Peter Cheyney and I

(originally published May, 2016 by Mystery File)

I came across Peter Cheyney when I was somewhere between twelve and thirteen. A church bazaar or second hand bookshop, the memory is blurred. What remains clear is that being basically stupid and already with the propensity to read what I wanted to read, I assumed at first the book was a western ‘Peter Cheyenne’ being some kind of cowboy. When it became clear that it wasn’t a western, I put the book down convinced Peter Cheyenne was an American thriller writer.

I forgot all about him (well almost, the name having some kind of magic) for almost forty years. And this ‘forgetting’ is key to the whole story. Peter Cheyney was the most popular and prolific British author of his day. He was also the most highly paid. His curse perhaps is that he undoubtedly influenced Ian Fleming, for Bond is nothing more than a glamorous composite of the Cheyney ‘hero’. Cheyney created the template that Fleming developed, and the rest is history. Bond got Chubby Broccoli and celluloid fame, Peter Cheyney obscurity and critical censure.

John le Carre, when asked about spy books that might have influenced him as a child, gave the following response. He duly bowed his head to Kipling, Conrad, Buchan and Greene, and then referred to the: ‘…awful, mercifully-forgotten chauvinistic writers like Peter Cheyney and Co.’

John Sutherland made a similar point, referring to Cheyney’s Dark Series as the ‘high point of a resolutely low flying career.’ These two, wonderfully pithy, assessments are true to a point. They are also skewed by the cultural background and literary talent of both men.

Cheyney was chauvinistic, and no great shakes in terms of vocabulary and style, but he shouldn’t be forgotten ‘mercifully’ or otherwise. Cheyney’s success as the most highly paid writer of his time does not necessarily qualify him as a literary giant, but it does show that his work reflected the attitudes and mood of a huge swathe of the population, amplified it and played it back to them. Cheyney talked to the popular mood rather than the concerns of an educated elite. It was ‘everyman’ who bought his work in droves.

During the dark years of World War II and the austerity that followed, Cheyney’s novels were taken into battlefields, were exchanged for ten cigarettes in POW camps, and at a time when fabric was rationed, women fantasised about the glamorous Cheyney femme fatales in their satin and silks, sheer stockings, ruffles and bows. Read Cheyney and you’re reading violence and brutality set in a fashion catalogue.

For those jaded by pilgrimages to Baker Street, Cheyney provides a welcome alternative. Most of his many heroes, villains and victims live in a very small area of London. Some are unwitting neighbours, and all jostle each other on the same roads and streets, ghosts in parallel worlds. These are mapped, allowing the reader to go on his or her own ‘Cheyney walk.’

Cheyney, Behave recaptures a lost world and provides an eye-opening analysis of a popular culture we might prefer to forget. The book examines the importance of cigarettes and alcohol in Cheyney’s world, his attitude to ‘pansies’, racism, women, and the unconscious but jaw-dropping sexism of his age. It analyses the significance of Cheyney’s ‘Dark’ series in terms of war propaganda and how Cheyney accurately captured the effects of war on prevailing morality.

In his books you will find misogyny, homophobia, racism, sexism and chauvinism and, at their core, idealism and a deep vulnerability. In terms of market forces they reflect a world long past, one far different from ours but fascinating and worth understanding. Read Cheyney, Behaveand judge for yourself.

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What Bugs You?

Everyone’s got something that annoys the shit out of them, right? I think sometimes creative types are a little more in tune with such things, because some of us pay a little too much attention to people and what they do. So, we thought, why not share our peeves, and then invite you all to share yours. Once a bad thing is out, it’s not so bad, right? Maybe. Here goes.

Liam: Autocorrect is evil.

(Agreed, but sometimes it’s also funny)

Steve: Publishing pet peeve – Writers who point out other writers’ typos publicly on social media (without invitation to do so). You’re laying down a gauntlet there, and you’d better be pretty fucking good before you feel you have carte blanche to call out other writers based on a typing error. And in most of the writer groups I’ve been in, nobody’s that good.

Other Pet Peeves – People who assume moral superiority for having the “right” opinion. I’ll take a brash cunt that does the good in front of them over a prick that loudly moralises from an unchallenged high ground any day of the week.

(I love it when you use the C word, Steve.)

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Hanna: Someone chewing with their mouth open, which makes me want to scream, For fucksakes, close your damn mouth when you chew!

mouth open eating

Katrina: Publishing-wise, when a writer is convinced they’ve nothing left to learn or refuse to edit beyond grammar mistakes. Makes me stabby.

(Like, one time I said I wasn’t making the edits. ONE TIME. Jeeze.)

Christian: (Are you all ready for this?)

1. Cunts who block me on Facebook for no reason.

eyebrow.gifFTL markets (In English: For the love markets, which pay zilch to authors)

2. Snowflake pretenders who spend a lot of time whining about how hard writing is instead of, you know, writing.

3. People who have multiple online profiles. I don’t mean pseudonyms for writing. That has a purpose. But I’ve recently learned that some weird fucks maintain multiple profiles just for the hell of it.

(We’ve contacted his doctor and he’ll be receiving stronger medication in the future.)

Renee: Oh, the list is so long. I let too much annoy me. First, I cannot stand know-it-alls, so I guess that’d fall into snowflakes who think they don’t need editing or have nothing left to learn, and moral high ground assholes, as Steve mentioned. Second, loud eaters. Really hate those. And close talkers. Mostly because they breathe on me and I hate when people breathe in my face.

Publishing: Whiners bug me. Do your bitching in private, not on social media. Kay? Thanks.

Finally, just in general, I also can’t stand sniffers. By that I mean, people who constantly sniff and snuffle. Get a fucking tissue and blow your damn nose. I think that’s enough for now.

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Now it’s your turn. What bugs you guys? Come on, share and we’ll judge you for it.

 

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Shrink Wrapped: Katrina Monroe Edition

As we’ve already explained in previous interviews, this is not a meet the author and find out all the writerly yawn-fest things she does kind of thing. Instead, we took questions a doctor or cop searching for a serial killer might ask and tweaked them a little. It’s been enlightening… and disturbing.

katrinaKatrina Monroe (Saete) is hilarious. Let’s just get that out of the way so I can get paid. Her most recent book, ALL DARLING CHILDREN, is possibly THE BEST THING EVER, so you should pick it up. If you’re a pussy who can’t handle some darkness, I have to ask what you’re doing here. Seriously, get out.

Now, she helped compile these questions, but had no control over what ones she got. She doesn’t like big surprises, so we had to do it that way or there’d be another “incident.”

Let’s see what we scraped out of her head.

What would you do if you found a dead body in your lover’s freezer?

Since my lover’s freezer is also my freezer, I would probably wonder if I’d been sleepwalking again. A person can only take so much Ambien before the dreams start showing up in the daytime. Wait. Is this a dream?

*Yes. Shouldn’t you be naked? *

Tom Hiddleston or Tom Cruise? Explain your answer

TOM CRUISE IS A BASTARD. YOU TELL HIM THAT. YOU TELL HIM AND THAT ASSHOLE ATTORNEY OF HIS THAT I WON’T BE BOUGHT, YOU HEAR ME?

dean-grimace

*Still upset about the “Tom” thing. Noted. *

 You’re stranded. Maybe it’s the end of the world. Who knows. What matters is the food situation is pretty damn sketchy. You’re starving. Your friends (no family survived. Sorry about your loss) are starving. Through a few heated rounds of rock, paper, scissors, it’s been decided you’re the first to be eaten. Would you rather they eat you piece by piece, keeping you alive, so you can also eat, thus ensuring everyone has a better chance at survival, even though you’ll have to eat yourself and watch others eating you, and probably lose a few limbs, or do you want them to just kill you and do what they must with your body?

You’re a sick fuck, Miller. Kill me and get it over with.

*We promised no judgments here, didn’t we? THIS IS A SAFE PLACE TO TALK ABOUT HARD THINGS. REMEMBER?! *

Have you ever lied about something just because you knew you could get away with it? Care to elaborate?

When I was in college, I decided to see how long I could get away with pretending to be British. Turns out the answer is a long fucking time, because I went to college in Florida, where high IQs are about as plentiful as snowfall.

*I love British accents. I bet they were all blinded by your sexiness. *

Tomorrow you wake up and you’re the opposite gender. What’s the first thought that comes to your mind and the first thing you do?

“Does this mean I get paid more now?” And, I’d probably pee on something. Because, duh.

*I’d pee on EVERYTHING. *

Now, tell me what you see in this picture:

katrinas-blot

The ink blot is obviously two pigs, snouts thrust up in the air, fighting over an ugly dress.

I can’t believe you guessed what it was. Amazing.

Thanks for coming out. The dwarf has your meds. No, you may not have the knives back. They’re community property now. Maybe next time you’ll respect boundaries.

Shrink Wrapped: Tony Bertauski Edition

Welcome to our series of Meet the Dolls interviews we’re calling Shrink Wrapped. Before you run away, let me say these are not a meet the author and find out all the writerly things he does yawn-fest kind of thing. Instead, Katrina and myself (Renee) took questions a doctor or cop searching for a serial killer might ask and tweaked them a little. It’s been enlightening… and disturbing.

tonyLet’s begin with our first patient, Tony Bertauski. Tony is the author of amazing books like the Foreverland Series and The Socket Greeny Saga. He’s also seen a horse’s vagina. More on that later.

Tony’s most recent book, HUMBUG (The Unwinding of Ebenezer Scrooge): A Science Fiction Adventure, is just what you need to read during this festive season. (Even if you hate Christmas, you’ll like this book. If you don’t, you’re a monster.)

Let’s get to digging in Tony’s head, shall we?

Love or Money? Explain.

Love. Unless I’m super hungry.

* I totally understand that answer. *

How would you explain Facebook to an alien?

You know the arguments family have across the table at holidays? That on a global scale.

* Maybe that’s why everyone loves it so much? *

Describe yourself in three words. Now, describe the last person who stood ahead of you in line at the last store you went to in three words.

Hard to understand.

From another planet

*Is anyone else wondering where this man shops?*

The person you love and trust most in this world has called for your help. Keeping in mind you’d catch a grenade for this person, they’ve asked you to help hide a body. First, do you ask any questions and if yes, what questions. Second, do you do it?

We talking a baby, or an old man on his deathbed? Big dif. (Renee: We’re talking adult who probably would’ve lived for many years)

Depends on how much digging is involved.

Which animal do you find sexy and why? According to experts, human beings find at least one animal a little arousing, (that may or may not be true) so spill it.

I saw a close up pic of a horse vagina the other day from a friend who boards horses. Looked just like a vagina. Imagine that.

* Does that mean you find horses sexy? I’m going to go with yes. (makes a note) And now I can’t get that out of my head. *

Finally, tell us, Tony, what do you see in this inkblot:

tonys-blot

Two seahorses smoking genital pipes.

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I did not see that… until now. Thanks, Tony. Genital pipes… wow. Anyway, thanks for playing along. We always love when you come to our play dates. Your parting gift is this lovely genital pipe. Sorry, Forbes ate the seahorses. He’s a dick like that.

Deviant Dolls: Welcome, Membership and Other Boring Shit We Have to Deal With

 

Welcome to Deviant Dolls.

So, what and who are we? We’re authors. Some of us poor bastards also have day jobs, because let’s face it, mortgages have to be paid and kids (of the human and furry variety) like to be fed. We are not a publisher, as we’ve explained, so don’t send us your shit. Not that it’s shit. It might be. We don’t know. We don’t care. What we want is bodies. Your bodies. And your minds. Okay, your soul. We like souls.

Wait, things have gone off the rails here. Let’s take a few steps back.

Deviant Dolls is about books, readers, and marketing, not always in that order. We write books. We must promote said books to readers. We love readers. If you don’t love readers, get outta here. Why are you writing anything? As a collective of authors, it is our goal to get as many of our weird, horrific, hilarious, edgy, outside the mainstream stories to readers. This means we need a network. Part of the purpose of the Dolls is to help each other find new readers and to keep our current readers happy. Not so hard, right? It is when you’re going it alone.

So, are you still interested? Well, we don’t have a lot of hoops to jump through, but we do have some criteria members of this gang must meet. These are as follows:

Balls

Metaphorical or literal, you’ve gotta have balls to be a Doll. Why? We aren’t about pussy-footing around the shit. We want to take risks and want authors who aren’t afraid to take a leap with us. If you’re worried about image or think you’re fancy, walk away now.

Books

Members of Deviant Dolls must have books published (indie and/or traditional) in the genres listed on the main page. This includes horror, comedy, erotica and everything in between or just outside. If it’s edgy, a little over the line, a little outside the line, or so far away from the line we don’t even know what to call it, then it’s a book for the Dolls. We don’t have a minimum requirement, but let’s say if you’ve just published your very first book, you MUST meet more than a couple of the other criteria to make the cut.

Also, we expect a certain level of professionalism in regard to said books. If we read a sample of your work online (and it’d be handy for you to send us a link to where we might do so if you don’t have a look inside feature available for your books), and there are numerous typos, spelling/grammatical errors, or the storytelling is just plain awful, we’ll deny membership. Why? We don’t believe ourselves to be the highest judge of what makes good fiction, but there are basic standards every author should strive to achieve. We’re promoting you to our readers, so we ask that your books meet those basic standards.

Social Media Presence

If you aren’t on social media, just keep walking. Social media is a valuable tool for networking and marketing. If you don’t believe this, then you won’t fit in here. How big of a presence do we want? You must be active on at least one site, preferably more, and have some kind of following.  Let’s face it, as a member, we’re sharing our loyal readers and followers with you, it’s only fair we get the same in return.

Commitment

We don’t expect a lot out of our members, but participation is a MUST. We require a strong if not emphatic willingness to promote DD’s brand, because our brand is YOU. If you can’t be bothered, we’re not above kicking your ass out. Do you have to blog every day? No. Every week? No. By commitment we mean you must be willing to promote each other and participate in the collective in some meaningful way on a regular, consistent basis. Blog posts are most welcome. If you want to write one every month, that’s great. Every week, you’re nuts, but also great. Every three months, sure.  We know life takes priority, so we’re not assholes about it, but anyone who consistently opts out isn’t an ideal candidate for a collective of authors.

Big Girl Pants

Or big boy, whichever you prefer to wear. By this we mean, play nicely. Drama queens, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. If you can’t get along with someone, learn how to tolerate them. No bullying. No whining. No bullshit or drama. If we see any behavior that crosses the line, or that is cruel or anything drama related, we will eliminate the parties responsible from membership. Members who feel they’re having a serious issue with another member, for whatever reason, may contact DD’s founding members (Katrina, Renee, or Hanna) and we will deal with the matter accordingly. However, if you’re just butt-hurt because you like to be butt-hurt, sorry, but our answer will be “grow up.” Ideal candidates are not easily offended. Actually, it should be pretty hard to offend you at all. If you’re easily shocked, upset, angered, etc. this is not the group for you.

On Pen Names and Alter Egos

We don’t care if you’re boy or girl or something in between. We don’t care if you’d rather wear a mask and a cape when you venture into the big bad publishing landscape. That’s cool. We only ask that authors using pen names reveal their true identity, and a way to verify this, to one of the founding members, for reasons. We will not breathe a word of your real name to anyone, not even each other, if that’s what you wish.

 

And that’s all we ask. If you’re still interested, contact us at deviantdollspub@gmail.com. Include “Membership” in the subject line, and in your email, give us links to your social media and books, so we might creep a few pages and check you out. As a fun way to screen new members, we’d also like you to tell us why you want to be part of DD. Your answer doesn’t really matter. Such things amuse us.