New interview

Just dashing in, covered in glitter and sellotape, to mention that Chris Rhatigan of All Due Respect has interviewed me for the ADR blog.

You can find my replies on a raft of topics, including why I wrote ‘Gravy Train’ from several different points of view, why I don’t write about spies and billionaires, and which other UK crime writers I can recommend, over at the blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Now, where did I put that gift tag?

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Gravy Train sets off

GT v5Exciting news today – my novel ‘Gravy Train’ has just set off on its travels, courtesy of All Due Respect (Down & Out Books).

£80,000. Seven people want it. Will any of them get it? That’s the tag line for the book, which features a bunch of losers chasing a bag of money (the aforementioned £80,000 no less) around the back streets of Birmingham. All of them are good at nicking it, but not so much at hanging onto it. And when it all blows up into a watery showdown on the banks of the local canal, it’s more a case of whether any of them can keep their hands on it at all.

To follow the adventures of barmaid Sandra, fat husband Mike, streetwise mugger Lenny, car thief Justine, crime boss Ballsy McBollockface and the rest, head for a station near you. The gravy train will be calling at Amazon US, Amazon UK, and all good book shops and suppliers. So hop on board and shunt your engine over there now. Just make sure you get off at the right stop, and mind the gap between the train doors and the platform…

Where the Heck Wednesday: Tom Leins

To get my own back on Tom Leins for the rusty pliers yesterday, I made him do a slot for Where the Heck Wednesday. In spite of the cattle prod, he’s come up with a great piece about, of all the surprising places, Paignton in Devon! Over to you, Tom (and I think I might have been in a pub like that, in Colne):

Book title: Repetition Kills You! (and others)

Setting: Paignton, Devon

Author: Tom Leins

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

Wish You Were Here TOM LEINS - Paignton Noir

My latest book, Repetition Kills You, is a literary jigsaw puzzle set it the south west coastal town of Paignton, England. Together with the neighbouring towns of Torquay and Brixham it forms the borough of Torbay, which was created back in 1998. Torbay – often referred to as the ‘English Riviera’ – relies heavily on the tourist industry during the summer months, and has an unsettling ‘ghost town’ quality during the winter.

In 2017 Torbay was identified as one of the coastal communities with the worst levels of economic and social deprivation in the UK, as well as being ranked as the local authority with the ninth lowest average wage in the entire country. Last year the synthetic drug Spice arrived in Torquay, and the situation degenerated so quickly and hideously that the mini-epidemic even piqued the interest of the national media.

Paignton Hospital was shut down in 2017, and Paignton Police Station was bulldozed six or seven years ago for a property development that never materialised. (Note: I have preserved both locations for storytelling purposes!) The increasingly lawless, poverty-stricken environment detailed above forms the backdrop for my books. Cheerful stuff, right?

Unsurprisingly, Joe Rey – the unlicensed investigator protagonist in my books – doesn’t spend much time on the beach or in family-friendly pubs; he trawls derelict industrial estates, decrepit caravan parks, halfway houses, welfare hotels, crack-dens and pubs. Lots of pubs! Grim, distrustful places where the sun never shines. Establishments which survived the recession with a cockroach-like tenacity, where dark secrets continue to lurk! Some of the location names have been changed (to avoid legal action), but the landscape and geography of Paignton have been preserved.

Rey’s client base are generally middle-aged men with murky pasts – arguably the only people with disposable income in this town – and he does what it takes to survive as society starts to fray at the edges. (If you want a brief idea of local people’s capacity for poor decision-making, Torbay voted 63% in favour of Brexit!) Suffice to say, during the course of my books, Rey encounters plenty of violently dispossessed people who are way out of their depth.

Paignton is a small town, with a population of around 50,000, but it can still be divided up into very recognisable areas, and each one of these will get its own book in due course. This overarching plan is an attempt at mapping my version (and I suppose my vision) of Paignton. Seaside resorts like Paignton still have their own peculiar brand of retro Englishness, and I like to fuse this sun-faded view of Blighty with my own fascination with abandoned spaces and places to create my own warped take on Psychogeography.

All of this can be seen in my collections Repetition Kills You and Meat Bubbles & Other Stories and my e-books Skull Meat, Snuff Racket and Slug Bait. I’ve been writing about Rey for twelve years now, and I’m still not entirely sure if he is a good man with bad intentions, or a bad man with good intentions. Either way, he will be your tour guide when you visit the Wild Westcountry. Pay him a visit if you dare!

***

Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash, Spelk Fiction and Close to the Bone. He is the author of three novelettes, SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET and SLUG BAIT, and two short story collections, MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Close to the Bone) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books).

Gravy Train cover reveal

Regular readers will remember that I mentioned a few months back that my first ever full-length novel, ‘Gravy Train’, is due out from All Due Respect in November.

Well, work has been going on in the background ever since and the big news is that the book now has a cover. And here it is.

GT v5

I love it. I love the grungy look, I love the sense of speed conjured in the top image, I love the fact that it could easily be a street corner pub in Birmingham. I even love the font, which is similar enough to the one used on ‘Raise the Blade’ to be something of a Tess Makovesky brand. Many thanks to Eric Beetner for all his hard work in conjuring this up from not much more than a blurb and some vague mumblings from me.

November might sound like ages away yet but it’s only five months and the time will pass in the same high-speed blur as the cars on that photo. I’m already getting excited – I hope you are too.

2017: the good bits

Yes, yet another review of the year – but I will at least keep this short by just picking out a few of the year’s highlights! Here goes:

Best crime book: ‘Coffin Road‘ by Peter May – an ingenious mix of crime, amnesia and bee-keeping (yes, really!) set against the stunning backdrop of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Best noir book: ‘Too Many Crooks‘ by Paul D Brazill – tongue-in-cheek Brit-Grit that hurtles between London and Warsaw, where neither the bad guys nor the good guys get what they deserve!

Best movie: Not sure if it quite counts as crime but I’ll say it anyway – Dr Strange, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. I loved the historical/fantasy elements and it was much more intelligent than the usual frantic Marvel fare.

Best TV series: Follow the Money 2: another great slice of Scandi-noir but with fraud and money-laundering as the central themes rather than murder. Every bit as gripping as the first series with some knock-out performances from the two lead actors, Thomas Bo Larsen and Thomas Hwan, plus a surprisingly moving ending.

Best writing event: a toss-up between Crime & Publishment (friends new and old, valuable insights into the world of writing and publishing); and Mike Craven’s book launch for ‘Body Breaker‘ in Carlisle (witty banter between Mike and fellow author Michael J Malone plus a great night out).

Best non-writing event: the Pink Floyd ‘Their Mortal Remains‘ exhibition at the V&A Museum. Huge set pieces combined with smaller, more intimate exhibits that really gave an insight into the band. A real once-in-a-lifetime event.

P1020947

Best news story (national): Probably this one, about yet another bungling criminal stuck in a window in Birmingham for five hours. Puns about ‘being framed’ spring to mind…

Best news story (friends): My writer friend Lucy Cameron getting her debut crime novel ‘Night is Watching‘ published by Caffeine Nights earlier this year. I missed the launch (drat) but I know how excited she was!

Best news story (me): Well, I had to say it, didn’t I? For me the highlight of the whole year was the news that All Due Respect have accepted my first crime novel, ‘Gravy Train’, for publication in November next year. I can’t wait!

So, how was your year? Good, I hope – and here’s hoping 2018 will be every bit as exciting/successful/interesting as this one has been, for all of us.

Exciting news

Yesterday I had official confirmation of the good news I’ve known about for a few weeks now, which is that my first crime novel, ‘Gravy Train’, has been accepted for publication in 2018 by All Due Respect (an imprint of Down and Out Books).

The book is a comedie noir romp in which a bunch of dodgy characters chase a bag of ill-gotten gains around Birmingham’s back streets and canals. As with my last book ‘Raise the Blade’ the title is nicked from a Pink Floyd track, this time the rather appropriate Have a Cigar.

gravy_train

To say I’m over the moon is an understatement. Until recently I wasn’t sure I could write a whole crime novel, and it took the combined nagging of three writer friends (Linda Wright, Irene Paterson and Jackie Baldwin) before I even tried. After much head-scratching, crossing-out and sheer hard work, I’d increased the novella version of Gravy Train to double its original size, but still wasn’t sure it was suitable, enjoyable, or even much good.

But I’m delighted to say that All Due Respect loved its breathless pace and offbeat characters, and felt it fitted well with their ‘low-life’, noir ethos.

The book is due out in November next year, which seems like ages to wait but will no doubt whisk past in no time at all. In the meantime, here’s a brief blurb so you know what all the fuss is about.

“Who’ll take a slice of their pie?

Crime pays. So barmaid Sandra thinks when she overhears details of a betting scam and wins herself and fat husband Mike eighty thousand pounds. But they’ve reckoned without mugger Lenny, lying in wait outside the betting shop door. And he’s reckoned without a top-notch car thief, his own devious boss, and Sandra’s unpleasant almost-uncle George.

Mayhem ensues as a bunch of disparate – and desperate – characters chase the bag of money around Birmingham’s back streets. Plenty of them help themselves to the cash, but none of them are any good at hanging onto it. As they hurtle towards a chaotic showdown on the banks of the local canal, will any of them see their ill-gotten gains again? Or will their precious gravy train come shuddering to a halt?”

All Due Respect

All Due Respect issue #1The first issue of this brand new crime magazine has just hit the streets, and very good it looks too. Nice ‘pulp’ style cover, a mix of fiction and articles, and stories by some of the big names in the genre: Thuglit editor Todd Robinson, king of Brit-grit Paul D Brazill to name just two. As the editors themselves say, “All Due Respect and your eyes: a combination even better than doughnuts and coffee.” Although I might pass on the doughnuts, thanks. Bit too stodgy for my liking.

Sticky buns aside, if you want to get your mitts on a copy of the magazine the digital version is already available on Amazon. Print version to follow soon. More details (of the zine, if not the doughnuts) at the All Due Respect website.