I liked reading some modern English noir for a change. I’ve read books like Brighton Rock but the England there is a very foreign place. America produces an abundance of the stuff, some bad some supreme. This was unashamedly English, and I liked it for that.I liked it for a lot more too. The stories have the feel of gritty realism, laced with a deep sardonic humour. This is Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels crime, fast paced, knowing geezers, neat one-liners (I wouldn’t touch him with Roman Polanski, or any other five-foot Pole). Then they begin to sink in, the realism fades and a surrealism prevails. This is a collection of dark parables where criminals eat their victims and gangsters dress in drag to rob diamond stores. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t fairy tales, the characters are realistic, flawed, broken people populating a world where hope is only a smash and grab away. These tales, with a small twist and a stretch, could probably be found in the court records. Mostly likely they are found in back-street pubs – a grain of truth mixed in a pint of exaggeration.The writing itself is compelling – Brazill has had he work published all over the place and it doesn’t surprise me. There’s quality here. Some of these tales were better than others but there were non duds, no fillers.I got to the end and thought I’d like to read a Brazill novel. Then realised I’d fallen into a trap, he doesn’t need to write a novel any more than Maupassant needed to write one (although he did). Brazill is mastering a different craft – the craft of the short story. A few years ago it was a dying skill: here we have the wool dyer, the roof thatcher and over there the short story writer, ain’t they quaint? Now we have the kindle, the nook, and any number of other eBook devices and with them a renaissance in short story writing. This time last year I’d read few modern short stories (I read Gogol, Maupassant, O Henry, writers from a lot of generations back.) This year I’ve read quiet a few quality collections: Dig Ten Graves and The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles are both reviewed on this site. I’m most of the way through Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled and Off the Record.Most of these collections – including this one are 86p on Amazon. Why not give them a try?