Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Guns of Brixton, or the boys from Paul Brazill

Paul D. Brazill explains the title of his novel Guns of Brixton thus:
"When I decided to write a faux London gangster story..."
Faux ... gangster story says much about Guns of Brixton's appeal. The London gangster movies that made a splash a few years back tended to be over-the-top, smirking affairs, and Brazill confronts the over-the-topness by making fun of it, by not pretending his story is anything but a comic romp, a kind of high-spirited musical without music, albeit one full of violence, the threat thereof,  and all sorts of unpleasant bodily effluvia, whether the result of gun blasts or not.  Here are two examples I liked:
"A group of elves holding cans of Special Brew raced past, chased by a wheezing Santa Claus."
and
"If Mad Mack was startled when he saw the shining barrel of a Glock 29 pointing straight at him through the lattice grid, he was certainly too shocked to react before Father Tim Cook muttered: `Sic transit Gloria friggin' Gaynor,' and blasted Mack's brains all over the confessional."
Here's more of Brazill explaining why he chose the title Guns of Brixton:
"... it seemed the sensible thing to take a title from a song by The Clash, that most London of all London bands – even though only one of them was actually born ‘dahn The Smoke.’...And I had plenty of cracking titles to choose from and reject, too – London Calling (been done to death), London’s Burning (reminded me of the naff TV show about firemen), Guns On The Roof ( a silly song about when The Clash were told off for shooting pigeons with an air rifle), Somebody Got Murdered (too obscure), The Last Gang In Town (close, close …) Police & Thieves (Maybe …)"
Now, I was not alienated enough a suburban kid to have regarded the Clash as seminal avatars of anything, but I sure did read a lot or reverent tosh from the typewriters and word processors rock and roll "critics" in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so I love Brazill's irreverence.


Any British author setting out to write a gangster story must confront the towering example of Ted Lewis.  Lewis' three  Jack Carter novels are dark, grim, and deadly serious, yet punctuated by grim, delightful humor. Few crime writers can manage that; Derek Raymond, who acknowledged Lewis' influence, is the only other example who comes immediately to mind.

Guns of Brixton does the next best thing: It has tremendous fun with the form while at the same time acknowledging Lewis' fictional world both implicitly (in the novel's several gay or lesbian minor characters) and explicitly (a brief discussion of Michael Caine and the celebrated movie adaptation of Get Carter toward the novel's end). If you love Lewis and the movie, but find Guy Ritchie irritating, you might like Guns of Brixton.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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19 Comments:

Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Thanks very much for the review. Made my day. I'm glad you got GOB. It would make a good musical. The follow up is even camper ...

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That would make a good bumper sticker: "I GOT GOB!"

I hunted up some Clash clips after finishing the book. Joe Strummer's voice on "Redemption Songs" is jarring after Johnny Cash's. strummer should have gone first.

Is the follow-up out yet?

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

I'm still fiddling with it. Shoehorning in some more crap jokes. The first 2 Clash LPs are their best, for me.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger R.T. said...

(Rhetorical question -- induced no doubt by post-op pain killers)

Why does all of this remind me of the Alec Guinness movie -- The Lavender Hill Mob?

There may be no connection, but at least I am curious enough to read Brazil (and that notion is not PK induced).

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Nice one! I used to describe GOB as ' a sweary Ealing Comedy.' I'm a big fan of TLHM and The Ladykillers especially.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I looked back at the review I wrote on this book awhile ago and found that I too went and picked out a funny bit. They are pretty irresistible.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana: Paul also writes a good lowlife werewolf P/I. story.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and get well soon, RT.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I have it on my ereader, Peter, I just haven't had a chance to get around to it yet.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul: I would have found the "sweary Ealing comedy" description hard to resist.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I liked the finny bit you singled out. I was going to highlight that one, too, but I wanted this post to be more than just a string of bits.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Yeah, ideally we quote just enough to whet readers' interest, and give them a sense of the style.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And we try to avoid mere plot summaries. We leave that sort of thing for the newspapers.

December 11, 2014  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Humour is one of those things that rareley translates - even from person to person- so it's particularly nice when you septics get my yarns.

December 13, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Septics, you say? Hell, I even got all but one of GOB's uses of rhyming slang.

December 13, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Septics? This is just because I've been talking about sumps over at my place, isn't it?

December 13, 2014  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

I do actually make up my own rhyming slang. Would you Adam and Steve it?

December 13, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, you're full of grime and grit.

In fact, you beat me to it. I had just signed on to post: "Unless you made up your own rhyming slang." Your examples have a touch of whimsey to them.

December 13, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, no your discussion is sumping else entirely.

You may know that Philadelphia's public transport agency is the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, known to all as SEPTA. I got quite a kick out of this when I first moved here.

December 13, 2014  

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