Monday, April 13, 2015

Roadkill Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Part mystery, part horror and part bittersweet coming of age drama. Joyland tries to be a lot of things at once and while overall it largely succeeds as a novel, it fails to do most of those individual elements any real justice.
Mystery aficionados may feel this Carny whodunit has a faint whiff of the Scooby Doo about it (I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for you medalling kids!) While traditional King fans will no doubt be disappointed with the under-developed Shinning-esque sub plot. It’s the nostalgic, last summer of innocence feel to the narrative that works best out of the three, and in spite of a lot of foreshadowing it had me invested and even left me feeling a little wistful toward the end.  It might not be Stand by Me, but it ain’t too shabby either.
“When it comes to the past everybody writes fiction.”
While lines like that may give you reason to pause and consider your own rose colored glasses you can argue that others such as, “It was the best and the worst autumn of my life,” do nothing for you and I’d have to agree. If anyone other than King had written that one I would have probably ditched the book on principal right there and then. But over the past 30 years Steve and me have reached an understanding. I overlook these odd literary indulgences and he usually repays me with a pretty good story, and although flawed Joyland really is just that.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Roadkill Review: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

I must be one of the few people over the age of forty who had never read this book. At this distance it would be easy to dismiss Fear & Loathing as nothing more than a drug addled romp through the desert--a coked-out fuck up of a book throwing up on its own shoes in some dingy back alley--and maybe it is. But it's also a lot of fun and it says much about the time in which it was written.

In 1971 American was at war, not only in Vietnam but also with itself. The sixties were over. Peace and love had been replaced by something else. The American dream was still out there, somewhere, but the idea of exactly what it should be was now up for debate. As Thompson puts it, “Consciousness expansion went out with LBJ, and it’s worth noting historically that downers came in with Nixon.”
The times were indeed a-changing. Dylan might have gone electric in 65, but it took a little longer for the world at large to realize the age of innocence was over and plug in. From then on it was every man for himself and to hell with the rest; to hell with consequences too. 

Thompson's tale of manic excess encapsulates that brave new dawn and then proceeds to burn it up with mescaline and a wry smile. But hidden in the dope haze, behind the bloodshot eyes of a four day bender lurks an unrequited longing for a simpler time when Scott McKenzie advocated no trip to San Francisco would be complete without flowers in your hair and John Lennon claimed that love was all you needed.

If Kerouac was the voice of the post war beat generation, then Hunter S. Thompson speaks for all those who came down from the summer of love and spent the rest of their lives wondering just where the hell it all went wrong.

Does any of that make Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas great literature? Probably not. But it does make it worth your time.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Is This Thing Still On?

*Taps microphone* Okay good, so let’s get on with this, I’ve got to be back in Marrakesh by midnight. Actually I don’t, but having to go wash the car and do all those other Sunday chores doesn’t sound nearly as exciting so I’m going to stick with the Marrakesh thing.  
The first three months of this year have seen me—or rather they haven’t seen me—taking a step back from the virtual world of blogs and social media. Delmore Schwartz once said, “Time is a fire in which we burn”, and that’s certainly part of it. But maybe Charles Bukowski put it more succinctly when he said, “I don’t hate people, I just feel better when they aren’t around.” Either way, I have been using the extra 10 or 12 hours a week I gained when I stopped scrolling through the cat pictures on Facebook to write a novel, and in between the usual moments of anxiety and crippling self doubt it’s been going pretty good. I have also managed to pen a short story for the next Zemler Pulp issue, but more on that nearer the time.
In other news I have got the rights back to my long awaited (at least by me) crime novella, Nevada Thunder. In the end things just didn’t work out with the publisher. No harm, no foul, just one of those things. I am currently talking with a new publisher and I’m pretty excited about what might result from this.

I don’t plan on putting out many short stories this year and I have turned down a fair number of offers to contribute to anthologies etc. so that I might concentrate on the work in progress, having said that I do have a few pieces out right now. As I previously mentioned I’m in DINER STORIES: OFF THE MENU recently released by Mountain State Press, with a new piece entitled Mary’s Place. This story is one of my personal favorites and is my own little love letter to all those great mom & pop diners that are sadly no more.   

Next up is ‘Last Exit’, which has just gone live at David Cranmer’s excellent BEAT TO A PULP webzine. This is my take on old school Noir, a story of rain swept streets and lost love out for revenge. Last Exit first appeared in Zelmer Pulp's, MAYBE I SHOULD JUST SHOOT YOU IN THE FACE, which has been our most popular issue to date and is still available for the princely sum of 99c (hint, hint).
Finally, I’m delighted to have ‘Long Time Gone’, a brand new crime story about a father trying to do right by his daughter in the latest edition of DARK CORNERS. Editor-in-chief, Craig McNeely has once again proved beyond any doubt that we are living in a new golden era of pulp fiction. He has put together another fantastic issue with a wide variety of stories in different genres. The one common theme being they are all from outstanding writers, including one by my brother-from-another-mother, Ryan Sayles.
So there you have it. That’s my 2015 so far in a nutshell; well the writerly part of it anyway. I’d love to stick around and shoot the shit some more, but you know how it is, Marrakesh awaits. Stay classy people, I’ll see you further on up the road.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Diner Stories: Off the Menu

A good old American diner may just be my favorite place in this world. It’s certainly right up there, along with dark and cozy British pub and my end of the couch. There really is nothing quite like it. The smell of fresh brewed coffee mixed with the sizzle of beef searing on the grill and the low murmur of half-heard conversations punctuated by the chink of cutlery on china.
Daniel McTaggart is the author of a collection called Diner Poems. It’s an evocative work that really struck a chord with me. It’s also the only book of poetry I have ever owned (I don’t consider that to be a failing, so bite me) and when I heard that Dan was putting together a collection of short fiction based in and around diners I knew I wanted in.
More than a year in the making, Diner Stories: Off The Menu is out now in paperback from Mountain State Press. I’m damn proud to be the only Englishmen to have a story included and to be alongside some very fine writers, such as Jason Jack Miller and Frank Larnerd.
You can check it out here: AMAZOD


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Show Me The Love

I’m delighted to say that Gospel of the Bullet has snagged the Dark Corners Magazine Golden Goodis award for best western novella of 2014.
Editor, Craig McNeely had this to say of my western magnum opus: “Leek has written a thought-provoking action-packed western novella that will remind you why you like these sort of tales. Someone needs to grab the movie rights to this one ASAP.”
Gospel also made the ‘Notable Reads of 2014’ list over at the prestigious review site Dead End Follies.
A novella that dares to stand above the confines of very niche and impenetrable genre, therefore shining positive light on a century old writing tradition.”
I’d like to say a big thank you to both of these fine pulp institutions. If you want to see what all of the fuss is about, you can just click the linkey thing on the right. 

Okay, I know, I said I was done looking back at 2014, but I'm kind of proud of this stuff, so you'll have to let me have this one.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Let It Go

I seem to have spent a lot of time looking back recently, maybe that’s just a natural thing to do at this time of year or perhaps it’s my age. Life has a nasty way of creeping up on you when you’re too busy with it to notice. You’re thinking about the report you have due on Friday and the leaky tap in the downstairs bath that needs fixing and that expensive sounding noise coming from the oily bits of your Explorer, and all the while the clock is running. I have undoubtedly passed the point where I have more behind me than I have out in front. Either way, 2014 is just about done and I can’t help thinking that’s a good thing.

There will be no ‘best of’ lists or ‘shelfies’ on the blog this time around. I have read very little this year and written even less. While there have been one or two high points, like ONE EYE PRESS publishing my western novella GOSPEL OF THE BULLET and our Katie turning 21, 2014 has for the most part been an exercise in frustration and futility that I would rather just forget. But so what? This year will soon be last year and I for one am done bitching about it. As of right now I’m also done looking back. Onwards to 2015!
Whatever your wish for yourself during the coming year I hope it comes true. Stay hungry, stay free, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Five is Alive

‘Tis the season to be jolly, so why not give the gift of fear this Christmas? You could dress up in a red suit and set out on a spree of eggnog fueled home invasions or alternatively you could just stay home and pick up a copy of Demonic Visions Book #5.   
This latest installment in this series contains another fifty tales of the macabre that will have you checking the closet for monsters and sleeping with the light on. I’m back for my fifth go-around too with a dark story of guilt and regret found within the eye of a perfect storm.
There is no need to wait for Halloween to roll around again; you can snag a copy of DEMONIC VISIONS #5 right now for your kindle or nook.
Happy Horror-days!