Guns of Brixton, or the boys from Paul Brazill
"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