Tony Black

GUEST BLOG: June Gundlack on Insectipids

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Nov 132014
June Gundlack.
By June Gundlack

I live in Essex, with a quiet husband and noisy parrot.  During the day I work in the City of London.  At night, I sit in my turret and write...

It is said there is a book inside everyone.  Well it took a very long while for my first novel bravely go where novels go...

I have always loved writing and use people, locations and an inquisitive mind to create my short stories.  My escapades and other journeys have often appeared on The Daily Mail Letters Pages- accompanied by excellent cartoons from their artist, Phil Argent.  Even irritating situations can be entertaining.

After a Start Writing Fiction course at the Open University some years back and writing activity on writing websites I began writing short stories, some made it to print in magazines and charity anthologies.  

My dear old Dad encouraged me 'to write a book'.  An idea in 2007 inspired by my then young teen  nephew, Ben,  started its first draft  - Dad had liked the basic recipe, but it remained a recipe not quite ready.  It was always on the back boiler - waiting to be finished.  Over the years, and with declining health for dad, the book was forgotten - his memory - stolen by the evil Mr Alzheimer.   That is until just before last Christmas, when out of the blue dad asked, 'Did you write a book'?  That was the final push I needed.  I decided to tidy up my novel, INSECTIPIDS, and get it out there. 

In February I was offered a contract with Crooked Cat Publishing.  I knew many great authors from Twitter and Facebook who were represented by CCP and felt truly privileged to become one of their authors.  My novel, Insectipids, is set in part in Scotland  making representation by a Scottish publisher even more special for me.

Insectipids is aimed at teen/YA/and adults who like me, like to act their shoe-size.  I suppose there is a little bit of me in the story - I love to find some element of humour in most things and occasionally a little humour slips into the story - as does weird, bullies, scary, sci-fi, mystery and music.  

Often ridiculed for being different was normal for young James Allen.  He was used to it - until he found himself on the receiving end of a happy-slapping incident.  This turned out to be the spur he needed to change his life and, in doing so, for him to make a difference to the rest of the world.

Inspired by his secret childhood friend, Zoga, his decision takes him on adventures far and wide, introducing him to challenges most adults would cringe at or shy away from.

A short while before his 16th birthday, James develops an increase in physical and mental powers.  Energised by his drive and ability to think and act faster than most, he saves the world from the nemesis known as INSECTIPIDS.

"It's only a fly."  Those four simple words will forever be a reminder that 'only' could mean far worse...

When I received my first author copy - I delivered it to my parents - it was a proud moment for me.  Some members of staff  in their Nursing Home have also read it - proving  there's no upper age-limit for YA fiction.


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Nov 102014
Andrez Bergen.
By Andrez Bergen

Most people would hardly think that a comic can hold a candle to quality hardboiled detective yarns or crime stories, but I beg to differ. In fact I’d even indulge in a round of Queensberry Rules-by-correspondence, or a willy-nilly digital slap (preferably two).

In the long history of the comic book there have been some stand-outs, like Will Eisner with The Spirit and Lee Falk in the earlier days of The Phantom. More recently writer Ed Brubaker has taken on impressive stature in his shake-downs of then-tired titles such as Captain America and Daredevil, as well as Iron Fist (with Matt Fraction). He’s also shone via his own comics Velvet, Fatale and the Criminal series.

So when I set out to write my own hardboiled monthly comic book this year, I was hardly setting a precedent.

Nor was I truly innovating via artwork, since the key influences here spanned from Dada a century ago to Terry Gilliam, Jim Steranko and Jack Kirby’s work in the 1960s.

Bullet Gal, therefore, set itself as a mash-up of stimuli my battered psyche had accrued over the past few decades - summoning moments of Eisner, Kirby, Gilliam, Steranko and Marcel Duchamp – that were stuffed into a shiny chrome art-deco cocktail shaker, jiggled, and infused with latter-day saints of the grime like Brubaker and Kenzo Kitakata.

But that doesn’t intimate the sum total of Bullet Gal.

Equally vital has been the over-saturation I’ve indulged in of 1940s and ‘50s film noir. Think of John Huston’s 1941 shoot of The Maltese Falcon, Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949), and the version of The Big Sleep directed by Howard Hawks in 1946 - all of which I watched dozens of times over. Alongside screenings, a repeated reading of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane is guaranteed to have caused some damage.

And let’s not forget science fiction, again especially cinematic, be it Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, or Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon

Nor contemporary comic book artists. People I’m currently inclined toward include Steve Epting, David Aja, Sean Phillips, David Lloyd, Frank Miller, Matt Kyme and Michael Lark – all of whom have strong leanings of their own towards… noir.

Finally? The cultural baggage: heavily skewed in favour of Australia, where I was born and raised, yet corrupted by my past 13 years in Tokyo.

So what does all this really mean?

Likely that the twelve-issue cycle shaping up Bullet Gal addressed all these things, consciously… or not quite so much. That this is a comic book, yes, infused with elements of hardboiled noir, sci-fi/dystopia, and the collage-style, take-the-piss mentality of cut-up specialists from Duchamp to Brion Gysin. That there’s a sprinkling of Australia and Japan in there, and I carry the added burden of far too much cinema I cherish.

With all these disclaimers in mind, I’d like now to refer you to a particular Kickstarter campaign that’s currently being run.

The open-minded chaps at Under Belly Comics in Canada seem to think that this genre and cultural potpourri works - in and of itself – and they’ve decided to print all twelve issues of Bullet Gal as a 300-page trade paperback.

Artist Niagara Detroit also appears to believe in the project as she provides the painting for the front cover art.

Let’s hope you and the general public are equally like-minded.


New Barry Graham feature at the Highland Times

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Nov 062014

One of the great perks of writing journalism is getting to meet and question people that you admire. I've been a great fan of the American-based Scottish author Barry Graham since first reading his brilliant title, The Book of Man, and I've recently had the chance to interview him for that newspaper of note, The Highland Times.

I talked to Graham about his time in the Highland capital of Inverness, where he worked as a journalist for a while, and did some fiction writing. Interestingly, we both worked for the same newspaper, at different times, and even managed to settle in the same part of the city.

You can read the piece at The Highland Times.

Guest Blog: Douglas Skelton

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Nov 062014
By Douglas Skelton

They say there's a little bit of the writer in all their characters.
Then what part of me is in Davie McCall?
Davie's the hero – well, anti-hero – of my two crime thrillers 'Blood City' and 'Crow Bait' (both published by Luath Press).
He's a crook and a hard man. 
I can't even dodge my fare on the bus and I couldn't punch my way out of a wet paper bag. I'm a writer not a fighter, baby.
He's got clear blue eyes .
I've got brownish eyes and if I take my glasses off I stumble around like Mr Magoo.
He doesn't talk much.
I can go on like a broken record.
He's attractive to women.
So am I (I can't continue with that thought – laughing too much).
He's a hard guy to write. I like dialogue. I like dialogue a lot. And he says so little.
Everything about him is internal, which means that the reader knows more about him than the other characters. Which is the way it should be, of course.
I've tried to make him vulnerable without becoming a wimp. I'm enough of the latter for both of us. He's a hard man with feelings. Sure, step over a line and you'll end up using your teeth as castanets but he's not arbitrary with the punishment. Anyone he hurts has to deserve it. Well, mostly.
So what part of me is in him?
Okay, he likes dogs. He had one in the first book, gave it up in the second and – tiny spoiler alert – gets another one in the third.
We also share an aversion to crowded rooms (unless everyone is looking at me, as my spotlight-grabbing turns at author events will testify. I'm shy but can give it the old 'me, me, me' at the drop of a hat. I've been known to do a ten minute monologue when the wee light comes on in the fridge).
We both like music. 
He doesn't smoke, neither do I.
He doesn't drink or swear. Neither do I.
He doesn't lie.
Okay, I do – especially about the drinking and swearing.
And that's it, really. Not much, is it?
So if there really is a little bit of the writer in all their characters, I dread to think what part of me is in Jimmy Knight – the brutal, corrupt, misogynist of a cop who is one of the running villains of the Davie McCall quartet.
No – not going there. Some things are best left unexplored.

:: CROW BAIT is available from Amazon UK now.

Guest Blog: Gerard Brennan on Undercover

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Oct 282014
Gerard Brennan, author of Undercover.
By Gerard Brennan

One of the coolest things I’ve read from the early reviewers of UNDERCOVER is that if the character, Rory Cullen (a fictional footballer who has recently signed with Manchester City), actually released an autobiography, they’d read it.

Now, in fairness, I’ve put those words in a few mouths simply by including snippets from Cullen: The Autobiography at the start of each chapter in UNDERCOVER. Here’s an example:

Money is killing this game. I'd play for three square meals a day and a roof over my head if that's all it paid. Fucking love those Ferraris, though.

At some points in the novel, the quotes are meant to provide a sense of foreboding. Others are just a wee bit of fun at the expense of the more notorious (in my mind) players in the Premier League. To be clear, UNDERCOVER is a crime thriller featuring Cormac Kelly who is working undercover to infiltrate a criminal gang (yes, the clue is in the title). One of the characters just happens to be a footballer. Another character, the victim of the criminal gang, in fact, is the footballer’s agent.

I feel like that distinction should be made, lest a few people who read this post pay for a copy only to discover that it’s not a Premiership satire. There are elements of that in there, I suppose, but that’s mostly me amusing myself as I try to shape a fast-paced thriller in the form of this novel.

It got me thinking, though ... could I write a fake autobiography? And would you call it an autobiography or a biography? There may be pen name issues if I pretend to be a footballer myself. Legal ones too, as I can’t resist having a poke at the Rooneys, Beckhams and Lampards of this world, and we live in a pretty litigious society. It’d have to be an out-and-out parody for me to get away with writing the kind of stuff that other people can chat about at the pub, the gym or on their chosen social media platform. I could change the names to protect the privileged, but where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, the long and short of it is, I think I could write a Cullen biography in the style of the snippets found in UNDERCOVER. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would be easy. Possible, yes, but not easy. And here, don’t get me wrong, I like to challenge myself, but there are enough challenges already out there for me at the moment. Like trying to build a life in which I can feed my family by writing for a living. I’m kind of doing that now, though I can see a very definite finish line to this lifestyle that I’ve worked towards for over a decade. Every writer can, I suppose, (even the likes of John Grisham can fuck their career through stupidity) and all I can do is write, write, write and hope that there are enough kind souls out there willing to pay to read my scribbles.

And if you’ve read me for free – I’m looking especially at you ebook pirates – maybe you could give a little back in the form of a review? I’d forgive your ‘theft’ if you did. At least it would prove that it was worth stealing.

Unlike Rory Cullen, I’ll never buy a Ferrari, never mind a bunch of them. But that’s okay. I’m lucky to own a Hyundai (it only took me five years to pay the fecker off) and a bus timetable. So long as the kids have been dropped off or picked up from school, I’m relatively free. Could I pretend to be the new George Best for long enough each day to write his *auto*biography? Probably not. But sure, I’d like to spend a little more time with Cormac Kelly instead. I just have about 60K words to write for another couple of projects before I can. 

And I think Kelly would rather spend his time hanging out with a boxer or a mixed martial artist this time around. I know I would.

:: Visit Gerard's website: Buy Undercover on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

Oct 262014

By Dave Zeltserman
The prolific Dave Zeltserman.
When Tony offered me a guest spot on Pulp Pusher, I’d already done a number of interviews and articles about my latest book, The Boy Who Killed Demons, and was afraid I’d run out of anything new to say about it. Still, though, it was a damn generous offer on Tony’s part, and I didn’t want to turn him down, so I decided to do something that I’ve been very nervous about doing. Namely, tell the truth of how Demons came to be published.

Two years ago I was doing a book reading for Monster at a Newton, Massachusetts bookstore, and a kid who had sat in rapt attendance approached me afterwards. The kid  had his hair dyed bright green, and his all-black Goth attire made his pale face look almost ghostly. His name turned out to be Curt Tucker. He was 14, had aspirations to be a writer, and shared my love of H.P. Lovecraft’s weird tales. For four months following the reading, Curt and I traded emails where I attempted to do the mentoring thing and offer encouragement to a very young and fledgling author, and as often happens in situations like this the emails from Curt tailed off. Then 9 months later he surprised me by showing up at my door to hand me a package. He seemed scared and didn’t much want to talk, only asking me to read what was inside the package and to see if I could get it published, telling me that it was important that I do so.  Before I could ask him anything else, he was on his bike, peddling away. It was all very odd. While I was curious about this encounter, I was in the middle of writing a new horror novel that I was deeply into, and so all I did was give the contents of the package a quick cursory look, saw that it was some sort of journal, and stuck it in a pile of things to read. It wasn’t until five months later that I picked it up again and gave it a thorough reading. At that time the name on the journal, Henry Dudlow, seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t place where I’d heard it before. As I read more of the journal, I remembered. About a month or so before Curt had delivered the package, a story had broken about a grisly murder outside of Boston that a 15 year-old Newton kid named Henry Dudlow was suspected of committing. The story, though, quickly died after that one day with no follow up stories, and like a lot of other people I’d forgotten about it. Here’s the strange thing about it: I could swear that this is all true—that I saw the story on at least two Boston newspaper websites—but when I tried searching these newspaper websites, there was nothing. The story has been scrubbed clean, unless I was somehow imagining it.

Here’s where the story gets odder. Any record of Henry Dudlow also appeared to be scrubbed clean. I tracked down his parents, and they insisted they never had a child named Henry or otherwise, but there was something very off in their expressions when they made their claims. After my short and bizarre meeting with them, I tracked Curt down again, and he was now insisting he never gave me anything, but he also seemed badly frightened as he did so.

"readers will fully believe
in both the madness and the greatness
of his tragic young hero
--Publishers Weekly 
At this point I wasn’t sure what to believe. I had this journal written by Henry Dudlow, except Henry supposedly never existed, and the kid who delivered the journal to me seemed almost desperate in his claims of not having done so. Was this a hoax or something else? I knew the journal physically existed—my wife and others verified it—so I wasn’t delusional about its existence. All in all I felt uneasy about the whole thing, and I had to keep digging into it. For several weeks I came up empty, and I started questioning my own sanity. If Henry Dudlow truly never existed, yet I vividly remembered that murder story breaking and now had in my possession what was supposed to be his journal, was it possible that I wrote the journal myself without ever realizing it, and fantasized all the rest of it? I wasn’t quite sure what to think until I found Sally Freeman. When I asked her about Henry I could see for a brief moment that she was going to deny his existence like everyone else had, but then tears welled up in her eyes, and rather grim-faced and defiantly she told me that Henry was real. “His journal is real,” she insisted, “don’t believe what they’re telling you.” I hadn’t told Sally about the journal, and fortunately I recorded her conversation, which allowed my wife to verify it, so at least I proved I wasn’t insane. At least I knew that much. But I was still left with the question whether the journal was real or a hoax. Shortly after meeting with Sally, something happened to tilt this answer more toward the former. While the same people (or demons??) who cleansed any record of Henry ever existing attempted to do the same with Henry’s neighbor, Mr. Hanley, they made one mistake. They forgot about the same newspaper photo that freaked Henry out so much—the one with Hanley in the background carrying a large bulky package wrapped in white butcher’s paper—and I now have it!

I still couldn’t claim the journal was legit—even if Henry Dudlow wrote it, it could still be a hoax or delusional fantasies—but I couldn’t shake the thought that it could be real and for the sake of the world it needed to be out there. For that reason I took it to my publisher and begged them to publish it. I wanted them to attribute the novel to Henry, but since they couldn’t find any record of him ever existing, for legal reasons they’d only publish it as a fictional novel with me as the author. While I felt a bit funny about those terms, getting Henry’s journal out into the world seemed too important not to agree. I just have to pray that this all turns out to be an elaborate hoax. I think we all have to pray for that.

:: The Boy Who Killed Demons is available on Amazon UK and USA

:: Dave blogs at Small Crimes  Visit his website at
Oct 222014
I’ve just published my second book, ‘Blue Wicked’, for Kindle and on Smashwords, a year after publishing my first book, ‘The Cabinetmaker’. Both are gritty Glasgow crime stories, although the second one has more violence, and is not for the faint-hearted, as one reviewer commented. 
When I published The Cabinetmaker on Kindle in 2013, it got generally good reviews, although there was a significant amount of feedback suggesting that it maybe wandered a little for some readers and that there was a bit too much cabinetmaking and football content, which distracted a little from the central story. Then I got my first 3-star review, from one of the book blogging sites, Big Al’s books and pals. Keith Nixon, author of ‘The Fix’, said the book was ‘promising’ when he reviewed it but also gave it a bit of a pasting on the editorial front. Difficult to take, in a way, but I came to the conclusion that he was right, and that when I was writing my next book, I  would use the feedback from the first one to improve my writing, and also employ a freelance editor to make it error free.
I contacted Keith, and he couldn’t have been more helpful, suggesting a couple of editors that I could use, and when I emailed Julie Lewthwaite, she offered to edit a sample of the book to show me what she could do for me. I was pleased with the result and sent her the whole manuscript, which was very promptly returned to me covered in a mass of electronic red ink! And she told me I used too many adverbs!
I accepted all of her typo, punctuation and grammar corrections and 90% of her style and content suggestions. Even when I didn’t agree with her changes, her comments made me think of alternatives. I also removed a pile of unnecessary adverbs, and re-wrote one complete section on her advice. After she’d checked it again and we’d had another couple of rounds of polishing it, I felt that the process had been well worthwhile and anyway, the costs had been covered by the income from the moderate sales of ‘The Cabinetmaker’. The result, I hope, is a more focussed and pithy book with less distractions.
As the acid test, I sent ‘Blue Wicked’ to Keith Nixon, and this time he found no fault with the book, and gave it a 5-star rating. 
At some point, I’m going to go back and have a final go at re-editing The Cabinetmaker, and I’ll get Julie to do her stuff as well. I also have another book in the pipeline, and rough plots for a few more books after that. I love writing, and the beauty of it is that you can do it anywhere. About a third of ‘Blue Wicked’ was written on the iPad, on holiday, and also during the odd insomniac hour or two I sometimes have in the middle of the night. 
The other useful skill I forced myself to learn was to touch-type. I still ain’t fast, but I can watch the screen as I type, which really aids the writing process. I would advise anyone starting to write to do this as quickly as possible, and I wish I’d done it sooner.
'Blue Wicked' is a Gritty thriller set in the south side of Glasgow. Eddie Henderson finds himself as the unlikely investigator holding information that there's a serial killer targeting the substance dependent underclass that inhabits the notorious Glasgow housing estates. The police ignore his warnings but one young detective constable believes him and she helps him search for the truth, despite putting her own career at risk. Their desperate search for the killer eventually sparks off a massive manhunt, with Eddie and Catherine, the young detective, at the forefront of the investigation. The book contains a fair bit of strong language and Glasgow dialect, and has some very violent passages. 
I've been writing since 2003. I was born in Glasgow in 1960 and spent the first twenty-three years of my life there, but now live and work on the Ayrshire coast, in the animal health sector. I'm married with four grown up children and in my spare time I read, sail, make furniture, play football and watch films when I'm not writing.

Latest column for the Highland Times

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Oct 102014

My latest column for the Highland Times newspaper has just gone live.

This week it's about the dramatic downturn in author earnings - slumping to a low of £11,000 this year according to the latest figures by the ALCS.

There's also a bit of commentary in there from publishing legend Allan Guthrie, himself an award winning writer, a literary agent and a successful publisher in partnership with Kyle MacRae at Blasted Heath.

You can read the column now at the Highland Times.

Les Goes Back to Work

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Oct 102014
If there's one writer we look out for her on Pulp Pusher it's Les Edgerton. If you didn't realise the author of The Bitch and The Rapist has a new one out and it sounds like a classic piece of Edgerton genius....Here's the run-down:

A mix of Cajun gumbo, a couple tablespoons of kinky sex and a dash of unusual New Orleans settings and you wind up with Les Edgerton’s latest romp fest! 

Pete Halliday is busted out of baseball for gambling and travels to New Orleans to make his fortune hustling. Five years later, he’s deep in debt to bookie and in cahoots with Tommy LeClerc, a Cajun with a tiny bit of Indian blood who considers himself a red man. 

Tommy inveigles a reluctant Pete into one scheme after another, the latest a kidnapping scheme where they’ll snatch the Cajun Mafia King and hold his amputated hand for some serious jack. 

Along the way, Pete is double-crossed by Tommy and falls in love with part-time hooker and full-time waitress Cat Duplaisir. With both the Italian and Cajun mobs after them, a chase through Jazz Fest, a Tourette’s outbreak in a black bar and other zany adventures, all seems lost. 

Fans of Tim Dorsey’s character Serge Storms, and readers who enjoy Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen will enjoy this story. 

“A hard-driving, relentless story with grab-you-by-the-throat characters.”—Grant Blackwood, New York Times bestselling author 

“The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnaping is not for the faint of heart, and that’s just one of its selling points. If you like crime fiction that cracks wise while offering a peek into the darker recesses, this is the book for you.” —Bill Fitzhugh, author of Pest Control and The Exterminators 

“...a dark crime comedy that will have you laughing from page one. It crackles with manic energy and mad thrills. If you’re looking for a different kind of edgy crime novel, this is the one to grab.” —Bill Crider, author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mysteries 

“Les Edgerton’s latest book is the real deal, and has everything to keep you turning the pages. It’s a caper, full of fun and high-jinx, but it’s also bitter-sweet, engendering a full range of emotions. You’ll smile, you’ll wince, you’ll laugh out loud, and sometimes you’ll even cringe, but you’ll come away from the read feeling thoroughly satisfied and entertained. A terrific read.” —Matt Hilton, author of the best-selling Joe Hunter thrillers.

:: Buy the book on Amazon

Not the Booker prize – the final vote

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Oct 072014
If you've been following the Not the Booker prize over at The Guardian's website then it can't have escaped you that the hotly-anticipated moment where the winner is announced will soon be upon us.

There's been a few weeks of voting and review - harsh but fair, in the main - under the excellent stewardship of the paper's Sam Jordison and now it's time for the judging panel to make a decision ... but not before the great British public get another chance to chip in their tuppence worth!

Until Monday, October 13, you can vote can vote for your fav' book on the shortlist by going to the comments section and leaving the words, 'Vote: The Last Tiger' (for, ahem, example) and a sentence or two (about 40-words or so) on the reasons behind your choice.

So, simple enough, and you can get voting here.