Messy Business – Books, Writing, Stuff

Books and books and books …


Paul D. Brazill

Stuff Added to the TBR List This Week

No words. Just images.

Buy Never Go Back

I have a new book coming out a week today – Never Go Back

Friday, 29 November 2019, sees the release of my new crime novel, Never Go Back (published by the good, good people at Close to the Bone), and already it’s had some pre-release reviews – and they’re good. Except one, but I can take that. Here’s the thrust:

Barlow Vine just killed a man – his lover’s lover. Now he’s heading from Spain back to his hometown in the vain hope his actions won’t catch up with him.
In his way are nurses, strange kids in Edwardian garb, one blinding headache, and dead-eyed killers who want to use him for their own ends. It’s a cold, murderous homecoming – and he’ll need the luck of every bastard to survive.

I’ve done a few interviews and guest blog posts over the past few months, including with top man David Nemeth and the brutal Jesse “Heels” Rawlins. She’s a tough one. Here they are if you fancy some fun reads:

Do Some Damage

Punk Noir Magazine

Dorset Book Detective

Centre Stage with Mick Rose

Dirty Books with Tom Leins

If you want to get involved in some dirty-doings, you can follow Barlow Vine’s descent into the underworld HERE. Enjoy.

Early reviews:

Never Go Back is a fun, exciting read filled with twists you’ll love and characters you’ll love to hate.” – J.Salem

“This was a fast-paced action adventure … kept me on my toes. Very good read!” –

“Barlow Vine is a criminal bastard, surrounded by even more bastards … Never Go Back is worth your time. Especially if you like watching people suffer …” – Aurelia Pitchstone

“I couldn’t stop reading … The ending left me wishing there was more to read … I highly recommend it!” – Inkwell Horrors

Punk Noir Magazine published a short one of mine – The Kid with the Sad Face

Think about your motives before you act …

You can read the beast HERE.

Stuff I Wish I’d Written … Beau Johnson on The Dark Tower

Hi Beau, which book are we talking about?

The book I’d like to talk about is actually eight books, all of them combining to form Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

Were you already a Stephen King man?

I was, I was – ever since my younger brother wasn’t into a present (Misery) I gave him for his thirteenth birthday. Not wanting it to go to waste, I’ve been hooked (a Constant Reader in King-speak) ever since.

I’ve not read much King. I read Christine when I was young and literal, and the premise annoyed me. I loved the movies Misery, Stand by Me, and The Shining, but I haven’t gone back to the books. His horror books could be construed as twisted fantasy, but aren’t The Dark Tower books out-and-out fantasy? A departure in King’s catalogue?

I think that man is able to write anything, so no, I can’t see it as a departure for him. It’s his longest work by far, in pages as well as years, but it becomes as rewarding as it can get if you are a fan. But yeah, if I have to get concrete, a little more fantasy would populate those books than some of his others. As I’ve been told: there are other worlds than this.

Buy prints of the book via Michael Whelan’s website.

Your writing is gritty and planted firmly in the here-and-now. What attracted you to the fantasy of The Dark Tower series?

Ha – yup, I do love me some grit. As for what attracted me to The Dark Tower – it’s really two things. One, when my young punk self understood what King was saying about reality: that our world was but a blade of grass in a sea of grass, hence “there are other worlds than these.”

Second: when I realized how connected his books were. Easter eggs, guest stars, whatever you want to call them. But the connective tissue running under and through the spine of his stories … consider this the point in time when my youthful mind was blown.

Does each book in the series have a beginning, middle, and end? Does it leave a thread in, say book 1, and not pick it up again until book 6?

They are self-contained, sure, but each connects to the overarching narrative. It is basically a quest, to save the Tower, which stands as the nexus of all realities. If it falls, we all fall. Purdy cool.

Stephen King has told of the influence The Lord of the Rings has on the series. Do you see it?

For sure. Tolkien’s influence can’t be denied. Lord of the Rings is flat-out fantasy , whereas The Dark Tower has a good chunk of its time rooted in our world. A good mix, if I do say so myself. Mother Abigail would be proud.

Who is The Dark Tower’s main protagonist? What do you like about him?

Roland of Gilead. The Gunslinger, himself. We are all searching for something. Acceptance. Tolerance. This world is not so fucked up as we think it is. Roland’s quest is not only a hero’s journey but a redemption story as well. For whatever reason, those two ingredients have formed to become my Huckleberry and why I continue to come back for more.

What is Roland’s redemption all about? Has he failed someone. Has he committed a great sin he must rectify?

A great sin encapsulates it quite nicely. Roland chooses the Tower over a boy named Jake about halfway through the first book, the boy in turn falling to his death because of this decision. Heartbreaking, especially when it comes back in play later in the series. Hang on, I need a tissue. Okay – I am now ready for the next question.

Here’s a hanky, your face is all contorted. What about the antagonist(s)? As epic as Sauron?

I would say in league with, yes. Randall Flagg is one bad-ass dude. You may even remember him from that fine adventure called The Stand. That Dude, the WALKIN’ Dude, he gets around. More of the connective tissue I mentioned earlier. He even pops up as a Merlin-type in another book called Eyes of the Dragon. As for the Big Big Bad? The Crimson King? He was serviceable, playing his part , but if I had to, I’d go with Flagg for the win.

What does Flagg represent in the books?

Anarchy. Chaos. An agent of change. On the whole, a nasty piece of meat.

So he’s more Joker than Sauron?

Not so much a Joker, no. Purdy sure Flagg has more on the ball than Mar Napier. Bigger goals, too. Bringing about the end of all there is puts him in a different league, methinks.

What did you think of the film? A masterpiece? Good, but flawed? A miserable waste of everyone’s time?

Option 3. And to be honest, I couldn’t even finish it. I don’t mind Idris Elba as Roland, but McConaughey – man, was he woefully miscast. Grrr … aaargh…

Going back to the novel, King is a big advocate of pantsing. Does the series read like that? Does it go off on incomprehensible tangents, or does it have that shoot-from-the-hip thrill?

Doesn’t read like that at all. Makes me jealous, is what it does – me being a pantser as well. The man is just too good at his craft. You hit it on the head, too: it very much has a shoot-from-the-hip thrill. From the Tick-Tock Man to saving Eddie Dean, to Roland losing his own fingers, to what King calls Lobstrosities.

Do you pants from the start of your work? You have no thought of the end until you get there?

I think my writing process is maybe a beast unto its own. I sometimes get the ending first and work back from there. Sometimes it’s the opposite and the first line comes to me and boom – the story takes me where it wants. My least favourite is when somehow I start in the middle and find myself working toward both ends. As John Locke from Lost has been know to say: “It’s never BEEN easy!”

Have you ever pantsed to the end of a story and thought, “Sod that, I need to scrap it and start again”?

Nah, can’t say that I have. Now that’s not saying I haven’t switched perspectives when I feel it’s not quite working. I mostly write in first-person, but if I’m not feeling it I sometimes switch to third just to see what’s there. It has worked for some pieces, others not so much. When this happens I usually scrap the whole thing. Bottom drawer business, if you catch my drift.

I get your drift. Do you go into a story thinking of plot, or an emotion?

A little from column A, I guess, a little from column B. I’ve always considered myself a What If? guy.

Has The Dark Tower affected the way you write? Has King’s style influenced you at all? Is there a bit of Roland in Bishop Rider?

When I first began writing for sure I was influenced by King. I have always liked to write, but hands-down Uncle Stevie is the reason I put in the effort. I had limited success in his arena, however, and it wasn’t until I came upon crime fiction that I found my voice. That is not to say I am successful, far from it, in fact. I am having fun, though.

As for the Bishop/Roland comparison? Up until I read your question I would have said no. I can’t quite commit to that anymore, as both men are single-minded as a man can get, now that I think about it – Roland for his Tower, Bishop for every piece of scum his boots can crush. Looking back, then, yes – it would appear a seed had been planted.

That King – always looking out for me. Ha!

One reviewer said The Dark Tower is “high-falutin’ hodge-podge,” but “more than delivers on what has been promised.”

How would you sum up the beast?

One word – Epic. His magnum opus, for sure.

You’ve had some hot recommendations from highly regarded writers such as Tom Pitts, Joe Clifford, and Paul D. Brazill for your short story collection, A Better Kind of Hate. What’s next, and do you feel the pressure of such kudos?

I would say there is some pressure. I’d be lying if I didn’t. But I learned a long time ago I can only write for myself. If people happen to like my stories, hey, that’s the cake. If not, so be it. You can’t please everyone.

PS – Clifford, Pitts, and Brazill all made me pay for those blurbs. Three figures, too. Nah, I kid. Great bunch of writers to know, each one. I have been very fortunate to be accepted into this community of ours. The fact is not lost on me.

Beau, you’ve been a star. Thanks for your time and best wishes for your future work.

Jason, m’man, my thanks to you. Quite accommodating of you to give me time and space. Good luck on your newest work as well: City of Forts! For those of you who haven’t already, go grab yourself a copy. Have some fun.


You can get a taste of Beau Johnson’s work through the following links:

My Kingdom for a Fenceat Spelk Fiction

Hostile Takeoverat Shotgun Honey

Moments in Timeat The Flash Fiction Offensive

The following are other interviews he’s given:

Short, Sharp Interview with Paul D. Brazill

The Interrogation Room with Tom Leins

You can buy A Better Kind of Hate from Amazon US and UK

City of Forts


Bullets, Teeth, & Fists

Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 2

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Paul D. Brazill

With a mutual nod Paul D. Brazill and I pulled nylons – really nice and soft on the skin – over our faces and charged into the bank. I jammed the doors while Paul fired a shot at the ceiling. Plaster sprinkled my head and Brazill ducked, all nonchalant, at the strip light’s un-moored swing.

“Everybody on the floor and don’t move a damn muscle,” I shouted.

Customers screamed and the staff raised their hands as instructed. Brazill supervised the transfer of beautiful pound notes into our holdalls and told the old cashier she had nothing to worry about, “You’ll see out your retirement – just finish the job.”

My smile expanded at how Brazill would answer my questions now I’d agreed to help slip a few illegal notes into our pockets …

But the nylon must have strapped Brazill’s grin tight because he seemed a little unsure. Aye, we’d not yet finished the job, but … life’s sunrise glowed just beneath the horizon’s rim and I would get my answers. He pulled the nylon above his mouth and sucked air through his teeth.

“What?” I said.

I raised my weapon at the cashier who raised his head an inch too high off the floor.

Brazill put a hand on his hip and rubbed his chin with the gun-hand. “What we’re doing, it’s just not right.”

“It’s not what?”

“I mean, come on … look at these fine people …”

I surveyed these fine people. They were laying in puddles of their own sweat and piss. A man with a tattoo of a tear beneath his right eye drowned that tear in real salt.

“I mean, it’s a lovely day, these fine people are just out enjoying their day, and us pointing a gun in their faces – it’s bound to put a dampener on your day, don’t you think?”

“If you’re on the receiving end, yeah.”

Staff paused, the Queen in their hands raised an eyebrow above the bags where they should continue to dump her.

“This was your idea,” I said.

“I know, I know. The money, the money. But it’s a sin.”

I pursed my lips. I shot the high roof as a man shuffled close to the door. He quivered and yelped and said he only needed a breath of fresh air.

“You want to go and get a bottle of gin?” I said to Brazill.

“Would you mind? I can’t sin without gin.”

“And you’ll come back …” I bit my lip, “and answer my questions?”

He offered me a cheeky smile and crept out to head for the offy. I craned my neck to check his whereabouts while I controlled my crowd. They’d sensed the heart had left this operation, and it almost had when the sirens flashed their blue through the windows. The game had to be up. A policeman told me through a megaphone that they had the bank surrounded, that I should come out with my hands up, or release the prisoners.

“Brazill, you bastard, I want my answers.”

A big old burp came from above and Brazill rappelled down a zipline with a bottle of gin clamped by his armpit and a hand out.

“What about the money?” I shouted above the megaphone outside, the crying inside, and the whirr of the helicopter upside.

“All this … ” he waved a hand across the scene, “I was just messin’ with your head, fella. Let’s grab a pint and you can ask me those questions.”

We zoomed up the line and smashed through the glass ceiling, dodged and weaved to escape the helicopter’s gaze, until we managed to park our arses on a bar stool at The Peacock Inn where Brazill raised a pint of John Smiths.

“What did you want to ask?”

Paul D. Brazill has written a bottomless well-worth of short stories, diamonds scattered across a ton of anthologies and online magazines. His highly rated novellas include A Case of Noir, The Guns of Brixton, Too Many Crooks, and Big City Blues. They’re action-packed and very funny.

A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that. What words do you have for such a philistine?

Paul D. Brazill (PDB): That’s a pity. Life’s short – and ultimately futile. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

PDB: Personality. Personality goes a long way. Especially something with bumps and nodules. And spikes. Spikes are good.

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

PDB: Preferably not. I don’t even need likeable people, truth be told.

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

PDB: Brighton Rock by Graham Greene.

“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him” From its brilliant opening line, Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (1938) grabs you by the throat and almost strangles you with its intensity. The lives of rich and diverse characters, such as big hearted Ida Arnold who investigates Hale’s murder, and Pinkie, the psychotic young gangster, intertwine in a gripping novel that is well-deserved of its classic status. The seaside town of Brighton itself is also one of the book’s strongest characters, as the glitz and grit collide.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

PDB: Nothing. If I don’t enjoy something I stop doing it. See question 1.

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

PDB: I just start writing and see what comes out but it’s more likely to be something from life. Something ridiculous. Or sometimes a title TWOCed from a song I like.

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

PDB: Absolutely nothing, I expect. I don’t have much of a character arc.

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

PDB: Last Year’s Man is a seaside noir. An ageing hit man returns to his home town for a life of peace and quiet but he can’t escape his violent past.

Where can readers connect with you?

Here’s the bio: Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, Last Year’s Man, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Polish, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has had his writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. His blog is here.

You can buy his books from HERE.

It’s only beneath the bar, in a drunken haze, that I saw the money bags in Brazill’s hands as he stood in the pub’s doorway. He offered me a grin and a wink and a sorry shrug of the shoulders as he blended into the mist and the crowd outside the pub. I reached out with a groan as cops with guns replaced him in the pub’s entrance.

Ah well, I’d got what I needed.

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

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