April 28, 2011

Photo: A Crime Story Told in Needle and Ink

"Authorities relied on a chest tattoo that depicted the murder scene to apprehend and convict a California gang member for a deadly shooting.

"[Anthony] Garcia's tattoo captured the night of the shooting, from the Christmas lights outside the liquor store to the bent light post in the store's parking lot to the convalescent home called the Rivera, next door to the liquor store. The scene shows a chopper spraying bullets on a victim. Garcia's gang nickname is 'Chopper.'"


(Photo source)

April 22, 2011

"What's the Difference? True Crime vs. Crime Flash Non-Fiction" - Benjamin Sobieck

Friday is normally the day for new stories, but seeing as there's a break between submissions (it is Easter weekend), I figured I'd throw in some food for thought.

I've received tremendous feedback after starting "Fingerprints." Readers love the stories and concept. There are plenty of great flash non-fiction 'zines out there, but none focused exclusively on crime.

Hence the term "crime flash non-fiction." But aren't they really "true crime" stories? That's something readers wanted to know.

Although all the stories here are true and about crime, they're not "true crime." They're "crime flash non-fiction." The difference is how each handles the narrative.

The true crime genre chronicles events from a journalistic perspective. The crime event happened, then someone researched and memorialized it in various media. The narrative component is there, but it's secondary to the journalistic component.

The opposite is true with crime flash non-fiction. The narrative component comes first. Because of this, it's much more personal, and written from the perspective of someone who experienced the crime event. The journalistic component is secondary.

That allows crime flash non-fiction more room for creativity and catharsis.  The titles can get funky ("Trap Zombie"), serious allegations can take a light-hearted bent ("Public Enemy Number One") and the criminal events don't have to be earth-shattering ("The Heart of Saturday Afternoon").

That's the difference. The story matters. The ability to tell it in an engaging way matters. The way it affected the storyteller matters.

With true crime, facts matter. The who, what, where, when and how take the front seat.

Don't get me wrong, I love true crime. It's just not quite what "Fingerprints" is about.

Be well and have a Happy Easter!

April 15, 2011

"The Heart Of Saturday Afternoon" - Paul D. Brazill

Back in the Seventies, Sir Elton John apparently considered Saturday night to be "alright for fighting" - and I bet you those platform shoes could give you a good kicking too - but what the hell did he do on a Saturday afternoon? Maybe Elton, like me, spent most of the time wandering around a grey and nondescript shopping centre with a couple of other waifs and strays?

There were usually three of us: me, Theso (David Theasby) and Norman (Kevin Norman). Theso had a face so acne scarred that it looked like a chewed up toffee apple. Norman had a big barrel chest and long arms that reminded me of the character Monk from the Doc Savage books. Other odd sorts hung around - such as my nephews Kevin, Wayne and Lee - but we were the hardcore!

The usual walk centred around record shops - including Boots The Chemist! - and would segue into a trip to Woolworth's "pick n mix" sweet section, which we called "nick" and mix. Shoplifting from department stores, in fact, was one of the main activities. Did anyone actually ever BUY a Pan Book Of Horror Stories? The only one ever to get caught was Theso, who was taken to court for stealing a packet of jelly.

The shops, though, were full of the mercenary eyes of staff and busybody customers. The Laughing Gnome was a super-short Asda shelf stacker who never laughed. Mr. Barba also worked at Asda and had earned his nickname because, the moment you walked through the shop door, he would stutter "Ba-ba-ba basket over there."

Our nemesis - Dr. Doom to our Fantastic, er, Three - was a beige-suited Woolworth's under-manager with a Freddie Mercury 'stash who, the moment he saw us, would escort us straight back out of the shop. At some point we found out that he was called Mr. Whiffen, which of course earned him the nickname Cuddy Wiffer - local slang for left-handed.

The Battle Of Britain of our war with Cuddy was when we found his extension number and got my six year old nephew to phone and call him a c***.

Halcyon days, of course.


Spinetingler Award nominee Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England - yes, the place where they hung the monkey. He is currently on the lam in Bydgoszcz, Poland. 

He started writing short stories at the end of 2008. Since then, his stuff has appeared in loads of classy print and electronic magazines and anthologies, such as A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Crime Factory, Dark Valentine, Needle, Powder Burn Flash, Thrillers, Killers n Chillers, and Radgepacket Volumes Four and Five. He writes an irregular column for Pulp Metal Magazine and he even has a story included in the 2011 Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime. So it looks like he's getting away with something, eh?

His blog, You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? is here: http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/

April 8, 2011

"Public Enemy Number One" - Philip Dodd

When I moved down to London there were loads of anarchists. In Hartlepool however, where I grew up, there was just me.

I formed an unholy trinity with the towns other two lefty extremists. One was in the Socialist Workers Party, the other in the Labour Party but as far to its left as it was possible to be without falling off the edge.

We worked together and socialised together. It was a very intense relationship I suppose, and we'd talk long into the night. People often rubbish this sort of introspective lefty chat, but it was crucial for me. Without it I wouldn't have developed intellectually in the way I did, and neither would my character. There were of course also many comedy moments. Three earnest young men in a small town, plotting to overthrow the state. I must do it as a sitcom sometime. But that's what I love about this period really, a rich vein of idealism, punctuated by moments of farce.

I found myself working at a place called Community Enterprise Trust. It was a government funded scheme for people who'd been unemployed for a while. Basically the government closed down the industry that gave people proper jobs and paid us a pittance for doing community related work. But this organisation did its best to make use of its opportunity to do some useful stuff. I provided welfare benefits advice, taught vegetarian cookery and showed people how to play basketball. Not a bad way to make a few quid.

My mate Graeme (the extreme left of the labour party chap) worked there too. One day in a team meeting it was announced that we were going to get a Royal visit. Charles and Diana were going to visit in a few months time. As you can probably imagine I wasn't the biggest fan of Royalty. It was made clear to me (with an emphasis that now seems ludicrous) that I wasn't to wear a t shirt with any controversial slogans. During the meeting me and Graeme started whispering and joking about it. Then we were all asked what we thought of the visit, and did we have any ideas. I don't recall now whether it was me or him but one of us said:

"I hope someone puts a bomb up their arse."

It was the kind of thing we said all the time. We certainly didn't mean it as a threat, a dream maybe, but not a threat.

Our team manager was an ineffectual woman called Jean. She tutted at us a bit, and that was that. Me and her had already had a few run ins, but she never really had the determination to boss me around. Her management skills (such as they were) were all gleaned from an evil little book called "The One Minute Manager". The basis of this book was that you could carry out any key decision or task within 1 minute. Including sacking people. I fucking hated that book. It stood for everything I despised.

One day Jean was out of the office for the afternoon after a particularly stupid morning when she'd employed its wisdom. I was saying to everyone that we should stand up to her. There was a lot of silent resentment and someone said "She'll probably look at that bloody book and do whatever it says in there". It was summer and the door to our portakabin was open to get some air in. "Not anymore she won't." I said , picking up the book from her desk and flinging it through the door, as far as I could. It landed in a hedge on the other side of the bit of grass outside the portakabin.

Strangely she never mentioned its disappearance, and no new version of the book ever turned up. Anyway, as usual I digress.

A few months later the day of the Royal visit arrived. I kept a low profile, not wanting to meet the visiting parasites. It all went off rather smoothly. In the evening I found myself in the same pub as the chief exec of the organisation I worked for. Tony was a good guy. He was really committed to what he did, but he did have an ego the size of a planet. He also quite liked me. We'd sometimes chat about politics and I think he saw in me a younger version of himself. A young firebrand idealist. After a few beers he couldn't resist talking to me about the Royal visit. He asked me how I thought it had went. There was just a glimmer of a smile across his eyes. Eventually he couldn't hold it in any longer.

"You noticed anything weird about the last couple of days?"

"What, apart from all the Royal shit?"

He sat back in his chair and smiled at me. "You've been followed by Special Branch for the last three days."

"What?" I thought he was taking the piss.

"I swear it. They've been following you for 3 days in case you tried to disrupt things". I looked at him incredulously. He continued, "Do you remember saying something about 'putting a bomb up their arse'?"

"No, they didn't follow me because of that. Did they?"

He laughed and bought me a pint. I went to bed that night wondering how they could have followed me around for all that time without me having even the faintest hint. Scary.

The next afternoon when the local paper came through the door I wasn't looking forward to the coverage of the Royal visit. But as I flicked through the first few pages a headline caught my eye.


They had written it up in a way which suggested that some great plan had been hatched by an "anarchist group". Group? That'll be me. Apparently there was a big plan to disrupt the event, possibly including violence, and that this threat had been efficiently dealt with by the authorities. They meant me. Public Enemy Number One.

Editor's Note: These are the actual pictures of that newspaper story.


Philip writes stories, some are fact, some are fiction. His stories can be funny, or they might be sad, and are often about memory and how we are shaped. Find him at www.domesticatedbohemian.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @PhilipDodd.

April 1, 2011

"Guilty Footprints" by C.J. Edwards

It was January, and I was assigned as a patrol officer on East District day shift on the Indianapolis Police Department. There was eight inches of fresh snow on the ground, and I was scheduled to get off in about an hour when I was dispatched on a domestic disturbance between a female and her ex-boyfriend.

Wonderful, it was just what I needed to ensure I wouldn’t get home on time.

My back up and I arrived and found that the boyfriend had already left. I spoke briefly to the female. She told me her ex-boyfriend, Lamont, had been pounding on her back door but ran away when she called 911.

I was relieved. Lamont was gone, his ex-girlfriend didn’t demand a report, and it was looking like I might get home on time after all.

Not five minutes after leaving I was dispatched to the same house, but this time the dispatcher informed me that the ex-boyfriend was now breaking out the back window.

I hurried back as quickly as the snow would allow, determined this time to catch Lamont. I knew if I didn’t he would keep harassing his ex and we would keep getting called there.

When I arrived the second time, the female was on her front porch barefoot wearing a t-shirt and underwear with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders waving frantically, screaming, “He’s around back. He’s around back.”

I ran around the side of the house to find an empty back yard. When I looked at the window next to the back door, I saw that it was broken, and glass was lying in footprints freshly pressed into the deep snow. They led away from the window toward the alley.

While the backup officer spoke with the girlfriend, I began following Lamont’s trail.

At the alley, they turned north, and I followed. Lamont had to be hiding close by. The tracks led me past three more yards stopping at a privacy fence. Many of the yards had fences separating them, but they did not completely enclose the side of the yard facing the alley. This allowed residents to park their cars in the back yard. The privacy fence where the tracks stopped was no different.

As I walked around the open side of the fence, I discovered that the tracks continued toward the house.

Lamont’s footprints finally ended at a door on the back porch of a home four houses away from where his ex-girlfriend lived. Walking around to the front of the house, I used my radio to call for the other officer to come and assist me. He stayed by at the back door while I knocked at the front. A female in her early twenties answered, and looked out at me with her big brown eyes opened wide. “Is Lamont here,” I asked? The girl shook her head no. I explained to her that I had followed Lamont’s footprints to her back door, and I knew he was there.

She then nodded, glanced over her shoulder towards the hallway and whispered, “He’s in the closet,” and pointed to one of the back bedrooms.

As I walked through the living room, I noticed soggy footprints leading toward Lamont’s hiding place. I let the other officer in the back door and together we followed the trail. In the bedroom, we stood to one side of the closet, and quickly slid the door open.

Like a small child, Lamont was lying half buried in a pile of dirty clothes with his hands covering his eyes pretending not to know we were there.

After dragging him out of the closet and handcuffing him, we walked him to the living room so he could put on his shoes, and then marched him out to our cars. Lamont had a warrant for theft. He stood resignedly by my car while I filled out the arrest paperwork, and called for a wagon.

As he stood there, he asked me, “Man how did you find me? Did my girlfriend tell you what house to go to?”

I shook my head and told him his ex had not told me because she didn’t know. I had simply followed his footprints.

“Nah, she told you where I was,” Lamont said.

I looked up at him, “No I followed your footprints.”

Lamont kept denying that I could have followed his foot prints, and I was starting to get frustrated. I finally stepped out of my car, yelling at him, “Lamont! You see all that white stuff on the ground? It’s called snow, and when you walk in it you leave behind these things called, footprints. I followed your footprints through the snow to the house you were hiding in. That’s how I found you.”

I stared at Lamont as he shook his head. “No way man. That’s impossible.”

Dumbfounded, I asked, “What are you talking about? How is it impossible that I followed your footprints?

He looked at me and said, “Because. I took my shoes off.”


C.J. Edwards has worked as a police officer for the Indianapolis Police Department since 2000, and is now currently assigned to the department's Investigations Division. He is also a student at the University of Indianapolis, where he studies English and Creative Writing. In 2010 he won the Lucy Munro Brooker prize for his poem, "A Tent Of My Own." His short story, "The Peeper," will appear in the September 2011 edition of the crime fiction webzine, "All Due Respect," at all-due-respect.blogspot.com.