Monday, May 13, 2019

Six Stabs with Jesse Rawlins


JHR: Welcome to 6 Stabs, Paul. What six words best describe your book LAST YEAR’S MAN?
PDB: Nostalgia really is what it was.
JHR: We first catch sight of aging hit man Tommy Bennett in London—but dire events send him scurrying to his birthplace Seatown—a cliffside coastal hamlet about 148 miles northeast of the capital city. What led you to choose these primary locations for this tale?
PDB: As Dr. Johnson said: ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, innit?’ In Last Year’s Man, Tommy is tired of his life. I wanted Tommy to find out that there’s no place like home but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Black and white can be just as vivid as colour. Seatown is an askew version of my own hometown and its environs so it seemed to make sense for Tommy to return there.
JHR: Possible 3-part question but I’ll only stab you once. For those who don’t know, you were born in England but have spent much of your life living in Poland. Do you feel living abroad has changed how you once thought and felt about England? If so, how? And have you had occasions to revisit your own birthplace?
PDB: I think I’ve always lived in my own bubble and being abroad helps with my view askew. Before I moved to Poland, I lived in London for ten years. The last time I was in Hartlepool was 7 years ago, for my 50th birthday.
JHR: We’ve no idea how many people Tommy Bennett has killed during his life. But if Tom Leins and Beau Johnson teamed-up to write a revenge story—and claw hammers were used to dispense Justice—what do you estimate the body count would be? And have you yourself written any tales involving claw hammers?
PDB: Oh, I think Tom and Beau’s protagonists are much more effective killing machines than Tommy! I don’t actually know if I’ve used a claw hammer in a yarn but I did used to know someone who was charged with attempted murder and used the fact that he only used a ball hammer instead of a claw hammer as part of his defense.
JHR: We find songs in an array of genres and eras woven throughout your novel. Any idea how many readers will find in this book’s Playlist?
PDB: Well, Sandra Ruttan kindly made a list over at Toe Six Press. She spotted the following twenty musical references:
Last Year’s Man by Laughing Lenny.
Songs For Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale
Murderer by Barrington Levy.
Roxy Music – for your pleasure/In Every Dream Home a Heartache
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Ed Sheeran
AC/DC Highway to Hell
Miles Davis
The Banshees Happy House
Peter Gabriel
Lee Perry Super Ape
The Upsetters The Return of Django
Black Sabbath War Pigs
Frank Sinatra Watertown, Fly Me To The Moon
Ella Fitzgerald
The Saints I’m Stranded
Lou Reed – Satellite of Love
The Doors
Iggy Pop – Lust for Life
The Beatles The Times They Are A Changin’
JHR: Would you describe LAST YEAR’S MAN as similar to or different than most of your other books? And if different, how?
PDB: More of the same, really. It’s another screwball noir. Maybe Tommy is a bit more likeable than some of my other protagonists!

Badass Book Reviews
For the Grab-n-Go crowd I awarded LAST YEAR’S MAN five stilettos—go forth buy and enjoy.
Meeting aging hit man Tommy Bennett’s a bit like listening to accomplished professional athletes waffling about whether or not it’s time to finally quit the sport that’s consumed much of their life.
We catch our first glimpse of Tommy while he’s on the job—pissing in a Pepsi bottle. Despite his professional pride the gig does not fare well for Bennett. And though he’s pushing sixty years on this terra firma, as an independent solo contractor, the unfortunate Mr. Bennett spends his early-morning hours shirtless: digging a grave and dumping bodies.
As a life-long criminal, Tommy knows a lot of miscreants. And Brazill parades a steady stream of them. Amusingly, some of the zaniest don’t live in bustling London—they hail from Bennett’s birthplace Seatown—a place he fled from in his youth, but where he suddenly returns while wisely seeking refuge. But this ain’t the Wizard of Oz folks. And “there’s no place like home” don’t apply to Bennett the way this slogan applied to Dorothy. If one believes in Carl Jung’s theory of “meaningful coincidence however, Seatown, England is well-known for its Jurassic period fossils—and a fossil’s what Tommy’s become, a mere shell of his former self.
But Brazill leads us to suspect Bennett’s always been a bit “empty.” Tommy’s only close relationship? A life-long love for alcohol. While Tommy manages to stay out of her arms for quite some time, when trouble comes a knocking Bennett doesn’t waste much time chasing down his familiar mistress.
Tommy’s also fond of food and music. Yet he seems to lack passion for almost anything else. So while the aging hit man proves he’s capable of “change” Bennett sometimes hesitates to fill his voids in healthy ways—even when opportunity beckons. Instead he’s caving under pressure as his victim’s ghosts haunt even his daytime hours.
Anyone who reads noir knows not to expect a happy ending. But Paul aptly described this book as a “screwball noir.” Crazy criminals like Drella and Sniffy, as well as Tommy’s ex-lover Bev, keep us humming along while shaking our smirking heads—and make for fun but reflective reading if we look beyond the comical ties Brazill lays in our tracks.
I recommend the buy-n-ride.

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Six Stabs with Jesse Rawlins


JHR 1: Welcome to 6 Stabs, Rob. So tell me … did you down any alcohol prior to playing this little game? Or are you doing this “man-up” straight?
RP: Hey Jesse. Well, assuming we’re using the standard layman’s definition of time, where past precedes present, which is followed by future, the answer is yes, yes, and yes. If we’re using the definition that all times past present and future occur simultaneously, the answer is yes.
2: What 6 words best describe your novel WITH THE RIGHT ENEMIES?
RP: Psychopath on parade, full speed ahead.
3: Setting aside your short story collection and your forthcoming novel TOMMY SHAKES, you’ve authored 3 additional books: UNCLE DUST; VERN IN THE HEAT; and ENEMIES. Dust’s criminal business decisions drive the characters in ENEMIES into a frenzy. Meanwhile, you’ve described the region Dust hails from as a fictional town about where Santa Cruz lies (an hour south of Oakland—but with little Oakland all over it.)
Why did you decide to create this “fictional location” rather than using an actual one?
RP: What I know of Santa Cruz isn’t badass enough to resemble Oakland that closely, although there are parts of it I had in mind for certain scenes, such as when Vollmer is cruising for hookers in Enemies. And even there, I don’t think the actual blocks in Santa Cruz are close to as busy as they are in the novel.
4: Speaking of locations, you’ve been noted as saying you live and will likely die in Oakland, California. So how the fuck did you become a San Francisco 49ers fan?
RP: I was a Niners fan in Santa Cruz for those great Bill Walsh teams. Once I started rooting for Ronnie Lott, there was no going back. And I later moved to San Francisco, stayed there for several years, but Jesus that place is expensive. I think Oakland suits me better anyway.
5: What are 3 of your favorite places to do a reading?
RP: Pegasus Books in Berkeley (that’s where my book launches have taken place), The Octopus in Oakland, and Blondie’s on Valencia in San Francisco. I had a few other favorites that closed, in Oakland and SF, every damned one with a full bar.
6: Two-part question since I got no clue when you and me will get our next chance to talk about your books: Have you got an anticipated release date yet for TOMMY SHAKES? And do you consider TOMMY similar to or different than DUST, VERN, and ENEMIES?
RP: The lovely and talented Chris Rhatigan at All Due Respect has Tommy scheduled to publish September 27.
I think all my books are different, even though they take place in the same universe. Tommy stands out in that regard because he’s far worse at his job than any of my other protagonists, a career criminal who just isn’t that good at it and is trying to save his marriage by pulling one big job. It is my most overtly noir book since Dust; that may be why Chris likes it so much.
JHR: Well, Rob, I’m impressed. Thanks to the cumulative effects of all the alcohol you downed—past, present, and future perfect tense—you didn’t flinch-an-inch. But you are bleeding profusely. So our on-site S&G medics will get you aptly patched, and dump you in The Gutter once again.
Meanwhile, I’d watch my back if I were you. Chris “Keyser Soze” Rhatigan has a street cred reputation to maintain. And after hearing that you called him “lovely” he may wanna stab you a few times himself.

Badass Book Reviews

For folks who ain’t into foreplay, I rated this book a kick-ass 5 stilettos—go forth BUY and enjoy!
For those who ain’t in such a rush WITH THE RIGHT ENEMIES came within a busted heel of earning 6 stilettos—and that ain’t no easy feet—
Oops I meant feat.
Regardless of whether the author’s male or female, when I snatch a book from the shelf I want the writer to fuck my brains out. I wanna be transported … out of my crazy head—and out of my messy life.
I had a serious date with a surgeon’s knife when I delved into ENEMIES. Don’t take much reckoning to reckon that inside my head wasn’t a fun place to be. So splitting the pages of a book that prattles about a mundane soccer-mom driving her kid to practice ain’t got a chance in hell of carting me away.
While preparing myself to write this review, news broke his week in wealthy Jupiter Florida—where the Martin County Sheriff’s Department alleges The Orchids of Asia Day Spa has been providing paid sex services—and that many of the women performing these acts were not only coerced, but may also be victims in a “human trafficking operation” that extends all the way to China.
According to public statements from the Sheriff’s Department, many of these women were driven from location-to-location, worked long hours, had no days off, cooked rice on hot plates, and weren’t provided condoms.
Psychologists can debate words like sociopath, psychopath, and anti-social-personalities till their tongues fall off. The rest of us may not recognize a psychopath if we meet one. But most of us sure as hell know what a psychopath is when we read about one. We also know a person’s got to be a cold-hearted fuck to force anyone—man, woman, or child— into conducting sexual acts.
Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. William Hernstein presents 9 characteristics commonly associated with psychopaths in an article dated January 30, 2013 (the parenthetical comments are my summations and peanut gallery quips):
·       Uncaring (Hey, who isn’t sometimes???)
·       Shallow emotions
·       Irresponsibility (tend to place blame at other people’s feet)
·       Insincere speech (What? They lie? Really?)
·       Overconfidence (often lacking fear)
·       Narrowing of attention (not easily distracted—i.e. stalkers ignore the ice cream truck)
·       Selfishness (which often includes a “parasitic” lifestyle)
·       Inability to plan for the future
·       Violence
While time doesn’t allow discussing these categories in depth, I take exception to the trait “Inability to plan for the future”—this category feels like too much of a “cookie-cutter” approach. Psychopaths more likely fall into two different categories: Disciplined and Undisciplined. Criminals with extensive military training often display brilliant abilities to think and plan long-term. And “Organized Crime” earned that name for a reason. Be scared of dudes like murderous cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer folks—but pay no attention to millionaires and billionaires decked in starched white shirts and fancy suits (unless perhaps they live in China) sounds like the message a lot of talking heads are singing.
One of my primary reasons for creating this 6 Stabs format alongside my book reviews sprang from Ink-Quisitive me wanting to know how the authors in this series perceive their books compared to how I felt, reacted and perceived their work—and that’s why I ask them to describe their book in just six words.
Rob described ENEMIES as “Psychopath on parade, full speed ahead.”
ENEMIES ain’t a crazy crime caper where one person’s psychopath is another one’s fun-lovin’ criminal. While this book’s a work of crime fiction, Mr. Pierce understands the characteristics of what so-called normal people typically call a psychopath. Wasting no time Pierce dumps us on the street—and, without fanfare, we meet Vollmer at age thirteen.
Pierce skillfully gives us insights into Vollmer’s youth … the years spent on the streets fending for himself; but I suspect this dude was also born a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Depending on one’s preference, Vollmer quickly evolves or devolves. I prefer devolution: his abysmal descent hastened by jolting twisted choices. Yet even with his French fry shortaged-brain, Vollmer understands at times that his violent actions tax him. To alleviate his stress, Vollmer trolls and turns to hookers. But hookers raining from heaven wouldn’t cure his kinda ills.
As evidenced by the recent events in Jupiter, Florida, lots of people pay for sex. Lots of people hire hookers. But what Vollmer does with hookers? That’s a completely different appetite. By the time we reach page 50, Vollmer’s humanity’s been snuffed.
But once he becomes a man, with a gun and a plan, Vollmer’s no longer independent. He’s just a headcase-carrying member of the Loosely-Amalgamated Association of Psychopathic Workers.
ENEMIES in its entirety sports some sharp hairpin turns. While plummeting-headlong into Pierce’s festering cesspool of cunning criminal piranhas, at first we feel confident. We think we’ve slickly discovered who the players are: Rico and Tenny in particular.
Yet after those early pages we suddenly slam the brakes. The bridge ahead is closed. Pierce demands we make a detour onto unfamiliar turf—
We screech to make the jarring turn: and instantly catch whiplash.
And soon as we get our confidence back? Pierce jams another Detour sign in our face. At times these detours block our view of Vollmer. Instead of a real-life sex-slaves operation, we find ourselves entangled in a drug war.
But instead of street-level dealers, we’re drinking with the criminal equivalent of generals, sergeants, and lieutenants. Keene’s one of the generals. And while generals own their foot soldiers—otherwise known as dumb-asses—we meet few of them in this book. In fact, ENEMIES proves top-heavy, loaded with intelligent or cunning bad-asses: all over-confident in the battle of swinging dicks. Their combined testosterone funk surpasses even L.A.’s smog.
Hookers aside, you’ll meet four key women on the sheets of this novel’s sodden pages: Valerie, Theresa, Mimi, and Olivia (aka Olive). Olivia wins the 6-Stiletto Hot-Ass award. Val wins a possible pay-your-own-ass-way trip to … ta da: Oakland. Damn that chick’s got issues. Maybe my giving her a dumb-ass award will cheer her up.
The quality of their individual asses aside, all four a these women made the bone-head mistake of boning the callous criminal sometimes known as Uncle Dust. As mentioned in 6 Stabs, it’s Dust’s business decisions that drive the criminal piranhas in ENEMIES into this dark frenzy—with the ferocity of a woodchipper.
Too bad for them a lot of their time gets chewed (and their teeth get gnashed) chasin’ Dust’s dust.
As Mr. Pierce pointed out to me last year, ideally readers should snatch and devour his book UNCLE DUST before diving into ENEMIES. But unlike lesser-skilled writers I’ve read who re-introduce their earlier characters, Pierce did an excellent job crafting ENEMIES. Which allowed me to experience and enjoy ENEMIES without feeling lost—though I knew nothing of Dust’s sordid backstory.
After playing 6 Stabs with Rob, I’m surprised he didn’t say “Psychopaths” plural on parade. One character without doubt seems to easily “qualify”—the dude gets way to happy feeding people’s doggies. Perhaps some of the others are just Type A sociopaths, or so-called “hardened criminals.” Hard to pin a label on Cobb: maybe douchebag creep.
Now … about that broken heel I mentioned earlier. While I stayed thoroughly immersed in Pierce’s piranha world throughout—and although life is messy … and many problems lie unresolved, I would’ve relished seeing this book taken further. Since I don’t write “spoilers” I ain’t gonna get specific. Instead I highly suggest this buy-n-ride to most of you.
Anyone who can’t handle a dark book—or who might suffer psychologically from encountering scenes where men physically assault women should likely avoid reading ENEMIES.
Though ENEMIES is fiction, Pierce’s characters act with the same cruelty as the real life criminals who force others into sexual slavery—a horror that gets “desensitized” when given innocuous labels such as “human trafficking.”
Interested readers can find WITH THE RIGHT ENEMIES on Amazon.


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