Halloween Read: 3 Shots Of The Dark Stuff

cropped-cropped-kasianor1a.jpgSince it’s Halloween, here’s a drabble and some micro/ flash fiction for your delectation …

Swamplands

Elvis awoke in a cold, dank sweat, hungover from bourbon and bad dreams. The nightmares had consisted of him being hunted through a swamp by the murderous spectre of Jesse, his stillborn twin. His pounding heartbeat seemed to echo through the mansion. He stumbled into the bathroom, splashed cold water on his face and looked in the mirror, only to be confronted by his own ashen reflection and that of his grinning doppelganger. Jesse tightly wrapped the umbilical cord around Elvis’ throat and pulled it until his brother breathed no more. The king is dead, long live the king, he muttered.

The End.

The Return Of The Tingler

As the bright spring afternoon melted into evening, Dr Shearing’s office grew darker. As did Lee Madison’s thoughts.

“13 Ghosts?” said Dr Shearing. He pulled sharply at his shirt cuffs. “I can’t say that I’m familiar with that particular film, or Mr William Castle’s oeuvre as a director, to be honest.”

Lee Madison cringed as Shearing spoke. The psychiatrist whistled when he pronounced the letter‘s’ and the sound almost perforated Lee’s ear drums.

“Oh it was massively popular at the time. There was even a remake a while back,” said Lee. “All flash-trash and CGI, though.”

The egg stain on Dr Shearing’s paisley tie had distracted Lee so much he’d had to turn away to look at the silent television in the corner of the room. Images of corn fields rolled across the screen.

“But The Tingler was his most famous film,” continued Lee. “He set up a gadget in the cinema seats that gave people little electric shocks when The Tingler appeared on the screen,” He turned to Shearing and grinned, beaming.

“A monster that lives on fear, you say? Quite clever actually,” said Dr Shearing, who was sweating even more than usual. “A slightly Freudian shadow cast, eh?”

He took his ballpoint pen and scribbled on a yellow post-it-note that he then stuck inside his worn brown briefcase. He clicked the briefcase closed and looked at Lee.

“So, you said you were about seven when your own particular ‘Tingler’ appeared?”

Lee nodded to himself. Glanced at Shearing.

“I think so. We were on a school day out. I was running down the side of a cliff with a group of other kids when I started to panic. Imagined myself crashing down to the ground below. My head smashed to pieces. And then the panic took control of me. So, I decided to see what would happen if I just let myself fall.”

“And?”

“Everything went black and red. I came to near a swimming pool and a teacher was shouting at me while she bathed my face in chlorine stinking water. I was off school for weeks. Never really got into the habit of going to school after that, to be honest.”

“And The Tingle returned when?”

“Off and on. When I saw the school bus turn the corner, for example. I just wanted to throw myself under it. Or if I saw a sharp knife, I felt the urge to run it across my tongue.”

Shearing repressed a grimace.

“And when did this stop?”

“Well, it didn’t. It got worse when I was a teenager. The Tingler was like a cowl wrapping itself around my head. Smothering my brain. My thoughts.”

“And nothing could stop it? Ease it?”

“Sex took the edge off for a while. But that didn’t last long.”

“So, that is when you started drinking?”

“Yes, the booze helped. And then the drugs.”

“But …”

“Their affects wore off pretty quickly. And then, one night, just after Christmas, I was walking down a path, late at night. It was freezing. I saw an old man shuffling in front of me. Almost slipping over on the ice. In a flash, I realised that I could just kill him. And it wouldn’t matter. No one would know. I could get away with it without a problem. The Tingler almost strangled me.”

“And.”

“And so I picked up a brick, ran up to him and smashed his head to pieces like a soft boiled egg.”

Shearing gulped. His mouth arid.

“And what happened to The Tingler after that,” said Shearing, looking uncomfortable.

“It was gone for quite a long time after that. But, it was always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Of course, it crept further forward. Until eventually it was at the front of my brain.”

“And now?”

“A singular truth, Doctor. There truly are no consequences.”

Lee swept up a pencil and stabbed it into Dr Shearing’s eye. Again and again. Pushing it up toward his brain.

And The Tingler slipped away from his body like a shadow during night time. Only waiting for the break of dawn.

The End.

The Tut

After enduring forty-five years of a marriage that was, at best, like wading through treacle, Oliver Robinson eventually had enough and smothered his wife with the beige corduroy cushion that he’d accidentally burned with a cigarette two fraught days before.

Oliver had been, for most of his life, a temperate man and he had survived the sexless marriage – its colourless cuisine and half-hearted holidays – with a stoicism that bordered on indifference. But his patience had been stretched to the breaking point by Gloria’s constant disapproval of almost everything he did.

And then there was the “tut.”

The tut invariably accompanied Gloria’s scowl whenever Oliver poured himself an evening drink or smoked a cigarette. She would tut loudly if he spilled the salt. Or swore. Or stayed up late to watch the snooker. The tut, tut, tut was like the rattle of a machine gun that seemed to echo through their West London home from dusk till dawn until he reached the end of his tether.

Wrapping his wife’s body in the fluffy white bedroom rug, Oliver supposed that he should have felt guilty, depressed or scared – but he didn’t. Far from it. In fact, he felt as free and as light as a multi-coloured helium balloon that had been set adrift to float above a brightly lit fun fair.

Oliver fastened the rug with gaffer tape and dragged the corpse down the steps to the basement. As the head bounced from every step, it made a sound not unlike a tut and he had to fight the urge to say sorry.

He’d done enough apologising.

***

Oliver poured himself a whisky – at eight o’clock in the morning! – and it tasted better than any whisky he had ever tasted before. Looking around his antiseptic home, the sofa still wrapped in the plastic coating that it came in, he smiled.

Savouring the silence, he resisted the temptation to clean Gloria’s puke from the scarred cushion that had been the catalyst of her death. Taking a Marlboro full strength from the secret supply that was hidden in a hollowed-out hardback copy of Jaws – Gloria didn’t approve of fiction and would never have found the stash there – he proceeded to burn holes in every cushion in the house.

And then he started on the sofa.

Oliver’s brief burst of pyromania was interrupted when he thought he heard a tut, tut, tut from the hallway. His heart seemed to skip a beat or two, but then he gave a relieved laugh when it was just the sound of the letter box, flapping in the wind.

***

Disposal of Gloria’s body proved much easier than Oliver would have expected. On a bright Sunday morning in April he hauled Gloria’s corpse into the back of his car, keeping an eye out for nosy neighbours, and drove towards Jed Bramble’s rundown farm, and the village of Innersmouth.

Jed was an old school friend and fellow Territorial Army member whom Oliver occasionally used to meet for a sly drink in the Innersmouth Arms’ smoky, pokey snug. He was also a phenomenal lush. The plan was to get him comatose and then feed Gloria’s body to his pigs. Oliver knew the farm was on its last legs, along with most of the livestock, so he felt sure that the poor emaciated creatures would be more than happy to tuck in to Gloria’s cadaver.

Perched on the passenger seat Oliver had a Sainsbury’s bag stuffed with six bottles of Grant’s Whisky. Just in case, he had a bottle of diazepam in his pocket, which he’d used to drug Gloria.

Just outside Innersmouth it started to rain. Tut, tut went the rain on the windscreen. At first it was only a shower but then it fell down in sheets. Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut.

Oliver switched on the windscreen wipers but every swish seemed to be replaced by a tut. He opened up a bottle of whisky and drank until the rain resumed sounding like rain.

Outside the dilapidated farmhouse, Jed stood with a rifle over his arm, looking more than a little weather-beaten himself. His straggly hair was long and greasy and his red eyes lit up like Xmas tree lights when he saw Oliver’s booze.

***

The cold Monday morning air tasted like tin to Oliver as, hungover and wheezing, he pulled Gloria’s body from the car and dumped it in the big sty. The starving wretches took to their meal with relish. Watching, Oliver vomited, but he didn’t try to stop the proceedings.

Back at the farmhouse Jed was still slumped over the kitchen table, snoring heavily. Oliver collapsed into a battered armchair and started to sweat and shake. He’d decided to stay with Jed for a few days, keeping him safely inebriated until Gloria’s remains were completely consumed. But as the days grew dark the tut returned.

The tick tock of Jed’s grandfather clock, for instance, was replaced by a tut, tut. The drip, drip, drip of the leaking tap kept him awake at night and became a tut, tut, tut. The postman’s bright and breezy rat-a-tat-tat on the front door seemed to pull the fillings right from his teeth. He turned on the radio but even Bob Dylan was tut, tut, tutting on heaven’s door.

***

The usually bustling Innersmouth High Street was almost deserted now. The majority of the local people were cowering indoors – in shops, pubs, fast food joints. Oliver walked down the street with Jed’s rifle over his shoulder. No matter how many people he shot he still couldn’t seem to escape the sound of Gloria’s disapprobation.

Tut went the gun when he shot the postman.

Tut, tut when he pressed the trigger and blew Harry the milkman’s brains out.

Tut, tut, tut when he blasted fat PC Thompson to smithereens as he attempted to escape by climbing over the infant school wall.

Oliver heard the sirens of approaching police cars in the distance and realised there was only one thing left to do.

Pushing the gun into his mouth he squeezed the trigger.

The last sound that he heard was a resounding TUT!

The End.

(c) Paul D. Brazill 

These yarns first appeared online at Flashshots, Shotgun Honey and Beat To A Pulp respectively.Pic (fragment) (c) Kasia Martell. 

Recommended Read: The Last Tiger by Tony Black

thelasttiger1Maybe it’s not the sort of book you would expect from someone best known for crime fiction but Tony Black‘s The Last Tiger is certainly just as tightly put together as his crime novels. A really lovely and rich story of childhood and being a stranger in a strange land.

Here’s the skinny:

‘Subject to a bidding war among several publishers in 2013, The Last Tiger is a remarkable book. Black has incorporated his page-turning crime style into a literary story that has much to tell us about alienation, persecution, loss, and the bonds of family. Set in the stark, sweeping landscape of Tasmania, this is a literary thriller from one of the UK’s finest authors.’

“An authentic yet unique voice, Tony Black shows why he is leading the pack…Atmospherically driven, the taut and sparse prose. Powerful.” – NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS

“A beautiful powerful tale to move the hardest heart.’ – THE SUN

A Song For Saturday: Johnny Staccato Theme by Elmer Bernstein

johnny staccJohnny Staccato, played by John Cassavetes, is a jazz pianist/private detective. The setting for many episodes is aGreenwich Village jazz club belonging to his friend, Waldo, played by Eduardo Ciannelli. The show featured many musicians, such as Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, Red Mitchell, Red Norvo, and Johnny Williams. (Ironically, given the show’s New York setting, all of these men were closely identified with the West Coast jazz scene, as the show was filmed largely in Los Angeles.) Elmer Bernsteincomposed both of the main theme tunes used and Stanley Wilson was music supervisor. Cassavetes also directed five episodes.

Short, Sharp Interview: Jonathan Dunne

Takeoversmall (2)PDB: Can you pitch THE TAKEOVER in 25 words or less?

It’s a story about the underdog and the consequences of apathy and
neglect. It is also a reminder of the dangers of organized crime and its
forgotten victims.

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your
boat recently?

The Wire is definitely the best television I’ve ever seen; it’s
incredible in every facet. Game of Thrones has blown my mind, I read the
whole series without a break! When it comes to music I’m a snob; I abhor
the X FACTOR generation and manufactured bands; give me Damien Dempsey
and Fleetwood Mac any time.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective readers?

Definitely.  Every writer has a distinctive voice and you have to
respect the uniqueness and contrast of styles. You’ll always want to put
your own slant on a story but we tend to be like that as creative
people.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or
television?

Never say never. I can spot clichés in films and scripts very easily.
So I’d like to think that I can offer my own voice to a script. Although
I’ve no ambitions at present, I’d rule nothing out. As innately creative
people, we are bound only by our thinking.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Lots, The Takeover I had to sit down with two major criminals. They have
long since retired and they had serious insights into the ugly side of
crime. People tend to glamorize crime, these guys were careful to point
out that crime is anything but glamorous! It’s a violent dark world
where life is cheap and prison is a certainty, regardless of how high
you climb.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

It’s a must. The old medium of newspapers and magazines as a gateway to
the public are diminishing.  It’s imperative that every writer master
social media in order to maximize publicity. I’m a novice myself!

dunnePDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2014?

Publicize The Takeover The reviews along with my faith in this story
are strong. So, I have to spread the message as far and wide as
possible. In short; I’m hunting the Tipping Point for The Takeover!

Bio: Jonathan grew up in the North Inner city, Dublin, Ireland. He was raised by a fiercely strong grandmother, Margaret Lynch, who also raised nine sons and four daughters in a three bedroom flat on the North Strand. Jonathan is from a working class background and dropped out of school at age fourteen to work. He worked in menial manual labour jobs; however he developed a love of reading as a child and continued to read avidly all through his teenage years. When a former boss noticed his curious nature he told Jonathan, he was too bright to continue ‘loading pallets’ he returned to education and completed his exams. Although the leaving certificate curriculum in Ireland was six subjects, Jonathan sat nine and passed them all. He admits being ignorant of the world around him before returning to school, ‘I knew nothing of politics, current affairs, history, or the wider world. I went from the extremities of ignorance to an awakening and recognition of the world around me.’As a keen martial artist, Jonathan became heavily influenced by BAFTA award winning writer Geoff Thompson. Through this mentor; Jonathan began to write consistently winning a number of short story competitions. He wrote his first book (Academic Octagon) whilst working in finance and secured a small publishing contract. He admits this book was the work of a ‘novice’ and began studying his craft in earnest. He studied punctuation, grammar and every book he could unearth on writing. ‘I was bursting with ideas but I needed the basic tools and studied relentlessly. It paid off, I had literally hundreds of rejections for my first book, but for Fia The Envoy, I was offered two contracts within three months and Ireland’s biggest literary agent were very interested but alas, I was already under contract. Jonathan lives in Dublin with his wife and two children and writes full time. He is also a columnist for a national martial arts magazine. He has just finished a third book and is beginning a follow up to Fia The Envoy

A Song For Saturday: 1979 Now! by Vic Godard and Subway Sect

1979 now

A Song For Saturday is a full LP this week, from the great VIC GODARD  …

Here’s the blurb:

‘After the release of 1978 NOW in 2007 (a re-recording of Subway Sect’s ‘lost album’) recording and releasing Vic’s Northern Soul songs seemed a natural follow on. . .

Initiated into the world of Northern Soul after Paul Myers passed on a bundle of 45s in 1978, the deceptive simplicity of many of the records convinced Vic to start practising songs he had been writing in his bedroom, which would eventually lead to 1979 being one of his most productive song writing years.

An unexpected support slot for Siouxsie and The Banshees in Camden, 1980, meant many of the songs comprising 1979 NOW! got their first airing. Alan Horne recorded everything from their Northern Soul inspired instrumental opener, which was later reprised to close the set – to songs such as ‘Caught In Midstream’ and ‘The Devil’s in League With You.’ The bootleg eventually found its way to Edwyn Collins, who chose to record ‘Holiday Hymn’ for Orange Juice’s 1981 Peel Session.

Nearly thirty years later and the seeds of 1979 NOW! took root, but went on the back burner as attention turned to other things, like recording ‘We Come As Aliens’, gigs and the release of ‘Live In Stereo’ (2009 gnu inc). Fast-forward to 2010 and with WCAA released (CD Overground/Vinyl gnu inc.) attention briefly returned to 1979 NOW! Eventually, after careful consideration, Myers agreed to come on board with Vic’s long time collaborator, friend and fellow Chelsea fan Paul Cook, to record 1979 NOW! and perform live with Subway Sect; Kevin Younger, Mark Braby and Yusuf B’Layachi.

Work began on the first 1979 NOW! tracks at West Heath Studios in 2012 with Edwyn Collins and Seb Lewsley recording and producing. By spring 2013, with four tracks in the bag, AED Records released the ‘Caught In Midstream’/’You Bring Out The Demon In Me’ 7 inch. Recording continued through 2013, mixing and mastering completed in April 2014.’

Buy 1979 Now! and listen to Born To Be  A Rebel here.

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Recommended Read: In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

in a lonely place (2)Dixon Steele wanders through misty post-war Los Angeles as a serial killer stalks the city. Steele himself sees the world through a dense fog that hides dark secrets, repressed memories and more. Dorothy B. Hughes’ In A Lonely Place (1950) has atmosphere in spades and is well deserved of its classic status.

Here’s the blurb:

‘ Dix Steele is back in town, and ‘town’ is post-war LA. His best friend Brub is on the force of the LAPD, and as the two meet in country clubs and beach bars, they discuss the latest case: a strangler is preying on young women in the dark. Dix listens with interest as Brub describes their top suspect, as yet unnamed. Dix loves the dark and women in equal measure, so he knows enough to watch his step, though when he meets the luscious Laurel Gray, something begins to crack. The American Dream is showing its seamy underside.’

Out Now! Maybe I Should Just Shoot You In The Face

Maybe I Should Just Shoot You In The Facezelmer is very cool new collection of short stories from Zelmer Pulp, containing photographs by Mark Krajnak, new stories by Brian Panowich, Ryan Sayles, Chris Leek, Chuck Regan (who also did the cover), Gareth Spark, Isaac Kirkman and Benoit Lelievre, with an introduction from me.

Recommended Read: Nobody Wins by Michael Haskins

Michael Haskins’ ‘Nobody Wins’ is a breathless, high-octane international crime thriller with the fast-pace of an ’80s action nobodywins-1movie.

The blurb: A simple request of Mick Murphy to find his cousin Cecil Fahey turns into a struggle of avoiding irate SAS soldiers determined to kill Cecil for his IRA activities in the ’80s. Murphy’s quest takes him into the shadowy world of the IRA in Los Angeles, New Jersey and eventually Dublin, Ireland, all the while avoiding efforts to kidnap him and trying to survive attempts on his life. In his quest to locate Cecil and find out who and why someone wants him dead, family and friends lie to Murphy. With a new identity provided by the IRA, Murphy can’t escape his long-time black bag friend Norm’s scrutiny or the MI6 agents following him, while being used to set up an ambush of SAS soldiers. When truths are lies and lies are necessary, Mick Murphy realizes nobody wins.

Recommended Read: Meaningful Conversations by Richard Godwin

Meaningful Conversations by Richard Godwin : Dark, rich language that paints a deliciously delirious Ballardian Giallo.meaninful1

Here’s the blurb:

Meaningful Conversations is a hybrid Noir novel that tackles the modern world and its most tabooed addictions and mythologies. Its protagonist, cellist Bertrand Mavers, is the best adjusted serial killer you will ever meet. His therapist, Otto Wall, calls him the sanest man he knows. What he actually is will surprise and astonish you.

PRAISE FOR MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS

The narrator of Meaningful Conversations is a brilliant mix of Artaud, de Sade, and the narrators of Ellis’ American Psycho and Kosinski’s Steps. He’s in analysis, but he has taken his own temperature. He may be febrile, but he’s a scream. Richard Godwin continues to mix contemporary genres with elegance and power. —Professor Jay Gertzman.

Dark, rich language that paints a deliciously delirious Ballardian Giallo.—Paul D. Brazill author of A Case of Noir and Guns of Brixton.

If JG Ballard and Angela Carter played a game of Chinese Whispers with Anaïs Nin and William Burroughs, it might end up something like Godwin’s latest—a wild and surreal ride that veers from cold horror to steamy kink and offers a unique satire of modern life in bizarre form. Whatever you want to call it, you won’t put it down until you finish it. K. A. Laity, author of White Rabbit and the Chastity Flame series.

No one since H.P Lovecraft explored the depths of human darkness more earnestly than Richard Godwin. Meaningful Conversations is a work of righteous anger and burning honesty that’s supercharged with Jodorowskian eroticism. Godwin marches to the sound of his own drum, but he can do no wrong.—Benoît Lelièvre, Dead End Follies

London Noir by Paul D. Brazill

night-and-the-city‘London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

So, it’s no great surprise that Britain’s capital city has lent itself to its own particular brand of noir, from the likes of con man Harry Fabian and his fellow hustlers in Gerald Kersh’s brilliant 1938 novel Night and the City, to George Harvey Bone, the murderous alcoholic in Patrick Hamilton’s marvelous Hangover Square, (1941).

Outsiders abound, of course, unsurprisingly so in Colin Wilson’s Ritual In The Dark (1960), a Fridays Forgotten Books: Ritual In The Dark by Colin Wilson‘modern day’ Jack The Ripper tale which would be called a period piece now. It’s a kind of British Crime and Punishment which takes place in a sexually and socially repressed 1950’s Britain and a vividly drawn Soho. Written in 1949 but published in 1960 it is distinctly pre- The Beatles (pre rebellious youth) and post WW2. It is also a distinctly British exploration of existential extremes featuring a murderer who kills as a creative act, a positive rebellion against the supposed unimportance of his existence. Ritual In The Dark -Post war angst in a world where ‘we’ve never had it so good’  just isn’t good enough.
1 lost summer

More up to date is Layla by Nina de la Mer, a gripping and gritty slice of London noir about the downward spiral of a suburban girl who moves down the smoke for a better life and becomes a stripper. And there’s also Richard Godwin’s One Lost Summer, a sweltering, intense noir set among London’s rich and powerful.
layla-by-nina-de-la-mer.jpg-w193h300
And plenty of other crime writers have explored London’s dark side too such as Derek Raymond, Carole Morin, Charlie Higson, Benedict J Jones and Cathi Unsworth. 

 
So, check ‘em out!
(This post first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online’s Brit Grit Alley)