Saturday, May 25, 2013

Roadkill Review: Tales from The Longcroft by Darren Sant

Buy from Amazon
Looking for something for the weekend? Well, if you haven’t done so already I can recommend checking out Tales From The Longcroft by Darren Sant.

In this collection of interwoven stories the author has created a rich tapestry of believable characters. The poor and the marginalized that inhabit his fictional council estate are vividly drawn. Their daily struggle to survive in the run-down terraces and tower blocks of the Longcroft is told with compassion, humor and no mean skill.

The writing is tight and absorbing. I found myself instantly sucked into this gritty world of chancers, wasters and small time crooks. Darren Sant handles some difficult subject matter with consummate ease. His social commentary is spot on, but he never allows the stories to wallow in self pity and lifts the narrative to another level with some clever touches and plenty of dry wit.  
All of the stories here are worthy of your time, but for me, the best of a very good bunch is “Rowan’s Folly” which tells the story of Andy and Shona and provides a harsh lesson in what happens when you rub another man’s rhubarb on the Longcroft Estate.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Jackson Cage

I’m back at The Flash Fiction Offensive today with a little number called The Jackson Cage.

This story is my first one to be published online for quite a while. My other writing commitments have meant I’m not writing all that many flash pieces these days. I’d like to think that makes the quality of the ones I do put out that much better, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
I’d like to thank Tom Pitts and Joe Clifford for letting me lower the tone of their virtual pages once again and also thanks are due to Ryan Sayles and Rich Osburn for running the rule over my first draft.

I hope you read it and I hope you dig it. If you do, drop me a comment.

The holding tank has its own set of rules. Jail isn’t prison and the learning curve can be a steep one. THE JACKSON CAGE

Friday, May 17, 2013

Roadkill Review: True Grit by Charles Portis

I’ve been spending a lot of time out west lately, at least inside my head. I’m currently working on a western for the next Zelmer Pulp release. I’ve also been doing a little research and toying with the idea of trying to write a western novel.

Anyway, while I was trawling through my bookshelves, (for bookshelves read: that big pile of boxes in the garage) looking for a  civil war reference book that I last remember seeing two house moves ago, I came across my copy of True Grit by Charles Portis. 
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 40 years, you will have heard of this novel. You may not have read it, but the chances are you have seen one of the two film adaptations. My mom loved “The Duke” and Henry Hathaway’s 1969 version loomed large in my childhood. More recently and in line with the current Hollywood trend of refusing any original ideas, the Coen Brothers re-made it. In doing so they once again posed the tricky question of how many Coen brothers does it take to write a screen play?  The answer of course is two - one to read the novel aloud and the other to type it into a computer (also see No Country For Old Men.) Now to my mind that's not necessarily worthy of an Oscar nomination, but in respect to True Grit it is probably a good thing; their movie sticks a lot closer to the book than Hathaway’s did. I guess a slightly happier ending was the order of the day back in 1969, although it's strange that Hathaway saw fit to kill off one major character who survived in the book.
For those rock dwellers amongst you, True Grit is a simple story about the murder of Frank Ross by one of his hired hands, and of his daughter’s fight to bring the muderer, Tom Chaney to justice. There are two things that put Portis’ novel on a different level to the thousands other western tales out there with similar themes. The first is his 14 year old protagonist, Matti Ross. The book is written from her POV and rarely have I ever come across such a brilliantly drawn female lead. Portis somehow manages to make her both smart and neive, feisty and venerable, all at once. The only other character I have read that comes close is Daniel Woodrell’s Ree in Winter’s Bone. The second stand-out for me is the the narrative itself. It's a wonderful mix of old west colloquialisms and wry humor, overlaid with some great period dialogue.
While the Coen Brothers managed to give a much better visual rendering of the book than Hathaway did, neither movie really comes close to capturing the charm of the written work.  And as Lucky Ned Pepper said,“I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.”


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nebraska - A Short Story by Chris Leek

About a year ago, Downer Magazine published a story of mine called Nebraska. Downer was a cool market that provided a home for some great flash fiction. Unfortunately it went the way of so many small literary e-zines and burned out in February this year. Nebraska is not my usual blood and guts crime stuff, it has a little more to say. I liked the story when I wrote it and reading it back now, I still do. So to preserve it for posterity and really just for my own indulgence, here it is. I have resisted the powerful urge to take the red editing pen to it and I have let it stand, warts and all. Who knows, maybe someone will dig it.

Hicky Thomas was always ragging on me, mostly I ignored him, but when he said my daddy was in Vietnam murdering babies, I kinda flipped. I'd never hit anyone before, not like I meant it. He was a year older than me and nearly a foot taller, but it turns out I was a natural.

It was like my fists worked all on their own, moving with a slick speed I never knew they had. Splitting lip, cracking bone, leaving Hicky in a pummelled mess on the lunch room floor. I felt fear mixed in with the anger and above them both, a crazy exhilaration. I'd never felt anything like the thrill I got from that flurry of punches.

Principal Howard tore a strip off me, said all farm kids were nothing but trouble and suspended me for two straight weeks. When my mother had finished her second cherry brandy and was over the worst of the shock, she grounded me, most probably for life. Worse than that, she insisted I had to go apologize to Hicky. My Uncle T-Bone, he flat out refused any part of it, said a boy had a right to defend his family honor. But momma kept on at him, knowing that sooner or later he'd cave and agree to drive us to town.
The dented Ford pick up looked furtive and uneasy, idling rough, among the sleek, modern sedans that lined Hicky's street. Uncle T stayed in the truck, keeping the motor running and the heater on high. Momma, wrapped up against the chill in her Sunday coat, marched me up the path of an expensive looking house. You could see the pool in back, covered over for winter. She straightened me up, took a deep breath and pressed the bell.

Musical chimes drifted back from somewhere inside and after what seemed like an age, Hicky came to the door, flanked by his expensive looking folks. All three of them stood waiting, expectant like, looking at Momma and me like we was nothing.
Momma jabbed me with an elbow and I started off saying how sorry I was, which I wasn't. Them words were the ones Momma wrote on the back of a hand bill and made me learn. When I was done, Hicky gave me the finger, but nobody saw him do it. Mister Thomas shook his head and went on at momma about how damn lucky she was that he hadn't called the law on me. If it was possible to die of shame, my mother would have done it right there on the front step. Her cheeks flushed a rich shade of pink and she examined her good shoes, mumbling more apologizes. I felt worse for her than anything. 
Except for Uncle T, whistling, tuneless through his dentures, we made the journey home in silence. Momma gazed intently out the window, like she'd found a sudden and all consuming interest in the railroad tracks, which kept pace along the highway. I rode bitch, sitting in between them on the sagging bench seat and watched empty Pabst cans chase one another around my feet. 
I came out on the back porch, and shivered at the breeze tugging on my shirt. Snow Geese filled the sky, silhouetted by a low riding sun, dipping fast behind the frozen stalks of last year's harvest. Uncle T was in the door yard, oiling a toothy bow saw and listening to KAAQ.  A sermon of country and religion; distilled with static and preached through the cracked Bakelite of an old Sears. T-Bone was never much for church. He told me once, God was behind most of the calamities in his life, said he still hoped to meet him one day though. I think maybe he's looking to get even.
“Uncle T, momma says, if you're goin' drinking at the Hanger, could you stop by the store for baking soda.” I called over, the words fogging out in front of my face.
He looked up at me and grinned, crooked teeth showing through the salt and pepper stubble that bristled along his jaw.
“Why don't you go get it yourself?” He said, knowing full well I was still grounded.
“Just 'cause.” I said and kicked at a left over seed potato, sending it bouncing off towards the chicken coop.
“Come here son.”
Ice had crept up the worn boards of the porch, covering them with a sheen of prickly frost. I half-slid, half-walked across them and picked my way, carefully down the steps.
“Rich folks like that Thomas crowd, they all think their shit don't stink.” He said, shaking out a bent Pall Mall from the crushed pack in his hip pocket.
I didn't say it, but I thought even supposing it did stink, Hicky couldn't of smelt it, not with his nose all busted.
“Don't pay no mind to what that boy says. Your daddy's serving his country, fighting them Commies for the President. You should be damn proud of him. If he were here, he'd tell ya he was proud of you too, understand?”
“Yes sir.” I said, not really understanding any of it; just wishing dad was here. Momma said he was in a place called Kay-song; I looked for hours, but I couldn't find it on no map.
“Go on now, get inside and help your mother. I got me a shoppin' list, beer and baking soda.” He said, mussing my hair.
I stood listening to the sound of the Ford's whipped motor, growing smaller in the gathering dusk, and wondered why Mister Johnson had never asked Hicky's dad to go fight them Commies.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Fiction For Your Face

Here is the second in my ongoing series of posts featuring pictures of Brian Panowich’s hand.

This one was taken yesterday at the Augusta Book Exchange where Brian used that very same hand to sign copies of Zelmer Pulp’s first two releases, C’MON DO THE APOCOLYPSE  and HEY, THAT ROBOT ATE MY BABY. He also used it to scratch himself a lot, so if you shook it I recommend plenty of hot water and carbolic soap.
For news and information on future events featuring the Zelmer crew you can now visit the all new Zelmer Pulp website at  This wonderful web portal will host a variety of entertaining and informative articles about seasonal vegetables and South American rustic  pottery. It will also be the place to go for all the news on future Zelmer releases, guest contributors and other exciting and potentially illegal projects involving Emus. So bookmark it and visit often.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Dirty Merc does Robots

The reviews for Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby are already flooding trickling in. Hard-boiled word slinger, Jim Spry got drunk, ate a kebab and then woke up with a hangover and fired off an awesome review on his blog. Go and see it for yourself, and while you're about it check out Jim's new novella, Loser on Amazon. It's finger-banging good.

Read Jim's review at Dirty Merc's Bar & Grill and buy his book  Loser by J.Spry
In other news, the print edition of Robots is on sale all this weekend so why not treat yourself to a copy or maybe buy one for the special Luddite in your life.