate where I administered him a needle to put him at ease. He slept all the way to the Cairngorms. I hope he dreamt of that damned ending. I wanted the new book, and I wanted my damned answers.

He woke up while I rested the van on a windy hill. It overlooked nil distractions except for the sole deer on the plain below. That could be our breakfast. I helped the groggy master to the little table and sat to face him, a grin on my face. I nodded to the pad and pencil I’d bought for him at the Tesco Metro and nodded.

“What’s this?”

“A pad. A pencil.”

“And?”

“Just those.”

“We writing a shopping list?”

“No, Mr Gisby, you’re finishing your book.”

He studied his leg which I’d wrapped with cardboard and twine while he dreamed of an ending. He twirled the pencil, thumbed the eraser at the top, fingered the sharpened point. Lifted his attention to me. I felt his muse rise, inspired by the mountains and the fresh air. I’d done him good.

I’m sure I’d done him good, but he thrust that sharpened pencil into my shoulder to rock my certainty. I yelped and gawped at the writer’s tool I’d so lovingly bought for him deep in my flesh. Mr Gisby limped for the door and tumbled out. He circled for a better view of … escape? But why?

I jumped out after him and we tussled for supremacy. He’d clearly lost his senses because of the pain he suffered. We rolled to the edge of a steep drop that would expose both our brains.

“Stop, we’re close to the edge.” His breath billowed out in a great steam cloud.

“Closer than you are to finishing your book?”

“Much, much closer.”

“I can finish your book for you. Let me do it, then I can have my answers.”

He didn’t take that too well and kneed me in the hoo-haws. I lost my grip on him and tumbled over the cliff’s edge. Mr Gisby – that good, good man – grabbed my wrist and held tight, though his red face told me how much strain it put on him.

“I’m slipping,” I said.

“Just hold strong and don’t make me regret this.”

I looked down and almost lost consciousness at the sight. “I’m a goner. Just tell me your answers, now.”

Gisby told me everything, and then I fell, happy I’d got my answers at last.

“You can use this as your ending,” I called out.

I couldn’t tell as the distance between us increased, but I’m sure he had, “Not a chance” on his lips.


Brendan Gisby is a prolific writer of four novels, a few biographies, and collections of short stories. He has an intimate style which pulls you deep into his world (just read the first few pages of The Burrymen’s War) and you should check him out.

***

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?

Brendan Gisby (BG): Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, Jason, so I won’t call him a Philistine.  I will say, however, that his or her life is missing something valuable – imagination!

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

BG: Their thoughts and actions must be believable; otherwise, I’ll toss the book.

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

BG: Certainly not.  The less likeable they are, the more interesting they become.

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

BG: The antagonists or anti-heroes I like most feature in quality American TV series. They include Tony Soprano of The Sopranos, Nucky Thompson of Boardwalk Empire, and Walter White of Breaking Bad.  They are all bad guys, but each of them also has a vulnerable side. And you end up rooting for them.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

BG: If it’s badly written – pure and simple.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

BG: Rarely.

What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

BG: Much of what I’ve written is based on real people and actual incidents in my life. Someone once called my work “bio-fiction”.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

BG: The most recent example of my “bio-fiction” is a book called “The Rebel’s Daughter”. It’s a mostly fictionalized account of the life of my Irish mother, whose father was a member of the Irish Republican Army in the 1920’s fighting for Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom.  I wrote the book with the help of my five siblings.  Because there was so much love involved, it was the most pleasurable experience.  So I learned that writing can actually be enjoyable!

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

BG: It’s a sequel to “The Island of Whispers”, which has been described as “Watership Down” with rats instead of rabbits. It is definitely not in the “bio-fiction” category!

Where can readers connect with you?

BG: I have a personal page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/brendan.gisby.1) and an author’s page (https://www.facebook.com/BrendanGisby).  I have my own website (https://the4bs.weebly.com).  And I can be found easily on Amazon.

Thanks, Brendan.


You can buy City of Forts for a special offer price HERE.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Renato Bratkovič

We’re doing fifty up a rain-slicked hill road in the Slovenian countryside. I came here to interview Renato Bratkovič, but the cheeky beggar has pulled me into his gold heist. The sun is out now, and it beats hard. The bus we use has no air conditioning and a hot breeze blows through the open windows. We slip and slide and ram the cop cars who chase us.

“This is an old-fashioned kind of robbery, don’t you think?” I say.

His other men scowl at me. If I’m not here to help then why don’t I jump out the window and down the cliff?

“I mean, internet crime is the safe way nowadays.”

Renato pulls a pipe and sticks it in his mouth. Out the side of his mouth he says, “How do you think I bought the bus?”

The driver rams a cop car which managed to get by our side and turns it dysfunctional.

He lights the pipe and puffs. “This is the way to do a real robbery, Beech. If we get away I’ll feel we’ve earned it.”

One of his men whispers in his ear. I’m sure I heard something about killing me. Renato smiles, grabs the man by his collar, and throws him out the open door. The man’s squeal is cut short by the rock he lands on.

The other men eye each other and keep their mouths shut, but they sharpen their dagger eyes on me.

“You’re part of the gang now, Beech, so I will not tolerate treachery.”

I nod and concentrate on the three remaining cop cars and the helicopter above. The front car rams us from behind and another attempts to get by our side. The driver cuts him off, but they’re relentless.

“We don’t have guns?” I turn my palms up in shock.

Renato, blows smoke my way. “Guns are for pussies. I want to sleep at night.”

He jolts from his seat and grabs a brick from the stash. Charges down the aisle and kicks open the emergency exit. The cop driving the closest car narrows his eyes, but they expand to hard boiled eggs as Renato throws the brick at the windscreen. It cracks and the driver loses his sense of direction and flips. The car behind smashes into him and his siren whirs to a sad wail. The third dodges and keeps up.

I grab a brick and shrug off the gang’s protests. I throw and hit the last cop car just as our driver howls at the sacrilege and loses sight of the next bend. He slams his brake, but too late. We break the road barrier and hang over an incline steep enough to wrap our stomachs over our hearts.

We see-saw in silence. The helicopter’s buzz persists above. They’ve got us. The helicopter positions above and a line drops. Every move we make shifts the bus. The pile of gold slips and a couple of bars head to the driver’s end to increase the tilt.

“Just give me your answers now,” I say. “Before we all die.”

He taps the tobacco from his pipe and slides it into the arm of his t-shirt. “We have time.”

“Boss, they’re sending men down.”

The helicopter blades push the bus’ back end onto terra firma and the men above shoot a grappling hook to the front and lift. Two armoured cops slide down the zipline and fire. Hit two of our men. The driver gets it next. I expect my innards to get the ventilation treatment any moment, but I slide out with Renato as the cops swing through the open window. Renato climbs the zipline and I follow.

I wish I’d hit the gym more often because I’m knackered by the time I’m halfway up. But I make it. The cops on the bus stare in shock from below, nervous to fire in case they bring down the helicopter.

We get inside and I knock the gun from the pilot’s hand. Renato threatens him with a cocked eyebrow.

“Join your boys down there, or else.”

The pilot hurries down the line as Renato takes control. We release the grappling hook, which is enough to jerk the bus forwards and down the cliff. We head for his hideout in Llubljana and I ask. “You don’t have a gun. What was the ‘or else’?”

Renato cackles and dives us to the city. “I’d have offered him the gold bar in my pants. Now, what about those questions?”


Renato Bratkovič is a creative dynamo. He writes, he makes films, he hosts literary festivals in the Slovenian mountains, and is a creative advertising director. His fiction is dark and bitey, but the man himself is a fantastic collaborator. His Alibi International Crime Festival brings together a number of writers and asks them to create something on the spot which they read to an audience at the end. Read Sonia Kilvington’s piece about it, here.

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?

Renato Bratkovič (RB): What do you mean you have no time?! You have time to breathe, eat and drink, and no time to read? That’s weird … You’re weird!

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

RB: A protagonist of any book or film must have an interesting mission, a conflict to resolve, enemies to defeat (or be defeated by), and some dark stain on their past …

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

RB: Actually, it’s a likeable writer I need, his/her craft is more important to me than a character I can like or relate to.  I need words to drag me into the narrative, words to project a film in my mind. If writing is good, then the character can sit on the toilet seat and wipe his/her ass with a hand and still be interesting.

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

RB: Well, Begbie from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Porno is the first antagonist that comes to my mind. He’s meaty, gritty and scary, but he’s very charismatic (both in the book and in the movie) – I’d be happy to have a beer with him before he smashes the empty glass into my face.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

RB: Oh, boy, that’s a hard one. No, I’d throw myself out of the window before I’d throw the book … Especially if we are talking the eBooks – I’d miss my iPad!

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

RB: I tend to read several books at once, so sometimes I leave a book for a couple of days, weeks or even months, but I always get back and finish what I started.

What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

RB: Books, films and TV are inspiring, but I’m mostly inspired by life – that doesn’t mean that I have a really interesting life (I’m an ad man, so …), but it’s always something that’s happened to me or to someone I know, or it’s just something someone said … That’s how I get the stuff I use but I twist it around, of course.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

RB: I’m a bilingual writer, I write in Slovene (it’s my mother tongue, of course I do) and in English (a bridge to global readers). My last book was a short story collection in English. What I’ve learned is I only do half as much as I would if I wrote in one language only.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

RB: My next book is going to be the third collection of dark transgressive stories, titled Dark Matters (You Can’t Make This Shit Up). It’ll be in Slovene.

Where can readers connect with you?

RB: I blog at Radikalnews.com, RenatoBratkovic.net and Alibi-Fest.com, but anyone can connect with me on Facebook. I also have an Amazon author page (www.amazon.com/author/renato_bratkovic), and I’m the_big_bratkovski on Instagram. But most preferable way to connect is joining me at the bar and buying me a beer or six.

Thanks, Renato. If you’re a stout man, I’ll share a case.

 


You can buy City of Forts for a special pre-order price HERE. It is also available in paperback.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Kevin Berg

I had a rum and coke to my lips when a call pulled me from some standard joke I’d reheated for the VIPs at this posh party. Outside, Jim emerged from the shadows of the City Hall’s pillars and grabbed at my sleeve as if social isolation had frayed his etiquette.

“Did you get them?” I said.

The little bird’s head jerked here and there for predators on the rooftops, down the side streets, in open windows. “He got ’em all.”

I struck a match to light the darkness in his eyes. Wells of despair.

“What exactly do you mean?”

“He killed all my men. Every one of them.”

“And yet here you stand, your bad breath in my nostrils.”

He opened his mouth to protest but a bullet cut him down. I scanned the city’s dark patches for Kevin Berg, but he used those zones well. I shook my head, stepped over the red pool which gathered round my feet, and rejoined the party.

***

I had a Philly cheese steak stuffed in my mouth, my family all around me in the diner, when Frank waved at me through the window, all frantic.

I excused myself and met him by the dumpster. The stink didn’t help me chow down the remaining mouthful, but what could I do?

“Don’t tell me,” I said. “You lost all your men?”

“How do you know?”

“I can read the lines on your forehead. How did you lose them?”

“He … I … He funnelled us into this warehouse – and … and then kaboom.”

“Kaboom?”

“Yeah. Kaboom.”

“And yet, here you are.”

He stuttered, backed away from me, and cracked the windscreen of the car which plowed through him. I could have swore I saw Berg in the driver’s seat.

I sniffed and rejoined my family for dessert.

***

I was about to putt an eagle on the golf green when I noticed my caddie had changed shape, colour, and height. Ah, Brandon had come with the news. I hate golf and I took the chance to escape these collar-shirted athletes by putting the ball into the rough so I could huddle with my man out of sight.

“How did your men die?”

Before he could even answer with a What, a Wha…, or a goldfish W…, Brandon lost his brains and crumpled to the floor. A golf cart sped away to the eighth hole. The sun glinted off Berg’s glasses. I charged back to the golf party, pissed we had eleven holes of this left.

***

I entered my office early next morning and blacked out from the cosh to my head. I woke up in some basement hanging upside down with my feet tied to a beam.

Kevin Berg sat on his haunches before me, his hands on a golf club for balance. He tutted.

“You only had to ask and I’d have sent you the answers you want,” he said.

I smacked my lips, thirsty for water, or better yet, rum and coke. “Now you tell me.”

He stood and readied the club as if the 18th rolled out ahead. “I’m going to read you the answers, then I’m going to beat you with the golf club.”

I nodded. “Well, your stance is all wrong …”


Kevin Berg writes gruesome, painfully dark fiction. One commentator said of his work, “The whole range of human emotions is on display, with the notable exception of happiness, joy, satisfaction and love.”

But if you like your coffee strong and unsugared, Berg is your man. Mark Wilson called him, “Simply the best kept secret in US indie publishing.”

***

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?

Kevin Berg (KB): I think each one of us has at least a story or two, and some are more interesting than others. Some people like to share and heal, or to frighten and entertain with their tales. Maybe his is just one of the boring ones.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

KB: The protagonist needs to be interesting in some way. Different from everyone else. It is difficult to find originality and unique characters or new ideas anymore, but I am always entertained when I bump into a character on the journey that stands out as unusual among the rest.

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

KB: No way, as long as the struggle to get what they need is something I can identify with, even if just for the story. Great writing doesn’t always have to be pleasant.

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

KB: Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello is my favorite antagonist. By far. To me, he seems the most manipulative and effective type of enemy to bring total destruction, while entirely human.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

KB: I’m not a fan of flowery words. I read to experience something great with the characters the author has introduced to me, not to hear the writer walk through the thesaurus of shit words lodged in their brain from time spent obtaining whatever useless piece of paper they have hanging on the wall.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

KB: Definitely. An intriguing plot and good writing can pull me through a novel in one sitting. Those are the type of stories that stick with me, and I will find myself thinking later of scenes or twists that caught me off-guard, and recommending my favorites to anyone that will listen.

What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

KB: It’s tough to pinpoint when an idea hits, or when a story really takes hold in the imagination. It’s probably a bit of everything, but usually inspiration keeps me from sleep. It shows up right when my mind is finally trying to calm down and is ready for some rest. The spark hits, and I spend the rest of the night thinking and rethinking different plot points, or characters, and what I want them to say.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

KB: That I am not done learning, and will keep going. I doubt anyone that chooses this path ever stops learning something new, trying a different strategy, or using a new method to tell people a story. And make it fun. I had a blast writing Daddy Monster. If it feels like work, it is never fun. Write what you want, and enjoy it. Or fuck off to another hobby.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

KB: The Dead Girl Beside Me is about a man who investigates the latest victim of a serial killer, after he wakes up next to her corpse.

Where can readers connect with you?

KB: Thanks for asking. If someone wants to find me, here’s how:

Author Website: https://kevinbergauthor.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013376897116

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16225161.Kevin_Berg

Amazon Page: https://author.to/kevinberg

Thanks, Kevin.


You can buy City of Forts for the special pre-order price HERE.

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