Review: Red Esperanto by Paul D Brazill

This is the first part of Paul D Brazill’s Luke Case series of shorts. It is set on the bleak wintry streets of Warsaw. Our less than intrepid hero puts himself in extreme danger when he begins an affair with Jola, the wife of a local gangster.

If you’ve read Brazill before, you know what you’re going to get from the off: rich, evocative prose that paints a vivid picture, a seedy setting frequented by even seedier characters, and a good tale, well told. In fact, of the three Case tales this one has to be my favourite because of the nifty twist at the end that Brazill throws at the reader in such an offhand manner. He makes it look and read effortless, but it really isn’t.

If you have yet to read either Brazill or the Case tales – what the hell have you been doing? Stop reading this and go and buy them now. But in all seriousness, if you haven’t read him yet then start with Red Esperanto it is as good a place as any to get acquainted with Brazill’s world. Highly recommended.

Review: The Kelly Affair by Paul D Brazill

The Kelly Affair follows the continuing story of Luke Case. After the events of Death On A Hot Afternoon everybody’s favourite boozy hack, Luke Case, is sent out to Granada to possibly ghost write the autobiography of a con man. The problem is that the ghosts of Luke’s past have returned to haunt him.

TKA is written in that inimitable Brazill prose, a rich mixture of metaphor, poetic description, and hardboiled terseness, but it is a different beast to the previous Case tales. This one is less self-contained, and the violent prologue and subtle cliff-hanger points to a widening story which makes the readers see that Case is most definitely not what he seems. Personally, I can’t wait to see where Brazill takes this. Highly recommended.

Review: Death on a Hot Afternoon by Paul D Brazill

As regular readers will know I recently reviewed, and really enjoyed, Paul’s 13 Shot of Noir, which if you haven’t already bought it you should do so immediately. So another day another Brazill ebook. Does Death On A Hot Afternoon live up to the high standards set by 13 Shots? Well, see below and find out…

Luke Case is a middle-aged hack working for a Madrid magazine run by local who fancies himself as a patron of the city’s art scene. One afternoon, he is chatting with another hack, Nathan, who starts telling him in a roundabout way about a murder he committed many years before – one he’s been on the run from ever since. The whole afternoon gets boozier and when Case ends up drinking with Lena K, a young Torch singer who seems to have appeared from nowhere on the Madrid scene, he finds he might have the chance of enjoying a very nice evening with her and a friend! But the evening takes a turn for the worse and leaves Case wondering just who this Torch singer is and what it is that she wants.

As witnessed in 13 Shots, Brazill has an excellent writing style and a lovely turn of phrase and you can witness it here in spades:

People fired sharp looks at me like bullets from a machine gun.

Along with some clever dialogue:

“Well, a cliche to me is like a red rag to a bull. I avoid them like the plague.”

Case, for all his seediness, makes a great narrator and protagonist even if he seems to be attracted to trouble the way iron filings are attracted to magnets. The build-up is beautifully done and then – slam – the pay-off comes quickly and the rug has been pulled from beneath Case and the reader. It’s a lovely and controlled bit of storytelling. I’ve heard some folks complain that it’s not long enough. I can understand what they mean (great characters, not wanting it to end etc), but I thought it was the perfect length – in and out and no messing about.

Highly recommended.

Review: 13 Shots of Noir by Paul D Brazill

Paul D Brazill has carved quite the niche for himself. He is a prolific writer of shorts that seem to get published in all the major online outlets, plus he’s got himself published in Maxim Jakubowski’s print anthologies, too – all of which are a major deal in my opinion. I’d read several of his stories online (including the quite sublime The Tut), so decided to give 13 Shots of Noir a go.

And what a strong collection it is. The stories are tight and never outstay their welcome. Added to which, Brazill has a lovely way with words; take this gem from The Man Behind The Curtain:

Carole has barely been out of her teens when Doctor James Parker, as glimmering and sophisticated as a Brandy Alexander, swept through her humdrum life like a tornado, picked her up in an Oz that bore than a passing resemblance to Chiswick, West London.

As the years trundled on, however, James’ gambling and drinking habits ballooned to the size of the Hindenburg, his mood swings and behaviour grew more and more erratic and Oz turned out to be no place like home.

The Oz reference in particular is superb and clever. I like writers with a clever turn of phrase, and the ability and confidence to employ them correctly, particularly as a rather plain prose stylist I am rarely capable of them myself. And here’s another from the very nicely put together Mr Kiss and Tell:

As the years trundled on, Billy Kirby, alone in his two bedroom Housing Association flat, like so many lost souls, turned to Mecca. Come rain or shine, come hell or high water, every Monday and Friday afternoon Billy was in the Mecca Bingo.

13 Shots is a very strong collection of shorts, but my particular highlights include The Tut, Mr Kiss & Tell, Drunk On The Moon (which has spawned a successful series about werewolf P.I. Roman Dalton), The Final Cut and the beautifully twisted and brief M.

Highly recommended.