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Greg Bardsley

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Crime fiction

Like a sock in the gut

It’s been a while.

Been a while since I’ve read a book that just shook in my hands. You know, with a life all its own, the characters jumping off the page before you, the story engrossing you, the emotional well-being of the protagonist producing a big lump in you514cejg6p1l__sl500_aa240_1r throat.

Not sure why it’s been a while. I have my suspicions. But what I do know is that it’s a tricky —  damn tricky — business, making a novel work at that level.  Making it work so that when the world caves in on a character like Gus Dury, you feel like you’ve been socked in the gut.

Well, last week I was socked in the gut. You could say I was Gutted.

I was lucky to get ahold of an advance copy of Gutted, the forthcoming novel by Scottish maestro Tony Black. Gutted exposes us once again to the world of  Dury, a journalist turned down-and-out  alcoholic and dive-bar proprietor. We first met Dury in Black’s breakout debut, Paying for It. In Gutted, we go a little deeper into Dury’s past, and we come along as the utterly flawed, supremely loveable Dury struggles to solve a gruesome murder that, if it goes unsolved, just might destroy what is left of his own life.

What gets me is Black’s ability to write stories that are so visceral and brutal in their physicality, and yet so thoughtful and touching in their emotional weight. Damn, damn impressive, Mr, Black.

He smells bacon, and it drives him cuckoo

Badass noir zine Plots with Guns came out with “one bar fight of an issue,” as its editor Anthony Neil Smith puts it. And I’m thrilled to report that my story, “Crazy Larry Smells Bacon,”  is included — along with pieces by Mark Raymond Falk, Frank Bill, Jason Hunt, Keith Rawson, Jonathan Woods, Neil Richter and someone called Anonymous-9.

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I had a lot of fun with “Crazy Larry.” I smiled a lot when I wrote this one. I gave myself the creeps when I read it back to myself.  I think about the namesake of the story, and I grin. There’s something about potentially dangerous oddballs that makes me smile. Not sure why, but there it is.

Once again, as was the case with my story, Funny Face, which appeared last year in Storyglossia, I have Smith to thank for helping me strengthen the piece. ANS came back hard with the straight dope, and I am grateful for it, because the piece is stronger for it. 

Feeling kinda verklempt over here on the left coast. …. You make me wanna be a sicker writer, Neil.

 

Dude ….

Dude …

Dude ….

Very … very cool.

Ayres alerted me to the recently unveiled cover for “Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll,” the second anthology of crime stories produced by Thuglit and Kensington Books. This edition happens to include my piece, “Big Load of Trouble,” and a great story by Ayres (“Politoburg”). We’re the what the cover refers to as “Others” — and damn proud of it.

Love the cover design. Can’t wait to see this one drop, come May 26 — in bookstores, on Amazon and elsewhere. … I tip my hat to you, Todd Robinson, you frickin’ badass.

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You like depravity, you dirty little thing

Yeah, I know what you like. You like to read that sick shit. And you’re wondering if that guy over there — that seemingly normal guy over there enjoying his coffee — is capable of concocting the same kind of disgusting, perverted and trangressive stories that percolate through your skull each and every day. Well, guess what — maybe he is. Maybe he’s just like you, with a mind in the gutter.

Hell, if you pick up the latest edition of Out of the Gutter, the “modern journal of pulp fiction and degenerate literature,” you will see that you and I are not the only ones with bent imaginations. There’s some seriously great (and sick) fiction up in that piece — so far, I have really enjoyed stories by Jed Ayres, Vicki Hendricks, Charlie Stella, Jordan Harper, Sophie Littlefield, David Cranmer, Randy Rohn, Matt Louis and Nicholas Korpon, and I’m still reading.

Apparently, you and I aren’t the only ones who like the sick stuff. Bookgasm just weighed in with a nice review of OOTG; it also included some favorable words about my story, “Headquarters Likes Your Style.” [Hey, I never said I was above shameless self-promotion.]

Elsewhere, the depravity continues unabated. Plots with Guns came out with yet another top-shelf edition chock full of great stories — be sure to check them out. …. And I recently learned that Jen Jordan will include my story, “Hotshot 52,” in her upcoming anthology, UNCAGED [Bleak House Books], which hits bookstores this summer. 

And finally ….. Speaking of people who write fucked-up shit, I met Jed Ayres for the first time tonight. I’m in St. Louis for work, and he was gracious enough to take in a few pints with me. After the second round of beers, we both expressed relief that the other guy wasn’t a psycho or, worse, an asshole. With this Internet thing, you never know.

I”ll leave you with the list of authors to be included in UNCAGED. With this group of writers, I see myself more as the towel boy. Anyone want a towel — or has a wet one they no longer need — just holler.

Pierce Hansen
Evan Kilgore
Tim Maleeny
Nick Stone
Simon Kernick
Christa Faust
Victor Gischler
Stephen Blackmoore
Blake Crouch
Declan Burke
Gregg Hurwitz
Brian Azzarello
Simon Wood
Steven Torres
Allan Guthrie
Martyn Waites
Bryon Quertermous
J.D. Rhoades
Stuart MacBride
Patrick Shawn Bagley
Scott Phillips
Greg Bardsley
J.A. Konrath
Maxim Jakubowski
Talia Berliner

Diggin’ it

payingforit_I’m happy to report that Tony Black has succeeded in putting out a great debut novel with PAYING FOR IT, and I’m left thinking this is a writer I can see myself reading for a long time. With PAYING FOR IT, Black delivers tight prose, spot-on dialogue, and a story that is both riveting and heartbreaking.

Former journalist Gus Dury is a down-and-our alcoholic with few prospects. His wife is trying serve him divorce papers, but all he can worry about is making it through the day without getting the shakes or having to think of his past. When a friend’s son is brutally murdered, Dury agrees to snoop through the underbelly of Edinburgh in search of answers. Along the way, he confronts not only his haunted pasted but the best and worst of human nature. He also ends up fighting for his life. Great read.

I think what hooked me was Black’s ability to say so much — in both narration and emotion — with so few words. That, and the fact he has managed to create a protagonist who, for all his shortcomings, makes you care.

In the years to come, I’m expecting much, much more from Tony Black.

I like people who like me

What can I say? I guess I’m simple and small: I like people who like me.boxing_poster_low_res1

I also like people who like my writing.

So it goes without saying that I was thrilled to learn that badass crime novelists Victor Gischler and Anthony Neil Smith judged my forthcoming story, “Headquarters Likes Your Style,” tops in a recent fiction contest. The story took top honors for longer reads in Out of the Gutter’s “REVENGE Fiction Contest,”  which bills my story as “a sharp and hilarious piece about office cubicle tensions that end in catastrophe.”

I offer Jordan Harper, who won in the shorter-read category, a big slap on the back. I also offer back-slaps to the other cats whose work will appear in this edition. I can’t wait to read their stuff.

You can read some color on the contest results here and pre-order your copy of Out of the Gutter here.

To the Gutter I go

This past spring, I got a call from a colleague who helps me with corporate videos. He was concerned. Didn’t know what to do, who to call. So he called me. Said he was working on a video that included a comment from an executive that concerned him. It was a comment that sounded benign enough in the corporate world but could be interpreted as quite graphic and socially inappropriate … if your mind is in the gutter.

We had a good laugh. Then I had an idea. An idea for a short story. I wrote it and sent it to an outfit that seemed perfect for this kind of subject matter.

Today I’m proud to announce that my story, “Headquarters Likes Your Style,” will appear in Out of the Gutter, “the modern journal of pulp fiction and degenerate literature,” which recently released its list of contributors for its fifth printed edition. I was honored to be included on this list of talented sickos, and I’m thrilled about appearing in Out of the Gutter. These guys a OOTG love what they do, and they’ve created a journal that is so original, so bold, so unapologetic, so anti-fancy-boy that you can’t help but want to be a part of it.

Being in the gutter never felt so good.

Say it isn’t so, Murdaland

Shit. … A great fiction journal just bit the dust.

Murdaland on Wednesday sent a note to me and other crime writers announcing that it was “suspending publication.” Says the note, “We tried very hard in 2008 to keep Murdaland going as a viable entity, but it’s just no longer possible.”

In terms of quantity, Murdaland doesn’t leave a large body of work. It produced just two printed issues. But holy shit, did they turn some heads. In an instant, the journal became one of the more sought-after places for crime writers to showcase their fiction. It had this highbrow-lowbrow thing going, and more important, it ran some truly badass crime fiction — or, perhaps more accurately, badass fiction that happened to deal with crime.

Regardless, it’s suspended now. And, I hope I’m wrong, but it feels like it’s not coming back. Maybe I’m woefully uninformed in these matters, or maybe I’m in denial, but I’m left scratching my head trying to figure how other printed journals can find ways to make it work financially but not these guys. The other thought I had was, Why not go web-based? Again, easy for me to say. I guess I just hate to see them go.

A flurry

It’s a flurry. A flurry of action going down once again in my neck of the woods.

In fact, there’s so much going on I can’t keep up with it. I’m not talking about the fact I can’t seem to find the time to get a haircut and consequently have something close to a bouffant on my head. I’m not talking about the fact my late nights have left me with what my 4-year-old calls “red cracks” in my eyes. I’m talking about the fact I am liable to get buried alive by the fruit of my writer friends’ success.

First, Riske came out the other week with a sweet and succinct piece of flash fiction over at Pindeldyboz. Expect to read far more of Riske, because it seems like the literary-fiction crowd is really starting to give him the credit he’s long been due.

Next, I heard from Ayres, screenwriter of the indie noir film, Mosquito Kingdom, which made a big splash at the St. Louis Film Festival last weekend. Very cool. And be sure to keep your eye on this cat, too. I sense far more to come from Jed Ayres, in both film and crime fiction.

Then there are all the books coming out by some truly talented friends and blog buds. That tower on my nightstand? Yeah, it’s their new novels. There’s Swierczynski‘s “Severance Package.” There’s Gischler‘s “Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse.” And there’s Black‘s highly anticipated, well-reviewed debut noir novel “Paying for It.” Black, a journalist in Edinburgh, had written four novels before penning “Paying for It,” found agents for each, came close, but didn’t see them published. Now it’s his moment, and people are noticing. The Scotsman has taken notice, and Scottish actor Garth Cruickshank recently lent some excerpt narration to a gritty video featuring “Paying for It.”

In other words, there’s some great stuff out there right now. Check it out.

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