Monday, September 3, 2012

A Twist Of Noir 702 - Chris Benton


The house was dark. But the moon found every glowing angle. The surging roar of your heart. You open the door like a mathematician.

I awoke. The bed was wet with everything. My son Robert was going to be killed by North Carolina this evening. He was found guilty of raping and killing his girlfriend on the night of his birthday seven years ago. He had turned twenty-three back then. On the night of her death, he had brought her to the Lost Loop Lounge, a nothing place where barely articulate bastards fled to whenever the social security checks of their dead or decrepit kin were delivered unto them.

My boy was not a bastard, nor an idiot; on the contrary, he inherited his late mother’s love of books. She died giving birth to him, but not before she had read most of the classics to him while he was still dreaming inside her. I swear she drove me to the howling edge with that shit, the larger her belly grew the more fucking words she spewed, insanities about white whales and walled-up wives, and runaway niggers who were Christ in disguise.

I believe my son committed those terrible crimes. He inherited my short fuse; I was in jail five times for assault before he was ever a thought. My old man had a violent soul as well, all it took was a pint of whisky for him to realize just how profoundly worthless he was on this planet. I remember not being able to find his eyes during those nights. At first he’d break shit in the house, but found that there weren’t any release in that, objects would only break, and lay there in merciless pieces, probably laughing at him. I imagine he needed something to react to his rage and remember it, and react and remember we did, my mother and me.

I’ve never hit a woman. Not even a single slap in my sorry existence. I came close on a few occasions, but I’d suddenly see my father’s face and spend the next hour shitting him out of my mouth. I did hit my son, though, hit him numerous times. And so I was wondering, if I somehow fist-fucked a splinter of my old man’s soul into my boy’s mind, because the last time I saw my son in court, I couldn’t find his eyes.

I finally did manage to dig up the courage to see him in prison, up in Raleigh, a couple of weeks ago. First time I saw him since the day he was sentenced. We were separated by plate glass, holding telephones. For a few minutes he stared at me in amazement, like I was a mirage. His eyes were finally gone, and he wore a beard demented with prophecy. We sat there, inside the old silence for a few minutes until he broke it.

“I saw a sneak preview of hell two nights ago,” he whispered. “It doesn’t look good, Dad. Dante took a wrong turn into the woods alright, but who he met was Mickey Mouse, not Virgil, and what he found was fucking Disney World, not hell.”

“You never told me you had a girlfriend,” I said.

“You never asked, Dad. If memory serves, you were almost spiritually content within the oblivion of beer and The Outlaw Jose Wales forever and ever, amen.”

“Did you love her?” For a second, a single second, my question nearly found his eyes.

“Yeah, I loved her; why else would I attempt to impregnate her corpse?”

My tongue tried to untie some rags of love, but my balls kept crawling deeper into my ass. I wasn’t ashamed, I was afraid, and I despised him for it.

I began thinking about evil again for the first time in forty years. My mother spoke of it often late at night, after her screams finally dried on the walls.

“The devil does not live in the world,” she told me. “He does not live in the center of the earth. He does not live on another planet, or in another galaxy, neither.” I was in her arms, on the sofa that her own mother had died on. “You know where the devil lives, Michael?” She lifted her left leg, and her bathrobe dropped like a guillotine blade. She stroked the ragged riddle of bruises that crawled down her thigh, to the doorstep of my true home. “He lives here Michael, where the window is finally clear.”

I took a shower, shaved, and put on some cologne. Dressed in my best white button-up and my pair of Wranglers that weren’t too fucked up from the lumber yard, and the fifty dollar dress boots I bought at Pay Less for my son’s funeral. Despised myself in the bathroom mirror for a few minutes and wondered what my son saw whenever he looked into a mirror. Hell, I didn’t know if death row even had mirrors. Probably not, maybe that was why he had that crazy beard last time I saw him. First and last time I would see him with a beard. I wasn’t going to be there, up in Raleigh, wasn’t going to watch my boy die. I decided to wander, during last hours of the day, until I found the place which had waited for me my entire life.

The sky was clear, true Carolina blue, cleansing the roads. I drove down Mako Lane and saw what looked like a couple of happy families grilling out in front of their trailers. I honked my horn and waved to them, and when they waved back at me with magnificent smiles I stomped on the gas.

Been dreading this place for the past seven years, but my truck didn’t seem to give a shit that afternoon, because it brought me to The Lost Loop Lounge, parking upon a dead universe of bottle caps. The last time I’d been here was after I gave Robert his last great beating, when he was expelled from high school for punching Katie Henson in the face. He crossed the line. Lost all recognition. This is not my beautiful son. These are not my beautiful blood cells. I broke his nose and choked him to sleep, leaving him there upon my grandmother’s sofa.

I got out of my truck and stretched my arms, trying to find the feelings of a bitter boy on his birthday. There were several cars parked in the lot, and I recognized several of them, they belonged to dead men.

The interior of the Lost Loop was as cool as a cancer ward, and like a cancer ward, the patients needed poison to survive. Everyone at the bar turned and gummed me in unison. The oldest patrons couldn’t have been more than thirty. A grey blur of vengeful ink and runaway eyes.

The crack of a cue ball in the game room snapped their attention back to their drinks and conspiracies. I sat down beside a boy who looked liked he’d recently escaped from a chimney.

“A shot of Turkey and a Bud,” I told the bartender, whom I recognized. She was beautiful once, the daughter of my last foreman, who died three years ago from lung cancer. I forgot her name, but she had several names written all over her arms. Names of men and women who were probably dead or waiting, waiting like my son. And then I finally knew; there in that Christ forsaken shit box, waiting was dying, there was no confusion between the two. The ashen boy beside me was staring at me with a kind of careful terror.

“You son gone die soon,” he told me softly.

My shoulders began to throb. I ignored them and downed my shot and stared back at him. “What’s your name, son?”

“I done have no name, Daddy, you ain’t never given me one.”

I looked into his eyes and I saw the missing eyes of my son and father. I reached for my beer and noticed my hand was trembling.

“Was you hands all shaken when beaten the shit out of him?”

The sound of the world had suddenly left me. The little faggot pile was on the filthy floor failing to be lit beneath the heels of my fifty dollar dress boots.

I began hearing him squealing with delight like a child being tickled as I ruptured his rotten sack. I felt arms try to wrap around me and I wrung them like soaked rags. I turned around and the whole bar was creeping toward me like zombies in those dumbass movies the TV never tired of spewing late at night.

“You’re all sorry, all of you, scab scratchin’, half dead sorry asses, all of you,” I told them. I bet your mother never read to each and every one of you.” I left them trying to decipher my bony ass.

Out upon the cracked roads, past the dead fields and crumbling homes, my hands were steady again and my head was finally clear. I turned on the radio and listened to Janis howling litanies of love as I breached the bronze skin of the Neuse. I pulled onto HWY41 and headed into town, pursuing an idea that had been burrowing through my brain for years.

Inside the Piggly Wiggley, I chose the most expensive bottle of white wine they had, and grabbed some fancy crackers and a couple of cans of smoked oysters.

I waited for oaks to smother the last of the light, idling four doors from her house. When her porch light came on, I killed the engine. I sat there for a while, wondering what I was going to say, wondering what I was going to do. When I realized I didn’t have a fucking clue, I got out of my truck.

I walked up to her house letting my feet lose the last of their will. She lived in a dark green double wide. The grass was freshly cut and rose bushes bullied the front porch.

The heart of the door bore a photograph of her and her daughter, the day of a graduation, College, it looked like. Robert never even applied for college. Was that why he lost his eyes? Being forsaken a second time? No. The third, strike three, motherfucker. I was the second. As the truth ate my prostate, the door opened.

She was her daughter’s mother, a strawberry tomboy. She was beautiful, and I was afraid.

“Mrs. Cause?”

“Yes, I know who you are, Michael Dean. I’ve been waiting for you.”

She didn’t give me time to ponder her words because my nose exploded behind her fist. I staggered back, and she was upon me again, on the front porch, with an uppercut and a fierce right hook. I went down, went down hard on top of the twenty dollar bottle of white wine from the fancy region in France.

The house was dark, but the moon found every glowing angle. The surging roar of your heart. You open the door like a mathematician. She’s there, waiting for you, eyes open, smiling like a bride before the vow. You walk towards her, every step a decade.

I awoke, bathed in light on her couch. Jeopardy was on the television. Plants were everywhere, sitting and hanging. A few were staring at me with paranoid hatred. Mrs. Ellen Cause was tweezing the shards of the wine bottle from my chest.

“You were dreaming,” she told me. She wore box framed glasses and a black blouse. She tongued her upper lip whenever she found a splinter.

The remorseless dick of a migraine began to harden inside my sockets. “What time is it?”

“Seven twenty-five, just in time for Final Jeopardy, so shut the fuck up and let me listen.”

I obeyed and watched her hands. She had a plumber’s hands, hands experienced with fixing things and breaking them. There was a wedding ring, but the jewel was gone. My gaze strayed upon her face. Her chin was as hard as her hands, and her lips were thin from years of smothering the wrong words to death in their bed. I couldn’t find a single wrinkle on her beyond the long dark ditch dividing her brow.

“What is the Ganges?” she said.


“Shhhhh!” she hissed, pressing the tweezers to her lips. When Alex Trebek confirmed her question, she smiled and shook her head softly. “Fucking idiots.”

My migraine was getting worse by the second. I needed a drink. And she knew it. My chest was a weeping nightmare. She plucked the last splinter buried beneath my right nipple and said, “You reek of piss; you know that, don’t you?”

I began shaking my head like a moron, and she nodded her head sympathetically and left the room. There was a new shirt upon the coffee table beside me, still in the package. I tore it open and pulled it on. When my hands failed to defeat the first button, she walked back into the den with a bottle of Crown Royal and two tumblers.

“You know you’re fucking that shirt up for life,” she told me, slamming down the tumblers.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“Stop the ma’am shit, I’m not your fucking mother.” Her eyes were a couple of girls giggling beneath a frozen pond. She walked over to me and buttoned up my shirt. When she thumbed the last one, she looked at me and smiled. “You’re more pathetic than I thought. I was waiting for a monster, a true mythic asshole, not a functioning sack of formaldehyde bearing wine.”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” I said.

She shook her head and poured the tumblers full.

“That was a nice vintage that you brought, too bad you had to fucking fall on it like a tragic trooper.”

She sounded deep Yankee, New England, probably Boston.

“If you can’t translate the label, it must be nice,” I said.

“Don’t try to be smart, it’s already making me sick,” she said, passing me the tumbler. “Hope you like it neat, the ice machine is fucked.”

I drank. And I poured myself another and drank. And poured myself another and set it on the coffee table with divine discipline. “Thank you for the drink, sorry to have troubled you, Ms. Cause,” I said.

“Don’t.” She said.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t leave. I thought you wanted to share the countdown with me, so we can cathartically console each other and eventually slobber on each other’s genitals.”

I downed the divine discipline. “You’re a strange woman.”

“I am infinite, I contain multitudes,” she said before downing her glass.

“Walt Whitman,” I said, pathetically hiding my pride.

“Really? I thought that was Charles Whitman. Walt’s way overrated.”

“He was a nurse, he healed people.”

“Oh yeah? Have his personal cell number? My daughter’s decomposing corpse is in dire need of some neo-fucking-sporin.”

“I never knew about Cathy, Robert never mentioned her. He just went to work and appeared at home whenever he felt like it.”

“Yeah, serious communication malfunctions at the ole homestead. That’s fine, I sympathize, and Cathy never shared the meat as well. She always attracted psychos, though, always sending out pheromones for Frankenstein’s latest failures.”

“What time is it?”

“Ten till eight, almost time for us to wonder what the fuck happened to our lives.”

We could have done this forever, could have talked, could have screamed, could have wept, could have fucked, and could have shared a sweaty, bitter bed with no words left. But this was not the place. This was a long festering mistake. There wasn’t much time. I finally knew the place that was waiting for me. I rose to leave and all she said was, “Drive safe.”

I pulled onto the dead universe of bottle caps once more. I only had a few minutes, if that. I jogged to the front door and kicked it down swinging the Louisville Slugger I’d bought for Robert when he was seven. He didn’t have much use for it, save for curing dying dogs, which was what I was curing now. I connected with several heads, a couple of them female, but they didn’t seem offended in the least. The bat was vibrating with joy. My arms were finally found and overwhelmed and someone was beating me with what felt like the biggest, brightest diamond in the world. They were all over me, eager for a small scrap of love.

The house was dark. But the moon found every glowing angle. The surging roar of your heart. You open the door like a mathematician. She’s there, waiting for you, eyes open, smiling like a bride before the vow. You walk towards her, every step a decade. The old man asleep beside her, howling for a way back home. You reach towards her, but it’s your son who gently takes the pillow from under her head. He’s smiling and his eyes and ears are black and wide.

The wait was finally over.

BIO: Chris Benton was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina where he still resides. His stories have appeared in A TWIST OF NOIR, PLOTS WITH GUNS, THRILLERS, KILLERS ‘N’ CHILLERS, BLACK HEART and CRIMEFACTORY. He can be found on facebook.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Interlude: Richard Godwin's Apostle Rising Is Now An E-Book

If you don't already know, now you do.

As I said, Richard Godwin's kick-ass first novel, Apostle Rising, is now an e-book.

But there's more.

Not only do you get the entire novel, you get an excerpt from his stellar second novel, Mr. Glamour, as well as four of his tremendous noir stories and other extras.

If you're in the US, you can find the entire package here and in the U.K. here.

Less than the price of admission for a film, at just over three dollars US, and £2.05, Apostle Rising kicks the shit out of any summer blockbuster.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Introduction To Richard Godwin’s Battle For The Laughing City

Your friendly neighborhood editor/publisher here.

When Richard’s story Battle For The Laughing City was originally published at Thrillers, Killers N Chillers, it was met with both praise and derision. Mostly praise.

Those that didn’t care for the story seemed not to have a grasp of the English language (which is fine but a bit of brushing up never hurt nobody) or could not spell simple words or simply didn’t like the story and couldn’t help but get some of their frustrations out that it wasn’t a cookie cutter shiny vampire story (or the like).

Maybe it was because it wasn’t straight-up noir but rather a combination of various genres that had their underwear crawling up their asses (though, as it turned out, it was, in fact, not as many asses as previously believed; when it call came out in the wash, there seemed to be only one ass responsible for all the grief, using various names).

Whatever the case, I trust that this audience will have a better reaction to the story and those who do not care for it will simply move on about their day without feeling the need to spread any of their “love”.

Now, please enjoy Richard Godwin’s Battle For The Laughing City.

A Twist Of Noir 701 - Richard Godwin


I fed them on heads and severed limbs. And I starved them of the meat they craved as the battle drew near. I had a supplier at the Ravaged Depot, a storehouse for the mutilated corpses of renegades. He’d hand me the meat, lumps of flesh on ice housed in plastic. I’d slice them open and the bags would hiss and I’d let my army work its fangs into it. I wanted them savage and ravenous when the time came. I catered to their primal desire for murder and knew by their eyes that these men were the most extreme band of killers anyone had gathered together in the name of a military unit.

Ever since I blew his father’s brains out Simeon Baw had threatened revenge against me. He was a spoilt daddy’s boy and I took his rumblings as seriously as I did the threat of a broken nose from a pansy. He’d made a lot of money and ripped a lot of people off. Now he’d crawled out of the sewer smelling of shit and he’d set up his army with the intention of removing me. But I was ahead of him. I was going to take the Laughing City. First I was going to crush his army and hang every head of every man who served him from the ravaged poles that lined Tryton Avenue.

It had been named after the new chemical weapon developed by Panacea Drugs. The renegades had got hold of it and been dropping it from the sky. It caused instant madness and genital mutations. As a result we had a new breed of mutant on our hands. The side effect of Tryton was it gave those who survived it extreme physical strength. Monsters with ambiguous genders strolled the streets looking for food.

I saw one that morning as I met with my army. He ripped the head off a passing citizen, tearing it from the neck bone and crunching the skull in his mouth like a piece of chicken. The poles of Tryton Avenue were placed there as motifs of conquest. They resembled Roman spears and stood in the ground pointing towards the Laughing City.

I met my men in a charred field beyond the town and told them what to do.

‘We’re taking the Laughing City,’ I said, ‘but first I have an old enemy who wants a fight.’

I looked at them.

They were as hungry as sharks for blood and as indifferent to who they fought.

‘Simeon Baw has an army and I want it destroyed,’ I said. ‘I’ve worked too many jobs for too many users and now I want my time, we’re taking over.’

Bertolino was my captain. He was a renegade mercenary who’d killed more men than you could count. He was adept with all weapons. He stood there as the distant sun caught the scars on his face and said, ‘Do you want us to capture him?’

‘No. Kill him and his men, burn their bodies and we go to the Laughing City.’

We headed out to the quarters owned my Baw, passing the house he used to breed a race of warriors. They held prostitutes with the right DNA he’d investigated for his purposes and the women were routinely fucked by his breeders, mutants with oversized genitals breeding replicants for his army. The surgery his women needed made any efforts by me to maim someone look lame.

I could hear one of them screaming as we headed down the street in our weapons carrier.

Rape and imprisonment were justified methods to Baw.

We passed office after office bearing the Baw name. He had the money all right. I doubted his expertise when it came to organising soldiers.

We searched all afternoon for him and found out he’d gone. He’d taken his men up to the Laughing City before us. And so we headed after him.

The laughter was insane now. I could taste Baw’s blood in my mouth as we landed. There’d been a few changes since the last time. A supernova had imploded near the Laughing City and Crystallus Carvex, the android warrior who’d invaded many towns, had passed through the event horizon to another galaxy. It was rumoured there were now two of him and he was operating a stealth campaign from his new star, Duplex Android, and waging war in the parallel universe we inhabited. So as far as I was concerned he was parallel to me and if I saw him I’d burn his fucking body.

The Laughing City was full of fighting factions, most of them mercenaries from other planets who in passing through had got addicted to Drip 02. They’d fucked a few whores and started hallucinating. They hung on for the drug and the illusion they were taking over a planet, one of the side effects of addiction. In reality they were having fights in bars and lying in the shit stained streets while they dreamed of glories. Panacea Drugs had improved Drip 02. Now it not only gave you the most extreme hallucinations known to man or mutant it also left you with a ravenous hunger for raw meat. The addicts would routinely eat the tourists. I saw one attacked by a rabid band of them as they set their rotten fangs in their flesh and stripped them to the bone. Hence the shit stained streets.

And then there was the laughter. It was at maximum volume all the time and sounded like Bedlam. A cacophony of wails and shrieks, guffaws and chuckles broke across the frozen wind that hissed at you as you stepped out of your vehicle. It was impossible to shut out. Even if you plugged in your personal music console the laughter was programmed to override it. Within the chortling, snickering, giggling howls of merriment we passed into the Laughing City.

The Silver Crows and Lizard Dogs were out. I saw a Crow rip the head off a dog who wandered about showering the place with blood.

I had a building I owned which housed weapons. We headed there through the burning streets. Mercury rained from the sky and what little vegetation remained blazed in the smoke filled neon air. Mutant plants blazed like Roman Candles in the ravaged landscape, like some last hope of growth burning in a deranged world. The air was sulphurous, as light refused to yield to darkness and every shape and person had a spectral glow to them as if they were walking underwater in a floodlit swimming pool.

We got to my building and took what we needed. We armed ourselves to the teeth. I watched my men walk out with every conceivable method of killing at their disposal. They had rocket launchers, flame throwers and snibe shots. These were metallium guns that fired a small deadly hole in the target that released an acid that could burn through a man’s flesh in two seconds. They had multi shots, which fired so many rounds they could take out an army.  They had razor knives and the incendiary golf balls I’d designed. Throw one of them at someone after you pull the pin and they’ll lose their head, which is what I guess it takes to play golf in the first place.

We headed out into the carnival streets where the Silver Cows were chewing on the Lizard Dogs’ flesh as they scattered and came again at them, mouths open and fangs dripping. Fragments of fur and meat lay scattered everywhere.

And the laughter was obsessive, incessant, like the manic roar of a madman at your shoulder. It sounded like the pathological ecstasies of the deranged.

Down at the River Ha Ha’s end, where the stewed foetuses floated and bobbed, Baw’s army was assembling to take over. We saw them walk towards the citadel which was ruined by the explosions that rocked the Laughing City. We passed along the edge of the water with the sight of the bloated heads lying on the black surface. And we followed them to the citadel.

The Mayor of the Laughing City, an obese pervert with two heads, was eating fruit from a fork held to his mouth by a mutant prostitute as she squirted milk from one of her tits into his other mouth as we entered the decaying building. Baw’s army got there before us and we heard the rapid gunfire as they opened up.

By the time we got there the Mayor was splattered all over the ceiling and the whore’s tits had exploded. Nipples and skin lay embedded in the chandelier that swung above our heads dripping blood. The Laughing City’s slogan loomed over us in neon: ‘No breeding, just whores’. It was part of the promotion of the city as a hot spot for tourists.  They’d pass through, fuck the women and leave, taking new diseases with them.

Baw’s army saw us and opened fire. I launched several golf bombs in their direction.

Limbs and heads flew through the air. They moved in, throwing fire, and we retreated to the back of the citadel where the skins of rival politicians stretched across the walls like some tapestry of hate. Whores ran out of rooms clutching at their mutant bodies. The citadel had been turned into a brothel.

They came after us and I let rip with one of the bigger bombs. We sheltered against the fire as the blast halved his army. Then we fired round after round on them. I found Baw hiding in a room and I scalped him, running my knife around his head as he stared at me with dazed eyes. I blew his head off and stuck his scalp to the wall of skin.

I took my men to the nearest Fuck House and they ate and cavorted with the women.

As we sat there I received news that Crystallus Carvex had landed.

He wanted a war and I was ready for him.

BIO: Richard Godwin is the author of crime novels Mr. Glamour and Apostle Rising and is a widely published crime and horror writer.

Mr. Glamour is Hannibal Lecter in Gucci. It is about a glamorous world with a predator in its midst and has received great reviews.

Pulp Metal Fiction has published Piquant, Tales Of The Mustard Man, his culinary genius. His Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse are interviews he has conducted with writers and can be found at his blog.

You can also find a full list of his works on his website.

He lectured in English and American literature at London University before becoming a professional writer.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Twist Of Noir 700 - Jimmy Callaway


The guy lived in an airplane hangar, for chrissakes. Why not just wear a sign that says, “Please make more fat jokes.” Then again, it’s not like there are a whole lotta places to live in King City. And when you deals in this many comics—thousands and thousands on pallets like the one that had been shipped to Mr. Bob Romano—hell, you may as well just move in yourself. The room for Gorofsky’s considerable bulk was probably just a perk. Not that the guy was feeling to perky, duct-taped to his computer chair and pistol-whipped.

Ah, well. The cost of doing business.

Mr. Bob Romano had bought a pallet off the guy, curious to see if it would yield anything. A lotta dealers dealt in bulk like this: a hundred, two hundred bucks would buy you a thousand comics, selected at random. A giant grab bag, if you will. A lotta junk, but usually some fairly high-yield books to make it worth your while.

But this smart-ass Gorofsky. First he sends the thousand books, but seven hundred of them are copies of Marvel Super Heroes Special, Winter ’91. Barely worth the paper they’re printed on.

“The fuck is this?” Romano said on the phone.

“Well,” Gorofsky said with a giggle barely suppressed, “it is the first appearance of Squirrel Girl. And it’s by Steve Ditko. You do know who that is, don’t you?”

Gorofsky mighta gotten off light with the whole stunt, the disrespectful tone, and even that grave insult to Mr. Bob Romano’s intelligence. But then he had the nerve to hang up on Mr. Bob Romano. Hanging up on Mr. Bob Romano was like smoking—it might make you look cool, but it could send you to the hospital. Or an early grave.

“Found anything good yet?” Hughes said.

Bronson came over with an armload of books and half-shrugged. “Good, but not great. Some first printings of Wonder Woman #219, Captain America #25—”

“That the one where he dies?”


“Well, those’ll be worth something,” Hughes said, “Right?”

“Yeah, well, they’re not giving them away, that’s true,” Bronson said, “but, man, with all this stuff in here? It’d take all night to go through ‘em, and even if we found a thousand more of books like these, a couple more years and they’ll be worth as much as Superman #75.”

“Which is?”

“Not worth the trouble, really.”

“Fuck,” Hughes said.

Bronson set the books down carefully. “But I’ve been thinking...”


“Hey, fatbody!” Bronson said.

Gorofsky looked up and peered at them through the blood dried over his eyes. He said something that was muffled by the duct tape over his mouth. Bronson came over and wiped some of the blood off Gorofsky’s face.

“Hey, man,” Bronson said, “This is some okay stuff you got in here, but really, most of it is junk. Right? So why don’t you just save us some trouble and tell us where your stash is, your personal collection.”

Even behind the duct tape, there was no mistaking his words: “Fuck you!” But he also couldn’t help glancing to his right. Hughes saw it too.

“The file cabinet,” they both said.

The bottom drawer was locked. “Shit,” Bronson said.

Hughes pulled out his .38. “Gimme just one second...”

“Whoa, wait, are you nuts! I’m no Bob Overstreet, but a bullet hole will really bring any book down a couple grades, man, I can tell you that.” Bronson checked all the other drawers in the cabinet and found a tiny key taped to the bottom of the top one.

Inside, there was a few high-grade Silver and Golden Age books, but nothing particularly spectacular. And then...

“Holy shit,” Bronson said.

“Is that what I think it is?” Hughes said.

Amazing Fantasy #15. The very first appearance of the amazing Spider-Man. Story by Stan Lee. Art by Steve Ditko.

“Holy shit,” Bronson said, “I mean, it’s not really high grade, but—but, still...I mean. Holy shit.”

Gorofsky struggled in his chair. Tears flowed freely down his cheeks.

Hughes went over and knelt in front of him. “Don’t take it so hard, big fella,” he said, “It’s just the cost of doing business.”

A Twist Of Noir 699 - Christopher Grant

I light up another cigarette and look in the mirror on my side of the car. Waiting for Keith.
Keith, the wannabe, the hanger-on. He might have a lot of backers, a lot of people that think he’s got the chops for this job. Unlike his backers, I’ve actually been on a job with Keith. He’s got a high opinion of himself and his skills. He’s hit or miss.
He ought to come with a warning label that reads, “Sometimes, you get what you paid for. Other times, you pay for what you get.”
Finally, after a half-hour, he comes walking around the corner of the building, his arm around a girl that looks like she’s barely out of high school.
Keith opens the passenger door and folds the seat forward. The girl climbs through, into the back seat.
“What the fuck is this?” I say, tossing my cigarette onto the street.
“This is Michelle,” Keith says. “Say hello, Michelle.”
Michelle says hello.
“You know what the fuck I mean,” I say, as Keith drops his ass in the passenger seat.
Keith just smiles through his goatee. “Just put it in gear and let’s get this over with, brother.”
I really hate it when assholes like Keith tell me what to do. Makes me feel like whipping out my piece and putting another hole in his fucking head. The brother is a cherry on the top of this pile of shit.
I slide the gear shift into drive, pull out into traffic and drive away from Keith’s apartment complex.
This is precisely the reason that you don’t bring an outsider along with you on a job:
The hit is a jewelry store. As soon as we pull into the lot, Michelle wants to come in and look around, thinking Keith’s bringing her here so that he can put a ring on her finger or get her something equally nice.
So when he tells her to stay in the car, she gets pissed off and throws a fit, drawing a bunch of attention our way. As if there isn’t going to be enough once we place the ski masks over our heads. This just adds to it.
I want to scrap the entire thing.
“Let’s just get back into the car and get the fuck out of here,” I say.
“Relax, brother,” Keith says. This is the second time he’s called me brother within thirty minutes. I want to punch him, break his fucking nose or something. Get my point across as violently as I can. But I don’t do it because if I do, I’m walking into the jewelry store myself. I might even have the asshole shoot me in the back and then I’m really fucked.
“Then calm her the fuck down,” I say.
Keith turns around and tells Michelle that he wants it to be a surprise what he gets her.
Yeah, I think, if we fuck it up, congratulations, honey. I got you three to five as an accessory.
And here I am again, waiting for Keith.
Part two of why you should never bring an outsider along on a job rears its ugly head when we make it to the car.
Michelle sees us and screams like she’s the one that’s been shot.
My right leg is dragging behind me and I’m barely keeping Keith upright. He’s turning a different shade of pale.
“Get out of the back seat,” I say to Michelle, my gun still in my hand, waving back and forth. “Now!”
The hero guard comes barreling out into the lot, finds me and Keith and the screaming girl. He probably thinks we’re car-jacking her.
He fires another couple of shots at Keith and me and scores again, this time hitting me in the back. I fall onto the hood and then slide down next to the front tire. My gun goes sliding off the hood in the other direction and skitters away across the pavement.
I look over to my right, my head moving like a snail.
I look at Keith and realize that he’s going to make it and I’m not.
I promise you this, though:
I’ll be waiting for Keith.

A Twist Of Noir 698 - Eric Beetner


The gun was still warm from the stranger’s hand.

Michael stared at the figure face down in the entryway of his house. His eyes moved from the body to the broken lamp he’d used to cold-cock the guy.

He tried to remember the last thirty-seconds, but it was a black hole.

He could still recall the brief conversation through the door, the stranger knocking after midnight and pretending to have car trouble. Even before he opened the door, Michael thought it strange that someone would wander so far off the highway to make it to his front porch. The pleasure and peril of living far away from town: seclusion.

Michael remembered seeing the gun, the man commanding him to step back, stay quiet. The memory ran out a second before the moment he smashed the man over the head with a marble-based lamp.

Michael set the gun down on the small table by the door where he normally tossed his keys. The man on the floor continued to breathe and the pool of blood around his head continued to grow.

It was no life threatening blow. Michael knew the stranger would come around soon.

“Michael?” Amy called from upstairs.

“Stay there.” He could hear the whining nighttime cries of Dylan, his two year-old and that was sure to wake Kaitie, his four year-old. “Amy, listen,” he said. “Call the police. Tell them someone tried to break in.”

“Oh my God.” Michael heard her footsteps reach the top of the stairs. She gasped. “Michael!”

“It’s okay. Just call them. See how fast they can make it out here.”

“Is he...?”

“No, he’s not dead. Now, go.”

Amy padded away to make the call.

Michael thought about how it might be better if the stranger was dead. The intruder would wake up any second, angry. He was obviously capable of violence whereas Michael had just drawn his first blood on another human. Applied Physics professors don’t have a reputation for bloodletting.

His eyes drifted to the gun. If the man stood up and attacked, could Michael use deadly force? The lamp had been beyond what he thought himself capable of already so he didn’t know the answer himself.

Dylan’s cries intensified. The man on the floor stirred. Michael heard Amy’s feet move quickly down the hall to Dylan’s room and the crying soon stopped.

The old farm house was easily twenty minutes from town. If the police were anywhere but sitting right by the phone it could be as much as a half hour before help arrived.

A decision would have to be made before then.

Michael stepped around the body to close the front door. The invader had dropped a small bag, now blocking the threshold. Michael kicked it aside to make room for the door to swing shut. Inside the pack, metal clanked together. Curious, Michael opened the worn black gym satchel.

Duct tape, wire, a hammer, a hunting knife. These were not the supplies of a stick-up, a simple, “Give me all your money and jewelry” home invasion. This man was prepared to stay.

Michael thought of the children. He felt sick to his stomach. Bikes, a sand box, a rope swing all decorated the front yard. Advertising that young kids lived here. The house was far enough away from everything, a man could stay for weeks without anyone noticing. Fall semester at the University didn’t start for another month.

A chill ran through Michael. The stranger on the floor groaned.

“Amy? Did you talk to the police?”

Her feet padded urgently down the hall. He turned to her. She cradled Dylan in her arms, his head lolling slack, asleep. She whispered. “They said they’d send someone.”

He whispered back. “How long?”

“They didn’t say.”

There was movement from the carpet in the entryway. “Go back to the room. Get Kaitie. Lock the door.”

There was panic in Amy’s whisper now. “Michael –”

“Just go.”

Michael turned back to the stranger, Amy’s feet shuffled away above him.

The man rolled, brought a hand to his head and felt the blood, opened his eyes.

Michael reached out. This time, the gun was cold.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Twist Of Noir 697 - Ian Ayris

I am in love with Tina the Dwarf Prostitute. She is not here. The circus is in town. Her public awaits.
'Oy! Fuckface! Where's my bleedin cuppa?'
I tear my gaze away from the kitchen window. Away from the world. Tony. Flatmate. Arsehole. Rich city boy arsehole. Whilst I am 'between jobs', and Tina's income is, so to speak, 'sporadic', we rely on Tony to keep us. And he does. But as I have alluded, the man is an utter moron. He has been off work for two weeks now, lazing about.
So, with Tina 'otherwise engaged' today, it is just him and I. Lovely.
'Come on, cunt! Hurry up!'
I stir Tony's tea, trying not to think of Tina and the Strongman. Tina and the Fire Eater. Tina and the Clown. We are not an item, Tina and I, merely friends. Yet, of late, I have begun to think of her in different ways. Ways that shame me.
I retreat to the lounge to break my train of thought, and give Tony his tea. His eyes are glued to the television screen. He holds out his hand to take the tea without even so much as a 'Thank you'. I glance at what it is he is so engrossed in, and quickly look away.
Daytime television. Voyeuristic mediocrity in a box presented by parasitic slimeballs in shiny suits, preying on the scum of this earth. For Tony here, something to aspire to. To learn from. To laugh at.
'Look at these fuckers,' he says, sipping his tea. 'She's been shaggin his uncle, and the old man's been havin it off with her mum. Fantastic!'
I'm thinking of my Tina.
The adverts come on.
'We got any biscuits?' Tony says, as if I'm the only one in this God forsaken place that knows.
I shake my head, and I can't help sighing. Not for the lack of biscuits.
'What's up with you?' Tony says. 'Cos that midget's gone out?'
Muscles tighten all over my body.
'What you see in her anyway? Is it her little teeny hands, is it? Them little feet? The way she waddles like a fuckin duck?'
The ice comes in my veins.
'Quack quack,' Tony says, waddling around the lounge on his knees, speaking in a squeaky voice. 'Quack, quack. My name's Tina, and I'm a dwarf fucker.'
I close my eyes, let the darkness fill me.
'Tell you what, though,' Tony says, getting to his feet, 'in all seriousness. She's just the right height, ain't she. I mean, you know, eh? Eh?' He's winking now. Winking at me. Casting aspersions.
And that does it.
I've had two weeks of this. Every day. Every minute of every day. When you're in love, it's written all over your face. There is no need to feel shame. And it's time I stopped.
I jump out of the armchair and brush past Tony, into the kitchen. I can hear him laughing. Laughin at me. At me and my Tina. Wailing like the buffoon he is. 
I grab the bread knife from the cutlery drawer and I'm back in the lounge flailing it in his face.
Tony is screaming. Blood is spurting. The adverts have finished.
There is a knock at the door. I ignore it and continue cutting Tony to shreds on the beige patterned carpet to the accompanying inanity of daytime television.
Knock knock.
It's too early for Tina. She still has the matinee show to contend with. Queues of freaks and oddities craving her specialist services.
Knock knock.
This won't do. I'll have to get it. After all, it is rude to leave someone waiting. I open the door, aware I am soaked in Tony's blood, the bread knife dripping in my hand.
And there stands a clown, rubber nose and painted smile. Everything inside me breaks.
All that remains are visions of Tina and the Strongman. Tina and the Fire Eater. Tina and this Clown.
I focus on the painted smile. The painted smile that never moves. Fake. Plastic. Unjust. Shameful.
'You think this is fucking funny?' I scream.  'Do you?'
And I lunge at him hard, blinded by my own tears.

BIO: Ian Ayris is the author of Abide With Me, which you can check out here.

A Twist Of Noir 696 - Cameron Ashley


They've put a cuddly new face on the art of the interview.

They call it PEACE.

(Plan and Prepare; Engage and Explain; Account; Closure; Evaluation).

No, really, it’s called PEACE. A fuzzy acronym. A smooth shape some psychiatrist hammered out on the anvil of his concept. Adopted by governing bodies desperate for results in an electorate that’s turned its back on them.

Neck ties are loosened in anticipation of relatable plain clothes, like they’ll shed the skin of their suits, be seen as regular blokes. Guys you’d see in the supermarket, the pub, down the beach.

Not buttoned-down authority figures swinging a phone book.

They're teaching them to act, to feign empathy, to perform. Granted, there is always an element of the performance in the interview – you have to dial it up to instill terror – but there was always honesty in my performance, truth, fact, authenticity.

See, I went by WAR.

(Wrest Control; Aggression Increased Incrementally; Rough Justice IS Justice)

And this is why I am no longer in that line of work. Strictly speaking.


Interview rooms aren't particularly impressive, but they serve a purpose – they remove the individual from familiar surroundings and encase him/her in a territory that is essentially yours.

You know it. You control it. In controlling the space, you control the occupant.

This is a principle I have kept. The world is now my interview room.

If he is an urbanite, we go to the bush. The smell of damp earth from a pre-dug grave, weird night creatures skittering above and around, a torch-beam in the face. These things are my tools.

If he is from the country, we go to some abandoned urban wasteland. Ghosts of bygone industry visible in broken windows, forgotten equipment gone Gothic with rust and neglect, the spray paint of illegible tag-scrawl. These things are my tools.

I ask the tough questions on behalf of those who need answers, but who lack the constitution to actually do the asking themselves. The answers determine the outcome. The bush grave, the river dump, and, yes, sometimes even freedom – these conclusions form a crossroads.

And I give the directions.


So I ask and I ask and I ask.

There is never any doubt. None. There is nothing but certainty.

For a time.

Then, inevitably I suppose, there is doubt. Was it a particular look in their eyes? A convincing denial? No idea.

All I know is uncertainty.

Once there is uncertainty, there are different questions to be asked. They are:

Have I always been right?

Are there shallow bush graves and weighted bin bags in the Murray filled with innocents?

Are there guilty I've freed?

More importantly perhaps:

Have you had a breakdown?

Are you insane?

I can't answer these questions.


I slice myself. I drink a bottle of bourbon, take two fingers from my right hand.

I can't coerce myself to tell me what I need to know. Perhaps I black out before I can speak.

I call my mother, cry into the phone. She tells me I was always a good boy, asks me where I am.

I can't coerce her into telling me what I need to know. Perhaps I hang up before she can speak.


The mirror shows a man with a lot to hide. It is not a comforting sight. It is the face of the guilty wearing the expression of the damned.


I visit some parents I know. They are terrified. Worse than that, my uncertainty shatters their peace.

They say to me:

You did the best you could for my child.

But in their eyes, I see my doubt has infected them. I have re-broken them.


I take the list of others I planned to visit and tear it up.


My .38 Special Smith & Wesson Model 10.

Police Issue.

Loaded with hollow points. Clean as. Good to go.

Look at it. It's an answer.

But it's not the answer I need.


I take a call.  I go to work.

I can't answer questions, but I can ask them.

I just have to make sure, that's all.

I just have to make sure.

Please, let me be sure.

BIO: This one’s for Christopher Grant. You’re a class act, mate. Thanks, as always, to Jimmy Callaway, who is like a missing slice of my writer-brain.

Interlude: A Few Links That Might Be Of Interest

Have a look, see what you think.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Twist Of Noir 695 - Phil Beloin Jr.

BEER RUN: A Nick Constantine short story - PHIL BELOIN, JR.

The rundown market had bars hanging over the windows, glitzy ads for beer and smokes plastered the outside. Looked like my kind of place. I parked curbside, crossed the dark street and went in. The register was on my left, the towel head clerk stood by the cigarette displays and lotto accoutrements, of which there were plenty, the state exploiting addicts just like drug dealers and casino operators.

I heard giggling down an aisle— checked it. Never can be too careful in the ghetto. Two punks in do-rags were perusing a centerfold by the magazine racks. They were the only other costumers.

I went to where the fridges hummed, the kids hooting at the nudies. I scanned the beer choice, found kingers—what a treat—and grabbed those lovely tall cans, a chill caressing my fingers and twinkling the back of my head like a beer buzz.

It happened as I was strolling to the register.

“Give me all the fucking money in the register, man!”

“Come on! Give us the money!”

A do-rag had a gun on the towel head. The other do-rag was unarmed, but his mouth was firing threats. In this fucked up neighborhood, there was no way the towel head didn’t have a bazooka under the counter. If he let it go, he would splatter them do-rags and get me, too.

I came up behind the punks, the clerk shaking his head, no, no, no, while his hands slipped down his sides. The unarmed one was asking if the towel head understood American and if he didn’t, how could he get a job like this? It seemed like a pretty good question.

Using my .45’s barrel, I tickled the do-rag of the pistol toting fella.

“You boys better get outta here,” I said.

Three sets of eyes met mine.

“Sheet,” the one without the gun said. “This ain’t your bizness, dude.”

“Yeah, take off,” the other one said.

“Well, guess what?” I said. “I haven’t gotten my carton of smokes.”

“Get this man some cigarettes,” the gunless punk said to the clerk.

I noticed his cohort’s knees were quivering.

Towel head was still moving his hands downward.

I cocked the trigger, the little adrenaline forces doing the double quick through me. “Leave the gun on the counter before I send your brain over to the wall.”

The quaking worked its way up to the do-rag’s gun arm. He was young—sixteen, seventeen years old tops.

“Hey, you,” I said to the clerk. “Stop moving your hands! I got this.”

His hands froze but then his mouth took over, blabbering at the do-rags to listen to me, the gunless one saying he knew the towel head spoke American.

The kid lowered the pistol to the counter and headed for the door, his buddy pushing him outside. When I turned back, the barrel of the towel head’s rifle was an inch from my face.

“You no get the money,” he said.

“How ‘bout that carton of smokes?”

“You put gun away first.”

I placed the beer on the counter and holstered the .45.

“Okay, you my friend,” the clerk said.

He scooped up the do-rag’s pistol and returned the shotgun to its hiding spot.

“No sell beer now,” he said. "After eight o’clock.”


“It the law.”

“I just saved your ass.”

“I get big trouble sell beer after eight o’clock.”

“You get big dead if it wasn’t for me.”

“Tell you what, my friend,” he said. “You give me twenty for six-pack. I look other way when you go.”

“That’s blackmail.”

“Didn’t black male just leave?”

“No, you don’t understand what I’m...”

“This is what I say to you now; you want beer, twenty-five dollar.”

“You said twenty before.”

“I said twenty when we not argue.”

“You’re a god-damn disgrace.”

“You want chilly beer, no? I here to make money—not for health.” He punched some buttons on the register.

“Okay, my friend. Sixty-seven and six cents for cigarettes.”

I gave him ninety-two bucks.

He moved to put the beer in a paper bag. “Have nice night, my friend.”

“Turn your head. I’m leaving now.”

“No turn head on you ever.”

This is a short excerpt from Phil’s novel, The Big Bad. Check out the entire book out on Amazon

A Twist Of Noir 694 - Chad Eagleton


The dark turned everything cold again. She’s shivering in the Plymouth, shaking through shirt layers and the puffer coat she stole from her brother before he left for Afghanistan. The heater rages like a sermon, blowing a brimstone stink that coaxes something wet and hellish up from her tummy. She gags and grips the cracked dash.


She nods, hopes the grimace looks like a smile.

It doesn’t it. “I can turn it off.”

“Better’n cold,” she says. “Gives me headache.”

“Take something.”

“Nothing to take.”

She shrugs. The nothing stays down, but now she’s hot.

“If we had just the thirty five.”

She slams the vents closed. “Your aunt shouldn’t have to go back.”

“I know.” He picks at his face. “She’s took it for years.”

“Fuck the co-pay.” She kills the heater.

The Plymouth shakes as the engine quiets. “Yeah, fuck it.”

“What you want to do?” She asks, hoping he’ll say something that’ll make it better. Something he’s known all along, but hasn’t said because he’s been waiting for her.

“There’s nothing to do.”

“Gas stations open.” She points through the fogging windshield.

His face begins to bleed. “It’s always open,” he tells her, still picking.

“Let’s go in,” she says. “I need to get out of here.”

He doesn’t answer. He just keeps scratching and watching everything fade. The sound of his fingers scrapping dry skin, the jagged nail worrying the spot on his face, the slow trickle, it’s all so loud—

“I gotta go.”

He grabs her arm.  “Stay in the car.”

All of her twists. “Why? I want to go in. Don’t feel good. I’m fucking cold—hot. I don’t feel good. My head hurts and I want a fucking candy bar. I want a Kit-Kat.”

“You don’t got any money.” He’s still staring even though the gas station is gone.

“Enough for a Kit-Kat.”

“No,” he says, letting her go.

Puffy-lipped and big-eyed, she pouts in the seat hoping it’ll work this time, hoping for the apology she’s been waiting on someone to give her since she was little. It never came before and doesn’t now.

He reaches under the seat. Cans roll. MacDonald wrappers crinkle.

“What’re you doing?”

In the darkening, she doesn’t know what he’s holding until he says, “Getting money.”

“You can’t.”

He taps the .38 against the door. “Why not?”

“They know us. Lizzie works here. We’re friends.  We’ve got math together. She tells everybody everything. The only thing she keeps shut worse than her mouth is her legs.”

“What do we do?  Huh? What? I need it…you need…just to get through.”

She watches him chew a flap of skin in the corner of his mouth. “You’ve got that interview.”

“I can’t go like this. I can’t,” he says and she touches his wrist. He looks at her from under long lashes she wishes were hers, his blue eyes vacant enough that she fills the emptiness.

“Just give me a minute, k?”

He nods.

She turns, wanting to look out the window, but can’t. Her eyes start to tear and she reaches a thin finger to the glass. Her pink nails stab twice and arc once until the window smiles.

A shiny F350 rumbles into the space next to them. Through the smile she sees a tall man step boots first from the cab. “He’ll give us thirty five dollars,” she says to the smiley face. “He likes me.”

“How much does he like you,” he asks.

“A lot—he was nice. He used to work with my dad.”

“He like you enough for fifty?”

She smiles back at the window. “If I—do that thing.”

“Yeah, he’d like that.” She hears the gun slide back under the seat. “And it’s just a thing.”

The smile is slowly disappearing. “Right, it’s just a thing,” she says before it vanishes.

“That’s right and it’s not like our thing.”

“It’s not?”

“No,” he tells her, starting the car.

She opens the door. “I’ll call you.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

She climbs out and waits by the truck as he pulls away. She waves as he rounds the pumps, but he doesn’t see. Neither does the smile.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Twist Of Noir 693 - Jarrett Rush


Daring looked in the mirror and ran his fingers through his bangs. They’d fallen forward and tickled when they brushed his forehead. He couldn't have been more uncomfortable.

"What's with the penguin suit?" That's what his grandfather would’ve asked.

Daring hated tuxedos. Too binding, too restrictive, but sometimes required. Besides, if everything went well, the payday would more than make up for this bit of discomfort.

He looked himself over in the mirror. He grabbed the bottom of his jacket and snapped it smooth and straight, gave himself a quick wink, and reentered the party.

There was the typical chatter. He could make out very little of what was being said around him.

“You clean up good."  It was Paisley. She was coming through the earpiece in his right ear.  

“Where are you?"

"Bar. Down the stairs and to your right," she said.

Daring whistled. "Hubba hubba. Never would have recognized you, beautiful."

“Stop it."

"We’re here for a bracelet, right?" Daring asked.

"Yeah. Rubies and diamonds. It’s gorgeous."

"I could do this in my sleep,” he said.  “This’ll be like candy ..."

"...from a baby," Paisley finished.

Daring lifted his first wallet at 12. First watch at 13. Broke into his first car at 15. Paroled for the first time at 20.

He was a natural. The guy who taught him wasn’t. They called him Johnny Thumbs. He had thick fingers that moved slowly. He knew how to slip his hand inside a coat pocket and snag a wallet, or shake someone’s hand and unhook a watch. Knew how, just couldn’t do it.

Johnny Thumbs reasoned that if he couldn’t do it he’d teach a bunch of street kids how. He’d work out a fence and take a cut of whatever was boosted.

Now here’s Daring, twenty years later, still taking things that didn’t belong to him.

The new Mrs. Jonathan McAster would be 24 for another three hours. Tall, red-headed and grossly thin, she was all personality. All of these folks – only the crispiest of the upper crust -- were here to wish her a happy twenty-fifth.She’d been married barely five months but the position of trophy wife fit her like an old hat.

“Samuel. Esther. Wonderful to see you,” Elizabeth said to the Crowes. “Jonathan and I are so glad you could make it.” She kissed both of Esther’s cheeks and patted Samuel’s belly.

“We couldn’t not come,” Esther said. “Happy birthday, darling.”

Elizabeth smiled and nodded. The two couples continued to talk and Daring watched the conversation from the top of the stairs. This was going to be the hardest part. Getting the bracelet was easy. Knowing when and how to approach was what always gave him fits.

“Catch her as she’s leaving a group,” Paisley advised. “Don’t let her see you coming. Just grab her hand. You going to be OK?”

“Like candy,” Daring said.

The McAster/Crowe conversation started to lull and Daring carefully made his way down the steps. Rented shoes were always trouble on freshly shampooed carpet.

“Well, I should probably go say a few more hellos,” Elizabeth said. “Wonderful to see you again.”

She turned from the Crowes and nearly walked over Daring. He reached and grabbed her right hand with both of his.

“Mrs. McAster,” he said, “I just wanted to wish you the happiest of birthdays.”

“Aren’t you kind?” She had no idea who he was, but she didn’t know most of the people at the party. Her marriage to Jacob was a bit of a scandal. The McAsters decided to keep a low profile for the first couple of months of their marriage.

They were just starting to make their way back out into the social scene.

“I hope this year will be as happy for you as I know the last five months have been.”

She blushed and tipped her head to the side. She didn’t feel Dirk’s index finger running the length of her wrist.

“You’re too kind,” she said. “Now, if you will excuse me?”

“Of course.”

Daring put his hand in his pocket and let the bracelet fall to the bottom. The night was a success.

BIO: Jarrett Rush lives with his wife, Gina, near Dallas. He blogs at JarrettWrites.

A Twist Of Noir 692 - Des Nnochiri


"Someone must've broken into the room."

Corinne was certain. Beside her, frowning as he jiggled the key in the lock, Phil didn't look so sure.

"I don't know. Maybe I forgot to lock it."

The door swung inward, and they stepped into the motel room.

A grim set to her mouth, a raised eyebrow, a single nod.

"Hmph," Corinne said.

Phil snapped his own gaping mouth shut.

"Or not."

He shut the door, as they took in the scene.

On the mussed up bed were two naked dolls: one male, one female, arranged in 69 position.

Scrawled on the wall above in red was "69/2".

Corinne wrinkled her nose.

"Is that blood?"

Phil shook his head.

"Interior latex. Burnt umber. It's Mendes."

Corinne stared at him, wide-eyed and skeptical.

Phil shrugged, and said,"Used to be a decorator."

"Who? You, or-- " She threw up her hands. "I don't wanna know."

"Mendes," nodded Phil. "Some kinda warning. Bastard's cryptic as hell.

Thinks it makes him look smart."

He began pacing, agitated.


Corinne pointed at the little dolly tableau on the bed.

"What's this supposed to mean?"

A wry smile twitched across Phil's mouth.

"You fuck with us, take our money? And we'll screw you upside down, inside out, and sideways, for eternity. Like that."



Corinne frowned.

"Trouble is, though, we don't have their money."

She glared at Phil.

"'Cause you went and lost it all."

"I did not--"

"Gambling, in New Jersey. God, that is so cliche."

"--lose the money."

Phil smirked. All of last night at the tables, Corinne pawing at his
shoulder, both of them getting progressively more wasted, as $3 million of the outfit's money seemed to just disappear.

"Owen Deeds, at the casino? Friend of mine. Used to work for the Santoro organization. The Houdini of Accounting."

"Houdini was a--" Corinne shook her head. "Never mind."

"Doesn't make."

Phil's smirk, now a full out, shit-eating grin.

"Point is, that money is sitting out there, right now, waiting for us.

Should be in the Caymans, by now."

"So. What?" Corinne looked doubtful. "You were being smart?"


"Hmph. That's... rare."

Phil smiled. Got a look at the mess in the room again, and sobered quickly.

"We should get outta here."

"You think?"

Bright daylight streamed in as Phil opened the door. His jaw dropped, for a second time.


Half the cops in the continental United States were ringed outside the motel room, weapons drawn and pointed at the unhappy couple. The other half were probably out back, blocking off the exits.

Corinne nodded. And raised her hands. Vee-rrry slowly.

"What he said."

A trio of Crime Scene Investigators descended on the room. Patrolmen in the doorway, covering, as other uniforms slapped the cuffs on Phil and Corinne.

One of the CSI officers peeled back the rumpled bedsheets.

On the floor was a pool of dark red. At its center, two human ears: one male, one female. Arranged top to bottom and facing, in a Yin-Yang, 69 position.

"Burnt umber." Corinne's tone was scathing.


The CSI Lieutenant barked orders at the patrolmen.

"Outside. And watch them."

From a bluff overlooking the motel, a man was also watching, through high-powered binoculars, as the two youngsters were cuffed and bundled into the backs of separate cruisers.

A trim man in his forties, wearing surgical gloves and a smug expression.

More than a whiff of government agent, about him.

He lowered the binoculars, and stepped into the cab of an anonymous van.

From the glove compartment he took out a clipboard, wrapped in cellophane. Peeling back the plastic, to reveal a sheet with numbers on it. He put a check mark beside the second: 69/2.

Long list. 69/1, all the way to 69/96. And balance.

He'd have time. To finish. Probably.

His old buddies at the Bureau would waste days or weeks doing background checks. Chasing false leads on the poor slobs they'd arrested at the first venue, and now this one.

Time enough for him to do the next job. And the next.

Things were going really rather well.

BIO: Desmond (Des) Nnochiri spent his early years traveling with his parents, and was educated in England, the USA, and the Republic of Ireland (Eire). He writes freelance now, in both fiction and non-fiction genres. He has contributed stories to A Twist of Noir, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Powder Burn Flash. He blogs, at Des Nnochiri's Write to Speak (

A Twist Of Noir 691 - Col Bury


“So, when you at court for that burglary then?” asked Shanks, sucking on a spliff. He passed it to his flatmate, Drifter, the dingy room like a mini-rave, Eminem’s Slim Shady booming.

“Some time in January, innit. I’ve got the charge sheet somewhere.” Clutching an X-box control, Drifter motioned to look for the said sheet, but couldn’t be arsed and reclined on the tatty sofa.

Most of the items in the flat were ‘borrowed’ – the X-box, flat screen telly, matching DS’s, and even the cigs and cans of Stella littering the coffee table, the latter picked up from a skip.

Shanks crushed an empty can and tossed it over his shoulder. “Candice... bring us two more Stellas in, would-yer, babe?” He heard faint sirens in the distance, but couldn’t be sure if it was on Grand Theft Auto or not. Maybe it was, as he’d just reversed over a cop.

Paranoia kicking in, for the first time in three hours, Shanks’ arse left the sofa and he headed for the window, peeping through a gap in smoke-reeking curtains to gaze down from the high-rise at the dotted city lights of Manchester.

The vividness of blue police lights jolted him to his senses. Six black shadows emerged from the white rectangular van, and snaked toward the communal entrance below, panic and uncertainty flooding him.

“Shit, it’s Five-O!”

Drifter glanced up, his version of startled. “Cool it, man. They could be ‘ere for anyone in the block.”

“You sure it’s not for you, Drift?”

“Look, man. I’ve done a few little jobs recently, but the only one those fuckers got me for was the one am in court for, so my slate’s clean. Chill.”

Shanks’ mind was all over the place, skimming the haziness for his recent ‘escapades’. He recalled potting a lad in Checkers two weeks ago, nicking an old Escort when he couldn’t get a cab home – not that he’d have paid anyway. Plus, he’d stabbed that student, but that was over two years ago, so surely...? Then there was the daily coke dealing. He could do with a line now.

Candice entered from the kitchen carrying two more cans of Stella, fag in mouth, Babylons to die for. “There you go, your bloody Highness.”

Shanks snatched the cans, gave one to Drifter.

“What’s up with yer?”

“Cops are sniffing downstairs.”

Candice looked round at all the knocked-off gear. “Well, they aint got this address have they? You’ve only been ‘ere a month.”

“No. Yer right. I need to calm the fuck down.”

Footsteps on the landing, all three froze, pivoted.

Bang, bang, bang on the door.

“Police, open up or we’ll put the door in!”

Drifter stood up, Shanks and Candice eyeing him.

He put his palms out. “What? I needed a bail address. Otherwise they’d have kept me in over Chrimbo, innit.”

“Yer should’ve give yer mum’s, yer prick!”


“Well, I’m not going down for Chrimbo either.” Shanks headed for the mini-balcony.

Candice headed for the door, opened it.

A cop holding a steel wham-ram burst through, just managing to keep his balance. He was followed by five more uniformed officers and a smooth-looking, sharp-suited detective.

Before you could say, “Gotcha!” Drifter was face down, cuffed to rear.

The detective held up a warrant, peering down at Candice’s Babylons.

She covered them defensively.

“What... yer... locking me... up for...?” yelled Drifter with a face full of carpet.

“Sus’ burglary times three, sonny boy!” replied a uniform.

“Detective Proverbs, darling. And who might you be?”

“Candice Jefferyson. What’s it to you?” she spat.

Proverbs turned away, discreetly speaking into his radio, receiving comms via an earpiece.

Three minutes later, the flat had been ransacked and Drifter sat sulkily on the sofa.

“So, why’s that wannabe-gangster boyfriend of yours skulking on the balcony? Guilty conscience?” Proverbs smirked, shook his head. “We’ve not even come for him. Seems you lot are in it so deep that you’re losing track.”

“Huh?” Candice looked perplexed.

“Candice Jefferyson, I’m arresting you on suspicion of robbery. You do not have to say anything...”

Everyone froze, as a diminishing scream emanated from the balcony.

BIO: Col Bury is the crime editor of award winning webzine, Thrillers, Killer 'n' Chillers, and he's currently writing a crime novel series under the guidance of New York agent, Nat Sobel.  Col's ever-growing selection of short stories can be found around the blogosphere and in many anthologies, including, THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST BRITISH CRIME 9 (& 10).  He has an eBook out called, MANCHESTER 6.

Col lives in Manchester, UK with his wife and two children, loves 8-ball pool, and is an avid fan of Manchester City FC.

He interviews crime authors & blogs here: http/
Twitter: @ColBurywriter
Facebook: The Manchester Series by Col Bury

A Twist Of Noir 690 - B.R. Stateham


“They’ll kill him, Smitty. They’ll kill my son. He won’t tell’em where the money is. He can’t tell ’em. He knows nothing about it. I stole the money. And I can’t give it back to ’em. I used every dime of it to pay the medical bills we racked up while he was in the hospital. Funny, isn’t it? I steal money from the mob to pay off my son’s medical bills. And my son dies anyway. Funny. Really funny.”

That was two hours ago. The confessions of a small-time hood, who actually loved his family. Loved his only son. The world is cruel, son. Nothing fair about living if you’re piss poor and there’s no one around to help pull the strings. You’re just another chump in an ocean of chumps. A fool in a graveyard of fools.

The kid was ten years old. A thin, sickly kid with the smile of an angel.

His only sin was his father was a small-time cog in a big city mob. A small time hood with not much brains.

“Where they hiding him?” he asked, eyes as black as stellar black holes boring into the face of the grieving father.

“Over on  Vermont in that empty gas station there on the corner.”

Smitty nodded, slipped dark shades over his eyes, and left the grieving father standing in the middle of his apartment. The drive across town in a light falling rain was almost surreal. Neon lights from a thousand different signs reflected off the wet streets in vivid  splashes of brilliant color.

A half block away from the corner of Vermont and Rose he pulled over and turned the engine off and sat in the dark for a moment.

Swift. Harsh. Ruthless. That’s how you succeeded in this line of business, Smitty thought to himself. Show no mercy. Offer no excuses. Walk in—do the job—leave and don’t look back. Never look back. In the darkness of the car a thin snarl of an unseen grin bent his lips back. Reaching inside his coat he pulled out a Remington .22 caliber semi-automatic. From a different coat pocket he withdrew a bulky-looking fluted silencer and screwed it onto the end of the four-inch barrel. And then he opened the door and rolled out of the car in one fluid, cat-like motion.

He had a knack. A talent. A natural gift. He moved like a feral animal from one shadow to the next in the brief walk it took from his car to the empty gas station and not once did a sliver of light reveal his presence.

Gripping the bulky weapon casually in his gloved right hand he moved up to the back door of the gas station and lifted his left hand and rapped twice on the door.

The door opened just a sliver—a bright lance of light flooding into the dark night. And into the sliver of yellow light the shoulders and head of a semi-tamed gorilla drifted. He didn’t hesitate. Lifting the weapon up in one smooth motion he put a slug directly into the man’s right eye and then stepped back and used a foot to kick the door wide open.

Inside were three other gorillas. All three were scrambling to their feet and reaching for their weapons when Smitty stepped in and pulled the trigger three more times. Puft! Puft! Puft!

Two dead. One almost dead. Walking over to the one living Smitty kicked the man in the face to get the man’s attention and stared down into the man’s pain-wracked face.

“Tell your boss he’s an idiot. Kidnapping a kid of one of his most loyal soldiers and thinking he’s going to get his money back is stupid. I took the money. Your boss weaseled out on paying me for my last job, so I decided to pay myself. Got that? Yes? Make sure you tell your boss when you see him.”

Just to make sure the wounded gorilla did remember Smitty slammed a foot hard into the side of the man’s face again.  

Be ruthless. Never look back.

BIO: B.R. Stateham writes hard-boiled noir. He’s almost as old as dirt, but it doesn't stop him from thinking up dark, mean stories to entertain the little kiddies in the dead of night. 

The 600 To 700 Challenge Concludes

It's been quite a long time since the Challenge has made an appearance and, finally, we're getting ready to wrap it up.

I want to thank everyone that is in this last group of writers (B.R. Stateham, Col Bury, Des Nnochiri, Jarrett Rush, Chad Eagleton, Phil Beloin Jr., Cameron Ashley, Ian Ayris, Eric Beetner and Jimmy Callaway) for their patience in bearing with me in the process of getting their stories onto the site.

Starting today, and going through the week at the pace of two stories per day, the 600 To 700 Challenge makes its return to A Twist Of Noir. All the way until the bloody end.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interlude: The Retro Look by Albert Tucher

Diana Andrews turns forty!

I know you're not supposed to reveal a lady's age (please don't hit me, Diana) but forty is a reason to celebrate.

Her creator, Albert Tucher, and Untreed Reads proudly present to you THE RETRO LOOK, the fortieth Diana Andrews story (and longest at 9,000 words!).

And it can be yours for a buck-fifty.

A dollar-fifty for one of the best female characters in noir? Are you kidding?

Get all the info, as well as your copy, here:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Conversation With Richard Godwin

Christopher Grant: My first question is, when you sit down to create, do you have more than just a blank screen or page in front of you? Is it different with short stories than with a novel?

Richard Godwin: When I sit down to write a story I do not plan, sometimes it can start with a voice, a character talking, or an image, a variety of forms that seem to be demanding growth. Sometimes a story takes shape immediately and others need pruning. I write from all sorts of places. I also write every day unless it is impossible to do so. It is about practice and I like what Pablo Picasso said when he was asked why he worked so hard, he said because 'I want to be at work when inspiration strikes'. A novel is different. Apart from two novels I have written, I plan and edit. The edit is a critical part of the process and I make copious notes.

CG: What was the process for Apostle Rising like? How long did you spend researching? And how much of what you wanted to write wound up in the novel versus how much wound up on the cutting room floor?
RG: Writing Apostle Rising was non-linear with a linear plan. The truth is if you plan you need at some stage to let go of it. I researched certain parts heavily, certain parts I already knew. I wanted the characters to live and breathe. I wrote the first draft flat out in six weeks and then engaged in a heavy editing process. That involved layers of discovery. It is like an archaeological dig in which you find out truths about your own characters. A lot of passages I liked ended up on the cutting room floor. I think John D. MacDonald said sometimes you have to kill your darlings. If the passage has no relevance to the plot get rid of it. I can see now there is scope for more ruthlessness within that. The edit is revealing. It is a key part of the process.

CG: Do you prefer writing or re-writing? Do you consider yourself a better writer or re-writer? Or does it vary from story to story or story to novel?

RG: I love writing and all parts of that. Writing a story is quicker and in some ways more immediately satisfying than a novel, which requires careful editing. That can be a laborious process. When the breakthroughs come they are more satisfying with a novel.

CG: Let's talk about Apostle Rising now. I have said that I think it reads like a true mystery. By which I mean that in stories that are lumped as mystery stories or novels, you usually get the crime happening and the writer tries to set the stage for your eventual discovery of who the criminal is but, for some reason, they can't help themselves and, by the third chapter, either the writer has revealed who the criminal is or the reader has been given enough clues to make that discovery for themselves. Whereas, with Apostle Rising, it seems that you played your cards very close to the vest.
Did you deliberately set out to do so or did the novel just start to come together like that as you were writing it?

RG: I set out to keep the killer's identity hidden. I wanted the reader to experience the mystery a cop finds himself in when he is tracking an extreme psychopath, as well as the effect of dealing with evil. Within that process the novel assumed an organic life of its own. I kept the revelation about who is doing the killings back and the discovery is a surprise. No one has said they guessed who the killer was. That involves careful structuring, peppering the story with clues and involving the sub plot, in which there is also a guessing game about the killer's identity. Apostle Rising is as much about psychopaths who want to destroy and leave scars as it is about the resilience necessary for a cop to survive the investigative process that catching a psychopath involves, and as you know, the story is far from over.

CG: Without ruining the ending for those that haven't yet picked up Apostle Rising (and those who have already know the ending so the question will not be lost on them), is there a sequel to Apostle Rising in the offing?

RG: Yes there is a sequel. I am writing it now. My second novel, Mr. Glamour, was released in paperback by Black Jackal Books in April of this year, and the sequel to Apostle Rising will be released next year. It has just sold foreign rights to the largest publisher in Hungary, Alexandra, and there are other offers tabled. Suffice to say the sequel will explore the key characters in more detail and contain some fireworks.

CG: The violence in Apostle Rising and in many of your stories is over the top and very surreal. I believe that it's justified in all cases, but especially in a novel like Apostle Rising where the story is that of the police, and in particular two partners, dealing with extreme psychopaths, as you put it. The violence in Apostle Rising must be what homicide detectives in particular, worldwide, deal with on a daily basis and not the sanitized for your protection crap that they show us on police procedurals such as Law And Order and the like.
That said, have you ever had complaints about the level of violence that are contained in your stories or in Apostle Rising?

RG: No I have never had any complaints about it. If you really want some hard core violence try the Bible. The truth is I have read of worse things in the papers. People are encouraged to avoid the stark reality of the predatory universe we live in, F Scott Fitzgerald referred to it as crooning there are no wolves outside the cabin door. It is also a beautiful universe. If you study what serial killers do or what the Nazis did to their victims it makes Apostle Rising look like a vicar's tea party. Men and women were held in concentration camps where women were systematically raped and healthy men were castrated in the name of medical science. You see a nation in psychosis. I am writing about one or two individuals in psychosis. The surreal aspect may be to do with the fact that if you slow the camera down to ensure all aspects are visible the reader's brain goes into a self defence mechanism. If we ignore the lessons of history, if we conveniently brush away the less savoury aspects of human experience then we are doomed to repeat them. Crime cannot be sanitised and wrapped up at the check out in a department store. I have tried to be realistic about the fact that sometimes there is no moral redemption for those who have crossed the line and those who, badge bearing law enforcers they may be, have followed. We live in a culture full of myths. I am interested in opening them up and seeing what purpose they serve.

CG: What do purpose do you think these myths serve?

One of the myths in America (at least) is that pornography and sex should be swept under the carpet, that it's worse than violence. People with brain cells believe that wholesale slaughter, such as the massacre of people in Iraq or Afghanistan, is more pornographic than two people with their genitalia showing or touching someone else's genitalia, but these people are generally few and far between.
Why do you think it is that violence is more acceptable than sex? Do you think Hollywood has something to do with that?

RG: If you look at the mythologies of Ancient Greece as described in Ovid, they serve many purposes. They explain the world the Greeks inhabited and also their religious system. Some of the myths are interpretations of nature. Sex features heavily in them also, they use symbolic language to create meaning. Modern mythologies have become less complex and more part of a propaganda machine. I think Hollywood is responsible for the sex phobia that is appeased by images of violence. The Hollywood machine wants to sanitise sex and relationships to the point where it is actually peddle lies. There is no realism in Hollywood and if you look at the sexual habits of the key players you have to wonder. People fuck. They always have and always will. It is part of the human condition, and a valid subject. I think the fact that so many Hollywood films stick to a formula may be one reason the industry fears sex. It doesn't want to make a porn flick, which is probably all it would come up with. But erotic films never come from Hollywood. People are fed violence every day. That appeals to a certain machismo and head set about defence when defence may not be necessary. Lenny Bruce once said it is interesting that they describe sexual content as obscene and it is not obscene to show someone's guts hanging out. Perhaps because Hollywood caters to fantasies it is nervous to cater to sexual fantasies, it might be tantamount to admitting it is a massive whore. At the end of the day it seems mythology has come to mean lies. Lies about sex, lies about the economy, about the need for violence, about the lifestyles people enjoy and others aspire to. It is also connected to the rise of the theocratic right. Young men and women are meant to go to church and think pure thoughts, as Zappa paraphrased their saccharine values in Joe's Garage. The reason for this has to lie in the fact that if you shackle them into marriage and let them breed it's good for business, more punters for church. I think Hollywood is brainwashed. It is also in the pay of the plastic surgery industry, itself another mythologiser. Never age, never wrinkle. Some doctor somewhere has a drawer full of noses and they all look the same. Many of the shrieking crusaders bearing placards denouncing sexual acts are themselves so diseased their prurience is all they have to hold onto. They are frightened of their own desires which is why the seek out the thing that offends them. Politics is also a source of mythology. The need for war is surrounded by propaganda and myth. If you ask what a myth is doing in the modern world it will usually serve the economy or a belief system that is intent on denying some value that the ruling class finds threatening. The ruling class may be Hollywood or the pharmaceutical industry.
CG: How much of what we see in the news is actual news and how much of what is actual news is kept from us?
RG: I think most of all the real news is kept from us. There is a line in a William Burroughs novel in which a journalist says we make the news quite literally. I think it is fiction. Badly written fiction aimed at as Zappa said keeping you docile and ignorant. Propped up by the companies that commit serial rape on a daily basis. While they pursue all the bad guys. You know the most wanted ones. They bury the news beneath a massive plot. A newspaper is a narrative structure. If you study the juxtapositions of stories you are aware you have been placed in  a plot structure that is supporting the men who own the newspapers. Now some serious facts. Let's talk about Halliburton and Bechtel. Who pays them? The US taxpayer. The same taxpayers fund the military-corporate system of weapons manufacturers. Bomb and rebuild, same old army game as William Burroughs says in From Here To Eternity. Now for the Marshall Pan, the act of benevolence. Whose benevolence? Of the $13 billion of the Marshall Plan, as cited by Noam Chomsky in Imperial Ambitions, about $2 billion went to the US oil companies. If you look at the rest of the aid, it moved from one pocket to another. Go do the maths. The Financial Times is the best newspaper in the world because it contains detailed economic analysis that businessmen need. If you read between the lines you can figure a lot out. The truth is we depend on newspapers that are in the pay of their shareholders. The truth is in their pockets.
CG: I've been on your end of your question about parallel universes. So here's me returning the favor.
What are your thoughts on both parallel universes and doppelgangers? Have you had any experiences with doppelgangers?
RG: I believe there are multiple universes and we inhabit one. I think the powers that wish to capitalise out of us want to convince us of the universe. Henry Adams spoke of the multiverse. It is also a discontinuous one. Fragmented by the belief structures that aim for monopolisation.
The worm hole theory is a possible. Also the implosion of a supernova as one example of an event horizon being created. I have no experiences of doppelgangers. Although you have to ask yourself are you the ideal or the failed version. Poe wrote William Wilson. Edward Thomas wrote The Other in which a failed man pursues his alter ego through a rural landscape to be met with disappointment. Parallels are not about narcissism. Remember Echo imitated Narcissus.
CG: Taking off on that, do you think that the doppelganger is a manifestation of the ideal self or the manifestation of evil? And if the former or the latter, what does that say about ourselves?
RG: It depends which position you occupy.You have to remember most of the morality we are taught is riddled with guilt and religion. Now take Catholicism. We had a Pope banning the use of condoms in Africa when they may have halted the spread of AIDS. He was a good man. Or was he evil? What he did is certainly open to moral questioning. In whose eyes? In certain communities burying your parents in boxes is considered evil. Who's right? It's about moral relativism. Nietzsche said there are no moral phenomena, only moral interpretations of phenomena. Hamlet said there is no right or wrong but thinking makes it so. Now you have to draw the line somewhere. Most of us know where that is. An enlightened society would protect the vulnerable, the young and old, without propagandising and protecting the abusers of power while using the newspapers to point the finger at irrelevant statistics that amount to nothing. It all depends on the mirror. Maybe your double is yourself or your devil. What does that mean to you? Many people spend every other second hiding something, some sick little secret. William Blake frequently conversed with the devil. But you have to know what he meant by that. Gide wrote The Immoralist. Are your morals holding you back? Does the glue on the world seem to be holding fast? Maybe the devil is your shadow, all those things you brush under the carpet. See what you find out.

CG: We've talked about perception and about myths in society.
What, in your opinion, is the greatest lie of our time?
RG: That all parents love their children.
Many hate them because they fail, and that is a by product of the conditioning we were talking about earlier.
CG: Since we were talking about the pope just a moment ago, first, I suppose I should ask, are you religious? And, whether you are or not, what are your thoughts about organized religion?
Just for the record, I'm not religious in the least. I think there is a big difference between being spiritual and being religious. When I'm asked about whether I believe there's a god or not, I say, "I don't care one way or another. I'm not living my life so that I can get into a concept like heaven or hell. I don't treat someone differently just so I can get through the gates." And you'll notice that I don't capitalize the word god.
RG: No I am not religious. I have thought and read a lot about religion and while I believe there are spiritual truths within the texts of religions I believe institutionalising spirituality corrupts it. Then you have the organisers of the religion. History is packed with examples of the corruption of the ideals represented by religion. Let's turn our attention to war. So many fought on the back of religion. So it seems a good tool of propaganda. It often appeals to the uneducated and exploits them. I think it is an extension of politics. I also think if you get enough followers and enough money as L. Ron Hubbard did you can start a new religion.
CG: Burroughs wrote many, many times that we must evolve as a species and travel into space.
Do you think we will ever, as a species, evolve to this point?
Do you think that we have been deliberately kept from evolving to that point which we would be able to travel into space by the powers that be?
Have they kept us on this planet to milk every last resource off of it and only then, when that time comes, will they abandon the planet?
Or do you think that it is a fear of the unknown that has kept us grounded? The unknown represented by outer space itself.
There was a time on this planet (and it ended about the time the west was finally stolen from the Native Americans) when you would grow up to about the age of fifteen or sixteen and you would get yourself a mode of transportation (usually a horse) and you would set off over that hill and see what was beyond that hill.
When we, as a species, started into space, we set a goal of getting there, then going to the moon and then there was a goal of going to Mars (and I can still remember the Time Magazine cover talking about how, by 1986, we would have a colony on Mars; still waiting).
We don't have goals like that anymore, unless they come out of a windbag like Newt Gingrich, who would have a colony on the moon but it would be a US colony (no Russkies and darkies allowed, I'm sure the sign would say) and that when there were 13,000 people on the moon, they could become a state. Don't ask me how he arrived at 13,000.
And, even if you want that colony on the moon, you don't want this dickhead running anything, especially not supposedly running the United States.
RG: Many of Burroughs's observations about space travel are based on mutation theory. We have mutated as a species if you consider Darwin's theory of evolution which is an adaptive one. If we travelled to space it would present a different environment and therefore mutation would be involved. He posited various scenarios. One likely one would be politicians colonising outer space while the rest of us were left below. Burroughs thought the future of mankind may depend on outer space since we are messing up this planet.
If it is already happening it would be hidden from us. Programmes like the X Files put forward various theories to that effect. The military may have invented forms of space travel. However evolution doesn't always look pretty. Brion Gysin, who Burroughs credited with the cut-up technique, saw artists as explorers of space. Burroughs said writers are cosmonauts of inner space.
You may ally physics with Art. Take the latest theories from physics about event horizons and worm holes and see how these ideas are already present in Art in all its forms.
The two biggest economic forces on the planet are war and pharmaceuticals. So it may be likely that war and medicating the population is preventing them from understanding what is going on with space travel. A revolution may be a non violent one. If everyone threw all their medication away consider the outcome. Einstein talked about the space time continuum. Kurosawa said if all clocks were stopped worldwide there would be havoc. Space is in time, and outer space is in time. A medicated population digests what it is given and doesn't know what time it is. You have to consider to whose advantage that is. People treat newspapers as factual yet they are a narrative and contain fictions. Or maybe the earth is being replaced as a big theme park with one benevolent president and endless shopping malls. The West talks a lot about propaganda in other nations. Yet at the same time the propaganda machine of the West is subtle and more evolved and works through the channels on which its population has become dependent. The medical industry has an investment in people being ill, despite its claims to the opposite. The consumer society is based on acquisition and status as bases of identity but in fact they do not give identity, and the consumers are being consumed by a series of financial commands that ensure they are trapped in debt and imaginary need for things which they are told will improve their lives.
CG: In the grand scheme of things, was Orwell more correct or was Huxley?
In Orwell's 1984, the state is totalitarian and there are punishments for those that do not conform. The general populace is basically cut off from reality.
When I read 1984 for the first time, I thought of the populace being underground and, when they were above the earth, behind walls, much like a concentration camp.
Whereas, when I first read Huxley's Brave New World, I never got that sense. I always got the sense that here are people living lives that are not their own. They are us. They are medicated off their asses and just pop another pill to feel good and everyone has become homogenized.
This is what frustrates the fuck out of me when people, especially so-called liberals, talk about how we should all be one race and no one should have different cultural identities.
Are we all one human race? Yes. Should we treat each other as such? Yes. But should we give up our cultural identities? Should I stop being proud of my German and Russian and Irish and English and Italian and Polish ancestry? Should Barack Obama, for example, stop being proud of the fact that his father was from Kenya? I don't think so but you'll notice that the media and the right-wing have attempted to make him ashamed of this, going so far as to suggest that the president was not born in Hawaii but in Kenya.
RG: I think it is a mix of both visions and I use the word visionary. I believe we inhabit a pharmaceutical totalitarian state in the West. People are medicated off their asses and do not know who they are. They are cut off from the Naked Lunch as Burroughs put it, by which he meant that naked moment when you see exactly what is on the end of your fork. The homogenisation of man starts at school and continues through the one dimensional careers pursued by some in corporations which want to clone their workers. This may take the form of family roles. The word family derives from the Latin word familia meaning family, servants and domestics. Society is structured on that unit as a way of engineering human response to a set of stimuli which are political agendas aimed to benefit the interests of the ruling party. Being cut off from reality may take the form of extreme totalitarian propaganda or the medicated man we see now as the product of a society with certain economically based views about health.
CG: Do you think it's possible for dreams to predict future events?
RG: I think it is more than likely that dreams predict future events, since they scramble time lines. Grammar is a language and dreams communicate through an alternative means, they are more allied to a hieroglyphic sign system. If you consider the signifier and signified and you randomise the sequence then you have it. The subconscious rearranges events to suit our particular mode of reference and we need to interpret that, to understand it you have to go beyond causality.
CG: Tell us about your new novel, Mr, Glamour.
RG: Mr. Glamour is Hannibal Lecter in Gucci. Something dark is preying on the glitz of the glamour set. DCI Jackson Flare and Inspector Mandy Steele investigate a series of bizarre killings targeting the wealthy and glamorous. Cameras, designer labels, beautiful women and wealthy men fill the pages. The killer in Mr. Glamour knows all about design, he knows what brands mean to his victims. He is branding their skins. He is invading and destroying at will. And he has the police stumped.
Detective Inspector Flare and Inspector Steele try to catch a killer who has climbed inside their heads. As they investigate they step into a hall of mirrors and find themselves up against a wall of secrecy. The investigation drives Flare and Steele—who are themselves harbouring secrets—to acts of darkness. And the killer is watching everyone. In it I explore some of the areas we have been talking about, particularly narcissism and designer labels. Paul Brazill's called it a great London novel. It's receiving excellent reviews and is available here, among other places.