You need serious stones to name check the likes of Ted Lewis and Derek Raymond in the introduction of your book, so does Brit Grit live up to the exacting standards Brazill has set for himself?
Oh my, yes.
The opener, Guns of Brixton, is a pacy heist tale with the kind of nifty construction rarely found in short fiction. It’s a tough ask, weaving so many characters into such a tight space – mardy wife, coked-up jewellers and dragged up thieves – but Brazil pulls it off with aplomb, setting the tone for the rest of the collection.
This is gritty stuff. Violent, dark and populated with characters who exist on the margins, but Brazill has a good eye for what makes people tick, even in his more surreal stories, and his characterisation is very strong. Paddy in The Night Watchman is every old curmudgeon who’s ever conned a drink out of you and the narcissistic author in The Gift That Keeps on Giving sums up the petty vanity of risen losers the world over, going back home to stick the knife in.
When Brazill steps away from the violence his writing becomes softer and quite poignant. Everybody Loves Somebody, Sometimes follows the ousted member of a Rat Pack tribute band screwed over by circumstances and his own failings, now taking his comfort where he can. There is the trademark Brazill wit, but also a keen appreciation for human frailty.
Throughout the collection Brazill gradually builds a recognisable if unattractive world, full of sly humour and some neat one-liners. The prose is taut, the set-ups intriguing and if you can think of a better way to dispose of a body than Kenny and Browny in The Sharpest Tools in the Box please put it in the comment section.
Brit Grit by Paul D. Brazill is available now from Trestle Press