Monday, March 18, 2013

March Book Feature - Grudgepunk

Grudgehaven: “A city lost to the darkness, where acid rain drums on a hundred thousand corrugated iron rooftops and cold, mechanized eyeballs squint out of every filth-smeared window.”

From the twisted mind of author John McNee come nine tales of brutality and betrayal from a city like no other.

A granite detective has a date with destiny at a motel made of flesh. A severed hand is on a desperate mission to ruin somebody's evening. While a mob war reaches its bloody climax, the Mayor is up to his neck in dead prostitutes.
And Clockwork Joe? He just wants to be a real boy.

Bizarro Press proudly presents the latest in dieselpunk-bizarro-horror-noir. This... GrudgePunk

John McNee is a writer of strange and disturbing horror stories, published in a variety of strange and disturbing anthologies.

GrudgePunk, probably the only dieselpunk-bizzaro-horror-noir anthology on the market, is his first book.

He lives on the west coast of Scotland, where he is employed as a newspaper reporter, covering strange and disturbing news.

Twitter: @THEJohnMcNee


John. Dude. Before we get into the craziness that is your book, would you care to tell the folks at home a little about yourself?

Sure. I'm a Scottish author, newspaper reporter and all-round nice guy (ask anyone). I prefer the desert to the jungle, tea to coffee and Coronation Street to Emmerdale. My favourite singer is Pete Atkin, favourite film star is Charles Bronson and my favourite Bowie album is Heathen (though The New Day may be winning me over).

You described Grudgepunk as dieselpunk-bizarro-noir (that's a mouthful). 1) Could you tell us a little more about dieselpunk? 2) What possessed you to mash all these together???

Dieselpunk is retro-future fantasy in the vein of steampunk, but taking inspiration from the 1930's and 40's rather than the late Victorian era. Aesthetically, that means there are a lot more cars, fighter planes and robots than airships, steam engines and automatons. Thematically (not always but most of the time), the stories are more adult with more of an edge to them than steampunk.

I honestly didn't realise GrudgePunk qualified as dieselpunk till I was halfway through writing it. The whole book grew out of In the Flesh, the opening story, which was written as a standalone for the bizarro anthology Tall Tales with Short Cocks Vol 1. The concept was “private eye pursues human woman through a city of monstrous abominations, leading to a motel made of flesh”. I wanted to create a world so ugly that a normal woman would be the most alien, beautiful thing anyone had ever seen. Almost by accident, that ended up being a dieselpunk world, littered with smokestacks and corrugated iron, choked by pollution and populated by people who lived and breathed fossil fuels. After a few people read Tall Tales I started receiving requests for more stories about Grudgehaven, exploring it in more detail.

When I wrote the book, I settled on the title GrudgePunk because, while it takes elements from dieselpunk, horror, bizarro and noir, it isn't beholden to the rules of any one genre. It's its own thing. And while I think fans of all those genres will find a lot to enjoy, they shouldn't presume they know what to expect or that they've read anything quite like it before.

The world of the Grudge is darker and grittier than I thought it'd be from the description of your book. Was that an instant of setting informing stories, or did your stories inform the setting?

A little from Column A, a little from Column B. I certainly didn't sit down at the start to map out the whole mythology of the Grudge. I went story by story, filling in a little more of the city along the way. Mostly the tales were informed by noir archetypes – illicit lovers plotting murder, ransom deal gone south or a wounded gangster seeking sanctuary – and tried to find ways to twist them through the prism of the Grudge setting, turning them into something new and unexpected.

Noir, by definition, is a pretty bleak genre and Grudgehaven is almost exclusively populated by desperate people grasping for that “one last chance”. Often that means killing, robbing or blackmailing someone else, which is a gamble, because no-one in the Grudge is ever quite what they appear to be.

The stories are spot-on in the noir narrative style similar to Dick Tracy or Sin City (for a more recent comparison). Was writing in that way a challenge, or something you were already accustomed to?

It's actually the easiest thing for me to write. I'm incredibly well-versed in noir. For a long period growing up, crime stories from the 40's and 50's were all I read. For a time, I was about as obsessed with noir as other kids were with sci-fi, fantasy or superheroes. There were these big collections of reprinted pulp stories (like The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction) and I just read one after another after another, plus novels by Raymond Chandler, David Goodis, Damon Runyon, Mickey Spillane, Dashiel Hammett. I watched every film noir I could get my hands on plus, of course, I bought and read all the Sin City graphic novels (I'd be lying if I said they weren't a big influence).

So yeah, I consider myself fairly fluent in the style. I've struggled much more whenever I've tried to write stories set in modern-day Scotland. Even though it's the world I live in, I can't quite translate it to the page. I'm much more comfortable when writing about mobsters, private eyes and femme fatales.

What other projects do you have in the works?

A couple more of my horror stories are due out in anthologies this year, most notably D.O.A. II from Blood Bound Books. I've also started work on my first outright horror novella. If I can get that finished this year I'll be happy.

I'm not quite done with the Grudge, either. I've just finished a new short story and I've been talking the guys at Rooster Republic Press (who are awesome and print only awesome books) about everything from a graphic novel to a full-blown sequel. I don't know, at this stage, what's most likely to be released first, but you can bet the GrudgePunk tales will keep coming.

If you were part of this world, what do you think you'd be made of? What would you be doing?

I don't think I'd make it as one of the tough guys. I'd be a lot softer, a lot more fragile – probably a composite of sponge and glass. I wouldn't mind a sponge abdomen, since it would be good for absorbing alcohol as well as punches, but I'd almost certainly have a glass jaw. I would have to have mechanically complex metal hands for my job, which would either be lonely pulp novelist, battering at a typewriter in a loft apartment or lonely jazz pianist accompanying a sultry torch singer. Something on the sidelines, not too dangerous.

Sounds like a good plan to me. That place is CRAZY.

Seriously, if you're remotely interested in this book, you should check it out here.

Thanks again for joining us, John!

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