Latest Flash

THE FLASH FICTION OFFENSIVE

Edited by Clifford and Pitts

Interviews and Updates

Gutter news and views!

BADASS REVIEWS

Books and flicks manhandled and/or caressed by the Gutter staff!

Never Fade Away

When the wheel of karma turns 'round to crush you,

It doesn't matter if it's attached to a brand new BMW.

Never Fade Away by Angel Luis Colon



Harry did his best to look right through me as he held the keys to his BMW M5 in the air like a wet diaper. He wore a refined frown on his face that seemed as tailored as the suit and as polished as his shoes. I wondered if his smile was still the same—as comforting as wearing a loose-fitting pair of jeans without a belt.

I took the keys and smiled, “Harry, it’s been a while.”

Harry blinked, gawked, did that terrible double-take you’d see a bit character do in an old Marx Brothers flick. “Edward, I didn’t recognize you at all.” An awkward pause. “Well, how are you?” He ran his thumbs up and down the lapels of his suit jacket and gave me a smile—I was right, he needed more practice at that.

“I’m okay—in remission.”

“Well that’s fantastic, just fantastic.” This was as long as a pleasant conversation Harry would want with me.  I imagined micro-fissures appearing in his dental bonds; that smile threatening to fracture his skull and cleave his lips in half. “About time you got back on your feet.”

I laughed. “Yeah, one step at a time. Earning a little extra money here to get the ball rolling.” I gave him his valet slip.

Harry grinned. “Well,” he said and motioned towards the restaurant, “Dinner meeting. Give me a call sometime.”

“Will do.”

“Oh and do be careful.”

I nodded. “I heard about that earlier. Somebody with a rifle a few blocks north, right? They said nobody got hurt, thankfully, but that’s still scary.”

Harry stared at me. “Sorry, no, I meant be careful with the car. I just had her detailed.”

“Ah, well, that makes sense.” I slipped into the driver’s seat, careful not to reposition it. “Have a good night, Harry.”

Harry was already inside the restaurant.

I drove to the farthest parking spot in the lot across the street—where the lamps didn’t cast a spotlight—that we used for the more pricey vehicles. My grip on the steering wheel was firm. I didn’t want to get out. I wanted to enjoy this luxury for a few more minutes. This should have been mine, but the cancer came and ate away at not only my body, but my career. Guys like Harry were always ready to swoop in and he did just that. Now he drove a car I deserved to a restaurant I should have a private table at to discuss business that was rightfully mine.

No more dwelling. I climbed out of the car, walked over to the fencing only a few feet away, grabbed my rucksack, and popped the BMW’s trunk. I placed the rucksack inside and unzipped it. Procured a roll of antibacterial wipes and wiped down the contents of the bag, the bag itself, the trunk, and then cleaned any remaining surfaces I’d touched—steering wheel included. I slipped on a pair of gloves and walked back to the valet station to leave the keys and five hundred dollars behind to the real valet as payment for cutting off the CCTV camera mounted over the valet station.

It was time to wait. I walked the five blocks to my favorite pizza parlor, Lorenzo’s. I bought two slices of pizza and Coke. Watched the college football game on their TV.

When I was done I dialed a number on my prepaid phone.

“Yo.” The kid was perfectly suited for a life of service if he answered a phone like that.

“Hi, has the BMW been picked up?”

“Oh, yeah man, guy left like ten minutes ago. By the way, good looking out, tips have been garbage lately.”

“No problem, just make sure you forget me is all. You’ve been working there all night.”

“You’re already fading away the closer we get to the end of this conversation.”

“Did he ask for me when he picked up the car?”

“Nah, well, he asked for me to split the tip with ‘the other guy’.”

“How much was it?”

“Three fucking bucks.”

I laughed and disconnected the call. Dialed 911 to anonymously report a lead on that active shooter from earlier in the day. People had been hurt—thankfully, not killed. Still, we didn’t need a monster like that still running rampant and injuring people. What if there was a next time? What if someone did get killed? It just so happened this bystander saw the psycho pack up into a BMW M5 with plates matching Harry’s. This bystander wanted to be sure the man was caught and kept from doing any more harm.

Who knew how many more lives scum like that could tear apart? The kind of legacy that would leave behind was staggering, wasn’t it? That a man would become known for violence, for the singular act of wrecking lives without a care in the world—a malignant presence on society—and be granted no other legacy? It was the most severe punishment I could imagine for anyone.

I found a nice bench to sit on and lit a cigarette. That first drag was agony and ecstasy. My head swam and my scarred lungs ached, but I would not suffer the indignity of coughing—not then. I rode that wave in the silence and let the nicotine take me to my happy place. It was so quiet; calm. I leaned back and thought of Harry; of the glories he snatched away from me.

It was a good night. 

Angel Luis Colón works in New York City but has been exiled to live in the northern wastes of New Jersey—thankfully, they have good beer. His work has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Revolt Daily, Thuglit, All Due Respect, and The Flash Fiction Offensive. You can follow his grumblings on Twitter @GoshDarnMyLife. Or http://angelluiscolon.com/

Review: Vern in Heat, by Rob Pierce

One of the greatest compliments I can afford to Vern in the Heat by Rob Pierce is there is not one single character worthy of your sympathy, not your rooting interest. Why is this a compliment? Because Pierce has written a true noir masterpiece in which every character resides in the proverbial gutter and has no hope of getting out of this tale unscathed.
                                                     
Vern is part of a 2-man operation that performs deliveries for organized crime. When out on one such delivery, a double-crossing goes down and Vern is left in a precarious position; not knowing who to trust nor how to clear his name and avoid certain retribution by his employer. After hooking up with his ex-girlfriend, he sets out to clear his name and, most importantly, keep himself alive. The action gets gritty and violent; just the kind of plot that keeps me interested.

This was a nice follow-up to Pierce’s Uncle Dust. Pierce is showing he has a keen eye for plotting and can keep the action dialed up to a high intensity. The only knock I can find for this book is that it was too short, but when a writer can serve up noir like Pierce can, there is never going to be a book that is long enough.

I am looking forward to the next pierce offering. If you have a craving for some violent noir, Pierce has a tight novella here that will satisfy your craving.


Recommended.
Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski.

The Turkey

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

In the Gutter, these fists won't save me. 

The Turkey by Morgan Boyd




I won my last two fights. One more and I get my first turkey. A turkey means better billing, better fights, and better money. Better money means making rent, providing for my family, and it means I don’t work for the wrong people no more. I’ve seen these guys make the devil blush deep in the desert, and it haunts me. I got to get out. I got to get my little brother out too. I introduced him to the life, and now he’s some kind of lackey for these men.

I crushed my last two opponents. I choked out Edwards, and broke Sprat’s jaw. The next guy I fight’s Randal James, and I’ve put in the work: brutal camp, supplements, eating clean, cycled my PEDS. He doesn’t stand a chance. I’ll grind him into hamburger meat.

Before the fight my employers convince me to take a dive. It breaks my heart, but these aren’t the type of people you fuck with. I say bye-bye to my turkey, and get in the cage with James. We collide like two stags fighting over Bambi’s mom. I’m not supposed to win, but that don’t mean I can’t bust him up a little. Got to make it look good, like this chump’s whooped before he knocks me out.

In the third round, I’m supposed to get tagged by a big shot and go down. James kicks me in the liver, followed by a hook to the ear. I should drop, but instead I stick out a jab. I touch him square on the chin, and he melts like butter. His feet find no perch, and his face splatters on the mat.

“Night, night,” I say, and drop a savage sledgehammer on his head.


Backstage, my teammates and trainers celebrate my win, my first turkey, and I should celebrate too, but I’m in trouble, so I don’t enjoy the moment. I walk to my car outside the arena, and a man pokes a pistol into my spine. Two more men flank my sides, directing me toward a limousine.

We sit in the back. I’m sandwiched between the thugs. The third man sits adjacent, leveling the gun at me.

“Congrats on your turkey,” he says.

I complain about James’ glass jaw, but they just laugh. At best, I’m hoping for a pistol-whipping, but I know we’ve been driving long enough to do some serious middle of the desert bullshit.

The limo pulls over, and my life flashes before my eyes. Each second becomes precious. I go soft, sobbing and begging as I’m forced from the car. This invokes their derision, so I switch gears and fight for my life, but I get smacked on the back of the head by a pistol, and collapse into a heap of twinkling purple stars.

I’m dragged to my feet. A shovel’s placed in my hands. It takes some persuading, but I dig my own grave. When the hole’s deep enough, they take the shovel away, and kick me to my knees. A million thoughts explode in my mind. I feel the barrel of the gun against the back of my head. I take in a deep breath, and then: bang! 

My executioner topples into my grave. Two more explosions ring out, and the other two men fall to the ground with blood pouring from their heads.  

“You’re not the only one got a turkey tonight,” my little brother says, holding a pistol. “They probably shouldn’t have made me the driver on this job.”      

“Thanks,” I say, rising to my feet.  “But we’re as good as dead now.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ve got more important things on your plate,” my little brother says, tossing me the shovel. “Like one more win, and you get your first hambone.” 

Morgan Boyd lives in Santa Cruz California with his wife, two cats and their collection of carnivorous plants. He has been published in Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near To The Knuckle, and has a story forthcoming in Yellow Mama.

Dead Girls Don't Sing

The rituals of death are carefully observed by each culture.

But in the Gutter death brings new rituals.

Dead Girls Don't Sing by Paul Heatley



A dead body lies on the table. It’s hard to tell, but she’s famous. Since the car crash the night before that snapped her neck and tore off half of her face, she’s the most famous she’s been in twenty years.
              
“Had her friend in a coupla weeks ago,” the attendant says. “That chick she used to do all the duets with, remember her? She hadn’t been in no crash, but she looked worse, believe that? Drank herself to death. You shoulda seen the colour of her.” He grins. He shifts his weight from one leg to the other and adjusts his balls.
              
There are three men in the morgue. The attendant is bald on top, though he has allowed his hair to grow long round the sides and back of his head, and he wears it in a ponytail. He has a greasy smile that he won’t put away, yellow, crooked teeth beyond bulbous, wet lips.
              
Lars works with the attendant, though not in the morgue. He spreads word. He takes payment. He keeps one ear to the ground and the other to a police radio for news of dead and dying starlets, starts advertising before the attendant has signed them in.
              
The third man says his name is Henry, but that’s probably a lie. He’s tall, wears glasses. His hands are in his jacket pockets and they fidget there. It’s his first time, Lars knows this. He’ll be nervous. His eyes have never left the dead singer’s face, taking in the halves ruined and untouched.
              
“I think she was all messed up about losin' her friend,” the attendant says. “You know what these famous types are like. Morose. They feel everything more than we feel things, because they gotta play up for the cameras. I don’t reckon she was planning on James Dean’ing it when she went rip-roaring through the night.”
              
Lars shoots the attendant a look. Sometimes he talks too much.
              
The attendant clears his throat. “So. Were you a big fan?”
              
Henry shakes his head. “No.”
              
Lars and the attendant look at each other. “That ain’t what you told me,” Lars says.

Henry had approached him in the bar, told Lars he’d overheard him discussing business a couple of weeks before. Lars was pissed. He keeps his business private, which means Henry was eavesdropping. But he seemed interested, and looked like he had cash. Asked if there was anything on. Lars took a guess on his age, figured he might be interested in the old singer, dropped her name. Henry had cash. He paid. Seemed eager.
              
“I just had to see it,” Henry says. “For myself.”
              
Lars rolls his shoulders, annoyed. “Look, you ain’t gotta fuck her, but you gotta pay. It’s a lotta work getting folk in and out of here unseen, you hear?” Lars is the muscle of their operation, too. If Henry is a flake, he will have to ensure his silence.
              
Henry ignores him. “They all end up here, huh?”
              
“Most of them,” the attendant says. “Actors, actresses, singers, dancers. OD’s, murders, suicides –” He indicates the corpse. “Crashes. Sometimes we even get an honest-to-God natural causes, you believe that?” He sniggers.
              
Henry nods. It’s hard to tell if he’s listening.
              
The attendant coughs. “Thing is, when they come in like this, you can never be sure if anyone’s gonna be interested. I mean, this is a kinda niche market and folk willing to fuck dead people usually ain’t too fussy about the state they’re in, but then you got the kind that wanna pretend these celebs are alive still, and everything’s gotta be pristine.”
              
“Couple of months ago, there was another car crash,” Henry says. “You remember that?”
              
“I’m gonna need specifics.”
              
“Actress, twenty-two. She’d only made three movies, but she was red hot. Critics said she was going places. Everyone said she was going places.”
              
The attendant’s eyes light up.
              
“Her boyfriend was driving. He was drunk. She was drunk too, passed out on the backseat.”
              
“Yeah, yeah, I know the one.”
              
Henry nods. “She come here?”
              
“Oh yes. But you’re a little late for her, buddy. She’s long buried by now.”
              
“Or cremated,” Lars says.
              
“One or the other,” the attendant says. “You gotta be quick, man.”
              
Henry stares at the corpse still. He takes one hand from his pocket, reaches out and touches her cold arm. He tries to speak, but his voice chokes. He clears his throat. “Was she popular?”
              
“Yeah,” the attendant says. “She was.”
              
Lars watches Henry. “Why?”
              
“Either of you take a ride?” Henry says.
              
The attendant and Lars exchange looks, then the attendant smirks and shrugs one shoulder.
              
Henry pulls his other hand from his pocket. He has a boxcutter. The blade opens Lars’ throat. Lars makes a choked sound, then his knees buckle. He hits the ground. His blood sprays between his clutching fingertips, runs darkly through the spaces in the floor tiles.
              
Henry turns to the attendant. The attendant backs off, wide-eyed, hits a gurney and almost falls. Henry takes off his blood-spattered glasses, folds them, puts them down next to the dead singer. “She was my daughter.” 


Paul Heatley has been published online and in print for a variety of publications including Thuglit, Crime Syndicate, Spelk, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Shotgun Honey, among others. He is also the author of six novellas, available from Amazon for Kindle. He lives in the north east of England.

Review: BOMB! by Les Edgerton

I reread Les Edgerton’s Bomb this weekend and I was blown away. 

“Wait!” you are crying, “Bomb is a new release and you read it twice?”  I actually read it years ago when it was titled The Perfect Crime (after all, if you aren’t reading Edgerton who the hell are you reading?). While the years have erased my recollection of the story, I can tell you The Perfect Crime was my first introduction to Edgerton and I have devoured everything he has published since then. The Perfect Crime was tight in plot, the characters were real, and the story kicked-ass. Impossible as I would have thought it to be, Gutter Books has tightened the edges even further, streamlined parts here and there, and have released this beautifully written slice of noir onto an unsuspecting public and it will leave each of you gasping for air.

Reader Kincaid is a badass genius that begins his next plot while incarcerated. He uses the knowledge he gains from other criminals to devise a foolproof (or at least he thinks it is) plan to rob a bank by strapping a bomb to a banker and sit safely on the sidelines. But as his plan starts to unfold, cracks begin to appear and allegiances among Edgerton’s characters are called into question, leaving the reader trying to guess what will happen and who will come out ahead of their adversaries.

Edgerton follows the cardinal writing rule and he writes what he knows. Having been incarcerated, he knows the lingo and the characters and that is what helps his writing jump off the page and come to life. He hooks you from the beginning paragraph and once he has you, he never lets go. He is a master crime writer and he is in prime form here. Edgerton has put out some of the best books of the past few years and deserves more recognition for his ability to get inside his characters and explain their motivations in a manner that leaves you, while not rooting for them, understanding them and being invested in them.

I will ask the question again: If you’re not reading Edgerton, what the hell are you reading? Grab a copy of this book pronto and lose yourself in a killer crime novel.

Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski.

Respect

It's said everyone meets their match.

In the Gutter, that fact is as comforting as a big old plate of liver and onions. 

Respect by Peter W. J. Hayes




I’ve always believed two things. First, no matter who you are, futility and boredom are the largest parts of your life. It’s a given. Second, only you can figure out what makes you happy. Politicians will promise a better world for all of us, but that’s garbage. Happiness is up to you. Then you have to dedicate yourself to it: make it your life’s work. It’s the only way to survive all that futility and boredom.

Me, I learned in Iraq that what makes me happy is killing people.

Granted, those were bad guys. Well, so we were told. And the politicians wouldn’t lie about Iraq, would they? But those bad guys, I wonder what their mothers and wives thought about them.

Just saying.

So, I got dedicated. And for the last five years I’ve been picking my moments and making myself happy. It’s fun. I go new places, I see new things. I meet new people. Sure, some of them are dead right after I meet them, but I still meet them.

Like tonight.

I’m in Pittsburgh. It’s 3:30 a.m. and I’m sitting in a deserted downtown diner eating a half decent plate of eggs and kielbasa hash. I’m feeling good. Not happy yet, but that’s coming. Because my next target just refilled my coffee mug and sashayed toward the kitchen, her polyester pants making a swishing sound where her thighs rub together.

But she does have me confused.

You have to understand, I do this for a living. I have rules. No advertising on craigslist or backpage. Lots of research on the target. Nobody too high profile. Mostly I target jerk coworkers, spouses and parents taking too long to die. That’s my niche.

Which is why I’m confused by the waitress. Shortly put, she’s beautiful. An angel. But spouse targets are always FUUCD. That’s Fat or Ugly, Unemployed, Cheating or Demented. Being ex-military I’m an acronym guy. And I’ve done the research. She isn’t cheating. She is the opposite of fat or ugly, and the fact she gave me my food means she’s working. When I walked in she was singing Adele, for hell's sake. Demented? Only if she was singing Kanye.

I check my watch. 3:45. Go time. The deal is this: the husband found me and he’s the cook. He plans to step outside at 3:46 and stand under the back door security camera smoking a cigarette. I go to the register and when the angel comes to ring me out I drop her. There’s a security camera above the register. He comes in a couple of minutes later, finds her, calls the cops. Cops will have tape of him outside smoking on the same time stamp I drop his wife. Although, thanks to a Steelers cap and the camera angle, they won’t know it’s me.

It’s tight.

I stand up and carry the check to the register, glancing into the kitchen through the pass-through. No sign of the cook. The angel steps behind the register. I look into her blue eyes and reach under my hoodie for my SIG. Her eyes go wide and round.

“You move you’re dead.” Hard steel tickles the back of my neck.

I freeze. I know the voice. It’s the husband. The cook. He shuffles around and into my peripheral vision.

“You okay, babe?” he asks the angel.

She nods.

“OK,” he says. “I promised I’d get someone for you. It’s what you want, right?”

“It is,” she whispers. She raises a snub-nosed .38 from a shelf under the register and points it at my forehead. Licks her parted lips as a flush rises to her cheekbones.

He shuffles a few feet away. “Camera’s off. Go for it.”

A slight tremor runs through her body. “Oh,” she says, and it’s more of a moan. “I’m so hot already. You gotta do me before the cops get here.”

She’s saying it to him.

“Yeah, babe,” he whispers back, all throaty.

Her trigger finger tightens.

You know, if crazy sex makes you happy, then dammit, I have to respect that. 

Peter W. J. Hayes is a former journalist, advertising copywriter and marketing executive. His work has appeared in the Antietam Review, Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, and The Literary Hatchet, and he won the 2015 Pennwriters short story contest.

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 

BRIT GRIT OUT NOW!

Blanket Of Blood by Eileen Wharton

The gripping first novel in an explosive new crime series.
The body of a baby is found in the woods. But all is not as it seems…
A twisted serial killer is targeting young, pregnant girls.
Senior Investigating Officer, D.I. Gary Blood, must use all his powers of deduction to bring to justice the most sadistic murderer his force has ever seen. A killer unlike any he has hunted before. But Blood has problems of his own. Can he stop his private life interfering with the case?
To find the killer Blood needs to understand the motive. But this is a place full of secrets, where dark pasts lie buried.
Will Blood catch The Crochet Hook killer before it’s too late?
The truth is closer than you think.
Blanket of Blood is the first book in a series of Gary Blood crime novels.
Blanket of Blood is a fast-paced serial killer thriller which will have you gripped from page 1. If you are a fan of authors like Mark Billingham, Adam Croft, Helen Durrant or Angela Marsons, you'll love Blanket of Blood.

The Dead Can’t Talk by Nick Quantrill

A CITY CAN’T KEEP ITS SECRETS FOREVER.

How far will Anna Stone, a disillusioned police officer on the brink of leaving her job, go to uncover the truth about her sister’s disappearance?
Approached by Luke Carver, an ex-Army drifter she’s previously sent to prison, he claims to have information which will help her. As
the trail leads from Hull and the Humber’s desperate and downtrodden to its great and good, an unsolved murder twenty-five years ago places
their lives in danger, leaving Stone to decide if she can really trust a man who has his own reasons for helping.


With Deadly Intent by K A Richardson

EVIDENCE
When Crime Scene Manager, Cass Hunt, is called to a fatal road traffic
collision in the dead of night, not all is as it seems and the last
thing she expects is to end up working on a murder case with DCI
Alex McKay.

INVESTIGATION
More gruesome murders, a dead dog, and a startling revelation has the
whole of the North East Police force reeling. Will they catch him before
his latest prize becomes another victim and he fades into the
shadows once more?

DARKNESS
From the tree-line, someone is watching, and he doesn’t like where
the investigation leads. Taking his time, he plans and executes each
kill. He will not rest until his job is complete.
One thing’s for certain, his intent is deadly, he’s dangerous, and he’s
coming for her.


April Skies by Ian Ayris

Sometimes, you don’t know what sort of man you are until you are called upon to protect your family.

Bethnal Green, East London. Nineteen-ninety-one.
John Sissons is out of work, out of friends, and out of luck. Fortune soon smiles upon him, though, and he gets a job in a door factory.
It’s not much, but it’s something.
But as the days go by in the factory, and the layers are peeled away, John realises he didn’t get this job by accident.
His past is exploding in front of his eyes. And when you have a past like the one John has, he knows he’ll be lucky if he makes it out alive.
Every fibre in his body is telling him to run. But John’s had a lifetime of running. Running is no longer an option.
When his sister goes missing, John knows it’s only a matter of time before they come for him.
But he won’t be going down without a fight.
Not this time.


The Shallows by Nigel Bird

Lieutenant Bradley Heap has gone AWOL and taken along his wife and son. They’re managing to cope until a chance encounter with a gang of drug dealers turns their world upside down.

With no money and no contacts, the Heaps are forced underground. It’s a tough path they’ve chosen, but they can cope with anything as long as they stay together as a family unit.

Detective John Locke of Police Scotland joins forces with the Navy police in the search for Heap and his wife on a trail that will take them from the middle of Scotland to the edge of the South Lakes.

The Shallows explores the limits of human endurance and examines how far people will go to protect the ones they love. It is a twisting tale of tension, despair and intrigue that encapsulates the essence of hope. 


Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark

A man is sat in a bar quietly drinking. He sips at his neat scotch and frowns. Nothing wrong with the booze, he's wondering where his life has gone so wrong. He's been betrayed at every turn by those he has loved and trusted. The fact that they were murderers and gangsters has nothing to do with it. Betrayal hurts and as we all know a wounded animal lashes out.

Marwick takes a last sip of his drink and slams the glass down upon the table. They will pay for their sins, revenge is a dish best served bloody as hell. He stands and strides out of the bar and into the Spanish sunlight. There would be a reckoning.


A man takes a stranger into his house only to unleash a savage lesson from the past. 

Shepherd Butler and his wife Mary are grieving the death of their son Felton to a hunting accident in Vermont. When Shepherd finds a stranger freezing in the forest he offers him a home. The man, Maxwell Heed has suffered personal tragedy when his fiancée was murdered. He becomes part of the family and Shepherd’s nieces, Marigold and Joyce, and his sister Holly, instantly take to Maxwell, who is a sincere and religious man, seeking to understand the nature of forgiveness. The father of Shepherd’s nieces, Dwight Fisher, ran off years ago and Shepherd takes an active part in their lives. Maxwell feels like another family member. He tells Shepherd and Mary of the man who killed his fiancée. 

Temple Jones is a dangerous psychopath who preys on women. He has escaped justice. Maxwell fears he has followed him to Vermont. Shepherd tries to allay Maxwell’s fears. Maxwell disappears leaving a note saying he has seen Temple Jones. Then Temple Jones turns up. 
Using the natural beauty of Vermont as a backdrop to the action, the novel explores forgiveness and our understanding of one another. It explores family relations and the mind of a psychopath. A psychological crime novel about the past, the nature of justice, family secrets, the nature of forgiveness, revenge, identity, hunting and predation. 


The Last Laugh by Paul D. Brazill

From France, to Spain, to the north east of England, hit men, gangsters, corrupt cops, drunks, punks, and petty thieves all tumble toward the abyss. The stories in The Last Laugh are vivid and violent slices of Brit Grit and international noir, full of gaudy characters and dialogue sharp enough to cut your throat. The Last Laugh is a violent and blackly comic look at life through a shot glass darkly. 


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

Paul D. Brazill is the author of books like The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, Cold London Blues, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.



Announcement!

No story today! 


Why? We're taking a moment to welcome aboard Hector Duarte Jr. onto our editorial staff. Hector is a stalwart supporter and an old flash fiction aficionado. He's got a degree on the wall from Clifford's alma mater, but we've never asked to see it. Besides, we're not paying him. Hector pays the bills by teaching seventh graders--God have mercy on their impressionable minds. 

As for Mr. Clifford, he's stepping down from his FFO duties as soon as he passes the baton. He's decided to focus more on his job as an acquisitions editor for Gutter. Which requires, well, almost no effort at all, so we're going to assume he's doing what he does best: sitting in his underwear in front of the typer writing kick-ass novels. 

Pitts, as well as faking his own acquisitions gig, will still be at the helm of the Flash Fiction department. He was promised a big raise, but when it came time to pay out, all Matt would promise is that'd he'd be able to push Hector around. Tough to do considering Pitts is in California and Hector is in Florida. 

As for the rest of the Gutter, we'll still be feeding you the Tuesday Reviews with Derrick Horodyski, news and views with special guests like Adlerberg and Iglesias,  BKP when we damn well feel like it, and a movie review or two when Matt ventures back to the theater. Last time he was at the movies, he got into a fistfight with an usher and swore he'd never return. 

All right. That's it. You can all go about your day knowing your online fiction future is in good hands. 

Thanks. 

Review: HUSTLE, by Tom Pitts

My taste in books runs towards the dark side. The darker the better and if you can sprinkle in some realism, even better. Well, Tom Pitts has created a book that takes you further into the dark side than you have ever been taken before and probably further than you ever wanted to be taken. The re-release of Pitts’ masterpiece, Hustle, satisfied my love for books that are dark and bitter, but also ones that contain human emotions and heartbreak. A balancing point of these two aspects is hard for even the best authors to find, but Pitts proves his star is ready to be elevated into a category with the top authors of this noir generation with this book that I could not put down.

Pitts brings you into the seedy side of male prostitution, drug addiction, and blackmail. Big Rich and Donny are two down on their luck prostitutes who may have dreams of getting out of their current life, but they are too tied up in the never ending cycle of needing to get a fix before they go into withdrawal to do much towards finding a life off the seedy streets they currently use to peddle themselves to the highest bidder. Since their need for a fix comes on quicker and quicker, they need to hustle johns at a quicker pace. With no means to break this cycle, Big Rich finally hits on a scheme to videotape a liaison between them and Gabriel Thaxton, a mega-rich, older man who is a popular defense attorney and then blackmail their way onto Easy Street. But his get-rich-quick scheme doesn’t factor in everything that Pitts throws his way. In typical noir fashion, they find themselves sucked deeper into despair with every step they try to take to find happiness.

This book sings a beautiful song. It is gritty, raw, unflinching, and realistic, which is what elevates this book into the must read category. Most people would rather turn a blind eye to people like Big Rich and Donny, but the truth is they’re out there. Pitts takes a situation—drug addiction—that is facing countless communities and families today and puts a face and name to it. He forces you into not looking away and not being able to shove it into the back of your mind. This book sucks you into its gravitational pull and leaves you gasping for breath. This is an uncompromising look at addiction, self-loathing, and lives that have spiraled out of control. You will want to shower after reading this one.

Highly, Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski 

Goodtime

Get busy living or get busy dying. Same holds true for fighting, too.

Or maybe we should go with ... 50 eggs? No man can eat 50 eggs!

Goodtime by Paul Newman




A buzz like an eight-hundred-pound hornet echoed down the tier and bounced off the sheet metal walls. A moment later every door down the hallway clicked and the metal gates slid open.

A voice shouted: “RECREATION. EVERYBODY OUT. SANCHEZ, JONES, GET YOUR ASSES TO THE DUTY DESK.”

Miguel sighed. Sometimes he was Miguel, sometimes even Magoo, but whenever he was Sanchez it wasn’t good news. He slid into his low-tops and shuffled up the hallway.

Sammy was waiting at the desk; Miguel knew it would be him. Gene was likely to tell you about his grandkids, and Fred just liked to bullshit, but Sammy was usually good for some blood.

“I’m disappointed in you Sanchez, you should have known better.”

Miguel knew the game; he even bowed his head when he answered. “Sorry, Boss. It’s the smoke, you know. I just can’t quit.” All this shit over a two-inch rollie. Not a razorblade taped to a toothbrush, not a cell phone: just ditch-weed rolled up in toilet paper.
  
“They want me to send you up to the seventh floor.” Sammy shook his head. “There goes all that goodtime you earned, too.”

“Come on boss, you don’t want to do that.”

Miguel knew Sammy was full of shit. Knew that he hadn’t even reported it. Sammy smiled, just like Miguel knew he was gonna. He smiled and looked down at his clipboard, “Well, maybe we can work something out.” Miguel sighed. His knuckles were still scabbed over from the last time, but there were worse things than bloody knuckles.

Miguel nodded.

Sammy laughed. “A’right, go get ready. Time for Thunderdome.”

Miguel made his way back to the cell. He fished out a commissary Milky Way from under his mattress and chewed on it. It was just a few minutes more until rec-time was over and everybody hustled ass back to the tiers before the CO’s came and spot checked the cells. Another angry buzz filled the hallway and the doors ground shut.

Minutes later, the door to cell three popped back open and Miguel headed to the exercise quad. That was the “correctional science” name for the center-square shoebox created by four halls of cells overlaid like a tic-tac-toe board.

Casper was there waiting. There was a puddle on the concrete at his feet where he’d already pissed himself. The observation windows were full of faces, a dozen men in black tactical jumpsuits and a few like Sammy in shiny white uniform shirts. They laughed and grab-assed and shoved at each other for a better view.

Miguel looked over at Casper, “Looks like it’s you and me, bro.”

There wasn’t any answer, but the smell of piss and flop-sweat barbed Miguel somewhere deep. The fear in the air tickled his gut before it settled in his fists and twitched. Miguel felt bad for the kid, bad for his own reaction, bad for what he knew had to happen next.

Miguel found Sammy’s face in the window. “Hey, Boss? If I hit this kid, he’s gonna puke on me!”

Sammy grinned and shook his head “Then you gotta stick and move, boy. Stick and move.” The chain link over the windows rattled as they all laughed.

Miguel brought his hands up and started in. Casper’s eyes got wider but his hands were still dead weights dangling at the end of whiskey-dick arms. Miguel got close and leaned in and whispered: “Quicker you go down, quicker it’s over. The hole beats the shit out of the hospital.”

Casper didn’t answer, didn’t nod, didn’t fight. Instead he folded up his legs and sat down right in the puddle on the bare concrete floor.

“Fuck that!” “Get the little pussy up!” The shouts bounced off the walls and Miguel saw Sammy move out of the window. Metal ground on metal and the heavy door opened. Sammy had his baton out and he was looking at Miguel.

“What did you say to that little bitch? Huh?”

“Naw, boss. All I said was I told him was to say a Hail Mary. You know, just mind-fucking him.”

Sammy wasn’t smart enough to know if he should believe it or not but he didn’t give a shit either way. “Whatever the hell you said, you shouldn’ta said it. It’s your ass if he doesn’t bleed. Get him up off the floor.”

Miguel reached down and grabbed the front of Casper’s shirt and pulled. The young man’s legs followed along for the ride and left him standing. Miguel looked over at Sammy one more time; he saw the man lick his lips to keep from slobbering all over his shit-eating grin.

Miguel tried to go easy, the first one went to the gut, maybe he could get away with one to the gut and a couple in the ribs and call it good. As soon as Miguel felt the first punch land he remembered to move out of the way but it was too late; the damn kid puked all over the front of him. The faces in the windows were laughing at him now.

The anger climbed on top of him and became everything; Miguel felt another punch in his knuckles before he even knew he threw it. He felt something crumble in Casper’s face but by now it was too late; he liked it.

Miguel let go of the front of Casper’s shirt and let him fall. He kicked and caught the boy once in the belly on the way down then he kicked and kicked again and again, digging hard up under the ribs. Miguel was home; familiar ground and familiar blood and the calming white-noise that filled the space behind his eyes. He didn’t stop until someone grabbed his arms from behind in a bear hug and spun him around; it was Sammy. “A’right, enough. Enough.” Sammy was laughing as he spoke. “Go wash that shit off yourself and clean up.” He pushed Miguel toward the door where a pair of black jumpsuits waited to take him back to his cell.

Miguel pulled the shirt over his head, tried not to let anything wet touch his face, then stood and stared down where Casper was curled up. The half of his face that showed was the busted half; meaty and wet.

“Sanchez, I told you to get your ass back to the tier.”

Miguel dropped his shirt on the ground. “I’m done, Sammy. I’m tired. Send me up to seven, I’ll sleep the rest of my time.”

“Are you shitting me? No trustee means no goodtime. You want to give that up?”

Miguel kept his eyes on the ground and nodded. “No more, I’m done.”

Sammy shrugged. “Good enough for me.”

The baton got him behind the knee, then again over a kidney. Miguel went to his knees then face down on the hard floor. His shoulders wrenched up and back and he felt the cuffs go on. Cold, always cold like they keep em ready and waiting in the freezer.

“Can’t send you up to seven now, Sanchez. We got an assault here. New charges means you gotta go to the hole. There goes all that good time, too. You’re movin’ the wrong way, motherfucker. Movin’ the wrong way.” Sammy laughed like that was the best part of all.

Miguel tried to get his legs under himself when they lifted but they yanked too hard anyway and pulled him across the floor and out the doorway. Miguel was moving the wrong way and he knew it, but he hoped that maybe now he could figure out another way to go, even if it meant starting from the hole.

Paul Newman lives in Northern California with his wife and a neurotic beagle. He sleeps with the closet light on and keeps a cricket bat next to the bed… just in case. You can follow him on twitter as @Logicalvoodoo and see more of his work at Logicalvoodoo.com.