Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How to make a Cynic Laugh.

What do I know about comedy?

Not much. I simply don't get it when people claim Chaplin was a genius. Perhaps he was, and he certainly made a lot of money, wrote, directed and starred in a lot of movies but the thing is  I see a short man in baggy trousers, that is all I see. Laurel and Hardy, ditto. Fat guy, skinny guy, plank of wood, ducking. Slap.

......Bish, bash, bosh...


I think it is all in the writing. Not to be snobbish. So much more can be done with the written word than with a bunch of props and a grainy black and white picture.

A friend asked me to go along to the Comedy Club Bangkok.

Naturally, I agreed.

I admire the comics that stand up and deliver a routine knowing that their performances will take years of practice to perfect, the only way to move forward is to just keep doing it. So they do it again and again. Find out what works, what doesn't. This is what entertainment is all about. Right?

I know what makes me laugh and that is a list that probably starts with Monty Python, flirts with Peter Cook, winds up with the sit-coms of the nineteen eighties.... The days before Rowan Atkinson sold his soul for a garage full of neatly packed sports cars with a character that makes people laugh from Kathmandu to Cairo.


"Allo Allo' was even funny before one understood the atrocities that 'append during the war.

When I asked a good German friend what made him laugh, "I don't know, us Germans go into the cellar to laugh,' he replied. And do other things, I thought...

My thirst for comedy was quenched during my teens with American spoof cinema, Space Balls, Naked Gun, The Man with Two Brains, Airplane. I much enjoyed the belated comedic sequel Snakes on a Plane....But that's another story.

Hot humid Bangkok night.

What better to do than watch the comedy above the Royal Oak Pub. Friday night? A place where Western women go to get laid and Western men go to express their art and....

 ....Talking about high art I had met a writer friend earlier that evening and was four or five bottles of Tiger Sweat worse for wear owing to the generosity of an expense account and a non-existent client called Malcolm. Not at the heckling point of being pissed, but perhaps having the potential to arrive at Heckleville before the night was done, hopefully, I made it to the venue.

I arrived late with a plan to sneak up the stairs without paying. Not to be! A character grabbed my cuff and I paid the tenner entrance fee accordingly....Don't these guys realize I'm writing this up, I thought before common sense dictated, Why should they?

Wegoda. Pensive.

Inside comic and promoter Chris Wegoda warmed up the crowd with an anti-Christian routine. Chris is an entertainer, a talent who has grown immeasurably over the past few years, and tomorrow flies to London to try out his act on the comedy circuit. But that Friday night things were looking up, or down, depending on your faith. I'm sure Jesus would have forgiven him by now. It was after all, Easter Friday. The largely Christian crowd chuckled uneasily, The thing I like about Wegoda is that he always tries out new material rather than being reliant on the same patter. Where are the jokes about ladyboys? I heard them thinking. Coming, I thought.

But they weren't. Indonesian ex-international-school-boy-comic Delfin Solomon joked about Chinese tourist's penchant for stealing life jackets from commercial airliners. He pictured the scene as the soon to be victims of an emergency sea landing reached for their non-existent life-saving devices. Oblivious or perhaps spurred by the sensitivity to the recent air disasters the act continued. Hell, what are the chances of a successful sea landing anyway?

On firmer ground stood Graham Wooding whose routine on the uselessness of the Thai broom met a warm reception. An observational sketch that begins with the comic getting through four or five brushes a day sweeping the floor (it's one of those you have to be there things, Thai brushes are made of this wicker fabric that simply falls off as you brush) ends up with the hapless comedian haunting the darkside of Bangkok streets hooking up with Nigerian brush dealers to find some relief for his fifty-brush-a-day-habit. Funnier than it sounds Graham also had a routine about the Chinese (Chinese again, why of why, the Chinese?) and their mega production of vehicles hoping one day that a car be named  FUK YU. We can all imagine the scope for this observation on a hazy Bangkok night..

Brush Addiction

The headliner stormed onto the stage. Australian Ro Campbell lives in Scotland. How much harder can you get? The athleticism to kick arse and the alcoholic mindset to do so. He began on a high, shouting his routine into the mic, fueled by Red-Bull's bad brother from a different mother - M150 - which he kept in his pocket at all times. Or at least appeared to.

An interval, a bottle of Tiger Sweat, and it continued. Ro had recently toured the maximum security prison circuit, convicts laughed, a captive audience the comic explained. And went further: "I had a feeling these boys weren't inside for singing too loudly in church, you know what I'm saying?" The Johnny Cash of comedy commented. We did. And if we didn't we weren't bloody saying so.

Campbell went on to meditate on his times touring the mining towns of Australia. This dude was no stranger to a tough gig. Bangkok was a cake-walk. He was a funny fucker too.

Ro Campbell. Don't mess.

All ended well, and it could of turned out badly for myself when my mobile phone rang half the way through the second half. "You be wanting me to take that for you?" Campbell aggressively enquired.

Naturally, I didn't.

You can buy advance tickets for the Comedy Club Bangkok HERE.       

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Case of Noir and Vortex

A Case of Noir
Paul D. Brazill
With Lite Editions.

Paul D. Brazill’s world here is one of peroxide Berliner blondes wearing PVC raincoats with blood red lipstick smeared across their lips.  Barbarous gangsters and shyster scam artists, drunken literary agents and pop producers shelter in cities ruined by war and Vodka, drenched by decadence, spent of hope, driven by desire. Here we meet protagonist Luke Case who is drifting on a stream of booze and loose women from Poland to Madrid to Granada to London and then Cambridge  where he finds himself at a well observed and illustrated literary crime festival - the majority of the guests seem to  be enthusing over something called Nordic Noir – whatever that was.
Pic from www.pauldbrazill.com
Witty observations, a shady past, and a name that  conjures up images of coffee and nuts. Sly references to Molly Drake and The Last Words of Dutch Schultz keep things interesting plus of course the use of FADE IN FADE OUTS, camera directions... These are welcome  touches.
Bleak yet humorous landscapes fertilized with witty dialogue and sewn up with spare descriptions. Brazill doesn’t waste words, instead he plays with the images they provoke and he has more ways to describe a hangover than there are ways to create one - Shards of sunlight sliced through the slats in the blinds, like a kick in the eye from a stiletto heel.
My only reservation was later in the book backstory was explained perhaps for those who hadn’t been paying attention or maybe the stories were written separately and then later welded together.... Either way it read like a slight slip in confidence in an otherwise bold journey .    
It matters not really for this is a great slice of Noir from an assured talent. Brazill is to crime fiction what a Guinness and Champagne is to a cocktail party.
I read A Case of Noir twice in one sitting. Recommended dark Euro sleaze for lovers of the black stuff and on Amazon HERE Or visit the author HERE  


Matt Carrell.
With Linden Tree

A few pages in there was no turning back from Vortex. Guess there was a clue in the title. Carrell understands the need to raise stakes and build tension to keep the reader hooked in this accomplished novel which I'll loosely describe as a financial thriller set in a tropical locale.
We follow the building and eventual collapse of a branch of an investment bank in the Far East. Most novels should have an overall message and the message that settles after Vortex has fallen is something along the lines of - Trust No One.
This is a story of greed and deceit in the shady world of investment management. A world that the author obviously knows well. Well enough to detail an elaborate scam unfold from cradle to grave. People get hurt, careers ruined, relationships faked and drugs taken... The prize of one billion dollars sits before the winner proving if any proof be needed that the greed for hard currency is indeed at the root of all evil. Vortex is described as a whirlpool  - get too close and you get drawn in and thrown to the depths of the ocean. This a page turner and once you're in, you'd better have a few spare hours. 
If I were to be picky I might say that the book can give too much information at times. This is, however, a problem with crime novels when they are based on politics, law or in this instance, finance. Too much technical details needs to be explained to make the story legit....Slip the information into dialogue and it would read like the script for a made-for-TV-movie.
Carrell has made a brave choice to inform in narrative which he does without devaluing the story. What we have here is not only an entertaining yarn but also an informative look at the world of corporate investment slugs and a peep into how and why capitalism often fails all but the super-rich.       
Look forward to reading more from the author starting with the football book A Matter of Life and Death. You can find Vortex HERE and visit the author HERE

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Battleship Run. An interview with the author David Phillips.


LIKE LA poet and author Charles Bukowski, David Phillips worked for the United States Post Office. Unlike Bukowski Phillips served in the US military. He repaired small firearms for almost 13 years, as a hobby, he claims..

In Webster City, Iowa he constructed horse stalls and developed ground-breaking animal feeding devices. He organized accounts for magazine publishers in Boone Iowa and wrote Battleship Run, originally intended as a film spec script. The work was shaped into a novel, with more, hopefully to follow in the series.

One early September morning Phillips was involved in a serious car crash. A broken neck, ribs, and the loss of his upper teeth, surgery for nerve damage is upcoming. Yet still David Phillips tries to write every day. Battleship Run is sure to grab you from the first page and not let you go until the very last.

I caught up with David just before his interview with a local newspaper.

JAN: First of all congratulations on the publication of Battleship Run. Let's hope it continues to sell briskly. What led you to write the book? I understand it was originally intended as a film treatment, right? 

DP: First off, I’d like to say thank you for allowing me to answer these questions for you.  Yes, it originally started out as a film spec script. It underwent numerous changes in the course of writing it three times or so. What you read in the book is not how the first script looked. I added and deleted scenes, changed the settings and involved more countries. It was a bit darker you could say. I had the financial collapse pending with the United States, and China being more of the aggressor. I had the Isis Satellite still in operation towards the big battle scene at the end, where the world was able to see the fight that would take place. I also had the ship badly burned and the crew dying as Ghost brought the ship back home on her own as thousands of spectators watched the burnt vessel coming into port.
I really liked what I had created so decided to go to the next step. I spent some money and had a professional script consultant look it over and give me his thoughts. He loved the story and thought it was amazing but as is the case with most scripts, I had too much dialog. I had to chop it down to where they were barely saying anything. He also thought that some of the things I wrote were too far-fetched to be believable, like the economic collapse of the United States. I knew from that moment on I did not like where this was going. I then made up my mind to convert the story to a book form. I wanted to tell it my way and not somebody else's way. I changed a few things again so that I could perhaps turn it into a two part story or a trilogy.
I only did the script version, and the conversion to book form just for my own pleasure. I never intended it to be out in the open for others to see. I was bored one day and I was sick of the stupid television reality shows on TV and did this to pass the time.
It didn’t exactly stay hidden very well because as you know James, I was looking for advice on how to format a book and you offered your services. Next thing I know, I hear you like the story and here I am.
JAN: Were there any particular books, television shows, movies or life experiences that inspired you to start Battleship Run or was it just an idea out of the blue?

 DP: It was an idea out of the blue. As a kid I would have model boats and even make those little paper hats and me and a friend of mine would go down to the dredge ditch and put them in the water upstream and then we would take turns shooting at them with our BB guns as they slowly floated by. It was always fun to see how many times we could hit them, there are still small chunks of plastic sitting on the bottom.

My best model even had a small motor on it that would turn the propellers. I didn’t want to shoot that one, so come bath time it ended up in the tub with me. It didn’t float to well. It spent most of it’s time capsized bouncing off the walls of the bathtub. It would eventually sink and chug along the bottom as a submarine eventually striking a bar of soap or something. More fun than a yellow rubber ducky I always thought.


JAN: You've also turned your hand to shorty writing lately, "Post Partum Separation" is a wonderfully twisted tale. Where did that idea come from? Not the bathtub I hope.
DP: Ha-ha, no bathtub this time. It was the shower. Seriously though, it came from all the pain pills I was taking at the time I believe.

I was in an automobile accident and broke my neck some ribs and messed up various other body parts.  So the pain pills and the agony I was in gave me this nightmare. It was something I have never dreamt of before, and I hope never again. It was pretty creepy as the readers will find out before long. I think it took me just an hour or two to hurry up and write down what I saw.

JAN: I believe, and I hope I'm not the only one, that story telling does come from experiences in life, good or bad. But it is the scary stories that people love to read the most so it follows that from tragic life experiences great stories can be told. I've found this to be true. Readers are fascinated by fear and the grit and determination the protagonist must pull out of his or her locker while getting through a shitty experience. Do you think the accident in anyway shaped or formed your writing or feelings towards writing? Has it made you more determined? More driven?
DP: It has now. I had Battleship Run completed already, but the sequel has come to a halt at the moment. Looking back at what happened it certainly changes everything I do from this point forward. The sound of the impact with metal collapsing all around you, and then suddenly finding yourself standing up 30 feet from your vehicle in a ditch with no memory of what happened in between, is one of the most oddest feelings I have ever experienced. It makes you wonder if it was divine intervention, luck, or lack of it, or surviving because some part of your destiny has not been completed yet. I often think of these things. I have no wife and kids and basically no relations left. The other person had all of the above and yet I was the one who walked away. Why? I have simply come to the conclusion that everything has a purpose whether it is good or bad.


JAN: Are you more determined to make your mark now you’ve been given a second chance?

DP: I wouldn’t say it has made me more driven or determined, but it has made me look deeper into every little thing I do.  Too often people take things for granted and only when we lose something do we realize what it was we had, and how thankful we should have been.  It only takes one second for everything to change. Whatever it is we set out to do, try to do your best. If you fail, so what, you tried and that is something no one can take away from you.  It is better to try and fail, than not try at all. 

I have started to try my hand at writing not because I thought I was great at it, but because I was often told I had a knack for telling a story. The only way I could know for sure was to throw it out there and let the public decide.
JAN: Well, so far they have decided in your favor. Let’s hope it continues

Battleship Run is for sale on Amazon and at www.spankingpulppress.com.