Elaine Ash: Are you a reader of both American and British fiction, and if so, what are the major differences, from your point of view?
Ian Ayris: I can only go on what I’ve read of both American and British Crime/Noir fiction which, to be honest, is not a great deal. But here goes.
Elaine: I’m going to interrupt you here, Ian. The British tend to be modest, so when you say, “not a great deal,” you’ve probably read volumes, but you have to preface your answer with modesty. So please continue…
Ian: I think one of the differences, and this is a huge generalisation, is one of character vs plot. A lot of the Brit Grit stuff tends to focus on character development, often of pretty messed up characters – Ray Banks and Allan Guthrie are fine examples (of authors, not messed up characters 😉 ) Even on the other side of the criminal fence, police procedurals such as Julie Morrigan’s brilliant Convictions and Nick Quantrill’s superb PI debut Broken Dreams focus as much on character development as plot.
I’m now just realising what a huge generalisation that is. I suppose I’m basing a lot of American Crime/Noir stuff on my readings of Jim Thompson and Elmore Leonard. Although I love Leonards’s style, both he and Thompson leave me pretty cold when it comes to character development. They haven’t the humour of Chandler or the depth of Geddis, for me. But the more I read of the current crop of online US Crime/Noir exponents, the more I love the American take. The bang bang bang style, the hit and run wordsmiths.
Elaine: In Los Angeles, Canadians are known as the funniest people in the world. I think that’s because they have British humor but Americans can understand what they’re saying.
Ian: Us British are known as a somewhat suppressed race, emotionally speaking. Stiff upper lip, and all that. And like a lot of stereotypes, I think there’s a fair degree of truth in it. And the greatest defence used to soften the edges, to keep the unpalatable at arm’s length? Yep. Humour. As black as it gets. We are a passive aggressive race after all, so the old black humour thing really is very close to the surface. There is also the massive influence of comedy legends such as The Goons, Spike Milligan, and Monty Python, those genius fellas that took absurdity to a new height. For me, my compatriot in penmanship, Mr Paul D. Brazill, is top of the pile in terms of Crime Fiction comedy writing. I’d love to know what his influences are, but I’d bet the small hedgehog chained to the wall in my cellar the aforementioned comedy geniuses are right up there at the top.
Elaine: Can you give us some links and websites that would make a fine “Brit Grit Tasting Tour” for the adventurous online tourista? Disclaimer: There may be some repetition with parties mentioned multiple times in this Brit Grit series. I guess that means they should really be checked out…
Ian: My pleasure….
Paul D. Brazill
Ian Ayris lives in London with his wife and three children. He has had almost forty short-stories published online and in print and of his stories, SMALL PRINT, will be published next year in Maxim Jabowski’s prestgious Mammoth Book of Best British Crime. Ian’s debut novel ABIDE WITH ME is due for release later this month. His blog is: http://ianayris.blogspot.com/