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Brit Grit Alley

Brit Grit Alley features interviews, news and updates on what's happening down British crime fiction's booze and blood soaked alleyways.

By Paul D. Brazill 

This week down Brit Grit Alley, I have a musical guest column from Allen Miles.

Every Day I Wrote The Book


When Paul asked me to write a piece for his site, I wasn't too sure what I should talk about. When I asked him, he said, "You know your music, why not write about that? But pimp your new book too." So, I thought, how could I write an article about music, yet work my own written work into it as well? After a small amount of time, it struck me: lyrics.

Song lyrics have had as much as an influence on my writing career as novellists. I used to be a lyricist myself, in my ill-fated band, Sal Paradise. I used to enjoy the restraint of trying to say everything I could in three verses and a chorus, but after a while I found the medium of indie-punk music terribly stifling. My lyrics would become longer and longer, rambled narratives clinging loosely to some sort of vague rhyme scheme. When Sal Paradise clattered to its tragi-comic end, I found myself discussing with various other musically-inclined friends the possibility of starting new bands. One man in particular, a very talented musician called Dave Gouldson, who remains to this day one of my best friends, was enthusiastic about the prospect. I'm nothing more than an adequate musician, and I have no idea how to write a song, but Dave could, and he asked me if I had any lyrics. I answered in the affirmative and a couple of days later in the pub I stuffed a couple of sheets of paper in his pocket and told him to look at it the next day when the beer had evaporated from his veins. A week or so later, he threw the pages back at me and the following discourse took place:

"What the fuck do you want me to do with that?"

"Write a song to it. Why?"

"Its twenty-six fucking verses!"

"Um..."

"I can't do it Al, sorry. This ain't happening."

So my career as a lyricist screeched to a halt. But my fledgling career as a writer began. And I took on board how much I had enjoyed the words of the songs that I loved while I was trying to write songs of my own, and now stories of my own. Therefore, I've decided to write about some of my favourite lyricists, and their best work.

The first lyricist that really changed the way I think about words was Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers; the excellent punk sloganeering on exuberant scissor-kicking singles such as Motown Junk and You Love Us, but in particular his work on The Holy Bible album. By the time it was recorded Edwards had fallen into a savage depression, and rather than spray-painting his Fisher Price political agenda over the songs, he was writing lyrics about the holocaust, anorexia and prostitution. Yes, Of Walking Abortion and Faster are amazing staccato diatribes about the decline of the human race, and like John Lennon and Lou Reed before him, Edwards had the ability to use words to hurt, accuse and disturb. He is also utterly convincing of his opinion at all times. In 4st 7lbs, in which he romanticises his own eating disorder, he writes "Self-worth scatters, self-esteem's a bore/I've long since moved to a higher plateau/This discipline's so rare so please applaud/Just look at the fat scum who pamper me so." Astonishing and deeply upsetting lines. No-one has metaphorically grabbed his fellow man by the hair, forced him to look in the mirror and howled "look, look at what you and your pathetic species have become", in the way that Richey did. His "lost lyrics" on the Journal For Plague Lovers album are also intensely profound, in particular the remarkable Doors Closing Slowly, which I rate as his best ever.

From there I would become familiar with the verse of Joy Division's Ian Curtis and Thom Yorke of Radiohead, yet it would be a rather more floral and languid wordsmith who would next make my ears prick up. Enter one Steven Patrick Morrissey. Morrissey is a true original as a lyricist in that he never really took influence from songwriters past, instead embracing writers such as Oscar Wilde and Graham Greene. Only really Bret Anderson and Stuart Murdoch have successfully aped his style and the fact that he was able to weave such wonderful gallows humour into his lines make a mockery of the nay-sayers who claim he's merely a moaner. His words often form his own versions of the classic fifties kitchen-sink dramas such as Look Back In Anger and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, evocative of a time and place yet at the same time completely transcendent of all barriers, connecting with people on the most human emotional level. The lines in How Soon Is Now? for example: "There's a club if you'd like to go/You could meet somebody who really loves you/So you go and you stand on your own/And you leave on your own/And you go home and you cry/And you want to die." Every single intelligent, slightly awkward young man in the civilised world has felt like that. Jaysus, I know I have. The howling repeated refrain at the end of That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, "I've seen this happen in other people's lives/And now it's happening in mine.": again, something that everyone stuck in a dead-end job or miserable relationship has felt. The lyrics of Morrissey taught me that you should write about what you know. There is no point trying to write about some fantasy rock n' roll lifestyle if you're not living it. You should write about the rain rolling down the back of your neck, the damp in the corner of your bedroom or the wine stains on your dog-eared copy of Road To Wigan Pier. I've been accused many times of being a drama queen in my writings, and I don't care. I'd like to think that people know I'm being true to myself, even if they are laughing behind their hands.



After Morrissey I would thrall to the genius poetry of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, undoubtedly some of the most beautiful language ever committed to tape, but in both cases often quite meandering and indulgent. I was always a fan of the more direct use of words in my music, so from the old guard, I'd like to pick Leonard Cohen.

"Laughing Len" is in my opinion, the most authoritative lyricist in all of music. I think his major attribute is, certainly in his early work, that the music is so simple, it forces you to listen to the words. The same themes come up again and again in his songs, jilted lovers, honest men who have been wronged, divisions of men marching to certain death, religious figures dying without shame. At the age of about twenty two I became absolutely addicted to the Songs Of Love And Hate Album, a compendium of some the most utterly barren and self-flagellating songs ever written. The imagery, the utter weight and gravitas of the words used in the songs; it's absolutely mesmerizing. On Last Year's Man, a song about the horror of religious war: "And though I wear a uniform/I was not born to fight/all these wounded boys you lie beside/goodnight, my friends, goodnight." From Famous Blue Raincoat, an incredibly intricate ballad in the form of a letter to the other male in a doomed love triangle: "And you treated my woman/To a flake of your life/And when she came back/She was nobody's wife." Cohen was a moderately successful poet before he was a songwriter, and it shows. His lyrics have no peer in the world of music, and his true rivals are writers such as Dante and Milton, writers that have been set in stone through the centuries as absolute masters of their craft. My favourite song of his is Anthem, which connected with me on a personal level when my wife and I lost our first child, lines such as "Don't dwell on what has passed away/And what is yet to be.... There's a crack, a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." making a mockery of the idea that he's miserable. Those who listen properly will know that he's the greatest commentator on human emotions of all time. The way he influenced me was his amazing gift for description, and how important it is if you want to get into someone's head. Whether of image or feeling, there simply is no-one to touch him.

So after Leonard Cohen, I became drawn to the lyricists I refer to as the scriptwriters. The ones who are sat in the corners of bars, watching all the characters go about their business from afar with a glass of potent spirit in their hand. The ones who can place you down a rainy alley with soaked shoes and broken dreams just by listening to their words. I believe there is a holy trinity of these guys. The first is Shane McGowan, who is easily the most romantic lyricist to have ever lived. His songs on many an occasion seem to be literally written from the gutter, serenading the moon about all the woman and friends he has lost to the demon drink. In the same vein we have Tom Waits, who writes plays set to music about the violent and seedy underworlds in which he dwells, the ultimate musical voyeur, Charles Bukowski with a piano. And the other, who would be my fourth choice on this list, formerly of the Birthday Party and occasionally of Grinderman, the leader of the Bad Seeds, Nick Cave.

Nick Cave is the most wide-ranging lyricist I've ever heard. His main three themes are, as with his spiritual-forbearers Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan; Love, Death and God. The Boatman's Call album is, in my opinion, the greatest set of lyrics ever committed to tape; an intense, nakedly-honest account of the highs and lows of relationships (Opening line is "I don't believe in an interventionist God/But I know darling, that you do."). Yet he can go from talking of how the smell of his lover on his hands sullies his experience of taking Holy Communion (Brompton Oratory), to writing comedy murder ballads about sodomising a pimp in a bar in the wild west (Stagger Lee). It is that ease of switching between the protagonist and the antagonist that is Cave's greatest strength. The Mercy Seat, widely recognised as his greatest song, is a first person account of a condemned man's journey to the electric chair, into which he crams a ludicrously intense litany of imagery, stopping to ponder the irony of how the chair is made of wood and Christ was "a carpenter by trade/Or at least that's what I'm told", before his head is shaved and wired. On the remarkable Oh My Lord, he makes something as simple as going for a haircut sound like the most apocalyptic nervous breakdown imaginable, as he starts to doubt his image, his integrity and his vocation: "And I'm down on my hands and knees/And it's so fucking hot/People cry 'What are you looking for?'/And I cry 'The plot! The plot!'" I suppose what I took from the work of Nick Cave is that you can use beautiful words to describe horrific scenarios, and ugly words to describe beautiful things. I'll quote his best few lines here, from (Are You The One) I've Been Waiting For: "We will know, won't we?/The stars will explode in the sky/But they don't, do they?/Stars have their moment/Then they die" If you do nothing else this weekend, buy The Boatman's Call. Even if it's just to read the lyric sheet.

So one more... there's no pre-amble to this one, so I'll just sneak in a couple more near-misses. I love the early work of Suede's Brett Anderson, his bedsit romances having the traits of a sleazier Morrissey; in a similar vein, the early work of Scott Walker was very much lonely young man's poetry, completely at odds with the era it came from. I'm also a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, and for one to wrong-foot you, I'll chuck in George Michael, only his solo stuff though. Which leaves us with the man I believe to be the greatest lyricist of all time, a truly gifted and prolific writer, the former computer operator known as Declan McManus. Here's a quote from one of his most famous songs: "You snatch a tune, you a match a cigarette/She pulls the eyes out with a face like a magnet/I don't know how much more of this I can take/She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake."

Elvis Costello, for me, is simply the greatest purveyor of the English language through the medium of song, to have ever lived. He can do love, politics, rage, humour, anger, guilt, introspection, narrative... he can do it all. If you take the song I Want You, for example, he details a failing affair that he doesn't want to let go of, and he makes you feel he would be willing to murder that person rather than let anyone else have her. It is genuinely terrifying in places, the amount of hatred he can put into words about someone he loves. "I want you/You've had your fun you don't get well no more/I want you/Your fingernails go dragging down the wall/Be careful darling you might fall."

Costello once claimed to be driven by "guilt and revenge" when writing lyrics, and I think that's as accurate a description as I could think of. I don't know of any other lyricist, not even Eminem, who has so deliberately gone out to wound people with his words. Many of his songs find him stuck in mundane relationships, bound only by the distain he has for the other person. The resigned pay-off to Man Out Of Time, for example: "Who's nerves are always on a knife edge?/Who's up late polishing the blade?/Love is always scarpering or cowering or fawning/You drink yourself insensitive and hate yourself in the morning"

But it's not just his love interests, he rages against anything and everything. I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea finds him sneering at the London hipsters he found himself adored by, in Radio Radio he's mercilessly slagging off the asinine DJs who refused to play the more controversial songs of the punk era, and in possibly the angriest song ever written (certainly I deduced so in one of my own blogs here http://wp.me/p38ZXT-fb) he articulates so eloquently why he wants to dance on the grave of
Margaret Thatcher in Tramp The Dirt Down.

Perhaps his finest moment though, is one that takes a more sombre and resigned tone. Shipbuilding is a neat and wistful ballad about dockyard workers who were offered danger money to build the war fleets that would be sent to the Falklands conflict. Sounding utterly bereft of a grasp on the workings of the world, Costello doesn't waste a single word as he writes of how "Within weeks they'll be re-opening the shipyards/And notifying the next of kin/Once again." His greatest gift of all is revealed in this song; it is his talent for making the political personal. The repeated refrain "With all the will in the world/Diving for dear life/When we could be diving for pearls," is one of the saddest lines ever written.

I took no influence from the writings of Elvis Costello. If I'd tried to I'd have packed up and gone home by now, in the knowledge that some men will always be better than others.

Bio: Allen Miles is a six-foot three anaemic stick insect with a bit of a cold. He is 32 years old and lives in Hull with his wife Sally and his daughter Gabriella. He rarely sleeps, drinks too much and is useless with money. His new collection of short stories, This Is How You Disappear, can be found on both Kindle and paperback.

  There'll be more carryings on down Brit Grit Alley very soon, sorta kinda thing, like.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir,Guns Of Brixton and The Neon Boneyard. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime 8,10 and 11. He has edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.



No Hesitation

Thanksgiving Day is a special time of celebration with family. 

But if you're Cal Marcius, you may want to rethink the celebration, and maybe rethink the family too.

No Hesitation by Cal Marcius



I thought I knew my little brother, but then you never truly know anybody, do you? Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’m out celebrating Harry’s birthday when this guy walks up to me, smashes a bottle on the corner of the bar and stabs me with it. Just like that. One fluid motion. No hesitation. No second thoughts.

People are screaming. Running. Shoving each other out of the way. Nobody wants to be near me right now. I press my hand against the side of my neck. I can feel the blood running through my fingers, down my arm.

“Charlie. Fuck. Charlie. Fuck. Fuck.”


Harry’s hysterical. Screaming my name over and over again.

I have to sit down. I feel light-headed. There’s no chair and I slide down against the bar, on the floor, my back against the wood panelling.

My vision goes blurry. Harry has a look on his face I’ve never seen before.

“Don’t you fucking die,” he says. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

He’s up, pushing past people, and out of the bar.

I pull myself up. The barmen try to talk me out of it. Tell me they’re on their way – cops, ambulance, the cavalry.

Someone helps me, walks me outside.


Harry’s on his knees, in the middle of the road, the guy who stabbed me pinned to the ground. About a dozen cars have come to a stop, illuminating the scene in front of them. The guy beneath Harry isn’t moving, not anymore. Harry’s fists are covered in blood.

Nobody stops him. They just stand there, phones in their hands, filming.

When the cops arrive, they draw their guns, telling Harry to get down on the ground. My little brother looks at me and smiles, just before I pass out.

Cal Marcius is a freelance writer and lives in the frozen wastes of northern England. He has been published in Shotgun Honey, Spelk, and Near to the Knuckle, and will be appearing soon in Yellow Mama. Find him on Facebook.

Toxic Soul

A couple weeks ago, I think we led with a God laughs at you when you make plans tagline. Which is true.

But sometimes the Big Man also kicks you in the balls and steals your sandwich. Then laughs at you. Subtle but important distinction.

Toxic Soul by Matt Mattila




Her presence was a gift. It didn’t matter that I had an office job that paid a quarter million a year at the largest investment firm in the country. It didn’t matter that I had money, a decent house, a nice car. You can have everything and still not be whole unless you’ve got a good-looking girl in your bed. That’s what I thought anyway.

Gabriella was perfect. She knew it. Beautiful girls always do. That’s the problem with them. The entire reason I worked all those hours to afford the house and the car was so I could have a girl like her. I was out of the house too much. She knew I wouldn’t dare cheat. I knew even with the house and the money I would never have a girl like her again—beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent. 

Gabriella could have any man she wanted. She didn’t want me anymore. It didn’t matter that she lived in my house, wore the clothes I bought her, slept in my bed. Any man would be willing to do it just to have her.

Maybe that was why she cheated.

I didn’t follow her in the car to her lover’s house. I didn’t hire a private investigator, however much I thought about it. I didn’t raise a fuss when I heard her talking dirty into the phone at three in the morning, under the cover of the bathroom fan. I didn’t say anything when she sent me an accidental text saying she was glad I hadn’t found out about them, and would “I” like to meet her at the Pier at four in the afternoon for early dinner.

I said goodbye to her, said I’d see her in a bit, hoped she’d have fun out with the girls. I didn’t leave fifteen minutes later to follow her. I went out to buy a gun.

I knew I’d get away with killing her. I had enough to buy a juror off. Enough to make someone silent. Only one person out of twelve, and I’d be free. Got to love the American system.

I could always save my money (market had been bad. Maybe that was why she cheated. She knew I couldn’t afford her anymore) and ask my father to pull strings, pollute the jury pool, get me a good lawyer, rub elbows with my judge. I could always say I was half-asleep and thought she was a burglar. Getting a gun was easy. Getting off would be easier. The hard part was doing it. I procrastinated. I waited nine days before I finally got the courage. I wouldn’t regret it. I decided night was better than daytime (“I thought she was burglar,” I would say. “I panicked”). The night would be perfect. I could tell them I was sleeping, woke up, thought I saw/heard an intruder, picked my gun up, and fired.

I went to bed first that Thursday. She didn’t come in till midnight. She lay next to me without a word, in the millimeter-thin nightgown I’d bought her last week. She stayed silent. She did nothing. She drifted off to sleep. She wheezed out her nose. Maybe she had a cold.

I lay there with my eyes open, stabbing daggers at the soft skin on the back of her neck, the bulges of her vertebrae. I took a finger and poked her. She didn’t budge. I swiveled my head around to look at the bedside table. The gun wasn’t behind the tissue box. It wasn’t under the lamp. It wasn’t near my glass of water on the edge, on the floor, under my pillow. She must’ve popped one of the sleeping pills I didn’t take tonight. She was passed out.

The gun wasn’t on my side. I peeked my head over her shoulder. 

It sat on top of her metal change basket. She might’ve been so fucked up she didn’t see the metal glint off the nightlight she insisted on having. Maybe she knew I was going to kill her. Maybe the snore was fake and she was waiting for me to reach for it.

What if she heard me as I got up and walked around? I had one chance at this. My arm trembled when I leaned over her, half my body twisting in something unhuman, my heart beating an inch from her warm skin. My shoulder almost scraped against her. My breath made her hair dance.

She might’ve been dead already. I couldn’t hear her breathe. My heart was beating too fast. 

I had summoned the resolve to reach an arm out. My hand landed on a pocket mirror. Her white teeth glistened in the darkness. She didn’t flinch when she slipped the gun from under her pillow and put cold metal on warm flesh.


Matt Mattila was published in Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle and Shotgun Honey before he turned 19. Moonlighting as a food runner, busboy and restaurant host, he spends his free time wishing he could come up with a pen name weirder than his real one. He lives on the wrong side of a Connecticut city. Find him on Facebook.

Teach a Man to Fish

You can build a man a  fire and keep him warm for a night, 

or you can set a man on fire, and keep him warm for the rest of his life ...

Teach a Man to Fish by James Queally



The slithering translucent mass kept on writhing in the bucket, quivering tails splashing water all over the floor and onto one another. A set of eyes peeked out from the collective every now and occasionally, so you were never quite sure if you were looking at one beast or one hundred.
               
It reminded Ren of the Ouroboros symbol. The snake eating its own tail. The cycle of destruction and reincarnation.
               

He looked down at his phone, which confirmed that it was 20 degrees out and he was standing in the shadow of a shack masquerading as a fishery in Portland, Maine. The same phone that knew he was about 18 hours and more than a half-dozen time zones from Kyoto.
               

Well, he’d certainly been destroyed, but the reincarnation part was taking its time.
               
Ren pounded on the steel door of Lenny Olsen’s building, the dank home of a man who spent most mornings wrist deep in river water, trapping glass eels in dragnets. The seafood scent had soaked into his skin, and the odor had made a home in his walls.
               
The target, the situation, they were both beneath Ren. But he’d fallen far below the rung where you get options.
               
Lenny answered with a half smile, chewing on his lower lip like a hungry dog, wearing the same dumb stare he’d sported during their first two encounters. Ren stepped inside, trading the cold for the stink.
               
“Bitter out there,” Lenny said.

Small talk about the weather in Podunk, USA. Fucking simple people, Ren thought.
               
“Is everything ready?” Ren asked.
               
Lenny pulled a draw string, turning on a row of lamp lights, the kind that swayed overhead and showed the world from an epileptic’s point of view.
               
“Fifty pounds, just like you asked,” he said. “You damn near wiped me out sir.”
               
“You told me you kept up to five hundred pounds on hand at any given time,” Ren replied. “Is there a problem?”
               
Lenny cocked his head to the side. Ren did some calculations. The going rate for glass eels was about $800 per pound, meaning Ren owed the man roughly forty grand. Lenny was supposed to stock nearly $400,000 worth of the minnow sized creatures. That was the only reason Ren had allowed himself to wind up in Maine anyway.

The Chinese made a killing off the eels. Buying them, raising them and then selling them in Japan at a markup. About a year ago, Ren would have never concerned himself with this knowledge. But a year ago, Ren had been a relevant man in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s most powerful Yakuza set.
               
He’d gotten old, and to most people, that meant he’d gotten weak. Now he needed capital to rebuild, and Lenny couldn’t tell the difference between a Chinese businessman and a Japanese con.
               
“Why you so interested in my stock?” Lenny asked, turning his back to Ren and leaning towards one of the shivering eel containers. “You wanted fifty. I got you fifty.”
               
“Just curious,” Ren replied.
               
“I’d be careful talking like that,” Lenny said. “Whole hauls tend to disappear around here. I got taken twice last year. Lost more money then I’d care to remember.”
               
Last year, Ren wouldn’t have cared to make him remember.
               
He drew the sword, a practiced and fluid move, but Lenny spun around in the same instant, his hands leaping up from his side.
               
Ren stepped out of the way, catching Lenny in the mouth with the hilt of his sword as Lenny’s gun took aim at the place where he was standing a second earlier. Lenny stumbled back and Ren turned the business end of the blade toward him, kicking the fisherman’s gun to the ground at the same time.
               
“You sure you wanna do this son?” Lenny asked. “Nasty business, armed robbery.”
               
“I’m sure I don’t want to do this,” Ren replied. “But I need too.”
               
 Ren nudged the blade forward, the tip of the sword edging dangerously close to Lenny’s throat. The old man complied, and started moving the buckets from their homes, the quivering slipknots of glass eels writhing and threatening to escape as he struggled with the weight.
               
“I know it’s hard out there right now, but trust me, you’re too old for stunts like this,” Lenny said. “Things get worse before they get better, right?”
               
Ren looked down at the eels. Snakes eating their own tails. Destruction. No reincarnation.
               
“Mine didn’t get better,” he replied. “And I didn’t ask for your advice. Just keep loading them up.”
               
Lenny bent over again, arms shaking as he lifted another one of the mobile eel pools, barely able to drag the container from its home to its place at Ren’s feet.
               
Old. Weak.
               
This is what Ren had lowered himself to. Stealing from prey too frail to play defense. He was better than this. Or he used to be.
               
Ren stepped forward, lowering the blade to hip level, feeling some kind of obligation to aid his hapless victim. They locked eyes when Lenny noticed Ren’s hand on the bucket.

The old man’s gaze quickly turned to the sword, him seeming to realize it was out of killing range a half-second before Ren did.

The bucket jumped out of Ren’s hands, Lenny lifting it with strength he’d pretended he didn’t possess, a swarm of eels and stale water driving Ren to the floor.

So much for old and weak.

Ren scrambled to his feet, furious at himself for getting duped, when he saw Lenny racing to pull another one of the lamp strings.

Ren charged forward with the sword, but a thunderclap erupted in the room. He saw the hilt of the blade in his hand but couldn’t feel it, and realized a mess of buckshot had rendered his right arm useless. A shotgun barrel sat at the end of the smoke cloud, its trigger easing back, a string wrapped around the end of it.

“Told you I’d been robbed before,” Lenny said. “Didn't plan on letting it happen again.

Ren slumped to the ground, blood leaking out of his shoulder meat and staining the countless eels splashing in puddles on the ground. Lenny fetched his handgun, drew down as Ren closed his eyes, preparing for his insignificant, humiliating end.

“Just finish it,” Ren said.

“And what the hell would I do that for?” Lenny asked.

“I tried to rob you, put a blade to your neck.”

“You’re not the first person in history to fuck up, wouldn’t be the last either,” Lenny said. “And what the hell good does it do me punishing you anyway? Don’t stop the next shitkicker from coming through here trying to steal my wares.”

Lenny pulled the gun back.

“Way I see it, you don’t wanna be robbing people and I don’t wanna get robbed,” he said. “And besides, this here’s a lucrative business. Whatever you needed that cash for, it won’t take you long to earn it.”

“And you just what? Hope I don’t try and rob you a second time?” Ren asked.

“Never seen a man try so hard to talk himself into getting shot,” Lenny replied. “But I got plenty more of those guns rigged up if you must know. Now whaddaya say? You wanna be friends? Or you wanna be enemies?”

Ren looked to the ground. The displaced eels still coiling together, sliding over each other’s backs. Snakes eating their own tails. Destruction, then reincarnation.


Maybe his cycle had finally come around.

James Queally is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and former crime reporter for The Star-Ledger in New Jersey. He writes crime fiction because sometimes, facts and attribution just aren't any damn fun. His profile of Frank Lucas, the Harlem drug lord who inspired the film "American Gangster," can be found in the 2013 Issue of Inside Jersey Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey and Out Of The Gutter Online. Find him on Twitter @JamesQueallyLAT