Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mark Barry's "Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals" & a little Q & A

Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals

By day, Terry Flynn clears the houses of the dead while by night, he drives alluring lesbian prostitute, Chloe, to her “tricks” - members of the “Feminocracy”; Nottingham’s increasingly powerful strata of senior civil servants, businesswoman and female professionals.
Despite himself, he falls in love with Chloe. And so does Hope Calder, impossibly rich COE of Calder, a multi-national conglomerate. A woman who stops at nothing to get whatever she wants.
When Chloe declines her advances, the spurned tycoon swears drastic action. With the cunning Neville, Chloe’s boss, manipulating the situation to his own ends, and Hope’s small army of corporate schills in the shadows, Chloe finds her life in danger...

...and only one man can protect her. 
Terry Flynn, Loser, Jailbird, Hooligan. 
Fifty year old crackhead.

~ This novel is dedicated to Mrs. Patricia Barry, who lived life to the max and never took much notice of authority in all its forms. 

Just like the characters herein. 

          (Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals Paperback cover)

My Review 

Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals left me speechless, numb, shocked. Just about blew my mind. Kind of a quirky one sided love story. Mixed with a perfect combination of sex and violence.

The guy writes like no other. He takes you to the scene and  delivers. I was in the thick of it all and the hair on my arms stood towards the sky. Mark Barry has a way of telling you a chilling story that is not only original but intoxicating. I couldn't get enough. Most books lose some of their flair as the story progresses but not the case with this powerful story. The ending of this book gave me goosebumps, righteously so. Gripping, satisfying, realistic, and dynamic. Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals has big guns all the way through. 

The author's use of language is brilliant. Hand picked gems that caught me by surprise. The rich plot line kept me guessing as I read as though I was running out of time, needing to know where this story would lead me. Savoring the eloquent lines as they rushed past me. I am in awe.

Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals is hardcore and plays out like a Hollywood gangster film. Can see this on the big screen like Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Stellar scenes and realistic in your face dialog.

Quote ~

"There's serious money here. I can smell it, and it temporarily makes my guts turn over. The whole place stinks of cash, of decisions, of self-interest, of colossal hypocrisy and narcissism. I'll never get my hands on a tiny percentage of what these people are worth. I have always hated the rich for precisely the reasons they love themselves. If I had been a little bit luckier, it could have been me, but I doubt it. Too much integrity. Never met anyone rich who had integrity."

Now let's get down to some chit chat. I do have some questions for you Mark!

(BP) First off I need to ask you since you write all over the spectrum, what inspired you to write Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals? And what is it about?

(MB) I have always wanted to read a book with this title. There are two on Amazon (without ampersands) but both are YA, which is of limited interest to me. So I thought I would write one myself. I also like crime books and crime films and Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals is most definitely a crime book. I also wanted to continue with themes I started in Carla and in Ultra Violence and then to combine the two. They are my biggest selling books and I felt that this year, I needed to kick on a bit after the relatively slow performance of The Night Porter and the withdrawal from sale of The Ritual (which was painful, as that took some writing). So I went back to themes my readers seemed to enjoy and therefore created a completely new world.

(BP) Good for you. It’s so hard to know what readers will be drawn to. Does any of this story come from real life? As a "faction" writer, of course I need to know this.

(MB) Oh yes, I’ve encountered many of the people you see in this book and I know the tales, but the story is complete fiction. I once worked with an ex-gangster who was trying his best to go straight and (after a rocky beginning, where he kept threatening to have me killed because I was going out with a girl he once went out with, a story which obliquely features in Once Upon A Time In the City Of Criminals we became friends. I taught him spreadsheets and he taught me about the world of small time gangsterdom in Nottingham. There are no black suits and spectacular cars (too ostentatious), and their houses are often small and equally modest, (again, visibility, but also because of the amount spent on bling, drink and drugs). However there are beautiful women (who all love a bad boy), and there are big wads of ready cash lying about in drawers. And there is violence. He once told me about a man who was sleeping with the daughter of a big Nottingham “businessman”  My friend was asked, along with two others, to “have a quiet natter” with him, a conversation which ended in tears in a local wood. I have, of course, completely denuded that story, but you can work it out for yourself. The two villains at the centre of Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals are generally deadbeat ex – football hooligans, who may or not have featured in Ultra-Violence and Violent Disorder, my two most successful books. Not for them sharp suits and Italian jewellery. But they do wear tracksuits. I also try something new about the rich and the middle class, which I won’t spoil, but it will definitely raise eyebrows.

(BP) I love it! What do you believe to be your best work thus far and why?

(MB) I like this book, Brenda. I know I am supposed to say that to stimulate sales, ha ha, but you know well how difficult selling one book is, never mind six thousand (which is what my football novel Ultra Violence sold, in total), so I don’t care about all that. It really is a book I am comfortable with. I think I am getting better and sharper as a fiction writer and the topic is an exciting one which should attract readers. It has elements of thriller I experimented with in The Ritual and which I enjoyed. I like this book. Ignoring S & V, I like Carla, and there are people out there who like Hollywood Shakedown, which sells in, like, microscopic quantities, an unfairly treated victim of the massive book glut pro writers are dealing with at the moment (though it is a long book, which don’t sell any more). The Night Porter gets a lot of love and that was my best before this. I look at that at times and think, gee, where did that writing come from! We’ll see what the punters think, Brenda. The market is always the best judge, isn’t it.

(BP) Yes, I would say so. I am so pleased you are putting it out there. There are so many mediocre books coming out on the market these days. Honestly, Mark, how did you get to be such a brilliant writer? Was it a natural gift or have you had tons of schooling?

(MB) That’s really kind of you to offer, Brenda. I’ll let that compliment rest on my tongue for a second. Ah! Thank you. That was lovely. Seriously, I don’t feel like that about my work – always think I can improve it. My schooling was interrupted by serious bullying – as this sample chapter from  my Green Wizard blog will demonstrate. Not by any one person, but by gangs of them, so my education was all about survival. I wasn’t unique either. Everyone got it. I basically learned English (outside the basics), primarily from British and US comics, and pulp fiction (like E Howard, King, Herbert, the Chopper books, New English Library horror anthologies etc). As I have said before in other interviews, I was offered remedial English class at University because I hadn’t a clue how to write technical English. So I learned and learned fast. I must have had natural ability, but I still look at people I know (like the horse racing writer Alan Potts, who is technically gifted and has flawless grammar), with envy. Had I been educated properly, instead of being scared to death for three years, I would have been a much better writer than I am now. However, I probably wouldn’t have the imagination I developed while hiding in toilets from psychopathic kids, or in my bedroom reading. So it’s a bit of a tradeoff. Also, you can have the spark educated out of you, in English. You can be gifted and some boring lecturer would mark you down for being innovative. My good friend Phil Conquest, who writes the Motel Literastein blog, had a bit of this at school and he can write as well as anyone I have ever met, with a raw energy the establishment and the 101 blogs kick out of you with hobnailed boots on.

(BP) No one should ever underestimate your work and certainly not you. I stand by my conclusion.  Sheer brilliance! ;-)
What makes you proud to be Mark Barry?

(MB) Some of the books I have written are pretty decent for the time capsule, and being a father to my son, Matt, who is a terrific lad. I’ve not been a bad dad. I also think my author interview blog, The Wizard’s Cauldron is something worth bragging about. We met there, Bren! 115 interviews so far…and loads of fun.

The Brilliant Books project you featured on your blog last year is something Phil and me are terrifically proud of too. That came from nowhere and could take us places. I love the idea of kids reading. It breaks my heart to hear of those five year olds who, when presented with a book at school for the first time, have no idea what it is. What sort of parenting is that? Or the parent who, when shown a shiny new book by her son at the gates of his school, promptly turned him round and ordered him to “take that f’in thing back in there where it belongs.” I’d pass down a prison sentence to that woman, but I know that’s extreme. 

I am also immensely proud to be a Notts County supporter and therefore, I am proud of my Dad for taking me there back in 1970.

(BP) Your work is so inspiring  and commendable, my friend. Hats off to you and everyone involved in The Brilliant Books project. You are doing great things!
 Would you ever consider writing a memoir? Or are you too private for that?

(MB) No, because it would offend too many people and I have few enough friends as it is. I think you were incredibly brave to write your stuff in so much detail. Thanks to meeting a woman like the character played by Eva Green in “Sin City 2”, I had a horror period of quite breathtaking loss between 1997 – 2003 which, paradoxically, would make terrific reading for fans of Faction and our anthology “Reality Bites”. Writing about it would bring back so many bad memories for me and many other people. I shall stick to fiction and let that one ride.

(BP) Ha ha. Okay. It’s a shame for your readers but I get your point. 
How about a good generic question. What is your favorite book and why?

(MB) Money by Martin Amis. Possibly the best book ever written. Once I have Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals off the ground, and have caught up with my reviewing commitments, I shall settle down to read it one more time. It will be the last book I ever read.

(BP) What is #Mrword planning on doing next?

(MB) Developing Brilliant Books, primarily. As for writing, I will be back next March with my annual book. There are several options in my head but you will be the first to know as usual, Brenda. Oh, and hopefully, we’ll get LA Punk Rocker off the ground!!! Cannot wait for that!

                                              (Shameless plug ) 

Our terrific friend Mary Ann Bernal taught me about the one book a year thing. With the glut of writers and writing out there, I think people should voluntarily restrain themselves to one novel a year. I know people argue that some writers have their own specific audience who have the capacity for more, but I am not sure that is true, I am inundated with books to read from a wide variety of my network and I want it to be a pleasure. Increasingly, its becoming a chore – with some bloody good books too. If authors restrained themselves to one a year, then we’ve all got space and time to breathe, haven’t we.

(BP) Yes, and we have to breathe every now and again. It’s been my pleasure to chat with you. It’s never ever dull. Wishing you all the best with this fabulous new release, Once Upon a Time in the City of Criminals. Excited to see how people respond. I believe it will knock their socks off.

Mark Barry is the author of many works of fiction including the cult football hooligan novel, Ultra-Violence, the seriously-reviewed, dark and harrowing romance, Carla, and the feel-good thriller, Hollywood Shakedown.
He lives in the UK and has one son, Matthew, who, so far, shows no sign of following in his father's literary footsteps - though he does fanatically support Notts County (which is a much more important trait).
Mark is also the proprietor of Green Wizard Publishing, a company dedicated to publishing cutting-edge, innovative, and accessible fiction firmly based in reality.
The majority of his books are set in either Southwell ("Wheatley Fields") or Nottingham ("The City"). It is a proud boast that local people who have read his novels can follow the trail of the quirky characters they encounter inside the jacket covers.



  1. What a brilliant post Brenda - loved it!! So good to find out more about Mark :-)

  2. Loved reading this and getting to know a bit more about both of you - and the mention was a surreal surprise - thanks for that. I definitely want to read Sex and Violence and I love the cover design. All the best Mark - and you, Brenda.

  3. Great interview, Brenda; you remain the Promotion Queen of Indie Writers, something all of us who've benefitted from your attention deeply appreciate. And you did our friend, Mark, justice... very creative interview!

    Great stuff from you both, and having read two of Marks' books so far, I look forward to reading the new one. The cover is appropriately provocative and, given the synopsis, seems spot on. Writing is a crazy beast, but I love when a writer as masterful as Mark keeps putting it out there... even if it is just one a year (and I agree with him on that point!).

    Best to you both and thanks for the introduction to the book!

  4. Brenda, once again, thank you. I was a bit candid here ha ha. They'll be coming for me...#analysethis
    Your help for all of us is incredible. You are seriously appreciated. Marky xx

    1. I love you candidness. Makes it easy to have a Q & A with you. Never ever dull.

      Great book. #mrwordsmith ;-)

  5. Georgia Rose, Literastein and Lorraine Devon Wilke.
    I'm keeping classy company here!!
    #wordsmithery :-D

    1. Not a bad crowd... at all. A clever bunch. For sure ;-)

  6. What a fabulous interview! I feel like I'm just discovering Mark's writing. I loved The Night Porter and and am currently fixated with Carla. I completely agree with you, Brenda, he's an amazingly talented writer :D

    1. Yes, we are in agreement EL. Mark is quite brilliant! A great mind in action. This story is pretty fun :-)

    2. I'm really looking forward to reading it. I've also got Hollywood Shakedown to read which I'm really looking forward to as well :D