Praise for Twisted Tales Events

‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st Century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

'Hurrah once again for Waterstones! This time it's the Liverpool One branch that's supporting horror fiction, both with a fine section of the shop devoted to the field and by hosting a series of readings by its authors. Readings can bring tales to a new kind of life, and their authors too. More power to the bookshop and its knowledgeable specialists.' - Ramsey Campbell

Monday, 2 May 2011

Charlie Williams interviewed by David McWilliam

Charlie Williams was born in Worcester in 1971. He started writing in his late 20s, and was soon getting stories published in small press mags such as The Third Alternative, Dark Horizons and Darkness Rising (there were a lot of “Darks” in those days). In 2004 his novel Deadfolk, about an unstable doorman in a backwoods town,  was published by Serpent’s Tail, who also did two further books in that series (Fags and Lager and King of the Road), and Stairway to Hell, about a pub singer who becomes convinced that his soul was switched with David Bowie’s at birth... by Jimmy Page. Graven Image, a novella about a brothel bouncer with a debt to pay, appeared in 2011 from Crime Express/Five Leaves Press. One Dead Hen, a fourth Royston Blake novel, will be published in August 2011. More at charliewilliams.net. 


DM: What attracted you to crime fiction?
CW: I was into my twenties when I started reading crime and being aware that I was reading crime. I honestly can't tell you why I did. I'm sure I started with Raymond Chandler. I tend to like introspective heroes and I heard that Philip Marlowe was one. I liked the idea that your crime hero could do anything and go anywhere. He was a wisecracking free agent with a problem to deal with using only his wits, which seemed like a great way to do a novel. But it was the discovery of Jim Thompson that really floored me. Here were (anti)heroes who were the opposite of Philip Marlowe - trapped rather than free agents, butt of jokes rather than wisecracking, and the problem *is* their wits rather than solved by them. Thompson handled borderline psychopaths with great confidence and style, and I had found a true master. 

DM: Jim Thompson is a great example to bring up as the name of this event is a play on the title of his novel The Killer Inside Me, which follows the final days of Lou Ford, a police officer who is also an out of control serial killer. In both Leon from Graven Image and Royston Blake from the Mangel series, you write from the perspective of violent, low-ranking members of criminal underworlds, who are similarly trapped in destructive patterns of behaviour. What is the appeal of these characters to you as a writer?
CW: I spent some of my younger years hanging around with people similar in behaviour and aspirations to the kind of characters I write. Like a lot of foolish teenagers I was attracted to dangerous circles... until I realised that I wasn’t really that dangerous myself and should probably stay well clear. When I started writing, my protagonists were mostly like me, but it was only when I tapped into those dodgy times from the 80s that I really got going. I suspect it’s to do with the imagination being most affected at certain key times of one’s life.

The one thing that most of these characters I write have in common is that they believe they are not low-ranking. Doormen, bouncers and pub singers hold high-profile positions of control in the places where people conduct their social lives and look for excitement. So it’s easy for a slightly delusional personality to make more of that than he should. 

DM: I think that the distinction you make between Chandler’s Marlowe and the protagonists of Jim Thompson can be explained by the difference between hard-boiled and noir crime fiction. Noir is partially defined by the sense of entrapment you note, as characters are pulled down by their own flawed characters and dire circumstances. Do you see this as an area of overlap with horror?
CW: I definitely see a lot of noir in horror. For me, one element of noir is a misplaced striving to make bad things good. A novel like Pet Sematary is a great example of that – the father only wants to do good, and skips over to the dark side as a means to that end. When his son got run over by that truck, Dad became damaged goods – along with all the other noir heroes who are doomed to go to hell. Then you have the many horror novels where the hero is a white knight who must rid the Earth of some evil monster using his wits and physical prowess – this is what your hardboiled detective novel does. Also Miss Marple, who is renowned for her physical prowess. 

DM: What drives you to write dark, transgressive novels?
CW: That's a toughie, isn't it? We all have to deal with the shit buried deep inside, and writers who take their work seriously will use that shit. I'm not saying my demons are darker or worse than anyone else's. I believe P.G. Wodehouse had demons that came out in his work, and his stuff was seen as light entertainment. But then he didn't grow up reading Stephen King novels and watching the Horror Double Bill on BBC2, and I did. 

DM: Who are your influences from both crime and horror?
CW: I like humour. I don't pitch for it in my writing but I let it out when it comes, and I love other writers who do that well, such as Magnus Mills, Joe R. Lansdale, Kingsley Amis and his son Martin. Even a pitch-black noir peddler like Jim Thompson knew the value of a few laughs (read Pop. 1280), and perhaps nowhere are those laughs more necessary than a work of dark fiction.

DM: I agree that laughter can provide sometimes much-needed light moments in dark fiction. However, it can also add complexity to a story. Do you ever consciously use humour in your novels to satirize aspects of contemporary culture or the human condition?
CW: I really don’t know. I’m not really that much of a conscious writer, to be honest. I just set up the situations and the characters come, and they take care of themselves as far as dialogue and actions go. So when it seems like I am putting the boot in a character and making a fool of him, it’s really his fault. Sounds like an excuse, right? Probably is. But I just go with what comes, and if some laughs come – even at a moment that seems hopelessly inappropriate – I’ll embrace them. Why not? Life’s like that. I guess that means I am satirising the human condition. 

DM: What are your writing plans for 2011 and beyond?
CW: A fourth Royston Blake book, One Dead Hen, is coming out in August. This is pretty sweet because it took a Facebook campaign to achieve that, my original publisher having declined it for commercial reasons. The new publisher, AmazonEncore, is also reissuing all of the earlier Blake books this summer. Other than that, I have a few novels on the go and we’ll see which one I finish first. Most are kind of crime with horror elements, fittingly enough, but one is a historical/horror/weird thing that has been bubbling under for a few years and involves Edward Elgar, King Edward VII and ritual magic. I probably don’t do myself any favours by genre-hopping so much, but I always just do what seems right at the time.


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