The Momentum Blog

Five of the Best Worst Women in Crime

Posted February 3, 2016 by Sophie Overett

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Women have always driven crime to interesting places, but it’s hard to argue that they’re having their moment right now. Between Gone, Girl and The Girl on the Train, morally dubious women are taking centre stage, committing crimes as fast as they solve them. But what do you read after you’ve read those? Check out these five great crime novels and take a look at the sharply compelling women who lead them.

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Libby Day, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

You loved to hate Amy Dunne from Gone, Girl (or, if you’re like me, just loved her), so why not settle in with another Flynn heroine? Libby Day’s a little more self-destructive than Amy, but she’s a little sharper too. After her family is massacred by her brother, Libby has lived a stunted life, shepherded between relatives and family friends and living off donations from strangers. But when the money runs out, Libby finds herself speaking to a group of amateur sleuths who aren’t convinced her brother did the crime Libby’s testimony put him away for. It’s a tightly told novel, and one that will twist you in circles before its explosive ending.

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Vivian, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

When private investigator, Philip Marlowe, is approached by a father seeking to end another man’s blackmail of his wild daughter, Marlowe probably doesn’t expect to get roped into a murder investigation. There’s sex, porn, shoot outs and stalkings, but it’s Vivian who commands the most interest. Seductive, charming, opaque. She slinks her way through this classic novel so well you’re hard-pressed to pin anything to her.

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Ree Dolly, Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Ree’s probably the best-best on this list. She doesn’t commit the crimes, but she goes to dark places to solve one – namely the disappearance of her deadbeat father. This book’s better known for its adaptation – a little indie film of the same name which launched Jennifer Lawrence into the stratosphere – but the book shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodrell has a masterful turn of phrase, and he ramps up the creepy to  eleven.

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Beth, Dare Me by Megan Abbott

You could really list any character from Megan Abbott’s subversive take on cheerleaders which one reviewer described as Heathers meets Fight Club, but it’s Beth who steals every scene she’s in. Best friends, Beth and Addy have long ruled the school as top cheerleaders, but when they get a militant new coach, Addy becomes enamoured and obsessive and, well, things take a turn for the murder-y.

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Diane Downs, Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule

Maybe this is a cheat. After all, Anne Rule is known best for her true crime and Diane Downs is very much a real woman and very much still alive, serving out her life sentence in the Valley State Prison for Women. But Diane’s story reads like a torrid soap opera – an ugly duckling turned glamorous swan who marries young, has three cherub-faced children, leaves husband, falls in love again only this time with a man who doesn’t want any children, let alone Diane’s. When faced with the conundrum, Diane decides to murder her children and settle down with her lover. But she only succeeds in killing one of them, and leaves the other two with serious disabilities. The story itself is fascinating, but even more so is the fallout of the case, with Diane enjoying celebrity – first as a grieving mother, then, as the conviction settles, beautiful Medea – facing trial pregnant again, and a lead prosecutor who would go on to literally adopt Diane’s two surviving children. It’s stranger than fiction, and might just be the biggest page turner on this list.

Who are your favourite women in crime?

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Cover reveal: Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans

Posted November 4, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime …

When Nell Forrest’s life hits a speed bump (which is most definitely not a midlife crisis) a cruise around the Mediterranean seems like just the ticket.

Unfortunately, that’s an idea shared by her mother, her ex-husband, his new partner, and a police detective with whom Nell has a stormy history. Fortunately, meditation is just one of the many activities offered aboard the luxury liner, but Nell will need more than that to face what lies ahead.

A tragic death in Rome is quickly followed by another in Turkey. Then an unexpected discovery provides a link between the two, and Nell must stow her plans for relaxation once and for all.

One of her shipmates is a cold-blooded murderer, and it seems that Nell is the only one with the wherewithal to figure it out. But figure it out she must, because the murderer, like the cruise, has only just begun …

Dastardly Deeds is the fourth book in Ilsa Evans’ Nell Forrest Mystery series. The other three are Nefarious Doings, Ill-Gotten Gains and Forbidden Fruit.

This cosy mystery is perfect for fans of Alexander McCall Smith, M.C. Beaton, Kerry Greenwood and Joanna Fluke.

Dastardly Deeds will be released on the the 10th of March 2016.

Pre-order your copy NOW

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One Man is Attempting to Read a Book From Every Bookcase in a Library

Posted April 7, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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Pet care, military history, even the reference shelf: this guy is going to read a book from each of them. Robert Sedgwick wants to expand his reading, and to promote his local library. He decided the best way to do this was to read a book from each bookcase in the library – there are 133 bookcases, by his count – and blog about it here. He has over 20,000 books to choose from.

As with any self-imposed Herculean challenge, one must set oneself some rules:

Firstly, he defined a bookcase:

‘For my purposes a bookcase is a set of parallel horizontal shelves with vertical sides. As soon as you cross a vertical line it’s another bookcase. Tables of books laid flat I will treat as one bookcase.’

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Then a book:

‘I will only read English prose/poetry books, so things like telephone directories and dictionaries which are not meant for reading I won’t consider as books, likewise audio cds and recordings of people reading books are not for this project. If there are no valid books on a bookshelf then I will ignore that shelf.

If possible I will not read any book or author I have read before and I will select books at least 150 pages long. I’ll only break this rule if there is no other choice on the bookshelf.

My intention is to stick to the adult library and not to select books from the children’s section.’

He also states that if he is utterly loathing the chosen book he reserves the right to abandon it and choose a different title from the same bookcase. Very wise.

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He started at the beginning of the year so is already 19 shelves into the challenge. He began at the front door and is working his way around the library in an anti-clockwise direction, gradually spiralling into the centre. He’s been through true crime, thrillers, young adult and book of the week. You can take a virtual tour of his chosen library here  to get a sense of what he has in store.

As a person who works in libraries I have two things to say about this:

1. Everyone should look around sections in the library they don’t often visit – there are hidden gems and Dewey-decimal quirks that mean you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Ask the people working there for recommendations – we know where the buried treasure is (and we’ve read half of it)!
2. Also, keep going back to your favourite sections because libraries are constantly getting new books, either brand new or circulated from around the county. They don’t all go on the ‘new titles’ section to make sure you go to the shelves and see the older stuff too. We want you to take out a new book and an old favourite!

 

Much to applause to Robert for promoting libraries and reading like a champion. Follow him @1stofftheshelf and follow his library @DorkingLibrary.

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What do you think of Robert’s idea? Could you do it? Is there a section you’d never consider taking a book from? Comments please!

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Cover Reveal: Cold Deception by D.B. Tait

Posted February 6, 2015 by Momentum

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Secrets, lies, deception. That’s what it takes to stay alive.

At 20, Julia Taylor went to prison for murdering a man who deserved it. Ten years later, she’s ready to put the past behind her and get on with her life. But someone won’t let her. Someone will do anything to drive Julia away, including murder.

As the body count rises, Julia is forced to accept the help of Dylan Andrews, a cop with dark secrets of his own. Unfortunately help has a cost. Dylan is digging into Julia’s past, uncovering secrets she is desperate to keep.

Julia must keep Dylan at a distance, or else risk her own safety, and the safety of everyone she loves …

COLD DECEPTION comes out March 12 2015, or you can preorder now for the special price of $2.99!

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Cover Reveal: Frank Delaney Thrillers by Michael Rose

Posted December 17, 2014 by Momentum

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The snow in a Montreal winter covers a multitude of sins …

In the icy depths of a Quebec winter, a harmless old Polish man dies in mysterious circumstances. His suspicious niece draws in Montreal investigative journalist, Frank Delaney, to help her find the truth behind the death, a story the authorities seem to want covered up.

The search for answers sweeps them into a dangerous web involving Canadian, Polish and Vatican agents who will use any means, even murder, to stop them. The catalyst for this international intrigue is the true story of Polish national art treasures secretly shipped to Canada to be hidden from the Nazis in the opening days of World War Two. This classic thriller combines fascinating history, deft storytelling and psychological depth.

 The Mazovia Legacy was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel, 2004.

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Sometimes an obsession can become a death wish …

In the second Frank Delaney thriller, the Montreal-based investigative journalist and sometime spy is assigned by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to locate one of their agents gone missing in Bangkok.

The search for Nathan Kellner, a bohemian bon vivant with a taste for young women and a variety of illicit substances, brings Delaney first to London, then to Thailand and Burma, where evidence points to an elaborate plot to destabilize the Burmese military regime. Untangling that plot thrusts Delaney directly into the line of fire between the generals at the head of Burma’s all-powerful junta and those who would use any means to see them overthrown.

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Not every victim is found to be innocent …

Frank Delaney, investigative journalist and sometime spy, is on assignment in Phuket, Thailand, in the aftermath of the tsunami that killed thousands of people, foreigners and locals alike. Disaster victim identification teams from police forces across the globe have descended on this idyllic holiday location to carry out their gruesome work.

Delaney discovers that, against all logic, someone is trying to prevent identification of one of the bodies lying in makeshift beachside morgues. His search for the reason follows a trail through Thailand’s seedy child sex trade to an elaborate cover-up in Germany and France, where those with everything to lose use increasingly desperate measures to stop him dead.

The Tsunami File was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel, 2008.

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Cover Reveal: Forbidden Fruit by Ilsa Evans

Posted October 1, 2014 by Momentum

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This time it’s personal…

The last thing Nell Forrest expected when she tried to plant a tree was to unearth the skeletal remains of a former resident. Now her new backyard is swarming with police, there’s a television news crew camped next door, and once again she is smack in the middle of a murder investigation. And the timing is dreadful. Two of Nell’s daughters are about to give birth and she is surrounded by new in-laws with agendas of their own.

But it soon becomes clear that this time the investigation is personal – so personal that enquiries bring her long-estranged father back into the family fold, and the answers shed some very uncomfortable light about the proclivities of her parents when they were young. Who would have thought that the little country town of Majic had ever been such a swinging place to live?

FORBIDDEN FRUIT goes on sale October 9, and is available for preorder now.

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Nefarious Doings nominated for Davitt Award!

Posted August 20, 2014 by Momentum

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Sisters in Crime Australia has announced its shortlist for its 14th Davitt Awards for the best crime books by Australian women.

And Momentum book Nefarious Doings by Ilsa Evans is nominated for the category of Best Adult novel! Congratulations, Ilsa!

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This year a record 76 books published in 2013 compete for six Davitts – handsome carved polished wooded trophies – to be presented at a gala dinner, 7pm, Saturday 30 August by leading South African crime writer, Lauren Beukes, after an ‘interrogation’ by Professor Sue Turnbull.

You can read more about the awards here.

Congratulations to Ilsa and all the shortlisted authors!

You can purchase Nefarious Doings by Ilsa Evans here!

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The strange world of David Lynch

Posted March 14, 2014 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke

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Something strange always seems to happen in David Lynch’s films.

Ever since the first drones of white noise crept into our ears and the first flicker of light among darkness peeked out at us from his bizarre art-student project/B-grade midnight movie Eraserhead, Lynch has found a way to unsettle audiences even in the most ordinary of ways. His films have a way of drawing you into even the most banal of events – a cup of coffee, overheard conversations, even the flicker of an electric lamp is charged with significance and meaning – that there’s interesting lessons to be gained from watching his films, for anyone trying to tell a story that merges the ordinary with the extraordinary.

Eraserhead itself comes across as some nightmarish projection of fatherhood – Lynch’s alter-ego (played by his long time friend Jack Nance) stumbles his way from a vague relationship into a horrific child-rearing scenario, set against a barren industrial cityscape and a pencil-making factory. There are dreams of a lady who lives (and sings) underneath the radiator, and visions of a man far off in space (or deep within the earth) who pulls leavers and seems to control the world.

The child Nance has to raise is possibly one of the most horrific things put on screen: a wailing, gnashing, swaddled phallus – Lynch has famously refused to say what he used to actually create the monstrous baby, though there are some fairly disgusting rumours.
Eraserhead is akin to Kafka’s The Trial, except the protagonist here is not detained and charged for a crime, but persecuted into paternity. This is Lynch’s common theme: making the home-life into something unusual, something dark and mysterious, and often terrifying. He’s probably never as blatant with this as he is in Eraserhead, and it’s a shockingly effective introduction into his films.


There’s a term commonly used to describe Lynch’s work: unheimlich. Closely related to uncanny, the term is more literally translated as ‘unhomely’. The familiar and the comfortable is rendered something different, something strange.

After the wondrous and saddening The Elephant Man (for which Lynch was nominated for an Oscar), and the bloated and tonally confused Dune adaptation, Lynch returned to his own stories and his own tastes with Blue Velvet. If you haven’t ever seen Blue Velvet, it’s worth not reading ahead and just tracking down a copy immediately. Possibly the most pristine of his visions, it is as classically Lynchian as Psycho is Hitchcockian.

Blue Velvet follows the steps and missteps of Jeffrey Beaumont (again alter-ego, this time Kyle McLachlan) as he journeys from his idyllic white-picket fence lifestyle, complete with aw-shucks innocent girlfriend, into the dark and mysterious underworld that lurks within his neighbourhood. The world of light is mawkish and naive compared to the dark personified by Dennis Hopper’s psychopathic, nitrous-inhaling Don, and again Lynch pushes the viewer to examine just how closely the strange is to our everyday lives, if we scratch the surface but a little.

The themes and ideas set up in Blue Velvet were then writ large in his TV series Twin Peaks, followed by the film (prequel and sequel) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Lynch held audiences for (almost) two seasons, as they fell in love with the search for the answer to Who Killed Laura Palmer? There was murder in the household, while everyone drank their coffee and ate their cherry pie. It was the forerunner to The X-Files, and then to other high-concept long form narrative that now populates every inch of our TV screens.

Wild At Heart took the cornerstone of American pop culture – The Wizard of Oz – and fashioned it into a grand road trip narrative across weird and wild middle-America. It crass and disturbing, but only Lynch can make the sentiment that ‘there’s no place like home’ still work in a 90s film full of thrash metal and Elvis Presley tunes.

However, to really feel the force of Lynch’s unhomely aesthetic, it’s worth watching Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Both films inform each other, and turn everything Lynch had offered before on its head. Gone is the sentimental and hopeful underpinnings, gone is the innocence. The light and the dark aren’t as clearly distinct in these films and what at first seems like the naive and innocent is suddenly revealed to be the dangerous nightmare.

If Eraserhead was about the fear of being a father, Lost Highway is almost a film about the fear of jealousy. The protagonist here discovers he is the antagonist, and that it’s not enough to hit the road and run away from danger – as Lynch’s heroes had in the past – because the danger is always there, the darkness is within. Take a look at this scene where Pullman’s everyman meets the manifestation of his inner rage:

The terror is at home, it is inside the home, and it’s there because it was invited in. Totally terrifying.

Mulholland Drive started life as a TV pilot, lost financial backing, and was then given a boost to turn it into a two-hour feature. Lynch ran with that, and the film literally turns on its head two-thirds of the way through, challenging the medium and the constraints of traditional narrative as the audience has to decide what is real and what is a nightmare. That he set this in Hollywood, and the world of actors and directors and filmmaking, is evidence enough of how Lynch eschews mainstream narrative (as much as he appropriates it at the same time).

In Lynch’s Hollywood, one loses oneself, one’s image is repeated infinitely until the soul disappears, and we become the ghastly creation we imagine out of our nightmares. Mulholland Drive is a film of broken dreams, where good intentions meet bad ends, and it becomes impossible to see just where any of us have a chance to stop it, as there’s always someone making life bad for us, just like in this scene here:

Lynch’s stories are worth watching, not for their weirdness as far too many cinema students are wont to do, chuckling at the non sequiturs and false irony. Rather, they’re worth seeing because of how they treat story, traditional stories, and how Lynch nudges them into unexpected places. He borrows from horror, and mystery, and crime, and presents road movies and bildungsromans and stories from our past that have faint recollections of familiarity.

He takes what we know, and what we’re comfortable with, and challenges us to change, and to do something different. For writers, and for storytellers, it’s worth experiencing.

 

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Excerpt: 8 Hours to Die by JR Carroll

Posted February 18, 2014 by Mark

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Perfect isolation. No phones. No neighbors. No help. 
Ex-cop turned criminal lawyer Tim Fontaine and his wife Amy are heading for their weekender – a restored farmhouse in remote bushland known as Black Pig Bend.
But even before they’ve eaten dinner, three outlaw bikers arrive on the scene. Suddenly Tim’s house becomes a fortress. Who are these people? Why have they come? Who sent them?
As the lights go out and darkness descends, their idyllic world is transformed into a nightmare from which there is no waking up. Tim must grapple not just with formidable adversaries, but with unsettling questions relating to his own past, both as cop and lawyer, and even to his marriage.
But even if they survive this night against appalling odds, the ordeal is far from over. For when the past comes knocking, it will not be denied …

 The following excerpt takes place after Tim and Amy have reached their isolated cabin. Night has fallen, they’re having dinner, when there’s a sudden knock on the door…

Friday, 7.53pm

Tim had his hand on the door knob and had begun to turn it when a little voice kicked in: Danger, beware: sabre-toothed tigers out there. He opened it a crack, a bit more than that, glimpsed a tall figure standing there, face obscured, head ringed by the outside light. Maybe someone else behind him; Tim wasn’t sure.

‘Yes?’ he said.

‘Special delivery package for one Tim Fontaine,’ the man answered. ‘You Mr Fontaine?’

Tim was used to FedEx deliveries in his business life; they were a normal, everyday occurrence, but out here?

‘Depends,’ Tim said. ‘What’s it about?’

‘Guess,’ the man said. Tim saw his hand come out from behind his back; a weapon in it, he thought. He didn’t wait to find out. It all happened in a flash as he slammed the door hard in the man’s face even as he tried to shove a foot inside. Then Tim jumped to one side as a barrage of bullets ripped through the solid timber door amid ear-shattering screams from Amy, who was standing at the table. He heard a shattering of glass and swivelled to see she had dropped her wine glass on the floor.

‘Amy! Get down!’ he yelled. She seemed to be rooted to the spot, unable to move. He rushed to her side and pulled her to the dining room with him as more shots tore through the door. He gripped her wrist as splinters flew and the room began to smell of gunsmoke.

‘What is going on?’ she screamed. Through her wrist he could feel her trembling. They were standing pressed against the wall.

‘I don’t know!’ he said. ‘Some guy with a gun—I don’t know! Shit!

‘Mr Fontaine!’ a voice called from outside. ‘Come on, now. I have to deliver this package!’

‘Leave it there and fuck off!’ Tim shouted back, realising at once the absurdity of his riposte.

The man outside laughed—two men laughed; maybe three. Fuck. ‘Can’t do that, Mr Fontaine,’ came the answer. ‘Against company regulations. You have to sign for it, see. As evidence. I could lose my job.’

More laughter from outside. But at least they weren’t shooting—for the moment.

Tim said nothing in return. His mind was working fast. Thoughts collided, became chaotic as fear swamped his rational mind. He put an arm around Amy; her shoulders were shivering.

He looked at her scared face, then at the door, splinters of timber sticking out of it.

He had to get his shit together. This was suddenly a bad place.

‘You OK?’ he said, almost a whisper.

Amy gave a nod in return. But she wouldn’t look at him.

The man outside was yelling: ‘Give it up, mate. You can’t win this one.’

‘Who is he?’ Amy said.

‘I don’t know. No idea. Some rough-looking bastard, middle-aged, bikie gear.’

‘Bikie?’ she said. ‘What the bloody hell—’

‘No idea.’ He was trying to think of any connection he’d had with bikies. If he had bikies after him for some reason, they were in deep shit.

He turned his attention to the house. Tim had always been security conscious—had to be, both as cop and lawyer. His current home in Canberra was no fortress, but not too far off it: high brick fences, sophisticated alarm system, sensor lights. Here on the farm, which was unoccupied much of the time, he’d been more concerned about ferals or drifters breaking in. So he’d gone to considerable trouble with the door locks, and steel bars on the front windows.

There were two doors to the house—front and back. Both were made from heavy timber, not the cheap, off-the-rack stuff; both were fitted with multiple deadlocks set in steel plating. Since arriving they hadn’t gone out the back, so the security door was still locked.

Only two ways into the house—and only two out.

‘Mr Fontaine!’ the man outside shouted. ‘Come on, now. We need your cooperation.’ He then lowered his voice into a growl: ‘We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Choice is yours.’

Tim was thinking about the windows. Windows were always a weak spot in any house. No need to smash through a door if you could force a window. These were all of the traditional farmhouse sash type. No large glass panels or floor-to-ceiling sliding doors. The windows all had locks fitted, but most of the frames wouldn’t budge anyway due to warping and numerous coats of paint over the decades. They were stuck fast. The kitchen and dining room windows were double sash, with small quarter panels in the upper half and a single pane below. Tim had never been able to raise or lower them. Plus, they were protected by steel bars set too close together for anyone to squeeze between, even if someone was prepared to smash the panes and try to wriggle through.

But—these were obviously dangerous and determined men. They had at least one gun. They were here on a mission. Maybe they had the tools to lever the bars off, or force them wider apart.

Somebody wants to get in badly enough, they will find a way in. Matter of when, not if.

 

Click here to purchase from your preferred ebook retailer

Not for the faint hearted” – Shane Maloney, author of the Murray Whelan series

8 Hours to Die scorches along relentlessly, displaying all of JR Carroll’s trademark thriller-writing skills: hard-edged prose, vivid characterisation, a strong sense of place and tense plotting.” – Garry Disher, author of the Wyatt series and the Challis & Destry series

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Excerpt: Dark City Blue: A Tom Bishop Rampage by Luke Preston

Posted January 29, 2014 by Mark

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Dark City Blue: A Tom Bishop Rampage is the Kindle Daily Deal for Australia today! Grab it now for only $0.99. 

Here’s the first chapter from the book that’s been described as “noir on no-doze”.

CONTENT WARNING: Please note there is violent imagery and language in the following excerpt.

Chapter One

Two days ago, division found a half-beaten, half-pretty, naked fifteen-year-old girl stumbling down the Hume Highway. The case got bumped to Sex Crimes, then the CO bumped it to Tom Bishop. The girl didn’t speak a word of English, and after a translator arrived she didn’t speak a word of anything. Yesterday, Bishop and Ellison hit up every pimp and whorehouse in a two-kilometre radius of where she was found. An hour ago, they got an address from a gonzo smut shooter as to where simulated rape videos were being shot. Only they weren’t so simulated.

Ellison shifted her attention from the dirty windscreen to the clock on her phone. ‘What the fuck takes so long?’

‘Relax,’ Bishop said. ‘It takes as long as it takes.’

She mumbled a profanity and shifted her weight from one arse cheek to another.

Bishop lit a cigarette and wound down the window. The shit smell of three-day-old roasting garbage blew through the car from the rubbish bins some bastard had kicked over the night before. He fixed his gaze on the green stucco house at the end of the street. Three bedrooms. One bathroom. Paint-chipped walls. Overgrown lawns and a burnt-out shell of a car in the yard. A shithole.

The radio crackled to life. ‘Any movement?’

Ellison picked it up, pushed it to her lips. ‘Nothing but the street.’

Moose and Winters were around the back of the house doing the same thing they were: sweating, waiting and trying to stay alert.

Twenty minutes and another cigarette later, Bishop watched a car pull up in the rear-view. He slipped on his sunglasses, climbed out and clocked the street: empty in every direction.

Reeves emerged from the fleet and approached Bishop with a shake of his head. ‘They wouldn’t do it, mate.’

Ellison kicked the side of the car. ‘Fuck.’

She left a dent in the door that Bishop ignored. ‘Did you go to Kean?’ he asked.

‘And to Beechworth and Pointon. All said the same thing: not enough evidence for a warrant.’

A breeze pushed across Bishop’s sweaty face as he turned to watch the green stucco house. His mind raced with all the horrible things that were going on inside. Still, probably nowhere near as bad as the reality of it.

He took a breath.

Fuck it.

Bishop popped the boot, pulled out a shotgun, racked it and moved toward the house with Ellison and Reeves in his wake. ‘You hear that?’ he said.

Ellison looked up and down the street. ‘Hear what?’

‘Screams. Waiting for a warrant, we heard screams then entered.’

Ellison pulled her weapon, checked the chamber, let the slide fall back into position. ‘Works for me.’

‘Reeves, go get lost in traffic.’

Reeves nodded, headed to his car. A moment later, it pulled into the street and the engine faded away.

Bishop wiped his face with the sleeve of his leather jacket as they crouched behind a dilapidated picket fence. Ellison handed him the radio.  He pushed it to his face.

‘I want you boys to wait a couple of minutes, then meet me around the back.’

Winters’ voice filtered back through the two-way. ‘Sure, boss.’

‘Where do you want me?’ Ellison asked. She couldn’t keep still; her eyes darted every which way.

‘Front of the house, pick the door quietly.’

‘What if the shit hits the fan?’

Bishop gave it some thought, rubbed his jaw. ‘Then kick it in.’ Bent at the waist, he made it down the street and into the front yard.

There were two cars parked on the kerb and a shitbox Ford up on blocks. Bishop slid in behind it, peeked over the bonnet. Tattered yellow curtains that were once white hung in the windows and blocked any way of seeing in. He moved closer. Dry grass crunched under his feet as he crept between the house and the fence. The windows were painted black and beyond that, at the rear of the property, lay burnt grass and a makeshift fireplace surrounded by empty longnecks and cigarette butts.

He pushed against the back wall of the house and waited.

Movement.

Winters and Moose. Each held their weapon with one hand while they climbed over the rear fence with the other. The pair wore Hawaiian shirts, loud, offensive. They sidled up to Bishop. ‘I take it we’re going in, boss?’ Winters asked.

Bishop nodded. ‘There’s no warrant; you boys up for that?’

‘Cool with us,’ Moose said. ‘I’m assuming we heard screams?’

Bishop nodded. His eyes shifted to the back door. ‘That thing locked?’

Winters slipped his fingers around the knob and quietly turned. Locked.

‘Pick it.’

Winters got started as Bishop knelt down beside the basement trapdoor. The forty-dollar padlock was a good attempt at security, but the rusted-out latch it was connected to wasn’t. Bishop pulled his flick knife and undid the screws. He looked to Winters and Moose and their Hawaiian shirts. ‘Try to blend in.’ And then he stepped into the darkness.

The smell was terrible. Shards of light pushed through the cracks in the newspaper-covered windows. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the black. Dog cages lined each side of the damp pit.

A sound.

Bishop swung his shotgun low and to the left: a cage. Naked girl. Twelve years old, maybe. She huddled in a corner and tried to cover herself, but there wasn’t much space for her to move and nothing to cover herself with.

Bishop brought a finger to his lips. ‘Shh.’

Whatever language she spoke, she understood.

He dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out a flashlight. Hitting the switch, he scanned the basement: two more cages, two more girls.

The floorboards above creaked. Dust sprinkled down and fell through the light; somebody was in the house and, judging by the steps, they were around one hundred and fifty kilos’ worth.

Bishop headed up the three wooden steps, wrapped his fingers around the doorknob, opened it a crack and peeked through. The hall was empty. He stepped onto the warped floorboards and closed the basement door behind him. Despite their attempts at blacking out the windows, the hall was bright. The walls were bare, yellow, the floors scuffed and dusty. Muffled sounds of fucking leaked from the front of the house. Bishop raised his shotgun and took baby steps toward the source. Each room he passed was bare and cold. Nobody lived there and hadn’t for a long time.

The scene was common enough: the makers shoot fuck films in empty houses for a couple of weeks before moving on to another location. By the time the movies are shot, cut, distributed and intercepted by the VPD, the location is already two months old and pointless tracking down.

Bishop passed through the kitchen. The fuck sounds grew louder as he neared the doorframe and waited, the nightmare only inches away on the other side of the flimsy wall. Sweat ran down his face. His palms were wet. He wiped them on his jeans, took a breath … Then his heart stopped.

A barrel pushed into the back of his neck. ‘Easy,’ the voice said as a hand took away his shotgun. Bishop turned and ran his gaze from the .357 up the arm of the musclebound monster. He was tattooed from head to toe, With a minor tilt of his head, the monster motioned to the other room and Bishop stepped into the lounge.

Four men.

Girl on the floor. Crying. Dirty mattress.

Table of knives.

Above the girl, a fifth man. Masked. Naked, Machete in hand.

Bishop was outmanned and outgunned. ‘You’re all under arrest,’ he said.

Nobody was amused.

Ellison kicked the front door to splinters. Scanned the room. Aimed. Bishop hit the deck. She fired. Sprayed what was left of the monster’s head on the wall.

Scumbags yanked out weapons.

Sidearm in hand, Bishop rose to his feet. The masked man moved on him. Machete above his head. Bishop fired. The blast slammed him back into the wall.

A scumbag lurched at Ellison. She fired. Missed. He tackled her to the ground.

Bishop felt a gun on him: the director. He raised his weapon as the girl on the mattress jumped to her feet. Terrified. She tried to run, didn’t know where. Bishop shifted his aim.

‘Down,’ he yelled.

She didn’t hear. Couldn’t hear. The director about to shoot them both. No time: Bishop slammed the butt of his gun across her cheek. Out cold.

Scumbag fired. Missed. Hit Winters instead. He hit the floor.

They opened up. Bishop took out the director as Moose put six into the one on the right.

Ellison was still down on the floor. She had a bastard twice her size in a headlock. Veins on his forehead popped. Spit pushed though his clenched teeth. A moment later, his body went limp.

As fast as all the bad noise started, it came to a stop, leaving only the heavy breathing of the living and gun smoke lingering in the air.

Moose helped Winters to his feet. He leant against the wall and coughed.

‘You alright?’ Bishop asked.

Winters tore at the velcro and let the bullet-ridden vest drop to his feet. He ran his fingers over his chest. ‘Think I busted a rib.’

‘You’ll live.’

Ellison peeled herself off the floor, scooped up her weapon.

‘How about you?’ Bishop asked.

‘I’m good.’ She motioned to the brick shithouse on the floor. ‘Better than him anyway.’

The smoke burnt Bishop’s throat. He lit a cigarette and called to Moose. ‘There’s three girls in the basement; get them out and call an ambulance.’

As Moose left, the adrenaline in Bishop’s body began to bleed away. He dry-rubbed his eyes. When he opened them, it was to the sight of a naked child, battered, bruised and out cold by his feet. Bishop lifted her onto the couch. She weighed next to nothing, and his leather jacket looked enormous draped over her small body. Greasy hair lay over her face; he slipped a strand behind her ear.

‘What is she, thirteen?’ Ellison asked.

‘If that.’

A cracked window from a stray bullet let a warm breeze flow over the room, drying the blood on the walls. In the distance, sirens blared.

 

If you like Dark City Blue, grab a copy of the sequel, Out of Exile: A Tom Bishop Rampage, available now!

9781760080495_Out of Exile_cover

 

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Excerpt: 8 Hours to Die by JR Carroll: Chapter 1

Posted January 20, 2014 by Mark

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8 Hours to Die is the intense new thriller from JR Carroll. 

When the past comes knocking, it will not be denied …

Ex-cop turned criminal lawyer Tim Fontaine and his wife Amy are heading for their weekender – a restored farmhouse in remote bushland known as Black Pig Bend.

But even before they’ve eaten dinner, three outlaw bikers arrive on the scene. Suddenly Tim’s house becomes a fortress. Who are these people? Why have they come? Who sent them?

As the lights go out and darkness descends, their idyllic world is transformed into a nightmare from which there is no waking up. Tim must grapple not just with formidable adversaries, but with unsettling questions relating to his own past, both as cop and lawyer, and even to his marriage.

But even if they survive this night against appalling odds, the ordeal is far from over. For when the past comes knocking, it will not be denied …

CLICK HERE to preorder from your preferred ebook retailer

WARNING: Violence and language ahead…

 

Chapter 1

Friday, 3.15pm

After a late June electrical storm—brief and spectacular—the sky was a clean, washed-out blue, so pristine it was hard to imagine where all that rain had come from. It was warm and snug inside the car. Columns of peeling gum trees crowded both sides of the road; whole battalions of cockatoos and galahs perched in the trees and on the grass alongside the road.

Few other cars, however. Not one, in fact, in either direction. Situation normal in these parts.

Hordes of stationary birds. No cars. A sci-fi movie scenario, where one might be abducted by aliens. Or one of those deserted interstate highways in an American road movie, disappearing for hundreds of kilometres into an empty, and maybe threatening, wasteland ahead.

Tim Fontaine’s gaze was fixed on the broken white line forever rushing towards him. The Kluger’s heavy-duty Kumho tyres sang a high note on the smooth bitumen of the Monaro Highway. Alongside him, his wife, Amy, dozed like a contented newborn, her soft face nestled into a pillow set against the window. He could see her breath misting up the glass.

Tim was impressed. Amy always slept soundly when they were on the road. He could never do that, not in a million years, nod off when someone else was driving. Even when Amy was driving, he kept a sharp eye out. Good or bad, Tim Fontaine had always needed to hold his destiny in his own hands. But apparently Amy had no such qualms. Apparently she had trust and belief in his driving. That was comforting.

Trust. Belief. Big words. When they’d started out, when they were white-hot, trust and belief didn’t matter. No words did. All they wanted was each other—anywhere, anyhow. But now a good part of that heat had evaporated. Things had changed. Hell, everything had changed. Time did that—reconfigured you. In the end you were a different unit from how you started out. They were a normal married couple now.

On the radio a female ABC announcer was playing classical music—something by Prokofiev. Tim didn’t fancy it; he scanned for something else. Norah Jones turned up on one of the local FM stations. She could sing all right, in that sad and wistful style so common among the current crop of songbirds. But you couldn’t tell one from the other.

You’re showing your age, he told himself.

He glanced at Amy again. She was a picture. To his eye she hadn’t aged one day in the eight years they’d been together. In the beginning, Amy’s passionate lovemaking was most unexpected, even shocking, coming from someone with those elegant Gwyneth Paltrow looks. That had made it all the more exciting for him.

But when he looked in the mirror, his face told a different story. His once-dark hair was greying and wearing thin at the crown, his jowls had thickened and deep creases ran across his throat, as if he’d been slashed. Worst of all, goddamned liver spots had begun sprouting on his shoulders and on the backs of his hands. Just a few years ago he was considered young for his age, but suddenly, it seemed, the unforgiving march of time had eaten that up. Now he looked every one of his fifty-three years.

Whenever he dwelt on this subject—every morning as he shaved—Tim worried that Amy might dump him for younger blood. The potential was there once he was no longer sexually attractive. And she’d left someone for him, so why wouldn’t she do it again?

The future was an impenetrable haze. But for what they’d had together, Tim was truly thankful.

Now, though, he had some doubts about her. He’d been wondering if she was the kind of woman who got hot for a man in a flash, then turned off him when the fire went out. It shamed him to admit it, but there were signs that she was going off him. She often faked sleep to thwart his night-time advances; you didn’t have to be a gun detective to tell when someone was pretending to be asleep. There were times when she ended a telephone conversation abruptly when he came home unexpectedly. He could hear her ringing off as he closed the front door behind him. If he asked who it was, she’d say, ‘No one,’ or something equally lame, and then change the subject. Then there were the hang-up calls when he answered the phone—at least once or twice a week for the last six months. And, increasingly, she went out with friends, especially when Tim worked late, which he often had to do to keep the coffers well filled. In the beginning, a twenty-year age difference didn’t matter, but by the time she hit her mid-forties and he was pushing seventy—seventy!—it might be a different story. If they lasted that long.

Maybe he was paranoid, but Tim had developed serious concerns about Amy—sleeping now like a baby by his side, a picture of purity and innocence, though she had a strong-willed, sometimes volatile, temperament. He wasn’t sure how he’d deal with it if she left him. He’d once acted for a multi-millionaire businessman—a perfectly respectable Rotary and Chamber of Commerce type—who had stabbed his wife sixty-six times, and then cut her in half, simply because she told him she was leaving. Every day in the papers there were stories about men who did crazy, violent things even when their wives threatened to walk. Madness lurked in most people, if not everyone, but Tim could never imagine himself doing anything to hurt Amy.

As he drove, these thoughts churned around in his mind. Tim knew this alone could send one nuts: he shook his head to expel the negativity. He became aware that he was strangling the wheel, and flexed out his fingers. It’s all fine. She’s not going anywhere. Amy had a comfortable life: a great home with an infinity pool in Red Hill; tennis club membership; skiing vacations in Colorado; clothes from Vera Wang. Tim was by no means the wealthiest barrister in Canberra, but he did all right, better than all right, considering his humble origins in Sydney’s wild west.

His thoughts drifted even further backwards. He remembered the first time he got it on with Amy, in a Canberra bar, after she’d interviewed him on her radio program. At the time she had the breakfast slot on one of the popular stations. He’d been taken with her name, Amy Hightower, and then, when he came face-to-face with her … well, the chemistry was palpable, right from the introductions. From the moment he locked eyes with her, Tim’s only thought was: How soon can I get her into the cot? The answer: not long. Two days, in fact.

Those thoughts dragged him further into the past, to his pre-lawyer days, years on the force as a uniformed cop, a ‘jack’ as the boys on the street called him. It was equivalent to being called a dog, or a pig. ‘Hey, jack!’ they’d yell when he cruised past in a patrol car, giving him the bird. Not much respect there.

Tim Fontaine was no sentimentalist, but there were odd moments when he indulged. Remembered—with fondness, mostly—growing up in that vast tract of grief and sorrow otherwise known as Sydney’s western suburbs. That was back in the day, when he still went by his full name: Tim de la Fontainebleu. He sure copped plenty at school because of it. Not that there was anything fancy about his family—they were blue-collar all the way through, right down to the second-hand clothes and Christmas presents.

Once, this mountainous, small-eyed thug named Clive Dane came up to Tim in the playground and said, ‘You’re a weak cunt, de la Fontainebloo.’ Next thing, Tim was flat on the ground, seeing stars. He never saw that big, fat fist coming.

Clive Dane. The Dane family was a tribe of retards, thieves and bash artists, rotten from the top down. Old man Dane was forever beating up on the wife. Cops were always around at the Dane house, which was a humpy thrown together from scrap—no doubt stolen—materials. They were the pits.

That same night, Tim’s dad, a senior constable at the local stationhouse, took him down the milk bar for a double-header ice-cream. A double-header! This was an unusual treat—unheard of, really. Next day he gave Tim a pair of boxing gloves, second-hand, naturally. ‘World’s full of Clive Danes,’ his father told him. ‘You want to get by, you have to defend yourself.’

That was when Tim started travelling on the train to a police boys’ club in a nearby suburb, two or three times a week after school. There he was taught the rudiments of boxing by off-duty cops, usually ruddy-faced and reeking of beer. Still, they were performing a service in their own time, and for nothing.

Tim learned how to defend himself, and got better as he grew taller and put on weight. By the time he was sixteen he could, in the parlance of the street, go a bit. Every night he attacked the heavy bag his old man had rigged up in the shed until he couldn’t raise one more blow. But he only ever got into a blue one time, at a dance in Blacktown. Tim found that boxing wasn’t much use up against gangs armed with bottles and knives and knuckledusters. He hit one guy good and hard and then got the hell out. After that he steered clear of the Blacktown rock music scene.

Inevitably he followed his father into the force, never really thought about doing anything else. By the time he was eighteen he was a raw-boned, grinning probationary constable with a gun on his hip. And he got to drive fast cars. What a buzz that was.

Amy came out of her stupor, stretched her eyes open. Gave him a dozy smile.

‘How much further?’ she said.

‘TomTom says … one hundred and twenty-four point seven,’ Tim said, glancing at the GPS. ‘Nearly halfway there.’

‘Cooma?’

‘Been and gone. About ten minutes ago. You missed all that excitement.’

‘Huh.’

Silence for a minute or two as she gazed at the countryside rushing by.

‘You listening to this?’ she said. Queen: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

‘No way,’ he said.

She started scanning for something more acceptable. Tim became aware of a big truck in his rear-view, a B-Double, right on his tail. Where the fuck did that come from? Tim was sitting on ninety-five. He pushed it up another five. The B-Double stayed right there, practically tailgating him. The truck had a bank of lights on a roof bar. Tim put his foot down. Now he was on a hundred-ten. The B-Double matched his speed. Then its horn blared. That was when Amy first noticed they had a tail. ‘Shit!’ she said, twisting around.

‘Christ almighty,’ Tim said. ‘What does this joker want?’

‘Tim!’ she said. ‘He’s nearly hitting us!’

‘Fuck! Can’t pull over,’ he said. ‘He’s too close anyhow. If I hit the brakes he’ll smash into us for sure!’

‘Do something!’ Amy screamed. Tim saw in her eyes that she was scared to death. So was he.

Tim wrenched the wheel to the left, touching the shoulder of the road. The B-Double edged out, looking to pass, but then another truck came thundering the other way. Coming up was a long curve, double lines all the way. Tim hugged the shoulder, giving the B-Double all the room he could afford. Suddenly it pulled out and screamed past them, horn blaring nonstop. The rush of air between the two vehicles rocked the Kluger, forcing Tim further off the bitumen, into the gravel and dangerously close to a fence and overhanging branches. Right then he was pretty sure he was gonzo. Hold on, hold on. But the Kluger suddenly swung sideways in the truck’s ferocious backwash, spinning on the loose stones. Tim stomped on the brake pedal and gripped the wheel for dear life. Amy was screaming, grasping her head in both hands. The all-wheel drive momentarily tipped, going onto two wheels, then righted itself and skittered on down the road at a dangerous angle—travelling backwards. There came a terrible shriek of rubber as he practically stood up on the brakes. He knew that was wrong, totally wrong—in this situation, you never hit the brakes, you steered in the direction the car was swerving—but he was going too fast and unless he could stop the car he was certainly going to wrap them around a tree …

In that instant, the moment before his death, his mind flashed on a TV news item showing bits of car wreckage scattered along a highway, a young reporter telling his audience the two occupants had no chance.

And then, in a dense cloud of dust and gravel and gum leaves, the Kluger skidded to a halt—in the middle of the road, and pointed the wrong way.

Tim took a deep breath. Then another. His heart was racing. The dashboard was a constellation of red lights—he’d stalled the car.

‘Holy. Fucking. Shit!’ he said in a rasping voice. ‘You—you all right, baby?’

Amy’s face was still buried in her hands. He touched the top of her head, and she convulsed violently, as if he had hit her.

Tim turned his attention back to the Kluger. He restarted it with some difficulty, four or five tries, and then brought it the right way around with a three-point turn. He drove slowly on until he found a place to stop for a spell.

When he’d switched off the engine and unsnapped his seatbelt, Amy said, ‘I thought I was dead then.’

‘Yeah.’

‘No, I mean—really dead. And then … when you touched me, I got a shock because I suddenly realised I wasn’t. I was … I was in another place, all silent and serene.’

Tim was nodding. ‘Scary. Christ, what a bastard!’

In a minute or so she said, ‘Did you get his number?’

‘Afraid not. Had a bit on the plate.’ He blew out some air.

They sat quietly for a good five minutes, listening to the ticking of the engine.

‘I wouldn’t mind a cigarette,’ Amy said. She’d given up five years ago, hadn’t lit one since.

‘Sorry I can’t oblige,’ he said. ‘I could actually use something stronger.’ He’d just noticed that his hands were trembling uncontrollably. Not an ideal start to a relaxing weekend away.

‘Anyway … let’s push on,’ he said, turning the key. ‘Onward and upward.’ He grinned at her, a false heroic gesture, but didn’t get one in return.

Tim and Amy were headed for their weekender deep in the Pericoe Valley, adjacent to the South East Forest National Park and around thirty kilometres inland from the fishing port of Eden. Most of it was virgin bush country, dense pine forest with a handful of residences, old farmhouses, caravans and derelict shacks scattered about. The boom period for Pericoe had been during the early seventies, when a community of hippies and dropouts had settled there during the wave of anti-Vietnam war flower power and a different way of being. It was supposedly modelled on Nimbin, the thriving hippie community in northern New South Wales. People cut down trees and built their own shelters, planted vegetables, raised chickens, goats and pigs, smoked a lot of weed, sang songs by Donovan and Melanie and Bob Dylan, embraced the concept of free love and free everything else. Disturbed long-haired Vietnam veterans arrived in army greens, hoping to escape their wartime nightmares and put their lives back together. For a few years it must have been some kind of paradise, where people went nude and painted their bodies and grew dope, babies were born and raised totally insulated from the military–industrial complex—that evil conglomerate that ran the western world—and no one was trying to shoot the crap out of anyone else.

Problem was, the soil wasn’t capable of supporting much except some hardy plants along with the dope. Dense forest cover blocked sunlight and sucked up most of the nutrients. More crucially, there was no regular water supply—no river or lake, or even a dam. Whoever chose the location failed to notice why no one else lived there. Disillusion soon set in. A five-year drought pretty much finished the commune off. By the early eighties, Pericoe had gone from the Garden of Eden to the Valley of Despair. People abandoned their shacks and caravans. The pigs, cats and dogs were left to run loose as the inhabitants packed up their meagre belongings and hitched rides back to the real world. Only a few resolute souls remained. Nowadays, there were probably about thirty people scattered through the Pericoe Valley, although no one could say for sure.

*

Half an hour on, Tim was deep in thought as he sped through the bush, barely noticing any of it as he barrelled along the Mount Darragh Road. In his mind he was replaying the incident with the B-Double, but seeing the car flip over, screeching down the road on its roof before coming to grief. Beside him Amy was sitting up, eyes wide open, staring straight ahead. Nothing dozy about her now. Neither had spoken a word since they’d restarted their journey. Tim was picking up a negative vibe, as if she somehow blamed him. And oddly, he did feel a bit responsible for putting her in danger.

‘Well, baby doll,’ he said, patting her leg, ‘least we’re still here to tell the story.’

Amy turned to him with a faint, mirthless smile, one side of her mouth turned down. But she still didn’t say anything. Tim put it down to shock. He removed his hand and put it back on the wheel.

In a little while they passed through the small town of Wyndham. The late sun was casting long shadows of trees across the road—always disconcerting. Tim blinked, concentrating harder. Only forty kilometres to go. He turned onto Barragate Road, then Towamba Road—last leg of the trip. At the junction was the general store, which had been there for at least a hundred years. The last chance saloon for all essentials.

Tim pulled in out front and killed the engine. Amy maintained her silence. She seemed locked into a world of her own—apparently unaware that they’d stopped.

‘Hey,’ he said softly.

She looked at him with her pale blue Gwyneth Paltrow eyes.

‘Come on,’ he said, smiling—but not overplaying it. ‘Time to pay our respects to His Worship.’

The store was of the old-world variety, packed to the rafters with hardware, tools, drygoods, household items, sturdy outdoor clothing, fishing tackle, groceries, bottled water. There was also a range of locally made gourmet products: preserves, chutneys, bread, confectionery. It also had the only telephone in the district. Anyone needed to make a call, they came to Gus’s store and used his 1980-vintage wall phone, complete with scratch pad and pencil dangling on a string alongside. And since there was no mail delivery hereabouts, the store also served as an unofficial post office.

Whenever Tim came through the fly-wire door to be confronted with the wondrous array of provisions, he imagined the pioneers with their bullock drays calling in for their pots and pans and sacks of flour before pushing on into the great wilderness—it had that kind of feel to it. It was a step back through time.

The store had been run forever by a disapproving octogenarian named Gus. He was a local fixture and a sort of unofficial councilman for the entire valley. Gus was often referred to as the mayor. Seemingly without ever leaving his post, he knew everything that went down hereabouts.

Tim and Amy stood at the counter, surveying the stacked mass of goods, much of which bore brand names that had ceased to exist long ago. It all seemed haphazard, quite chaotic, yet no doubt Gus could put his hand on anything a customer wanted straight away. No sign of him right now, however. Tim pressed the worn-down brass buzzer on the counter, connected by wires that made their way through the guts of the store to a residence out the back where Gus lived alone. Apparently his wife had died decades ago.

Eventually Gus appeared, weaving through racks of King Gee overalls and clusters of kerosene lanterns hanging from the ceiling. His expression didn’t change when he saw Tim. Tim had never seen Gus smile. Amy thought he was a grumpy old bastard, and he was, but Tim had time for him. He had a story to tell, no doubt. And there was a sense of humour buried in there, somewhere.

‘Afternoon, Gus,’ Tim said.

‘Afternoon yourself,’ Gus said in his friendly, gruff manner—though one could never be sure how much ‘friendly’ was in there. Seemingly aware of her dislike of him, he barely acknowledged Amy, giving her only the slightest nod. She believed he was a misogynist, but Tim wasn’t so sure. He thought Gus was uncomfortable with women rather than disliking them.

‘So … how’s business of late?’

‘Business never changes,’ Gus said. ‘Like me. Man might as well be a wooden Indian.’

Tim, nodded, smiling. This was the standard rigmarole.

‘Old Kaw-Liga,’ Tim said, referring to the Hank Williams song from the fifties.

‘That’s right,’ Gus said. ‘Made of knotty pine. That’s how I feel most of the time.’ He looked out the window at the gleaming silver Kluger. ‘Got yourself a new conveyance?’

‘Yeah,’ Tim said. ‘Only had it a month or so.’

‘Not even run in,’ Gus said. ‘What is it, a Humvee? All those off-road war wagons look the same to me.’

Tim smiled at the very idea. ‘No, mate—she’s a Kluger.’

Gus frowned. ‘Kluger. Sounds German. No time for Germans.’

‘Not German. It’s a Toyota—Japanese.’ Soon as he said it, Tim realised his mistake. Too late.

‘Don’t talk to me about the Japanese,’ Gus said, spitting the word. ‘Not after what they did to my brother, Tyrone, God rest his soul, at Hellfire Pass.’

Tim was nodding, tight-lipped. He wasn’t about to say anything to encourage Gus down that road. Amy, meantime, was inspecting the jars of fancy preserves and whatnot.

‘They beat him half to death when he fell down on the job,’ Gus said. ‘Died the next day from dysentery and starvation. Weighed sixty-five pounds by then.’ A dark shadow crossed his face as he reimagined the ordeal his brother had gone through. ‘Like to have seen ’em try it in a fair fight. Tyrone would’ve taken a dozen of ’em, one hand tied behind his back.’

It was a long time ago, Gus, Tim thought. World’s moved on a bit. Words he’d never dare utter.

‘True enough,’ he said, to fill the space. He allowed a respectful moment or two to pass before changing the subject. ‘What about Malcolm? How’s he going?’

‘Who could possibly say,’ Gus said.

‘Think I spotted him in the bush once,’ Tim said. ‘Last time I was here. But I wasn’t too sure.’

‘If he doesn’t want you to see him—you won’t.’

‘Right.’ Tim turned to Amy. ‘Anyway … must press on. We’d better have some of Mrs Brennan’s sourdough bread. And a couple of dozen of the spring water. Anything you want, baby?’

Amy had collected several jars of chutney and jam. ‘I’ll have these,’ she said, dumping them on the counter. Tim selected four loaves of the bread while Gus hefted two shrink-wrapped twelve-packs of water from a stack and put them with the rest.

‘Anything else you need?’

‘Should just about do,’ Tim said. He shelled out some cash. Gus worked it all out with a notepad and pencil, then made change from an ancient wooden drawer, worn smooth and blond.

What remained was a ten-kilometre drive down a dirt road. After fifteen or so minutes, about four kilometres from Tim’s place, among trees so tall dusk seemed to have suddenly come down, he slowed at a small cabin set back a way from the road, half concealed in shrubbery.

He left the motor running while he looked at the cabin.

‘No signs of life,’ he said.

‘What would you expect? It looks deserted,’ Amy said.

Tim got out and opened the back of the car. Amy watched him pick up a dozen of the water bottles and two loaves of bread. Then he made his way to the cabin.

Malcolm—the only name he was known by, other than Mad Malcolm—was one of the original settlers of the Pericoe valley. He was a disturbed Vietnam veteran, suffering from what would nowadays be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—PTSD. But whatever name you gave it, Malcolm was one screwed-up motherfucker. When everyone else pulled the pin, he stayed on. He was such a loner he probably didn’t even realise they’d all gone. How he survived, Tim didn’t know. There was no sign of a vegetable garden, no chickens, nothing. Not even a dog. He was never seen at the store. He had no car. The only explanation was that he lived off the land, hunting the feral pigs or rabbits or whatever else came under his gunsights. Tim had heard the occasional rifle shot ringing out in the woods, and he always assumed it was Malcolm snaring his dinner. In his mind’s eye he had visions of a demented wildman, a frightening vision of tangled red hair wearing a loincloth made from animal hide, and bare feet: a modern-day William Buckley, the escaped convict who lived with Aborigines for half his life.

The cabin was a well-constructed, solid little dwelling built from logs that had been split in half with an axe. Mortar was a rough mix of mud and grass, similar to that used in the old wattle-and-daub pioneering days. You could imagine a family of gnomes living in it. There was a front window that, in Tim’s experience, always had a cloth blind of some sort.

Tim knocked a couple of times. No answer. He rapped again, waited a minute. Then he put the water and bread on the ground in front of the door. He had never expected anyone to open it.

This was part of the ritual whenever Tim came to the valley. He had got into the habit of leaving these offerings for Malcolm for reasons he couldn’t properly explain. As he left the property, Tim stopped in his tracks. He had that unmistakeable feeling of being watched. He turned around, but saw nothing. No sign of life anywhere. He scanned the bush. It was all quiet and still. Not even a bird breaking the silence. Still he felt eyes on him. There had been something …

‘Mission accomplished,’ he said, climbing back aboard the car.

‘I don’t know why you bother,’ Amy said.

‘Neither do I,’ he said. ‘Guess it gives me a nice warm feeling—you know, reaching out to help the dispossessed and alienated.’

‘Lawyers don’t do that,’ she said. ‘At least none that I know.’

‘I realise it’s dead against the code of ethics,’ he said. ‘But what the hell.’

‘Like leaving out cake for Father Christmas,’ she said. ‘But at least he gives you something in return.’

‘Amy,’ he said, turning towards her as they trundled down the dirt road, ‘I hate to be the one to tell you, but … there is no Father Christmas.’

Amy laughed, and at that moment, in his peripheral vision, Tim noticed a dark blur flash in front of the car. Instinctively he hit the brakes, but too late. Thump. Amy let out a shrill cry. Tim pulled up.

There was blood on the windscreen.

Shit.

‘What is going on!’ Amy shouted, no hint of a question in her tone.

Tim got out of the car and saw a writhing kangaroo on the verge of the road behind them. It was thumping its tail furiously on the ground. Tim approached the animal and, sensing his presence, it started freaking out, trying to drag itself out of harm’s way, back to the safety of the bush.

Blood was spattered over the grey fur on its chest—a great deal of blood, coming from its mouth. Tim took a step closer. The kangaroo’s leg twitched as it scraped at the dirt with its front paws. It was not long for this world.

There was only one thing to do. Tim found a dead branch just off the road. He advanced on the desperately struggling animal, trying to get behind it so it couldn’t see him.

‘What are you doing?’ Amy screamed at him. She too had got out of the car.

‘It’s dying, Amy. I have to put it out of its misery.’

‘No!’

‘I have to! You can see he’s had it! Can’t just leave him here like this, can we?’

He stepped closer to the stricken kangaroo, which suddenly convulsed violently, desperate to escape its fate.

‘Don’t you dare!’ Amy screamed.

Tim froze, the branch raised above his shoulders. He turned and looked at her. Amy was, he was discovering, much more squeamish about cruelty to animals than to humans. Violence against people didn’t seem to bother her much. But then, he thought, maybe that wasn’t unusual, since people are so often responsible for their own grief, through stupidity, greed, whatever, but animals can’t be blamed for their plight.

Astonishingly, Amy had once been romantically involved with a gangland figure, a hardcore criminal named Lance Delaney, who had done time for fraud, violent assaults, armed robbery, car theft and, finally, murder for hire. That was before Tim came along and stole her away while Delaney was upriver, doing penance for a murder he claimed he didn’t commit. It was one of several, but he never faced charges for the others.

Tim couldn’t believe it when Amy told him about Lance. What Amy, a diplomat’s daughter with a degree in anthropology and a respectable job as a radio announcer, was doing with a dirtbag like Delaney was one of the world’s great mysteries. When he put the question to her later, she said it was a buzz being around him. ‘Lance isn’t all bad. He can be sweet and charming. He has charisma. He has dash. He doesn’t just sit in a corner and behave himself. But I don’t expect you to understand,’ she’d said pointedly. She even attended court as a supporter during one of his trials, and visited him in prison couple of times, until Tim drew a line. Sweet and charming Lance Delaney was not. Narcissistic, cunning and manipulative, yes. And what was this ‘dash’ that was so appealing? All it meant was a willingness—a desire—to live outside the law instead of holding down a real job.

*

‘Amy,’ he said, ‘for Christ’s sake, get a grip! Turn away!’

Miraculously, after a moment’s hesitation, she obeyed.

Tim dispatched the kangaroo with a single, sickening blow to the skull.

CLICK HERE to preorder from your preferred ebook retailer

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Coming Soon: Thrilling Crime Novels from JR Carroll

Posted January 15, 2014 by Mark

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When the past comes knocking, it will not be denied …

Ex-cop turned criminal lawyer Tim Fontaine and his wife Amy are heading for their weekender – a restored farmhouse in remote bushland known as Black Pig Bend.

But even before they’ve eaten dinner, three outlaw bikers arrive on the scene. Suddenly Tim’s house becomes a fortress. Who are these people? Why have they come? Who sent them?

As the lights go out and darkness descends, their idyllic world is transformed into a nightmare from which there is no waking up. Tim must grapple not just with formidable adversaries, but with unsettling questions relating to his own past, both as cop and lawyer, and even to his marriage.

But even if they survive this night against appalling odds, the ordeal is far from over. For when the past comes knocking, it will not be denied

8 Hours to Die is released on 11 February 2014

On 21 January 2014, we’re releasing five JR Carroll classics as ebooks. Check out the details below:

9781760080198_Clan_coverNo-one can mess with the clan and expect to live…

The Killing: An unarmed teenage ram-raider is gunned down by police in a back alley …

The Family: The Beatties, one of Melbourne’s most notoriously lawless clans stretching back to the Sixties. Now their youngest is dead, and Melbourne holds its breath, waiting for the payback it knows is coming.

The Job: But someone is planning the biggest hold-up in Australia’s history, and no-one, not even the Beattie family, is allowed to get in the way ..

9781760080228_Hard Yards_coverIt’s September 2000, and the Olympic Games are about to descend on Sydney. The city is at fever pitch, but Barrett Pike, private investigator, couldn’t care less.

The excitement in Barrett’s life comes via his part-time squeeze, the glamorous and successful Andrea Fox-Fearnor, and the after-dark activities of Sydney’s notorious criminals – in particular, the sartorial stand-over man, Ernesto “Hollywood Jack” Tucci.

When a violent incident at a restaurant in which Barrett’s bull-at-the-gate treatment of an infamous piece of pond scum is witnessed, Barrett is made in an offer even he can’t refuse – $150,000 to bodyguard Titus “Bunny” Delfranco, the fastest man in the world. Sounds like easy money, but the sprinter has a million-dollar tag on his head, and an American ex-marine turned bounty hunter, Edward Hickey, is going to have Bunny running for his life. And Barrett, together with his main man, the formidable Geoff O’Mara, is going to have his work cut out staying in the game – and staying alive.

Add to this mix a shadowy team of car-bombers, an exotic beauty with gangland connections and a doomsday sect hell bent on revenge, and the result is a complex, nightmarish thriller that pushes the genre about as far as it can go this side of the apocalypse

9781760080242_No Way Back_coverHis fellow cops say he’s trigger-happy. 

His ex-wife says he’s unstable.

His new lover says he’s obsessive.

His superiors say he’s off the case and under investigation.

His world is coming apart …

He’s a cop on the trail of a killer the law can’t touch.

He has his own brand of justice.

He’s got nothing to lose. Except his life.

When you’ve been pushed to the edge, there’s no way back ..

9781760080266_Out of the Blue_coverThe shockingly violent death of his wife was no accident. And Dennis Gatz knows it.

But the cops aren’t interested. Gatz is a loose cannon who couldn’t handle the force. No longer one of them. No longer worth the trouble.

But trouble’s on the way. Someone’s out to get Dennis Gatz and he can’t wait to meet them. Head on.

This time it’s personal. This time he’ll do anything for revenge. And the best revenge comes out of the blue

9781760080280_Cheaters_coverBig risks, big reward. But no-one ever said that cheating was easy… 

Danny Gold has the Midas touch on the roulette tables. Soon he’s making big bucks washing cash for businessman-turned-porn-movie-maker Sigmund Barry, with all the fringe benefits.

Robert Curlewis lived the good life — until booze and smack took hold. When a fellow desperado, Florence, witnesses the vicious slaying of a young gambler in Melbourne’s Chinatown, Robert is no longer wasting his life, he’s trying to hold onto it.

Throw in a wild card, a rogue Kiwi commando running his own agenda, and you have a full deck of players with one thing in common. They are all CHEATERS.

 

 

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How not to read other people’s work

Posted October 2, 2013 by Luke Preston

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A couple of months ago I’m at a 30th birthday party of a friend of a friend who I didn’t really know and besides feeling like an imposter during the intimate thank-you speeches I was having a pretty good time. Sometime after midnight the party began to thin leaving only the die hard drinkers and that’s when it happened. Every writer on the face of the planet has been, or will be in the following situation.

A skinny guy with a pony tail, who looked as if he owned every episode of Doctor Who and was of an age where that was weird, crossed the floor and made his way up to me. ‘You’re a writer,’ he said as if he were accusing me of something evil.

I confessed to the horrible truth that I was indeed a writer and a smile crossed his face as if he had been on some Hobbit-like adventure the entire night to find me and now here we were.

His name was Lawrence, and he had just finished writing his first novel. It was set in the future where for some undisclosed reason, domestic cats grew to be thirty feet tall and were now the main threat to humanity.

‘Will you read it?’

‘Oh, shit man, I’m real busy,’ I said.

‘You’re a really good writer. I can tell just by looking at you.’

In my experience good writers and bad writers look relatively similar but I was half drunk, half tired and wanting to get home to watch music videos on RAGE, so I handed him my card (yes, I have one) and told him to send me his manuscript.

‘No need,’ he said burying his hand into a dirty backpack by his feet. He pulled out a ream of paper and shoved it at me. It was nine hundred pages long and held by elastic bands and insecurity.

‘You carry it on you?’ I asked.

‘Of course.’

‘Isn’t it heavy?’

‘It’s the first in a series. I’ve got the other four at home.’

‘What if this one doesn’t sell?’

Confusion crossed his face. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Nothing, forget it,’ I said.

I carried the monster under my arm and made the trek out to the train station. Ten minutes later a carriage rolled up. I took a seat by the window with the big bastard next to me, took a sip of beer from a bottle I smuggled out of the party, lent my head against the window and drunkenly nodded off.

I woke to the not so gentle nudges of a police officer. ‘This train isn’t a hotel,’ he said.

Who was I to argue? It didn’t look like one. I climbed to my feet and looked to the empty seat next to me. ‘Shit, someone stole my manuscript.’

‘A what?’

‘Before a novel is published it’s called a…’ I gave up. He didn’t care and after I gave it some thought, it didn’t much bother me either.

I made my way home thinking about the poor literary deprived bastard who took the nine hundred page beast, went to bed and forgot all about that Saturday night.

A few days later I was sitting in front of the typer, wrestling with a particularly troublesome sentence when the telephone rang. The number: BLOCKED.

‘Have you read my novel yet?’

It took a moment for my mind to catch up. ‘Lawrence, I’m not sure if I’m going to get to it.’

‘But you said you would read it?’

‘I said I would try to read it.’

‘I’ll call you back tomorrow after you’ve had some time.’ And he hung up.

The next day rolled around and again, there I was staring at another string of bad words and the flashing cursor taunting me with each little blink.

And again, the phone rang. The number: BLOCKED.

This time I ignored it. In hindsight I should have just shown guts, picked up the phone and told this poor prick I had lost his Cat-ageddon story but I had this blinking bloody cursor to deal with. The phone rang out, there of was breath of silence and just as I was about to hammer away again at the keyboard it started back up. And over the next twenty four hours it rang another fifty something times. Then the paranoia set in. Maybe I should have read it? Maybe I should call him back? What if he’s found me? What if he’s hiding in my wardrobe right now? What if he’s dressed as a clown? What if he has a knife? And with that paranoid thought I headed down to the Prahran police station and dramatically slammed my phone on the bench and told my tale of woe to the cop who looked younger than the leather jacket I was wearing.

‘Who’s your telco provider?’ He asked.

‘Vodaphone.’

‘They don’t have very good coverage.’

‘They seem to be doing okay today.’

He told me the best thing to do is change my number and I walked out glad he wasn’t solving a homicide. A couple of steps later, the devil phone rang again but this time it was a buddy, Hugh. He was down at the Bush Inn which was conveniently, or not so conveniently for some, located half a block from the Prahran police station. I crossed the road and half a pint later I had told Hugh the events of the past few days.

Hugh took a sip of his beer. ‘How did all the cats get big?’

‘I didn’t read it!’

‘Why?’

‘Christ, have you not been listening?’ and before I could get any further my phone rang, again. ‘SHIT!’

Hugh snatched it off the bar, took two drunken steps back, smirked and answered it. ‘Detective Senior Sergeant Thomas Andrews.’

Now, I cannot lie, at this point, impersonating a police officer seemed like a worse idea than Justin Bieber playing live at Folsom Prison. Hugh even had the balls to give over a rank, badge number and the name of his commanding officer down at the Prahran Police Station. But if the Bush Inn Hotel gave out awards for best impromptu performance down at the TAB end of the bar, Hugh would have been a very strong contender. And after a few minutes, he hung up the phone and declared the case closed. And for about an hour it looked as if the world had returned to normal. We had a couple more beers, a couple of more bets, then I went to the bar and when I returned I had a missed call on the phone, only this time the caller had left a message. I pushed it into my ear to hear over the racket of the bar.

‘This is Constable Bernadette Collins from the Prahran police station calling in regard to a complaint about impersonating a police officer…’

My stomach dropped. I played Hugh the recording, told him he couldn’t act for shit, and as we headed off back down the road towards the cop shop to explain ourselves, I was rehearsing the explanation I was going to have to give to my girlfriend when I had to make the call for her to bail Hugh and I out of the clink. When I looked over to Hugh and for the first time noticed the Hawaiian shorts and filthy sneakers he was wearing. ‘This hurts us you son of a bitch.’

‘You’re drunk,’ he said. ‘Don’t fuck us in here.’

It sounded like a plan but as soon as I walked into the foyer of the station fear and panic had set in and I blurted out the words: ‘I AM NOT A COP!’

The young cop gave pause and sized me up, probably trying to gauge if I was the violent type or not. Christ, even Hugh looked at me sideways and he was one of my own kind. I drew a breath, flashed a smile and explained everything that had led up to the point where two half drunken fools were standing at the front desk of the Prahran police station explaining why they were impersonating police officers.

‘Why didn’t you read his book?’ the cop asked.

I sighed. ‘Because, it was probably bad.’

She shrugged. ‘So?’

We weren’t a threat. Nobody would ever believe either one of us were a cop. The Constable let us off with a warning and as we headed back to the Bush Inn for a celebratory drink, I thought about Lawrence and why he was so desperate for somebody to read his manuscript and then I realized something that I should have seen in his eyes the night he gave me his book… he had nobody else to read it.

I had another beer, watched Hugh win $182.50 on a dog called ‘Tank’ and then the next time my phone rang, I answered it and asked Lawrence if he could send me another copy of his manuscript.

 

9781760080495_Out of Exile_coverLuke Preston is the author of Dark City Blue and Out of Exile, both available now. His work has been described as “Noir on no-doze”, “gutsy” and “hard-assed”. Dark City Blue was longlisted for the 2013 Ned Kelly Award. 

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Excerpt – Out of Exile: A Tom Bishop Rampage by Luke Preston

Posted October 1, 2013 by Mark

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1

The prison was quiet and Tom Bishop couldn’t sleep. He did one thousand push-ups and stopped when he heard footsteps echo down the hall. It was 12:37 AM.

‘Open, two, four, nine,’ a voice called out.

The metal locks disengaged and the door pulled open to reveal the round silhouette of a guard. Bishop recognised his shape – it was Gale. Not too bright but he didn’t pretend to be otherwise. ‘Get dressed. You’re being transferred.’

Bishop glanced around at his small four-by-eight cell. ‘I was just beginning to like it here.’

Gale didn’t smile. Apparently he was not in a laughing mood. He watched closely as Bishop pulled a T-shirt over his battered body. It was a mess of gunshot wounds, tattoos and scars; a mix of regrets and mistakes.

Gale hooked the cuffs around Bishop’s wrists, and squeezed them tight. They pinched into his skin but he didn’t complain. Sounds filtered from behind cell doors as he and Gale moved through the prison. Guys up late watching television, others listening to talkback radio, and the occasional poor bastard sobbing into their state-issued pillow.

Gale didn’t seem to question a prisoner being transferred in the middle of the night; either too lazy or dumb to give it a second thought. Bishop questioned it. There were ways of doing things and this wasn’t one of them.

They reached the transport bay entrance. Gale shifted around Bishop, unlocked the door and pulled it open. Hot summer air hit Bishop in the face. He took a few steps forward and, out of the darkness, emerged an unmarked prison van, black, with no windows, idling as white exhaust fumes disappeared into the night. He slowed his pace, to buy some time, to work out what the fuck was going on. It wasn’t long enough and a couple of shuffling steps later Bishop was at the rear of the van. The doors were open and on the benches were a couple of prisoners. Bishop recognised their faces but didn’t know their names. Shaved heads, overweight, tattooed and each sharing the same vacant eyes. It was the look of career inmates: one devoid of hope or any future. Bishop climbed inside and, before he could sit, Gale slammed the door and locked it.

The van idled for a couple more minutes. Muffled voices leaked through the reinforced walls. The gears changed and the vehicle moved forward. There was a slight pause while the prison gates opened, then, not long after, they were on the open road. Occasionally, the driver would tap the brakes and the hard faces of Bishop’s travelling companions would be lit in a dark shade of red from the tail-lights. None of them said a word. Bishop glanced at his watch; they had been on the road for twenty-five minutes.

Then it happened.

Another vehicle gunned up behind the van.

It overtook on the right and pulled in front.

Tyres squealed.

The van’s driver hit the brakes.

The wheels locked up and dragged along the asphalt.

The van’s arse end swung out sideways.

Everybody slammed against the wall.

The van was on the verge of tipping over. It hung there for a moment before the tyres burst, sending it over on its side and scraping along the quiet road with a trail of sparks in its wake. After a quarter of a kilometre, the wreck slid to a stop and, when it did, part of its internal mechanics leaked pressurised air and everything fell silent.

A blue Ford crept up, its left side crumpled, and grazed black with paint from the van. Its headlights shone on the wreck. The passenger-side door opened, with the sound of twisted metal. Three men with shotguns and balaclavas descended on the upturned van. They moved fast. The driver poked his head out – dazed and confused, he was the first to go. A shotgun blast took off half his shoulder and sent him jerking back into the cabin. Then the three of them focused on the rear doors. The tallest of the shooters placed small charges on the hinges and they all stood back. The explosion was localised, controlled and quiet, the sound of the heavy steel doors falling to the ground louder. One of them crawled inside and dragged the occupants out. The two lifers first and then Bishop. The three of them were groggy from the crash and struggling to be steady on their feet.

The smallest of the shooters unholstered his sidearm and put two rounds in the chest of the first lifer, followed by two in the chest of the second. Then, almost as an afterthought, he stepped back and put one in each of their heads. The sound echoed into the darkness and then all three shooters focused their attention on Bishop.

 ‘Open the boot,’ one of them said.

The tallest of the shooters made the trek back to their busted-up Ford, popped the boot and dragged a man out of it and to his feet. The glare of the headlights made it difficult for Bishop to see anything but, as the poor bastard was pulled closer, his features become clear.

Male.

Caucasian.

Mid thirties.

Shaved head.

Blue eyes.

Solid build.

Unshaven.

Prison uniform.

Bishop tilted his head. They could have passed for brothers and they could definitely have been confused in a line-up, if for some reason things went that way. The shortest of the shooters, the one who had done the lifers with two in the chest and one in the head, drew his shotgun and pushed it in the man’s face.

Panic washed over him. ‘Please don’t,’ he said. He was about to say more, but the shooter pulled the trigger and the back of the man’s head sprayed out into the night sky.

The shooter turned to Bishop. ‘Congratulations,’ he said, ‘You’re dead.’

Twelve hours earlier …

Out of Exile: A Tom Bishop Rampage is available NOW. Click here to keep reading

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How to create an international spy agency from scratch

Posted June 26, 2013 by Chris Allen

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Chris Allen‘s book series features an agency called Intrepid, and in this post he discusses how he created the agency from an imagined hybrid international force. 

When I began writing, I knew my creation would inevitably be influenced by actual events that were occurring at the time and my particular take on how that might influence the context of my stories. I started writing drafts of Defender in the extended aftermath of Sept 11, 2001 – a time when I was in high demand professionally and probably needed a creative outlet. I didn’t want the context of my stories to be military in nature, so I steered away from the obvious choice – the UN and intervention forces – and looked more towards the actual criminal activity so often hidden behind idealistic rhetoric and excuses for terror.

Having decided upon that course of action, but still wanting to unite nation-states together in the grand narrative, I opted to have the UN Security Council approach Interpol so as to join those entities in a fictional sense, despite their quite disparate responsibilities in real life. I achieved this through the creation of Intrepid: Interpol’s black-ops Intelligence, Recovery, Protection and Infiltration Division – raised at the behest of the United Nations.

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My observations of how these various agencies work is that they can both help and hinder co-operation, often with best efforts frustrated by the corruption of misinformation and bureaucracy (my pet hates). I can draw on my own interactions with agencies as much as observations I’ve made or even stories relayed to me by others, combined with my own experiences in the field. At the core of it all, nothing begins without some form of dialogue. The scene must be set and the operational parameters must be established before the agents embark upon their missions. So, I try to provide the reader with some sense of either the orders process – as in General Davenport tasking his agents (Defender), or the process of defining jurisdictional  boundaries – as in sorting out ‘who will do what when’ type issues before the agents deploy (Hunter).

When the time comes to create each fictional story, I will draw on an overarching real life issue, such as human trafficking in Avenger – war criminals in Hunter – or gunrunning in Defender, and interlace the fictional plot with real experiences in a way that should, hopefully, enhance the adventure for the reader. I guess they call it writing escapist thrillers for realists. I’m not interested in creating the doomsday catastrophe stories where the world is going to end via destruction on a mass scale, nor am I going to target one particular race or faith through my writing. History consistently shows us that the world is a lot more complicated than that.

9781743340943_Defender_cover

Read more at the original blog post here. Click on the book titles for more information on Chris Allen‘s books Defender and Hunter.

 

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