Graham Wynd is back with another fantastic collection.
Love is a Grift.
Cover by S.L. Johnson
How does obsession begin? For one hit man it starts with a target he just can’t kill. She leads him on a deadly spree across Europe. With every step he’s in deeper. Each crime binds them together like a vow and only death can part them. But will it be his… or hers?
Love is a Grift and the other stories in this collection offer a fresh take on a classic genre, that begins with obsession and most often ends with death.
Available now from our own estore (in mobi and epub formats – both available to download after checkout) or amazon kindle.
LOVE IS A GRIFT
1. GALWAY—The Salt House
2. BRUXELLES—À la Mort Subite
3. HELSINKI—Ravintola Saari
4. DUNDEE—The Tay Bridge Bar
OTHER TALES OF DESPERATION
PSYCHO MOTORCYCLE DOLLS (1966)
BONNIE & CLYDE 97 THE TENDER TRAP
DON’T CALL ME DARLING
HAM ON HEELS
BONKERS IN PHOENIX
LIFE JUST BOUNCES
THE CABAL 187 THE OVEN
THESE TOYS ARE FOR TOUGH BOYS
SOMEWHERE IN SLOVENIA
SPIRITS IN THE NIGHT
DO ANYTHING YOU WANNA DO
I’VE TOLD EVERY LITTLE STAR
30 VERSIONS OF ‘WARM LEATHERETTE’
This time of year is always a little busy with releases for Fox Spirit, and this year is no exception.
Murder for Hire was a book I read years before Fox Spirit was a thing, when I was still reviewing. I don’t recall whether I read MFH because I knew Dana, or whether I knew Dana because I read MFH, I don’t suppose it matters. I loved the book, I adore the writer and I followed her across to erotica when she wrote that, and again back to more familiar territory with her awesome Ashley Parker zombie novels, a must for Buffy fans.
‘Connie Garrett knows that a trenchcoat and a fedora don’t make a detective. She’s the co-founder of Murder for Hire, an acting troupe that specializes in spoofing, not sleuthing. When MFH performs at a sleepy coastal community’s mystery gala, celebrating the works of a famous hard-boiled mystery writer, the bodies start stacking up, and Connie finds herself on the case whether she likes it or not. Now Connie is committed to solving the murders while trying to keep both the show-and her love life-afloat.’
Weird Noir was one of our early titles, edited by K.A. Laity and it was so much fun we managed to persuade her back to do two more, Noir Carnival and Drag Noir. The idea was simply to throw another genre or trope that interested us in the mix with noir stylings and it resulted in some incredible stories and really superb anthologies.
‘On the gritty backstreets of a crumbling city, tough dames and dangerous mentrade barbs, witticisms and a few gunshots. But there’s a new twist where
urban decay meets the eldritch borders of another world: WEIRD NOIR.
Featuring thugs who sprout claws and fangs, gangsters with tentacles and the occasional succubus siren. The ambience is pure noir but the characters aren’t just your average molls and mugs—the vamps might just be vamps. It’s Patricia Highsmith meets Shirley Jackson or Dashiell Hammett filtered through H. P. Lovecraft. Mad, bad and truly dangerous to know, but irresistible all the same.’
Dark’s Carnival has already left town, but it’s left a fetid seed behind. There’s a transgressive magic that spooks the carnies and unsettles the freaks. Beyond the barkers and the punters, behind the lights and tents where the macabre and the lost find refuge, there’s a deformity that has nothing to do with skin and bones. Where tragic players strut on a creaking stage, everybody’s going through changes. Jongleurs and musicians huddle in the back. It seems as if every one’s running, but is it toward something—or away?
The carnies bring you stories, a heady mix of shadows and candy floss, dreams gone sour and nights that go on too long. Let them lure you into the tent.
Carnival: whether you picture it as a traveling fair in the back roads of America or the hedonistic nights of the pre-Lenten festival where masks hide faces while the skin glories in its revelation, it’s about spectacle, artificiality and the things we hide behind the greasepaint or the tent flap. Let these writers lead you on a journey into that heart of blackened darkness and show you what’s behind the glitz.
Underneath, we’re all freaks after all…
We all went a little crazy at the Noir Carnival launch at Edge.Lit 2013
and finally we closed off by taking a look at gender and sexuality in Drag Noir. K.A. Laity swears she won’t do any more, but we’ve heard that before.
DRAG NOIR: this is where glamour meets grit, where everyone’s wearing a disguise (whether they know it or not) and knowing the players takes a lot more than simply reading the score cards. Maybe everyone’s got something to hide, but they’ve got something to reveal, too. Scratch the surface and explore what secrets lie beneath — it’s bound to cost someone…a lot.
If you write noir then you know the murky streets where darkness and rain seem nigh on constant. When Monday rolls around it’s just another day and you face it with a hangover more often than not. The slug of whisky in your coffee is just enough to stop the shakes and the dame that rolls into your office looking too slinky for the daylight reminds you how you got into this state in the first place.
But she’s got that one thing you need: a story. That’s the real drug. You can sit at your battered Underwood—issued to all would-be noir writers at the inception of their careers—and open a vein as Red Smith suggests, but blood only gets you so far. You need a narrative to lasso your reader and drag them along behind you.
If you’re writing noir, you need atmosphere too. It helps if you have the kind of heart that’s heard “too many lies” because after all “one more tear won’t make no difference to the rain”. Your heart has to yearn for something it’s not likely to get, yet that goal has to be close enough to your grasp to make reaching for it irresistible. That’s what keeps the shadowy streets, rainy nights, cool dames and dangerous guys from slipping into cliché.
It helps if you have an ear for dialogue. You can go plain and hard, like the Continental Op, but once the bodies pile up you find yourself spitting out phrases like, “This damned burg’s getting to me. If I don’t get away soon I’ll be going blood-simple like the natives.” You have to feel isolated, like you can’t trust anybody really, even if you need to relax once in a while. Every description reminds you that death lurks behind every transaction. The Op hears things like, “Polly De Voto is a good scout and anything she sells you is good, except maybe the bourbon. That always tastes a little bit like it had been drained off a corpse.”
If there isn’t the risk of death, the stakes aren’t high enough. Sit down and list your characters: figure out what they want and how they suffer and see where the lines cross. Make them doubt every step of the way—make them also think they’re the one who’ll get away with it, that they’re ahead of the game.
And make them suffer. Make them all suffer. Take another shot of whisky. You’re bleeding now.
A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub. Wynd’s novella of murder and obsessive love, EXTRICATE is out now from Fox Spirit Books; the print edition also includes the novella THROW THE BONES and a dozen short stories. See more stories (including free reads!) here.
‘The quality of the storytelling is very high here, above what can be expected from any anthology. It really is consistently very good throughout. Every author in here has delivered something that they can be proud of, and something which I have really enjoyed.’
‘It is short, as are the stories in it, and it is all the stronger for it. This is excellent for those that want some short fiction that will fill a few minutes now and then. For those that like their fiction to come with a piratical leaning, this is an absolute must.’
‘Did I mention the cover design? How much I love it? No? Well I do. Look to your left. See what I mean? I reckon artist Sarah Anne Langton has created something truly iconic with this set of simple elements and limited palette.’
‘The mix of styles and genres, incorporating elements of thriller and fantasy works well on the whole and the descriptions of the wood are wonderfully vivid and rich, beautifully capturing the eeriness of the setting.’
‘As you all may know, Killer Aphrodite is run from Pretoria and we are well aware that sometimes the truth is much more terrifying than fiction… especially around these parts, which means that De La Haye was able to capture the truly gruesome realities that we have to face more often than not and turn it into a book that will give you a proper scare. ‘
A whole bunch of carrots… or reviews for White Rabbit by K.A. Laity
Alasdair Stuart : This is supernatural fiction mixed with noir, coffee and incense, whiskey and blood, all swirled together in a novel that’s compact, punchy fun. Life is messy, death is too.
Antonio Urias : White Rabbit is fast paced, pitch perfect noir with a well-developed fantasy world and tight characterization. Highly enjoyable.
Crimeculture : Laity’s writing is punchy and readable and she has a knack for slang and banter. The whole style of the genre mash-up keeps the reader on their toes, because with noir, the supernatural and the Carroll-bunny theme all in play, we never know what’s coming next.
Awards season has well and truly started and we hope you will forgive us a moment of vanity as we ask for your support.
Our own Joan De La Haye (Shadows, Requiem in E Sharp, Oasis, Burning) is up for an award in the South African Indies for ‘Burning’. We couldn’t be prouder and if you had a moment to support that would be very wonderful of you. Voting is open now.
Also at the moment the British Fantasy Society are taking suggestions for their shortlist. We were surprised and delighted to be shortlisted for Best Anthology and Best Small Press last year and if you like what we are doing we would be really pleased* to have your nomination this year.
* massive understatement.
You can check out when our books were published here.
Fairy Drag: Or, How I Wrote The Changeling by Tracy Fahey
You don’t mess with the fairies in Ireland. They are malignant force, older than humanity, who live by their own laws. Unlike their elegant Victorian English counterparts, the Irish fairies are Other, different in every way; both in looks and in character. They’re tall and pale, with a warlike approach to life and an immense propensity for revenge. Country life, until well into the 20th century was ruled by a series of invisible boundaries –folk who lived there didn’t cut down the whitethorn, didn’t build a house on a fairy path, didn’t meddle with the forts. These sites, demarcated by fairy behaviour became forbidden zones
As with all stories, the writing of this started as a result of several unaligned thoughts coming together – the persistence of supernatural rituals in rural Ireland, a gruesome murder in Northern Ireland, and the old belief that you needed to disguise the sex of a baby to save it from been ‘swept’ or ‘fetched’ by the fairies. The fairies, it was said, would steal away an unprotected baby and replace it with a sickly fairy child who would dwindle and wither away, despite all human efforts. I became fascinated with the idea of ‘infant drag’, where clothing, hair and adornment function as a protective, gender-masking disguise. The idea of drag in this story is a double-edged sword. It is a catalyst for concealment, transformation, but also for revenge. I began wondering how this experience might translate into later life…and so this story came to life.
The story has an unhappy ending, but then, all fairy stories do. They end in tears, in partings, in kidnappings, desolation and death. Our poor changeling fares no differently.
Two things happened at once. I saw the call for submissions for Drag Noir in a Short Mystery Fiction Society newsletter and a young lady announced to me that she was transgender. Pretty soon her long, curly blonde locks were gone. She swore off wearing dresses. All she wore was men’s clothing. Sports jerseys, mostly. She asked to be called Paul. It gave her a sense of control. She openly pursued a couple of young women at work. She showed up at a wedding with a very cute young woman. Paul wore a vintage three piece, pin stripe suit. Paul had a black eye. I didn’t ask her about it but I knew I had the start of a story. I have no idea if Paul ever played blackjack in her life or if she even went to any of the Detroit or Windsor casinos.
What Drag Means to Me
I have a very good friend who operates a very successful stage theater here in Detroit. When we were kids, we did a Saturday Night Live type of variety show at our high school. I wrote sketches that put Joe in drag quite often. He seemed very comfortable in a dress. Now, thirty years later, he’s graced his stage several times in shows like Die, Mommie, Die and Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy where he out Close-s Glenn Close. When I think of drag I think of my good friend Joe and his campy, hilarious performances. He’s so comfortable in that skin you forget he’s Joe and not actually Joan- as in Crawford. I put on a dress and just look ridiculous. Joe comes alive.
Kiki and Me Chloë Yates
One night in the dim and distant long ago, I was working the graveyard shift at that notorious punk drag dive, Axolotl Snot, on the grimy lower east bank of The City. The night outside was cold and inside the clientele wasn’t much warmer. One moment I was wiping down the ever-sticky bar for the hundredth time, the next I was slack jawed with awe as the infamous drag queen Kiki Le Shade sashayed into my world. She was a dame and she had balls. One look into those hypnotically glacial peepers and I was spellbound. She bent me to her will and I thanked her for every displaced vertebrae… At least that’s how I wish it had gone, but I’ve never worked in a bar and I’ve only ever admired drag queens from afar. I have, however, been in love with them since I was a kid.
Ideas of gender have always fascinated and appalled me. The way we step into the construct of gender identity at birth and then stick to it as though it’s all perfectly natural and right when it’s clearly absolute bollocks has plagued me my entire life. Arbitrary rules of behaviour and “deportment” (ugh) that depend upon whether or not you have a tallywackle or a witch’s cackle have never made the least bit of sense to me. I never understood why I was supposed to do this or that because I was a “girl” or why my friend couldn’t wear this or act like that because he was a “boy”. I just wanted to do the things I wanted to do because I wanted to do them. I believe that’s how everybody feels, deep down at least, but all too often life teaches us that stepping out from the baaing masses is fraught with castigation and derision – those wicked sharp whip licks of social control. Well, fuck, as they say, that shit.
The long and the short of it is I’m a fan of chutzpah, if you’ll allow me the indulgence. Bold, in-your-face, no apologies types are my number one poison, my idols and my role models, and who’s better at in-your-face than drag queens? Undoubtedly I have a romanticised view of them, but it certainly seems to me that drag queens make no apologies. More often than not it is their opportunity to act out, play up and throw their besequinned shit in the face of folks with wild abandon – and they seize it. Drag has never seemed like a mask to me. It is, rather, a medium for liberation. An excuse to be fearlessly bold, a ticket to kick the world in the tits while sticking your tongue out and wiggling your glitter-encrusted arse at it. That beautiful bright light of subversion being thrown so boldly in the face of a generally conservative world that pouts and frowns at “otherness” like we don’t all have secrets, fears, desires and frustrations that torment and thrill us, tickles me in all the best places.
Needless to say, I really wanted to write a story for Drag Noir but, after whacking my brain into inanimate object after inanimate object, I was stumped. Not because I couldn’t think of a million and one scenarios, but because I couldn’t think of the right one (some might argue I didn’t do that anyway but they can kiss my big fat bellend). Then I came across the song ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’ by Scissor Sisters. I can’t remember if it was on the telly or if someone posted it on Facebook, but it stuck in my head like only the most vicious of earworms are wont to do. It did the job though, one of those mental switch thingummies. I listened to that fucking song about eight million times while sitting in front of my screen and not once did my fingers stop typing. Kiki was pretty much born in one go, but she felt like she’d always been with me. First came the image of the faded drag queen, a shadow of her former self that long ago night at the Axolotl, sitting in a parking lot on one of those awful white plastic chairs, inches long ash clinging to a still blazing cigarette, lipstick smudged, wig askew. And I wondered what she was waiting for, because she was definitely waiting for something. Turns out, it wasn’t what I expected… which is just how I like it.
Paul D. Brazill
It goes like this: A rainy night in Soho, thrown out of The French House and off to Ronnie Scott’s til dawn. Then a gypsy cab driven by an Islamic fundamentalist over to the East End and a dodgy pub near a meat market. Go for a slash on in an alleyway near Crucifix Lane and get lost just off Druid Street. Follow a group of old women into a pockmarked terraced house and realise that they’re having a séance. A tall Polish woman with a turban gives me a message from beyond. And that message becomes A Bit Of A Pickle.
Pick up Drag Noir today by clicking on the picture below and get your glad rags on.