Written by Paul D Brazill — If you’re a regular visitor to the site may recall our review of A Case of Noir, an excellent serial novel by Paul D Brazill that we looked at in June. It was a collection of individual stories which could be read sequentially to tell a longer story.
Paul has done something similar with Guns of Brixton, taking what was originally a piece of flash fiction and expanding on it to tell a series of interconnected stories occurring over the New Year. Rather than the exotic international setting of A Case of Noir, he has set it firmly in South London. However, this is a Paul D Brazil book, and so the Brixton environs and its inhabitants have been exaggerated for comic effect. Like the book itself, each is titled after a Clash song – Police & Thieves, Somebody Got Murdered, etc. They are populated by a rogue’s gallery of scoundrels and swindlers with names like Half-Pint Harry and Anarchy Al, and their dirty deeds are done dirt cheap. The musical name dropping proves infectious thanks to the skill of the author, and the book is big fun to read.
The plot itself is a wonder to behold. It is a convoluted contrivance of coincidence and happenstance that I would defy even its author to summarise accurately. When it comes to tangling you up in a series of events that twist and turn, then Raymond Chandler has nothing on Brazill. Let’s just say it involves tight-fisted businessmen and their cocaine-snorting employees, bungling cross-dressing armed robbers, sexually-frustrated coppers, a hitman priest and a MacGuffin that tips its hat to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and leave it at that.
Fortunately, logical plotting is the least of Paul’s skills, and it’s not the reason his fans enjoy his books so much. The fun is in the comedy, often lewd and raucous, that he invests in his characters and the situations they find themselves in. But for all the vulgarity, there is a subtle skill on show which makes his faux cockney gangster storytelling more like an Ealing Studios thoroughbred, and less like a Guy Ritchie worn out old nag headed for the glue factory.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars