The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform (Veridical Dreams Book 1) edited by David Cranmer

The Lizard's Ardent Uniform

The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform

The editor’s nephew Kyle J. Knapp was a talented poet and all round creative person until his tragic death. Fragments from his dream diary were used as prompts for short stories. The stories in this collection all stand apart but are somehow bound together by the surrealism of a dreamscape. I’m not describing it very well. These stories should not work well together and yet even the way that they jar is founded in the land of dreams. Have I even read this book or was that a dream?

I’ve said it before but it is worth saying again, any collection with a Patti Abbott short story is going to be worth a read. I’m yet to be proved wrong on this. Abbott’s story about twins was as creepy as it was enthralling. My favourite story though was Dust to Dust by Terrie Farley Moran. Dust to Dust is one of those stories that can’t fail to illicit an emotional response. It is a quality piece of writing.

I enjoyed this book immensely and I think that David Cranmer has done an outstanding job honouring Kyle J. Knapp.


Exiles: An Outsider Anthology edited by Paul D. Brazill

Exiles: An Outsider Anthology

Exiles: An Outsider Anthology

I’m going to start at the end of this book. Nowhere other than at the very end of this book is it mentioned that all proceeds from this book go to the Marfan Foundation. If you don’t know what Marfan’s Syndrome is go have a look. It is a worthwhile cause and makes this book a guilt free purchase.

Jumping back to the beginning I do like the cover. It is clean, simple and most importantly I knew what type of book I was going to be reading. I knew I was going to enjoy this book by looking at the list of authors. Any collection that includes Patti Abbott and K.A. Laity is going to be good read.

At first glance the title of this collection is a little odd as noir stories are normally about outsiders, right? There are however outside of even those circles. Those quirky bit-part characters hovering on the outside that we barely notice, those are the characters these stories are about.

At times this collection was a bleak and uncomfortable read but there was just enough hope and justice to keep the reader smiling. These stories were fascinating and unusual. That was due to the characters. If you are looking for something different and refreshing then the characters herein will ignite your imagination.

The Axeman of Storyville by Heath Lowrance

The Axeman of Storyville by Heath Lowrance

The Axeman of Storyville

I often start off by talking about a cover but before I even got that far the title had me hooked. Nothing quite says gruesome killed like having the word ‘Axeman’ in the title. This is not a splatter-fest horror book and so the minute details of the damage caused are mainly in the readers sordid little mind (I’m speaking for myself there). I really enjoy the fact that my mind was left to create the details from the just enough details given.

If you have read any of the Cash Laramie stories from Beat To A Pulp you have probably heard of Gideon Miles. Miles is billed as the first African American in the Marshall Service. If you do some quick research you can find real people such as Bass Reeves that really were in that situation. This story takes place in the prohibition era. Miles is no longer a Marshall and has come back from The Great War to settle down as a club owner in New Orleans.

Miles is a minor celebrity for his exploits as a Marshall and a soldier but is in his 60’s and looking for a quiet life. Not much chance of that for Miles. There is a scene where Miles gives a lesson to some young bloods that accost him on the street. It made me chuckle because I remember reading a story about a WW2 veteran that did a similar thing with his cane to some horrid little bullies. It is touches like this that add a realism that makes the story come alive.

I already loved the character of Gideon Miles but in this guise I found him compelling and want to read more about this period of his life.

White Rabbit by K.A. Laity



I love this cover. It screams Art Deco like a bakelite phone (there is one mentioned in this book). Did I mention how much I love this cover? This needs to be a poster, with shell shaped up-lighters.

Down the rabbit hole we go. Sorry. It just wasn’t possible to start with that. For most of this book the Alice references are not spoken aloud. Until the final part where you realize that even the structure seems to bear similarities. Even down to giving evidence at the end. Of course this could just be my warped little mind.

This book is crime noir, but not as you know it. Nothing in this book is as it first seems. It has more levels than Chuckie Egg. For example the main character is a fake psychic detective, except he isn’t either. There is also the mute assistant that comes across as a mute Lennie from Of Mice And Men but is a lot smarter than he seems. I got so engaged in this story that I deliberately got on a later and slower train yesterday so that I would have a longer reading session. I know.

I’m not really sure how to describe the story. No, really. I’ve been sitting here for about twenty minutes. Story aside I knew I was going to enjoy this book at the mention of the luminiferous ether. Twisting the medium for light to mean the space between this world and the next is a clever touch and I do love me an Einstein reference. There are other references in this book, some literary and some historical. I probably didn’t spot some of them. That doesn’t surprise me as K.A.Laity is really well read and it adds a roundness and depth to her work that sucks the reader in.

For me this is a fun and thrilling read that is the best offering yet from Fox Spirit.

The Education of A Pulp Writer & Other Stories by David Cranmer

The Education of a Pulp Writer

The Education of a Pulp Writer

I usually like the Beat To A Pulp (BTAP) covers. This one I’m not to keen on. I don’t like smoking for various reasons. It doesn’t normally bother me if there is somebody smoking on a book cover but on this one it seems to be the whole point of the cover. I know some people will like this, but for me it is an instant turn-off. I would have read it sooner if it had a different cover.

The BTAP books are pulpy in a refreshing and modern way. This is no exception. These stories are punchy and direct with the kind of snappy one-liners I really hope for when I read this kind of book. The first line of the first story knocks you back and read it again. Surely he didn’t start a story with that? Yes he did. Awesome. I must read more. That’s how this book started for me and it carried on in much the same way. Each story is very different from the last with the final one being one of Mr Cranmer’s excellent Cash Laramie stories. Wild West noir is so much better than I thought it would be. Blubber was probably my favourite though as it really does hit you hard and was a great way to start the collection.

The biggest problem with this book though is that it is way too short. I wanted at least two or three more stories in this book as I finished it way too quickly.


White Hot Pistol by Eric Beetner

This story takes place in a fictional place called noirville. When I read this book I saw a place very much like the Harlan portrayed in the re-imagining of Leonard’s work. That is just in my mind though. There are so many opportunities to read between the lines and create your own city that I’m pretty sure nobody will see noirville in the same that that I do. I love that.

Like any good noir there is a lot of happening and most of it is bad. This book starts at quite a pace and it doesn’t let-up for an instant. Like all good noir this story is more about what is not said. There is a really hard edge to this story. There are some really screwed up characters doing or having done to them some really horrid things but beneath all of that there is that special sibling bond. It doesn’t matter what your sibling does or is like, they are who they are and you can’t help loving them.

This is an engrossing read. I’ve read a few stories by Eric Beetner and I’m yet to find anything that doesn’t leave me wanting more. This is a fine example of hardboiled modern pulp.

Interview with Garnett Elliott

Garnett Elliott writes some hard hitting emotional fiction with a deceptively simple style of writing. This interview is an especially interesting one for me as it has made me think about one of my favourite novels in a different light. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Q. I’ve read at least five books that you’ve featured in. One of those is BEAT to a Pulp: Hardboiled which is probably my favourite short story anthology. I love the deceptive simplicity of noir stories and particularly love them hardboiled. What drew you to writing this kind of story?

A. Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled kicked six kinds of ass. Glenn Gray and Kent Gowran had some particularly nasty stories in it, as I recall . . .

There’s something about the language of the hardboiled/noir story that first hooked me in my teens. I had been reading William Gibson’s landmark sci-fi novel Nueromancer, which was chock-full of innovative ideas, but the way he told it; the pacing, the dialogue, the action, really haunted me. I didn’t know why. Then my uncle read it. “It’s a heist story,” he told me, “and it’s written in the old hardboiled style.”

Q. Before I started writing these questions I did a little search engine stalking. You have a pretty small online footprint. Is this a deliberate persona thing or are you naturally disinclined to broadcast about yourself?

A. I’m a low, low, low profile kind of guy. One of the (polite) things my co-workers call me is “treetop flyer.” This is both deliberate because of the nature of my work and the result of natural inclination. And yes, I know it’s the Kiss of Death in today’s publishing industry.

I don’t have a normal job. I’ll leave it at that. And I learned early on I did not want to call undue attention to myself. I do not excel in politics. The concept of self-promotion beyond, say, trying to do a good job, is alien to me. It’s something I struggle with.

Q. Where do you see pulp fiction in five years time?

A. Not sure where it will go, but I’ve noticed a general trend of ‘pulp’ getting more (some would argue incorrect) usage among fiction writers. People who used to tag themselves as ‘noir’ writers now say ‘pulp.’ I’ve got no beef with this. I’d love to see both classic reprints and new venues (like David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp line) exploding all over the net.

Q. Time some a shameless plug. What writing do you having coming out this year and why should we buy them?

A. I’ve got a story coming out soon in the professional fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and it won’t cost you a dime. Beyond that, I’m working on the fourth (maybe fifth? I’m not sure where it fits in the arc) entry in the Drifter Detective series. You should buy it because, like the aforementioned Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, it’s going to kick six kinds of ass.

See? I’m not so good at the self-promotion thing.

Q. What fictional detective would you like to be and why?

A. Columbo. Hands down. I know he’s more ‘TV’ than ‘literary,’ but still, he’s my hero. He’s got more than he shows, and those asshole, country-club bad guys don’t see it coming until he lays into them with their own mistakes. Plus, I’d get to live in early 70’s LA and hang out at NBC studios. And smoke cigars whenever I want.

Q. If you were stuck on a desert island with only five books to read which ones would you choose and why?

A. Well, that would certainly suck, wouldn’t it? Only five books to read sounds like a personal hell. I’d go for quantity, say ‘The Complete Works’ of HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, because they’d take a long time to read. Probably a “Best of” compilation of Jack Vance, for both the length reason and because I never get tired of that man. But the other two . . . All Shot Up by Chester Himes? An early Hap and Leonard Pine novel? Miami Blues? The whole concept is too Sophie’s Choice for me.

The Girls of Bunker Pines (The Drifter Detective) by Garnett Elliott

I like the books from BTAP. Particularly the noir titles. There are some nice links between the various series. This one for example is about The Drifter Detective Jack Laramie who is the grandson of Cash Laramie. Cash is a western fiction character also chronicled by BTAP. The subtle connections back to Cash in this story are a nice touch and add depth to the character.

The story is set in 1950s America where everything is great on the surface but under that thin veneer lies a seething mess. That pretty much sums up Jack Laramie. In this story we learn snippets of the things he had to endure in prisoner of war camp. He still carries a lot of that baggage around with him. That baggage and a sense of kinship to the Korean war veteran seeking his help becomes quite important in this book.

Things don’t exactly start out well for Jack but they certainly don’t improve much and even he starts to question whether life is passing him by. This book is slightly longer than the other Drifter Detective stories and I think it benefits from it. There is a greater depth of character about Jack in this story. Don’t give that Barista your name, don’t get that frothy coffee. Instead buy this book and go sit out in the park reading for your lunch break.

Interview With K.A.Laity

The lovely Kate Laity was kind enough to answer some questions for me. If you want to find out more about her there are links to her many personas at the bottom.

Q. You write and get published a lot. That in itself is impressive. What gets me is the number of completely different types of writing you manage to juggle. How do you manage to keep these different aspects apart and do you have a different persona for each area?

A. The fundamental fact about me is I get bored really easily. Anyone who’s seen me sigh and fidget through a meeting knows how it is. If I had to write the same thing all the time, I would get so bored. On the negative side, pingponging through various genres has made discovering my work more difficult. While I keep writing whatever strange things come into my head, I created the other personas to identify things that do actually fit into genre labels. They’re easier to sell – in fact one of my alter egos is the only one of us to have a Big Six (or is it Five now?) contract.

Q. You don’t just write though. I first heard of you through the Noir series you edited for Fox Spirit. How does that hat differ from your author ones?

A. I keep swearing I won’t do any more editing, then I get an idea that someone like Adele at Fox Spirit Books says, ‘Hey, I’d publish that” and I find myself doing it again. And it’s always fascinating to see where people take the ideas and run with them. Editing is about designing an experience—and immersion really—for the reader. Even if they read out of order (I almost always do when I get an anthology), you want it to have that effect. So you have to read the stories in light of how they will affect one another. Juxtaposition is everything. Plus, it’s fun to persuade writers you really enjoy to write something they wouldn’t have done without that poke.

Q. Tell me about your book release schedule this year and what I should read, or a shameless plug if you like.

A. My noir novella Extricate is just out and very soon will be released again in print form with another novella Throw the Bones and a bunch of short stories. It’s going to have a double cover like the old pulps. I just saw Sarah Anne Langton‘s art for it this morning and wow! What a knockout one-two punch it’s going to be! Coming up in April will be my supernatural noir novel White Rabbit which will come out under my given name because it’s another genre straddling book. It’s like Séance on a Wet Afternoon mashed up with The Big Sleep and a little Blue Sunshine and maybe just a touch of Pynchon. That description should tell you why I love crossed genre publishers like Fox Spirit Books. And it’s got a classy cover by S. L. Johnson that captures the enigma of the book in a timeless image. In an era of cheap photoshop collage book covers I am so very grateful to have amazing artists designing covers that stand out from the crowd. I have lots more coming out: fiction and even non-fiction like my essay on awesome medieval woman, Christina of Markyate in Heroines of Comic Books and Literature and an essay on how I came up with my Chastity Flame thriller series in a collection on the pop culture influence of James Bond that’s supposed to be out this spring. And um, more stuff that I’m forgetting but will be on the websites…

Q. Nobody likes to choose their favourite child but which is your favourite genre to write?

A. At the moment I’m kind of noir-crazy. It’s one of those genres that I have loved for years and years but only started writing relatively recently. I blame Paul D. Brazill, who somehow lured me into the darkness and then got me to write a story for his Drunk on the Moon series and then (probably helped by the fact that I was living in Ireland on a Fulbright) I wrote more and more and more. I love noir: it’s all about people who don’t see the options, who live on the margins and who make bad choices because they don’t think they have a chance of winning.

Q. You’ve won a Clive Barker short story contest. Is that as cool as it sounds and did you get to meet him?

A. My first ‘professional’ acceptance! I won a signed script and the MGM website hosted my story for a time (it’s still at the official Clive Barker site), but I got a letter from him that I framed and hung on the wall because it said such nice things about my writing (‘full of fluent style and poetic dialogue’). I didn’t get to meet until a bit later. He was doing a signing for Sacrament and I waited in line to have him sign a copy. Clive is one of those writers who adores meeting his readers. While he was signing I thanked him for the letter and told him how much it meant to me. He looked up and said, ‘YOU wrote that story?’ He jumped up and ran around the desk and gave me a big hug and told me again how much he loved the story and so did everybody in the office. I nearly exploded with delight. A wonderful writer but also a terrific human.

Q. Talking of short stories. I love short and punchy works, do you see a long term place in the market for shorter fiction?

A. I think there will always be an appetite for it. I love writing shorts, but I swore off them because they just don’t pay anything. And then I keep writing them anyway every once in a while because I get an idea and it has to be written or I get itchy. I do love that ebooks seem to have brought the novella back as a saleable length. Publishing, as you well know, is all crazy right now. All kinds of things might happen. It’s a bit chaotic, but there are so many more options to find writers you might have missed in the old model.

Q. What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the internet this week?

A. Probably this.

Q. You are stuck on an island with only five books to read. Which ones would you choose and why?

A. Oh god, I hate choosing! My whole life is about having as many opportunities open to me as possible all the time. I’d cheat with The Riverside Shakespeare and The Collected Works of Christopher Marlowe because then I could entertain myself playing all the parts. I’d bring The Complete Jane Austen as I wouldn’t be able to do without it. Now the hard choices: hmmm. Let’s say Jane Eyre and The Thin Man. Or The Long Goodbye. No, The Thin Man. Probably. Can’t I just bring my ebook collection? I need art, too! And music! I hope there are pens, too. I suppose I can make a stylus and use blood. Five books! If nothing else, that would prompt me to escape. After a while—it would be nice to be stranded on an island for a while. The quiet would be nice.

All the sites: (general madness), Twitter, Facebook, G+, Medium

GrahamWynd (noir & crime)

Kit Marlowe (historical/romance/adventure)

C. Margery Kempe (erotic romance)

The Year I Died Seven Times Book #2 by Eric Beetner

This is the second part of a serialized novel. The first part set the scene nicely and killed the main protagonist Ridley. That doesn’t count as a spoiler as the title kind of gives it away. I like the idea of a serialized novel in principal but I’m rapidly finding it really annoying. I don’t want to wait until the third part is released. I want, no I need to read it now. Whilst the two parts are so far self-contained to an extent I don’t want to wait, I hate waiting. I also don’t want to risk forgetting the initial part by the time the story concludes. On the other hand that could open up an extra level of surprise as my brain struggles to catch up. I’m interested to see how I feel about this as the series continues.

The story itself carries on nicely from the first part. Ridley really is rather pathetic when it comes to a main character in a crime novel. So far there is no hard-edge and although persistent this is usually confined to the realms of screwing up and getting beaten up. The misogynistic needy wannabe alpha-male in me (it is there somewhere) has the urge to shout “Suck it up buttercup, grow some balls and be a man”, but most of me is loving the fact that there is very little macho in the character as he curls in to a ball and gets pulped.

I enjoyed this part of the serial and will definitely be reading the next part.