CONFUSED? YOU WON’T BE…MAYBE.

Apple and Shadow3

Nothing to do with this post, but I thought I’d show you this apple from my orchard. The apple is now an ex apple.

Firstly,  if you celebrate it with a religious perspective, or because you like the taste of mince pies and the consequent indigestion, have a terrific Christmas! There is nothing like that good ‘ole post Christmas fug to remind us of our mortality and what we have left undone.

Secondly, a few kind souls have pointed out to me that my novel ‘And Soon The Song‘ is a  bit confusing at the beginning. They qualify this by saying that it all ties up in the end, but using the Amazon ‘look inside’ facility readers might not understand what is going on. I agree with them and had some misgivings at the time of writing, so I’ve changed the beginning around a bit without altering the storyline in any way.  It now begins in the present and although it is still complex, should be a little more easily understood, despite spanning 900  years and having a cast of thousands in the first few pages….

For those of you with time on your hands, as I know you will have just before Christmas, the original version is still for on Amazon for comparison and here. I’ll get around to changing it eventually.

My next story is about two characters alone in a room with a chrysanthemum.

Like that’s going to happen.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

AND SOON THE SONG

 

SEPTEMBER, 1995 – HEARTHSTONE

The blades of the helicopter beat the black air and it slid into the Guinness dark night: a toy against an infinite backdrop of grinning stars. Soon, the ululating cadence of violated air had died away and Hearthstone Hall was silent once more.

Inside, away from the butler’s lighted pantry where an old man sat humming, a tangible darkness swept along the corridors, bleeding through the ancient walls, enveloping the cold stone, and felt only hunger and need.

After so long away, it was time. Three were close and three were far away.

Softly, it began to sing. First to the man, Marcus, in the helicopter, but he was lost in a mind storm of thoughts and needs of his own and there was no entry, then to the woman, Elyssia, sinking in darkness, and joyfully the song entered her with ease, as it had done so many times before.

She would come. And in her madness she would call the others. The girl, the boy, the dark man and the other one: those necessary. They would have no choice, for they would all hear the song and then the hunger could be assuaged.

Lost to the gaze of God, Hearthstone waited.

Waited for the guests.

Waited for the children.

******

Alone in the gloom, Elyssia cried black tears of remorse, as she did every night.

All gone now. She’d lost them all. Her two babies and the man for whom she would have given her life. All because of a misunderstanding – a teeny-weeny misunderstanding. It was not fair. She pounded the walls of the room and felt her fists sink into the walls.

“Please turn the light on.” The soft walls, the soft floor and a ceiling that sucked the sound away muffled her voice. “I want you to turn the light on. Now.” But no one came, and the night was so long.

The children did not come to see her, and that made her cry, but Marcus had probably told them to ignore her. It was the sort of thing he would do.

“Children, let me out. Daddy is a bad man, an absolute shite, but I can save you from him. Listen, you remember this…” and she sang, her voice muffled in the room: “I dreamed a dream next Tuesday week, beneath the apple trees, I thought my eyes were big pork pies, and my nose was Stilton cheese…” But she couldn’t remember any more of the silly words and anyway the children had gone.

Thomas and Charlotte. Bad children.

Very, very bad children.

I will have to punish them. I will definitely have to punish the other one – the one who ruined my life.

She heard the crooning of the song and for a moment it stopped her gnawing at the thick canvas edge of the door frame and gave her an overwhelming sense of serenity. From that serenity she remembered what had to be done.

Hearthstone. Marcus, her husband. Her son, Thomas. Carlos, the dark man. The other one. And sweet little Charlotte. From the memory came purpose.

The Christmas Ball.

She knew she could get out now. After twenty-four years, they trusted her. Trusted her to be sensible and not piss in her pants, kill people or try to escape.

Escape? Not through the front door. Oh no.

They would never, ever let her out, even though the medication was curing her, they said. So, it would have to be the special way. The way they couldn’t stop.

When they turned the lights out she felt under the bed for the piece of sharp plastic she’d broken off the plant pot and fingered the jagged edge.

Therapy, gardening. An interest, gardening.

An escape route, gardening.

It was easy to find the pulsing vein in her throat and then to plunge the plastic into it. She was surprised how painless it was after the initial sharp prick. She moved the plastic around in her throat to enlarge the hole, feeling the warm blood pumping over her hands as if an invisible drummer were co-ordinating the beat.

Yes.

The cell door seemed thinner now.

She stood, surprised to find that the blood had stopped. There was no more. The dead woman lying on the bed had it all: a poppy on the sheets.

The door was locked, as always, but it was ridiculously easy to just slide through it.

“Children?” She stepped into the corridor. “Children? Are you there? Mummy’s coming home. Right now.”

 

JULY, 1191 – ACRE, THE HOLY LAND

Richard’s red hair flamed in the hot sun, his double-handed sword flashing like a turning salmon against the cloudless sky. Behind him, the solid bulk of St Anthony’s Gate rose and around him the bodies of black clad warriors tumbled, arms gone, heads cleaved, as the sword hewed them into the afterlife with righteous passion. Spread for a mile across the field of conflict, beneath the massive walls, the knights of eight Christian nations and their armies drove the enemy back, back to the desert, back to the mountains, into the sea, away from the gates of the recaptured city of Acre.

The stench of the layered dead rose from the battlefield, mixed with the reek of vinegar and urine and Raoul de Courcy drank it in, his own sword beating against the soft flesh of the dark Musulmen in a coruscation of silver and red, adding to the pile of the dead and the dying. Carving a way through the retreating warriors, he was soon at Richard’s side, the king towering over him, the light of killing in his ice blue eyes.

Despite himself, Raoul was, as always, awed in the king’s presence; the man was a giant and his sword the hand of God, or rather the hand of Pope Gregory VIII, but the king’s brother, Prince John, had ordained what must come next, so Raoul slipped the curved and ornate Khanjar dagger into his left hand as he shouted “Coeur de Lion, Coeur de Lion!” and ploughed his sword through the guts of yet another of the horde of Salah-ad-Din. As he twisted the sword from the screaming man, he fell backwards onto Richard, his dagger aimed for the gap between armour and tabard, but Richard, swinging his broadsword through the neck of a grizzled Ayyubid veteran, slipped on a blood streaked shield splattered with greasy intestines and staggered. Raoul’s killing blow met only empty air.

Abruptly, the battle was over and an eerie silence descended on the battlefield, only broken by the flapping of flags, the crackling of bodies in the final stages of consumption by Greek Fire and the diminishing sounds of retreat. Richard lowered his sword, blood pooling under the tip, as the last of the Musulmen scattered from Acre, pursued by a band of Knights Templar led by Grand Master Robert de Sablé. The Templars streamed from the gates of Acre on horseback, pounding the dead and injured to pulp under the hooves of their giant warhorses. The cracking of bones and the strange susurration of bursting flesh was lost within a thunderous roar, like the toppling of a thousand stones, as Richard raised his sword to the men surrounding him, a huge grin spreading across his bearded face.

Raoul slipped away into the crowd of soldiers and moved towards the gates of the city. He was disappointed. Richard’s death promised, at the very least, rich lands in England or Normandy and his sadly bastard branch of the noble and powerful de Courcys – of which he was the only remaining representative – was almost bankrupt and in severe peril of losing their small lands in Derbyshire, England, acquired by Raoul’s ancestor, Armand, in 1066.

A smile crossed his thin, ratlike features as he slipped through the gates against the tide of troops and into shadow. He ran his lips over blackened teeth and his green eyes glittered in the darkness. There would be another chance to do the bidding of his master, John, but for now the captured children of Acre awaited his pleasure.

 

MAY, 1977 – ST JOHN’S, NEWFOUNDLAND

The playful slap of waves against the hull of a small boat is a pleasant sound on a summer day in a flat calm. It is not pleasant in a force ten gale. Neither is it playful.

Six miles off St John’s, on the coast of Newfoundland, Elton Chelford heeled the thirty-two foot yacht ‘Windfall’ into the howling storm and prayed.

That day his gods were not listening.

The wave came from nowhere. It towered forty feet above the boat and smashed down with the force of an angry leviathan, tearing the fibreglass hull in two.

Briefly, Elton saw his wife Marjorie tumble past him in the foaming water as the ‘Windfall’ sank. She seemed to be attached to the yacht and he could see why. Rope from the windlass was wrapped around her neck and she followed the yacht into the depths like a dog on a leash.

Above the thunder of the waves he heard a thin scream.

His thirteen-year-old daughter slid away from him in the swell, rising and falling, her mouth an ‘o’ of distress.

Below him, Marjorie’s face was almost lost in darkness.

“I’m sorry,” he shouted to his daughter and heard her scream once more, before she disappeared in the trough of an enormous wave. “I’ll just get your mom, hold on,” he said to himself and had a surprising thought that he had just uttered the last of all the words he was ever going to say.

Only the stern of the yacht was visible now. Taking a deep breath, he dived to the fading yacht, to Marjorie, ever falling under the great, green Atlantic Ocean.

 

One

TOMMY THE BOY, 1971

 

Tommy’s first memories were of the woman with sparkly glasses. Anything before that was a grey mist.

“He doesn’t understand.”

Tommy didn’t.

“You can’t expect…” The woman with the sparkly glasses and watery blue eyes pursed her lips in a thin line and glared down at the boy. “It’s not just for now. You know that, Thomas.”

“Mmm.” Tommy couldn’t look at her dinosaur eyes. He tried to read the reversed sign on the frosted glass door. Social something.

The man with the red nose cleared his throat. “Rosemary, it’s no good telling him this. He’s only six.”

I am, thought Tommy. I’m six, I am.

Glasses sniffed with a thin nose covered in shiny brown marks. “Boys are all the same. No backbone.”

Tommy saw her eyes crinkle cruelly and thought that they should be green like a sea witch, not blue.

“Look, he’s crying, Mr Garvey. See?” Her shoulders moved back in a gesture of righteousness. “Crying.”

Tommy was and didn’t know why. It was just welling up in him like sick, and the tears made her glasses look like big electric lights, like a lighthouse on a rock in the sea, in the dark. Her head swivelled in response to his thought and she bent over him. Her breath smelt of mackerel.

“Be a man, Thomas, you’re not the only one in this particular predicament, you know. If you can’t remember anything, it’s probably not worth remembering.”

“Leave the lad alone, Rosemary,” Rednose interrupted. “It’s hard enough on him, broke both legs for Chr…” He put his arm around Tommy’s shoulders and patted the boy’s striped cotton tee shirt, as if it were a dog that he didn’t know. “It’s all right, old man. You’ll soon settle in, lots of lads your age get… well, lose their parents, you’ll like the Gables.”

Tommy the boy, Tommy the child, Tom the man, squirmed away from Rednose and put his hand in his pocket to touch the silver shilling. The treasure. It was real. It meant something. He glared up at them both, fighting the tears, knowing that tears were what they wanted, what they expected.

Rednose moved to a brown desk and sat on it with a sigh, shaking his head, but Glasses moved back in and frowned at Tommy, her searchlights crackling with coldness. “Don’t you look at me like that, boy. You’re no different…”

Tommy could feel the cold fire sweep from her eyes and numb his brain. But he knew and she didn’t.

“He is,” Rednose interrupted softly, “Oh, yes. His father is a very important…” The man stopped as if he’d swallowed a rock.

Father? Tommy tried to remember but the thought was like a frightened mouse and it made his head hurt. He gripped the treasure more tightly; that was real.

“What’s that he’s got? In his hand.” Glasses pulled Tommy’s hand from his trousers and tried to prise the little fist open.

“It’s mine,” Tommy said, “Not yours.”

“Show me. Please?” Rednose made no move to force him so Tommy opened his hand. The silver shilling gleamed there: the one with the head of the King.

“Give it here.” Glasses held out her hand.

“It’s only an old shilling, Rosemary. It’s probably all he has. Not even legal tender anymore.”

Glasses sniffed. “They’re not allowed money at the orphanage.” But she lowered her hand, and sniffed again.

Creak.

The warm, frightening familiarity of the messages from the future washed over him and he felt reassured.

“You’re going to die soon,” he said to her and it was only a whisper, “in Africa.”

They put him on the special coach to the orphanage and forgot him.

Five months later, at the precise moment that the number 14 bus hit Rosemary Arless just outside the Fulham Road tube station, she did not think of Tommy. She was, in fact, thinking of the red carnation she had just bought from a flower seller and was so entranced by its redness that she stepped into the road without thought.

Unaccountably, she remembered Tommy when the black bus driver leant over her and she realised that although he was talking, she couldn’t hear him, only a distant patter of drums. She tried to clear her nose and there was the exotic odour of limes. Everything was so red and warm. She smiled. Tommy was wrong. It was going to be a good holiday.

Africa.

Must be.

Two

TOMMY THE BOY, 1978

 

Seven years after Rosemary Arless and Rednose sentenced him to the orphanage, and a year after Elton and Marjorie communed with the Atlantic, the creaky messages were arriving thick and fast for Tommy. Trouble was, most of the time he couldn’t figure out what they were about. It was like watching old TV films with long dead actors in them. And they were all about pain, grief or death. The messages were not happy messages. Someone always had to suffer.

Invariably at the end, when the little puppet humans had run or stamped or screamed across the tumbling images, there was the dark haired girl with the name of a boy, (Chaz? Charles?) her mouth screaming a big ‘O’. She was the only consistency. He wanted so much to help her, to save her, but all he could do was watch her mouth open wide in a soundless scream.

Today, after finding Stick Jensen industriously beating up a sickly boy, by the name of Pimple, Tommy cracked the bully’s nose in a relatively fair fight – except that Tommy used a house brick to counter Stick’s forty pounds weight advantage – and he felt his brain tighten and creak, as if tuning up for the messages.

Inside the recreation room, he leaned against the old oak bookcase in the library, heart pounding, took out a roll-up and felt the headache coming, the one that always came after the door in his head opened; but it was only a twinge and he allowed himself a restrained smile of pleasure.

“One day I’m gonna chew you up Buchanan, you little shite. Strawberry fuckin’ jelly, you.” Stick, flame red hair falling over his acne-damaged face, leant round the door, but didn’t enter. “Strawberry fuckin’ jelly.”

Creak.

“Not on one leg you’re not.” Tommy said, flicking on his cherished brass Zippo – stolen from one of the posh kids who made short appearances at the orphanage – and lighting up. He could hear Stick thinking, reminiscent of the grind of a Stone Age cart.

“Twat, you are,” Stick said. “Two fuckin’ legs, see?”

Tommy smiled to himself. Stick was spent like a spinner on the pond. All used up. He was a Gables boy, wild until he hit the wall of a displeased Guardian – like old Claybollocks, former Marine and built like a tank – then he was a pussycat.

The rest? Just fucking apes. Tommy liked that expression. It was always the worst thing he could think of, the worst thing to be.

And they were all rubbish after all, himself included: the ones who’d been passed over by the male/female combinations who came to the orphanage behaving as if it were a supermarket. When he was eight he’d hoped, tried to look happy and cheerful, combed his hair neatly, scrubbed until his face hurt, and worn a clean shirt so that someone would take him, so that he could have a mum and dad again; but there was something about him that they didn’t like, something in his eyes that said trouble and they’d go for the ones with blue eyes and blonde hair, not the black haired boy with brown eyes smiling manically like a pre-pubescent anti-Christ.

Then he’d started to hate them. Those people who picked a child like a dog from the pound. It became satisfying to watch some prospective parents take on an angelic little thing when the kid was harder than seasoned oak and thicker than pig shit. Now he was thirteen, the supermarket shoppers didn’t even see him anymore and that made his hatred a comfort.

But despite this dubious comfort, he felt envy as another child was driven away through the gates and when he was alone he would turn the silver shilling over and over in his hands until his chest felt tight and his eyes got stupidly wet. The same questions always, repeated like a tired old song. Why did my mum and dad throw me away? Why can’t I remember their faces? Who are they? Where are they? But when he tried to imagine their faces he felt the trembling edge of the headache approaching, the signal for the doorway in his head to open and it soon became the only thing he feared, tied in with a remembrance of two people whom he knew that he would never, ever, meet.

Poor old Stick and all the other lads were the same: discarded, unsatisfactory, badly made crap. It gave them all a mutual hatred, a commonality, a brotherhood. He switched on the television, sitting down with his back to Stick. His head creaked again.

Not just the leg, but the diamonds too. Poor Stick.

Stick stayed in the door for a minute but Tommy did not look around knowing that most of Stick’s anger was dribbling away. Later, he thought, later. But it came to him that he would never see Stick again.

Tommy heard him leave and for a moment felt a great weight on his chest, a sort of sorrow was how he described it to himself, a sorrow for poor, old, tough Stick. Poor, old, tough, one-legged Stick.

“I’ll look after the dog, Stick,” he murmured and didn’t know what he meant, but he could see it – big, black, with weird eyes, and a funny name.

Some hours later, by the pond in the grounds of the orphanage he watched an old pike, maybe fifteen pounds, circling in the weeds, watched as it snapped a minnow in its jaws with barely a movement of the savage head and he thought of Stick.

Poor, old Stick.

The first part would be soon.

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SPECIAL OFFER!! (Aren’t they all?)

So, anyway, I was sitting there, or rather here, and I got an idea for a promotion.Deep_in_thought

Several people had said I needed a celebrity to promote my books. Her Majesty didn’t even reply and the lesser Royals were decidedly sniffy. Richard and Judy laughed out loud. Oprah pretended not to understand my English accent and thought I was stalker. I could have had several soap stars who, for the payment of a suitable fee, would, without even reading them, endorse how terrific my dog thinks my books are (The one with dogs in it is a particular favourite).

It made me realize why soap stars and other celebrities are paid so much. They are telepathic. All of them. And it only requires money to induce this power. But, my £2.73 was apparently not enough, despite a firm promise of a chicken pie and mushy peas plus a year’s subscription to the Derbyshire Times. I find this refusal to trade almost incomprehensible. chicken_pot_pie_cooked_2The mushy peas are worth an endorsement alone and who could refuse a chicken pie that has the exciting prospect of containing genuine chicken, if you get a good one.

So having been turned down by a chap who once played ‘man in bar’ in an episode of ‘Neighbours’ and a lady of the evening who was drinking sherry in the park but had once been an intimate friend of a relative of Sir Larry Olivier before her fondness for sherry put the kibosh on a potentially profitable relationship, I was left with only one alternative.

I decided against selling my organs – which are not in saleable condition anyway -and instead dropped the price.

360px-Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is on October 31st. Both AND SOON THE SONG  and NORTHMAN have ghosts in them, so I thought why not celebrate a good old Celtic feast since both books contain the odd dead Celt. I know. It’s a tenuous link, but since my disappointment in the lack of a reply from the Queen, I’ve not been thinking straight. Ghosts galore for Halloween, it is!

The Kindle versions of AND SOON THE SONG and NORTHMAN are both only £0.99/$1.49 until Oct 31st!

I know those of you who have not yet read either book will rush out immediately and buy both. It makes sense. Or rather, it makes sense to me. I will forgive those who don’t, but I cannot believe such wonderful, beautiful, charming, intelligent, discerning people of taste like you could refuse an offer like this.

I know that last sentence was a little OTT. I’ve noticed hyperbole has become my bedfellow recently. I put it down to a newly acquired limping ability gained by tearing a calf muscle whilst chasing a strange and madly defecating cat out of my orchard.

At the time I was astonished by how many  words I knew to describe the cat, and bizarrely none of them were related to anything remotely feline.

I’m rambling now, so I’ll get my coat.

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PAVLOV’S DOGS

A child dying from a brain tumour is taken from a hospital in England because his parents no longer trust the oncologists. They take him to Spain where the family have a property. They want to sell the property and pay for targeted proton beam treatment that is not available on the NHS. It’s a chance, a slim chance, yes, but the specialists want to flood the child’s brain with broad beam radiation, leave him with potential brain damage and without any guarantee that he will live.

You might think that in a ‘liberal’ country every effort would be made to help them find the best for their child.

Not in England.

First, the NHS doctors threaten the family that if they try to remove their child, they will be prevented by a court order. Then, after the family take the only course of action open to them and spirit the child away, our sensitive police get an international warrant for their arrest and, blundering mindlessly through their politically correct agenda, the Spanish police have them handcuffed like criminals and separated from their child on the grounds that they have ‘neglected’ Ashya. That same child is now in a Spanish hospital and no members of the family are allowed to see him. The police have raided the home of the child’s grandmother, without explanation, stunningly compounding their original heartless, almost fascist, response.

The child is alone in a strange place with foreigners whom he cannot understand. His mother and father and his siblings are no longer there. And he is dying. Can you think of a more effective torture for a sick five-year-old? What will it do to his cancer?

In the meantime, his parents may be extradited and flown back to Britain to ‘answer questions’. Why could the police not send one officer to Spain to ask whatever ludicrous questions they might have? What possible questions might there be for parents trying to save the life of their child? Whose child is this? When the child dies, will the police, the NHS, apologise? It will be too late, whatever they do; the child has already had his life shortened by this affair. Those involved in such a heavy-handed approach all bear responsibility. It will be interesting to see what spurious reasons the authorities invent over the next few weeks for the sheer brutality of this affair.

The latest news is that the parents will be kept in prison for 72 hours while a judge decides whether they will be extradited. These are parents of a sick child, not criminals.

This is a child’s life that is being bandied about by idiots. I fail to understand why the police can mobilize massive resources for this family affair and seem unable to bring to book anyone involved in the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

Of course, I might be wrong about all this. I’ve been wrong before, but it depresses me to think I’m probably right.

I love my country and I’m deeply ashamed of it. I’ve been ashamed of it for some time. Recent events have deepened that shame: the Rotherham scandal, the Jimmy Savile Enquiry, the social engineering of Britain, self-seeking career politicians and greedy bankers wrecking the country and being rewarded for it, the culture of political correctness that means the Thought Police are not just a figment of George Orwell’s imagination, but are here, right now… and so much more.

The King family and the way they have been, are being, treated, is an indicator of something greater, something more monstrous, hiding beneath the vapid, ceramically enhanced grins of greasy career politicians and the sly faces of bankers.

It seems to me, that as we drift forward to an inevitable police state founded on the back of both real and invented terrorist threats, ordinary, decent British people are becoming less involved in their own fate. Decades of political correctness have ensured that we will never complain, never protest in the way we used to such a short time ago. We have become inert objects: fed with sex, sugar, drugs, alcohol and the ceaseless consumption of the scripted lives of others via soaps and ‘reality’ TV, so that actual reality becomes an unpleasantness to be avoided at all costs.

We hate our masters and rail against them interminably, but they know we will always be compliant – we have been trained to behave.

And we have one belief that transcends all others. Despite our posturing, despite our huffing and puffing, despite our weak protests against their excesses – they know better than us.

When you hear the sound of the bell, you will salivate.

But little Ashya King won’t care either way.

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DISTRACTION #1

I like this poster. I found it just now. But, for me, it should read ‘Nightmares At Work Mean Peaceful Nights Later’.lossy-page1-399px-Day-dreaming_at_work_means_nightmares_later^_Try_harder_today..._For_the_U.S.A_-_NARA_-_535090.tif I don’t really care for the idea of bombs heading for my private parts as I enjoy my peaceful nights, but the overall design and the sentiment appeal as an example of wartime propaganda.

See, I’m distracted already.

You know how it is. You are writing something intense or disturbing or nasty and you have to turn away from the page and look for distraction. Those of us who write horror, crime or thrillers and are still relatively sane, do this a lot.

The darkest parts of human nature and the nature of reality are the memes of such lost souls.

Right now, the darkest coffee and the nature of caffeine have assumed more immediate importance , so away with you, Richard Dawkins: you and your foolish memes.

Then we come to the rub.

There are only so many cups of coffee one can ingest before the trembling begins and you can’t see the keyboard, let alone punch the keys to produce anything resembling coherent text. That’s not exactly true. I don’t need coffee to achieve incoherence.

But, I’m proud to say, I’m rarely distracted by anything when writing and… look, a wood pigeon! Never seen one of those before. 800px-Common_Wood_Pigeon

I muse on the smallness of a pigeon’s head and the hugeness of its droppings. If people did droppings in the same ratio we would need much bigger toilet paper… and possibly a wheelbarrow, when performing our ablutions.672px-Wheelbarrow_(PSF)The pigeon is making that repetitive, idiotic, cooing noise and it’s copied by another identical pigeon sitting about ten yards distant. The notes, tone, cadence and duration are exactly the same.

1st Pigeon: Hello.

2nd Pigeon: Hello.

1st Pigeon: Hello.

2nd Pigeon: Hello.

1st Pigeon: Hello.

And so on…

Or…

1st Pigeon: Good morning, Clarence.

2nd Pigeon: And a glorious one too, Edgar.

1st Pigeon: I believe I may have solved the mystery of quantum string theory, yesterday evening, after a particularly fine supper of organic corn.

2nd Pigeon: Really? That will be one in the eye for the collared doves, clever buggers.

1st Pigeon: It will. Kings of theoretical physics, huh! I say, can you see that chap over there, looking at us in a manner that quite disturbs my equilibrium?

2nd Pigeon: Ignore him. He doesn’t have a gun. Or organic corn.

1st Pigeon: I wonder what goes through their brains?

2nd Pigeon: Not much, I would imagine. Such tiny heads and huge bodies.

1st Pigeon: And a distinct lack of wings.

2nd Pigeon (nods) Indeed. It’s like being disabled, or rather un-abled, as we must say nowadays. Always last for the corn, I should think.

1st Pigeon: Sad.

2nd Pigeon: They can’t even speak properly – just that incessant noise, exactly the same each time, in note, tone, cadence and duration.

1st Pigeon: True. Ah well, can’t stop here chatting with you. We’re helping the crows mob a quite disingenuous buzzard – she has simply awful social habits – at nine-thirty.

2nd Pigeon: Isn’t that rather dangerous? Crows and buzzards are much more acrobatic than you, my friend. You are rather…ahem…portly?

1st Pigeon: What’s life without a little danger? Even for us fatties. Better than that poor sod down there. He spends all his time in front of a computer, writing crap, instead of dropping it on cars, as normal people do…

And so on…

Now, the horrific calls and I have to threaten reality once again with vague gestures and an empty coffee cup, so the anthropomorphised distractor pigeons will have to wait their turn.3164460404_0f9eacb7a4

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REASONS TO BE VICIOUS – PART TWO

There are no pictures or jolly graphics in this post, for reasons that will become apparent later.

My explanation of why I abandoned what was my current WIP is in Part One of this post.

So, for those still reading, here’s what happened next.

I began writing a novel (and a documentary)  about a subject close to my rage threshold in the late 1980s and ever since then it has surfaced regularly, waving a small, polite flag, before sinking once more into that ocean of mostly unusable ideas with which writers are either blessed or cursed.

A short while ago it started being less than polite. That I was not completing this novel was making me feel guilty. The Savile enquiry kicked it to the front of my list.

It’s about child abuse.

The reason it was never completed was because I had, and still have, reservations about using this subject in a thriller. I researched and tried to make a TV documentary about it in the 90s, but could find no finance from any source – I know the reasons for that and they were insuperable at the time. Might still be. One broadcast company commissioning editor told me, in 1993, if I remember rightly, ‘This just can’t happen; it’s too fantastic.’

‘And Soon The Song’ – my last novel - has elements of child abuse in it, but to some extent, because it is wrapped in a classic ghost horror story, the abuse becomes apocryphal and somewhat distant from the reality. To encapsulate the reality of abuse within a genre horror story is beyond my ability as a writer, simply because the reality is far more horrific than anything my imagination could conjure. It’s real.

The new, old story attempts to deal with that reality, albeit against a crime thriller background. This background allows me to cop out of full-blown descriptions and instead use the crime thriller structure to explain the bestiality of child abuse without aiding abusers to get their rocks off on graphic word pictures. It also enables me to explore what motivates people to even contemplate inhuman acts against children and how the Establishment and the public would rather believe that this dark element of the human psyche does not exist, despite repeated evidence over many years that it does.

I don’t want anything I write to come across as some middle class, old bloke ranting against the injustices of the world and the inhumanity of man to his (or her) fellows, so my research has been careful and painstaking, as it was in the ’80s.

But I realise that, to some extent, it will. It’s almost inevitable. I have two children – both grown now – and if any abuse had happened to them, my rage towards the abusers would have been boundless and possibly uncontrollable. I think that is the normal response of any father, but I understand that ‘normal’ is difficult to pin down, so I will say I believe it to be the response of every father I know, or have ever known, in my personal life.

I am on familiar terms with the objections, because I’ve wrestled with them. The terms ‘thriller’ and ‘child abuse’ should not occupy the same page. But, if I were to write a serious book about it, I would have to take my readers to places I, personally, don’t want to take them, just for the sake of veracity. It is also true that in order to inform the maximum number of people of an evil, the task might best be done through a popular fiction genre.

And, I’m still not sure that it’s the right thing to do, even so, but I will plough ahead and see what happens. It’s down to every writer worth his or her salt to write what presents and then worry about ‘rightness’ later. You may or may not agree with me, but your opinions are always welcome.

If I finish it, then I will make a decision whether or not to publish. I will need help from my friends in the form of many beta reads. Anyone who would be prepared to brave a look at what will be a difficult read will receive my immense gratitude. Just let me know, either on here or by DM on Twitter. Please comment if you wish – this will be harder to read than my short story, ‘The 500’, which is about abortion, so please bear that in mind and if you prefer to keep away, I understand completely.

I know that all the foregoing might seem like a lot of fannying around based on the meanderings of an elderly halfwit, but that’s the way it has happened and my new WIP is the result. I can say no more, but thanks for reading.

Note: Because this started life as a screenplay it is written in the present tense. I didn’t want to lose the immediacy of the script. There will be an opening chapter on this blog soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REASONS TO BE VICIOUS – PART ONE

WinonaSavingsBankVaultMy current work in progress is no longer current.

It sits in a deep vault on the hard drive and I’ve bolted the door, for now. It had taken me around two years to write, so the decision was hard. It needed to be done. And it was better than a bonfire: metaphorical or real. Book_burning

Why? It is written as well as I could write it, has a terrific storyline and tackles an important subject with which most readers will be familiar, if not totally au fait, but it doesn’t work.

It started life as a 120 minute screenplay, but begged to be a novel, so I thought ‘why not’ and plunged in like a fool, or rather as one. But, when the screen characters developed and grew in the novel, it wandered away from its original theme and became something else entirely. Much of the difference is because my screenplay relies on visuals to spin its narrative, which need description or explanation in words when the pictures are absent, but it’s not the whole story.

Now I know I have a tendency to go ‘off message’ in my writing if I find an interesting topic and I tried to guard against it, but to no avail. What I ended up with was a fast paced thriller melded with a philosophical rant about reality (those who’ve read ‘Northman’ and ‘Song’ might recognise a marginally psychotic pattern here) and several interesting, but unnecessary characters – some of them have nothing whatsoever to do with the narrative thrust of this purported ‘thriller’.

It was an odd experience.

I could see the original story, but its dimensions had increased exponentially and part of it was occupying a different space-time continuum from that which I could observe as recognisable in terms of genre. I do have an interest in quantum mechanics, but the effect, in this instance, was not only disconcerting, but also seemed to violate all concepts of the thriller genre. I have already experienced reader complaints about mixing philosophy with horror stories/ thrillers and completely understand why any apparently didactic elements might not sit well with some. So, I’ve stuffed it away in a dark drawer, there to mature like a round of Stilton… or rot away in electronic Purgatory; I have no idea which possibility will eventually become reality, but hopefully it’s not Schrödinger’s Cat.Katze

It might be a good novel when I’ve decided what it is and edited the hell out of it, but I’m currently without an editor – one prepared to work for malt whiskey, that is – and the novel’s nature has escaped me. Which reminds me…

In the olden days, when I used to fish, I was fly-fishing on the glorious River Spey in Scotland for trout and hooked a big salmon. Salmo_salar_maleMy fishing tackle was light and not intended for salmon, but, after half an hour, with a little patience and gentleness, I’d managed to persuade the salmon to come to the bank and, lacking a suitable landing net, I was going to walk the fish along to a shingle beach and invite him to come ashore for tea, at which he would be the main course. The water next to the bank was about five feet deep and I could see him below me, twisting and flashing in the peaty water. He was fresh run, of a brilliant silver hue, and about twenty-five pounds in weight. It was a miracle that my line of seven pounds breaking strain and tiny six-foot fibreglass brown trout rod had even coped thus far. I began to walk him, leading him alongside the bank and he came at first, like a dog on a leash.

Then he stopped. Abruptly. Refused to move. I peered down into the water and he was only about a foot below the surface and looking at me. It was as if he were saying, ‘well, that was fun, but there’s a lady salmon of my acquaintance waiting a little further up the river, so…’ he turned once, flashing and, quite lazily, but before I could react, snapped the nylon leader like rotten sewing thread and was away.

The abandoned novel was a bit like that. It wasn’t ready to be caught, I couldn’t hold it and my equipment wasn’t good enough. When I come to it again I will make sure it is as perfect as can be, my gear is suitable to the task and my grip is tight.

What I’ve just written is the logical explanation for abandoning a novel that was very nearly finished.

There’s another explanation.

I’ll explain all in my next post, if this one hasn’t bored the pants off you. Tosa3

Here’s a picture of Chan, my favourite Japanese Tosa, from And Soon The Song.

Chan isn’t boring. At least, you’d better not call him that.

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When Cupid meets the Muse…

Originally posted on Mari Biella:

This cherubic little fellow has much to answer for...

This cherubic little fellow has much to answer for…

Q: I recently met a man whom I really like. It’s early days, of course, but he’s charming, intelligent, generous, and really quite romantic. Sounds ideal? There’s one teeny, tiny little problem. I think he might be a writer. He hasn’t actually admitted it as yet, but I keep finding him scribbling away in a notebook and tapping at a laptop keyboard, often at some rather inappropriate moments. Yesterday, he talked admiringly – and with a touch of envy, I suspected – about “the supreme fluidity and grace of A.M. Homes’s prose.” What should I do?

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