Naturally I’ve never met Paul Brazill in person, since we live halfway across the planet from one another, remotely bonded by mutual interests. But I knew of his formidable reputation in the literary community via online networking. I’m honored he agreed to this interview. He is one of the most well respected virtual ink-slingers in the crime fiction field, and a true gentleman to boot. He even treats us to a sample of his great work...
What do you think accounts for the continuing fascination with noir, particularly as it relates to fiction, around the globe?
Oh, I think we’re all drawn to the dark side. It’s in all of us to some degree, one way or another. As Nick Lowe sang: The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bonds. The lizard brain is always lurking just below the surface of apparently the civilised. Or maybe noir fiction allows us to cope with the inconvenient truth that we’re all teetering on the precipice of oblivion. Maybe it lets us sneak a peek into the abyss rather than gaze.
One of your protagonists is a werewolf detective. What makes a genre hybrid work, and what doesn’t?
Oh, I’ve no idea what works or doesn’t. If I did I might sell more books than I do! Roman Dalton, the werewolf PI that I created, came about from a song – Tom Wait’s Drunk On The Moon. It has a vivid film noir feel full of great imagery and it wasn’t much of a stretch to stick a werewolf in that world. Tom can growl with the best of them and he was in the film Wolfen after all. Maybe for a mash up to work it’s all down to execution and the skill of the writer. A few other writers have written Roman Dalton stories and have worked wonders – Allan Leverone, Graham Wynde, Matt Hilton and Vincent Zandri in particular have put very muscular spins on the character.
As a European writer, what draws you to iconic American archetypes and pop culture, like the private eye?
American culture has always been around and as someone who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it regularly shuffled about alongside the homegrown stuff - The Man from Uncle and The Avengers, Bowie and the Ramones, Bogart and Bond, Batman and The Beano, Universal horror films alongside Hammer horror films.
When I first wrote PI stories – the Peter Ord Yarns collected in The Gumshoe: The Peter Ord Yarns - it was a direct take from the Albert Finney film Gumshoe where a Manchester bingo caller is obsessed with Marlowe. I wanted to put a cool American archetype in a more down to earth setting and let the absurdity begin!
Here’s a clip:
“Truth be told, my most vivid and powerful memories of childhood were always in black and white. The monochrome serials that were shown at the Saturday morning Kidz Klub at the local Odeon cinema, and the Hollywood films on afternoon television when I was throwing a sickie from school, all seemed so much more vibrant than anything that real life could come up with. And, as you would expect of someone who grew up living more fully in his imagination than in the day-to-day, adulthood proved to be a series of disappointments and non-events.
Nightclubs, for example, were, in my mind, bustling with tough guys in pinstriped suits, wise-cracking cigarettes girls and sultry femme fatales belting out torch songs on a Chiaroscuro-lit stage. So, when I eventually stumbled into the grim reality – claggy carpets, overflowing toilets, beer-bellied men staggering around a dance floor with leathery, bottle-blondes, well, my heart sank like the Titanic.”
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
Characters. Strong personalities. Personality goes a long way. Over the years I see how much I’ve taken from Damon Runyon, Tom Waits, Galton and Simpson, Tintin Quarantino. They all created their own world of odd folk in odd situations. I’m also influenced by people in real life, of course, and their stories. And whatever sediment is sloshing around in my noggin at the time of writing.
What’s next for you?
I should have a couple of short story collections out this year via Near To The Knuckle. One is unashamedly Brit Grit and the other is a bunch of supernatural noir yarns. All Due Respect should publish my novella Last Year’s Man early next year. I’ll have a couple of stories in anthologies next year and I’m working on a Euro Crime novel at the moment.
BIO: Paul D. Brazill's 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. His stories have been translated into Italian, Polish, German, Finnish, and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including three editions of The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. His blog is here.
PHOTO: PAUL D. BRAZILL