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Greg Bardsley

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Crime fiction

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.

Opening his doors to noir

Hey, check me out. Today, I’m literary.

I like to pronounce it, “Littah-lehry,” affecting a self-important gaze as I make the final “r” roll nice and long, lowering my lids to emphasize that we’re talking about “important” work and all that. You see, I haven’t been literary before. Hell, maybe I’m still not literary. But today, a literary ‘zine called Storyglossia opened its doors to me and other crime writers for its special noir edition.

It reminds me of that scene in Caddyshack when the country club opens its pool for a special “caddy appreciation hour” — during which time a Baby Ruth candy bar is mistaken for poo at the bottom of the pool.

As a guy who writes a lot of crime fiction, I’ve always listened with fascination when other writers attempt to distinguish literary fiction from everything else. When pressed, they’re usually at a loss for words. Hell, I am, too. Maybe it’s like that famous Supreme Court ruling on porn in which Potter Stewart said it was hard to define but “I know it when I see it.” Kinda like a Baby Ruth at the bottom of a pool?

Doesn’t matter to me. Great crime fiction can offer just as much value as the best “literary” fiction, and it’s usually a lot more interesting, visceral and alive. I’ve also read some great general fiction that takes me places that crime fiction hasn’t. In fact, maybe we can learn a few things from each other. Maybe crime-fiction fusion, as you might call it, can bring out the best of both sensibilities.

If the new edition of Storyglossia is any indication, folks might be on to something here. I am truly honored to be included in the edition, which is guest edited by novelist Anthony Neil Smith (his great introduction is here) and is graced by stories by the likes of crime-fiction badasses Vicki Hendricks, Megan Abbott, Ray Banks, Seth Harwood, R. Narvaez, Fred Zackel, Kevin Wignall and Adam Cushman, to name a few of the talented contributors.

So I tip my hat to Steven McDermott at Storyglossia for opening his doors to noir, and for stating as he does that “crime stories matter.” And I thank Neil Smith for pushing me to write a new ending to “Funny Face,” which ultimately took my piece to a higher level.

Now go check out some crime-fiction fusion at Storyglossia.

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