Written by Paul D Brazill — Number 13 Press was one of the freshest things to hit the UK crime fiction scene last year. It has a simple but appealing concept – 13 novellas arriving, one arriving on the 13th of each month at just 99p for Kindle. And that’s all, job done.
There have been some pretty nifty entries so far, and Number 13 Press has followed a clever editorial line showcasing a range of dark crime, from Grant Nicol’s Icelandic noir The Mistake to Graham Wynd’s erotic and darkly comic Satan’s Sorority and Aidan Thorn’s hardboiled story of revenge When the Music’s Over. Kill Me Quick! is the penultimate novella in the series, and fans of Paul D Brazill will know before reading it that there is likely to be nothing else like it in the set.
Mark Hammonds was kicked out of London – literally. Quite what this ex-guitarist from a short-lived New Romantic band did to deserve a kicking is never explained, but Brazill succeeds in quickly establishing Hammonds as someone who is no stranger to the criminal life. With nowhere else to go, he reluctantly returns to Seatown, a faded northern seaside resort where every day is like Sunday. You know, just like in the Morrissey song. Silent and grey.
No sooner has he arrived than trouble is brewing. Seatown, like much of Brazill’s fictional universe, is awash with dreamers, schemers, grifters and other assorted small-time criminals. The unfortunate passing of local crime lord Captain Cutlass means the place is wide open. There is Quentin Pike, Hammonds’ old geography teacher, hoping to make it big in the local election as the GBIP candidate. His old chemistry teacher, The Prof, already has the amphetamine market wrapped up.
Harry ‘Uncle Shandy’ Shand has a finger in a lot of pies. He used to be Hammonds’ band manager and now runs the Speakeasy, which is the bar where most of the town’s dodgy deals are struck. Then there’s the Ferry clan, local gangsters on their way to becoming legitimate, helped by Bev’s accounting skills. Bev is a formidable lady and someone Hammonds has secretly carried a torch for. This could make things a little awkward with Craig, Bev’s brother and the bass player in the band.
Add in the rumoured return of Seatown’s prodigal son Simon Kelly, the lead singer, and interest from gangsters up from the Big Smoke, and all the ingredients are present for one of Brazill’s comic capers. Whether it is running errands for Uncle Shandy, trying to dispose of a corpse on a pig farm, or collecting a dodgy shipment fresh off the lorry from France, Brazill has it all go wrong for the luckless Mark Hammonds, who can only shrug his shoulders and get another round in.
Brazill’s other work includes Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir, and Roman Dalton. In truth, the author is not so good with plots, but then perhaps that’s not his main focus. It certainly never held back Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard. If your ideal crime read is a tightly-plotted mystery, then this is probably not the book for you. But it is full of mayhem, the unexpected, and humour. In his interview with us, Brazill referenced the Ealing comedies and Damon Runyon, and it is easy to recognise these as influences. The best of his work invokes a similar feeling of joy.
Kill Me Quick! is a short read, taking about as much time as a trip to the cinema but will likely offer more enjoyment, and costs less than 10 per cent of the price. Plus, you won’t have to sit next to a grown man dressed as a storm trooper while you read it.
Number 13 Press
CFL Rating: 4 Stars