Monday, July 25, 2016

A Real Human Being, and a Real Hero (Drive, 2011)

By Nick Kolakowski
It’s difficult to stomp someone to death in an elevator.
Near the end of the neo-noir film Drive (2011), when Ryan Gosling’s otherwise-nameless Driver slams his boot through the skull of an equally nameless goon sprawled on the floor of a lift, the violence clearly takes a lot of effort. He grips the handrails for more leverage, really puts his back into bringing that foot down. Blood sprays. Bone crunches like a mouthful of cereal.
No wonder it’s the scene that everybody remembers. One of the clips of it on YouTube has 1.2 million views (and climbing). That the Driver spends the seconds preceding the bloody stomping in lip-lock with Irene (Carey Mulligan), the object of his affections, just heightens the impact. It’s love and death in a little box.
It’s also the moment in the film when Irene (and perhaps the audience) realizes that the Driver is a total psychopath.
Or maybe ‘psychopath’ is the wrong word. In his stoicism and reliance on bone-crushing violence, the Driver has a lot in common with One Eye, the protagonist of the Medieval-era Valhalla Rising (2009), another film by Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn. The Driver would be right at home in One Eye’s lawless wilderness, rendering people into meat left and right without consequence.
But the Driver was born a several centuries too late for that. Instead he’s in Los Angeles, or more precisely, a version of Los Angeles familiar to any fan of noir, full of shadows and streaked with neon. And within that context, he is an apex predator. The gangsters who stand against him have no chance. Later in the film, he stalks and kills Nino, an avuncular gangster played by Ron Perlman, with a slow relentlessness more reminiscent of a slasher-film monster than the ostensible hero. (If Nino were a sympathetic character, the circumstances of his death would be sad and terrifying.)
Noir has a long tradition of handsome killers with warped psyches. Sometimes they’re the anti-hero, as with Lou Ford, the murderous deputy sheriff who narrates Jim Thompson’s infamous novel The Killer Inside Me (adapted into film twice, in 1976 and 2010). More often, they’re the side heavy who steps onstage long enough to deliver a brutal beat-down or gruesomely inventive killing (the Cohen Brothers specialize in sprinkling their films with that type), often before being dispatched in turn.
In Drive, by contrast, the Driver is positioned much more as a protagonist as opposed to an anti-hero. He is a real human being and a real hero, as a bubbly pop song on the soundtrack repeatedly reminds us. Plus he’s fighting to save Irene and her little boy, and there’s no purer goal than that. The dichotomy between his motives and his savagery makes him the Great White Shark of the neo-noir world. In the end, no matter what his reasoning, or how intense his love, you’re just glad he isn’t coming after you.   

Nick Kolakowski’s noir fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Out of the Gutter Online, and Crime Syndicate Magazine. He is also the author of Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me, a book of crime-fiction short stories. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Interview with Stan Miller, author of Prelude to the Massacre

In Prelude to the Massacre, Lee Williams is an angry ex-con released in the midst of the Great Recession. His cousin Jeff is a deranged and disfigured Iraq War veteran, militia member, and Neo-Nazi prophet. When these two meet in a funhouse vision of Tea Party Arizona, the results are explosive. Stan Miller's vicious debut novel is All Due Respect's most intense book yet.

This interview was conducted by Mike Monson, ADR co-publisher.

ADR: When did you first have the impulse to write fiction? 

Stan Miller: One of my earliest memories is of wanting to be a novelist. I'm not sure where the idea came from. Seems it was always there.

ADR: What are steps you took from that impulse to the point you are now -- about to have a very skillfully written and completely original novel about to be published? How did you develop those skills? 

SM: Up until I got back from Iraq when I was twenty-three I didn't write. I planned to write. I read a lot, learning what art/literature could be from the writers I considered to be the greats. And not only the greats but the good, the bad and the mediocre too.

When I got back from Iraq I moved into my mom's basement and wrote. It was pre-meditated. The entire time I was in Iraq I had planned for such a time when I would sit down and pound out my great war novel.

I spent the first six months I was home from Iraq living in the basement and writing. I had irregular hours because I was on unemployment and didn't have to work, plus I had some cash saved up from my last seven month tour in Iraq. I'd wake up at noon on a given day, take a walk for a few hours, maybe drive and see some friends, but in any case before night fell I'd be back in the basement writing. I'd write for four or five or six hours. Then I'd go out to the bar, or a friend's house, then drive or walk back home, depending where I was, and get back to writing.

I hung out a lot with some kids who went to a liberal arts school down the road from my hometown, who seemed incredibly sophisticated to me. They were cultured, whereas I was not. I was more well-traveled than most of them, and had the war experience, so there was a two-way transmission between us there. I would borrow all their books and read them voraciously. Mostly to fill in gaps in my own reading, and to pick up on theory and things like that. This was back in '05, before the literary world really got onto the Internet the way it is now, so in order to learn where the culture was you still had to go somewhere physical in person and ask around for it.

Seems quaint now.

After six months I drank and otherwise spent my way through the money I'd saved up in Iraq. Also my unemployment ran out. I'd already been accepted to Bard College for the next year, but it was January and the prospect of working until school started seemed distasteful to me. So instead I got together about two thousand bucks really quick by selling off all my stuff and cashing out some savings bonds I'd bought up while in the military. I got in contact with an ex who was Sicilian and lived over there. She found me this really cheap room in her city, a very non-touristy city right on the Mediterranean. I flew over and stayed there for three months.

I estimate that I wrote over a million words or so that first year. I started and then scrapped a few novels and did a lot of short stories. So I taught myself, basically. It was really during that year between Iraq and college that I developed the style that I've stayed with. I don't believe that I could write any other way at this point.

ADR: Tell us the basic story of your life to this point.  Birthplace? Upbringing? Jobs? College? Military service? 

SM: I grew up in a culturally backwards, isolated, racist and bigoted redneck town in Rust Belt Pennsylvania. I was born just as all the steel mills were closing down, and all the men had lost their jobs, and everyone was bitter and angry. There was a lot of sympathy with the militia movements at the time, and the KKK was a big deal in my hometown. They'd have these rallies every year where they'd dress up in their white sheets and stand at the main stop light in town and hand out literature. People would wave at them and honk their horns. Nobody confronted them. These are your classic former-Union workers turned Far Right.

Anyways, my upbringing was a mixture of Evangelical Christian oppression and biker-gang-wildness and paranoia. People believed in the Devil and in black magic and witchcraft. The New World Order. Racist jokes traded at Thanksgiving Dinner.

Despite this I did have some family members who were more open-minded, even educated. I was really fortunate to have these people in my life, to give me some kind of perspective. It did not escape me that these relatives had all left town right after graduating high school.

I picked up pretty quickly that all the racists were losers who I didn't want to be like. And by the time I was eighteen all I wanted to do was leave Pennsylvania and never go back. It's like Andy Warhol said: A small town is only good for leaving.

I joined the Marine Corps two weeks after graduation.

Clinton was President when I joined up, so my idea was that I'd spend five years floating around the Mediterranean. Then 9/11 happened, and within three months I was in Afghanistan, where it was zero degrees on Christmas Eve. Then, a year later I was in the invasion of Iraq. Then a year later I went back for a second tour in Iraq during the occupation. In a nutshell I watched the country fall apart while the President lied about it. I worked as an intelligence analyst, the exact same job that PFC Manning had (she actually published a few hundred reports that I personally typed up), so I had a front row seat. [Note PFC Manning was in Army Intelligence while in Iraq and leaked classified information to WikiLeaks and was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison.]

Boy, what a time. We were preparing power point briefs that were being emailed to the White House about how fucked up the country was, then looking up at the flat screen TV on the wall where Bush would be talking about some other Iraq that I'd never been to. This was all in the context of the 2004 presidential election. Me and most of my other buddies, I guess you could call us "old millennials" now, were completely disgusted and pretty recalcitrant. And we openly talked shit on Bush. I was warned one time that I could face charges for sedition if I kept shit-talking the way I was. This was probably an empty threat but it served to piss me off even more.

This was while living in a ruined, bombed out palace in Ramadi that was occasionally under fire from insurgent rockets and mortars, right around the time of the second battle of Fallujah. What also pissed us all off (myself and the other junior intel guys) was that the media weren't reporting the reality of the war on the ground at the time. Iraq was totally out of control by early 2004 but if you listened to Bush or the media you wouldn't know it. To a degree that was because it was simply too dangerous for reporters to go off base at that time. An obvious Westerner couldn't have walked off our base for five minutes without the insurgency immediately knowing where he was and kidnapping them. That's how little control we had in Iraq during the lead-up to the US elections. And it got worse, of course. A lot worse.

But by that point though I was out, clutching my honorable discharge.

After the war, and after my "gap year" detailed above (haha), I went to Bard College. I chose Bard 
because I have a second cousin who's an English professor at a state college down South who I ran into at a wedding right after I got back from the war. I asked him the best school for creative writing was and he told me one of them was Bard. So I applied and got in. I was very cool on the idea of creative writing, because I was aware of how much money it would cost with no guarantee of a return (and also I figured I'd taught myself), and when I showed up at the campus the week before classes started I decided to go for Spanish Literature instead, figuring that I'd at least learn a language that way.

Anyways, Bard. Small genteel New England Liberal Arts School. $50,000 a year. $50,000 a year! I went for half that sum because I was an "adult learner." The qualification for that was being over twenty-four years old and living off campus. At the time the GI Bill wasn't a free ride so I had to take out a bunch of student loans. It ended up being quite expensive. The staff was legit though. Chinua Achebe was a professor there and you'd see him going around beneath the trees in his wheel chair.  They had an organic garden, the first I had ever seen, and a pair of adult-sized swing-sets. These were located between some gigantic Great Gatsby-style mansions that looked off a hillside onto the Hudson River. The professors took everything the undergrads said very, very seriously, because many of the students had parents who were very, very rich. That said, I learned an incredible amount there not only about books, Spanish lit and culture, but about America itself. I had never before been around real rich people, up close. I saw that they really were different from me, just like F. Scott Fitzgerald said they were.

After a year I decided that I didn't want to go $100,000+ into debt for a BA. I transferred to Temple University, which is a big public school in North Philadelphia.

Temple and Philadelphia are much more real. Philly is, culturally and demographically, one of the Blackest cities in America, and I loved it. I still love it.

Anyways, I graduated, got a really shitty job with the government, and eventually quit and moved out West at the nadir of the Great Recession.

ADR: What writers or books have influenced you the most? 

SM: So many but James Joyce's Ulysses will always be the most important book I've ever read.  I read it when I was sixteen and it set in my mind what a work of literature could be, what a writer should aspire towards, as well as the way a life lived for art might look like.

After Joyce it's a toss-up. Mishima is up there. Marguerite Duras was extremely influential on my writing style (people might find this strange). William S. Burroughs is another, not only The Naked Lunch but his three cut-up novels as well, especially Bryon Gysin's essay at the end of The Ticket that Exploded. From these two guys I got the idea that the purpose of the artist is to create new images to replace older ones. People will forget words but they won't forget an image.

Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky is another big influence.

Nietzsche.

Most of all Hannah Arendt. Prelude to the Massacre is basically a conversation I had in Phoenix with The Origins of Totalitarianism. I would recommend anyone upset with my book read all three volumes of her book... then they'll be really upset.  

Crime/noir-wise I like Raymond Chandler, especially The Big Sleep. I've read almost every word he's written. And James M. Cain. The Postman Always Rings Twice is one of the great American novels. And Dashiell Hammett. The Maltese Falcon in particular. 
  
ADR: Could you have written Prelude to the Massacre if you hadn't served as a soldier in war? 

SM: No. But neither could I have if I hadn't lived on Circle K hotdogs and gas station wine, crushed up and railed Opana in the toilet stalls of moving Greyhound buses in the middle of the desert between and Blythe and Quartzite, lived with the homeless and with illegal immigrants in flop houses of doom...all that fun Great Recession/Obama Phone/Modern Day Ghost Town bullshit I've done since moving out West.

ADR: How much is Prelude based on yourself or other real people? 

SM: With the exception of the murders it's mostly inspired by real people and events. It's also totally fictional, of course.

Jeff is based partly on Chris Kyle, the "American Sniper" guy. I'd just moved to Arizona, Tea Party Central, when he came on the radar. And just like that he was dead. But I was really freaked out by him, especially at this idea I had that he'd get into politics one day. Here was a guy who killed over two hundred people yet managed to learn not a single thing about human life.

Jeff is also partially based on JT Ready, who was a piece of shit Wotanist Tea party figure in Arizona. He's most famous for appearing with his border crossing patrol crew at the Occupy rallies dressed up in their militia uniforms. He ran for a few local elections and eventually ended up killing an entire family before blowing his own brains out on the lawn of some HOA house in Mesa, Arizona.

The warcrimes Jeff took part in are based on the Maywand District killings in Afghanistan.

The part about the Neo-Nazi Marine squad is taken from old Camp Lejeune lore.

Mount Asgard does not really exist.

Wotanism does.

Lee is a composite of many serial killers.

I've hidden a lot of Easter eggs in the novel concerning them.

ADR: Prelude to the Massacre is very disturbing in a lot of ways. Now, I'm semi-well known for including graphic sex and violence and all kinds of bad behavior in my books, and even I was shocked the entire time I was reading the book. Was it hard to go to all those places with your characters and the plot? If not, why not? 

SM: The violence in the book is extremely disturbing, I can't deny it. I hadn't read it for a year until I had to do revisions recently and I was shocked at some of it myself. But also I think parts of it are pretty funny too, and the second half definitely veers towards the absurd. There is a sort of trench/gallows humor in it I think. There had to be, or I wouldn't have been able to write it.

That said, I don't think any of the violence is gratuitous or exploitative. If it was purely exploitative then it really would be inexcusable. It would almost be snuff-porn. But I needed it to be extremely real if I was going to use it to explore the other issues I set out to look at, especially the racism aspect. But without the violence I couldn't have pursued that, because it's through the extreme violence that I could get access to the subconscious parts of the main characters, including the parts of themselves they refuse to acknowledge. Also, it was through the violence that I could push the boundary between representation and experience in the reader.

Beyond that even, the book was written based very closely on Hannah Arendt's theories about power in a totalitarian state. In part I think the violence is so disturbing because the victims are often completely powerless, not to mention innocent. But this is totally critical to the point of the book. Lee is a thrill killing piece of shit. But to Jeff the killings have an entirely different level of meaning. To him they are like mathematical proofs for this theory of how the universe works. And he completely, absolutely believes in them with all of his being- he's given up his own personalty and soul and willfully become a robot. The Nazis and the Communists looked at their murders in precisely the same way. Jeff repeatedly tries to woo Lee, who represents the merely criminal, over to his way of seeing things, that is, to his ideological viewpoint. The idea is that if enough Lees are converted over to Jeffs then what do you get? The next invasion of Poland.

ADR: Prelude in a lot of ways feels like a warning -- a warning that racist, nationalist and bigoted forces in the U.S. are simmering just below the surface. So, it's all fiction, right? Could the events in your book really happen here? 

SM: Trump? Jeff would actually go on about how Trump is not what he's waiting for, although he is certainly a harbinger. But seriously, it was fiction based on my own fears and anxiety when I started writing it four years ago. Now every few days we seem to hit a new low of the human spirit, and I feel like it's becoming more and more relevant.  The militarization of the police is one of the big ones, and we don't know how that will resolve itself yet.  I live in fear of political movements like the one Jeff hopes to see. And not just from the Right. There could absolutely exist a Left-wing version of Jeff. ISIS is filled with guys like Jeff. He is the mass-shooter mentality politicized. His final words, his vision at the very end of the book, that is the nightmare I'm trying to evoke. So I hope that people read the book and are disturbed. They should be. I think we're living in very dangerous times.


Stan Miller was born in 1981 in rural Pennsylvania. He grew up shooting guns, hunting and reading James Joyce. Two weeks after graduating high school he shipped off to Marine Corps boot camp to escape the terrible boredom of a Rust Belt existence. This ill-advised move saw him sent to Afghanistan once and Iraq twice. Besides the Middle East he has lived in North Carolina, Sicily, Spain, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Phoenix and Hollywood. He now lives in California's Central Valley. He is a dropout of Bard College and a graduate of Temple University. He avoids meat and likes animals more than people. Prelude to the Massacre is his first novel. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Thermometer in America's Sick Mouth: A Kind of Review of Prelude to the Massacre

By Paul Garth

I started Prelude to the Massacre by Stan Miller on July 3rd, 2016. It was late when I started to read. We were on vacation. My wife was asleep beside me. The window of the cottage we were staying at for the Fourth of July weekend was cracked open ever so slightly. I could hear the wind and the soft waves on the lake. The buzzing of insects. I’ve known this lake my entire life. The small town around it. The friendly citizens of the town who know me and my entire family. My dad grew up there. My mother grew up not ten miles down the road. We’re third generation, practically, despite never living there year round. It’s always been picturesque.

Prelude to the Massacre is about Lee, a murderous arsonist drunk / drug abuser / psychopath whose fantasies start with torturing and killing his own mother then grow exponentially worse as time goes on. Eventually he comes to live with his cousin, Jeff, a Marine veteran missing half of his face and all of his soul. Together they explore murder, depravity, cruelty and neo-nazi ideology in the Arizona heat. You can feel the sweltering pain of madness rising from the pages. You will want to throw the book down more than once. Probably more than ten times. This is a dangerous book. A disgusting book. A book everyone in America should read.

The afternoon before I started Prelude to the Massacre my wife and I went to eat lunch at a restaurant off the highway. It’s a restaurant I’ve been coming to since I was a child. My grandfather’s unofficial wake was held there. I know the owner. Had dinner with him later that night, in fact. The food is pretty good. The beer is cold. Baseball is always on the TVs in the summer, and sometimes cable news channels. Donald Trump was on one of the TVs, speaking at a podium. The news was reporting how, the day before, he’d sent out a tweet that involved a Star of David set over piles of cash, next to a photo of Hillary Clinton. The implication was obvious—old fashioned anti-semitism. Two days later, Trump would say anyone who saw that tweet and thought it was anti-semitic, well, those were the real anti-semites.

Prelude to the Massacre is about Lee and Jeff and their intertwining madness, but it’s also about, mostly about, how a society ends up in a place where such obviously hateful ideology can become acceptable to the mainstream. It’s about how our culture, White American Culture, has always been a cheap stand in for the militaristic fantasies of the Oppressor, the hateful thing inside our society that demands the Other be rungs below us, if on the ladder at all. It’s about how our culture is not content with being on top. It’s about how we need everyone else to be dead and bleeding from the mouth and ears below us. Prelude to the Massacre is about how our country is basically a remake of Friday the 13th, and White American Culture is zombie Jason Vorheese, slashing his way through all the blood and bone he can find.  It’s a book without heroes. There are only villains now.

Nazis came in while we were eating. Average height. Skinny. Tanned. There were four of them. They wore black shirts with Swastikas and SS Runes and Iron Crosses and Germanic Eagles. Surprisingly, I could not see any tattoos. Three men and a woman. They didn’t sit underneath the TV with Trump on it. They sat underneath a TV playing a Cleveland Indians game. They were not aggressive. They were not rude.  They were casual. They let the symbols on their clothing speak for them. I was fucking terrified.

Lee will try to convince the reader otherwise, but the initial pain in Prelude to the Massacre has nothing to do with race or gender. There is terror in this novel. Pain and fear. Drugs and booze are coping mechanisms. Hate is a coping mechanism. Because everyone in Prelude to the Massacre has been damaged. They’ve been damaged by those they love. Those they’ve served and sworn loyalty to. Their government has betrayed them. The economy has forgotten them. Help, even counseling, has never once been offered. They are ill and contagious. Brutality, sadism, and racial superiority are not the disease, but instead symptoms of their fear.

I imagined following one of the neo-nazis into the bathroom. Imagined carrying my plate, tucking it up inside my shirt. Following the man into the bathroom, and, as he urinated, smashing him over the head with it. I would leave him unconscious and bleeding on the piss-dirty tiles of small bar and grill, next to a quiet highway that ran through a small lake town. I imagined him drowning in his own irrelevance. On the TV, they showed Trump’s anti-semitic tweet again. At that point, he was saying it was a Sheriff’s badge. It showed, he said, his respect for law and order. On the other TV the Blue Jays and the Indians traded runs. I asked for the check.

Prelude to the Massacre is not a book that can be reviewed. There are review like things you can say about it—that the writing is tight, that the plot is engaging and moves quickly, that the dialogue never feels out of place, that occasionally there are beautiful lines and occasionally there are brutal lines—but all of that would miss the point. Prelude to the Massacre is not a book that wants to be liked. It’s a book that wants to scream. It’s a novel, and a good one, but more than that, it’s a thermometer in America’s sick mouth. It’s a snapshot of the mercury rising. It’s the moment you regretfully remember after the thermometer breaks and mercury slides down your chin and over your tongue and you choke on it while glass lodges in your gums. More than anything, Prelude to the Massacre is a warning. Jeff tells Lee that something is coming. The final inescapable race war. That the white man, led by the warrior spirit of his ancestors, Wotan, will someday soon vanquish his genetic inferiors. That law and order will break down along racial lines. That those sworn to defend will betray their posts, just as their country has betrayed them. “Not all cops are pigs,” Jeff tells Lee. “The cops here are on our side! They wouldn’t care if we killed all the niggers and all the Mexicans!” Soon, Jeff begins planning a terrorist attack. Final Fires, he calls it. Soon, they’re going to set the whole goddamn thing off.

The day I finished Prelude to the Massacre police killed two black men, both killings caught on video. In Baton Rouge. In Falcon Heights. Earlier in the day, Donald Trump again defended his anti-semitic tweet. He used the word “Star” 27 times in a five-minute section of his stump speech. He said the media were liars. He never explained how his staff had come across the image, how it’d been originally posted to a white-supremacist message board.

Jeff tells Lee that something is coming.

I try to tell myself that Prelude to the Massacre isn’t really the warning I think it is. I tell myself the Nazis I saw at the restaurant the day I started reading it put me in a bad place. That I shouldn’t have been reading anything like it. Nothing is coming, I tell myself. Things will be fine. Things are always fine. I try to fall asleep. A summer storm shrieks outside my window.  The thunder sounds like bombs.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Book Review: The Girl with the Long Green Heart by Lawrence Block

I've read seven or eight of Block's books and this is easily my favorite. I'm a sucker for a book about grifters.

(Ha ha...)

There's something about watching the machinations of a grifter, the gamesmanship of it, that I love. Block's always solid writing about detectives and hit men and burglars, but I'll take a lowdown con man over those any day.

And the con is at the core of this book. Johnny Hayden has just gotten out of prison. He has made it his life's mission to never go back. He's leading a straight life in the wide-open spaces of Colorado, managing a bowling alley.

But when Doug Rance comes a long with a long con that looks just perfect...well, one more job, then he's done.

Their plan is to take real estate investor Wallace Gunderman for everything he's worth. And they're going to make him do it to himself. But for that to happen, they need an entire operation that looks legit. An office, employees, land deeds.

Watching them build this tremendous artifice is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book. They deal with each problem as it comes, trying out different solutions until they settle on something. Like most of Block's criminals, they're very competent at what they do. The psychological games they play with Gunderman, leaving a trail of clues for him to piece together on his own, are equally fascinating.

Then there's their inside man. Who's actually their inside woman. Evelyn Stone, the real estate investor's secretary. The girl with the long green heart. Hayden thinks she's pretty sharp for an amateur. And he falls for her hard.

Just like Block's other excellent book about con men, Grifter's Game, this one has an ending like a punch between the eyes. Highly recommended for anyone who considers themselves a fan of crime fiction.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Punk Fiction by Paul D. Brazill

There has been a long and varied tradition of songwriters taking song titles from books: Venus In Furs - The Velvet Underground, Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush, Lost Weekend - Lloyd Cole, 1984- David Bowie, Absolute Beginners- David Bowie.

And, of course, it goes the other way too.

My book Guns Of Brixton took its title from a song by The Clash and I used Clash songs to frame it. My follow up, Cold London Blues, does the same thing with the songs of Vic Godard and Subway Sect. And A Rainy Night In Soho will do the same with The Pogues.

And it’s no surprise that many Brit Grit writers have taken the same approach, usually using punk and post- punk songs as inspiration.

Here we go 2,3,4:

Mark Timlin published a book called Guns Of Brixton years before I did. Ian Ayris’ April Skies uses the Jesus and Mary Chain, Tony Black’s London based short story collection is invariably called London Calling – The Clash again. Ian Rankin recently chose The Associates’ Even Dogs In The Wild.  Nick Quantrill used a Wilco song for the title of The Late Greats, and The Crooked Beat is one of The Clash’s lesser known songs. James Hilton’s debut thriller is Search and Destroy – Iggy and The Stooges, Jim Iron and John Steel’s Glory Boys is taken from a Secret Affair song. Ray Banks used The Stranglers for No More Heroes. Nigel Bird gave us Mr Suit (Wire) and Beat On The Brat (Ramones). Graham Wynd chose The Fall’s Extricate and Steve Suttie gave us the Road To Nowhere (Talking Heads).

And it’s not just punk songs that work as crime fiction titles. Nick Triplow used a Tom Waits song for Frank’s Wild Years and Adrian McKinty has used five of Mr Waits’ ditties, the most recent being Rain Dogs.

Sheila Quigley always uses song titles for her books, starting with Lindisfarne’s Run For Home, and more recently The Sound Of Silence. Andy Rivers used The Beatles for Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Aidan Thorn chose When The Music’s Over (The Doors).

And that’s only this side of the pond. Josh Stallings Young Americans (David Bowie) and K A Laity’s White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane) are just a couple of recent American examples that come to mind.

And there are plenty more, I’m sure.

So, who did I miss? And any suggestions?


Paul D. Brazill
 is the author of 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.