Paul D. Brazill: Chaos and Order: An Interview

Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case of Noir, Guns of Brixton and The Neon Boneyard. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc. member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime 8,10 and 11, 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.

Paul was interviewed by Hector Duarte Jr.

profile pic Dec 2014 (1)


You are a big fan of music. What role did music play in your getting into writing? How does it continue to influence you?

Well, some of the first ‘writing’ I ever did was lyrics. Torch songs, really. There was once a half-plan for me and my mate Peter Ord to be the new Steely Dan or something but nothing came of that, of course. I think the ‘feel’ of the writing is what’s of most interest to me and that’s what I get from music. And images. I do have hopes to write a musical or two.

Growing up, name 3 authors and their books you could not do without.

I wasn’t really a ‘book’ person at all until my late teens but growing up Steve Gerber’s comics and a lot of music press writers- like Paul Morley and Jane Suck- were must reads.

Later, Graham Greene, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Elmore Leonard were big faves.

What the hell is genre fiction and what does it mean to you? What does slapping this label on it do to the work, if anything?

It means nothing to me, oh Vienna! It’s just a marketing tool, surely. Nothing more. I suspect it’s still quite disreputable to be a genre writer, thankfully.

What sparked the idea for A Case of Noir?

The Italian publisher – Atlantis Lite Editions- were doing a series of “erotic noir” short stories set in different cities around the world. I sent them Red Esperanto, which is set in Warsaw, Poland. They published it and also translated it into Italian, as Rosso Esperanto. After that, they wanted some more so I dragged the protagonist Luke Case around a few more European locations- Madrid, Granada, Toulouse, before eventually dumping him back in England.

I’ve known a lot of rootless people, especially on the TEFL circuit, and I suppose I am one myself. So material was easy!

How do you balance your home/professional/writing career?

I suspect I don’t!

Some of your main characters are boozy. Why is it important for mains to have weaknesses?

Writing boozy characters isn’t a particularly great stretch! Like I’ve said before, there’s a connection between comedy and tragedy (“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” ~ Charlie Chaplin).

… and between noir and slapstick. Crime fiction is about bringing order to chaos and noir is about bringing chaos to order. Drinkers are always on their way toward a pratfall of some kind. Also they are usually self-deluded and accomplished liars, which suits a noir protagonist more than somewhat.

Why is noir so timeless?

Maybe it’s a part of human nature to sneak a peek into the abyss.

What are the pitfalls/benefits of self-publication? What advice would you give to a writer debating self-publication at this very moment?

I think you have complete control over self-publishing – which can be a good thing and a bad thing – but your stuff will probably be lost in the mire these days. You can be king on Facebook but only 10 people will buy your book when it’s published.

If  you want to sell, go mainstream and get an agent but that takes time and patience.

Or go with a high profile/ cool indie. For me that’s the best choice.

Whose work are you currently reading?

Brighton Rock- Graham Greene, Unchosen- Julie Burchill. I recently finished Dorothy B Hughes’ In a Lonely Place and Tony Black’s The Last Tiger.

Three writers we should look out for.

Les Edgerton, Eva Dolan, Nina de la Mer. They should be big time any moment now, if they’re not already.

One reason now is a great time to be a writer. One reason it’s a terrible time to be a writer.

See what I said about self-publishing. You can get published but it may just be the sound of one hand clapping.

How has moving from country to country helped you as a writer?

Not really sure, but you never completely settle, which is maybe a good thing.

Pick a movie that influenced your writing. What about it sparked your imagination?

Charlie Bubbles (1967) is the only film the great Albert Finney has ever directed.

Charlie is a successful writer; an aging angry young man – jaded and cynical, drunk and disorderly – living in London. He decides to go home again to revisit his ex-wife and child in the North, where he was born, dragging along his wraith-like and waif-like secretary, Liza Minnelli.

Charlie roams the frozen wastelands of post WWII Salford in a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III convertible looking like a fish out of water, unable to find the “roots” that he was once so keen to free himself from.

The “false values” of the South are thrown in Bubbles face by old friends although for me the key scene takes place in a swanky Manchester hotel room when an elderly waiter says:

“I used to know your father sir. We’re all very proud of you. Are you still working sir or do you just do the writing now?”

Bubbles retorts “No. Just the writing.”

Oh, and the names are great too:

Charlie Bubbles, Smokey Pickles, Lottie Bubbles!