Tony Black

The Ringer gets some press

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Jan 302015
 
It can't have escaped both of you, my dear readers, that The Ringer is about to kick off at Ayr Gaiety Theatre on Feb 11-12.

There's even been some great coverage for the play in the press with the Daily Record, Evening Times, Scots Mag, Ayrshire Post, Highland Times, Rutherglen Reformer and many more running very nice stories.

There's more to come, so will post those when they appear, but in the meantime to keep you informed, and amused, there's a Pinterest page and a video trailer.

TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW FROM 
AYR GAIETY BOX OFFICE 
OR CALL 01292 288235

TRISTA & HOLT: BENDING NOIR TO THE DISCO BALL

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Jan 302015
 
By Andrez Bergen

While most people conjuring up the Tristan/Tristram and Isolde/Iseult tale of yore probably think love-potion histrionics, armour, amore, King Arthur, much bodice-ripping, Richard Wagner’s opera, or James Franco in one of his lamer film roles, I steer towards something far nicer: A book of myths and legends that I grew up with, illustrated by the great Alice and Martin Provensen.
Martin collaborated on Disney fare like Dumbo and Fantastia, but you might know him best for his creation (in 1952) of Tony the Tiger for Kelloggs. I actually have a coffee mug with that on it. Alice worked with the Walter Lantz Studio, creators of Woody Woodpecker. But it was their imagery as pair that caused the most impact, with eight books making the New York Times list for best-illustrated tomes each year they were published.
Anyway, Alice and Martin are bloody brilliant artists.
My dad picked up for me the myths and legends book I mentioned when I was in primary school, and I call it simply (suitably) Myths & Legends — though the official title is the somewhat long-winded Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends Adapted from the World’s Great Classics (originally published in 1958) with the stories adapted by Anne Terry White. 
So I always dug the tale of Tristram & Iseult (also known as Tristan & Isolde) for the artwork as much as the words and had it in mind for years to adapt the story in some way, somehow. I did pay homage in my novel One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, but on New Year’s Eve I got the bug in my “creative” bonnet to have a swing at the yarn — as a comic book.
Hence Trista & Holt.
Now, before you cough, splutter and/or soapbox that comic books are not real literature and belong nowhere near noir or on this site, let me point you in the direction of writers Alan Moore (who did V for Vendetta, Marvelman and Watchmen, all three of which have appeared on university curriculums apparently — though don't quote me), Frank Miller (Sin City and some of the best Batman and Daredevil escapades), Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) and the great Ed Brubaker — who rebooted Captain America with the 'Winter Soldier' saga and has done comics with names like Criminal and Fatale
So get over it.
If you didn't hack, choke or get judgemental at the mention of sequential stuff, all the better.
Anyway, over Christmas/New Year I was also entrenched in another Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler binge. I do them frequently. But this time I caught up on 95% of the Continental Op stories, along with The Glass Key, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man (yet again), as well as Marlowe in Playback and The High Window.
So I had this big hardboiled detective vibe happening in my brain, while polishing off my Bullet Gal series — which is hardboiled noir set in the '40s.
And when I started the new comic, of course these influences were going to hang heavy — along with the comic book work of Brubaker, Fraction, Miller, Moore and the pioneering Will Eisner (The Spirit).
Which brings me to the new comic series, the first issue of which will be published at the end of February via IF? Commix [iffybizness.weebly.com] in Australia.
Hell, there's even a Facebook page [facebook.com/tristaandholt] where I put regular work-in-progress rubbish and waffle on a bit more than here.
What's the score?
Well, it's the 1970s and set in an unnamed city in which crime families flourish and the police pinch pennies from those with most power. Our heroes are members of rival clans, star-crossed heirs apparent destined to find love, loss and betrayal.
I have no idea what encouraged me to flip the coin three pages into the new series and set the time frame as the '70s. 
Sure, some of the best crime/gangster movies were made then like The Godfather, The Anderson Tapes, Dirty Harry, The French Connection and A Clockwork Orange — but it's also the era of flares, disco, The Star Wars Holiday Special and CHiPs.
Which makes it all the more fun to tackle. With a serious bent, I swear.

:: Andrez Bergen blogs here: https://andrezbergen.wordpress.com

PUSH-UPS: Anthony Neil Smith

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Jan 252015
 
So, what you pushing right now?
Got a new novel called WORM from Blasted Heath Books that has just hit the Amazons. The e-version is out, and there will be a paperback version from Down & Out Books in a couple of months. 
Also, after XXX SHAMUS (which I wrote under the pen name Red Hammond) was banned on Amazon, Broken River Books teamed up with Fanbacked to offer it *exclusively* right here: http://www.fanbacked.com/c/xxx-shamus/
What’s the hook?
WORM is a standalone novel about a regular guy looking for work up in the North Dakota oil fields—an economic gold-mine, an ecological disaster, and a sad human story all balled up into one lonesome stretch of prairie. This one took me a long time to write, and I’m pretty proud of it. 
And XXX SHAMUS is pretty much porn, but un-sexy. It’s kind of a critique of both the “pan to the curtains” shot in PI films, and the soul-sucking weariness of an over-porned culture. So, Hopper is a New Orleans private eye looking for a missing pregnant teenager, but Hopper is also irresistible to nearly everyone he meets. So he ends up fucking a lot of people. And how does that make him feel? Tired. Very tired. 
Yep. That shit was banned from Amazon.com.
And why’s that floating your boat?
Because being banned is cool if you can then turn the book into a cult classic! Goddamn, we’re trying!
WORM is a bit personal to me because 1) my mother-in-law was the one who pointed out the possibility of a story there in North Dakota, and 2) I had a heart-attack while I was writing it. I’ve made a full recovery and I’m in great shape, but damn, ya know? After that heart attack, I looked at what I was doing and decided I loved being a writer on an indie press, working with people I really admire and like, instead of chasing after douchebag agents and Big 6 presses.

When did you turn to crime?
Young age. Young, young age. Had to be, like, six or seven, discovering the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, and Encyclopedia Brown. That quickly gave way to adult novels, because the covers were wicked cool.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
Always noir, always contemporary. I want to see what writers can do with it next to make it new and exciting. Same shit I’m trying to pull. No one wears fedoras much anymore, but people still treat other people like shit and then get stomped into shit themselves, usually over drugs, money, or fucking. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Oh, I hate hate hate to do this because I hate leaving people out (and that’s because of how often I’m left out of “best of” lists), but okay, lately? Rusty Barnes’ novel RECKONING, The Area X Trilogy, Jim Harrison’s THE GREAT LEADER, Ryan Bradley’s WINTERSWIM, and now I’m regretting naming things. So much stuff on Kindle (shout out to Anthony Schiavino’s SHOTGLASS MEMORIES), damn you for asking. I’m also getting into hair pomade, and I love Lockhart’s Hair Groom, Anchor’s Teddy Boy Original, Shear Revival, and O’Doud’s Light.
See any books as movies waiting to happen?
No. Not mine, anyway. I mean, HOGDOGGIN’ is supposedly under contract, but we’re way past when I thought that would get traction (although I still love the producers and the director. I know, I know, movie stuff takes time.)
I’m very picky about movies, anyway. I get bored with them really fast, and I’ve found that when a ton of people in the noir world are going nuts over a particular movie, I usually don’t get the hype. So maybe I just prefer TV and novels.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Gotta go indie. I’m just finding more interesting stuff, writers willing to take risks and publishers willing to let them.
And I’m going to say digital. The prices of indie press books on Kindle make it possible to discover a lot of new stuff, and I read faster on Kindle. So that’s my discovery engine. When I buy paper now, it’s because I love the author enough to get it immediately, or because the book itself is from a small press and handsome, or, most importantly, it’s a mainstream book that’s used and cheap. Books should be cheaper. Cheaper books means we are willing to try more authors and take more chances.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
Well, Fanbacked, of course: http://www.fanbacked.com/c/xxx-shamus/
Here’s another: http://www.wdwforgrownups.com/

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Even though I’ve come to accept and appreciate my position as a small-time writer on indie presses, it is still pretty hard to not be bitter about how things didn’t work out with larger presses for the earlier books, especially ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, which really should’ve…[takes deep breath], but after the heart attack, I just couldn’t put myself through that grind any more. I’d rather work hard to leave the stress and heart break (ha, see what I did there?) of those days behind and publish with smaller presses where I know fewer readers will find me. It’s complicated. It’s sometimes shitty, but I’m also now in a place where the happiness outnumbers the unhappiness 10 to 1.

I’ll just keep writing novels. It’s just a part of my life now.

GUEST BLOG: On The Wire

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Jan 132015
 
By D. F. Robertson

Some readers here will (hopefully) be more familiar with my genre fiction published under the pen name of Leon Steelgrave through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.  You might then find yourself asking what exactly constitutes a D. F. Robertson novel.  In part, like one of my literary heroes, Neil Gunn, it is a Scottish connection, and more than that, a tendency to defy classification.
Although the more snobbish element of the literary establishment might take a different view, I have long held that good writing is good writing, regardless of whether it is genre fiction or mainstream literary fiction.  Writers set out to write the best book they can; sometimes we are successful, other times not, but either way we prove Iris Murdoch’s assertion that “every book is the wreck of a perfect idea”.  I suspect this is why the majority of us continue to write, striving towards the chimera of executing our ideas perfectly.  I have yet to succeed, but my decision to publish this book under my own name and in physical form indicate its status as a favoured son.
The genesis of On The Wire lies as far back as 2005, when the idea detached itself from another, as yet unpublished, novel.  It took me until 2012 to complete a draft I felt equal to the idea.  I completed several other novels during this period, but always knew I would come back to this one.  In many ways, it was simply the process of allowing my skill as a writer to develop to the point where I felt confident with my ability tell the story as it demanded to be told.  The killing fields of Flanders demand respect, while the dead are owed the truth.  Twin objectives not always easy to reconcile.
The central conceit of the book is the seeming invulnerability of Davy Geddes, a mysterious loner who volunteers for Kitchener’s New Army to atone for some unspecified sin.  Here we have the juxtaposition between an army of men fighting to live and a single man hoping to die, which allows us to explore the concept of heroism and the ever troubling issue of faith during war.  As one would expect, themes of revenge and justice are never far away.  This is also, predominately, a story of the working class, of farm workers, labourers, shop assistants and factory workers.  Ordinary folk compelled by extraordinary circumstances to participate in the greatest slaughter of the modern age.  As such, it is no place to be concerned with the justness of either side’s cause.  Neither shall I offer any apology for what some readers might view as unnecessary brutality within the prose.  War is a dirty, dehumanising business and it should ever be portrayed as such within the pages of fiction.
The setting is, of course, one of great social upheaval, with socialism and women’s suffrage sweeping through Europe.  Both have their roots in class and equality issues that continue to dog modern society.  We have come a long way in the last century, but not nearly far enough, judging by the images on our television and computers screens.  And that brings us back to why we write; if our world were perfect few of us would feel the need to hold up a mirror, black or otherwise, to it.
:: Visit D.F. Robertson on Facebook and buy On the Wire on Amazon UK.




THE RINGER comes to the stage

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Jan 062015
 

Wed 11 & Thu 12 Feb at 7.30pm

MAIN THEATRE 

Tickets: £14.00 / £12.50 (conc)
Online booking at The Gaiety Theatre, Ayr.


A brand new hard-hitting crime drama from Edinburgh based award-winning journalist, editor and novelist, Tony Black. The Ringer is a cautionary tale of revenge, enacted upon the most unsavoury of characters. Told in the raw Scots tongue, and equally unflinching language, the lowlifes of Scotland’s second city have never looked so low.
For small time Glasgow drug dealer, Stauner, life is sweet when he meets Monique. With free board and an unpaid servant at his beck and call, the daily trip to the bookies is his toughest chore. It could all be too good to be true, but the misogynist Stauner stupidly believes it’s his due. When the wide boy’s deluded state persuades him that Monique should steal from night-club boss Davie Geddes, however, Stauner’s arrogance gets the better of him. Soon his cloak of small-minded bigotry is stripped from him and he’s forced to pay for the grievous misdeeds of his past.
Parental advisory 16+. Contains strong language, dark comedy, violent themes and sexual references. 
Starring Evie Adams and Chris Taylor. Adapted by Pete Martin.

PUSH-UPS: Jon Bassoff

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Dec 292014
 
So, what are you pushing right now?
Other than the usual designer drugs, I’ve got a book out called Factory Town

What’s the hook?
Ramsey Campbell calls it “a hallucinatory descent into an urban hell” and I think that’s a pretty good description. The basic premise is this: a tortured man named Russell Carver arrives in this post-industrial wasteland searching for a young girl. Wandering deeper and deeper into the dangerous, dream-like and darkly mysterious labyrinths in town, Russell stumbles upon clues that not only lead him closer to the missing girl, but to his own troubled past as well. Factory Town is violent, surreal, and grotesque—just like my family dinners. 

And why’s that floating your boat?
Before writing Factory Town, I read the book The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’d never read anything like it before. It read like a long, strange dream. Characters seemed to take on new personas with no explanation. Time, place, and point-of-view shifted with no explanation. And it was confusing as hell. I like confusion. While Factory Town comes from a different genre, I worked hard to use that same dreamlike logic in the novel. 

When did you turn to crime?
As a kid, my father indoctrinated me with film noir (The Maltese Falcon is his favorite film). When he showed me The Third Man, I was hooked. And then I read Jim Thompson. Such violence. Such meanness. I didn’t know you could make your narrator a complete psychopath! And that’s what I’ve done. Every one of my narrators is wounded at best, sociopathic at worst. 

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
The darker the better. My own writing has been placed in the sub-sub genre of “psycho-noir” and I like that just fine. I love noir and hardboiled both, but I’m really fascinated when the author messes with the narrative itself. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Right now I’m reading Satango by this Hungarian author named Lazslo Krasznahorkai. He writes these incredibly long and meandering sentences and is able to convey terrible sense of doom and dread. With my modest intellect it’s challenging as hell, but I’m plowing through it. 

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
My own! Corrosion and Factory Town were both optioned and have been turned into screenplays by the great Jack Reher, but now it’s that miserable waiting game. I hope it happens so I can move to Hollywood, have an affair with a young starlet, become addicted to narcotics and narcissism, and thoroughly ruin my life. But I’m not holding my breath. 

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
A story’s a story, so it could be written on the back of a cocktail napkin for all I care. I’d say that indie presses are putting out more exciting novels these days. My American publisher, DarkFuse, would be at the top of that list, I think. 

Shout us a website worth visiting.
See pictures of me (fully clothed) and learn about my books at www.jonbassoff.com

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself.

I had a vasectomy when I was thirteen years old, by court order, after I knocked up a three hundred pound El Salvadorian woman who also happened to be the mayor’s mistress. I've since been married six times, my current wife for fourteen years and not once has she asked me what I do for a living. 


:: Buy FACTORY TOWN on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

GUEST BLOG: June Gundlack on Insectipids

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
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.










BULLET GAL: HARDBOILED WONDERLAND, AND THEN SOME

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
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.


BULLET GAL KICKSTARTER:

New Barry Graham feature at the Highland Times

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
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.