Paul D. Brazill’s “Supernatural Noir” (Close to the Bone) is like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: “You got some supernatural in my noir” “No, you got noir in my supernatural”. And then hilarity of horror ensues. A series of collected short stories, Brazill’s work focuses on a place called The City, it’s like Gotham infused with Lon Chaney, Béla Lugosi, and Christopher Lee.
A reader should go into “Supernatural Noir” with the viewpoint that they’ll be reading the pulp of the pulp. There’s a werewolf PI, zombies, vampires, golems and other monsters. There are heinous crimes of bodies being ripped apart and law and order’s battle against the criminal anarchy sweeping The City. It’s pulpy!
These are older stories by Brazill and at times it shows. There’s still his wit, the good music, and frankness of language, but it is muddled in spots. It isn’t always the tight sharp writing that Brazill usually delivers. If you’ve read any of Brazill’s current work, you will see in “Supernatural Noir” a writer developing his distinctive voice. If you like reading Brazill–and who doesn’t–, you should give this short story collection a twirl because it’s Brazill and there are zombies. Oh yeah, get it because it’s going for a little over a buck.
Paul D. Brazill was one of the first independent crime writers I stumbled across when I got into this game. Two things that stood out with Paul is the humor in his writing and his support for other writers. Paul has two new recent releases: “Small Time Crimes”, a collection of short stories published by Near to the Knuckle, and “Last Year’s Man”, a novella about an aging hitman returning to his hometown. I reviewed “Last Year’s Man” a few weeks back here. You can find out more about Paul D. Brazill on his website.
If you are unfamiliar with the prolific Paul D. Brazill, he writes sparingly and with wit, both of which are displayed in his latest book, “Last Year’s Man” (All Due Respect Books). Tommy Bennett, a retired hitman, fresh off a botched job of sorts in London heads back hometown, somewhere in North East England. Visiting home was never in Bennett’s wheelhouse. Whether caused by work or family issues, he stayed away.
Brazill’s creates a world on the edge of society and Bennett fits nicely in even though he’s trying to retire. Brazill knows when he’s in a trope and instead of hiding from it, he embraces it. At one point, Bennet humorously muses, “Like Danny Glover in ‘Lethal Weapon’, I was getting too old for this shit.”
Music, TV, and books play a large part in Brazill’s writing. Rather than odd and misplaced references found in many books, they are a realistic layer in the lives of his characters. The book opens with Bennett on a job and Roxy Music’s album “For Your Pleasure” plays. None of these pop culture references are contrived; they are as natural as the last song you listened to or the last TV show you watched. Not many writers can drop Jamie Olivier, Peter Gabriel, and Gabriel García Márquez on the same page. Brazill can. Even the title of the book is a song title from Leonard Cohen’s “Songs of Love and Hate” (1971).
The rain falls down on last year’s man,
An hour has gone by
And he has not moved his hand.
But everything will happen if he only gives the word
As ghosts chase Bennett through the streets of Seatown, there is the inevitable “one last job” for him, but Brazill’s focus is on how Bennett adjust to his new life rather than on the hooks of crime will always be in him. “Last Year’s Man” is a one-sitting book, so grab a pint or two or maybe some whiskey, sit back and enjoy.
Paul D. Brazill’s novella, A Case of Noir (Near to the Knuckle), is broken up into five short stories that mask as chapters, each focusing on Luke Case, a British freelance journalist drinking and fucking his way through Europe. Case doesn’t like to work or make good decision all of which makes for a great read.
In the first chapter, “Red Esperanto”, we meet Case in a prostitute’s apartment in Warsaw. Things get heated when on of Tatiana’s clients arrives and pounds at the door demanding to be let in. As Tatiana puts it, “Oh, he’s just a customer who has problems separating business from pleasure.” Case only knows pleasure.
Reading Brazill gave me the same sort of enjoyment I get when reading Jim Thompson, characters filling their desperation with alcohol, fornication, and crime. As with Thompson, Brazill knows that the human condition weak and is punctuated with violence and/or death.
I jolted awake, coated in cold, dank sweat. Daylight sliced through the gaps between the broken blinds. A tight band gripped my forehead and my pounding heartbeat seemed to echo through the sparse, familiar looking room.
I adjusted to the wan light. I was on my bed. Naked. Back in the flat that I shared with Nathan. I tried to piece together what had happened.
At some point during the night I’d woken up, confused, with no recollection of getting there. Irena, naked, was smoking and gazing out of the bedroom window. The tip of her cigarette glowed bright red and then faded to black.
Lena, also naked, walked up to her, whispered something in her ear and then I dissolved back into sleep.
I stumbled out of the bed and into the bathroom. My wiry arms gripped the washbasin for support. I sighed deeply as I splashed cold water on my face.
When I walked back into the living room, Irena was standing naked in the doorway to Nathan’s bedroom. Bowie’s Station To Station played at a low volume.
She lazily nodded into the bedroom and said, “He’s dead.”
With A Case of Noir, Brazill has written book that is steeped in the cigarette smoke, dirty whiskey glasses, and cheap sex of dive bars. If you like your books with melancholy masked in the false joy of booze, sex, and beatings then Brazill’s A Case of Noir is exactly what you are looking for.
It took me a few pages of Paul D. Brazill’s Too Many Crooks (Near to the Knuckle) to settle into Brazill’s style — a Tarantino humor with Leonard’s directness. And, who names one of the main characters McGuffin? Either you’ll laugh at this joke or not. I laughed and I think you will too.
This McGuffin thing is a literary easter egg, if you will, and Brazill sprinkles many others throughout Too Many Crooks. There is a family of characters name Rhatigan — I presume named after Chris Rhatigan, a crime fiction writer and editor. The novel’s title even comes from a British movie comedy of the same name “about a bunch of inept crooks who kidnap the wrong woman.” Hell, even some of the chapter titles are jokes that I got. What other jokes and references will you find?
Too Many Crooks moves quickly between London and Warsaw and back again as well as criminal to criminal. Like all good crime books, it begins with a murder.
Ted Singh had really had enough of Bobby Jake’s incessant whining and he was more than somewhat relieved when Ziggy eventually shot the annoying fucker in the back of the head, spraying blood and gunk down the front of Jake’s previously pristine white Fred Perry t– shirt.
Ted’s guts churned. Although he certainly had no qualms about the moral aspects of murdering Bobby Jake, he didn’t really have the stomach for the gory stuff. He never had, truth be told.
“Hold onto this for me,” said Ziggy, handing the Glock to Ted whose hands shook as he took the gun.
The novel might actually have too many crooks, but don’t worry, that’s why the criminals carry firearms. The felonious herd is thinned out repeatedly and with great effect. But nasty killings are not the only things you will find in Too Many Crooks, Brazill’s writing is fast-paced and humorous which makes this one-sitting novel a lively read.