Too Many Crooks: An Interview with Paul D. Brazill

Pubs and alcohol are main characters in your work. When an idea for a story comes to you, does it already start in that setting? Are your characters already there having drinks when they are first conceived?

Ah. Well, as someone who has spent far too much of his life in pubs it seems a natural setting. It’s not a great stretch. Also, when people go to pubs they usually talk- or they did before WiFi Hotspots- and they usually talk rubbish, which can be pretty funny. I like to think I write absurdist fiction and most people in pubs are absurd or say something absurd at some part of the night.

Relying so heavily on dialogue to tell a story can be risky, yet effective in letting the characters come to life when successful. Elmore Leonard comes to mind. Do you find this is the best way to approach characters? Is it a comfort zone you stick to as a writer, or a method you feel best suits Crime Fiction in general?

One of the great ways Leonard uses dialogue is that it shows the difference between what people say and what they do. Between their expectations and reality.  This lends itself to absurdist situations, which works well for the kind of stories I write. See above.

There are several scenes in Cold London Blues where characters are lamenting about how things used to be—how certain pubs and bars have changed for the worse—even going as far as getting into altercations with a younger generation, however not so much in Too Many Crooks. So do you share the sentiment of Father Tim and other characters in Cold London Blues? Is it a feeling or outlook that becomes inevitable with age? Or is it just the DNA of these particular characters in that story? 

CLB is partly about London changing – which it is, and not for the better as far as I can see- and how these characters – men of an uncertain age – feel dislocated from the modern world.  For sure the old school gangster has pretty much gone. The mobsters who use physical force to get what they want are at the bottom end of the food-chain and the criminal elite are smart kids with laptops.

Congratulations on the newest release of “A Case of Noir”—the cover art is nicely uniformed with that of Too Many Crooks. That said, what is your take on the current state of Crime Fiction? Do you think it’s healthy in terms of independent publishing, magazines and anthologies?

Thanks. A Case Of Noir was originally published by Lite Editions in Italy who have folded or are currently folding. It fits nicely with Too Many Crooks since both are Eurocrime books so I was really pleased when Near To The Knuckle agreed to re-publish it.

I think it’s a great time for both the mainstream and the indie crime fiction scene. Certainly in the UK, writers like Eva Dolan and Luca Veste are seeing well- deserved success and on the indie side there are publishers such as All Due Respect and Near To The Knuckle as well as the likes of Martin Stanley.

fits nicely with Too Many Crooks since both are Eurocrime books so I was really pleased when Near To The Knuckle agreed to re-publish it.

I think it’s a great time for both the mainstream and the indie crime fiction scene. Certainly in the UK, writers like Eva Dolan and Luca Veste are seeing well- deserved success and on the indie side there are publishers such as All Due Respect and Near To The Knuckle as well as the likes of Martin Stanley.

Your crime fiction doesn’t pander to a male audience. You feature a lot of strong female characters. Tell us a little about Anna and Leslie in Too Many Crooks… What are the main challenges for you as writer in bringing these characters to life?

Well Anna Novak is a Polish doctor who also works in London. She does have her secrets though and a kick-ass past. There’s a lot more to her than meets the eye.

Leslie Hawkins is a high-class fence who works with her husband. She’s a bit of a snob and also has ‘a past.’ She and her brother basically reinvented themselves, her more so.

More will be revealed in future books.

There are couple of references to comic books in Too Many Crooks, indicating that Cold London Blues and Too Many Crooks take place in the same universe. Both novels involve a “McGuffin” (not to be confused with Jim ; ) where a ring and comic books become obsessions for those on the chase. Do you find as a writer that this works best for Crime Fiction vs. standard heist and aftermath stories or stories leading up to a heist, bringing an “adventure” feel to the mix, or is this just a personal preference for you, blending genres to raise stakes?

It has been pointed out that Too Many Crooks resembles the film It’s A Mad, Mad World and that was an influence.  I think a McGuffin is a great way to introduce a selection of gaudy characters with gaudy patter and then the story takes care of itself. It also adds an aspect of farce, which I enjoy. Most of my characters are preposterous people who are completely unaware of how preposterous they are.

The comic books in Cold London Blues where just an easy way to show the immaturity of one of the characters, an action movie star who believes his own press.

I do try to link all of my stories via characters and events. Even that bloody werewolf PI Roman Dalton turned up in Cold London Blues, after a fashion.

What can you tell us / and readers about your upcoming stories at the Spelk Fiction, Flash Fiction Offensive and Near To The Nuckles?

Spelk Fiction will be publishing Fiery Jack, the Flash Fiction Offensive will publish The Contender and Near To The Knuckle will publish The Last Shot, and The Dominant Hand.

Thanks for the interview.