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.