• Gravy Train

    How far would you go for £80,000?

Decisions, dreams and delusion*

Crime pays. So barmaid Sandra thinks when she overhears details of a betting scam and wins herself and fat husband Mike eighty thousand pounds. But they’ve reckoned without mugger Lenny, lying in wait outside the betting shop door. And he’s reckoned without a top-notch car thief, his own devious boss, a fellow gang-member with a grudge, and Sandra’s unpleasant almost-Uncle George.

Chaos ensues as a whole bunch of disparate - and desperate - characters chase the bag of money around Birmingham’s back streets. Plenty of them help themselves to the cash, but none of them are good at hanging onto it. As they hurtle towards a frantic showdown on the banks of the local canal, will any of them see their ill-gotten gains again? Or will their precious gravy train come shuddering to a halt?

"Collisions, comedy and collusion; decisions, dreams and delusion." Col's Criminal Library

Special offer

Great news - the paperback version of 'Gravy Train' has been reduced permanently. So now you can grab a copy without nicking £80,000!

That Voodoo That You Do

A tongue in cheek "missing chapter" from the book that helps to explain the antagonism between Ball and the unfortunate Bradley.

The Big Thrill interview

So why is there so much optimism in such a noir book? Find out in this thought-provoking interview for ITW's The Big Thrill.

Noir on the Radio

Tess's first ever podcast, where she and fellow noir writer Nick Kolakowski chat about seat-of-the-pants writing and the movie Hot Fuzz.

A small helping of Gravy

Here's a brief excerpt from the very first chapter, where Sandra the barmaid first overhears details of the betting scam:

She peers at the nearest window now, wincing at the smears. She should probably clean them herself, but it’s just one more job to add to the endless list. And it’s not like the view is anything to write home about. Parked cars, dustbins, buses rumbling past.

There’s a snap of fingers in front of her nose. “Oi, step on it, Grandma. Do I look like I’ve got all night?”

“Gran—” She bites down hard on her lip, cracking the gloss she spent so long putting on. But the customer’s always right, even if he’s as much of a bastard as this. She fetches the last few drinks, aware she’s scowling and banging things on the countertop. All thoughts of making out with him have gone. She’ll spit in half the brandies while he isn’t looking. She’ll show him Grandma.

He grabs the tray and a couple of bottles of bubbly without so much as a thank you and heads off into the crowd. More people seem to have arrived since the last time she looked. It’s standing room only and the noise is deafening. Something by Coldplay hammers away in the background but she can hardly hear it for the bellowing shouts and shrieks. It’s like feeding time in the chimpanzee enclosure at Dudley Zoo. She sighs and rubs the top of her nose. She’ll have a headache by closing time for sure.

One voice stands out above the rest. When the sardines part for a second she sees it’s that bloke Ted, waving a Champagne flute and holding court. He has a cigar clamped between his teeth like some kind of Texan billionaire. She hopes he doesn’t try lighting it as smoking isn’t allowed indoors—but convincing him could be hell. He’s playing the smiling host, but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. Looks like it’s all surface gloss like her lips; she’s willing to bet he’s got a nasty side. The poor cow next to him looks suitably subdued, nose in a glass of wine but staring into space. Her face says she’s heard it all before. The boasts, the bragging, the snobbery, the loud-mouthed man of the world. Sandra wonders how she puts up with it. Then she sees the woman’s fingers plastered with gold rings, and suddenly she knows.

She doesn’t usually listen in. She doesn’t have the time, and the customers wouldn’t thank her for nosing in their affairs. Plus half the time it isn’t worth it anyway—long rambling tales with no real point, or snide gossip about people she doesn’t know. But something about this guy tonight catches her attention. Probably because he’s talking—no, bellowing—about her favourite subject. It’s music to her ears. She finds herself sucked in.

“Easy money, mate. No limit, really. Couple of million if you like. Maybe more. Nobody will ever suspect.”

“So you’re saying it’s legit?” One of the other guys looks unconvinced.

“Dunno if I’d go that far, but it’s better than robbing banks.” Ted grins and taps the side of his spreading, purple nose.

The people around him make noises as though they’re impressed. Some of them even look as though they are. And if those figures are right, she can’t say she’s surprised. She’s impressed as well. What she couldn’t do with a million pounds herself...

Not convinced? There's another dollop over at Tess's blog, featuring Lenny the mugger.

Tasty morsels

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