Most crime fiction connoisseurs who prowl for new authors like a junkie for a good fix have a foreign author we hear about, wishing they would get reprinted here for easier access and for a cheaper price than an imported book. For many of us, that author has been Scottsman Tony Black. Just look at the guy – doesn’t he look like he can write hard boiled crime fiction?
We’ve heard many of the greats like Ken Bruen and Irvine Welsh rave about him. We’ve been able to get small a taste of his talent through short work that has appeared online. Finally, our good friends at NewPulp Press are serving up a couple of full meals with Black’s first two Gus Dury books, Paying For It and Gutted.
When I asked Tony what it meant to him to have his books in The States, he said “A great deal, more so because I’m delighted with the publisher and the fabulous job they’ve done on the books. Most of my influences are American – Thompson, Goodis, Cain and outside the crime genre people like Hemingway and Steinbeck. So, to get a toehold there is really a big deal to me. I have a few of people who follow what I do in America and it’s great for them to be able to pick up the books now.”
“I was contacted by his agent, Allan Guthrie.” said NewPulp publisher and author, Jon Basoff. “While Tony’s books have done very well in the UK, they were looking for a good match to put his books in print here in the US, and the truth is, there aren’t that many American publishers willing to put out really dark crime fiction. I’ve always been a huge fan of Tony’s so I jumped at the opportunity.”
The match between publisher and author is perfect.
“Jon’s a publisher I’ve admired for some time, he’s done a great job on some great books like Les Edgerton’s The Rapist and Gil Brewer’s The Red Scarf to name just two that I’ve been blown away by on his lists. He knows what he likes and he puts his money where his mouth is, which isn’t the case with a lot of publishers these days who go chasing trends. I think the most important aspect in any writer/publisher relationship is that the publisher loves the books and I’ve no doubt about that with Jon. He’s a gentleman and very professional which is another bonus and makes the whole process easy.”
“Most of our books tend to be character driven and Gus Drury is a fascinating character–dark and nasty,” says Basoff. “Tony’s books have a nihilistic edge to them and that’s what we’re all about. The truth is, we have a pretty niche audience–mainly very disturbed people–and I think they’ll dig these books.”
Black’s Gus Dury could be considered a Scottish cousin to Bruen’s Jack Taylor. An alcholic, down and out, former journalist hack, raised by an abusive father who was also a professional footballer, he uses his old skills as a half-assed private eye. The character carries a lot of rage at the world and love and loyalty for his friends.
“Complicated,” is how Black describes him. “He’s a man who’s fallen on hard times, he’s lost his job and his wife and to some degree his sense of self-respect but what he’s lost more than anything is a reason to get out of bed in the morning. He’s a former investigative journalist and although the backside has fallen out of newspapers he still has a lot of respect for the skills of the trade. Every now and again he finds himself being asked to utilise the old skills and help someone out and for a little while he manages to raise his head above the parapet. He carries a lot of anger and he doesn’t tolerate fools gladly so more often than not he finds himself getting into trouble with the kinds of people most of us would run a mile from.”
In Paying For It, Gus looks into the murder of and old freind and favorite pub owner’s son, getting involved in human trafficking, an opportunity to settle old scores, and a heart breaking resolution. If for some reason you don’t think it is hard boiled and harrowing enough, Black gives us Gutted where Gus goes up against those in the dog fight game. Both books are an entertaining meeting of character and tone with a great cast of supporting characters, particularly Gus’s psychotic comrade, Mack. Like Lawerence Block’s Matt Scudder, Dury is a flawed hero whose redemption we root for as he guides you through a dark place we find fascinating, but dare not go by ourselves.
“Tony is a great craftsman with truly compelling plots,” Basoff says. “Additionally, in these Gus Drury novels, Tony has done a remarkable job of evoking the gloom and despair of Edinburgh.”
If you like hard boiled fiction and a good anti-hero, Tony Black is for you. The books are tight, yet breath with character and place. He incorporates the dialect of working class Edinburgh into his own voice as a writer, creating a unique style of bleak toughness and hard won heart.
His new publisher says it best: “Tony’s writing will drive you to grab a bottle of booze, and I mean that in the best possible way”.
Right on the money Jon. Thanks for bringing him over.