My review of Paul Brazill’s The Gumshoe: The Peter Ord yarns
In the mid 20th century there were light-hearted crime novels about decent chaps with a taste for adventure. The Saint. The Toff. Perhaps, like Paul Temple, they had a cockney manservant and lived in Mayfair. Mr Brazill’s comedic capers are generally set somewhere less salubrious. Perhaps a grim seaside town, where laconic losers drink super strength lager, which might be stored in their pockets for later – not much later at all.
Instead of a search for the Maltese Falcon a vile gangster wants to know which of his girls are offering, against his wishes, a ‘full service’.
The one liners come thick and fast. ‘”I’m as honest as the day is long”. If you live in Iceland.’
‘The silence dragged like a BNP voter’s knuckles.’
There’s nifty descriptions: ‘He had salt and pepper hair that erred on the side of Saxa, and his face had that scrubbed-by-a-Brillo Pad look favoured by football mangers like Sir Alex Ferguson.’
It’s realistically sleazy and gritty but with enough humour so you don’t need to drown your sorrows – unlike Paul’s protagonists.
Like his Too Many Crooks there’s a sly metafictional flavour but it’s gentle and playful. It won’t strip the enamel off your teeth, like some of the beverages consumed herein.
In short, an original homebrew with a kick. Well worth sampling.
MR Your earliest influence, writers you most admire?
PB Well, I wasn’t a book person as a kid so the first writers I noticed were comic writers like Stan Lee, Steve Gerber, and music writers like Jane Suck and Paul Morley. Monty Smith’s film stuff for the New Musical Express was essential reading. After that, the ‘grown up’ books were by Dorothy Parker, Graham Greene, Kurt Vonnegut and Elmore Leonard – the latter due to an NME article by Charles Shaar Murray.
MR Yes, that’s the article that got me reading Elmore Leonard, early to mid eighties.
Will the longer version of The Gumshoe stay in the seaside town? Get deeper into the sex industry?
PB The Peter Ord novella will have him trying to go ‘legit’ and try to make it as a writer. It’s called The Scribbler.
MR Is Hartlepool a bit grim then? But isn’t Middlesbrough worse? And I once saw a queue 50 yards long for a pub to open in Newcastle. 7pm on a Sunday.
PB I still like Hartlepool – especially the Headland- though I haven’t lived there for over a quarter of a century. And I like Middlesbrough which was were I saw lots of great bands in the 70s and 80s. And I played some gigs there too. They have their rough bits but that’s the same everywhere – Paris and London, for example, have their shithole parts. And people from the north are funnier, too.
MR Your next book will be?
PB Well, my seaside noir Kill Me Quick! will be rebooted and republished by Fahrenheit 13 over the next couple of months. It’s about a faded minor pop star who returns to his home town …All Due Respect will publish another seaside noir, Last Year’s Man, in June. This is about an ageing hit man who returns to his home town for a quiet life …
Near The Knuckle will publish my short story collection Small Time Crimes. It’s full of most of the best short stories and flash fiction I’ve written. It already has a great cover from Craig Douglas.
The Seatown set stories are a baroque exaggeration of people and scenes from life in the north east of England. It’s not journalism. It’s not Robert Fisk …
MR Is Poland a step up from the UK in general? The language quite hard to learn? Cheap, good beer? I once moved to Bavaria because my level of alcoholism was seen as social drinking.
PB I like it here. It certainly seems more civilised for sure. The language is very hard but the reason for my own low level of Polish is probably more to do with me being idle. A lot of the breweries were bought by Heineken a few years ago so homogenised lager prevails. But there are good local breweries such as the Osowa Gora brewery near me.
MR Is there less of a class system in Poland?
PB Not that I can see. It can be worse in many ways. There’s a lot flashing cash about. Keeping Up Appearances is popular here for a reason, I think.
MR I really liked your comment ‘Noir is about bollocking things up’ also ‘Indifference is the secret to happiness’ Seemed very Stoic or perhaps Taoist.
PB Just random cobblers that I say, to be honest.
MR 🙂 so much for my spiritual dabblings. Too Many Crooks references Sid James. Which always raises the spirits. It’s a shame they didn’t do a b/w crime caper. Which is your favourite Carry On?
PB Carry On Cabbie and Carry On Screaming. The Carry On team were a great bunch of oddball character actors.
MR The only private detective/ process server I ever knew was a compulsive liar, alcoholic and degenerate gambler. Did you ever meet any?
PB There used to be one that lived at the end of our street near a Greek restaurant called The Acropolis which was inevitably known locally as The Apocalypse. I think he was more Frank Marker than Sam Spade. The PI I write about – Peter Ord – takes more from the Albert Finney film Gumshoe.
MR Have you written about sober people?
PB I suppose so but pissheads are usually more self-deluded and more likely to screw things up. Which makes for funny stories. I hope.
Paul’s biography from his website https://pauldbrazill. com
I was born in Hartlepool, England and now live in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
I’ve been TEFL teaching for more than a decade. My books include A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, Too Many Crooks, The Last Laugh, and Kill Me Quick! Oh, and there are a few other tasty snacks that you can find here. My writing has been translated into Italian, Polish, Finnish, German and Slovene. I’ve had stories published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime 8, 10 and 11.I also edited the anthology True Brit Grit (with Luca Veste).I have an irregular column – Brit Grit Alley at Out Of The Gutter Online.