As for New Year’s resolutions I’ve never really bothered before. But now ; I feel like I’ve got to make some, I’ve been letting too many things go.
I need a bath. I need a shave. My room is bloody filthy. I need to cut my toenails, and my hair, anything else is beyond me.
I need to snap out of this depression, or whatever you may call it. I need to really start writing again, I really feel that it’s my calling.
Well, the bathtub, the razor, the scissors, the hair clippers. All that will be easy. But finding myself again and my muse ? Do I think I can do it …. really ?
Just the fact that I’ve written this, it gives me a little hope. But it’s months since I gave up on my book. Have I got the strength to cope ?
Can I keep writing about my life, when it feels like it’s gone against me ? If I’m not a writer, I’ve got to try. What else is there I can be ?
Another Late Night
Another late night, fuelled by alcohol, and nicotine. I stay awake until 5 a.m., talking to friends from the U.S.of A. They’re 5 hours behind us, so it’s not a late night for them. The next day, I’m fucked up, feeling hungover through lack of sleep. Knowing that I haven’t drank enough to get a real hangover. But, I feel a real need to talk to other writers, other poets the only people I speak to now are my family, and my pets. As much as I love them, they don’t know much about literature.Especially my cat, and dog.
I’d always had itchy feet. Never really feeling at home anywhere. One morning I woke up in the crappy flat I was sharing with a then ex-girlfriend and realized that I didn’t like my life or who I had become in London. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I felt more like a character I was playing out. Rehearsing scenes and dialogue from an old script I had come to dislike. I was depressed. In a rut. Dissatisfied. I drank myself to oblivion on weekends just to be able to cope with the prospect of going to work on my shifts the following Monday. More often than not, waking up covered in vomit and wondering what the hell I was doing with my life?
Basically that one scene from Team America… A lot…
A catalyst. Fate. Serendipity. Whatever you want to call it. Everyone has that something, that moment in their life that changes it all completely.
I’ll remember mine until the day I die. It was a poster on the wall of the Embankment subway in London that stated:
“If you don’t like your life, then change it.”
I didn’t, so I did.
The best advice I ever got. My whole life. And it was on a wind-torn poster.
Six months later I was stood outside of Osaka KIX airport with a suitcase, an old leather jacket and a few hundred bucks in my back pocket. Unaware that I was at the first step of starting the rest of my life.
The end-plan was; Hong Kong: living out the rest of my life on a house boat in Victoria harbor. I planned on a year in Japan, just a year. Then a year in Vietnam. Taiwan. A year in Argentina. A year in Mexico. I’d travel to all the countries I’d only ever heard about.
The idea of staying in the same place for too long seemed insane to me. Those that don’t move, don’t grow. Like a shark, I thought I had to keep swimming or die.
So here I found myself in a country whose language and culture were completely unknown to me. I couldn’t speak a lick of Japanese and only knew about Japan from Beat Takeshi gangster movies (which turned out not to be helpful at all). KIX was my Ellis Island. Or so I liked to think. The start of a year that would turn into my whole life. But we’ll get to that later on.
Arriving in a country as a complete stranger, no family, no friends, no associates, no expectations, feels like real freedom. Almost like a religious experience. I shit you not. As though I found God in between the buses, taxis and hustle of human traffic and rolling suitcases outside the airport. It was just me alone, starting from scratch. A modern day monk. Or something. I don’t know.
In Japan the word for foreigner is
外 Gai – Outside
国 Koku – Country
人 Jin – Person
Or the less politically correct terminology – 外人 – Gaijin – which translates as Outside Person but basically means Outsider.
I liked it. I liked it a lot. I was Pony Boy in Japan, dammit.
That’s what I was when I arrived. That’s what I am still as I write this fourteen years later.
Not liking the Outsider status as much anymore, (now that I have two Japanese/British daughters and am struggling to give them as good a life as I can. Being an outsider is cool when you’re young, partying your way around Nippon. Making new temporary friends every other weekend. But not so cool when you’re looking to lay down solid roots for your family in the country you now call home. Screw you Pony Boy!) I’m accepting it as just something that is what it is.
The Japanese have a great phrase which they use with a shrug in all manner of situations from the convenience store being out of milk, to someone dying:
仕方がない – Shikata ga nai – It can’t be helped.
Anyway, I’m getting away from myself again. Rewind. Back to the beginning.
We’ll return to that kind of stuff in later installments.
Starting afresh in a new country meant teaching myself how to read and write all over again. The Japanese language has three alphabets that they use together.
漢字 – Kanji (the symbol alphabet)
ひらがな – Hiragana (the simple alphabet)
カタカナ – Katakana (the alphabet for foreign words)
A usual sentence may look something like this;
Tomorrow shall we go to Disney Land?
That easy run of the mill sentence has all three of the alphabets used as one.
As someone that failed high school French and is a dumbass, it was starting to look like I was shit out of luck. As I wandered the bustling streets scratching my head at signs and staring helplessly at restaurant menus I wondered why I had decided to pick up sticks and move to a country that had one of the most difficult languages in the world to master.
I spent the first six months only eating at restaurants that had pictures of the dishes on the menu. Yep, pathetic, I know. But it’s all I could do.
Throwing yourself into the deep end. Stripping away all the comforts of your home country. Your language, your culture, your race, your way of thinking is a big fucking test. Something that’s an easy, mundane task in your home country like mailing a parcel at the post office, getting a new cellphone or getting a prescription filled becomes a titanic, mind boggling, draining task. It’s a constant hustle to just get by. I met other expats that just disappeared. Here one day, gone the next. A lot of people I grew acquainted with threw in the towel after six months in-country and went home. Knew a Canadian girl who only ever ate at MacDonald’s. Taking aside the military, or a life altering illness, living in a foreign country has to be up there as one of the most challenging feats you can attempt in life and I’ve nothing but respect for those that try and start fresh in a new country with a different language and culture. Especially all the folks who come to new countries and actually start businesses. This is where you find out what you’re made of.
Luckily the Japanese people are extremely kind and patient in most cases and I had a lot of people going out of their way to help me out as much as they could. Me. A stranger. I made a lot of great friends who would listen patiently as I babbled nonsense at them for hours.
I studied hard. Everyday. Learning the alphabets, the same way children in kindergarten were. I got quite a few smiles on the subway when people saw me revising my phonics cards and murmuring to myself like a mad man.
By the end of my first year in Japan, I could just about hold a very simple conversation. Needless to say, I must have sounded similar to Borat. I didn’t care. It felt amazing to be able to say the most simple things. To be able to order in a restaurant and ask for the check after.
Learning and living in Japan was…
It was tough. Tiring. Stressful, BUT…
simply walking down the street was a magical experience. Out of this world. The lights. The buildings. The smell of the air. The foods. The people. The beauty.
I was falling in love with Japan.
Head over heels, in fact.
It was going to be a tumultuous relationship, like most of the relationships in my life at that time. However, as those other kinds of relationship so often prove to be; one of the most rewarding, satisfying and one helluva growing experience.
It was on New Year’s Day When we finally got together. Everyone except me in my familyHad contracted Covid. So Christmas had to be delayed. But, when it finally happened It was fucking great. Tracy, one of my sisters Cooked an amazing meal, Or maybe her husband, Phil Did, they were (jokingly) laughing Over who deserved the credit for The meal, all day. We swapped gifts, as we should Have on the 25th. I had 5 cans of Guinness, and a Couple of glasses of wine. So I was just merry, not really Pissed. We all took the piss out of Each other, as we always do, When the family gets together. It was bloody great. I enjoyed myself more than I Had for a long time. Covid, and cancer had ruined Our Christmases for the last few Years, and the death of my wife, And me and my sister’s Dad Threatened to destroy this year Too. But sheer human optimism Saved the day. It’s one of the best ones that I Can remember. It just goes to show that the Human spirit is stronger than We ever give it credit for. Stronger, and stranger
Yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s a whole bunch I missed off. I know. (Add any suggestions you have in the comments.)
But, let’s go ahead and definitely add Andrew Vachss to that list.
I was saddened to hear of A.V’s death recently, so picked up his collection from my To Be Read Shelf and cracked it open. A sophomore crime writer paying tribute to one of the heavyweights of the genre.
Vachss’ short prose is truly inspiring. Each story has something paramount to great story-telling.
Reading a Vachss’ short is like sitting directly across from the narrator in a police interrogation room downtown, or next to them in a dimly lit basement bar, looking down into the golden glow of your fifth whiskey and wondering if you’ll make it home without being rolled.
These are stories of bad-bad guys and good-bad guys.
It’s dark, grim, brutal, but realistic prose.
Vachss’ work in max security prisons and legal practice shines through each sentence.
These are stories you can’t help but feel the author heard first-hand by offenders himself.
These are the stories of two-bit criminals, prostitutes, swindlers and killers for hire.
Not for everyone’s palette but a must read for fans of the darkest kind of crime fiction.
Not a fan of the super-hero, comic book stylings of the Cross stories. These seemed ridiculous when lined up next to his more realistic tales, so the collection loses one star. That’s just my own preference though.
If you haven’t read any of Vachss’ short story collections you’re truly missing out big time.
I’m a big fan of graphic novels/comics as an art form and as a form of literature. Some of my favorites are Fables by Bill Willingham, the Criminal and Fatale series’ by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. To name just a few.
Also a constant reader and fan of Stephen King, so the comic Creepshow written by King with artwork by Berni Wrightson should be a slam dunk, hole in one, five star review, shouldn’t it?
It’s not. It’s not at all. It was actually quite disappointing.
I haven’t seen the movie Creepshow, not sure that matters though.
The comic is pretty badly written. Example: one character is being eaten alive by a monster and the dialogue goes something like this — “Ah, oh no, it’s biting me. It hurts. It’s biting me.” I never seen someone eaten alive by a monster but if I did, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be giving me a commentary of it.
Steve: Jim? Are you okay. Jim: No, Steve. I’m being eaten by an ancient creature. It’s chewing my face as we speak. Steve: That sounds pretty shitty, Jim. Is there something I can do? Jim: Ah, it hurts! Steve: I’m sure it does. Jim: It’s eating my face! Ah!!
Don’t get me wrong, I can see this for what it is. A homage to the great pulp horror comics of the past. The art by Berni is stellar. The actual plots for the stories are awesome. The dialogue is just awful. Furthermore, it’s all woefully short. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers say that this project comes across as a quick cash grab, sadly I agree.
3/5 For the great art work and the actual idea.
If you’re hankering for a homage to pulp horror comics of the past you’re better off reading the real deal — Doctor of Horror with art work by Graham Ingels.
“I was still covered with pig shit and wanted to kill somebody, anybody. If you’ve never felt that fire, you don’t know what it’s like: like an orgasm that never stops, like a moment when everything is right.”
Hell. As we reach the twilight of 2021, I curse myself for only just now discovering the absolute beautiful madness that is James Crumley’s pill-popping, weed-smoking, coke-snorting, ex-hippie, barfly private detective C.W. Sughrue. But, as I finish THE RIGHT MADNESS, I find myself smiling as well. Because discovering a new series that’s incredibly well-written, in a hard-boiled, hard drinking vernacular that fits your world-view is similar to starting a new friendship with someone who “gets you”.
To be honest, I picked this book up in a second-hand bookstore because I dig the cover. Again proving the point that judging a book by its cover is correct in the majority of cases.
Crumley’s prose is perfect. This is crime fiction at its absolute peak. Poetic, lyrical, gritty, hard boiled, stylized paragraphs pulling you along on one helluva joyride of a mystery.
“The last gig almost killed me partner,” I said. “I didn’t shit right or sleep through the night for months…”
CW Sughrue’s psychotherapist best buddy, Dr Will Mackindrick, begs him to come out of retirement and a drunken stupor to find out who broke into his office and stole his patients confidential files. Reluctantly, C. W takes on the case and is confronted with a grisly suicide his first day on the job. Murder, madness and mayhem ensues.
I realized this is the fourth in the C.W. Sughrue Series and have scrambled around on Amazon to get the rest of the series. The writing is that good.
Hell, I think this could possibly be my number one read of 2021.
I’ve also had Crumley’s One to Count Cadence on my TBR shelf for a while and will be jumping into that ASAP.
If you’re a fan of crime fiction or transgressive fiction this is a must read. ASAP. You won’t regret it.
Far away from the glitz, glamour and likable protagonists of Netflix’ true crime series Narcos Mexico, journalist Ioan Grillo documents the history of the narcotics trade south of the boarder in extremely brutal detail.
Written in three parts HISTORY, ANATOMY and DESTINY, El Narco is a painstakingly researched biography of every facet of the Mexican Drug Cartels from birth to present day. Grillo leaves no witness unheard and no word unwritten and I found myself wondering if he had a death wish for reporting on the ugliness that has grown out of the narcotics business and scourged Mexico for decades. The kidnappings, the public executions, the beheadings, and most of all, the corruption that infects all areas of government.
This was a very disturbing but overall compelling read and I commend Grillo on his boots on the ground, in-depth approach to his journalistic research.
I believe this to be one of the best accounts written about the Mexican drug trade and how it’s tentacles reach into all aspects of society.
Like so many of the other reviewers, I was completely gripped for the first 550 pages or so. I thought Stephen King had found his mojo again (especially after real stinkers like Duma Key). However, as the thrilling roller-coaster came to the climax, things started pulling away at the seams.
The character of Holly also started to really grate on me. It was a comic book characterization of someone with OCD or anxiety disorder. What grown ass woman says the word “poopy” about really messed up stuff like child murder? And she says it numerous times. I understand what King was trying to do here, but he does it badly.
Then we get to the Scooby-Doo-esque confrontation with the bad guy. I almost expected him to say “and I would’ve got away with it too, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids!”
I’m giving The Outsider 4 stars for the first 550 pages because King is and will always be a great writer but as Scott Cumming said in his own review; King really needs a stricter editor. He also needs to come down from his ivory tower every so often and talk to real people because his dialogue makes me cringe so hard sometimes it hurts my jaw.
A gripping read with an anti-climatic, drawn out ending.
Still recommended because bad King is still better than most. 4/5 Stars
You know that movie with Christian Slater? The one where he’s a pirate radio deejay? I loved that movie as a kid. Always made me want to be a late night radio deejay. Talking shit down a mic for a few hours and creating a following of avid listeners. Yeah, even as a kid, I knew I never had the kind of personality, or charm to pull that off.
Fast forward to now. I’m a fan of blogs. If you have a blog, chances are I’ve read it. Reading stuff by others makes me want to write my own blog. However, I’m struck by the same problem I faced as a kid, recording myself onto a tape player pretending I was Slater; who the hell cares what I have to say about anything?
I’ve put myself out there in my fiction 100%. Told myself as soon as I typed out my first sentence that if I wasn’t going to be honest, if I wasn’t going to put myself out there completely, switch off the word processor and go and do something else. Something less risky.
Advice to live and die by; If you want to do something, just go and fucking do it. As Nike or the kid from Transformers so wisely said.
So, here it is; the first in a series of columns to be published once a month (or whenever. I don’t know) on Punk Noir Magazine.
Rantings & Ramblings from a Rooftop.
These are going to be exactly what the title suggests. Rantings and ramblings. I will rope my co-editor Barbara (BFJ) into it, as well as anyone else interested.
Chances are the novelty of chatting shit about my thoughts and daily life will wear off and these articles may die out as soon as another enticing idea pops up in my skull, but for the time being, here the column is… Uncorrected, Unproofed, Uncensored and probably unread by anyone else other than myself and my co-ed Barb, who is used to my myriad ramblings by now.
Twitter – I Love You/I Hate You
For the past month I’ve been trying to detach myself from Twitter somewhat.
For me, Twitter is similar to a relationship that’s gone toxic. You think you love them; you think you need them but each time you leave them; you find yourself feeling pretty shite about yourself.
I know I can’t be alone in feeling this way. Twitter is the Ouija Board of Social Media. You log in not knowing if you’re going to get a kiss on the lips or a kick in the ass. For people, and there is a helluva lot of us right now, who struggle daily with some kind of mental illness, those kicks in the ass can leave a sore, red boot print on the cheek for days. That is why I’ve been trying to focus on positivity and the main reasons I fell in love with twitter in the first place. It should be all about the writers, the writing and the great friendships cultivated. Right? People who constantly crave drama or negativity on the medium equally fascinate and disgust me. Who has the time or the notion for that kind of bitchy bs? Not me. However, I’ve lost a lot of friends and associates along the way through miscommunication and misunderstandings, which could’ve been solved by really talking instead of tweeting back and forth like a passive-aggressive game of tennis, which does honestly sadden me. I’ve tried to distance myself from all kinds of negativity because it just isn’t healthy or helpful. Switch off for a while, take a short walk and you’ll remember twitter is just an internet chat room dressed up in more stylish clothing.
I’m logging in a lot less often, but when I do, I’m still trying to boost the writers I like and I admire. There are many out there. It’s hard though. Twitter moves fast. Step away for a couple of days and you’ll miss out on a whole bunch of stuff you wish you hadn’t. Twitter is a constantly moving ocean and the tide waits for no one.
Now, listen, don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for everything twitter has given me. I think 80% of people who have bought my novels have been friends and associates on twitter.
And like I said earlier, I’ve made truly awesome connections and friendships from all over the world on twitter.
This is the bind, loving and needing twitter but feeling shit and hungover as you leave quietly the next morning.
Twitter forces you to feel constantly compelled to engage less you become irrelevant yourself.
Am I ghosting twitter or is twitter ghosting me?
Perhaps, it’s another case of all things in moderation.
I don’t know.
Maybe, I am rambling…
I wish you all a very merry Christmas and hope 2022 (Year of the Tiger) is a year that brings you health, happiness and success.
The best piece of advice that I was ever given was
something that my Dad told me when I
was about 7 years old. He
happened to look out of the kitchen
window, and he saw a kid who was
about a year older than me pushing
me around. He wasn’t hitting me,
just pushing me around. When I
went home, my Dad said, ” What
was up with you Ian. Why didn’t you hit him ? ” ” Well, I was holding my action men.” ” Look son, sod your action men. You can pick them up later. If anyone tries to bully you, or push you about, just punch
them in the face as hard as you can. They won’t try it again. ” I listened to his advice, and I’d have to say that its the best advice that I have ever been given in my life. I NEVER got bullied at school, and if anyone ever tried it, I just followed my father’s advice. Sadly, he’s been gone for about six months. He couldn’t out punch Cancer. But, still his advice echoes through my mind.
Unfortunately, my Dad is gone now, but I’m belatedly saying ” Thank you. ” for the greatest advice ever.
A Bad, Bad Blues
Yes, this has been a bad year I’ve lost everything I had. I lost my wife, I lost my home, Then I even lost my Dad.
I’ve seen more death than I want to ever see again. I’ve lost my home, my Missus, And I lost all of my friends.
I’m alone, and I’m so lonely I drink myself to sleep at night. I daren’t think of the future, My heart is full of fright.
Everything that I buy I only ever think about About how after I have died Someone will just throw it out.
All my books, and all my records, They will give to charity. No one will care about all The things they meant to me.
And when I happen to die No one will grieve for me. Nobody to say goodbye No one at the cemetery.
Nobody even standing there Who’ll pay for a headstone. Not a single person cares What will happen to my bones
Ian Lewis Copestick is a 49 year old writer from Stoke on Trent, England. He started writing around the year 2000 and first published in 2018. Since then he’s had over 400 poems published, and several short stories. He’s been in several print anthologies, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize.