Walter Conley’s amazing disenthralled is out again with some great prose and photos from Alisa Rynay Haller
R o b e r t C r i s m a n
M i s s A l i s t e r
C K B l a c k
L e n a V a n e l s l a n d e r. I’ve a story there too:Late Night Film. It’s here: http://disenthrallme.wordpress.com/issues/issue-3/
I’ve another Xmas story –WHEN THE SNOWMAN BRINGS THE SNOW – over at THRILLERS KILLERS n CHILLERS. Have a gander: http://thrillskillsnchills.blogspot.com/2009/12/when-snowman-brings-snow-by-paul-d.html
The Steve Weddle Memorial Airport Flash Fiction Challenge
Details of the challenge are here:
The challenge was to write a Flash Fiction story featuring an airport. I struggled but this is what I came up with.
Warsaw Dawn by Paul D. Brazill
The men in the long black overcoats looked like shadows as they cut through the snow smothered square. A ghostly spiral of smoke drifted up from the husk of the burnt out car as Darko fell to his knees, the low hum that hovered in the distance growing louder.He looked up, gasping, as the plane roared overhead. His fingers buzzed and tingled and the sensation spread through his hands and up his arms. The weight of an elephant was on his chest and he felt the cold hard metal against his forehead. Then the day dissolved into black.
The tall man hummed a misty melody as he poured the petrol over Darko’s blood splattered body and set it alight.
‘Get a move on, Marek ’ said the corpulent slug with the bullet hole eyes, who stood beside him. ‘He’ll have landed by now.’ The tall man picked up the briefcase and lit a cigarette on the flickering flames of Darko’s burning cadaver.
‘Take a chill pill, Arek,’ he said without cracking a smile, his accent as dark and thick as Irish coffee.
The airport was as bright as a migraine and Colin Graham shuffled to the front of the queue and picked up his suitcase. He was gasping for a drink and one of the reasons he was glad to be back in Poland was that he knew the airport bar would be open, even at this hour. He rushed through customs focused on the thought of a pint of Krolewskie and a shot of Bols when he saw them. Laurel and Hardy,Flip and Flap, Bolek and Lolek. They had a few nicknames, although no one ever said them to their faces. He knew them as Marek and Arek. Dragan’s boys. And he knew that they were a harbinger of a shit load of trouble.
Whenever Colin saw Dragan he was reminded of the picture of Dorian Grey. He’d been a journalist in Warsaw long enough to know that Dragan wasn’t known as The Psychotic Serb for nothing. But like Wilde’s hero there was no sign of corruption or suffering or sickness or guilt on Dragan’s angelic face. Colin knew that the Serbian was in his forties but his face was that of someone half that age. Unblemished apart from the small crescent shaped birth mark on his right cheek. Colin sipped his vodka and waited while Dragan and his goons examined the contents of a briefcase that was splashed with what he hoped was red paint.
Dragan nodded and said something in Russian to his henchmen who rushed out of the room. Colin spoke Russian but sometimes it was better not to know what was being said. Dragan looked up from the briefcase and turned on his 5000 watt smile.
‘My old friend, Colin,’ he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
‘My English/Irish friend. How the fuck are you?’
He filled up Colin’s vodka glass and sat on the edge of the desk, swigging from the bottle.
‘Could be worse. Bit knackered.’
‘Long flight, eh?’
‘Six hours. Long enough.’
‘And how was the Big Apple?’
‘So good they named it twice. Beers like rat’s piss though.’
‘And did you see her? Colin shuffled in his chair. He shook his head.
‘Long gone, Dragan. Months ago.’ ‘And…’
‘Well, NYPD are looking for her. In connection with the murder of a mugger in Central Park but …’
‘Ah. That’s my girl. That’s my Krystyna’
His face went dark.
‘Back in Blighty as far as I know.’
‘Scotland? With Banks?’
Colin shrugged his shoulders. There was a knock on the door. Dragan looked up at Marek and Arek. They had the look of scolded schoolboys. They mumbled in Russian but all Colin understood was that ‘the real one’ had been ‘burnt to a cinder’ in the back of the car. Dragan looked like Vesuvius ready to erupt. He took a large envelope from the top of the desk and handed it to Colin.
‘Later,’ he said. Colin didn’t argue. He picked up his coat and suitcase and left Dragn’s office as fast as he could.
The trendy bar in the New Town –which was actually older then the Old Town -was pricey but with the money Dragan had paid him – plus his money from Krystyna -Colin felt he could afford it. He sent one short message to the Facebook page know as Femme Fatale: He bought it and then closed his lap top. He lay back in the Zebra striped sofa and looked out outside as a horse and cart clip clopped past and wondered how long he should wait before he headed off to Scotland.
The red subsided into darkness; a black muffled in between unseen cushions of dust and discontent. There was no pain, no want, or loss. There was only the staleness of contained air.
Silence. Sweet, blessed silence.
I resisted my coming-to, my conscious mind moaning and rolling over in sleep. I wanted nothing more than to chase away the morning sunlight. But there was no sun, no bed, no voice welcoming me back to awareness. There was only stillness and perfect, immaculate nothing.
Even nothing couldn’t describe what I saw when I opened my eyes. It was as if everything around me had simply dissipated, and all that was left was one tiny neuron, capable of bearing intelligent thought. Electricity. Cold.
My mind felt the freezing temperature but my skin registered no response. My eyes rolled dryly in their sockets, confused about being open or not. I had something behind my back. Hard. Yet soft.
My hand jerked. Slowly, it obeyed, coming to an abrupt halt as I considered my confinement for the first time. Satin, covering hard surface there. Slowly, my fingers tiptoed over the quilted fabric like blind salamanders in a cavern pool. I tested it with a push, and it did not move.
My feet revived suddenly and I kicked. More resistance. I was cold and contained. Here in this perfect, impenetrable dark, so complete that white snow danced in my vision as my eyes fought the first exposure to the only true darkness they’ve ever known.
A box. I was in a box. The thought filled my head. My ears were catching up to the rest of me and initiated their first complaint of silence. The low hum became a high rev of interior noise. The sound of my brain. The sound my fingers made as they nosed into the satin. I knew satin.
Satin, like my girl’s negligee.
Panic threaded into my system, and I realized that all of me was just now waking up, like an old computer booting up for the first time in months. A spark here, a current there, and I was on the loading screen.
My muscles jumped on their own, bumping my knees against the (lid of the) box. I frowned, both hands seeking my ceiling now. I was prone. I was on a cushion, thin as it was. Not exactly for sleeping. I think I knew where I was, but I didn’t want to try to rationalize just exactly how I’d been put into that situation.
A sound overhead. Distant but true, I wouldn’t mistake it in this bubble of absolute quiet. The scratching my fingers were doing, matched by something far away. Far but getting closer.
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand out as my scalp crawled with the foreboding that shit was about to go awry once that sound reached me. The scrape-shuffle-scrape sound filtered down, through cottony stuffing and into my little private prison. I swallowed the desert back in my mouth and gritted my teeth, feebly attempting to quell the mania building in my brain. I couldn’t wrap my head around this.
I’d lose it if I even tried.
A pause in the monotonic clockwork of it, and I was holding my breath. Mentally. I had nothing to breathe. My mind shuffled that thought back to priority 999 and continued motoring along.
More silence. The din in my ears picked right up where they’d left off and I had the strangest image of standing in front of my tv with the channel set to three, before the screen started to turn blue and mute out…there was static. I blinked in the nothing. I was wearing socks, but not shoes.
My fingers were dried branches. My tongue was leather. I tried to speak, and once reassured that wasn’t back to normal operating procedure, I let off stressing my system.
I wasn’t fucking breathing.
The scrape-shuffle overhead, or underneath for all the fuck I knew, was replaced with a rapid digging. Like a dog. A big one. A weird DigdigDigdigDigdigDig noise, terrifying me more than the scrape-shuffle ever had.
I opened my hands and pressed them palms-up deep into the satin. I pushed. A creak.
It was getting closer now, and when I was at the breaking point, something struck the top of the coffin.
Coffin, yes. I was in A. Fucking. Coffin.
Bio: CARRIE CLEVENGER
Carrie Clevenger, (also known as Carrie Cleaver) worships Maynard and dreams of cephalopods on trains and other oddities in Austin, Texas. She doesn’t have to write the next great novel, but it’d be nice to at least leave a smear on the way down.
The hub of her evil network is here: http://shadowsinstone.blogspot.com/ or on Twitter @shadowsinstone.
Most hits were pretty easy. It wasn’t like the movies or books where things get overly complicated. The only hard part was to get the person isolated so once they were shot you could leave the scene in normal fashion.
Oh, and always use just one bullet. This game of unloading a clip into a body is reckless and stupid. First, police will instantly know it was a hit and will go right for the spouse which was where half of Billy’s hits came from. Second, it was a waste of ammo which costs money.
Billy’s hits were so good he had never been questioned once. Even on the numerous times when the other spouse broke down and admited to hiring a hitman. It made Billy laugh when he tried to figure how many Adam Smith’s or Jackie Jones’s were in jail or being questioned for his murders.
Well, it wasn’t murder. Not in Billy’s eyes. It was a job. Just like if an executive of a big company steals another’s idea or something.
Sitting in an old white Honda that he stole, Billy waited for his next victim to come out for a smoke break. Billy didn’t know the persons name. He never knew their names. He didn’t care. The only he cared about when getting the perfect shot. Depending on the request, Billy always aimed for the heart. Even liars and cheaters deserved an open casket in his opinion.
Billy checked his watch.
Three minutes to go.
Then he’d have the Honda returned within ten minutes and back home within thirty.
This case seemed pretty solid because the man he was going to kill had a lot of enemies. He was a defense attorney. He’d probably gotten rapists and murderers kept out of jail and all those victims families would be suspects.
But not Billy.
One minute to go.
Billy slid out the silenced weapon and prepared himself for the shot. Once the victim walked out of the building and to the right, a bullet would storm through his chest. Then Billy would duck down and wait a few minutes before starting the car and slowly driving away. Casual. It had to be casual.
Counting down the seconds, Billy heard a dog bark.
A beautiful golden lab stood on the corner and barked towards the car.
Billy made a kissing sound and clapped his hands and dog slowly walked towards him.
“Come on boy!” Billy yelled.
He laid the gun back on the seat. Part of this hit wasn’t to kill a dog so he had to keep it out of the way and keep it from barking in his direction.
The dog trotted forward then stopped. It turned and moved back to the corner.
There was only twenty seconds left until the victim would cross at the corner of the alley.
“Wanna treat?” Billy yelled. “Come on.”
The dog walked back. Once it got to the door of the car, it turned and ran again. Billy recognized these movements, the dog wanted to play.
“I can’t play, I have to work,” Billy said opening the door.
He slowly stepped out. He had ten seconds either grab the dog or chase it away and then get back in the car and shoot the victim. No matter what though, Billy couldn’t let the dog get hurt.
Billy’s foot touched the pavement and the dog came running towards him again. Eight seconds to go. Billy stood up and clapped his hands. The dog was at an arms length away. Six seconds to go. Billy turned to let the dog jump in the car and felt a sharp pain in his chest. He looked down and saw his shirt absorbing the blood at a fast rate. He looked around but everything became hazy. He saw the victim standing on the corner. Billy smiled and knew he still had a chance. Then he’d deal with his own bullet wound. He swallowed and reached into the Honda. Before his hand could touch the weapon he felt great deal of pressure on his head and heard the sound of his skull being crushed.
It was a second bullet wound. Thankfully for Billy it was the last he’d even encounter.
“Seven thousand,” Barry said hanging a laptop case to a man.
“Do I need to count it?”
“No, I don’t play those games. But hey, I wanted to ask about the dog, that was pure genius.”
“Yea, I knew Billy. He thought he was the best. We were friends when we were kids. We wanted to grow up and be cowboys and fight bad guys. I remember going to his house. He had a golden lab. He loved the dog so much. Then one day it got hit by a car and had to be put to sleep. He never had another dog after that. But I knew he had a soft spot for dogs.”
“Well, you sure do your homework. I can’t believe it. I still can’t believe my wife put a hit on me.”
“I could take of her, if you want. I’ll give you a returning discount.”
“Eh, not today,” Barry said waving his hand at the hitman. “I think it would be better to see her face when I come home tonight alive. See what she does. But I have your number.”
“No you don’t,” the hitman said smiling. “The phone’s been destroyed.”
“Well, what If I need your information again?”
“I’ll contact you soon.”
“What about the dog?”
“I returned it back to the yard I stole it from.”
“Boy you guys won’t stop at anything will you?”
The hitman tapped the laptop case and smiled.
“Just another day at the office.”
Barry stuck his out to shake the hitman’s hand. The hitman shook his head and pointed behind Barry. Barry turned and threw his hands up half expecting the other hitman, Billy, to be there. Nobody was there. Barry turned back around and the hitman was gone.
Barry walked to his car faster than normal and checked over his shoulder every few seconds. He started his car with his eyes shut waiting for it to explode. It didn’t. He smiled as he stood at the front door to his house knowing he did the right thing by hiring an honest hitman.
“Honey, I’m home!” he yelled walking through the door.
Short bio: Visit Jim’s writers blog at http://www.writersnwriters.blogspot.com – visit his personal blog at http://www.wizworld.wordpress.com – and visit his podcasting blog to hear some of his stories, novellas, and novels at http://www.jimcast.wordpress.com. Jim writes short stories, novellas, novels, and poetry. . . and music. Listen to some of his new songs at http://www.1album1month.wordpress.com. When he isn’t writing, he is thinking about writing.
I don’t have the skills to write proper reviews but I will say that Dave Zeltserman’s KILLER is a cracking book.
I was lucky enough to get a proof copy from Serpents Tail and was as pleased as punch drunk.
Killer is the third in Zeltserman’s ‘bloke gets out of prison’ trilogy and fans of the other two – Small Crimes & Pariah– won’t be disappointed.
It grabs you by the lapels from the very start and proceeds to give you a good kicking, leaving you in a crumpled heap in the corner.
I think KILLER is out in January 2010 and it’s well worth checking out.
Post-Apocalypse Now !
(A personal reflection on films for The End Of The World) by Jason Michel
The film “The Road” has just been released in France. It is the latest in a long line of films dubbed sweetly, “Post–Apocalypse”, and seen and classified by such people who classify such things as a kind of sub-genre of Horror or Sci-Fi, yet really they seem to occupy an odd place that is theirs and theirs alone. It is a place that starts with a barren and arid hope and often ends with even less.
It is a place that I can hang out in like Beatniks are drawn to a café full of black coffee.
I’ll tell you poor mortals why.
Now, your more famous Science Fiction Movie has had its fair share of big bucks scapegoating governmental propaganda in its history. The political influences know that people always want to see a bigger explosion. With Invasion Of The Body Snatchers in the 50s and War of the World’s supposed Anti-Commie message and Independence Day with its blatant scenes of Islamic Fundamentalists adding to the overall horror experienced by its “civilised” audience of a money leeching SFX extravaganza with a plot so simplistic that even a member of your average Reality TV show could have done better.
Horror tends to show us things that go bump in the night and taps into that irrational and unreasonable side of us that only really comes out in everyday life in our dreams or after four bottles of wine.
Post-Apocalyptica pops its scorched head up from time to time.
This is one of those times.
And its message has always been a lot more subversive than its first grizzled impression.
Charlton Heston was the 60s godfather of such films, before he became the gun wielding fiend that terrified liberals from California to Manhattan. Each of the characters he played came from the same basic mould; a tough world weary misanthrope angry at his species for their greed and stupidity, snarling and shouting so whenever the opportunity allowed. A hippie gone bad.
The threat of nuclear annihilation and the idea that humans were not the end all of the evolutionary process overshadowed Planet Of The Apes and its subsequent sequels.
The threat of the baby booming generation and humanity’s voracious appetite for breeding without control and to the detriment of all other species informed the classic Soylent Green.
Finally, The Omega Man showed us a world after the threat of biological weapons of mass destruction in the wake of The Vietnam War became a reality.
The Sixties also saw the rise of the most famous sub-genre of all Post-Apocalyptica. The zombie flick. Shuffling into our consciousness in 1968, George A Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead changed our perception of the zombie forever. Gone was the idea of Voodoo witchdoctors reanimating corpses to do their bidding. It was now replaced by something all the more insidious. A creeping mindless horde of undead cannibals. So influential was this film and its sequels that oodles has been written about them. From their satirical counter culture stance on the military and The Vietnam War in the form of the pompous General to their comment on our consumer society. To say that these films were mindless rubbish was really missing the point. They are a glorious modern day Grand Guignol.
The Mid-Seventies brought with it its own social upheaval and counter culture – Punk. Its chaotic battle cry of “Anarchy!” permeated throughout pop culture. Film was no exception and another great piece of Post Apocalyptica was George Miller’s 1979 feature, Mad Max and its sequel Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. In 2006, the co-scriptwriter James McCausland wrote in an article on peak oil, “George and I wrote the script based on the thesis that people would do almost anything to keep vehicles moving and the assumption that nations would not consider the huge costs of providing infrastructure for alternative energy until it was too late”.
The Noughties have brought with them a slew of worthwhile efforts not seen since the Sixties, such as 28 Days Later, a film that added a new slant to the zombie movie and showed that normal humans are even more frightening than the infected that they are running from. This film also heralded a new wave of zombie flicks that continues today including a decent remake of Dawn Of The Dead and Romero’s own Land Of The Dead as well as the emergence of the Zombie Comedy with Shaun Of The Dead. Zombies have well and truly gone mainstream with even Channel 4 in England showing Charlie Brooker’s splendid Dead Set, a zombie story set in a reality TV show.
Another of note is the intelligent almost biblical Children Of Men with some fantastic action scenes and genuinely gritty sets, in a story concerning the worldwide infertility of women and the consequences on a species knowing it’s going to die.
We are now living in our own Sci-Fi world, with portable communication devices and a worldwide communication network. We have everything we want at our fingertips. Computers are everywhere and are so ingrained in our way of life that most are invisible. We can enter into virtual worlds of our own making and live out our fantasies however high or tawdry. Our species life expectancy is longer now than at any time in the past. We should be happy. But we’re not.
I see the Post-Apocalyptica all around me and I have to admit that I don’t feel that much hope for the future. Not to say that I am right. Or some kind of eco-avenger. I do my bit, don’t drive, don’t want kids. If there is any hope in all this it is a quote from the biologist Lynn Margulis, “Gaia Is a Tough Bitch”. Nature will sneeze and off we tumble, but when Rome begins burning I’ll be on my veranda with a Strawberry Daiquiri, searching for my violin.
PUSHCART PRIZE NOMINEE Jason Michel has been turned on, tripped up and stumbled over all around the world on an eleven year (so far) self imposed exile. He is a hack purveyor of penny dreadfuls and flash nightmares of daytime who now lives in France. He has recently published his first novel “Confessions of a Black Dog” and short story collection “The Wrong Mind And Other Fictions” at lulu.com and has had work published in various print and online magazines.
His work can be found at:
He has just set up a new magazine that is looking for submissions that he describes as “A heady smorgasbord of odd fiction, cult celluloid, unreal doodling, lowbrow waffle & heavy, heavy music”. The website can be found here:
“A heady smorgasbord of odd fiction, cult celluloid, unreal doodling, lowbrow waffle & heavy, heavy music”
The first issue is up now with fiction from Steve Jensen, Melanie Brown, me and others.;art by Jason, Jodi Mac Arthur and Kristin Fouquet;my regular column ‘I DIDN’T SAY THAT, DID I?’ and much, much more. Take a gander here: http://pulpmetalmagazine.webs.com/
Tis the Season
©2009 Laura Eno
Three days until Christmas. What was so jolly about it? Marcy slumped in the bus seat, trying to ignore all of the excited shoppers around her. Hard to do, since they banged their purchases into her shins as they made their way down the aisle.
She shouldn’t be on the bus anyway. Mr. Ho-ho-ho had taken their only car – again – to do some Christmas shopping. Or so he said. Marcy knew he’d been siphoning money for months. He’d told her that he’d had to take a pay cut at work, but she knew better. By her estimate, about $10,000 dollars had disappeared so far. He’d borrowed the car more lately as well, using this or that excuse so that he wasn’t available when she got off work.
She stared out the window, trying not to notice the festive lights wrapped around every lamppost. The bus route took her through the seedier section of downtown, past the strip joints tucked away in little shopping centers. Marcy spotted her car parked right in front of one of them, her husband standing on the sidewalk talking to a woman with long blonde hair. He gave her a hug just as the bus drove by.
Marcy seethed with anger, humiliation settled deep in her soul. Divorce would be too good for him. What was she, some five-year throwaway? Toss the frowsy brunette with the few extra pounds for a leggy blonde? No way. Not going to happen.
One of her coworkers often talked about a Haitian woman that could make things happen. She said that after years of trying to get pregnant, she’d gone to her and two months later found out that she was going to have a baby. Marcy called her friend as soon as she got home and got the woman’s number.
Her hand shook as she dialed, until Marcy called upon her anger to justify the step she was taking. The woman spoke in a lilting dialect, somehow at odds with the power that Marcy envisioned her having. They agreed to meet the next evening, with a price set and instructions to bring something personal of her husband’s, along with a lock of hair.
Marcy went to the woman’s house straight from work the next evening.
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
“I’ve been asking myself that all day. Yes, I’m sure.” Every time she’d had second thoughts about it, the vision of her husband with his arms wrapped around that hussy floated to the top.
The woman made a little doll, attaching the hair and comb that Marcy brought with string. She passed it through the incense smoke and chanted words that Marcy didn’t understand. After several minutes, she turned to her.
“It is done. Your husband is marked for death.”
The words sent a chill up Marcy’s spine. She hadn’t really known how she’d feel at this point.
“Do you know when or how?”
“No,” the woman said. “That is for them to decide.”
Marcy decided that she really didn’t want to know who ‘them’ were. She rushed home, afraid that she was going to throw up at any second. Her stomach settled a little as she prepared dinner, the mundane task of chopping vegetables a balm to her nerves.
The next morning her husband brought her breakfast in bed, along with a wrapped box.
“I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to give you this. I’m too excited about it. Go on, open it.”
Marcy unwrapped the box, staring at the tickets inside.
“I’ve been saving for months and driving the travel agent batty with my frequent stops by her office, but I wanted to plan the perfect vacation for us.”
Marcy looked at the travel agent’s business card. It was the leggy blonde. Tears dripped down her cheeks when she realized how wrong she’d been. He misread her crying.
“If you don’t want to go to Europe, we can pick somewhere else.”
“No. It’s wonderful. I-I don’t know what to say.”
“Just say you love me.” He smiled and walked away. “You enjoy your breakfast. I’ve got some chores to do out in the yard.”
“I love you,” she whispered. Then she heard the chainsaw start up.
Laura Eno (http://lauraeno.blogspot.com) has written two YA fantasy novels and a paranormal romance. Her flash fiction has appeared in Twisted Dreams, The Monsters Next Door, Flashes in the Dark, 10Flash, House of Horror, The New Flesh, Everyday Weirdness and MicroHorror.
Genesis to Generation – or how characters are born by Matt Hilton
Recently I posted about a graphic novel ‘The Bronx Kill’ coming out from DC Vertigo Crime next January, and in the post I raised the fact that while growing up I was an avid comic book reader. It’s no real surprise; most kids of my generation were. But the subject got me thinking, and I realised that my novels these days are as influenced by my early comic book heroes as they are by the contemporary crime and thriller characters that I’ve grown to love.
This realisation made me dig deep and look into the generation of my latest character, Joe Hunter – Dead Men’s Dust and Judgement and Wrath – an ex Special Forces soldier now making his way in the world as a vigilante cum gun for hire. Reviewers have often compared Hunter with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, automatically assuming that Reacher must be my greatest influence because both guys are tough ex-soldiers kicking the arses of bad guys. Well, it’s not so. I’m a big fan of Lee’s, and admire Reacher, but the big guy had no part in the formulation of Joe Hunter. Hard to believe? Well, it’s true. Some reviewers have pointed out that I thanked Lee in the acknowledgements page of Dead Men’s Dust. I did. But that was because Lee was kind enough to congratulate me and offer his support, and kindly agreed to read my book. He’s that kind of person; a true gentleman, and eager to help new authors establish themselves. I owe Lee my thanks ten-fold for that. But I didn’t base Hunter on Reacher.
Here’s how Hunter came about:
One of my favourite comic books growing up was 2000 AD, and the iconic character from the comic was Judge Dredd – a tough as nails, no-nonsense lawman in a dystopian future. Now, at the same time as I was reading 2000 AD I was also consuming volume after volume of the 1930’s pulp fiction of Robert E. Howard and H P Lovecraft. I probably started writing in earnest to emulate Howard and Lovecraft’s styles and rattled off many pastiches based upon Howard’s Conan and the Lovecraftian Cthulu mythos. While doing so, I also wrote a coming-of-age teenage novel, but to be honest I really wanted to write fantasy and horror. I wrote a couple of fantasy novels, the most notable of which was called Shadowstalker. It was a gothic horror, an action thriller, and it featured a tough as nails, no nonsense lawman in a violent and dystopian fantasy world. See the connection? I think that the character of Andra Kendrick was my way of paying homage to Judge Dredd, albeit Kendrick made his way through his world with a sharp sword as his law giver.
Along the way, I was also reading Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan, George G Gillman’s Edge and Adam Steele, the so called men’s action books of the 1970’s and early 1980’s. All of these tough dudes resonated with me in a big way. They still do. I loved their no-nonsense approach to doling out retribution.
Wanting to write similar stories, I gave up on trying to write fantasy/horror and went on to write crime and thriller stand alones – sadly, none of which I could interest an agent or publisher in either. So it was back to the old drawing board, or more correctly the old computer. I looked around at what was selling, what was on the book shelves, and looked at the contemporary authors around today. I loved the humour and the visceral action of Robert Crais and Harlan Coben, and the dark moody supernatural undertones of John Connolly. These were the authors I wanted to emulate. Something I realised immediately was that they all wrote about on-going series characters, something I hadn’t done up until then.
I’d just completed a crime thriller called Covenant of Dead Names which remains unpublished at this time. But I loved the characters of Phil Ellis and Dave Oxford, two tough guy private eyes, and thought to make their adventures into an on-going series. On the back of this I started writing Dead Men’s Dust (under the title of Jubal’s Hollow) with Ellis and Oxford as the leads. But, they just weren’t working for me. So it was back to the old drawing board again. At this time I looked back to my earlier creation of Andra Kendrick (who was loosely influenced by Joe Dredd, Conan and the weird goings on in Lovecraftian territory) and I thought; ‘maybe I can up-date Kendrick to a contemporary setting’. The only thing was, I didn’t want to write about a cop or a P.I. but I wanted a character with the skills and world experience to place him in very dangerous situations. Hence, I decided my lead would be an ex Special Forces soldier, now retired and adrift in the world. Influenced I guess by Mack Bolan, I made him a vigilante waging his own private war against the evil people of the world.
So I guess you’d say that Joe Hunter was born from Phil Ellis and Mack Bolan via Andra Kendrick and Conan the Cimmerian, all the way back to Judge Dredd. Dave Oxford became Jared ‘Rink’ Rington, Hunter’s best friend and brother-in-arms, and I moved their adventures from the UK to the much larger and culturally diverse USA, still a fantasy world of many readers this side of the pond.
When/if you look closely, you might recognise these influences in my writing. Even Howard’s and Lovecraft’s influence stays with me to this day – the bad guys from my first two books, Tubal Cain and Dantalion, are both characters you’d perhaps define as sons of ‘Weird Tales’. And watch out for a nod towards Mack Bolan in book three.
So there you have it, a potted history of the genesis and generation of my character, Joe Hunter.
If you’re reading this, I’d like to think that you’ll look back on your own past and think on how your own characters were born, and what their lineage is. You might be surprised at what you find.
Matt Hilton is the author of the Joe Hunter Thriller series, including Dead Men’s Dust and Judgement and Wrath. The third book in the series, Slash and Burn, will be released 1st April 2010 in the UK.
Matt Blogs at Matt Hilton Thrills at: http://matthiltonbooks.blogspot.com/
and with Col Bury, he posts short crime, horror and thriller fiction at Thrillers, Killer ‘N’ Chillers at: http://thrillskillsnchills.blogspot.com/
and has his website is at: http://www.matthiltonbooks.com
THE MORNING IN QUESTION by Anne Billson
You know when you’re away from home, and you wake up and lie there, trying to work out where you are and how you got there? When I woke up on the morning in question it was just like that, except the moment went on and on. It wasn’t amnesia, because I knew who I was. I just couldn’t work out where I was, or how I’d got there; there was a blank space where those memories should have been. I felt a bit groggy, but that was nothing unusual. I always felt groggy when I woke up. I need three cups of good strong coffee before I can even look at someone else without wanting to rip their head off.
But there was no coffee. Just the odour of stale cigarettes. I disentangled myself from the clammy bedclothes and struggled into a sitting position. I was wearing an oversized T-shirt printed with some sort of slogan I couldn’t even begin to read upside-down. The room was the colour of Lucozade; I hauled myself out of bed and tugged at the orange curtains. They were made of some sort of man-made fibre that sent my fingertips into shock, and the runners kept jamming as I tried to draw them back. The window was stuck, or locked; either way, I couldn’t make it open. Then again, there wasn’t much incentive to open it; the view was of a multi-storey carpark. I couldn’t see the sky.
As far as I could make out, it wasn’t dark, but neither was it light, exactly; it was like that dullness you get just before a rainstorm. But at least with the curtains open I could see the room. Not that I really wanted to, I realised, now I was looking at it. The predominant theme was orange and beige: orange curtains, orange bedspread, orange painting of what looked like an exploding tangerine, beige carpet, beige wallpaper peeling off around the seams. The furniture was not so much G Plan as Z Plan.There was a faded brochure on the bedside table. WELCOME TO THE HOTEL VALLOMBROSA. I flicked through it. Laughing, happy couples. Tartan carpets. Rooms flooded with light. Rooms that bore no resemblance whatsoever to the one I was in.
I wondered whether this could be some sort of reality TV show in which unwitting victims were plunged into bizarre situations so their hilarious reactions could be caught by hidden cameras, but concluded it was unlikely; I couldn’t see much entertainment value in my stumbling around like a sleepwalker, or sitting on the edge of the bed, wondering what to do next. Or perhaps I’d been kidnapped? Apparently not, because the door wasn’t locked; it opened on to a beige corridor. There was nothing to prevent me from leaving the room. But first I would need to get dressed.
I took off the T-shirt, which finally allowed me to read the slogan on the front: MY BOYFRIEND WENT TO BANGKOK AND FUCKED UNDERAGE PROSTITUTES AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT. I returned to the kidnap theory; someone must have dressed me while I was asleep. No way would I wear a T-shirt like that, not unless someone was threatening to shoot a puppy. At least the room had an en suite, if you could call it that. More of a cubby-hole, really. The toilet wouldn’t flush properly, and there was no paper. The shower made noises like a sheep being strangled; I rinsed myself under a dribble of water that alternated between freezing cold or scalding hot. The bathtowel was streaked with yellow stains, so I patted myself dry with a tiny handtowel. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed something scuttling across the cracked tiles of the shower stall, but steadfastly refused to turn my head.
Some things it was better not to know.
It did cross my mind that this was probably some sort of hell.
Later on, I put it to Hilary. “This is hell, right? And I’m being punished for something I did. Or something I didn’t do. I’m not a believer. I mean, I wasn’t a believer.”
Hilary frowned. “May I refer you to Step Four of our Twelve Step Plan? There is no such thing as heaven or hell.”
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven,” I said.
She peered at me suspiciously. “That’s just the sort of thinking that gets you into trouble.”
I said, “Whatever.” It was the first time I’d ever uttered the word in such a context, but the occasion seemed to warrant it.
Whatever. I was trapped in the world’s worst hotel, with what I was now realising was the world’s worst luggage. Who the hell had packed this stuff? Not me, that was for sure. The nylon suitcase contained a scratchy tartan dressing-gown, a frilly white suspender belt but no stockings, a push-up bra that obviously wasn’t going to fit, a white crochet bikini that obviously wasn’t going to fit either, a turquoise smock-top that would make me look eight months pregnant, a skimpy lime-green vest, five non-matching grey socks, some pink plastic flip-flops and a pair of brown shorts which looked about five sizes too big. No jacket, no shoes, no jeans, no T-shirts which didn’t have obscene slogans printed on them. Obviously, I’d ended up with someone else’s suitcase. Someone pear-shaped, and with no taste.
I put on the lime-green vest and cinched the shorts around my waist with the cord from the dressing-gown. Under the circumstances, it was the best I could do. Why would anyone pack clothes like these when they weren’t on holiday? And to judge by the view from the window this was no holiday zone. This was Swindon, or Slough, or Croydon.
Bio: ANNE BILLSON is a novelist, film critic and photographer who has lived in London, Tokyo and Croydon, and now lives in Paris. Her books include SUCKERS (an upwardly mobile vampire novel), STIFF LIPS (a Notting Hill ghost story) and THE EX (a supernatural detective story), as well as several works of non-fiction, including SPOILERS, a selection from her 25 years of film criticism. She reviews films for the TV pages of the Sunday Telegraph and writes a film column for the Guardian.
It will be called I DIDN’T SAY THAT, DID I?
They are on the look out for contributors, especially in the art/ comix sections but also in fiction/ non fiction etc.
Take a preview peek here:
If anything blows your skirt up get in touch.
Into the dark mind he delves
You may go up to eleven, Nigel
But Paulie Decibels goes up to twelve
The Gods of Noir give their benediction
To the verses, the curses and the new blood
Of Paul’s crime fiction
Decibels with the maddest of the mad flow
He’s a wild mix of Ted Lewis,
Chandler, Bukowski, and Poe
He makes the inmates applaud in their cells
He makes the Jezebels swoon
The critics can’t quell
The volume of Paulie Decibels’ tune
Cormac Brown is my pen name. I’m an up-and-slumming writer in the city of Saint Francis and I’m following in the footsteps of Hammett…minus the TB and working for the Pinkerton Agency. A couple of stories that I’ve stiched and stapled together, can be found here: http://cormacwrites.blogspot.com/
Cormac Brown wrote “Le Chat Noir” for the Seventh Issue Astonishing Adventures Magazine http://www.facebook.com/l/53518;issuu.com/astonishing/docs/aam7
As well as “All The Better To” for the Sixth Issue of AAM
His story “They Come From Above” appeared in “Beat To A Pulp,“http://beattoapulp.com/stor/2009/1122_cb_TheyComeFromAbove.cfm