Filed under: Interviews
If you write crime and read it on the net you know him.
You can’t help but know him.
His stories are everywhere and they leave a deep impression once read. He writes cool and descriptive noir with a touch of humour.
His comments on key sites are omnipresent.
If you don’t know his blog you should.
You Would Say That, Wouldn’t You is full of great writing and information about the latest things happening in the world of net noir writing.
I Didn’t Say That, Did I? is his column at PULP METAL MAGAZINE.
His story DRUNK ON THE MOON will appear in Dark Valentine Magazine on June 11th.
Paul Brazill agreed to meet me and looked sprightly and alert at 8 am.
Then he started on the shots.
How did growing up in the north of England influence your writing?
Oh, I think I’ve drawn on lots of characters and events from childhood and teenage years in my writing and I’m draining that muddy well more and more, it seems. The harshness and the black humour of life in the north east is always there.
The north east, Hartlepool in particular, seems riddled with people who are on the margins and disconnected from mainstream, middle-class society and all the better for it, I think! That’s what interests me anyway, the flotsam and jetsam of life. I still consider myself one of them, too. Gabba gabba hey!
That brings me neatly onto my next question. Do you think the class system in England and crime are linked?
Well, there’s crime and there’s crime, it seems. A doctor’s tax fraud is apparently ‘transgression’ and benefit fraud is responsible for the end of civilisation.
There is certainly a big lump of dispossessed at the bottom of the ladder engaging in petty crimes and at the top people getting away with ‘cutting corners’. I’d love to know how many braying city boys have been given ASBOS.
You’ve been called the Alan Sillitoe of noir, do you think the description fits you?
It’s shocking but I don’t know Alan Sillitoe’s stuff very well. I know I’ve read ‘Saturday & Sunday Morning’ & ‘Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner’ – and seen the films – but that’s it. Great mind you.
I need to read more of his stuff. I don’t think he was as good looking as me, though.
Has Poland influenced your crime writing and does it have its own particular shade of darkness?
You know, I’ve lived in my own bubble most of my life so who knows what permeates the skin. I don’t plan what I write, I usually just start with a word, image or phrase, so pretty much anything could come out. Since I started writing, at the end of 2008, it seems like more and more stuff from life in Hartlepool has crept into the stories.
Poland, in the past 100 years has lived through Nazi occupation, Communism, Catholicism and cut throat capitalism, so, yes, I’m sure it has more than a few very peculiar shades of darkness. But, I’m no social commentator. I just make stuff up and write it down. Some those things are directly from life and some are complete fabrications and most are a Pick N Mix of fact and fiction.
Tell us about your novel.
This bloke, academic, like, discovers that Clint Eastwood is actually Stan Laurel’s bastard offspring and that Bob ‘Blockbusters’ Holness played sax on Baker Street. He starts to uncover the truth about a secret society of Opportunity Knocks and Junior Showtime contestants who have covered up the great showbiz secrets. It’s called the Vince Hill Code. Naw, it’s probably going to be a novella and it’s another Peter Ord Investigation, like The Night Watchman story, which is in Radgepacket Four and Play Dead Until You Die, which will be in the Harbiger*33 anthology.
You obviously like your music Paul, often using a song with meticulous precision as a backdrop to your stories. How does it relate to your writing and what are your musical memories of growing up in Hartlepool?
Well, my oldest brother – who died in Africa about fifteen years ago – was a singer and musician in lots of bands, playing the working men’s clubs, hotels, cruise ships etc – and I do have a vivid memory of being about five and his band – black Beatles suits, red guitars & drums – rehearsing in the front room.
As a teenager and in my early twenties, I was heavily into music – Bowie, Queen, punk, the Fall, Subway Sect, Scott Walker, Orange Juice, Tom Waits, – and I played bass in a couple of post-punk bands in the early eighties.
That enthusiasm did taper off though and I haven’t actively sought out music for a very, very long time. In fact I’ve never even owned a CD player although that may have more to do with boozing most of my money away.
I’ve named stories after people’s songs, though: Subway Sect, The Birthday Party, Scott Walker, The Clash, the Lurkers & my mate Peter Ord.
Paul you write vivid, dark, highly readable, detailed stories. Name an experience that changed your life and influenced your writing.
Well, I actually started writing when I moved in with my girlfriend Daria after jumping around Poland for about ten years. And then the floodgates seemed to open.
I’ve never seen my stories as particularly dark, though, apart from The Friend Catcher which is supposed to be, well, sad.
I’ve had some dark experiences growing up and over the years and they do creep out into the stories but not directly.
Do you think it’s true that living in exile sharpens your perceptions of your own country?
Well, it certainly gives you another perspective. One of the best things about living in Poland is that I can’t understand most of the things people say. I miss out on a lot of the crap, the moaning.
When I get back to Blighty it usually seems like a blitz of bollocks. Although I then start to enjoy and get into it. Give me a couple of months in England and I’ll be buying the Daily Mail and laughing at Jeremy Clarkeson. Or not.
You seem to be everywhere on the net, how do you find the time to manage so much?
Simple. I hardly work. I’m a self employed EFL teacher and earn just enough to pay for my keep, tax & insurance and the odd night out. Luckily I don’t have commitments like mortgages, kids and the like so I keep my head above water and faff around on t’internet in the meantime.
In the summer I’ll be teaching in Cambridge for six weeks so my presence online will be minimal since I don’t have a laptop. And after that I want to concentrate on giving that novel thing a good kick about so I don’t intend to be around quite as much!
If you had to pick one story you’ve written which you would want to be known for, which one would it be and why?
Oh, tricky, of course, but this afternoon I re-read The Sharpest Tools In The Box, which is at NEEDLE MAGAZINE, and I did like it. It sounded pretty much how I wanted it to sound!
With that, I left him propped against the bar.
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