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Laird Long Delphine Lecompte and many more….. Al Guthrie Kevin Cadwallender
• Iceberg Slim • The Intelligent Dumbness of The Ramones • Gene Vincent • Jawbone • The Black Keys
• Pink Grease • The Forty-Fives • Johnny Burnette & His Rock’n’Roll Trio • Ray Banks
Issue 3 - £3.00 www.bulletmagazine.co.uk
Hi there! Welcome to the third issue of Bullet - the ONLY magazine publishing rock’n’roll noir.
We believe rock’n’roll isn’t just music, it’s an attitude that can permeate every aspect of your life. That’s why the writing in Bullet covers fiction and non-fiction. We imagine it as the sort of place where James Ellroy and Lester Bangs sit happily together. It’s loud, noisy and above all swinging. We hope you enjoy it. In this issue we’ve got 15 new short stories from writers from around the world. The response to the notion of rock’n’roll noir has had global resonances and we think we’re on to something big here. Rock’n’roll is so obviously the bedrock of so many people’s lives, but that’s not surprising, after all it’s been around for over fifty years. In that time it’s influence on the world has been immense. And now there’s a rebirth going on, a rediscovery of the music that is drawing deep on its blues roots. We’re trying to ride that wave and take rock’n’roll into new worlds of writing. We’ve also incorporated some non-fiction, intelligent criticism of stuff that’s happening now that is of special interest to Bullet readers. We’ve got reviews of new albums by Jawbone, the Black Keys and others. What we’re trying to do is put new stuff into a bigger context and provoke some intelligent thinking on rock’n’roll. There’s some great new noir out which we think you should know about. Pulp Originals and Point Blank Press are doing a fine job and we look at some of their new stuff. You’ll see at the back of the mag our line of T-shirts celebrating Bullet Heroes. The latest to join those hallowed ranks is Iceberg Slim, in our eyes, the greatest black american writer and one of the greatest writers ever. Full stop. Find out more about him in our tribute to the guy. Hope you like this issue and remember ….. keep on rockin’. Keith Jeffrey Editor
wee andy’s punctuation is better than mine
Delphine Lecompte (Belgium)
i sure miss him,no not you,don't flatter yourself, i miss wee andy,he doesn't want to see me anymore,he reckons i'm too sleazy,i'm corrupting him,i stole his innocence and lots of bollocks like that,sod the middle class twat,i hope he dies of boredom,the bloody wee coward couldn't even say it in my face,he had to write it in a letter, it was full of spelling mistakes,he sure rejected me politely,but that only makes it worse,goes to show he really doesn't give a fuck;i'm sitting on wee andy's rooftop,i've spent my best moments on rooftops,usually rooftops of people i love,i get a little nostalgic sitting here,but fuck that,there's nothing to be nostalgic about,it was all bad,they were all rotten and twisted,there was the telly and my smiths tape,but apart from that it was horrible,and i'm still waiting for it to end, and because i've had "such a hard life",his words,not mine,i refuse to stack asparagus jars any longer,or any jars for that matter;and i refuse to take any responsibility,i just want to slash my puny body,and suck dodgy cock,until it kills me,and in between the slashing sprees and compulsive shagging,i write totally inappropriate shit about being raped by relatives,and i call them stories,and they get gradually more vulgar and more incoherent,but the three unimaginative middle class editors who read them indulge me,cos this is the nearest to rape they'll ever get,and they're fascinated and whatever; wee andy read them cos i plastered his bedroom walls with all my stories and he couldn't bloody well ignore them;it's a shame all my friends are illiterate rentboys and retarded flemish cooks; i tried to teach christopher to read,but i'm not very patient,and he's not very bright,so that project only lasted an hour,well at least he knows
the alphabet,and he can write his name,even if it's in a totally crippled handwriting,and christopher is not his real name anyway,i'm glad he came to his senses and went back to the streets,selling his fat arse,i'm sure them rotten twisted adults will shag the fat of him in no time,either that or some psychopath will arsefuck him with a paring gouge and shoot an arrow in his groin,which will rob him of his appetite,as paring gouges tend to do;my poor traumatised rentboy,part of me is pleased that he's a whore again,cos as much as he denies it,i know he loves sucking vicar cock,and i know he's more attached to his nefarious pimp gavin than he is to me,but i miss listening to oasis b-sides with him,both of us wallowing in self-pity,both of us loathing literature and despising conceited yuppie scum,but most of all i miss his wanking over liam gallagher pics,his gaze so serious,so intense;and his boner was absolutely gorgeous, it only ever raises itself like that for liam,only for liam,definitely not for some sleazy vicar;i try to avoid rapists,but there are so many,it's like trying to avoid a tree in a forest,i'll probably never get used to being gagged tied kicked hit arsefucked etc,it's just that they can so easily kill me,it's not a comforting thought,and as much as i love living the life of a whore,i'd rather not die as one, it's neither heroic nor romantic,i want to die by my own hand,somewhere in 2008,january or february,i can't make up my mind,january or february?,gun or knife?,sea or tree?,pills or rat poison?,jumping in front of a train that's heading for france or jumping from a hotel morrissey once stayed at?,so many dilemmas,possibilities more like it,i've really warmed to the idea of suicide,and now that i've written it down so
explicitly there's no way i'm backing out,i don't bluff,i talk lots of shite but my shite is more truthful than yours,so there;i stole a stuffed duck from the bloody supermarket,i badly want to shag it,i don't know why,it just looks so sexual,like everything else really,i wish i was a dog,then i could hump legs and lampposts and people would think it funny rather than sick,lately i've been "shagging" lots of inanimate objects,i'm a bit bored of sex with people,it's cos none of youse sleazy cunts can keep your gob shut during the shag,language is a huge turn-off,and it's not like them pervs are particularly witty,eloquent or tender;it's either threats or clichés,and sometimes i can't tell the clichés from the threats,so stuffed ducks and television sets and rock'n'roll star vacuum cleaners it is now;wee andy is sunbathing in his back garden,the wee pale scottish cunt will never get a tan,what does the vain poof want a tan for anyway?,indie poofs are supposed to be pale,surely the image-conscious cunt must know this: "STOP SUNBATHING,IT'LL RUIN YOUR MUSICAL CAREER!!",the wee cunt looks up at me and sees me gyrating on his roof,he gets all dramatic,like i'm about to kill myself,the wee bored middle class twat just can't resist a scene,"please,come down,delphine,we can work this out,we can still be friends",he's so full of himself,this has got absolutely nothing to do with him,i just love his rooftop: "i saw morrissey on the telly last night,it was the first time i ever heard him talk,it was amazing,andy,he was so kind,and so modest, and he speaks so softly,and his quiff looked so good,i'm so full of love for him now,what to do though with so much love?to quote my surrogate father himself:why did you give me so much love in a loveless world when there is no one i can turn to to unlock all this love?...maybe i should jump after all"of course i'm only saying this to bait the wee gullible cunt,i don't want to ruin his smug patio with my smashed skull,that wouldn't
be nice,"please come down,delphine,we can talk about it","about your letter?by the way,your spelling sucks","by the way,your punctuation sucks","cheeky cunt...go on,spell "punctuation","pu-n-c-t-u-a-t-i-o-n","hmm,spell haemorrhage","ha-e-m-o-r-h-a-g-e","WRONG,there are two "r"s in haemorrhage","it's dormice,not dormouses", "i knew that,i was taking some poetic liberty,sad cunt","at least i put spaces after my commas", "do you want a medal?",i'm pissed off now,"dormouses" for fuck's sake,spaces after commas for fuck's sake,pffff,as if i give a fuck about those sad middle class restrictions,"dormouses" though,"damn you, you bloody pedantic middle class poof with your supposed flawless punctuation,and all those spaces after your commas,i have more sex than you,so i win","i have lots of sex","no you haven't,deluded tosser,twice a week isn't what i would call lots","at least i'm having sex with someone whom i love and who loves me too", "no she doesn't,wee naïve cunt;at least i'm having sex with stuffed ducks who don't pretend they love me","they can't pretend,they're dead","maybe they're pretending to be dead!!",we spend the rest of the afternoon bickering about punctuation and stuffed ducks until the sun sets and the wee cunt has a wee date with his middle class slag,so he cruelly rejects me for the umpteenth time,and the rooftop is cold and lonely now,i slide down a rainpipe and walk home,home where my morrissey is looking ever so tormented and selfconscious;and spelling is more important than punctuation,i'm sure my surrogate father would agree.
The Big Kink
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Peter McAdam (Washington, UK)
Manipulation is the key to great Art. It’s the way the sculptor chips away at the stone to reveal his inner workings. Like Giacometti, he would start off with a huge chunk of masonry and gradually chip away until he was left with these fragile figures that would fall apart if you were close enough to breathe upon them. Manipulation is the medium but I work in psychology and violence, not stone. My name is Eddie Temple. I respect both the client and my victim and I approach the job in schematic terms. For instance a victim’s personality is like a grid, the inner squares are his or hers instinctual behaviour, the outer grids are the weaknesses, these are the hot spots you’ve got to mess with, then the inner squares crumble and there you have a full deconstruction of the personality, ready to be put out of it’s misery. You have to get to know the person …know the nuances, you wouldn’t catch me whacking a guy straight away, I’m steady EDDIE, cool manipulative and a psychic vampire. I like to feed off my victim, get to know them, make them feel comfortable, it’s just the old fear in the eyes when they figure out I’m not who they think I am, that makes it worth getting out of bed for. I suppose my old man’s right I do have a kink in my personality, like if you drew a straight line on a piece of paper, cut it in half and put the two together, only you slightly alter them so the lines don’t match up… that’s what you call a kink, I’ve got the big kink with a crazy fucked up hobby which I enjoy right down to my wiry bones. So I have to whack a squealer based in LA, called Lanky Williams, due to his small stature, one of those playground ironies that stick like eternal Velcro. He’s a little shit who would turn in his own Mother. Warty with halitosis in fact he deserves being whacked for his personal hygiene alone. He stitched up my Client, singing like an epileptic mocking bird, you couldn’t stop his tongue
wagging and pointing to all sorts of worms. They tried to catch him between safe houses but he slipped away like a greasy warty little shit. A lot of the old crew got banged up because of his singing. But that doesn’t bother me, all I’m interested in is the existential hit. I keep myself to myself and don’t get involved in any of the crew bonding crap. I get one telephone call and I know I’m out there adopting someone who has only a few weeks to live. Lanky Williams has got the whole works, big fuck off house, swimming pool, celebrity friends, BBQ’s in the Californian sunshine, all paid for by a Sunday paper. I’ve known him four weeks, got to know he likes West Ham and Tom Jones, Eastenders and Bruce Forsyth. I’m gonna miss those drunken nights in the Cobra Club and sleeping over in his ex-Bette Davis mansion. He’s been a good four-week friend, a bit of a scumbag but most people are. But all good things gotta come to an end, today’s the day. It’s time to get ready. I flicked on the CD. The waspish slide guitar of an Elmore James song jumped into my ears with sheets of relentless lightning, his tight-dog-collar vocals run around the room like a motorcycle wall of death. I put on my stiff starched white shirt, wrestle with the silky black tie, around and around, up and through with soft manipulations, there’s something erotic in dressing on the last day, especially handling silk the way I do. I take my two fingers, sandwich the silky tie and run it the length of the material as though I’m squeezing out the insides of a rattlesnake. Black Armani suit, black winkle pickers with ornate steel caps at the point. I vaseline my hair, sweep it back and finger comb my goatee… Jeezuz I look like a gothic Eddie Cochran. One last tinkle with my tie and the Elmore James’ song ends, crashing into the floor. I’m ready to go. There he is walking by the poolside, he turns, tilts up his shades, "Yo Tony" (that’s Tony Iommi – I always create an alias from my favourite guitarists). He eyes me up and down: bemused by my black attire.
"You going to a funeral?" "Aye…. Yours". We both laugh, he crumples onto the sun bed wearing his loud Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts with the initials LW in bad stitching. "Bloody hot innit? Too bloody hot" "Aye, but it’s better than a rainy day in Peterlee" "Too right son… Who’s Peter Lee?" "Just a place Lanky, up North" "Up North" he echoes, simulating a bad Yorkshire accent. He leans over to his right to suck on a bent straw – the Cranberry juice goes down an inch. He eyes me up and down again "Going out tonight?" "Maybe" "There’s a new lap dancing club opened up north of Belair" "Really". The voyeuristic little shit, I’ve put with his hookers and Blue Peter stories for nearly a month, this guy is definitely king scumbag. "Sounds good" "Looks good… Leather and Snakeskin interiors and lotsa horny Texas Cowgirls, knowwhatimean?" He flops his head back wearing a coat hanger smile, catching the Sun’s bleach, full facial. Craning his neck up he takes off his shades and looks at me philosophically: "You know Tony – I don’t miss England at all, not even the footie. You can keep the Saturday afternoons, everything’s here, the whole caboodle" he expels a subterranean sigh as though he’s found his inner peace, his personal utopian city – well – loose tongues make walls crumble Mr Lanky Jericho fucking Williams, your bricks are moving their sorry little arses and it’s tumble time. He takes off his Hawaiian shirt… Jesus he’s wearing a string vest in LA. He takes that off to reveal a wire mesh sunburn, people just have no taste… I approach him in my "I’m your friend for life" smile, he has no idea, he winks and rubs the oil in his arms, his arms look like Cumberland fucking sausages. So I straighten my gun arm down by my side and bring it level with his head, he gets up all of a fluster offers me money, stumbles and looks up puppy dog like, then I pull the trigger, it feels like
a single pubic hair of an Olympian God… What’s his name?… Zeus? This is what I call the God Buzz, the second before you down someone, where time expands and everything goes all slo mo. This big fat ugly duckling of a scumbag tumbles poetically into the swimming pool like a pregnant donkey and leaks out all of his head blood mixing with the chlorine. The mix of the blue sky reflected in the water and his oozing red stuff was fantastic, like an erotic fog eating up the cumulus nimbus. You should have seen his face, like he’s won the lottery but remembers he hasn’t put the numbers on. His head floating above the bloodied water like I’ve decapitated him, a singular planet, his eyes rolling like billiard balls in this fucking amazing universe that I’ve created… jeez…I told you I was an Artist…. Shit reminds me…. "Must bring my camera" it’s on a yellow stickie on my desk at home, next time, it’ll have to be digital of course, this expels the photo lab paranoia, don’t want the bizzies drumming on my door like Cozy Powell at 5 am, just coz of some holiday snaps. I’m a bit more sussed than that. Anyway memory is a good camera I suppose… it’s the film emulsion that rots inside, I think it’s called conscience, but not with me, conscience is a suitcase too many… a safety valve that’s been fucked up for god knows how many years. I jump into my car, wind down the window. I need a soundtrack to all of this, so I can reflect on my party piece. Gene Vincent singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" Why? Well it has a sweet menace thing going on, it’s tailored for aftermaths and follies… and because it’s nice. The music sweeps in, like a wave of choreographed flying swans, dipping and rising up the driveway: curvaceous and trippy, just the way I like it. And there’s a bunch of those Berkeley Babes in the swimming pool performing one of those kaleidoscopic water ballets, they’re using Lanky’s head as a beach ball he’s wearing a huge grin on his face – he looks over, sticks out his tongue and winks with satisfaction. I manage a wry smile. I drive off, with a few good photographs in my head.
Wild to Possess . . . . . . . . . . . . . Allan Guthrie (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Thunk. Mother of fucking Christ. It hurt. Thunk. She dropped to her knees. Hi, Carol. Words don’t mean anything. Not now. Not when I’m . . . At least she was alone. Oh, God, her guts tightened. Here it comes . . . Never got used to it. What have you been up to? * "Girl said she’d been exorcised." "Ah, keep fit fanatic. Can’t trust them." "Exorcised, arsehole. You know. Priest came, splashed her with water, spouted some religion at her. All that shit." "Couldn’t drag her sorry arse to church, huh? I hate invalids." "She was locked in her fucking bedroom." "She didn’t have a key?" "You winding me up?" "So, okay. This girl, locked in her room, never exercises, lazy cow. Fuck’s her name?" "Carol." "This Carol was what you’d call possessed, right? By an evil spirit, kind of thing?" "A six-year-old girl. Margaret Ann." "And Margaret Ann, she make Carol’s head spin three sixty and stuff like that?" "I heard you were good. Seems to me you’re a first rate arsehole." "Aha. You were saying. Margaret Ann. Heads turning." "Fuck you, you ain’t going to take this seriously. I’ll find somebody else." "We’re hard to find. Anyway, I need the money. Carry on." After a minute. "She made Carol sick. Literally. Felt a pressure in her head, weight in her stomach like a bag of stones. Then, whoosh. Projectile vomit. Man, what a mess." "You witnessed this?" "Heard it described. Pretty graphic. Guy who told me about it, covered in the stuff. Not like proper sick, he said. White slimy stringy stuff, he said. Couldn’t get it out of his hair." "Fuck did it get in his hair?" Pause. "He was going down on her at the time." "Yeah? Weird shit. Who was this perv likes getting it on with the possessed? I’d like to speak to him. See if he can’t line something up for me." Silence. "Sorry. I’ll try to be serious. Who is he?" "My brother. Don’t fucking laugh." "The girl, Carol? Can I speak to her?" "Well, that’s the problem. She’s dead." "How’d that happen?" "I killed her. Think you can be serious now?" "Tell me about it, Mr Harris. Nice and slow. From the start." * Not much threat really from a little girl, you’d have thought. Even if the little girl was an evil spirit. Not that Harris held any store by that. His brother might believe it, but it wasn’t the sort of thing a sane person believed, now was it? So the threat came from Carol. The words had come out of her mouth. “I’m going to kill you, cocksucker.” See, how would a six-year-old know words like that? Life experience, his brother said. Well, John could be right. Wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that some sick fuck would have messed about with the poor wee soul. Sort of thing that happened despite everybody’s best attempts to sweep it under the carpet. But if it happened, it had happened to Carol, who was twenty-three, not a little girl. He’d already told his brother what he thought. John said, "It really isn’t like that. There’s no connection. Margaret Ann isn’t Carol as a little girl. She’s a different person. You gotta speak to her. You’ll see." Well, he had spoken to her and he didn’t see. Not really. It was too fucking weird to decide for
sure. Her voice sounded really young, just like a kid’s. That was convincing. Could have been some really good acting. See, he’d never seen the projectile vomiting, and that would have convinced him. He didn’t see how anybody could do that on cue. But he believed John. Why would he lie? Anyway, he was alone the second time when she flipped. Came at him spitting, all fucking fingernails and rage, calling him a cocksucker once again. She really didn’t like him much. Well, he didn’t mean to hurt her, but when he turned, saw this slavering thing hurtling towards him, he sidestepped, didn’t think, just slammed his fist into the top of her head. Thunk. Down on her knees. Dribble sliding down her chin. Again. Thunk. Fucking crazy bitch. Fell forward, smacked her head off the floor. Could hear the crack when her skull bounced. Bent over, checked her pulse. Nothing. A kid’s voice said, "What have you been up to?" He turned, legged it. * "So you don’t know if she’s really dead, Mr Harris?" "She was dead. No pulse. Man, if you’d heard that crack." "You haven’t been back to check?" "Nah." "What about the kid speaking to you?" "Must have imagined it." "You think?" "Must have. No other explanation, is there?" "Let’s go take a look." "No way. I’m not going back there. Here. Take the fucking key. Go yourself." * Sure enough, just as Harris had described. Body on the floor. Face down. Blood matting her hair. Looking pretty fucking dead.
Shuffled over, asked, "Anybody home? Little girl?" No reply. "How about you, Carol?" Half expected the corpse to roll over, sit up, say, "What the fuck are you doing in my house, mister?" Nothing, of course. Dragged her by the heels. Slid nicely across the bare floorboards. Into the bathroom. Hoisted her into the bath. Sat on the toilet seat, thinking. Jumped when her body slumped forward. Heart hammered. Normally, he didn’t get nervous. Jumped again when the front door opened. Oh, shit. Sweating already. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck. This, he did not need. Footsteps. Man’s voice. "Carol?" Fuck. Don’t come in here. "Carol? You in the bathroom?" Oh, fucking hell. Take the gun out, point it at the fucker. Enjoyed the look of surprise on the poor fuck’s face. Bang. Deaf for a while after that. Neighbours must have heard. Heaved the new body onto his shoulder, dropped him into the bath. Landed on top of Carol. They looked cosy together. Sweet. Right. Fuck the job. Impossible to get rid of two bodies. Just get outta here. * "You fucked up." "Didn’t know your brother was going to pay a visit, Mr Harris." "Fuck, man. You didn’t have to shoot him." "Had to make a split-second decision. Shot him." "Yeah? Here’s my split-second decision." BANG.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TK Dan (Newcastle, UK)
I wake up about midday and Pasty is already in overdrive. He‘s ranting about last night, about the bastard in the pub who he’d had to pull the knife on. Vague memories filter through. Karaoke, a ripped pool table, a landlady with a face that looked like she was sucking on a lemon while someone farted beneath her nose. An argument with the pub’s "unofficial bouncer" and finally a hunting knife driven into the bar by Pasty and left there, quivering and glinting in the cheesy disco lights. I spark up and switch on the Play Station. Pasty, still wired to the national grid, gets on the phone and starts ordering every fucking thing he can; pizzas, Chinese, Indians ("cos I can’t make up me mind") whizz, blow, coke, Viagra. "Fuck me," I moan "you’ve ordered everything except a bunch of roses from Interflora." He shoots me a look and stalks out of the room still punching numbers into the phone. I hear him stomping about, barking out orders. When he comes back in he’s talking to some escort agency in Wallsend. She arrives with her boyfriend/pimp in a fucking charged up XR3 full vroom vroom exhaust the lot. The neighbours twitch their curtains but, in view of recent events, have the sense to stay indoors. She comes in wearing a beige raincoat belted at the waist, which she promptly undoes to reveal a white lacy basque, g-string and suspenders. She’s a bottle blonde, the wrong side of thirty and carrying a couple of extra pounds but when she leans forwards, laughs and jiggles her tits saying "All right lads?" it gives me the horn. The bloke just says "Hundred quid up front for the two of yer."
Pasty counts out the money, looks at me and says, "Me first. He who pays the piper" and leads her off upstairs. I’m just settling down to a game of Doom 3 with the pimp when there’s a god almighty high pitched scream from upstairs. The pimp’s up and out the room, there’s the sound of thundering feet on the stairs. She’s screaming and crying and the pimp’s shouting "Yer fucking mental! Yer fucking cards marked yer mental bastard!" I go to the living room window and look out to see her in her underwear hysterical, she trips on her high heels and scrabbles towards the car on her hands and knees, her arse high in the air. I can’t see Pasty, but the pimp’s backing away shouting and jabbing with his finger towards the door about what he’s going to do to him. He gets in the car, there’s the roar of the exhaust, the scream of the tyres, a handbrake turn and he’s gone. Every house in the street, a face at the window. I turn round and see Pasty stood in the living room doorway. "Fuck me!" I exclaim. He’s stood in his Y fronts and socks, combat paint on his face holding an AK 47. "What’s all the fucking fuss about?" he shouts "It’s only a fucking replica!" There’s a knock at the door. "What the fuck now?" he bellows. I pull back the curtains, "It’s some twat with a bunch of flowers."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Elle Ludkin (London, UK)
I hold her head against my chest. Tight. My right arm wraps around her neck, pushing her face sideways onto my skin. She is silent. She is still. My left arm holds her waist. I can reach round and press my hand into her belly. Her ear, flat against my left pectoral muscle is close to my heart. I am not aware of it beating. I am out of breath. I listen to her breathing, in and out. I need to concentrate, to hear her. There is noise from the street. A police car, a man shouts, women's heels click on concrete and a dog yelps. My back aches and I look at blood on my forearm. Smears downward. Bile comes upwards from my stomach and I cough, spit onto the floor and then lick my lips. I taste salt and her. This makes me wretch and I move forward, bend my head to the floor to vomit. I let her go. She falls onto the floorboards. There is a thud and she is still, her face sideways on the wood. Vomit stings my throat and coats my teeth. I run my tongue around the inside of my mouth, feel cuts, ulcers and plaque. Pieces of food lift from my molars and evacuate themselves along with the contents of my stomach. A plateful of pasta, pesto sauce and garlic bread, a white mass of undigested food. I am empty and stand erect, move away from the cooling vomit and her. I turn around and reach for my shoes. They are blue and I notice one of the laces has snapped. It is shorter than the other one but still long enough so I can fasten up my shoe. I tie a tight knot in the left shoelace and move towards the door. I have no t-shirt on but find a hooded sweat shirt hanging on the back of the door. I put it on and fold the cuffs over, twice. The zip sticks half way up. I pull hard and it moves, up to my neck and digs into the bottom of my chin. I turn the latch on the door and it opens. The light in the hallway
is not on and it is dark. I reach the outside door and feel in my jeans pocket for my keys. They are not there. I again turn the latch and the door opens I move out into the street. The door closes behind me. It is cold and raindrops wet my skin. I am walking, one foot keeps going in front of the other and I move. The pavement is covered with rubbish. I see packets, drink cans, a dead pigeon and crumpled newspaper. The pigeon is on its back exposing its belly. Street lights are on and shine ahead of me. I follow the curb. It is straight. Cars pass me and I start to count them, one, two, three. I stop at twenty five, her age. A woman and child are passing me on my left. The child is in a buggy, crying and mucus is streaming from its nostril. I feel sick again and stop to vomit, aiming for a drain by the roadside. The woman and child stop. "Bloody drunk!" the woman shouts. She moves away. She tells the child to 'shut the fuck up' and I hear a slap. Nothing leaves my stomach and I try to spit. My mouth is dry. I stand upright, smooth down my hair, which is wet, push up my sleeves and continue walking. He grabs at my right arm. I blink and his face comes into focus. He is in front of me. He breathes into my face. I feel heat and begin to shake. His mouth is opening and closing. He moves my arm backwards and forwards. He points directly at me then I hear his voice. It is loud. "Got a quid, 'as hungry? Got a quid? You 'ear me? Eh eh 'ear me?" He squeezes my arm, it is painful. I stagger backwards and my feet hit each other. I grab for
him to steady me. He stops talking. I reach to my back pocket. I pull out my wallet and hand it to him. I push him away. I move one foot in front of the other and start to walk. He is saying something but I do not hear him. The digital readout on my watch shows twelve ten. I glance at the clock on the station wall, it shows past two. The station is empty. I walk through an open turnstile. The shutters are down at the ticket office and the information screen is black. I stand at the top of the stairs, I move to walk, down to Platform 1. The steps blur and my eyes water. The liquid trickles down onto my cheeks. I close my eyes. My head is painful, full of noise. I open my eyes, only to see black then flashes of colour. My stomach contracts and my knees give way. I fall onto concrete. A voluntary movement pushes my hands outward and they break my fall. Breath is forced from my lungs. On all fours, I crawl away from the stairs, slowly. My muscles ache. My eyes are still watering so I keep them closed. Mucus is coming from my nostrils. I lick at it then wipe it onto the back of my hand. I crawl and crawl, kneecaps onto concrete, moving forwards until my head hits something. It stops the noises for a moment. I open my eyes, in front of me is metal. The metal is the lift door. A way down. Inside my mouth a collection of saliva has built up. I open my mouth and allow it to empty. The contents wet my chin and soak into my clothes. I keep my mouth open. I raise my head slowly, the noise and nausea are strong. The square 'call' button is alight and a shaky hand reaches for it. I hit it, then fall onto all fours. I lie prostrate on my belly, hold my hand against the door and wait. The door opens taking my hand with it. My palm sticks then slides against the friction. I grasp my fingers around the edge of the door and heave
myself inward. My sweat shirt drags downward, trapped between my body and the floor. The zip scrapes into my flesh and pulls at chest hair. I manage to manoeuvre myself in. My breath comes in heavy gasps, not quite filling my lungs. I hear the lift doors start to close. My right foot is still in the doorway. The doors close onto it, squashing the flesh. I try to bring my foot in toward me. I can not. The lift opens then shuts again. My foot is in the same position. I sigh. Open, shut, open, shut. It becomes painful. Last time, open, shut. I breathe deeply and grab my right thigh with both palms. I yank my whole leg upwards. It brings my foot in, away from the closing door. I collapse. The exertion causes my stomach to contract and bile escapes from my mouth. I turn my head sideways, lay my cheek onto the lift floor and allow bile, saliva and mucus to run downward over my face. The lift smells strongly. My nostrils react. I feel wetness soaking into me from the floor. My skin is cooling. My sense of smell detects urine and faeces. I turn onto my back and my bladder empties, it warms me. The lights above are housed in a stainless steel canopy. Small circles cut out, bulbs behind. One half of the lighting system is not working. Dimmed bulbs flicker on and off. Inconsistent light is reflected downwards, outwards onto metal walls. My eyes hurt. They sting from the ammonia. I close them, then open. Just above my head I see another square shaped call button. This has the yellow outline of a bell. 'Alarm'. As my bowels empty this time, I raise my left hand and thrash at the button. I close my eyes and her face is there. I listen to the sound of my hand slapping the wall again and again and again and... it has a rhythm.
Ahoy Boy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ed Lynskey (Annandale, USA)
Doubting why I’d come, I rapped on the screen door’s crosspiece. The covered porch offered a slim shade from the sultry afternoon. A hollow barking in the back stopped. After an expectant pause, I knocked harder. The deft shuffle of sneakers brought a young girl into view. Even the hachure of rusty screen between us couldn’t dull her fine-featured beauty. "Hi Frank," she said in a demure lilt befitting her petite stature. "My step-dad and all are in the kitchen." "Hello Barbie," I said. "Does he know why I came?" Those jade green eyes clouded with anxiety. "He knows the basics," she said. "But he wants to hear it straight from you." "Not a problem. It smells sweet in here," I said. Three ratty overstuffed chairs and a broken ginger jar lamp made the living room resemble a cheap motel. "Mama made applesauce," said Barbie. "Sounds good." For a fleeting instance, I wondered if her mother had preserved the high, proud looks Barbie carried. As we invaded the unfurnished dining room, she sidled a few shadowy steps ahead. I hastened my pace to follow her. The kitchen spanning the width of the house’s rear took on boxcar dimensions. I pulled up just short of the linoleumed floor. Citron-colored wallpaper brightened the already sunny room three people occupied. Her back to me, a lady at the sink fussed with peeling shiny red apples held in a dented colander. Nervous and rail-thin, she engaged my glance for an extra moment. An older girl, some of Barbie’s looks evident, was at the table. She ignored me. Textbooks, one open and several stacked in a pile, lay between shaky elbows. My eyes swerved to the long nearest wall. Midway, a man straddling a ladder-back chair had eyed me the whole while. As a token of polite deference, I averted my gaze, waiting on introductions. "Step-dad, mama, and Sally," said Barbie, "this is Frank Johnson." As a chorus of half-hearted greetings went up, Barbie hitched aside. I nodded my way into the kitchen debating how to address her "step-dad" and "mama." Barbie’s surname had flown out of my head. Her "step-dad" rescued me. "Park yourself, Frank." The wiry man gestured a hand, yellow with knobby calluses, at an empty chair. "I’m Mr. Saylor, by the way." I twirled the chair around on one leg to sit. Three sets of rapt eyes sized me up. Barbie, I sensed, hovered inches behind, shy and reserved but still wary. Mrs. Saylor, turning, leaned into the sink. Above her on the facie board, a clock’s crooked hands froze at two-fifteen. I couldn’t help but also wonder at the fist-sized hole in the plaster over their wall telephone. Saylor grunted. "So: my little stepdaughter says you want to take her canoeing." Nasally rapid-fire words made it sound like an accusation. "Up at Lake Brittle." I recrossed my legs but the act didn’t allay the awkward tension. I grinned a leer at Saylor. He didn’t react. Odd. "Is that a fact?" Saylor said. "Barbie swims like a damn rock, you know." I deliberately mistook his meaning. "Well, I do a bit better," I said, forcing a chuckle. "Did I say something funny?" Saylor asked. He exaggerated a lip snarl. "No sir." The scrawny son of a bitch was fast getting under my skin, I hoped I didn’t blow it. "That’s better," said Saylor. "What I mean is Barbie is such a fragile thing." "Oh Keith, give Barbie a little credit," Mrs. Saylor said. "She’s almost sixteen." Squinting glassy, surly eyes, Saylor nudged the golf cap back on his cueball head. "She’ll always be my little step-daughter" he said. "Don’t worry. I’ll bring along life preservers," I said. "Plus which, these canoes never sink. Never. They’re Grummans with air pockets, aft and fore." "Don’t sit there and tell me a ship can’t sink," said Saylor. His unbuttoned Madras shirt fell away. A hairless, washboard chest swelled out stretching pulpy muscles. "I’m an old Navy salt." Sally spoke to her reading material. "Step-dad served twenty years in the fleet." Taking the opportunity to study her, I saw a long face, coarser and sadder than Barbie’s. My sympathy went out
to these women. "Twenty-two years," Saylor corrected her. "Are you hungry, Frank?" asked Mrs. Saylor. "I’ve got fresh apple sauce in the fridge." "No," I said. "I’m fine." "Nonsense. I won’t hear of it," said Mrs. Saylor. Limping across the room, she didn’t reciprocate as my frank graze locked on her. I affirmed it. Yep, the lady’s right eye carried a mean shiner semiobscured under a heavy layer of facial powder. I snapped my glare over to Saylor, the real object of my coming. "Sailed the seven seas, did you?" "Aye, I did," the older man said. "Lemme ask you something. It’s bugged me since you strutted into my kitchen. How old are you, Frank?" In the sullen pause, Mrs. Saylor hurried about her business to sit out a chipped dish and tablespoon. A ladle in the big red bowl scooped out the applesauce. "Draw up your chair," she said in a quiet tremble. "I made it fresh this morning. It’s had time to chill." Leaned back in the chair, I said, "It looks delicious -- " "Ahoy, boy. Are you deaf?" Saylor cut in, a grating side to his voice. "I just asked you a question, Frank. Your age?" I almost laughed at Saylor balling up his fingers into fists. They were croquet mallets. "No, I ain’t deaf. I turned thirty-three last May if it’s any of your god damn business." Pinched-face, Saylor slipped a pair of hornrim glasses from his shirt pocket to fit on. "You’ve got some gall barging in here." Belligerence heated gruff words. "You’re old enough to be this girl’s father. That’s a crime. Rape." Mrs. Saylor and Sally flashed me fearful glances. Barbie’s tread scoffed nearer. "The only crime here is you socking around these folks," I said. "If this girl climbs on my school bus with another mark on her, I’ll put two on you. Unlike them, I’m not scared of you." "Beat it!" said Saylor, bolting up. The hornrim glasses tumbled off his nose. "Right now!" "Go shit between your teeth." As hoped, that goaded Saylor. He charged at me now also on my feet. Graceful as a yak, I shifted too late. His short left hook broke my nose. Feeling its sting, I used my new rage to pour through and hammer the smaller man’s defenses.
My right cross clouted him flat to the linoleum. Snorting, he dragged himself up to all fours. Sally shrieked. "Let it go, Frank," said Barbie, alarm pitching her voice. "Not yet." I kicked him square in the guts. Collapsing, Saylor wrapped into a ball, moaning. "You touch any girl here again," I said, "and I’ll be back to break your neck." "You best go," said Mrs. Saylor, her monotone too bleak. "You’ve only made it worse for us. Much worse." "Well, I doubt if this bully will lay another finger on you. Huh, Saylor?" "G-g-get the hell out," he said in hoarse gasps. "Scram!" "My god, Barbie," said Sally, "Mr. Johnson is nothing but a thug." "Well, it wasn’t going to be pretty," said Barbie. "What did you expect?" "You cooked this up with them?" Saylor scowled. "I’ll kill you. And them." A new insight led me to ask. "Is there a damn gun in the house?" Mrs. Saylor, white and shaky, half-nodded. "Where I don’t know." "You sorry bitch!" "Saylor, shut up," I said. "You three can’t stay here. Go pack your bags. I know a nice lady. I’ll take you to her. She has the right connections." Without much protest, they scattered from the kitchen. Saylor repeated his threat. "You bastard. I’ll kill you. And them." "Man, you are so full of -- " A crisp staccato of three gunshots yanked me out of the kitchen. I raced down a hallway. Sally, Barbie, and Mrs. Saylor sprawled bleeding and dead on the floor in their respective bedrooms. My nerves went numb. A skittish engine spluttered to life. Hollering, I sprinted to the screen door as Saylor peeled out gunning the car from the yard. Gaping into the gray hole, I next telephoned the sheriff without a clue as how to begin explaining what all went down here.
The Beauty Myth
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Shiv Madhavan (London, UK)
She walked in like she could understand all my peccadilloes. "Dr Shirton, I have a problem," she said sitting down, smoothing the backside of her very tight executive skirt and making herself very comfortable in my office. I tried to avoid looking at her breasts which were packed rather obligingly in a clingy, pouty, white see-what-you-like blouse. Heck, it was only 10am. "Miss . . ." "The name is Alba. Nikki, N, I, K,K,I." "Miss?" She interrupted. "What makes you think I am, Doctor." "Sorry, how would you like me to refer to you?" "Nikki would be fine." I don’t like informality. It always made me feel uneasy. "I need you to rearrange my face." Nice expression. I laughed to myself. I ain’t heard that one before, at least not in my line of work. I absorbed the essentials: she had long decorously black hair, her cheek bones were as sharp as cut diamonds, brown eyes, big and like a dark chocolate liqueur, intimating dark and dangerous secrets, I imagined. Her skin was a golden glow, entirely natural and fashioned by nature, not artificial devices. In her late 20s, she was about as goddamn perfect as they make ’em these days, I thought. Better not to play too clever. I’m 48 and dying slowly, like we all are. "Nikki," I said, trying to make it sound as uncomfortable as possible. "I don’t quite follow. You know, I improve people, I adjust their noses, their chins, their cheekbones, I don’t tamper with anyone who looks okay. There isn’t anything I, or for that matter, anyone else, would rearrange." It wasn’t flattery. "I have a stalker," she said blankly. "Ok." "The man is a goddamn freak, won’t leave me alone." "Haven’t you turned to the law?" She got out a cigarette and sucked on it hard.
"Dr Shirton, I understand you are one of the foremost plastic surgeons in the world, I am not a poor woman. What I am asking is not illegal." I paused almost desperate to hear an interruption. "Sure. I hear what you are saying, but my point is that what you are asking seems very drastic. Most people deal with such a situation with a restraining order." She stood up offended, and leaned across the table and grabbed my tie. She held me about two inches from her face. Her perfume had me freewheeling into another kind of physical encounter altogether. "Dr Shirton, I haven’t come here to have my pussy stroked, metaphorically or . . . literally," she said letting go of me. "Don’t fucking patronise me. This is business -right. I have the money, you provide the service, is that so complicated?" She looked straight into my shifty eyes with all the purpose of a sister at Confession. I brushed myself down. Technically that was an assault – but no one would believe me in a court of law. All Jackie, my reliable secretary, had told me this morning was that she was a late 20s woman looking for a nose job. Routine. In and out after about five minutes. A quick check-up, a smile and few words of reassurance; the mention of needing to part with a few thousand smackeroonies and hey presto, that another’s another week at the One and Only in the Seychelles with some tickle my fancy whore. This Nikki woman was too much like work . . . and trouble. "What exactly do you want done?" I asked like I was taking her seriously. "Well – what can you do?" She replied, as though she was in a beauty parlour. "You have to tell me how you want to be changed. Then I can tell you if it is possible." It was better to show I still had control. "Look, Dr Shirton, I’m not playing games. Don’t think I’ll listen to your doctor consultant Harley Street bullshit. I am paying for a service. You either do it to my specifications or . . ."
"What – you going to threaten me?" She looked away and sighed with great humorous effect. "You plastic surgeons are all the same. Underneath that respectable Hugo Boss suit you’re just another pervert who wants to get into my knickers and thinks they have the fucking ten-ton Chubb key to do it," she paused for effect. "You ever had to fight a case of sexual harassment?" She said like it was some kind of crazy challenge. "No." "You think I don’t know what is going through your mind right now. Right fucking NOW," she screamed, leaning towards me her big crimsonshaded lips coming at me like Jaws. Hell, that would alert Jackie. She came through on the intercom. "Is everything all right, Dr Shirton?" So bloody Mumsy, that’s why I liked her and it stopped me from straying. "Fine, Jackie. Miss Alba just heard my fee." I laughed, trying not to sound like too much like a hostage. "What if I told her you touched my breasts even though I came here to get my nose done?" "She wouldn’t believe you – no one would." "Oh, what 15 years as a consultant, respectable sit-at-home, shop all-day wife, two well-heeled kids off to Cambridge." She let the words drip into my ears. "You think I don’t know about those airhead junkie floosies who snort coke off your dick." I almost had a coronary. Elitist were always so discreet and there were only three girls who rotated around my needs in the last five years. "You don’t think the News of the Screws would be interested in your lifestyle," she continued, delivering the last word with an unholy, tantalising relish. Instinctively, I wanted to throw her out there and then. I came to my senses, quickly. "What do I need to do?" I couldn’t believe I was putting a gun to my own head. But some things I guess you do for kicks and rationalise later – almost too late. "Make me less beautiful," she said it with a starkness I found bruising, a vulnerability I couldn’t resist and a simplicity hard to defy. "You know how
it is." And it wasn’t her ego talking. "But where . . . how?" I pleaded. "Oh for crying out loud. Make my nose bigger, my mouth smaller, reduce the size of my breasts, just take a scalpel and get to work – it can’t be that difficult." "So why pay me £25,000 for something you could get done in a back alley?" "I don’t want to suffer." "This is highly unethical," I declared. "I don’t think I can do it." "This isn’t bloody ER. This is life. There is a man out there who will follow me to the ends of the earth – and for what? A glimpse of me. A sniff of my perfume. A chance to inadvertently brush past me. The man is sick. I don’t care about the law. I don’t care about the way I look. It was a curse right from day one. Nobody takes me seriously. I could have ruled the world, but I get pestered, and pressurised and cajoled into letting men believe they have something to offer me. I don’t want it and I don’t need it. You’re the only one who can lead me out of this." "Let me take some pictures, I’ll work on a few computer generated images. I’ll see what I can do." "Great," she said, rising. "You contact me when you’re ready," she said, handing over her card. Three days later I chanced upon a newspaper in a café when I grabbed a cappuccino and saw her beauty stare out from the page like another one of her brutal taunts. “INTERNATIONAL conwoman Beverly K Jaynes died in a hail of bullets yesterday after being tracked down by her former lover and crime partner, Max Hope. Notorious gangland chief Hope was himself shot dead by armed police following a tense 30-minute stand-off. Jaynes is thought to have seized more than £20m from Hope in a credit card scam they carried out together across Europe over a number of years. Underworld crime sources say 40-year-old Hope had placed a hit on 35-year-old Jaynes, who was planning to undergo plastic surgery in an attempt to evade Hope.“
Ally Pally Boys
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Martin Craig (Newcastle, UK)
Out on the Circular, Jet Black Jimmy and three rocker mates from the Ace run a snake through the backed-up Saturday traffic, tankin’ it for a faceoff with Ricky. Jimmy’s found out Ricky screwed his bird. Stupid bastard’s dead when Jimmy catches him. Up at Alexandra Palace, Ricky swaps his sharp red drape suit and white beetlecrushers for black donkey jacket, jeans and steel-cap workboots. Dishes out brass knuckle dusters to his two mates, picks out a short black cosh and a flick knife for himself. They climb into Ricky’s dark blue Zodiac and go, radio on, Saturday Club yakking about some new group from up North. Ricky switches off. He’s a Johnny Kidd man. Playing catch-up from Stonebridge, Ewan leans along the Triton’s fuel tank, grips the clip-ons and weaves in and out of the crawling Minxes, Minors, Anglias. The Ton, 105, 107... any other day he’d be lovin’ it, today his head's full of how he’d bottled out when Jimmy asked him point-blank who got off with Kika. Ewan’s no hard lad, but Dad flew tail-end Charlie in a Lanc. Went down over Essen, Stalag Luft III in Silesia, came home, made up for lost time, along came Ewan. Now Ewan wants to straighten it with Jimmy before someone gets hurt. Well, YOU work it out. Jimmy and his mates peel off the Circular into a pre-war council estate, ride past scruffy kids playing on a bomb site. They reach the place Jimmy sorted on the blower with Ricky, a one-time magnet for Goering’s bombers, crisscrossed railway lines, marshalling yards, old arteries feeding London’s greedy heart. Road ends in a cobbled hill, overgrown grass and weeds, drops down to a half-dozen damp, gloomy railway arches. Down the slope, Jimmy climbs off the Bonnie, looks around, nods. Noise of steam engines, whistles and wagons being shunted will drown out the scrap. Good spot for it. Ten minutes behind, Ewan turns into the estate. Lost. Ask the kids, but they just want a go on the Triton, mister. Rides on, frantic to find Jimmy before it all kicks off.
Dark under the bridges, water drips, dogs bark. Jimmy fires up a smoke as the Ace boys move through the first arch. Ricky’s Zodiac pulls up, framed long and low in the tunnels. Ricky and the Ally Pally Boys get out, start towards Jimmy and the lads from the Ace. Both sides fan out, ready for it. Jimmy’s off his turf here, he knows he can get badly hurt. But he’s still mad about what happened between Ricky and Kika. Bastard screws his bird and acts like nothing happened. Comes in the Ace, large as life, egg chips’n’beans, even has her up for a dance by the jukebox. Jimmy’s mates say that’s what you get with posh birds. Well, sod that. "What’s it about, Jimmy?" Ricky wants to know. His voice rebounds off the damp tunnel walls. Jimmy’s not having that. "About you and Kika, bastard! Don’t piss about." "Nah, not me mate - not that I’d object to a test-ride (Ricky’s mates laugh) but you’ve got the wrong bloke. Wastin’ me bloody time on a Saturday too - whaddya think this is, Charity Week? Bloody hell. What? Do your bird? A man of my cali-ber?" Ricky’s mates laugh again. Even the Ace boys admit Ricky does a good Hancock. Wasted on Jimmy though, Jimmy’s in a red mist. Up above, Ewan drops the Triton off its side-stand, desperate to get down to the arches. Ricky and Jimmy stand-off: Ricky grips his cosh, Jimmy swings a bike chain. Smoke from an overhead shunter swirls round Ricky and Jimmy. Hellish train noises echo off the bricks. Ewan climbs a fence onto the rail tracks. Whistle blares, black shunter rumbles past pulling empty cement wagons. The last wagon grinds by. Ewan sprints the rails, leans far out over the sooty bridge parapet. Clocks Ricky’s Zodiac, two of the Ally Pally boys. He screams down at them, his voice wiped out by the clank-clank of the cement trucks. No one hears. Ewan shudders. All this shit for one night in a cold attic flat. Kika. Couldn’t believe his luck. Kika.
Daddy a Polish Squadron hero with a posthumous DFC, Mum another war widow with a walking talking keepsake. Some grateful Polish charity pays for little Kika to go to a posh school in Brighton. Nuns call her a holy terror. Takes up her school skirts in needlework, blows her dinner money on fags and Billy Fury on the jukeboxes in town. One beating too many from Mother Superior. Kika junks her schoolbag, does a midnight flyer on the back of Jimmy’s Bonneville, a new face at the Ace. The one they only talk about when Jimmy’s on a burnup. Ewan never told Jimmy it was Ricky. Jimmy just guessed it. Rick’s the cat with style; big shoulders, big mouth, big quiff, fancy jive moves. An Ally Pally Boy. No other rocker would have dared go after Kika while Jimmy was around. Ewan wouldn’t even show on Jimmy’s radar. Jimmy lashes the bike chain. Ricky holds his ground, grips the cosh harder. The two gangs take position, marking, watching. Ewan looks along the tracks, sees a steep grass embankment leading down to a high stone wall that drops to the street below. He clears two more tracks in front of a shunter, forces through a barbed wire safety fence, rips a piece out of Dad’s old sheepskin flying jacket. Ewan stops at the long drop, squeezes eyes shut, jumps out long, lands on the grass embankment, slips, rolls head over heels down the steep slope. Speed carries him over the lip of the stone wall, crashes onto the pavement between Ricky and Jimmy. "What the fuck was that about?" Jimmy’s pissed off and jumpy at the interruption. Winded, bruised, cut, Ewan struggles to stand. Legs give way. "Kika", he rasps. "Not Ricky. Me." "You? YOU??" Jimmy laughs. "I don’t believe it. I don’t fuckin’ believe it. You never did it with anyone yet. You and Kika? Not a chance." "At her flat," Ewan’s voice cracks. Deep breath, remembering. "Jazz drawings. Candles in bottles. Stripy mattress on the floor. It was me, Jimmy." Ricky stands, cosh ready, watching. Jimmy grabs Ewan’s jacket collars and drags him upright against the dirty stone wall. Ewan can’t
stand, but meets Jimmy’s stare. "That’s right, it was me. Just bloody listen for once!" Jimmy smiles unnervingly. Ewan flinches. Jimmy’s eyes flare again and his fist comes up to smash Ewan in the face. Ricky steps forward, Jimmy stops himself, hold out his open hand to show Ricky it’s ok. Lets go of Ewan’s jacket. Ewan slumps in a heap. Jimmy aims a half-hearted kick at Ewan, turns at the last second, braces both hands on the wall, shakes his head slowly. "What happens now Jimmy?" Ricky wants to know. "I dunno. Nothing. Nothing happens. We go home. I was wrong, was’n I? Bloody hell. I was out of order, Rick." Ricky punches Jimmy’s shoulder, always the joker. "Yeah, well, I was the only obvious choice, wasn’t I?" He grins. Jimmy tenses, then nods back. It’s ok. Ricky lets out a long breath, pockets his cosh, flicks back the stray hairs that escaped from his quiff. Jerking his head for the Ally Pally boys to follow, Ricky sets off towards his Zodiac. Jimmy’s mates from the Ace help Ewan to his feet. "So what are we gonna do with you, Lover Boy?" Jimmy asks. He’s adjusting. Ewan’s not a threat like Ricky. If Kika wants to play with babies like Ewan, so bloody what? Jimmy’s no angel himself. But Ricky, that’s different. That’s competition. Yeah, but he can’t let Ewan and the boys think he’s soft either. His hand tightens on the bike chain. Jimmy looks back up the tunnel, sees Ricky and his mates get in the Zodiac. Ricky fires it up, punches the push-button radio, whacks it full on for the Moontrekkers ‘Night of the Vampire’. The opening chords clang out as the King of the Ally Pally Boys hits the Zodiac’s hot rod air-horn, spins his back wheels on the gravel path. Wolf horns, electric guitars, Ricky’s laughter. New echoes down the old dark tunnels.
Mister Kurt, He’s Dead
Grunge...a good word grunge. Fits the sound really. Parallel lives me and Kurt, Kurt and me. I never saw Nirvana, not live, on the telly, MTV, unplugged, do you remember? I was shaggin’ Lisa in them days. She was fit. The type of lass Kurt could have had any time he liked. I met her in the pictures, she was in the Tyneside watchin’ one of them foreign films and I was sleeping off a session and snorin’ like a bear. She turns round and says to me dead polite like ‘Shut the fuck up you noisy get ‘ It was love all right. Then after when the lights go up she looks at me again and says, ‘You look like Kurt Cobain’ and I was in. We’d got a pizza in and we were gonna watch a load of Nirvana stuff that I’d collected over the years from thievin'. We were watching Kurt with his left handed guitar and I was just saying to Lisa how maybe I was born left handed and maybe the teachers or someone else made me be right handed and how I’d tried to write with my left hand but it looked like a bairn’s scrawl. Kurt was in the middle of ‘The Man who sold the World’ when me mobile goes off and it’s Kev saying how it’s just like Ernest Hemingway and I’m saying ‘Who the fuck’s Hemingway?’ and he says, ‘It’s Kurt, man he blew his fuckin head off!’ I just dropped me phone like it was too hot and Lisa looks at me and says ‘What’s up?’ all concerned like. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t talk, I just picked up the remote and switched off the TV and fucked her while she called me Kurt, over and over and over again. She finished me when I called her Courtney. Next thing I know and Kurt’s been dead for years and I’ve surfaced from years of blankness to buy a Foo Fighters CD. So I’m in Virgin megastore and this lass just keeps looking at me and staring, staring so much that I think ‘What?’ And then it dawns on me that it’s Lisa, beautiful, accommodating Lisa. But she has this horrified look on her face and I realize I must look pretty
. . . . Kevin Cadwallender (Sunderland, UK)
wasted, I smell pretty bad too. She just points at me like one of those girls in ‘B’ movie horror films a sort of silent scream edging its way out. I absentmindedly put my hand up to where she’s pointing and feel this warm liquid running down my head and I can feel my ear is like almost ripped off. I’m a bit pissed off at this point cos I just want the Foo Fighters CD. Well, I’ve never liked blood, so I just keel over like a total blouse and I can hear Lisa screaming and shouting ‘Kurt, Kurt’ over and over again. I reckon she’s forgot my real name. Next thing I know I’m in intensive care and there’s Doctors and Nurses like in E.R. everywhere and there’s tubes and wires everywhere, snot and blood, tubes and wires. Eyes wide open now I expect this geezer with the stethoscope to go, ‘It’s Alive! It’s Alive’. Lightning never strikes twice, it doesn’t need to. In Edinburgh there is a hotel where they had to change the name from the Nirvana Hotel to the Ardmillan Hotel or summat like that in order to stop Kurt wannabes going there checking in for Bed, Breakfast and the top blown off your head, please. Where I’d fucked up, I realized lying in that hospital bed was in using my left hand to try and blow my head off. Turns out I’m not left handed at all and can’t really play the guitar whatever way I hold it. Also I’m a shite singer and well it broke my heart when I realized I wasn’t gonna be a star like Kurt, but Kurt killed himself man, which is only cool when you’re not in the same room or don’t think about the utter despair it takes to do something like that. I never saw Lisa again, she married some gadgey who looked like Jeff Buckley, she was always a bit of a tragedy junkie I reckon. Me, I’m alright, I don’t buy too many records nowadays, Everything sounds like Kurt but it’s just cold. I have a scar on the top of my ear. I’ll do something with my life or not, it doesn’t matter. Whatever.
The Valentine Day Massager . . . Breanda Cross (Queensland, Australia)
It was Friday night in the down part of town and the drunks hadn’t sobered up from the night before. It was the 1st day of February and I was on my way to a Valentine’s Dance. Hey, I like to be early. My name’s Bond, Wannabe Bond. I’m 5’10, weigh in at too many lbs. and I’m dynamite in tricky situations – it’s a hereditary medical condition that may be terminal. As I walked through the door of the Spicey and Hot Nite Club I could hear the sounds of The Reluctant Virgins all female rock band playing. They were famous for their brass section. The oral sax player was unbelievable. A full size Barbie doll was standing at the door, but when I looked more closely I recognised most of her accessories had once belonged to Pamela Anderson. Her dress was out of place, and so was my imagination. I said, "Hi there, dollface, is this the place for sex, drugs and rock’n’roll? She looked me up and down, noting where I placed my I.D. and said, "Well, the sex is D.I.Y., the drugs are B.Y.O., and the music is Rhythm and Blues." "That’s O.K." I said, "I’m Catholic, and whenever I forget the rhythm method it makes me blue anyhow." She laughed and it set my XY chromosomes looking for partners. I began to walk in but she said, "Hey we’re pretty fussy who we let in here – and you look like a gal I’d like to forget." Now I’d heard this kind of talk before. It sounded cheap and nasty, just how I like it. I could see we were going to get on great.
It was a square sort of dive, even the female impersonators were women, everyone was in disguise. And in the dark it was hard to tell de guys from de gals, unless you used braille. And I know from experience that gets you into trouble. It turned out the dame’s name was Trixie, and boy, did she live up to it. I asked her to dance, and as we sashayed our bodies meshed to the cadenza of poker machines. She clung to me like poison ivy, and there were parts of me getting a rash. I asked her if she wanted a drink. "Sure she said, an Elvis Presley special". This was new to me until she added, "I wanna be All Shook Up." Now this is an invitation you don’t get too often, so I began to manoeuvre her towards the bar. We kept bumping into other couples who had got stuck playing leap frog, when she suddenly gasped and ran from the dance floor. "Hey, what’s the big idea, ditching me in front of strangers", I asked her, pulling her towards me so that we looked like Siamese twins. "I’m sorry Wannabe" she crooned, "But my boyfriend has just walked in. I turned and saw a big dude with most of his DNA missing. He strutted over and stood in front of me like a towering inferno. His belly was so big his trousers hung on hope, barely covered his faith, and had little to do with charity. It was difficult to realise he was the product of a million years of civilisation. I could see the glint of a knife in the top of his sox and knew it wasn’t there as part of a designer label.
"Let me introduce myself, Tacky" he said. "My name’s Razor Sharp, and if you don’t leave my girl friend alone you’ll find yourself with more slices than a cut loaf" "Sure Razor" I said, "but you won’t mind if I call you Rusty". He growled like a centipede with new shoes and came at me like a kamakaze pilot with attitude. I knew I was in trouble when my goosebumps went a.w.o.l.. I went for my gun in its usual hiding place, but it was a bad time to find I had a hole in my knickers. "You can’t hit me", I sneered. "Don’t you know I’m a woman." He stopped in his tracks thinking it over. I made my move. "BIFF, BAM, BABOOM", Batman would have been proud of me. "KERPLONK, KAZAM", I shouted again in full voice - but still he kept coming. He used his Jackie Chan moves and I counteracted with Charley’s Angels. It was a close call. He had me in a half-Nelson, bent over double and began moving things I didn’t know I had. And then it happened. Dynamite. He backed away gagging. "That’s below the belt" he spluttered, holding his hand over his nose. And I was happy to agree. My medical condition had struck in the nick of time. I looked around the room, it was empty. All but for Trixie. She was looking at me with stars in her eyes.
"Wow, you’re some mover, shaker" she said with admiration a few minutes later as we propped up the bar. "So Wannabe, how do you make your crust?" "I’m a P .E." I told her. "A Pest Exterminator" she said, "Hey that accounts for the strange smell." "Well, that’s one way of describing it" I agreed, "but I prefer to think of myself as a Private Eye." "A Peeping Tom" she said with a shiver of anticipation that made all her body parts move in different directions. "Why, what a turn on." I could feel the electricity between us fusing. I made my pitch. "Fancy coming back to my place for a game of tiddley winks" I asked. ‘I’ll get you tiddly", wink, wink. "Why I can think of better ways to use the time" she said salaciously. "You know, my hands are my weapons of mass instruction. I could only think that with a woman like this I’d be a willing pupil but asked her what she meant. "Well, I put ads out in all the telephone booths and newsagent windows, that I do Swedish massages – satisfaction guaranteed." she said with a secret smile, and suddenly, everything she had hidden was up for grabs. We walked out of the club, and out of the story the moral of which is – women are clever bitches. And no man should mess with them.
Three Down at the Furt Fark Perimeter . . . Liam Sharp (Derby, UK)
SHIT! Things might've been different if Gail, the pneumatic endorphin-spume dol, hadn't toppled past on her distractingly elegant pins at precisely the moment Jed Lightsear chose to spatulate about access codes to the Furt Fark perimeter. (You remember Jed? Still talks a good sandwich, but you wouldn't trust him as far as you could spit him.) So there we are, me, Jed and Gail. Jed's like "it's amazing man..." some-such, and "two off the New Danube Delta - six back from Arcadia... yadda yadda" and I'm like "yeah yeah" ‘cos Gail's pink nipples are winking at me over the top of her pink latex corset and her pink shiny lips are goin' "yeah, honey..." (Down boy.) Next thing you know we're high over mount Hubris watching the sparkles dancing out of Permafrost City like arc welding. I'm trying to concentrate on what Jed's saying, but Gail's got a four-digit handle on me and she's steering pretty good! Soon it's full nightscape and the wind is straightening even Jed's Dapper Dan hair as we take the "Taunton Excesses" down town to Port Miramax. (Yeah, old Jed always did have an eye for my ship. She’s a babe, retro-styled custom scape-bender. Bit damned independent, but you gotta love her! Guess that’s why he asked me along.) And there it is. The Furt Fark perimeter. Bigger than Mohammed's mountain and twice as profound. "Holy fucking Dick!" shouts Jed, laughing. It’s some info-dump and no doubt! Our neuroreceptors are buzzing like ‘Lectro-Wasps round a stat ball. Gail is spurting endorphins all over us, trying to fuck everything at the same time. I whip out the Exodus I acquired along Sunset B while I can still think clearly enough and drip 10ccs into our eyes. Soon we’re flat out spin-drunk, talking Jungshit and passing round the "Blowman" tm, just like we used to in the Monde. Then Gail’s off, riding the monkey, and we can see the ectoplasmic trails drifting off her like spectral filigree. "There she blows. Whoa yes." Jed, one eye half open, waves an arm in the general direction. "Listen, man. We got the codes. What say we check it out, you and me?" "Jed Jed Jed." (I’m at the upper end and flying.) "I can’t leave Gail. I’m hooked man. Proper bitten." "Shit." (You ever ride the monkey? One time you’re down like a gump-child, all Jungshitted out and dumbass. Next Spyro the giant cosmic monkey has manifested between your legs. Soon you’re clinging on to that bright golden fur and bounding along the seventeenth dimension like it was a high wire, praying that the metawhals don’t blunder into your plasma-trail and send you Crazyeddy.) I can see Gail up ahead. Jed’s whooping behind me. We ride the monkey all the way to Proto China Town. The Aurora Hendrix is advertising Base Adaptoids when we come down. Below it the Synthtown New Bizley flashes smooth invites at us and, too down-dumb to argue, we climb back into the "Taunton Excesses" and let her take us in. The Hyatt Flotel has sub-stratos rooms available so we take one. Later, all honeyed up in the jackouzi, we plan our entry into the perimeter. "I’ll press the guardians with code." Jed says. "Gail, you gonna stick out honey, so spray ‘em good. Keep ‘em sweet." We wake and dress in the splintered morning light, chopped and diced by the prismic windows
of the Hyatt Flotel. Bathed in magenta, Gail smiles her fuckme smile then looks out at the perimeter. Jed, in cyan, slicks shut his suit. His smile cries "come on now baby dol. Come on baby." The suits make us look like highflights, cool and rich. We hide our smiles with trendy flute-masks. The air is cleaned and jacked up with nutrients. Our voices ring with harmonics. Mandelbrot shades hide our eyes behind a dancing spectrum, like diesel films over water. "Come on now baby dol." Later we ride the elevator shuttle back down to Bizley Town and take a rickshaw to the perimeter. The driver, a Spumoid, tries to charge us triple fare. He trembles, indignant - like a giant purple jellyfish - three feet above the ground, and finally stings us for double. "Fucking highflights", he warbles. "Fuck you!" Jed yells back. (Old Jed don’t much like it when somebody gets one over on him. No sir.) But we’re at the perimeter. (Remember the imagiplants we used to watch as kids? Sailing round the virtual Furt Fark perimeter together, thinking "this is what it must be like...") It’s not. The effect the actual Furt Fark has on the body, even at distance, is near indescribable. Once, you’ll recall, we gatecrashed the technotrance of 30,000,000 initiate Quantumonks and briefly glimpsed an abstraction of god - before they spotted us and drove us out of empathspace. Not even close. The Furt Fark takes you apart and puts you back together. Perfectly. It fills the quantum spaces between your atoms with a symphony of feathers cast from an angel’s wings.) Gail sprays and we’re all like "Oh God oh God" and the Guardians - protected in their armor of rough-spun diamond punched into lead and
shrouded in zappy plasmashields - ask for the codes. Maybe it WAS the endorphins that got to him, though the flute-masks should have taken care of that. Maybe he lost it ‘cos there was three of us there. Maybe the proximity of the Furt Fark made a better man of him and he couldn’t lie. Or maybe Jed pulled a fast one and worked those codes like they was basic trig. Whatever. Those Guardians soon had us rumbled good! I unfolded the metascape access and jumped us three parsecs before they got off a single round. 12000 light-years away we booked into a lowpro sleep spa and zoned out for two weeks in zerogravitanks. Gail had been transfigured, I suppose. Her endorphin mists were laced with pheromones, and she had taken on a more organic shell. I’m pretty sure she was actually alive after that. Either way, somehow I wasn’t enough for her anymore. Maybe I never was. She didn’t much talk, just smiled a distant smile, and soon she was gone. Still hurts. And Jed? Jed just fucked off. The ‘Taunton Excesses’ paid our bill at the Hyatt Flotel and headed out to the Pyramid Nebula without incident. I met her, as arranged, at the Mountain Momma Inn, southside of the planet West Virginia. She pretended she was sad to find me all alone, but the next day she had gone too. (And to think of all the love I lavished on her! Bitch! And you know what? I just bet Jed Lightsear knows EXACTLY where to find her...) SHIT! Octavia Flume once wrote that "The Tachion Tract is the model for human consciousness." I’m still puzzling over what she meant when suddenly I’m back in Mean Time and everything is dirty again. I had forgotten my knees ache when I walk. It’s a short distance from the check-out desk to my car, but it reminds me.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mike Coombes (Sussex, UK)
Dancer is strutting down Main Street, he’s thinking Ramones but his body is shouting Tony Manero, Bee-Gees, Staying Alive, the mirrored aviators and wavy shoulder length black hair making him look like a ‘70’s throwback. He’s in a groove, on top of a mountain, he’s a tiger, tooth and claw, he’s fucking King Kong, man, don’t cross him. Spotting her a hundred yards ahead he crosses the road, speeding up a little, getting closer without getting close, steering through the pedestrian traffic like sidewalk slalom is an Olympic event. He gains ground, slipping through the throng like an errant shadow. Phone rings; Dancer flips it open and holds it to his ear. "Yeah?… I’m on it… No worries… Five minutes max." Phone flipped shut. She turns into a quieter side street and he accelerates as they get closer to her apartment block, getting closer, closer, until he’s right behind her, until he’s invading her personal space and, right outside the building, right in front of the waiting doorman, she turns to see who the jerk is marching just a pace behind her. Her mouth opens but before she can speak her tongue is pushed aside by the snub gun barrel grasped in a latex surgical glove that has appeared from his right hip jacket pocket. The doorman steps towards them, sees the gun, steps back. Dancer looks into her eyes and sees himself reflected in her super-dilated pupils, bizarrely sees the reflection of her image as reflected in the aviators. Time stretches to an eternity as he wonders whether a person stood between them would get the elevator-mirror infinity effect, reflection bouncing off reflection bouncing off reflection…
He senses her mouth tensing around the barrel – just a second has passed – she’s going to scream. He pulls the trigger. She falls. As she lies prone at his feet he calmly fires two more bullets into her head. A passer-by is stood staring at him, and a cab has screeched to a halt, but no heroes. He holds the gun straight down by his side and walks briskly away, pockets the gun as he rounds the corner, into the burger joint, straight through to the washroom, gun in the cistern, flush the glove, flush the wig in the next cubicle, reverse the jacket (turning it from black to gaudy mint green) out through the fire exit, aviators crushed under heel in the alley. He gets back to the scene of the crime before the first squad car, before the crowd gets too big, pushes through the few rubberneckers to where passer-by and cabbie are telling everyone who’ll listen how they saw it all. The doorman has reappeared, his faux-military overcoat draped over her shattered head, blood already congealing on its journey across sidewalk to gutter. As the squad cars converge on the sidewalk and the ambulance wails into view he flips the phone and hits redial. "Yeah, it’s me… yeah, she’s gone… No, no problems, it was sweet… Sweet enough to give me a hard-on… OK, later." Flip shut, move on, job done. Dancer is strutting down the street, he’s thinking Velvet Underground but his body language is shouting Bee-Gees, Staying Alive.
A Cup of Kindness
. . . . . . . . . . . E.Smith Gilbert (Tennessee, USA)
Vance "Dutch" Flowers wasn't the sort seen in coffeehouses. He thought meeting his contact here was stupid. He'd never have set this up. It was odd. Rattler had told him it was a fast, easy deal. Rattler knew the contact. Rattler would take a fifteen per cent cut. A fast seventy-five hundred. Flowers would keep the rest, a little over thirty thousand. A man like Flowers stood out in Starbucks Coffee shop in the fanciest neighborhood in Atlanta. But three o'clock in the afternoon was slow time. That was ok. Anyway, straights would be too afraid to look at him. Not many outlaw biker types in fancy suburban coffee bars. A giant man, long hair, beard, in denim, greasy and unwashed, he'd put fright on them. They'd never remember his face. They wouldn't want to. Flowers got black coffee and took an outside table. It was too hot to sit there at midday, but he needed to see things. He'd wait for the contact who Rattler said demanded to meet here. Rattler said the contact's office was nearby and he was pressed for time. One thing, this place was near the interstate if he needed to run. Rattler told him he'd recognize the guy. Flowers couldn't think who it'd be. He owed Rattler ten large on their last deal. Rattler hadn't gotten paid. The deal had soured. That didn't make any difference, the Rattlesnake had to be fed, always. This deal would square plus eight thousand clear. He'd take a vacation.
Flowers was the bouncer at a strip club on the south side. He liked it. He was big, over three hundred fifty pounds. He liked to fight, was good at it. He liked hurting people. Bouncing was good, a night job. Sleeping in the daytime left room for things. He did ok. Made out on his meth business selling at the door, more than ten times his time clock. The only meth available was his crank. It was easy keeping out competition. When he started, there was another neighborhood seller. Flowers took care of him one night. Flowers jumped him in a parking lot, snapped the guy's spine. Word got around. Soon, he'd bought a custom soft tail Harley out of Florida, with cash. Perfect gold flake paint, plenty of chrome. All was good until the deal Rattler banked went bad. This would clear that and leave some. This guy, Rattler's man, a dentist and cycle fancier, that maybe he knew, wanted his wife dead, fast. It was a rush job. Rattler told that the mark was edgy, needed fast money, wife had heavy insurance. Flowers thought killing split tail would be easy, he'd make it fun, slick and wild. Today, he hadn't ridden his bike, lot of guys knew that ride. He'd driven his pick-up. He'd parked on the side lot in easy sight of where he sat. He saw the Porsche Rattler said the contact would drive. It turned onto the lot from West Paces Ferry Road and parked side ways in the middle of the lot.
"He's a careful one. Doesn't want his car dinged. Prissy. Maybe cheap" he told himself. Flowers recognized this man. He knew him from his last gig at the bike shop, Rattler's shop. Flowers had tuned this guy's bike. This one was queer for big heavy European touring bikes, BMWs. Seemed to live high, liked toys. The man walked up to his table. The man wasn't nervous, smiled like a politician on television. The contact said, "Hi", nothing else. "Hi yourself", Flowers said back. The dentist looked thirty-five, maybe forty, weighed about one-fifty. Hair clipped short, had a black moustache. He was wearing sweet cologne and expensive sunglasses. Flowers looked hard at the dentist, then said, "Don't talk. Listen. Nod 'yes or 'no'. Keep smilin'. Act like I'm discussing you capping my teeth. Don't screw with me. I'll snap your neck like a baby chick's and be gone before anybody here knows you're dead. Answer my questions. You carrying cash?" The contact nodded. "All of it? On you? You can talk now. Be short." "It's in the car, the glove box." "OK, that's enough. Quiet. We're going to take a ride in your pretty little Porsche and you'll give me the money and tell me the play, where little wife is."
"Fine by me" said the smiling man who had unusually white teeth. "I've got your money, minus the Rattlesnake's part." "Ok. Let's go. You drive." "Look, sir, I've been working all morning, on my feet, with back to back patients, so I could get away this afternoon and set this up. I'm hungry. I'd like a cup of coffee and a pastry. I get jumpy if I don't eat. Low blood sugar. Just give me a minute to pee, and get a roll and coffee. Please." "Yeah, ok. I could use one too. Black. You're buying." "My pleasure. Just sit easy. I'll be right back." The contact returned quickly with coffees and cinnamon rolls. "I'm sorry, I forgot you said black. I put in cream and sugar. I'll get you another cup". "No. Eat fast. We've got things to do with a little lady." Flowers stuffed most of one cinnamon roll into his mouth, swallowed. He took a deep swig of heavily sugared coffee and gagged. His face flushed. His throat was scorched, burning. There was grinding pain. A generous dose of cyanide works extremely fast. Flowers acted like he suffered a devastating heart attack. Perhaps for twenty-five seconds his body shook cruelly, and he drooled vomit. He tried to reach out, then sagged flabbily in his chair. He died in very little over a minute while the dentist was in the parking lot getting into a waiting gray sedan. The huge man had been alive scarcely long enough to hear the contact whisper "Rattler sends his regards."
The Jimmie I Made In Metal Shop . . Pat Lambe (New Jersey, USA)
The Jimmie I made in metal shop wasn’t long enough to reach the latch on the van we were trying to boost. So I had to break out my lock pick and play around with it for a few minutes before the latch turned. I moved aside, watched the bar’s entrance while Junie went to work on the ignition. I looked at her lips pursed in concentration between the long hair surrounding her face; saw the change, pure joy, when the van started. She moved over in the seat, let me drive. This was the first van we had ever done. No money in it, but this cop Junie knows - I think she’s fucking him - just got thrown off the force. I don’t know why he needs a hot van so bad, but he’s willing to pay for it and we don’t ask questions. It turns her on, used to turn her on, hotwiring a car. That’s why I think she’s balling the cop. Time was she’d blow me as we were driving away when she should have been watching for other cars. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe a van just doesn’t do it for her. I ask her about it. She looks away, out the window, doesn’t say anything. I want to say something else, catch the red light in the rear view, one short burst from a siren. I slip the jimmie in the front of my pants, pull over, ease to a stop, roll down the window. Put my hands on the wheel at 3 o’clock and 9’o clock. The guy coming down my side of the car has a gun in his hand. I can’t tell what kind, but it feels like a 45 when he cracks it against my head.
I don’t really lose consciousness, hear something like, "so you like to steal cars." He opens the door, drags me out around the car, kicks me a few times to the shoulder. I can’t move for a few minutes, stay put for a few more while I catch my breath. Get up. There’s two of them. They’ve got Junie on the hood of their car, one of them is raping her. I pull the jimmie out. Get behind him. It’s not too short to reach his head. I pull him off her. His buddy had been holding Junie’s arms down from the side of the car. We both go for the gun caught up someplace in the unconscious guy’s pants. I get there first, get a shot off, a little high. Junie grabs my gun arm. "Don’t," is all she says. She has her pants back on. Her tits fly free because all the buttons of her shirt have been torn off. She bends down, checks the guy who had been raping her. Takes his wallet. I order the other guy to give over his wallet. Check it out with the gun still trained on him. Volunteer fireman. That explains the siren, lights. I kick him in the balls, hard. Work him over with the jimmie. Junie stops me again. She’s holding her shirt together with her right hand. "If you kill them we won’t be able to sell the cars." I take the rapist’s wallet out of her hand, start up their car, follow Junie in the van. I memorize the addresses before I empty the cash and throw them out the widow onto the Jersey Turnpike. I should have ditched the gun too, but I would be using it soon.
Ghosts of the Past
. . . . . . . . . . . Laird Long (Winnipeg, Canada)
Charlie scooped up the giant pumpkin and gently tossed it into the back of the open trailer. He banged his massive arms with his huge hands, more from reflex than for warmth, like he used to do before a big boxing match. That much he remembered. Ten years ago, a savage beating had parked him in a state hospital for eleven months. The beating had left his heavily-concussed brain with little memory of the past. But at six foot six, two-seventy, he had quickly regained all of his former strength. ‘Not much for brains, but goddamn for strong!’, is how is baba from the old country put it. Charlie brushed dead leaves from his thick wool coat and let his eyes roam over the hushed, snow-crusted countryside. It was the middle of October, and thin blue smoke hung in the air. The air was crisp and chill, and the gentle breeze carried a veiled, but friendly, threat of winter. In the brilliance of the afternoon sun he could clearly make out his neighbor over a mile away in his own field. Orrie was working on his broken-down tractor, trying to pull one more year from the rusting hulk. Orrie still owed him a hundred bucks from the Super Bowl - Charlie had gone Bears, while Orrie had crapped out on the Pats. Charlie was no homer when it came to money. Charlie grunted contentedly, horked out a sticky yellow gob, and bent down for another pumpkin. His mind held the thought of a hot cup of coffee and a cool wedge of pie - his wife always had something good waiting for him when he took his afternoon break. A rogue gust of cold air suddenly shoved him backwards, but he shrugged it off.
One hour later, a long black Cadillac with out-of-state license plates steamed down the dirt road alongside Charlie’s property. It was moving fast. It stirred up a whirlwind of dust, and, in Charlie’s dented skull, a cloud of cobwebbed memories. He watched it thunder by like an unstoppable doomsday machine, and then, not fully knowing why, he ran for the freshly-painted, white frame house he called home. He anchored his huge body in the middle of the long driveway and his grim face signaled ‘Stop!’ The Caddie surged to a halt, its front bumper bouncing softly off of Charlie’s knees. Four city men in funeral suits piled out of the car and fanned out in a skirmish line in front of Charlie. Three of the men gripped shotguns. The fourth spoke. "Long time, Paulie. Ten long years," he said. He was short, fat, and oily. His stumpy, brown teeth clenched a stumpy cigar, and his hands were buried deep in his coat pockets. "Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about," Charlie said, truthfully. The pissed-on fireplug of a man coughed out a laugh and spat it into the dirt. "Yeah, yeah, I heard about the amnesia act." The dead cigar dropped from his mouth. The other men casually raised their weapons on cue. "We heard you didn’t squawk. Couldn’t. But the old man don’t take no chances. So, after ten years of witness protection bullshit, here we are - you know, to finish the job." The fat man gulped down some fresh air and broke into a coughing spasm; he was used to swallowing his air in chunks. He looked back at the scarecrow guarding the pumpkin patch,
at the gently rolling hills beyond. "Quite a life you’ve carved out for yourself," he smirked. "Life is where you find it," Charlie replied calmly. The fat man nodded slowly, solemnly. "And death," he whispered. "Drop your guns now!" The voice seemed to thunder from the heavens. The men spun around as a group at the sound, but they didn’t drop their guns. The animatronic scarecrow, with cameras for eyes and a speaker for a mouth, stared down at them. It flailed its arms wildly. Charlie and Orrie had put in ten months building the thing, but the kids and the customers loved it. It was operated by remote from Charlie’s workshop in the house. As the men gaped in astonishment at the cavorting scarecrow, Charlie’s memory dredged up a few more things from his murky past. He went into action. He grabbed the man closest to him - a little guy with a scared, pimply face. He crushed the punk in his thick arms and fired the kid’s shotgun using a sausage-sized finger stuffed into the trigger guard over the little guy’s broken digit. The gun boomed and one of the goons split open at the back. Shards of cloth and flesh flew into the air in a red mist. Charlie fired another blast. The gob in the longshoreman coat did a jig, folded up, and plowed the ground with the side of his head. The fat man ripped his hands out of his pockets and blazed away with a pair of .45’s. The little guy caught in Charlie’s love embrace jerked around a couple of times as the bullets tore up his insides and then noodled. Charlie shoved the body aside. The fat man ran for the field. Charlie opened up with the
shotgun again. Fatso flew through the air and smashed to rest at the base of the scarecrow. The scarecrow went limp as Charlie’s wife raced out of the house and down the driveway towards him. Her arms were outstretched and her face was soaked with tears of terror. Charlie turned to meet her. The scarecrow looked on blindly as the fat man rolled over, squeezed off one more shot, and then went cold. The heavy bullet tore through Charlie’s thick neck. The only other witness to a certain prominent Teamster’s disappearance toppled over and died in his wife’s arms. He had forgotten one of the rules he used to live by: when your man is down, plant him; one more bullet - the final nail in the coffin. So the ghosts of the past stay buried.
NO 6 – Iceberg Slim
was the real deal, a stone cold pimp, maybe the biggest purveyor of whores in post war Chicago. He may have been successful but after one jail stretch too long he gave up the Life and became one of the best selling writers in black American history. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce Iceberg Slim. In a series of vivid, hard hitting and above all truthful novels Iceberg Slim documented "The Life" as he knew it. Life in the criminal underbelly, the con men, the pimps, the gangsters, the hookers, he knew ‘em all and he loved ‘em because he was one them. Iceberg Slim had done it, lived it and done time for it. What he spoke of was real and he told it in some of the most compelling prose ever put to paper. Ultimately though, he knew how destructive that glamorous, addictive, immediate life was. Be sure he didn’t shy away from the pain. He started writing in the late sixties after one prison spell too many. Within days of the warder giving him back his possessions he wrote "Pimp", a straight forward portrayal his life in Chicago. That success enabled him to produce a series of books that have since sold over six million copies world wide, making him one of the most successful ever Black American writers. Watch out though, his books vary wildly in quality. His strongest, and certainly my favourite is "Trick Baby", the story of a con man called "White Folks". This is a man light skinned enough to pass for white but underneath is completely black. He uses this "disguise" to great effect and becomes the greatest hustler in the ghetto jungle. It’s a damning indictment of racist white culture. Then and now. "Death Wish" on the other hand is a confused mish mash of gangsterism and black power but, read "Doom Fox" and "Pimp" and you know you’re in the presence of greatness. The thing about Iceberg is his brutal honesty, everything he writes you know is the truth (ruth) it bleeds authenticity. Slim was an integral part of the world he
describes and delivers his prose in a fast swinging style that derives its influences from blues and swinging jazz. That’s why we love him, you can feel music oozing through every sentence. Driving, loose limbed rhythms that give the feel, the texture, of what it’s like to live the large life. He writes in a sinuous, finger poppin’ manner that lets the eye just glide along. It reads like real people talking, it flows, it swaggers it gives you that delicious jive of a great Duke Ellington record, brash and bigger than life. Man it swings. Iceberg’s heroes have a lot in common. They don’t want the Square Life; they don’t want to get up at six in the morning to do some Joe Schmo job for peanuts and a bollocking from the boss. They want the feel of brand new clothes, a roll of green bunched up in their pockets and some hot dame (or guy) on their arm and in their bed. They want all the good things life has to offer but they sure as hell don’t wanna work for ‘em. But this ain’t no paradise he’s describing. All human frailty is painstakingly laid out for examination in brutal, forensic detail. And don’t even begin to talk about his portrayal of women. Iceberg’s heroes are no gentlemen. Their idea of being considerate to a woman is to give her cunnilingus, opening doors and raising hats don’t come into it. With Slim, you get the truth and you get it with style. Iceberg Slim remains a profound if perhaps unspoken influence today. 50 Cent would be less than a dime without this guy, Ice T used his inspiration to transform himself from a hustler into a top MC. Modern day rap would be nothing without him. Buy his books and read. He is a hero of Bullet and we salute him. Recommended reading: Pimp: The Story of My life Trick Baby Doom Fox The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim
The Intelligent Dumbness of The Ramones
Tony Lagosh (Cambridge, UK)
"Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee …good times" – The Human League
The death of Johnny Ramone now means that all three key contributors to the Ramones sound are now dead. Okay the drummers are still kicking around, but let’s face it; these three were the heart and soul of the Ramones. It really is astonishing to think that all of them are dead but then again getting out early always was their forte. It’s hard to think of any other band who have been so comprehensively wiped out (save for the Bhundu Boys, the Zimbabwean Jit band ravaged by Aids). McCartney is still performing and recording (unfortunately), the Stones (Jones apart) are still pretty much intact. Even the Dolls god bless ‘em still have a couple of survivors, so to lose all three is well, the word upsetting just don’t come close. The Ramones are now fully fledged members of rock’n’roll aristocracy. They’ve even been inducted into the rock’n’roll hall of fame. It wasn’t always like this, they were once treated as a comedy band, not to be taken seriously but who are now acknowledged as a band changed the direction of popular music. They appeared out of absolutely nowhere and were direct inspirations for the Clash and the Pistols and it is no exaggeration to say that without these geeks, punk rock would never have happened in the way that it did. Back in 1975 you see, Da Bruddas were a startling idea. Take the cover of the first album, a stark black and white image, four punks loitering with intent in front a brick wall above them one word, RAMONES. You knew what you were going to get before you even heard the music. But despite the warning, it was still shocking. 14 songs, none of them longer than 155 seconds, a simple three chord thrash, with a rumbling rhythm section, a liberating buzzsaw guitar backing some lanky geek with a whining, nasal drone you really couldn’t call singing. It sounded like nothing on earth. You see context is the important thing in popular culture, reacting to the here and now may seem ephemeral but it can create music for eternity. The frustration that the
status quo brings (and I do also mean the band) can make people angry, forcing them to reject the mainstream and carve out something new for themselves. To be that innovative, to be that intelligent, to be the Ramones, takes huge creative talent. Simple, simple, simple. That was their great innovation, they brought rock’n’roll back to its roots. Back in 1975, dinosaur time and excess abounded. Fleetwood Mac and Zeppelin ruled the roost, musical behemoths driven by coke, heroin and groupies. The Ramones had to make do with sniffing glue and a quick fumble in the basement. It all seemed so real, so attainable and of course look what happened. Punk fucking rock. It was their direct inspiration that led to Bullet. They created the blue print of rock’n’roll noir, short, fast, brutality with a buzz saw energy and a sledge hammer impact. Say what you have to and get out, quick. Their influence lingers and it’s immortal. But they were more than just a three chord thrash band. Underneath that fuzz noise was an intelligent dumbness. They were funny and they made you realize that you didn’t have to sing about dungeons and dragons or how your old lady has left you. You could sing about horror movies or comics or just standing around. The Ramones were sharp. They realized that you can create your own cultural landscape and that you don’t have to accept that there is a right way to do things. There’s just your way. Okay they hadn’t made a decent album in at least twenty years and they probably weren’t the greatest musicians of all time (at least technically), but they represented something, an archetype, a reminder of what you can do with great ideas and tiny resources. We’re gonna miss ‘em but hey, we still got the music. Hey ho, let’s GO!
For everything you need to know about the Ramones check the first three albums: Ramones Leave Home Rocket to Russia
Gene Vincent - There’s one in Every Town Mick Farren (The Do-Not Press) Rock’n’Roll Revolutionaries
John Collis (Virgin)
There must be something in the air. The limping skinny ghost is coming back to haunt us because up until now there were perhaps two serious books about Gene Vincent. Yet, in a period of months, another two come along hot on each other’s heels. This is getting scary. In the past, if you wanted the definitive low down on the life of Gene Vincent you had to have Brit Hagarty’s "The Day the World Turned Blue". It’s a little Joe Friday in its approach (Just the facts Ma’am) but it tells you everything you need to know, in the order it happened. What it doesn’t do is tell you exactly how and why Gene Vincent was the key genius archetype for rock’n’roll. If you want that then you gotta get Mick Farren’s book. Farren is a bit of a Brit rock’n’roll legend in his own right. He fronted his own band the Deviants, was there in the sixties for the Beatles and the Stones; and in the seventies when punk happened. He was editor of the underground newspaper "International Times" and was involved in the riot that was officially known as the Isle of Wight Festival. This guy has lived and breathed rock’n’roll since the fifties and he knows his stuff. What’s more, he has produced a book which gives you a direct and visceral connection with the sheer electric energy of Vincent and his Blue Caps music. The writing itself is pure rock’n’roll, particularly the descriptions of Vincent’s live performances. Farren gets rock’n’roll in the way that we at BULLET get rock’n’roll. It’s a wild passionate life affirming energy, channeled through voice drums and electric guitar, that these days maybe the only we way can actually touch the essence of life. It’s a short book (c 30 000 words) but we like that, this is not a book for the fact finders, this is a book for seeking out the spirit. It’s short on biographical detail but the bones are there, however that’s not the point. For the first time, the fact that Vincent was a truly great musician, absolutely integral to the development of rock’n’roll is nailed, here in black and white. Read and understand that without Vincent rock’n’roll would be a very different beast indeed. There are some fascinating hints of this, perhaps best exemplified in Farren’s description of his relationship with Jim Morrison. The Lizard King was in absolute awe of Vincent and actually saw himself
as something of a bastard son. The leathers are the give away of course. There are even hints of the Doors wanting to back Vincent live but were too lazy to get out of bed in time. He had to make do with Alice Cooper’s band instead. This isn’t a perfect book, the discography is unnecessary and we certainly could have done without the dodgy poem, but for me, if you want to understand Gene Vincent, then this is the one you want. Hunt it down wherever you can. It’s essential for Bullet readers. Not quite the same can be said of the latest book by John Collis. Nothing wrong with it, very scholarly and academic but maybe that’s the problem. It’s a slightly confusing book, uncertain as to whether to focus on the biographical details of Vincent and Cochran’s lives, the 1960 tour or the two rockers’ relationship and it contains much familiar material. Where it scores is in its almost forensic analysis of the 1960 tour, the tour that ended with Cochran in a coffin. It convincingly makes the case that this is when rock’n’roll took hold in the UK. All of the huge names of the sixties and seventies rock saw Vincent and Cochran on this tour and this, if not actually turning them on to rock’n’roll, then certainly fully showed them the possibilities. Back in 1960 remember, rock’n’roll was all but dead. In the US you had to be called Frankie or Bobby or Pat if you wanted a hit and in the UK we were still suffering from a WWII hangover. Dirty screaming rock’n’roll was not what the kids were allowed to have and it would be another three years before the Beatles and the Stones kicked in. As a guide to the lives of Vincent and Cochran, Collis does a good enough job but the whole feel is that of a quasi academic tome. The basic stories of their lives are laid out effectively enough but you always have the feeling that this is one of those greasy old rockers from the Ace café moaning on about how crap modern day music is and how none of them are fit to lick the boots of their fifties heroes. Like Brit Hagarty it gives you the facts but if you want to understand the real gut-busting impact of rock’n’roll get the Mick Farren book.
The Big Blind – Ray Banks (Point Blank Press) Squeeze Play – James McKimmey (Pulp Originals/Point Blank) The Devil Wears Wings – Harry Whittington (Pulp Originals) Pulp – Charles Bukowski (Virgin)
Really the reason for doing Bullet in the first place was to have something decent to read. Trying to find great quality noir, stuff that bites, that says something about the here and now was proving extremely difficult to find. Which is strange, as this stuff has a long and honourable tradition. Like rock’n’roll though, publishers are rather sniffy about it, refer to it as pulp and generally regard it as not proper writing, not real literature. Well fuck literature we say, we want stuff that excites, that reflects the world we live in and isn’t hung up on notions of art. That’s where Ray Banks comes in. “The Big Blind” is a stunner, a driven drama based in the seedy underbelly of a Manchester I certainly recognize. Its hero if he can be called that spends his days selling double glazing and his nights wasting time and money in the sort of casinos you don’t see in Bond films. The story focuses on Alan Slater, a borderline alcoholic who ends up in a mess when his mate’s card game goes badly wrong. Slater has a small life which is going nowhere and is accelerated down that path by murder. This is no glamorous hit man job, just something bad and messy down by the canal. And there’s a point to the murder too, it opens up new depths to his soul he never knew existed, Slater takes a peek in and he ain’t at
all impressed by what he finds. In trying to escape he’s pulled back further in by his love for his a woman who is plainly wrong for him but he’s too desperate to care. “The Big Blind” is a fine achievement and is an essential for all Bullet readers. Which is not what can be said “Pulp” by Charles Bukowski. For some reason Virgin have decided to bring this worthless piece of shit out again. You know these literary types, they see a popular genre and think “Hey, not only can I make money out of this but I can take the piss at the same time.” The egg heads call it a pastiche, I call it a bleeding cheek. Charlie boy (I’m speaking through a medium here) you can’t do this, leave it to writers who know and care about what they’re doing. People of real style flair and ability, people like Harry Whittington and James McKimmey. Pulp Originals have done us the great service of publishing two long lost pulp classics “Squeeze Play” by James McKimmey and “The Devil Wears Wings” by Harry Whittington These are two fine, fine books. Lean and taut, driven and passionate, they’re about men losing control of their lives because of dumb decisions they make.
In “The Devil Wears Wings”, an alcoholic pilot agrees to take part in a bank job because he and his partner have convinced themselves that it’s a dead cert and that, nothing can possibly go wrong. Of course it does but that isn’t the real story. The real story is of a man aching for the passion and drama he once tasted as a World War II pilot. The bank job is his way out of teaching spoilt brats how to fly planes for a cheesy crumb which he immediately blows in the nearest bar. This man lost the big life and is ready to do anything to get it back again. “Squeeze Play” has a different take on the desperate loner motif. This is about a small town guy, confident and capable, wanting to
get on with life. Out of nowhere though, it all goes horribly wrong and he is fucked over by everyone and I mean EVERYONE. His wife, his boss, his putative lover, even total strangers combine, knowingly or not, to frame him for a murder he didn’t commit. He’s out of control and driven to desperate acts that lead him into a fevered chase against time to find the real murderer before the police nab him. It’s told in a fractured style similar to “Memento”, switching back and forth from character to character, time shifting the story to reveal it in the most effective way possible. The whole world should know about these books.
Johnny Burnette & the Rock’n’roll Trio: The Complete Coral Recordings (Hip O Select) Superpill – The Forty Fives (mp3 from yeproc.com) Lupine Peroxide – The Barbs (Mother Tongue) This is for Real – Pink Grease (Mute) Fucking A – The Thermals (Sub Pop)
The Swing’s the Thing
But just what do you mean by rock’n’roll? Don’t you just mean rock? No I fucking well don’t. There’s a big, big difference. I’m not saying one’s better than the other it’s just here in Bullet we’re celebrating rock’n’roll and that means understanding certain things. Let me explain a tiny bit more rationally. You see rock means steady, fixed, without the swing. Rock’n’roll swings. That’s the first question you ask if you see a guitar, bass and drum set up. Do the band swing and if they do, then they have a chance of being a rock’n’roll band. Swing seems an old fashioned word these days, it’s associated almost completely with big band jazz of the Benny Goodman era but when you listen to great rock’n’roll carefully it’s that swing that sets it apart from rock. That finger popping, hip swinging, pelvic gyration of the blues seeping through the spaces in the electric noise. But if you really want specifics try listening to this lot, a diverse bunch on the face of it, but underneath there’s that blues swing we’re looking for. For some reason Hip O Select have chosen to reissue every recording the Johnny Burnette Trio made for Coral. The Burnette Trio are one of the greats, they didn’t make many records and a lot of those that they did weren’t particularly good but when they did it right, man it was pay dirt. They’re the greatest exponents of the stripped down archetypal rockabilly sound. Recorded nearly fifty years ago, their teenage electric energy still sounds fresh and exciting. Make music like "The Train Kept a Rollin" and "Honey Hush" and you’re knocking on the doors of immortality.
Right now there seems to be a whole load of bands emerging that have this instinctive feel for the swing with which they are imbuing their music. They’re losing the stiffness that the Beatles & Dylan and just letting it flow baby. Take a listen to "Superpill" by the Forty Fives available on down load from the Yep Roc website. Underneath all the fuzz and the rock posturing, that swing is there, oh yes it is, feel the groove and you tell me you ain’t in the same ball park as Elvis. Check out the Thermals whose aptly named named Fucking A is lining up for album of the year accolade in the Bullet office. The Thermals have produced an object lesson in lean taut noise backing a vocal as nasal and American as you could ever wish to find. 12 songs in less than thirty minutes, no half assed ballads, just sheer electric energy hung around songs imbued with their own inherent clarity. The Thermals get in quick; say what they have to then get out. Just like Bullet in fact. Pink Grease, on the other hand, take as their starting point the early seventies and we love ‘em for it. They draw upon people like Eno era Roxy Music, Glitter, Bolan all that stuff but infuse it with a sleaziness that Prince would be proud of. The Barbs seem to be inspired by the Cramps but they have a more straight ahead boy girl configuration. Their sound is less louche but they still have that swing, underpinning a tight buzz saw guitar drawing upon all the greats of rock’n’roll yet somehow imbuing it all with their own identity. On their website and blurb they push the horror show aspects of rock’n’roll but that all seems kinda fake. What they do have though is a great rock’n’roll sound. You should get on the bandwagon ASAP . The swing’s the thing and man it’s back.
The White Stripes Dang Blues - Jawbone (Loose Records) Rubber Factory - The Black Keys (Fat Possum)
The Blues is Coming to Save Us All
This is 1975. Feels like it anyway. 1975, that vast rock’n’roll desert inhabited by dinosaurs, cheesy pop and heart throbs. It’s back to haunt us. However, all is not lost. If I’m right, this means there’s something big around the corner. Very big. Back then that big thing was punk, and looking back it is possible to see the roots poking through. Nothing comes from nothing. The Pistols et al may have hated the prevailing music scene but they had their own stuff to love. The Dolls, Bowie, T. Rex, Iggy kept them going in the dark days of dominance by Floyd, Zep and ELP But they still needed that one major catalyst . to switch on the light bulb. Back then it was the Ramones, today it may just be the White Stripes. Now I’m not the greatest Stripes fan in the world, they’ve made some great stuff (Seven Nation Army, Hotel Yorba, Fell in Love with a Girl) but their poor and mediocre stuff far outweighs the good. What is important to understand about them though, is that they’ve led the way for a resurgence of the blues. Without them it would have been impossible for Jawbone or the Black Keys to make any sort of sense in the modern world. The White Stripes are a pointer back to the roots, a back to basics willingness to get down and dirty with the blues and maybe start over again. They’re also cool and this means they can excite young people into discovering music they’ve never heard before. What’s more, they’re reinventing it for their times. Exactly what the Stones did. Take Jawbone for example. "Dang Blues" is a driving primitive almost feral piece of music.
It has lost every modern day influence you can think of and gone right back to the archetype of the blues shouter in the cotton fields. But he ain’t living in the last century, no sir, he’s very much of the now. The singing is horribly distorted, like it’s been put through an electrified megaphone so that the end result is that of a terrifying intensity, a wild eyed prophet wailing in the desert. Jawbone is a one man band who recorded these tracks in less than a day and "Dang Blues" is the ultimate exercise in DIY. Every home should have one. The Black Keys on the other hand are a different kettle of fish. When I heard their "Thickfreakness" album I was less than impressed. It seemed old fashioned, out of time, I ignored it. Context as you know is everything in rock’n’roll and now, in the light of Jawbone they suddenly seem important, authentic, true. We should beware of those words, there is no such thing as authenticity or truth argue the academics, influences abound everywhere. They’re wrong of course. Academics almost always are. It’s the feeling that has to be authentic and true, like Eric B said, its not where you’re from its where you’re at. Eric Burdon was authentic and he used to come round my Grandad’s house in Newcastle. But he had the feeling and that’s what’s the Black Keys have. Although they have a Paul Rodgers sound-a-like on vocals and they often fall into the seventies blues rock mantrap, they sound sufficiently of the now to make me feel there’s a lot more to come. Maybe they need to understand the context they’re operating in a lot better but that will come. Get both these albums. Prepare yourself. It’s all starting again. Strap in for the ride.
Author! Author! Top Ten - Ray Banks
Ray Banks, author of "The Big Blind" published by Point Blank Press has the audacity to tell us what he thinks are the greatest albums of all time.
6 - Superfly, Curtis Mayfield.
This is blaxploitation and morality tale all rolled up in a cute little bundle, shot through with brass, balls and the falsetto spit of Mayfield himself, a throbbing underscore to the movie as well as providing a funky Greek chorus.
1 - London Calling, The Clash.
Possibly the greatest rock 'n' roll album ever created, and certainly the last great rock 'n' roll album of the seventies and best of the eighties (depending on where you bought it), which is precisely what Strummer and Jones wanted it to be. A last howl of rebellion before punk effectively died.
7 - Murder Ballads, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.
Ahhh, Laughing Boy Cave and his Bad Seeds aren't known for their sense of humour, but this album is the Ronseal of Cave's discography it does exactly what it says on the tin.
2 - Closing Time, Tom Waits.
Tough call, this one. I still love Blue Valentine, The Heart Of Saturday Night and Small Change, and Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs have some real heartbreakers on them. My favourite is actually Nighthawks At The Diner, but seeing as it's a live album, it's been kicked into touch. So the debut it is, and there isn't a duff tune on the entire record, cynical as well as sentimental, all delivered with that trademark whisky-soaked voice.
8 - This Is Hardcore, Pulp.
Fucking hell, Jarvis Cocker hit middle age hard and fast with this one. But what makes this album one of my favourites are the sleazy tracks "The Fear", "This Is Hardcore" and "Seductive Barry" - lush orchestral odes to bad sex and dirty movies.
9 - New Boots And Panties, Ian Dury And The Blockheads.
The whole album has a rough, violent and irreverant feel to it, Dury's talent for sketching the minutiae of the British classes is at the forefront.
3 - Greetings From LA, Tim Buckley.
Eschewing the ethereal wandering minstrel bit, this is the nastiest, most vulgar and downright funkiest of all of Buckley's records. Oh, and "Sweet Surrender" is the most unapologetic "I cheated on you" song there is.
10 - This Year's Model, Elvis Costello.
Hey, it wouldn't be me without a Costello album on here, and this is the one that gets the blood going. For some strange reason, this one had a profound effect on The Big Blind ("Pump It Up" and "Lipstick Vogue" both made it onto the unofficial OST) and it's nice to be reminded of Costello when he wasn't shit. ‘The Big Blind’ by Ray Banks is available from Point Blank Press.
4 - Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy, Billy Bragg.
Raging, weeping, busking genius from the poet with the one-amp guitar.
5 - American IV: The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash.
Again, another tough call. All of the American recordings proved that Cash was an exceptional performer and let's face it, the man could read the Bible and make it sound like a personal threat.
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All the t-shirts below are available in S/M/L/XL and cost £11 inc p&p (UK).
Cheques to digitalent Ltd, 7 Roker Park Road, Sunderland, SR6 9PF, specifying size. Also available online at www.bulletmagazine.co.uk. Please allow 28 days for delivery. SUBMISSIONS Wanna write some rock’n’roll noir? Then check out our submissions guidelines at www.bulletmagazine.co.uk. SUBSCRIPTIONS A four issue subscription costs £10. Electronic version costs £6. Bullet comes out four times a year. Cheques to digitalent Ltd, 7 Roker Park Road, Sunderland, SR6 9PF Also available online at www.bulletmagazine.co.uk. Please allow 28 days for delivery.
Published by digitalent Ltd PO Box 38 Wylam, Northumberland NE41 8YU Contact: email@example.com Edited by Keith Jeffrey ISSN 1740 9721
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