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Brit Grit Alley

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

By Paul D. Brazill 

Some gritty summer reading tips down Brit Grit Alley:

Cutter’s Deal – Julie Morrigan.

Fifteen-year-old Jack and sixteen-year-old Livvy are good kids from a good family. Their dad has been made redundant and their mother has an accident which means that Livvy has to help her out with her cleaning job. One of the clients is Gordon Cutter, as nasty piece of work with ambitions of expanding his criminal empire. Unfortunately, Cutter takes a shine to Livvy which leads her and her family into very, very dark places. Morrigan cleverly switches POV from Cutter to Jack and then to Livvy contrasting the naivety of the teenagers with Cutter's manipulative malevolence.Cutter's Deal is simply a brilliant, heart-in-mouth slice of social-realist crime fiction. The real deal.

Richard Godwin – One Lost Summer

Richard Godwin’s masterful One Lost Summer is a sweltering, intense noir set amongst London’s rich and powerful. A claustrophobic, psychological study of obsession and loss, voyeurism and sex, with echoes of Simenon, Highsmith and Hitchcock.

Find Emily by J J Toner

D I Ben Jordan returns for a second hard-hitting outing in J J Toner’s cracking Find Emily. Jordan has handed in his notice but is called in to find a missing child, the daughter of a big shot Irish businesswoman and a former American football star . Jordan know that he has maybe 24 hours to find the missing child and Toner breathlessly drags us along with him on his frantic search that includes encounters with the IRA, a sex traffic ring, corruption and much more. Find Emily is the sort of gritty, realistic crime thriller that would be topping the best seller lists, if there were any justice in the world.

Col Bury – The Cops Of Manchester

Another hard-hitting and realistic collection of flash fiction and short, sharp stories from Col Bury. The standouts are the grittiest – ‘A Public Service’ and the fantastic vigilante tale ‘Mopping Up.’ More from The Hoodie Hunter please?

The Fix – Keith Nixon

Keith Nixon’s The Fix is the story of a painfully average man whose life spirals dangerously out of control when he is caught up in a cat-and-mouse game of double and treble cross. A cracking, fast-moving and very funny black comedy of errors.

Lotus Blue – AJ Savage.

A. J. Savage’s Lotus Blue is a hot and sweaty noir short story. Set in Thailand- ‘the losers’ paradise’ – Lotus Blue is a heady, drug and booze fueled delirium, laced with sex and violence. Intense.

Tony Black – Killing Time In Vegas

Tony Black’s Killing Time In Vegas is a typically tightly-written, hard-hitting, short story collection which sees the master of Tartan Noir turn a bleary eye on America’s underbelly. Every story is a great example of hardboiled crime fiction, though the title story was my favourite.

Darren Sant – The Bank Manager & The Bum

Darren Sant is best known for his fantastic and gritty Tales From The Longcroft books. But there was always a big heart inside all that grit and with The Bank Manager & The Bum he has given us a heart-warming slice of hard hitting urban fantasy. Great stuff it is, too. His best yet.

A Scattering Of Ashes – Craig Douglas.

In A Scattering Of Ashes, Craig Douglas’ intense, debut short-story collection, we find sixteen hard-hitting tales of well-drawn, realistic and conflicted characters dealing with – or attempting to deal with – the stuff of life.

Life is loss, of course. Loss of hope. Innocence. Home. Family. Trust. Youth. Faith. And eventually life itself goes down the Swanee, which Douglas is clearly all too aware of.

Some of the collection’s most powerful stories:

Thunder On the Horizon- the tense tale of dystopian Britain on the verge of implosion.

Flesh and Blood – ‘Some of them would be dead by morning’ is the opening line of this hard-hitting story of soldiers in the heart of a war zone

Scargill’s Man- the aftermath of living though civil war in Thatcher’s Britain.

The Incident At Wetzendorf Woods – an old man reflects on a harrowing wartime incident that continues to haunt him.

Homecoming – a traumatised soldier’s desperate attempts return to the dull thud of normality.

Douglas’ unflinchingly honest portraits and snapshots may not be for the delicate but this is a cracking collection.

Nick Quantrill – I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

P I Joe Geraghty is hired to solve a disputed murder case in this short and sharp slice of crime fiction from Nick Quantrill which is a great introduction to his writing and his immensely likable PI. 

Blood Tears – Michael J. Malone

D I Ray McBain is a man on the run.On the run from his horrific childhood in an orphanage ruled by suitably sadistic nuns, on the run from commitment-he’s shagging a married woman- and on the run from dark dreams. And when he’s accused of a series of brutal murders McBain is literally on the run from friends and enemies alike.

Blood Tears could easily have been just another grim police procedural/ serial killer yarn but Michale J Malone has given those tired tropes a kick up the jacksy. Plenty of earthy humour, likable and colourful characters and a page turning plot that stretches credibility at times but only in a good way.

William McIlvanney – Laidlaw.

A young girl’s body is found in a Glasgow park on a bright sunny day. The killer hides out in a derelict house; the only person that he can trust is Harry Rayburn, a former lover. Rayburn is a nightclub owner and low level criminal. Bud Lawson, the victim’s father, is full of violent rage and out for revenge, no matter the consequences. John Rhodes, Glasgow’s biggest gangster, has been asked to help him. D C Harkness is assigned to the case alongside Jack Laidlaw, a brooding hard-bitten cop with the soul of a poet.

Laidlaw is an artful, gritty, social-realist novel that was written in the mid-70s and has only recently been republished. It is a hard-hitting, multi-POV collection of rich character studies, the most potent character being the city of Glasgow, as conflicted and conflicting as Detective Laidlaw himself.

Laidlaw is the impressive start to a short series of novels featuring Detective Laidlaw, a series that I look forward to following. Marvellous stuff.

Wolf Tickets by Ray Banks

Things aren’t exactly tickety-boo for the aging hard man Cobb. He’s feeling his age, living in a dump of a flat, reduced to drinking gut-rot whiskey and shoplifting from charity shops.

Then he gets a phone call from an old army mate, Farrell, who has just been ripped off - money and drugs- by his girlfriend, Nora. He asks Cobb for help tracking Nora down and things soon spiral violently out of control.

Ray Bank’s gritty and funny slice of British lowlife is a smart study of the limits of friendship, full of twists and turns and brilliantly realistic and absurd dialogue.

The Gamblers by Martin Stanley

Kandinsky is a loser. A deadbeat student who is addicted to porn and gambling. He also owes Priest, a gangster, a wad of money and is given a few days to get it together – or else.

Liam is a drug dealer who finds out his long-time friend Omar has been ripping him off, not realising that Omar has been working on getting an even bigger piece of Liam’s pie.

The Gamblers is a hard-core crime story, set in Bristol of all places, which captures the spirit of Ted Lewis and brings us BANG up to date with a cleverly woven, hard-hitting, multi – character story of betrayal.

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

Paul D. Brazill is the author of Gumshoe and Guns Of Brixton. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, Polish and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime 8 and 10, alongside the likes of Ian Rankin, Neil Gaiman and Lee Child. He has edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. HE BLOGS HERE.