Comment • reviews • Nordic Noir • whimsy
Today we’re joined by Paul D Brazill, whose books include A Case Of Noir, The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, Too Many Crooks, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, Polish, German, Finnish, and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. His blog is here. He writes:
In our post-modern world we can find out about pretty much anything pretty much any time we want. As long as we have the internet at hand, that is. But once upon a time it wasn’t so easy to stumble across hidden treasures and precious discoveries were made by happenstance. Which brings us to Ritual In The Dark by Colin Wilson.
I first got ‘into’ Colin Wilson – as I did with many writers, artists and filmmakers via music. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, one of my favourite bands was The Fall who were previously known as The Outsiders and mentioned a ‘ritual in the dark’ in their song In The Park. After a little digging, I started to immerse myself quite deeply in the weird and frightening – and decidedly odd – world of Colin Wilson. I even wrote to him in the early ’80s and received a reply. Which was nice. Hartlepool library had lots of his books and you could usually find them in charity shops, which is where I found Ritual In The Dark.
So, Ritual is that now over-egged pudding, a serial killer story. A ‘modern day’ Jack The Ripper tale which would be called a period piece now. It’s a kind of British Crime and Punishment which takes place in a sexually and socially repressed 1950s Britain and a vividly drawn Soho. Published in 1960, it is distinctly pre- The Beatles (pre-rebellious youth) and post WW2. It is also a distinctly British exploration of existential extremes featuring a murderer who kills as a creative act, a positive rebellion against the supposed unimportance of his existence. Ritual In The Dark – post- war angst in a world where ‘we’ve never had it so good’ just isn’t good enough.
Musical Chairs by Kinky Friedman
Sometime in the ’80s I was watching the Terry Wogan show on television and caught my first glimpse of the country/protest singer Kinky Friedman. And he was hilarious. The Kinkster, it became clear, was his own number one fan. As well as making music, he was also the hero of his own novels and the cast of these novels was Friedman’s cronies, The Greenwich Village Irregulars. But what could have been an elaborate in–joke is actually a series of very funny and entertaining mystery romps. In Musical Chairs, for example, Kinky riffs on Agatha Christie as the members of his old band, The Texas Jewboys, get bumped off one by one. He’s a cracking live act, too.
King Of The Ants by Charlie Higson
Charlie Higson is best known for his TV comedy shows – The Fast Show, Swiss Tony – and his Young James Bond novels. But he is also the writer of a bunch of dark and funny urban crime/ horror novels that led him to be described as ‘the missing link between Dick Emery and Bret Easton Ellis’.
King Of The Ants, his 1992 début novel, is the story of Sean, a pretty useless builder’s labourer, who covets the rich peoples’ homes that he works on and is offered a dodgy surveillance job which then turns into a contract kill. And worse. King Of the Ants was praised by the great Patricia Highsmith, no less, and the praise is deserved. It is a classic piece of Brit Grit noir, full of bitterness, resentment and underachievement. And cruel, dark humour.
Thanks Paul for some very interesting choices!