A Conversation with Raegen Pietrucha

Interviews, Poetry

This week, we’re finding out all about Raegen Pietrucha’s poetry collection Head of a Gorgon. Thank you Raegen, for taking the time to chat with us!

Tell us about your upcoming collection.
Head of a Gorgon is a narrative in poems that reimagines the myth of Medusa, transporting this ancient tale of sexual violence into contemporary times and examining it through a survivor-centric, feminist lens. And somewhere along the way, I decided that, craftwise, I wanted the book to be a little bit of everything I could think of at the time, and so it is: It’s poetry, but it’s got a narrative arc that makes it quite like a novel in verse, except shorter. It’s got free verse and formal poems. It’s got dialogue and monologue. It’s got clear words and erasures. It adheres to grammatical rules in some places and abandons them in others. It even has a couple concrete/shape-inspired poems interspersed among the others. But always, I strove toward some method to the madness; there is a logic accompanying all these choices, even if, ultimately, the logic is only known and apparent to me — though hopefully, that won’t be the case.

What is the inspiration behind it?
In general, my writing is inspired by pivotal moments that ultimately became crossroads/turning points. I am most interested in stories of women, like me, who have endured and who have overcome, whatever the trauma or challenge may have been, and that’s what I feel most compelled to write about. We need more stories of women overcoming, of heroes who look and sound like us — who are us. And Medusa most definitely fits this bill.

When I drafted my first poem about Medusa way back in 2007, while I was in grad school, where the original project became the basis for my thesis, it was about a different subject entirely. My mother had survived breast cancer and been in remission ever since her double mastectomy, but I’d come to realize throughout the years that something significant had changed in both the way some men perceived and treated her (and women like her) as well as the way she perceived herself. Something about that, for whatever reason, recalled to mind the mythic woman with snakes for hair, that body transformed into something considered so terrifying, it also physically petrified anyone who looked upon it.

But as I delved deeper into the myth — or, more to the point, the myriad variations of the myth — I moved away from that idea and toward what, to me, is the real crux of Medusa’s story: She is a woman who, in many versions of the myth, is raped by Poseidon on the altar of Athena; then, as if that wasn’t heinous enough, she is transformed into a monster because of it. And this is the story of so many women (and others, not just women) to this day. That realization was too powerful and potent for me to ignore.

Did it take long to put together?
I began working on Head of a Gorgon in 2007, and it took more than 11 years — with entire years in there where I didn’t work on it at all, for various reasons — to get it to the point where I felt it was the story I was really trying to tell, which was a significant departure from the thesis project, and that it was ready to start circulating for publication. It evolved a bit during the time I was submitting it as well; two poems got added in that time frame, among other things.

How did you work on the narrative?
The narrative arc that forms the foundation of this sort of shorter type of a novel in verse — perhaps a novella in verse? — is where my original background in fiction came into play, I think. I took the pieces I had from the thesis that made sense to keep with respect to Medusa’s adulthood — which is the point where we enter the original myth — and then thought of the parts that were necessarily missing, like a childhood. More specifically, I saw a unique opportunity to build out a childhood for Medusa that not only sets the reader up to understand my reimagining of the original myth in a new way but also creates a contemporary framework that’s reflective of what we now know to be just one of many tragic truths about sexual assault — namely, being sexually assaulted even once puts victims at a higher risk of being victimized again in the future. And I started building some threads, images, and terms that would be common through the entire timeline and would evolve through the book.

This is your debut full collection, but you had a chapbook published in 2015. Tell us about it.
The chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, came part and parcel with working on Head of a Gorgon. As I was pulling together the larger, overarching narrative around Medusa in this contemporary time frame, I realized that various chunks could stand on their own, as their own unique narratives, regardless of whether or not people knew they were ultimately from a retelling of the Medusa myth. So the chapbook mostly consists of a chunk from the earlier half of Head of a Gorgon — this invented childhood for Medusa — and in that regard can be thought of maybe as a sneak peek of my full-length collection, but years before the full-length book even was written or published. I try to get as much mileage out of my work as possible, and this was one way of doing so.

And what are you working on now?
As soon as I’m done with all the publicity stuff for Head of a Gorgon — which is where my focus has been since roughly October 2021 — I’m redirecting my energy toward my memoir again. I’ve got more than 18 chapters drafted so far, and there will be about eight more before I have to do the torturous work of revising what I’m guesstimating will be more than 200+ pages/100,000+ words of prose. It’s a big shift — night and day, in many ways — from working on my poetry collection.

Any words of advice to novice poets out there?
I would say to make sure, at least every once in a while, to check in with yourself as to your why: Why are you writing? If doing so brings you some type of fulfillment, embrace that for as long as it lasts. And if it doesn’t last a lifetime, don’t force it and don’t sweat it; it may come back, it may not, but you still at some point did a thing that brought you satisfaction. There are other things in life that can and will do the same. And if some aspects of the writing venture detract from your fulfillment, it’s OK to walk away from those. For some, the mere act of creation is the joyful thing; you don’t have to do anything beyond that if that’s the case — “find your voice,” publish books, teach, any of it. Others may feel a need to share, perhaps on the page and/or in the classroom; that’s OK too. There’s no one way to be a writer. Just be the writer you want to be, however that will and must change shape along the way as you change shape along the way.

How will you celebrate your book release?
I don’t know if this is a “comes with age” sort of answer, but I’ve learned over the course of my life thus far that it’s best for a person like me to avoid the all-eggs-in-one-basket approach — meaning, in this case, that, knowing what I know about myself, it’s best for me to take multiple approaches to the singular thing. So there will be a communal book release celebration, which I envision as more of a virtual mass video call party where a bunch of us get together and just be kind of goofy — like, the opposite of a poetry reading, though maybe I’ll take a special request or two. My family and friends are scattered all over the place and we’re still in a pandemic, so this is what makes the most sense to me. But there will also be a celebration with just my fiancé, who has more than endured the rare highs and myriad lows along this book journey ever since he came into my life in 2010. That’s a kind of experience — and he’s the kind of steadfast warrior — that deserves to be honored in a very different way. And then there will be time I set aside just for myself to sort of process this milestone and the full range of emotions that come with it and everything that has led up to it as I officially move beyond it toward the next adventure. Probably going to have to take some vacation days and eat a lot of things I shouldn’t to do it justice.

Which of your poems is your favourite in your collection and why?
Medusa’s story is not by any stretch of the imagination a lighthearted one, and while I am proud of many of the poems in the collection for addressing the serious, critical subject of sexual assault in an honest way — sometimes brutally so — the book would not feel complete to me without some modicum of hope. For that reason, the last poem in the book, “Ravenfather,” is probably my favorite — or at least is my favorite in this regard — given the sense of empowerment and subsequent hopefulness in its last section in particular, including these closing lines: “Your daughter’s a crux, but recovered from the squall, resolved, / shaping a haven with these pitchy songs.”

Favourite food?
Who can pick just one? Really, I was such a foodie before the pandemic; you have no idea. I’m much healthier now, though, because I barely ever even get takeout anymore, let alone set foot in a restaurant, and I’m on a stricter regimen that helps me manage my health better. But the one thing I hope I never have to give up is chocolate. That’s where I draw the line.

You can read an extract of Head of a Gorgon here

Raegen Pietrucha writes, edits, and consults creatively and professionally, and Head of a Gorgon is her debut poetry collection. Her poetry chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, won the 2015 Two of Cups Press competition, and she has a memoir in progress. She received BA from the University of Arizona and her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she was an assistant editor for Mid-American Review. Her work has been published in Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Connect with her at raegenmp.wordpress.com and on Twitter @freeradicalrp.

A conversation with Max Thrax

Interviews, Max Thrax, Punk Noir Magazine

Today we are talking to Max Thrax and finding out about his debut novel God Is A Killer, released by Close To The Bone on 25th May. Thank you Max for taking the time to answer our questions.

You’re a bit of an enigma on this writing scene. Tell us about yourself and inspirations?
I don’t see myself as an enigma, but a simple person with regular and predictable habits. Jim Thompson, along with Donald Goines and Derek Raymond, inspired me to write crime fiction. Much of how I see the genre is viewed through his prism. Thompson wrote about people who were enthralling and complex yet ultimately evil, and who ended badly. These portrayals left an impression no mystery or procedural ever had.

Tell us about God is a Killer. How would you sum it up to one of your non writing, non reading friend/relative (we all have one)
God Is A Killer is a rural crime story set in the White Mountains. I’d tell the non-writer/reader that, for good or bad, they would never forget reading it.

What was the hardest part about writing it?
The final edits of GIAK were the hardest to write, since afterwards I wouldn’t be able to change anyone’s name or hair color.

And the most enjoyable part of the writing process?
My favorite part was writing MacDougall, who in his ruthlessness really drove the book. I had a lot of fun writing his chapters.

Describe your antagonist and characters in a few words.
The novel’s antagonist, MacDougall, was loosely inspired by David Koresh. The other players are are meth cooks, biker gangs, and New Hampshire’s most corrupt county sheriff.

Your book cover is brilliant, what’s the inspiration behind it?
The cover was Matthew Revert’s idea. We both like Polish poster art and vintage paperbacks from the 60s and 70s. God Is A Killer reminds me of Pelican Books, with their use of abstract geometric design.

You share a lot of very good cover art on Twitter, any favourites?
Recently I’ve gotten into Mexican neo-pulp art, especially Rafael Gallur and Dagoberto Din.

Now you’ve got this novel done and dusted, what’s next?
The other week I finished the first draft of my next book, a novel about Irish gangsters in Boston.

You’re an editor at Apocalypse Continental, what do you look for in a story?
As an editor, I look for quality in the manuscript and appropriateness for Apocalypse Confidential. The hardest part of editing is rejecting good stories that don’t fit the magazine.

Desert island question: pick one book, one album, one dish:
Collected Plays – Strindberg
Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses
Roast lamb or vindaloo

Max Thrax is fiction editor of Apocalypse Confidential. His novel God Is A Killer (Close To The Bone) is available now: Buy now


Interviews, Laura Stamps, Punk Noir Magazine

PNM: I’ve looked you up online, and you’re an extremely prolific writer!! How long have you’ve been writing? 

LS: Thanks! I’ve been at this for 34 years now. During that time I’ve published 64 books (novels, novellas, short story collections, and poetry books) with a variety of publishers. My poetry book THE YEAR OF THE CAT was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, and I’ve received 7 Pushcart Prize nominations for fiction and poetry. I’ve also won numerous awards, including the Muses Prize. For over 30 years my books and archives have been collected by these permanent collections: Poetry & Rare Books Collection of the State University of New York (Buffalo, NY); Special Collections at James B. Duke Library, Furman University (Greenville, SC); and the Permanent Collection, Gandhi Library (UK).

PNM: You’ve been published in an impressive amount of magazines as well. How many stories have you published and in how many magazines? 

LS: My short stories and poems have been published in over 1000 literary magazines worldwide. 2021 was a really good year. 71 new flash fiction stories and poems were accepted for publication in literary magazines. 2022 already looks to be more of the same.

PNM: Do you have a process for subs? How do you keep track?

LS: I write every day of the year, so I’m always working on my next short story collection or novel/novella. As soon as I finish a story, I send it out in a simultaneous submission. I never use Submittable or Duotrope for magazine submissions. I only use those for book manuscript submissions to publishers and for competition entries. I prefer to send short story submissions to magazines that don’t use submission managers, because I like to build relationships with the awesome editors who publish my work. Digital submission managers make that difficult if not impossible. I keep track of all my submissions the old fashioned way: 4×6 index cards in a big index card file on my desk.

PNM: Can you tell me about your books?

LS: I’m a literary writer, so even though I’ve published books on a variety of subjects (nature poetry, cat poetry, women’s fiction, humorous, romantic, paranormal, spiritual, etc.) it’s always literary. However, all my books, stories, and poems have one thing in common: they’re all positive and empowering. I’m a child abuse and trauma survivor, so empowerment and helping my readers to empower their lives is a top priority for me and always will be. The small press took a hard hit during the Great Recession in the US (2008-2014). Many chain bookstores, distributors, and small press publishers went out of business. Eventually all my publishers went out of business too, and most of my books are no longer available. However in September 2021, Alien Buddha Press published my latest novella, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA. And several new books of mine will be coming out in 2022.

PNM: You write poetry and flash alike. Is your approach/writing process different for one or the other? 

LS: I use the same process for everything I write, whether it’s a novel, novella, flash fiction story, or poem. I write all first drafts by hand. Then I type them up on computer, print them out, edit by hand, type up each edit on computer, print it out, and start the process all over again. I’m a ruthless editor! All stories, novel chapters, and poems go through at least 20-30 edits. Sometimes more. If a word or sentence doesn’t move the plot forward, out it goes, no matter how much I like it. I love to create experimental forms for my fiction. I write in the same way an abstract artist paints. An abstract painting is a subconscious puzzle in paint. My stories are constructed as subconscious puzzles in words. Every word and sentence has a specific goal. I want my readers to feel good after reading one of my stories. I arrange words and phrases so they slip from your tongue at a fast, effortless pace in a stream-of-consciousness style that makes perfect sense to the subconscious mind. Before I begin a flash fiction story, all I need to know is the plot. Before I begin a novel, all I need to know is the first sentence and the last sentence. And that’s it. My characters talk to me 24/7. I’ve written so many novels and novellas for so many decades I’ve developed a system that works for me. I just give the novel to the main character and let her tell her story. I’ve learned from experience that she will do a much better job of it than I ever could!

PNM: Your latest novella, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA, was published by Alien Buddha in September 2021. Can you tell us about it? 

LS: The main character is a cat rescue lady with a chronic case of PTSD caused by too many abusive love relationships with narcissists and addicts. This humorous novella is about how she decides to heal herself with self-help books and YouTube therapy videos. I absolutely loved this cat lady character! The way her mind works always cracked me up. And she has a wonderful sense of humor. I loved going to work with her every day. And I really missed her when I finished the book. She was such a fun person to be around!

You can purchase Laura Stamp’s latest book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Its-All-About-Ride-Mania/dp/B09F1KL3R3

PNM: What are you working on now? 

LS: I just finished a new flash fiction collection: 40 empowering stories about 40 different women. It’s called THE WAY OUT. I’m very pleased with it. These stories cover a wide range of situations, occupations, and locations. And they all contain some kind of empowering insight. The collection includes 39 flash fiction stories (each one 350 words or less) and one small novella. It will be going to a publisher in February. Now that it’s finished, I’m working on a new novella. I already have over 2700 words (16 pages), and I’m totally in love with this character! She’s 26 years old, which is younger than most of my characters, and she’s even wackier than the cat rescue lady in IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA. Hard to believe, but true! She’s a cat lover (of course) but “cat-less” at the moment. However, through a bizarre encounter in a park, she ends up owning a homeless Chihuahua (much to her dismay). This humorous novella is about her daily struggle with this situation, since she’s not a dog person and has no desire to own a dog. It’s quite a learning curve, and she’s NOT happy about it. What she doesn’t realize is somehow, some way this tiny dog is going to help her untangle her life and relationships in amazing ways. I’m already having a blast with this one, can you tell?!

PNM: Cats are a big part of your writing. Where does your love of cats come from, and did you always include them in your writing?

LS: I grew up with cats, and I’ve been involved in some aspect of feral cat rescue for 40+ years. During that time I’ve owned over 60 cats. Currently, I have 4 cats (my 17-year old senior kitty passed away in November). All my cats are ferals or strays. I love working with feral cats! My poetry book THE YEAR OF THE CAT, the one that was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, was about my big feral cat colony 18 years ago. It began with a feral mom and two kittens. Within a year those three ballooned into a feral colony of 21 cats and kittens before I could get all of them socialized, spayed/neutered, and adopted into good homes. Since cats have always been a big part of my life, I guess it’s only natural they would find their way into my fiction and poetry. Because these precious souls won’t live forever, I always name the cat characters in my stories and novels after my cats. It’s my way of memorializing them in something that will last beyond their short lives.

PNM: Favorite authors?

LS: Anne Carson! I reread her classics, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED and RED DOC, every few years, as well as my all-time fav, THE BEAUTY OF THE HUSBAND. I consider Carson to be the best at creating experimental forms for her work. Each new book of hers is created in a different format. She continues to stretch herself and operate outside the box. She’s a master at blurring the line between poetry and fiction! My other favorite is Ann Beattie. I’ve been reading her stories and novels for over 30 years. Her short story collections are still my favorites, although her novella WALKS WITH MEN blew me away. What a fantastic book! Donald Barthelme is another favorite of mine. No one writes experimental short stories like Barthelme. He was truly a genius.

PNM: Favorite breed of cat?

LS: You know me, I love them all! But if I had to choose by favorite personalities I would say black kitties and tuxedo kitties. They’re curious, playful, energetic, and incredibly affectionate.

A conversation with Outcast Press

Interviews, Punk Noir Magazine

PNM: You arrived on the scene in March 2021, can you tell us how you got around deciding to start Outcast?

OP: Very rarely do I think we know where our decisions come from. We go through the motions of so-called rational deliberation, and when it comes to pulling or not pulling the trigger it’s usually a snap judgment. My memory is superius at best, though it was some confluence of events surrounding being kicked off a writing site + finding one too many so-called “edgy” magazines with a big X next to most of what I write. I discussed starting a press with two women I’d known a few years, Emily Woe and Paige Johnson. The rest is history.

PNM: And how was it first starting and making your mark in the indie scene? What were your main challenges and high points?

OP: Starting out, we planned on just doing anthologies for the first few years. Eventually we planned to branch out into novels and poetry, but I (I don’t want to speak too much for anyone else), had it set in my head to do three years of anthologies, then dive into novels. But life never goes the way you expect, does it? We got a pitch from Sean McCallum, then more pitches, and went from there. It’s been more successful than I imagined. And I couldn’t be more grateful to all the fans, authors and people who do us solids. The transgressive fiction market is a hard sell. The fact we made it this far is shocking to me. So a big shout out to everyone who bought a book or merch from us, retweeted our stuff, and to all the authors we have on board. Finally, a massive shout out to the Outcast Team.

Biggest obstacle? Money. We needed capital so we ran a successful kickstarter. Beyond that? Learning the ins and outs of the business side.

The high points? Seeing our authors succeed. There’s no feeling quite like that. There’s a lot of boring bullshit in what we do. But accepting a short story, accepting a novel, and working with the author to publication and seeing the elation? That’s the cream of the gods. Side note: I wager Amy-Jean feels much the same when it comes to the poetry feature, but she handles that, so I don’t want to speak for her.

PNM: You started with taking subs for an anthology which is now out and went on to developing a poetry team which publishes a monthly feature as well as became a press. That’s a massive achievement in under a year, what are the main elements to this success?

OP: Unhealthy levels of hard work + luck. I wish I had a more substantive answer, but that’s the crux of it. For the most part, we work 7 days a week. And no, this isn’t a transition into some meritocracy bullshit. It’s a lot of luck coupled with grinding it out daily.

PNM: There are a lot of indie presses around, what makes you different?

OP: There aren’t a lot of transgressive fiction presses out there. We aren’t the only players, but compared to science fiction or crime, the competition isn’t high. Perhaps it’s too much to say this, but I wager what sets us apart is we want the darkest of the dark shit. No caveats. Theme wise, everything is on the table when it comes to what we want. We want the work other places won’t take.

PNM: Tell us a bit about your masthead, who are they?

OP: Amy-Jean and HLR put together one hell of a poetry feature. Paige Johnson is, dare I say, one of the best editors and formatters around (Look what she’s done so far). Natalie too is a hell of an editor we recently took on. As for myself? Well, I think I do a decent job with promotion. But the credit really goes to the other folks. They blow me out of the water.



PNM: You’ve got 4 books scheduled to come out over the next few months, can you tell us a bit more about each one of them and their authors? What made you pick those books in particular?

OP: The first one is Poser by Nevada McPherson dropping Feb 14th. The writing was just outstanding, and she is a master at piling on conflict on top of conflict. Poser is a like a noir version of Breaking Bad when it comes to conflict. Things just get worse and worse. She’s also an outstanding human being. If you’re a fan of the work of Jackie Collins, you’ll love Poser (which is the first book in a three-part series).

A late acquisition is Austin Davis’ Poetry chap Lotus & The Apocalypse that drops March 1st. First, the poetry is outstanding. Raw, unfiltered, like blood spilled on the page from a man who’s heart is tattooed to the streets. Austin is an impressive man too. He gets nothing but mad respect from me. Austin has dedicated his life to working with the homeless population of Arizona. He’s an all-around outstanding dude and the bonus is an excellent poet.

Jack Moody’s Crooked Smile drops March 15th. The clear Bukowski vibe sold us. Is there a transgressive fiction fan out there who hasn’t been influenced by Bukowski? I doubt it. Beyond that, the semi-autobiographical novel is intensely raw and honest.

We also have an anthology coming out called Slut Vomit about sex work. We’ve collected the stories and anticipate it dropping sometime in April. We have a nice mix of stories from past and present sex workers, but also non-sex workers.


PNM: Do you get a lot of submissions and what are your acceptance criteria?

OP: A decent amount, sure. We aren’t bombarded, but there’s no shortage of people writing transgressive fiction and we wish we could give more stories and poems a home. We’re pretty niche, obviously, so I wager we get a lot fewer than, say, fantasy or crime.

As for the criteria, check the website as the guidelines are updated every few months.

Thanks so much for the interview. I really appreciate it. And once again: thanks to all of you who support us. We only exist because of you.

An interview with James Jenkins

Interviews, Punk Noir Magazine

BFJ: You arrived on the indie lit scene at the end of October with a first story published in Bristol Noir, followed shortly by the announcement that your first novel, Parochial Pigs, was going to be published in January by the Alien Buddha. Can you tell us a bit about how the query process went for you? 

JJ: Red from Alien Buddha was fantastic. A real person rather than a generic email responding that they had received my manuscript was a rare treat. I was fortunate that The Book Folks considered my manuscript back in the summer. Despite reading both books, they decided it wasn’t right for their list and advised I try Bristol Noir. I reached out to John Bowie who invited me to submit a short. If it wasn’t for John, I probably wouldn’t have discovered the indie scene or the Alien Buddha. From query to publishing date, Red has been exceptional. 

BFJ: And tell us about this debut novel. How long did it take you to write? 

JJ: It started in a very round about way. A friend of mine who made a gangster indie film, asked me to write another script idea. I had a concept I wanted to use and after sixteen hours and ten thousand words later I realised that this wasn’t going to be an indie film. I didn’t know what to do with it for a while but then spent another two years turning it into a novel.

BFJ: How would you describe it in a few words? And how would your harshest critic describe it? 

JJ: Me: “A gritty gangland novel entwined with dark humour and a ritualistic undertone.”  Critic: “Too much foul language, overly violent and borderline perverted.”  Mind you, I’d be happy with that! 

BFJ: What authors influence you?   

JJ: Chuck Palahniuk, Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson and Irvine Welsh. More recently it’s all been Indie authors. Thanks to yourself, Stephen J Golds, M. E. Proctor, John Bowie, Scott Cumming and so many more. Basically, if you’ve had a story in one of these great lit mags then you had an influence in my short story writing.

BFJ: If it had to be turned into a movie, what actors and director come to mind? 

JJ: Tim Roth, Paddy Constantine and Stephen Graham if they work on their West-Country accents. Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and Shane Meadows working together.

BFJ: Did you always write? What’s the first thing you ever wrote? 

JJ: I loved writing from an early age but lost my confidence in high school. I’ve always written songs so unfortunately, I’d have to be honest and say my earliest song I can remember, Lampshade Cat. An eleven-year old’s account of his feline after castration.

BFJ: And how do you fit your writing around your work and family life? 

JJ: I get asked this a lot by friends and family. The truth is, I have an incredibly supportive wife. I definitely married well. I could regret saying this, but I get a lot of free time at work. They put Word on the computer handhelds, what are you going to do?

BFJ: You’ve had a few more pieces published lately, are they part of a bigger work? 

JJ: I’m fairly new to writing short fiction. I started by writing extra parts from the world of Parochial Pigs, since then I’ve really enjoyed pushing my boundaries more. I’m not sure if I will ever do something to collect them together. For now, I’m just grateful that they were given a home. Nearly all my shorts have been written bespoke for each publisher. They are as much theirs as mine.

BFJ: What are your writing plans for 2022? 

JJ: Aside from promoting Parochial Pigs, I need to polish up the sequel and finish the third. Another novel has forced its way to the top of my focus. It’s a standalone from the series and not about twisted gangsters which makes a welcome change. Aside from that I really have the bug for writing short stories now. Be warned!

BFJ: What’s your current read? 

JJ: Ha! You timed this question well. I’m currently reading Artifice by B F Jones. You might have heard of them? Chuck’s Doomed is next.

BFJ: You’re at the bar, who are you drinking with, what are you having? 

JJ: Hunter S. Thompson. I’m drinking Carlsberg because I need a clear head for whatever Thompson’s got in that briefcase.  

Parochial Pigs

Parochial Pigs will be on available from Amazon from 16/01/2022: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09NRK1J2Z/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_V0VNYQFD1YXMKVNM1MFA

Read Blue Tiger on Bristol Noir: https://www.bristolnoir.co.uk/short-story-blue-tiger-by-james-jenkins/

Read Brick on A Thin Slice of Anxiety: http://www.athinsliceofanxiety.com/2021/12/fiction-brick.html

Interview with prose poet Courtenay S. Gray

Courtenay S. Gray, Interviews, Punk Noir Magazine

Massive thanks to the lovely Courtenay for taking the time to talk to us!

BFJ: What is the first thing you ever wrote?

CSG: A few months ago, I found an old school book, probably from when I was six. I believe I wrote a poem for class. It was either a poem or a micro-story. 

BFJ: You write both poetry and flash fiction. Do you approach them the same way?

CSG: Well, I usually write a lot of prose poetry. So, there are slight differences, but they tend to blend into one. I use ideas and feeling to write both, but my approach can vary. Think of my poetry and flash fiction as non-identical twins. I won’t write anything that I don’t want to, so I must be happy with it. I have strict rules about my organic approach and maintaining how it came out. 

BFJ: Who are your influences?

CSG: My four main influences are; Vladimir Nabokov, Sylvia Plath, Charles Bukowski, and Jean-Paul Sartre. I take a little bit from each of them. So, I take Nabokov’s stomach, Plath’s brain, Bukowski’s heart, and Sartre’s spirit. 

BFJ: Your poetry collection, Strawberry, was released in June by The Alien Buddha. What are the main themes, and how would you describe it in a few words?

CSG: The main themes of that collection are; loneliness, human existence, philosophy, existentialism, love, and disillusionment. To describe the book, I would say that it is a thematic ensemble of someone who has suffered so much loss that she desperately wants to find the source of all that pain. 

BFJ: And what about the title? What made you choose it?

CSG: I have self-published two collections before Strawberry. Top Hat & Time Tales came out when I was eighteen, and Cherry came out when I was twenty. I love using food in my work, and when I thought of strawberries, I saw how they are a duality of bitterness and sweetness. That combination resonated with the work inside, so I stuck with it. 

Strawberry is available from Amazon

BFJ: You also released Ketchup back in November, what is it about?

CSG: Ketchup is a collection of poems surrounding my mental health. I have always used poetry to expunge my frustrations, and that’s precisely what Ketchup is. Some people will think it’s too depressing, but that’s the point. Mental illness is unforgiving in the worst kind of way. So, I hope that Ketchup expresses that. 

Ketchup is available from Amazon

BFJ: Any tips on how to put a poetry chapbook together?

CSG: Don’t make it difficult for yourself. If you don’t have a theme to write for, then I usually find that the poems I write at that time are traditionally linked. Pick how many poems you want to include and begin the journey. Finding a title is usually the most challenging part, but something might come to you. 

BFJ: What are your writing highlights of 2021?

CSG: The first half was relatively slow, but the ball got rolling when Cody Sexton took on a packet of poems and my horror story. I’m an ambitious person, so my goal for this year was to infiltrate as many journals as possible. I managed to find homes for my work in Expat and Misery Tourism. I have an essay with Hobart that will have dropped by the time this comes out. I started a blog on WordPress back in June, which has been gaining popularity. I had always wanted one, but the designs were limited, so I took the plunge and created my wonderful corner of the universe. I was also runner up of the Literary Lancashire Award, and Cody nominated my horror story for a Pushcart, which was exciting. I have also made many friends in the writing community, particularly the transgressive side. 

BFJ: And what are your writing plans for 2022?

CSG: I will endeavour to get a story published in the New Yorker. I have always dreamed of it, and I will get even more ambitious in the coming year. I plan to make a concerted effort to make my blog more noticeable. I have a full-length poetry collection that is being shopped around, and I hope someone will pick that up. Similarly, I am a part of a collaboration with five other writers that we have been sending out to publishers. My other goal is to win a writing competition as I have always been beaten to the post, but I hope that will change this year. Can you tell I’m ambitious? Haha! 

BFJ: Favourite word?

CSG: Symbolic.

BFJ: Favourite drink?

CSG: Pumpkin Spice Latte!

Read some of Courtenay’s work below: 

Milk and eggs expat lit :

milk & eggs – Courtenay S. Gray

Flash fiction and poetry in A Thin Slice of Anxiety :


John Wisniewski interviews Bill Baber

Bill Baber, Flash Fiction, Indie, Interviews, John Wisniewski, Poetry, Shotgun Honey, T Fox Dunham

When did you begin writing, Bill?

I took writing classes in high school as well as Journalism. Wrote for the school paper and continued that in college. I wrote for small newspapers for many years before switching to fiction, which is much more enjoyable! The deadlines are much more manageable!

Any favorite crime authors?

How much space do you have? JamesCrumley is the reason I write crime fiction. To me, “The Last Good Kiss” is the best crime novel ever written. James Lee Burke is a close second and I really enjoy Don Winslow and Dennis Lehane.

Then there are all the writers who are part of the online community and that is a long list- Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, S. A Cosby, Brian Panowich, Chris De Wildt, Greg Barth, Bruce Harris, Chris McGinley, Jim Shaffer, and Johnny Shaw (Love the Jimmy Veeder Series.) Lately I have read a couple of books by Andrew Rausch-not for the faint of heart. Then there are the chaps from across the pond, Paul Brazil, Tom Leins, Ken Bruen and on and on-I hope they all know who they are!

Lastly, T. Fox Dunham wrote a book a few years ago called The Street Martyr. It is damn near perfect.

This is a partial list as there are a number of other great writers that deserve mention!

What makes a good crime novel?                                                                                     

Tough question. The reason I like Crumley and James Lee Burke is because they bring a literary side to the genre. Dialogue is important, it has to be believable. And a little humor helps. Lately, I have been drawn to stories featuring characters that are hard core criminals. Tommy Shakes by Rob Pearce and American Trash by Andrew Rausch are great examples. Pearce’s book should come with a warning- “Do Not Read With A Full Stomach!” It is disturbing- and about as real as crime fiction gets. When I wrote a review of American Trash I said I didn’t know if I should be outraged or entertained. I felt a little guilty that I liked it. Both were like reading Edward Bunker- dark and disturbing but real crime fiction.

You write poems as well as crime fiction. Could you tell us what interested you about poetry?

Back in the 70’s I was enamored with the writing of Richard Brautigan. I read all his novels and short stories. All that was left was two volumes of poetry. I was not a fan of poetry-until then. His was very easy to understand as was stuff written by Gary Snyder. I thought I could do similar stuff. I was in my twenties, living in a cabin in the redwoods of northern California. I still have those poems floating around. They weren’t very good. It was thirty years before I started writing poetry again.

The poetry I write is mostly spontaneous prose. Something pops into my head and I write it down. It requires very little in the way of editing. When I was first published, I was living in Central Oregon which is big, wild country. It was “nature” poetry because I was surrounded by raw beauty every day. I just wrote what I saw. Had a book of poems published in 2011.

A few years ago, I discovered a crime poetry site, The Five-Two. I was fortunate enough to have a number of poems appear there, two of which were nominated for “Best of the Net” consideration.

Could you tell us writing “Betrayed “? What inspired you?

 “Betrayed” was an anthology about domestic violence that was put together by Pam Stack, the woman behind “Authors on the Air.” My contribution, “No One Heard” is a story about multi-generational abuse. It might be the darkest thing I have written but it was what the subject called for. The title is still out there, and proceeds go to survivors of domestic violence.

How do you create such gritty characters?

 I am an observer of people. And it helped that I spent fifteen years working as a bartender in a small town. I got to know some real characters who had criminal tendencies. Many of my characters are based on them or guys I knew growing up in San Francisco. Now, I look at people and see if I could imagine them a s a criminal, you know, do they have larceny in their heart? And if you walk around Tucson or Phoenix there seems to be no shortage of people you could imagine as characters in a crime story.

How have you managed to be so prolific a writer, Bill, publishing nearly fifty stories? 

I need to update that; it is well past fifty now. My first crime story was published at “Out of the Gutter” back in 2010. Writing is a hobby for me- and a release. I work long hours for corporate America, so it is difficult to stick to any kind of a schedule. Most of those stories have been flash fiction at sites like OOTG, Shotgun Honey, Close to the Bone and Yellow Mama. Maybe a dozen stories that have been published have been longer, I’m trying to force myself to go more in that direction.

What will your next story be about?

I have a story in the just released “Coming Through in Waves” Crime Fiction based on the songs of Pink Floyd. It is titled Arnold Layne and is named for the bands first single. The story is about a million-dollar jewel heist that is interrupted by Arnold’s strange hobby.  This collection was edited by T. Fox Dunham and has some incredible stories by a bunch of great writers. It was an honor to be included!

I am currently working on a story that starts with an armed robbery and a bunch of meth in Tucson and ends with a triple cross and lots of bodies in Albuquerque.

Could you tell us about writing “Sleepwalk “, an award-winning short story?

For the record, it was nominated for a Derringer award by John Thompson, the editor at Dead Guns Press where it appeared. It was set in Tucson. I walked around the barrio where the late Isaac Kirkman, who was well known and loved in the writing community lived. It was during the monsoon season. A thunderstorm was brewing, and it was easy to picture the city fifty years earlier. Tucson has that timeless feel about it. It’s an easy place for a noir tale to take hold.

A son kills the man who murdered the father he never knew. And the fathers best friend lives with guilt and regret for not doing it himself. It was different than anything I had written before. If I had to pick a favorite story of mine, “Sleepwalk” might be it

John Wisniewski interviews Dan Flanigan

Interviews, John Wisniewski


When did you begin writing, Dan? Do you have any favourite crime/suspense authors? Could you tell us about writing “The Big Tilt”? What inspired this book? You also wrote “Mink Eyes”. Could you tell us about writing this? “Tenebrae” is a poem. Why did you decide to write this? What makes a good crime/suspense novel? Are you working on a new book? Do you have any favourite film noir movies? Please tell us about “Dew Drops”. This is a collection of short stories.


I have wanted to “be a writer” since around my sophomore year in high school. I wrote my first story then and, for a while, a number of other things. But being a writer means “writing,” and I didn’t seem to quite understand that. Instead, I let myself be distracted by a number of things–depression, alcoholism, fear–and also, as I wrongly thought for a long time, “selling out” to semi-bourgeois married life and working as a college professor, then a civil rights lawyer, then a lawyer in private practice–but the first three things were the real reasons I didn’t write.  Once I sobered up in earnest (one day at a time now for 37 years), I started writing in earnest. At that same time I took a break from the law practice and about everything else, and my wife and I founded the now very well known drug and alcohol treatment center Sierra Tucson. I had the right vision and even the right plan and execution for it but not enough capital so had to sell it to keep it alive. But thousands have been through there ( a couple of weeks ago there were 120 or so patients and over 400 staff), and it has surely wonderfully transformed many lives.  It was probably the best thing I ever did though I couldn’t keep hold of it, which seems fitting somehow.

I did not set out to be a crime/suspense writer.  I always wanted to write “literary” fiction, but I wanted to make it interesting, so I put my story Mink Eyes in that format.  However, I am now persuaded that writing serious fiction in the mystery/detective/crime/suspense genre is a great idea if I can pull it off.  My notion is to use the O”Keefe saga to tell the history of our times from the 1980s to as close to the present day as I can get before I run out of ideas or can’t mentally or physically write any longer.

As to favorite writers in this genre, no surprise, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald. While I would not call him a “favorite,” I greatly admire the skill of Elmore Leonard.  Not sure it is technically this genre (it won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1974), but I am a huge fan of Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers. I am sure I would enjoy many others, but I just don’t read much in the genre, one of the cardinal sins of an aspiring writer in a genre, I know, but that’s the way it is.  I don’t want to be influenced or imitative. Nevertheless, I am basking in delight (WARNING! SELF-PROMOTION ITEM COMING!) that a recent reviewer of The Big Tilt wrote: “Flanigan manages to conjure deft, hard-boiled, but literary prose that’s reminiscent of Raymond Chandler’s best work.” Ouch!

I wrote the original version of Mink Eyes in the late 1980s in a burst of creative activity in my early sobriety.

This burst started with plays—first, one that has never been performed or even read by anyone “important” and needs more work, but is a project I have a lot of love for—is called Secrets, about the life and death of Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx’s youngest daughter, who was in her own right a major figure (Socialist agitator, actress, author, translator of  Madam Bovary) in late Victorian England. 

I have also written a play that many have liked called Moondog’s Progress whose main character is much like Alan Freed, the disc jockey who “discovered” rock n’ roll.

The next play was Dewdrops, a tragedy set in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. This play very quickly received a staged reading at the Theatre of the Open Eye in NYC, which went well, but what was there to do with it next? I didn’t know.

I also wrote a couple of short stories. 

And Mink Eyes. I got an agent and even a publisher.  The publisher promptly went bankrupt and the next publisher wanted changes in the book without promising to publish it. That whole experience–the staged reading, the agent, the publisher–was like catching fire only to be quickly and rudely doused with a bucket of ice water. 

I gave it up and did not return to it for about 15 years when I pulled Mink Eyes out of the box, said “damn it, this is pretty good, it has promise,” and very substantially revised and expanded it. 

I then moved on tothe book Dewdrops.  Dewdrops includes three pieces. The centerpiece is Dewdrops itself, which I adapted from a play into a very dialogue-heavy novella. The novella is bracketed by two longish short stories not in the mystery/detective genre–“Some Cold War Blues” about a boy named Jack growing up in the 1950s who gets into quite a snowball fight and “On The Last Frontier” about Katie who is old and broke in Juneau with winter coming on. 

My wife Candy died in 2011.  We had been married for 41 years and together for 45.  We indulged in much sturm and drang, many adventures and transformations, loved a lot and fought a lot, and managed to stay together somehow.  I wanted to write about her last illness and death, and that required dealing with the whole relationship. I started by trying to embody it in a traditional prose narrative, but it didn’t work.  It needed to be expressed in fiercely concentrated emotion, and, after flopping around some, I saw that poetry was the only way to do that.  The Tenebrae “story” (it is a “narrative” poem) proper is a group of 15 poems (some of which are “prose” poems but poems all the same).  The book includes a few other poems on other subjects. 

I published the three books more or less all at once in the spring of 2019 (though, obviously, I had been working on all of them except Tenebrae, on and off, mostly off, for decades.

Now to The Big Tilt.  I wrote that in two sessions of several months each, the first session in the summer of 2019, but I discovered to my dismay that I had written myself into a couple of plot cul de sacs that I didn’t know how to escape from (the problem with choosing to write in the detective/mystery genre is that one must father forth not just interesting characters, sharp dialogue, good writing, but interesting, even suspenseful, even exciting plotting—all (separately and together) very hard to pull off, especially hard when the author wants the action to be realistic, something that could really happen in the real world. But in March 2020 the Virus took hold and somehow, not sure exactly how, it helped me focus, and I completed the book in October 2020.

Each of my books is available in both eBook and paperback format. Each is available from the various digital publishers and can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or from my website, DanFlaniganBooks.com

I really don’t know what makes a good crime/suspense novel.  I don’t read enough of them to know.  I do know that many of the very popular ones do not appeal to me because they are so far from real life and even from not only Newtonian but even Quantum physics.  I have no interest in writing in this genre for those who want pure escapism.  I do want to write for those who want a good story, with serious themes that grapple with the human condition, about interesting characters who are sometimes exasperating but appealing all the same, certainly not main characters who are “breaking bad,” though maybe they have already broken bad and are now trying to figure out how to “break good.”

I am working on a new book of shorter pieces that have been tapping on my shoulder for a long time, a book something like Dewdrops, i.e. of shorter fiction not in the mystery/detective genre. At the same time I am constantly alert to what my O’Keefe characters are up to.  Things are happening, but I have to let the characters work things along before I am ready to join them in the adventure. 

I am not sure what “noir” really is. I thought I did until I experienced many people calling Mink Eyes noir or “noirish,” which surprised me somewhat.  I think of noir as basically about “bad” people. While I have my villains, I regard most of my characters as not-bad, actually often basically good, but who, nevertheless, often make some terrible mistakes and end up in tragic situations. 

The noir movies that stand out in my mind as I answer this question are, no surprise here, Double Indemnity, the touchstone and archetype. Also the Robert Altman/Eliot Gould version of The Long Goodbye and the film version of Dog Soldiers with Nick Nolte and Tuesday Weld (foolishly renamed Who’ll Stop The Rain after the Credence Clearwater Revival song!). While I hesitate to admit it, something about Against All Odds with Rachel Ward and Jeff Bridges really grabbed me the first time I saw it (it was probably Rachel). And one must, of course, say Chinatown. But one “must say” that is definitely not on my list is Vertigo, in my view maybe the most overrated movie of all time.

Each of my books is available in both eBook and print formats. Each is available from the various digital retailers and can be ordered from your favourite bookstore or from my website, DanFlaniganBooks.com

John Wisniewski interviews Nick Kolakowski

Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Interviews, John Wisniewski, Nick Kolakowski, Shotgun Honey
  1. When did you begin writing, Nick?

I’ve always written. Like so many others, I had one of those cliché writer childhoods where I wrote and drew my own little books. I also had an intense interest in crime fiction from a young age, as well — when I was nine or ten, my dad gave me an old paperback copy of “Trouble Is My Business,” which kicked off a lifelong addiction to all things noir. But I didn’t start writing crime fiction in a serious way until my late 30s, after veering through everything else — journalism, nonfiction book-writing, copywriting, etc. Plunging into crime fiction, and finding the community that came with it, felt like coming home.

2. Any favorite crime authors?

Among contemporary authors, some of my most hardcore favorites include Steph Cha (whose “Your House Will Pay” was my favorite book last year; it’s an excellent, searing mystery), Sarah Jilek (who just published “Saint Catastrophe,” a wonderfully weird and sexy book about cults, biker gangs, MFAs, and violence), Sean Cosby (whose ” Blacktop Wasteland” is a hell of a masterpiece), and David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s “Winter Counts” (an incredible mystery set on a Native American reservation). All of them are pushing the boundaries of what crime fiction can be, especially as a lens for viewing some of the biggest issues hitting society at the moment.

3. What makes a good crime novel? How do you create suspense?

If you want to build great suspense, you have to delay gratification. All the common tools of suspense — the cliffhanger, etc. — stem from that simple principle. You delay and delay and delay, in a way that leaves the audience wanting more. When I’m reading a crime novel or short story, I know it’s failing when they’re relying too much on spectacle — when they overstuff it with events because they think those will hold the reader’s attention. That doesn’t do anything but wear the reader down. Teasing them along, though… that’s the magic.

4.Could you tell us about writing “Rattlesnake Rodeo“, one of your latest?

“Rattlesnake Rodeo” is the sequel to “Boise Longpig Hunting Club.” I never intended to write a sequel to “Boise,” but the characters kept speaking to me after I finished the book. Plus, if you’ve read “Boise,” you know that it ends with a lot of plot threads still unresolved. With “Rattlesnake Rodeo,” I wanted to raise the stakes by an insane degree, to put the characters in pretty much the worst type of situation you can imagine any noir characters being plunged into.

5.How did you create the Jake Halligan character?

Jake’s history as a bounty hunter and a former soldier comes from a few people in my life who were former bounty hunters and soldiers. I like the idea of a roughneck who cuffs people by day but comes home and reads a ton of books—there’s a dichotomy there that breaks a bunch of clichés.

Many characters in noir and hardboiled fiction are fundamentally immoral, because that’s how you drive the plot—they’re fighting their dark places. With Jake, I wanted to create a character who was fundamentally good but grappling with some broken pieces (many of those the result of his experiences during the Iraq War). Jake’s sister, Frankie, is the opposite—she’d be a complete psychopath except for whatever wiring in her brain allows her to love her friends and family intensely.

6. Tell us about the Love & Bullets series? How were those characters created?

With the Love & Bullets novellas (“A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps,” “Slaughterhouse Blues,” and “Main Bad Guy”), I wanted to create something that was action-heavy, funny, and extremely hyperactive. Bill and Fiona, the two main characters, aren’t quite as smart as they think they are, although they’re more than capable of surviving when they rip off their gangster bosses and try to escape to the Caribbean.

The novellas were originally published via Shotgun Honey, which specializes in noir novellas. Then a large German publisher bought and translated the novellas in one volume for the German and Swiss markets, which meant I needed to rewrite the books slightly, in order to ensure the narrative read smoothly as one giant novel as opposed to three shorter ones. Now Shotgun Honey is going to publish the novellas as a complete book in English, which gave me the opportunity to rewrite yet again—and add to it. It’s a rare gift to be able to rewrite and adjust your book repeatedly as times go on; I’ve used the opportunity to tweak issues, improve the plot, etc. So that’s been fun!

7. In another of your most recent novels “Boise Longpig Hunting Club”, Jake Halligan faces many dangers, in a novel full of action. Does this help to draw the reader in, to keep the reader guessing?

With “Boise Longpig Hunting Club,” I was inspired by “The Most Dangerous Game” and other novels and movies over the past hundred years that have featured people hunting other people for sport. Given the political and cultural polarization in America, I thought it’d be interesting to revamp that story with a lot of contemporary subtext.

At the same time, I also wanted “Boise” to be something of a mystery, because that would keep the reader engaged until it was time for the big hunt to kick off. I was borrowing a little bit from the Lee Child playbook with that one—if you’ve read the Reacher novels, you know that Child is very good at weaving together mystery and action to keep you glued throughout the entire book.

8. What will your next book be about?

I’m actually working on *two* novels right now. One is an Agatha Christie-style locked-room mystery that takes place in a highly unusual time and location; the other is a ticking-clock mystery/action novel that goes in a really odd direction for its final act. I’ve been increasingly interested in what happens when you mix genres together—comedy and horror, mystery and horror, and so on. These two manuscripts are experiments in that vein, and we’ll just have to see how I do.

John Wisniewski interviews Dominic Adler

Brit Grit, Dominic Adler, Euro Noir, Interviews, John Wisniewski, London, London Noir, Punk Noir Magazine

41+WWTnmZPL._SY346_How did your career of being a law enforcement officer aid you in your writing, Dominic?

We all have a hinterland, and mine was 25 years in the Metropolitan Police. London’s a genuine metropolis and I rubbed shoulders with some incredible characters, a gift for any writer. For example, my first novel, ‘The Ninth Circle’ was partly-inspired by a stint working on the Alexander Litvinenko murder investigation. One of the lines in the book comes from a Russian I came across (“where’s the only place you find free cheese? In a mousetrap”). As a thriller writer, it’s not a bad primer; the police taught me how to handle firearms, drive fast cars, follow someone without them knowing – sexy stuff which I wasn’t remotely gifted at. I was happier talking to people, which I like to think is a more important skill for a detective.

I think my old job had a technical impact on how I approach my writing too – I would prepare intelligence reports, statements and requests for stuff like surveillance or financial investigations or forensic support. It helped develop an eye for detail, structure and working to deadlines. And the UK police five-part statement model is a solid way of presenting a story. I’ve used it to clarify scenes, writing the same incident from different points-of-view. As a writing exercise, it’s solid.

Lastly, after a quarter of a century in that world I developed a decent contacts book. It’s full of weird and wonderful people to ask questions if I need to.

When did you begin writing? 

When I was nine or ten. I’d hammer out adventures for role-playing games on my dad’s typewriter (Gary Gygax, co-author of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ was my earliest literary influence). As a teenager I started my own twisted humour magazine called ‘Swamp’ (circulation – about six of my friends). At college I was a student journalist, writing a scabrous gossip column and movie reviews. Eventually the itch to write my own novel really, really needed to be scratched. I started one on an A4 pad, scribbling in biro, when I was a young patrol officer. I remember trying to describe what it was like to work night-shifts, about what a special place London became after dark. Of course, it was awful, but you have to start somewhere.

Any favourite suspense/crime authors?

I’ll give you two of my favourite crime writers. The first is Philip Kerr (for his Bernie Gunther detective thrillers, set in Nazi Germany). Bernie is probably my favourite character in fiction – a decent man in a fucked-up world, someone who can’t help but end up with blood on his hands, but prepared to pay the price for his sins. The second is Mark Timlin, whose late 80s / early 90s Nick Sharman books are hard-boiled gems set in south London: Cocaine. Threesomes with strippers. Sharp suits. Gun porn. Car chases in souped-up Sierra Cosworths. Rock stars. And did I mention LONDON! Read them now, especially if you like a walk on the wild side – Timlin was a roadie for rock bands before he became a writer. I’ll admit to being heavily influenced by Timlin when writing the Cal Winter thrillers. If he ever reads this, I hope he gets in touch and I’ll buy him a disgracefully boozy lunch (you choose where, Mark). Maybe with bang-bang chicken, one of Sharman’s favourites.

How does your interest in military history and technology in warfare affect your writing?

I did a History degree and was an army reservist. I think my obsession with military history helps when writing military characters – you quickly realise soldiers are very tribal. Cal Winter’s an ex-army officer and even though he’s cashiered in disgrace, he needs the balm of camaraderie as much as the buzz of action. To give another example of how real-world history inspires me, my latest book (Timberwolf), is a crazy science-fantasy set in a world analogous to the 1940s. One of the key scenes is based on the German airborne assault on Eben-Emael. If I wasn’t a history geek, I would never have heard of it.

As for technology, I love gadgets and toys. Oh, and tanks. I love tanks. Personally I blame watching too many Bond movies as a kid (except for tanks, unless we’re talking about Pierce Brosnan driving a T-55 in Goldeneye). Then, towards the end of my career, I became an online investigator. I was exposed to social engineering methodologies and what the military would call ‘information warfare’. I got completely hooked on how the Internet was becoming a battlefield domain. That led to me writing ‘The Saint Jude Rules’, which I didn’t realise was actually me, oracle-like, partially shadowing the world of shit that is 2020. See? I was an information warfare hipster, back before it was cool.

41TnZ5v0saL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Could you tell us about writing “The Devil’s Work“? What inspired this novel?

‘The Devil’s Work’ is the second Cal Winter novel. I wanted to write an over-the-top action thriller based on movies like ‘The Wild Geese’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare’, but set in the 21st Century. A story with impossible commando raids and double-crosses. I’d also read about how China was buying up vast chunks of Africa, which I thought made for an interesting back-story.

I spoke to a couple of friends who know Africa well about world-building, then spoke with an ex-SBS guy over a pint about how you’d drop a RIB from a helicopter… and the rest fell into place from there. The scene where Cal meets a journalist in a flyblown African bar was more or less pilfered from a bloke I know who was a warzone news cameraman. Then I needed to create a bunch of gnarly mercenaries to join Cal and his sidekick Oz. They were inspired by tough-guy movies like ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Con Air’ (you’ve got no heart if you don’t love that movie) – I ended up with a dread-locked Scottish ex-paratrooper, gangster twins from East London who served in the Foreign Legion and a Russian-American sniper who comes along for the ride.

Funny story: I was working in a Criminal Intelligence unit when I wrote the book, so was required to submit the script for vetting. As the book features a troubled SIS (MI6) team, my bosses decided to send it over to Vauxhall Cross for the spooks to take a look. As it happens, SIS wanted me to change one tiny thing – and this is the most British thing ever – they just asked politelyThere was no suggestion of an order, just a “would you mind awfully, old chap?” Who was I to disobey Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service? I’m not allowed to say what it was, so I won’t, except it had nothing to do with their reputation. I thought, all things being equal, they were cool about it.

What will your next novel be about?

I wear two writing hats (I’m such a rebel) – Thrillers and Speculative Fiction. On the thriller front I’m toying with a fourth Cal Winter story and I’ve also got 40,000 words down on a story about police corruption. It’s set on the Thames Estuary where London meets Kent – smuggling country. An ex-anti-corruption cop joins forces with a gangster’s widow to take down a criminal gang, who themselves are in the shit with the Albanian mafia (the Amazon-meets-Uber of European organised crime). Think ‘The Departed’ meets ‘The Long Good Friday’, with counter-espionage and the Isle of Sheppey. I do love glamorous locations. On the speculative fiction front, I’m also writing a sequel to ‘Timberwolf’. It’s got some good reviews and I really enjoyed writing it.

Any suspense/foreign intrigue movies that you like?

Okay you asked… Heat, Ronin, The Dirty Dozen, LA Confidential, Hanna, all of the ‘Bourne’ movies (even the dodgy one with Jeremy Renner), John Wick 1-400, Man on Fire (of course Chris Walken gets the best line: a man can be an artist… in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasy’s art is death. He’s about to paint his masterpiece), Nikita, Reservoir Dogs, Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, Way of the Gun, Snatch, In Bruges, Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Layer Cake, No Country for Old Men, virtually any Bond movie, Leon, The Long Kiss Goodnight. I could go on, I devour this stuff whenever I can. And some great TV? Altered Carbon (first series), The Man in the High Castle, Babylon Berlin, The Boys, The Punisher, Fauda and The Bureau.

How do you create your characters?

They pop into my head semi-formed, then I start writing detailed profiles in my trusty notebook. Eventually, if I’m lucky, a character emerges. For others I open my mental rolodex of people I met at work, there are thousands of ‘em. Obviously, they’re heavily disguised, or composites. I think writing is a privilege and I hate bullying or betraying confidences – even for people I don’t like.

Link to Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/ Dominic-Adler/e/B00EYKGN26? ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid= 1572852445&sr=1-1

Link to Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/ Dominic-Adler/e/B00EYKGN26% 3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Link to website www.dominicadler.net

Link to Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ dominic.adler.90