The Four Books That Inspired Four Days

I have a piece over at Do Some Damage today running down the four books that inspired my new novel Four Days:

"My debut novel has a very meagre origin story. After years of messing around with writing — of trying epic novels, experimental flash fiction, literary shorts — I finally wrote what I thought someone else might read and enjoy. The manuscript I put together as an ‘entertainment’ (to borrow from Graham Greene) turned out to be a draft of Four Days and, to be honest, I was a little disturbed by it. I tried to do something accessible and trashy and melodramatic but turned out a densely plotted book about inherited corruption, sexual dysfunction and ultraviolence. Nevertheless, as I edited the manuscript I started to place it in a small, personal canon of books I loved. These were authors I knew full well I’d borrowed from. Sitting alongside these greasy crime novels below, I felt a little better about myself.

  1. Blood On The Moon by James Ellroy

James Ellroy is a huge influence on my work. Huge. I make no apologises at all for both studying his books and emulating his style. Everyone has their cornerstone (Ellroy had Chandler) and throughout Four Days, Ellroy was a devil on my shoulder, barking softly, telling me to go further. When it came time to outline my book, I went back to where I met Ellroy: the Lloyd Hopkins trilogy, which I read from the public library as a teen. Something about those early books called out to me and as I re-read Blood On The Moon I remembered this piece of trivia: Ellroy tried to write Blood On The Moon as a commercial potboiler for Avon. And yet he couldn’t do it. The Lloyd Hopkins books are some of his most straightforward stories but Hopkins gets impossibly bleak, dysfunctional and violent, and eventually the whole series slides into the abyss. That felt familiar. I couldn’t go straight either. "

Read the rest here.

Interviewed by Alex Segura

Crime novelist and and comics guy Alex Segura interviewed me for his excellent newsletter 'Stuff & Nonsense' (you can subscribe here). He interviews a new writer every edition; I recommend his features on Jake Hinkson and William Boyle too. Worth checking out. Here's an excerpt from our interview:

Okay, another question: plot vs. character - where do you fall?

Plot. Character is a jerk around. Every single person on planet earth is interesting and has a motivating backstory and is capable of terrible crimes and/or great nobility. Almost none of these people do anything interesting, including myself. I hate how everyone with even the remotest pretension to craft and literature bangs on about character as this great rosetta stone of fiction, but damn, would any of us give a single fuck about Clarice Starling and her dad issues, if she worked in a carwash? I don’t think we would.   

Hmmm, pretty deep stuff from me there.

Click here to read the rest.

 

New Story 'Expenses' exclusive here.

I never liked Wayne Shorten. No one did. He looked more like an estate agent than a copper. Kept himself tucked in and polished. It was all for show. He was dirty in ways he couldn’t cover up. Mongrel eyes. A terrible smile.

"I've got myself a problem," he said.

"I figured as much."

We were down one end of the pub bistro. Wayne devoured his meal. Mine looked pretty much the same as when it came out.

"A week back, some blokes I know decided to knock over a bank truck. Now I can't really condone that sort of thing, but nobody got hurt and these blokes were okay. We made a deal. Then some sneaky bastard came and pinched the takings before I got my share."

"That's terrible, Wayne. So what do you want?"

"That's what I like about you. Always straight to the point. I got wind the money's on Tunnel. One of my young Constables is a bit of a go-getter and…you don't want to hear the hows and whys do you?”

“No,” I said. I could see where this was heading. "You want me to go over and have a look?"

"Would you? That’d be mighty helpful."

“Got a budget in mind?"

"I think this one’s on the house, Bill.”

They were all on the house. That's how it went with Wayne.

---

Tunnel Island heaved in the high season. Finding two idiots burning through money over there was needle-in-a-haystack stuff. But, as told, the Rockhampton police had that haystack narrowed. They had a credit card trail leading back to a rental car and said rental car was spotted in the vicinity of Wayne’s money. CCTV footage a block away from the robbery. The most recent transaction on those cards? A deluxe suite in Tunnel's finest, the Gold Point Hotel.

I staked it out and it cost me. A week lurking in a hotel like that isn't cheap. It was thirsty work. And I had my own problems, as well as Wayne's, to contend with.

Sure enough, the blokes were there. They were idiots but they were doing a better job of it than expected. They were keeping a low profile. They didn't mug it with the regular punters or shout the bar. Instead, they kept to themselves, gambled in the high rollers lounge and tipped large. All smart moves, but to no avail. I owed Wayne and a few hospitality burn-outs at the Gold Point owed me and that was it. I had someone from the hotel run the card. It married up a room number.

Case closed.

---

The room service kid brought them champagne and lobster for breakfast. I waited till he was back in the elevator, then knocked.

"Room service.”

A woman opened the door. "We’ve already got our--"

She saw the gun.

"Back it up,” I said.

She didn't say a word as she backed into the suite. The two blokes I was looking for sat on the lounge in their underwear. No piece in sight.

“You, sit down too," I said. "And you two, stay put."

"Look, we just--"

"Shut it. This is a courtesy call. You took the wrong bloke's money. He wants it back. I'm going to give you his number. If you've got any brains at all, you'll give it back and disappear."

The men looked at each other.

“Okay,” said one of them.

There was a pause.

"I've got expenses," I said.

They had the cash piled up in a mound in the walk-in closet. One of them obviously knew his way around a poker table. He said they were up. They had more than what they stole from Wayne. A lot more. But it wasn't enough.

---

A week later, the Morning Bulletin carried a piece on a dumped rental car over in Stanwell. Someone lit it on fire. There were three bodies inside.

Wayne sat in the bistro with his charcoaled chicken and chips. He picked at it.

"Poor thing," he said. "Burning’s no way to die."

He wiped grease from his mouth.

"Let me tell you a joke," he said and it was some story about how a group of thieves stole money from one another. At the punch line, he laughed, but I didn't.

END

New Story 'The Drifter' in Crime Factory Issue 17

I have a story in the new issue of Australian crime journal Crime Factory. I've long been a fan of CF (especially their recent One Shot novella series) so I'm super chuffed my story 'The Drifter' made the cut. (And damn, Luci Everett's cover art is beautiful. She did the last cover too.)

Buy the issue here in digital form.

Buy the physical edition here.

Here's an excerpt from my story:

The stealing, the lying, the cheating, none of it mattered. It just happened. What picked at him was Cale and his wife. It was a long time ago now. She was dead. But the memory lingered. It was how he ended up back in L.A.

They all lived together in the same place out in the east. Cale still lived there, still had the same number. He didn’t even sound surprised on the phone. “I always wondered when you’d turn up again,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t ever gonna be never.”

He went round. Cale showed him the house like he’d never seen it before. They’d renovated and painted and extended but it was still the same. All the stories were still in there. They had a shed out in the yard now. It had been hers, something for her work, Cale said. He opened it up and the perfume drifted out, like a fever. Her things were still there. It was a museum. Cale said he didn’t have much need for it, but every now and then, he sat there and listened to her radio.

They had beers from the kitchen fridge. Cale put the game on.

He said, “You married?”

“No. Nearly, one time.”

“It’s not the easiest thing in the world. Thing is, I get bored now. Never used to get bored. You get bored?”

“Sometimes.”

They drank the beers.

Cale seemed comfortable enough. He let the drifter smoke, didn’t seem to mind the fresh ash in his dead wife’s ashtray. The drifter looked at Cale and said, “I’m real sorry I never came back for the funeral.”

Cale smiled a little but didn’t take his eyes off the TV. “Just how things are sometimes. She wasn’t here to miss you.” He always used to joke around like that.

“It worries me,” said the drifter.

“What, dying?”

“No. Not coming back. Sometimes I think you and her were...”

Cale waited.

When the drifter remained silent, he said, “Well kid, you can’t pick who you do your bit with.”

***

That night the drifter slept on Cale’s couch in his underwear. It was September and a shower came through. He went to the kitchen and took a glass of water. Out past the yard, on the neighbour’s house, a bright light shone through like a spotlight and in it he could see the rain coming down.

She told him she loved him. That first time, she said it real quick, under her breath, like she didn’t want anyone to hear it. It happened in the room beside him now, just through the wall there, right where Cale slept in his bed. It might have been the same bed. Maybe they never bought a new one.

Read the rest here.

New Story 'New Anchor' available at Akashic Books

I have a short story published today by one of my favourite small presses: Akashic Books. You can read it here. Akashic is not only home to one of the best noir series but was founded by Johnny Temple, the bass player of one of my favourite bands (Girls Against Boys).

Hop over to Akashic.com to read the story in full but here's an excerpt:

New Anchor by Iain Ryan Moreton Bay, Brisbane, Australia

Never take a job in summer—that’s rule one. Rule two is never trust anyone. They have that rule all over, but rule one, that’s my thing. No one thinks straight in summer. You can’t rely on anyone after November.

*

They called me because they needed someone with a boat. “You can’t just waltz on over there on the ferry,” the guy said. “One of our guys tried that. The locals noticed.”

“And this woman? What’s she done?” They wanted me to watch her.

“We don’t know what she’s up to,” he said. “But Sammy doesn’t like her.” That was enough for me. Sammy didn’t like people who asked too many questions either.

“Okay. How many days you want?”

“As many as it takes.”

He gave me half the money upfront.

October had been quiet, but still. This was a big mistake.

Click here to read the rest of 'New Anchor'